Los Angeles Film Festival Guide 2008 

Wednesday, Jun 18 2008

THE AMAZING TRUTH ABOUT QUEEN RAQUELA (Iceland/Philippines) In a documentary that often feels stagy, director Olaf De Fleur Johannesson follows Raquela, a transsexual streetwalker in the Philippines, who becomes an online sex star and is then swept away to Paris by Michael, her Manhattan-based porn boss. What’s weird is that Michael first sends Raquela to Iceland to work in a fish factory, a business plan I frankly didn’t understand. Yet, despite the sense that Johannesson sidesteps some harsh truths about hookers and pimps, there’s no denying that Michael is a compelling jerk, or that one wishes happiness for the lively, resourceful queen. (Mann Festival, Thurs., June 26, 9:45 p.m.; The Landmark, Sun., June 29, 4:30 p.m.) (Chuck Wilson)

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click to flip through (8) Anvil! The Story Of Anvil
  • Anvil! The Story Of Anvil

Anvil! The Story Of Anvil

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Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story

CRITIC’S PICK  ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL (USA) With testimonials from the likes of Lemmy Kilmister, Lars Ulrich and Slash, you’d think that Anvil — the subject of Sacha Gervasi’s hilarious and achingly touching documentary — was Canada’s answer to Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. But 13 albums into a career that began in the late ’70s, the metalheads from the Great White North have yet to enjoy the fame and fortune of their fellow hard-rock stars. Director and one-time roadie for the band, Gervasi (who wrote the story for what became The Terminal) follows Anvil’s remaining original members, singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner, two nice Jewish knuckleheads of Spinal Tap–ian proportions; Kudlow used to play his guitar with a dildo; his early songs were inspired by the Spanish Inquisition. Amphitheaters the band once shared with Bon Jovi and Whitesnake have given way to sports bars and community centers. They have middle-aged fans with names like “Cut Loose” and “Mad Dog,” who drink beer through their noses, not to mention relatives with names like Droid, who still sport feathered hair. And if they’re not missing trains thanks to bumbling managers, they’re being screwed by European club owners (including a Hungarian who is filmed also serving goulash to customers — easily the doc’s funniest moment). But even while trudging through 9-to-5 jobs in their 50s — Kudlow, as a driver for a catering company, Reiner, as a construction worker — the duo still talk the dream. When you have to schlep all the way to Japan to play a gig at the ungodly hour of 11:35 a.m. just for a little love and recognition, it’s never a question of when already? but rather why not? (John Anson Ford Amphitheater, Thurs., June 26, 8 p.m.) (Siran Babayan)


GO  THE ART OF FAILURE: CHUCK CONNELLY NOT FOR SALE (USA) Jeff Stimmel’s documentary about the self-sabotaging near-icon of ’80s New York neo-expressionism, whose densely textured paintings and turbulent personality were the basis for Nick Nolte’s character in the Martin Scorsese–directed segment of New York Stories, plays like a calculated if futile bid to kick-start a career that stalled back in 1990 (and therein lies a real New York story). Yet Connelly’s oeuvre to date is strong enough, and his character flaws compensated by enough raw ingenuity, we find ourselves hoping against hope that — falling short of abject surrender to his inner demons — he’ll pull it off. Until then, don’t cross him when he’s drunk. (Mann Festival, Fri., June 27, 7:30 p.m.; The Landmark, Sun., June 29, 4:30 p.m.) (Ron Stringer)

CRITIC’S PICK  BALLAST (USA) Lance Hammer’s fragmentary, mysterious and poetic drama — the deserved winner of the dramatic directing and cinematography prizes at Sundance this year — reveals its central characters and relationships gradually and from a distance, as if we were entering into a private dream. Opening with the death of a middle-aged convenience-store owner and proceeding to trace the impact of the man’s death on his estranged wife, son and twin brother, Ballast is a striking debut feature not only for its writer-director, Hammer, but also for much of its crew and all of its principal cast — remarkable nonprofessional actors recruited on location in Canton, Mississippi. It is a movie marked by the most unusual mix of inspirations: Charles Burnett’s impressionistic renderings of black American life, the Dardenne brothers’ neorealist city symphonies and Mexican director Carlos Reygadas’ ecstatic wide-screen exploration of rural vistas. But Hammer — who holds an architecture degree from USC and got started in movies as an art director — has digested those influences and formed from them a wholly original meditation on lost souls trying to gain a foothold in a bleak, treacherous landscape. (The Landmark, Wed., June 25, 9:30 p.m.; Regent, Thurs., June 26, 7 p.m.) (Scott Foundas)

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