By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Jaoui, whose first feature this is as director, wisely plays to her greater experience, in tandem with Bacri, as a writer. Visually, The Taste of Others is a cautious collection of one-shot vignettes. It‘s the dialogue -- wisecracking and wistful in equal measure -- that plays out the tyrannical illogic of romantic attraction, and so endears us to this ensemble of bruised souls that when, as in life, not everyone gets what they have come to deserve, it feels, as in life, like an injustice. Still, there is justice in the Best Foreign Film nomination recently bestowed on this warm, funny and sage movie, which goes a long way toward making up for the five idiotic nods -- including, God forgive the Academy, Best Picture -- that, courtesy of an aggressive marketing campaign, were thrown away on that other Miramax movie, Chocolat, as soggy and saccharine a view of how the French live and love as you could hope to find on either side of the Atlantic.
Like the back-of-beyond American small town, the rundown English seaside resort, with its ruined gentility poking through its brassy pop bravado, has long been a favorite locale for filmmakers with a romantic yen for decrepitude. If you like this sort of thing -- and I do -- you will love Pawel Pawlikowski’s Last Resort, in which Tanya (Dina Korzun, who has the freckly innocence of a Slavic Minnie Driver), a beautiful Russian children‘s-book illustrator with a habit of collecting unreliable men, drags her 10-year-old son, Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov), to just such a forlorn backwater in the hope of meeting an English fiance who never shows up. In desperation, she files for political asylum, finds herself beached in immigration hell in a high-rise building bleaker than anything a Soviet people’s architect could ever dream up, and falls into an improbable liaison with Alfie (Paddy Considine), a sympathetic amusement-arcade manager with his own history of failure to overcome.
Last Resort -- part of the Shooting Gallery Spring 2001 series, and preceded by The Heart of the World, a short film by the madly inspired Canadian director Guy Maddin -- was pretty much made up as it went along, which doesn‘t do much for the well-trodden saga of mutual self-discovery that follows. It hardly matters, for the movie’s a beauty. Shot in the has-been coastal town of Margate, a jungle of suitably tawdry bingo halls, arcades and porno emporia (a cyberpornographer who lures Tanya into stripping for the small screen is played with amusingly genial ineptitude by real-life porn purveyor Lindsey Honey), the movie juggles the sober documentary naturalism that is second nature to films of this kind with a woozy, hand-held expressionism that lingers, just because, on the bingo tables and curling gray waves of a world whose only claim to conventional prettiness is the plaintive cry of the sea gulls circling above its dreary roofs. In realist terms, the nobility that gradually brightens the faces of Tanya and Alfie may be a crock -- but in Pawlikowski‘s dreamy vision, it’s a crock you want to believe in.
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