AFI Fest: A to W | Film | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly

AFI Fest: A to W 

Our comprehensive guide to more than 40 festival titles

Thursday, Oct 30 2008

GO  ACHILLES AND THE TORTOISE (Japan) The best film since Dolls (2002) by actor, director and all-around king of Japanese media Takeshi Kitano is a high-spirited art world send-up, in which Machisu, the son of a bankrupted industrialist and arts patron, grows up wanting to be a painter despite his lack of any obvious talent for the game. Kitano himself stars as the grown-up Machisu, who goes to increasingly absurd lengths (including oxygen deprivation) to “stimulate” his creative impulses. But the real stars of the movie are the hilarious faux canvases Machisu creates in the style of Miró, Lichtenstein, Basquiat, et al., as he struggles hopelessly to find his own voice. The paintings all issue from Kitano’s own hand, and their extravagant colors pop from Achilles’ otherwise desaturated frames like strawberries in a snowstorm. (ArcLight Hollywood, Mon., Nov. 3, 9:50 p.m.; Mann Chinese 6, Fri., Nov. 7, 3:30 p.m.) (Scott Foundas)

AGILE, MOBILE, HOSTILE: A YEAR WITH ANDRE WILLIAMS (USA) Since arriving on the scene in 1956 with the lascivious gutbucket soul of “Bacon Fat,” Andre Williams has had his fingers in a lot of pies (and a lot of other places, as he likes to say). At 71, he is still rhythm ’n’ blues’ reigning wild man, but Agile, Mobile, Hostile fails its subject. With no production values, no ideas and no energy, a video camera clumsily shadows a tired Williams through a series of gigs with his all-white backing band. Williams has made a career of transcending shoestring budgets with his spit and spirit, but even the Black Godfather can’t lift this doc from the doldrums. (ArcLight Hollywood, Fri., Nov. 7, 9:40 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 9, 3 p.m.) (Sam Sweet)

GO  ALONE IN FOUR WALLS (Germany) Tolya, age 15, is serving three years for a murder he committed at age 13. Lyosha is 13 and doing two years for theft and truancy. These boys, and many like them, are doing time in a remote Russian reform school — an “army camp with lessons,” as one boy puts it. Filmmaker Alexandra Westmeier was given unfettered access to the school, and she’s made a film that’s drenched in tragedy, yet hauntingly beautiful. She has a poet’s eye, capturing the monklike rhythms of the boys’ endless work day, and using shots of the school’s rundown buildings and desolate outer landscape to punctuate moments of dramatic intensity, as when the charming but unrepentant Tolya finally recites the details of his crime. Along the way, Westmeier visits Tolya’s father, as well as the mother of the boy he killed, and from all this emerges a narrative that has the fullness of fiction, and the terrible ache of truth. (ArcLight Hollywood, Wed., Nov. 5, 9:20 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 7, 12:15 p.m.) (Chuck Wilson)

click to enlarge TERESA ISASI/IFC FILMS - Che
  • Teresa Isasi/IFC Films
  • Che

GO  BEFORE THE FALL (3 DIAS) (Spain) Three days before a giant meteorite is scheduled to hit Earth and end all life, a handyman named Ale (Victor Clavijo) travels with his mother from their small Spanish town to the countryside, where his nephews and nieces have been abandoned by their parents. Shielding them from the knowledge of the planet’s impending demise, Ale must prepare for an even more imminent threat: As the world descends into chaos, the prisons have emptied, and one particular convict with a grudge is likely headed their way. Initially a meditative drama, the movie turns into an all-out horror flick by the end — a tonal shift that requires as deft a hand as, say, Guillermo del Toro’s, which writer-director F. Javier Gutierrez thankfully seems to have. Just be warned: It’s neither for the squeamish nor the impatient. (ArcLight Hollywood, Sun., Nov. 2, 1:30 p.m.; Mann Chinese 6, Wed., Nov. 5, 7 p.m.) (Luke Y. Thompson)

GO  BETTER THINGS (UK) It takes a while to figure out exactly what’s going on in this first feature from director Duane Hopkins, but by the time a series of narratives emerges from this series of seemingly random scenes, the viewer has already been seduced. Hopkins establishes himself as a distinctive stylist in this expertly controlled evocation of drug-addled teenage (and old-age) alienation set in the idyllic surroundings of England’s Cotswolds district. The relentlessly bleak mood and mutedness of both dialogue and image make the occasional flashes of redemption all the more poignant when they finally appear. Hopkins has crafted a work of depth and originality that will surely benefit from repeated viewings. (ArcLight Hollywood, Thurs., Nov. 6, 7:10 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 7, 3:30 p.m.) (John Tottenham)

GO  THE CHASER (South Korea) Writer-director Na Hong-jin’s smashing debut thriller vibrates in sympathy with its desperate antihero, a disgraced cop turned pimp racing to rescue one of his girls from a slacker serial killer. Na shows impeccable taste in stealing from genre classics both familiar (Silence of the Lambs) and comparatively obscure (The Silent Partner), but his clenched frustration with urban chaos and police corruption is felt and urgent. The scrambling messiness of the fights and chases juices the tension to almost unbearable levels. (ArcLight Hollywood, Fri., Oct. 31, 7:15 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 6, 12:30 p.m.) (David Chute)

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