This Week’s New Releases
dir. Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens
From the hot dog-on-dog action of Lady and the Tramp to the heartwarming whoring of Pretty Woman, cinema has chronicled the various permutations of love with admirable thoroughness. But Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens's documentary Crazy Love—charting the 45-years-and-counting relationship of Burt Pugach and Linda Riss—goes places no other cinematic romance has been. It's a love story, it's a crime story, and it's a story of forgiveness—but like Grey Gardens (a movie it has so little else in common with it's not even funny), Crazy Love is primarily a record of real-life human insanity, captured in all its intricacy on film.
The romance of Pugach and Riss is a tabloid story, literally—there's footage of the pair on Sally Jessy Raphael midway through the film. But Crazy Love starts long before its subjects come out of the closet as world-class freaks. Their relationship begins in the late 1950s, when Burt and Linda's budding romance is snuffed out by Linda's discovery of Burt's wife. After Linda dumps him, Burt goes nuts, commissioning a brutal attack that leaves Linda permanently disfigured and lands Burt behind bars for 14 years. Then it gets good: From prison, Burt woos Linda with proclamations of love and gifts of cash. Once free, he continues his courtship until Linda, sick of being rejected by men for her disfigurement, finally accepts the marriage proposal of the man who disfigured her.
The progression of the Pugaches' married life fills the last stretch of the film, which bristles with unanswered and perhaps unanswerable questions. Is there a noticeable difference between love and harmonious delusion? Is forcing your attacker to care for you till death do you part the ultimate revenge? Who knows, but Crazy Love will have you itchily puzzling over the answers. (And you'll never hear a creepier use of "You Really Got a Hold on Me.") DAVID SCHMADER
dir. Andrew Fleming
Armed with her flashlight, her blue roadster, a ball of string, her attention to detail (why was the murder victim never photographed below the waist?!), and Google, Nancy Drew (Julia Roberts's niece, 16-year-old Emma Roberts) sets out to solve the mystery of murdered Hollywood starlet Dehlia Draycott.
The movie is adorable. When Nancy's dad (Tate Donovan) takes a job in L.A., the pair leaves the comfort of idyllic River Heights (where Nancy is a local hero for cracking cases the hapless local police chief cannot) and moves to fast-paced Hollywood. In this sinister big-city environment, Nancy promises her exasperated and worried-sick father to stop her dangerous sleuthing and focus instead on being a normal high-school kid.
Not gonna happen. Immediately upon moving into their new digs (Draycott's haunted 1920s-style Hollywood Hills mansion), Nancy gets caught up in the underground hallways, faded love letters, and murky past of the Herman Munster–like groundskeeper.
The filmmakers have the charm of Nancy's old-fashioned code of conduct versus her Valley Girl schoolmates' modernity down to a comic science. But it's hard for me to tell whether this entertaining movie is ultimately too square for its tween audience. I hope not. In this age of loud CGI spectacles like Spider-Man and Harry Potter, this comparatively low-fi fare has the makings of a backlash hit.
Despite her conservative trappings, Roberts's Nancy Drew offers today's set of oddball girls a sort of Sassy or My So-Called Life escape hatch. Roberts turns Drew's retro look, brainy demeanor, and bleeding-heart value system into a sassy (yep) superstar in a world of crooked grown-ups and shallow teenagers. She also likes cool music, studying clues in her bedroom while listening to gorgeous New Order covers on her iPod. JOSH FEIT
Inlaws & Outlaws
dir. Drew Emery
After a seemingly interminable series of work-in-progress screenings (including a world premiere at SIFF 2006), the serene agitdoc Inlaws & Outlaws will open at the Cinerama on Thursday, June 14, and then enjoy a two-week run at the Uptown starting the next day. Is this really necessary? Hostile homophobes who might have been caught up in private fascination by a TV show about how dang cute old lesbians can be, or how dang sad it is that gay partners can't visit each other at the hospital, surely will not turn out for a lecture at a public movie theater. Inlaws & Outlaws is for the skeptical and the curious and, more particularly, the loving relatives of gay people. And it has the icky aesthetics to prove it.
In a concrete garage gussied up with IKEA furniture, halves of couples—both same-sex and otherwise—explain how they met and decided to marry and, if applicable, how they divorced or how the missing partner died. There are also some single people who get to explain in a single sentence why they've made that completely legitimate choice. Occasionally some bigoted heteros explain their views (but aren't permitted to sit in the fancy garage). Every once in a while the camera pops into a faux cabaret to listen to Seattle singer Felicia Loud, dressed in a ladies' tuxedo, croon love songs.
To be sure, the stories recounted in Inlaws & Outlaws are often beautiful and moving. In a lo-fi, no-pressure venue—say, NPR's StoryCorps series—they would be lovely. But director Drew Emery isn't interested in loveliness; he wants to be persuasive. His movie has the look and feel of a glossy PSA. And nothing shuts down intimacy like slick editing and a cold garage. ANNIE WAGNER
dir. Johnny To
As other Hong Kong directors find themselves consigned to dopey big-budget Hollywood oblivion (John Woo, where art thou?) or mannered art-house navel-gazing, Johnny To just keeps cranking them down the middle on his home turf, with a ridiculously high rate of success. With an output that manages to seamlessly mesh balls-out action with bouts of reflective hit-man melancholy (see the current SIFF entry Exiled for a particularly aces example of both), he may be the most consistent, consistently pleasurable filmmaker working today.
Triad Election, To's 44th (!) film, finds the director further enhancing his mastery of the deceptively narrow world of men with black suits, thin ties, and questionable ethics. Picking up more or less where 2005's Election left off, the narrative this time around focuses on Jimmy (Louis Koo), a cold-fish Triad dreamboat initially content to continue making a killing in the semi-legit pirate DVD market. Once the police start to interfere with his racket, however, he decides to run for the top mob spot, an action that puts him at odds with the current chairman (HK mainstay Simon Yam) looking to extend his term by any means necessary. The bodies stack like cordwood.
There's more than a whiff of the Corleone saga to the proceedings, but To takes the potentially hackneyed material and makes it thoroughly his own, combining increasingly tense karaoke-bar staredowns with occasional bursts of artful carnage. (Judging from his films, Hong Kong should really consider designating a separate transit lane for guys running down the street with machetes.) Shameless pulp it may be, but to watch it is to see a master craftsman continuing to refine his talent. By the time you've finished reading this, he's likely made another. ANDREW WRIGHT
dir. Geoffrey Wright
The opening scene of Macbeth is a keeper: Three witchy, redheaded schoolgirls desecrate a graveyard with screwdrivers and bloody paint. They shriek and giggle; they gouge the eyes of angels; their callous, pale beauty is more alarming than any warty "black and midnight hags" hunched over a stewpot.
This could be good, you think, an Australian update of that old Shakespeare yarn. I like Australians, you think. I like scary redheads. I like—wait, what's that Asian vampire goth raver gang doing here? Where did 1997 come from? Did Macbeth just turn on that fog machine and roll sensually across the floor? Yes. He fucking did.
Daring to ask the question, "What if Macbeth were a totally huge douche?" this movie is a teal and pink velveteen nightmare of embarrassing rock-'n'-roll suits, furrowed brows, and affected twentysomething angst. Everything is bejeweled and everything is awful.
Macbeth, you see, is an up-and-comer in the fashionably deadly Melbourne mafia underworld. I'm sure you know the story: He kills the boss, he goes cuckoo, everyone dies. The Shakespearean language is abridged but unaltered—and combined with Australian accents, it's basically unintelligible.
Overly brutal and painfully maudlin, the film offers little that didn't make my heart barf. There are a lot of naked ladies, if you're into that sort of thing. Macbeth (Sam Worthington) is a bit of a babe, and Macduff rules (no doy!). And red-lipped Lady Macbeth (Victoria Hill), fortunately, remains a colossal badass—you can't not get shivers from "How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this."
But then, around the corner, through the fog, strolls Macbeth: petulant and bored in his leather Utilikilt. How now, douchebag. LINDY WEST