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Fringe Report is now closed. Fringe Report closed on its 10th anniversary, Thursday 12 July 2012. It remains online as a record of 10 exciting years in the arts. Till July 2013, previously unwritten content is being added to the site from the past 10 years, but we are no longer reviewing new material. You can still write to us on the existing email addresses. Good luck with your shows.Film - The View From Dallas - June 07
by Kevin Gillette
Dallas, Texas (Big D to the natives) lives up to the notion that everything's bigger in Texas. However, that is a double-edged sword. With the bigger appetites for entertainment comes an equal measure of tolerance for banality and all things main-stream. This writer is a fan of foreign, art-house, and indie films, which see scant play in the local movie houses (some notable exceptions to this rule are the Inwood, the Angelika, and the Magnolia theatres, which cater to more esoteric work). This write-up from Dallas is informed more by a personal, chaotic careening through the catalogue than by a planned journey into (and beyond) the fringe.
Where to start? Why, at the beginning - children's cinema. A few months ago, Dallas played host to KidFilm 2007, a two-day festival of cinema directed at young children and teenagers. Two films on offer were Opal Dream and Greyfriars Bobby.
The first is an Australian vehicle, starring newcomer Sapphire Boyce. Opal Dream takes place in the opal capital of the world, Coober Pedy, where a young family is making a hard-scrabble life out of noodling (prospecting) in shallow mines for opals. Kellyanne (Sapphire Boyce) is the daughter in the family, who copes with the dusty, mean-spirited world around her by hanging out with two imaginary friends, Pobby and Dingan. When her father accidentally 'loses' Pobby and Dingan in one of his mines, and subsequent searching causes him to fall out of favour with the townspeople (who accuse him of claim-jumping, or 'ratting'), Kellyanne falls gravely ill with grief and worry. Her intrepid brother Ashmol, who is the real main character of the story, comes to her aid and manages to rally the entire community to support his sister, and by analogy, the imaginary friends. Though uneven at times, this is truly an affirming film that deserves a wide audience. Caution to US audiences though - censorship of language is different overseas than here in the United States, so beware of a modest amount of foul language (all by adults, of course).
Greyfriars Bobby is based on the true Scottish tale of a little terrier whose master dies abruptly. The dog, so it is said, refuses to leave his master's grave except for brief periods to eat. Without revealing anything about what transpires, it suffices to say that the little dog is Rin-Tin-Tin and Lassie combined, with a soupçon of Beethoven thrown in for good measure. Again, a great film for the kiddoes, though occasionally a little dark and intense. If you are a dog-lover of any stripe, this film will have something for you.
A film that has become a favourite in this writer's collection is the 2003 Hungarian film, Kontroll, starring Sándor Csányi. This film was the debut for director Nimród Antal, an American-born filmmaker who returned to Hungary after completing his film studies in the US. Nimród Antal recently released an English-language thriller, Vacancy, demonstrating his facility on two continents. Back to Kontroll. This film takes place entirely within the confines of the Budapest subway system. The underground setting is a metaphor for the main character, Bulcsú (Sándor Csányi), who has withdrawn from life above ground owing to some setback or disillusionment (we're never told exactly what it is, but it is referred to in a conversation on one of the trains), is a ticket-control officer - hence the name of the film. We follow Bulcsú and his band of crazy co-workers and rivals through their day, punctuated by pranks, challenges, the advent of a mysterious and haunting young woman in a bear-costume (played by the luminous Eszter Balla, a veteran Hungarian stage actress), and a shadowy killer who stalks the rail lines. The movie plunges unerringly through the frenetic maze, both physical and metaphysical, that is Bulcsú's world. It's a ride well worth the price of admission.
Canada has long been a haven for directors looking to make their mark on the world without the over-arching influence of Hollywood. From relative newcomer Raphael Assaf comes The Zero Sum (also released as Letters). The Zero Sum stars Ewen Bremner (best known to moviegoers as Spud in Trainspotting) as Leonard, a nonchalant thief who lands his brother, an aspiring writer, in jail due to an identity mix-up. He takes to more violent crime (mugging) as a way of clearing his brother of the charges and getting back on track with his writing. While doing so, Leonard mugs a beautiful young woman named Leah, played coyly by Sarah Strange. Suddenly Leonard's agenda isn't as clear-cut as it first seemed. Ewen Bremner, who has made a career out of playing off-centre characters who frequently endure physical abuse or hardship, covers up his Scottish accent to an amazing degree, and really puts humanity into Leonard, lest the character be readily dismissed as just another trashy derelict. Strange, as Leah, manages to combine angst and sangfroid, two seemingly antithetical attributes, in her character as well. Her mugging haunts her. The attentions of her new friend calm her, but she can't shake the sense that something's not quite right about him. Raphael Assaf helps us explore that gray area between solicitude and obsessiveness.
Shorts. A wonderful - though emotionally painful - short is Zoe's Day, by director Rebecca Gwynne. This 10-minute excursion through the day of 8-year-old Zoe is filled with ominous overtones from the start, and culminates in a shocking moment of despair. Fourteen, from director Nicole Barnette, is a riveting film that delineates the sinister undertones of a religious movement without dialogue or narration. Little Black Caddy, from directors Peter Alexander and Greg Liburd, is a hilarious romp across a British Columbia golf course, where an arrogant white-collar worker who gets a heaping helping of just deserts served to him by a young boy acting as a caddy.
(c) Kevin Gillette 1 June 2007
Kevin Gillette works in film distribution in Dallas, Texas, USA
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