This Week's New Releases
dir. Ian McCrudden
A stew of thick New England accents and thicker testosterone, Islander is very big on regional color (or, more accurately, regional gray monochrome) and not so big on the kind of personalities that could persuade you to pay a visit. Of course, that cold shoulder is intentional. The residents of Vinalhaven, a lobster (or "bug") fishing island off the coast of Maine, are mutually dependent yet mercilessly territorial and suspicious of outsiders. Eben Cole (played by cowriter and producer Thomas Hildreth) pushes this attitude one step further: He's so sure of his hereditary right to a patch of water and his natural hold on his wife and daughter that he doesn't bother to make nice with anyone.
One morning, after ditching a hungover sternman aptly named Pokey (James Parks), Eben sets out to check his bug traps. When he spies some mainlanders encroaching on his territory, he loses his shit and fires a warning shot—only to cause the rival fisherman, a father, to accelerate suddenly as a tangle of rope jerks his son overboard. The kid dies, and Eben goes to jail. The movie could have gone any number of directions at this point—I was pulling for a desolate sequence following Eben's wife (Amy Jo Johnson), who has thus far been presented as a needy bitch—but instead, the story jumps forward to Eben's release and his attempts to regain the trust of his fellow islanders. (His wife leaves him for an abusive asshole.)
There are plenty of films and plenty more plays that endow their angry, self-destructive men with a measure of charisma, but Islander banks on Hildreth's long face and hollow cheeks to sell his long slog to reform. His progress is far from implausible—if you had a chance to hook the island's pretty lady physician, you'd drop the belligerent pose too—but it isn't involving either. The island may exert a magnetic pull on its natives, but you'll float away without a second look. ANNIE WAGNER
The Boys and Girls Guide to Getting Down
dir. Paul Sapiano
Ladies, did you know that when boys are in pussy "recon mode" they see a cock-shaped "slut-meter" in the lower right of their vision? And guys, did you know that you can pose as a "fauxmosexual" at a gay bar to get into a woman's pants? This "guide" purports to teach you how to party, get socially lubricated, and go at it with the opposite sex. The lesson takes the shape of a loose story about some Hollywood hotties on a night out, during which a British narrator reels off the results of his "research": e.g., "boys"—also known as "slamhounds"—"are fertile 24/7, while women can be pollinated for only a few days a month."
These instructions are supposedly tongue in cheek, but the irony seems insincere and the filmmakers actually seem proud of their hack observations. The snarky tone even ruins a golden cameo: Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell. I watched his show every day for years, and would have recognized him on my own, even with that extra chin. I really didn't need the repetitive look-at-the-kitschy-actor-I-know explanations. I also don't know where these L.A. insiders got the idea that gin, my drink of choice, is for "drunken old ladies."
Sophomoric pride kills most of the jokes, and what humor is left appeals mainly to a demographic too young to relate. Which is unfortunate, because some 10th grader doesn't need to be shown that gay men are bitches, that a microwave can fix wet cocaine, that, apparently, condoms are never used, and that when driving drunk you should turn on your lights, take it slow, and know that at worst, you'll only hit some dork on a bicycle. TOM SHORTLIFFE
Two or Three Things I Know About Her
dir. Jean-Luc Godard
Just before Weekend and after his insouciant early films, Jean-Luc Godard made this intriguing curiosity about a housewife (Marina Vlady) who takes up prostitution in order to afford nice consumer goods. I don't think he has a thing to say about this arrangement—prostitution seems no better or worse than any other mode of procuring detergent and cute sweater dresses—but it does provide a jumping-off point to all sorts of crinkly musings about modernity.
First, as Godard's camera observes, text constantly impinges on one's consciousness. Words—especially emphatic '60s advertising text and perpendicular title designs—are everywhere in Two or Three Things I Know About Her, on signs and posters and cartons and lined paper. (For viewers who don't speak French, the point is perhaps even plainer: You absorb the typeface before the meaning, achieving a sort of Brechtian alienation from the process and recognition of the problem without effort.) What does it mean to have other people's thoughts or arguments constantly punching their way into your mind? Should we be frightened by the fact that, once it's learned, we can't turn off the ability to read?
Then, the film draws a credible connection between a city in flux and existential thoughts. Spliced-in footage of construction sites is set to dubious philosophy imparted in voiceover (ironically?) by Godard himself. Who's being displaced? Who belongs here? What is Paris? It's easy to see why the gentrification of the city would trigger anxious speculation about the world and one's place in it. I have a hunch it still works: Try looking at the new condos rising all around. Perhaps you, like the narrator, will see the universe in a swirling coffee cup. ANNIE WAGNER