By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
NEXT DAY AIR Benny Boom built his reputation directing music videos and commercials, and his first feature, Next Day Air, falls somewhere between the blunt-force visuals of the former and the focus-grouped formulas of the latter. What’s being sold in this skeletally plotted story of a drug shipment gone awry is not a hip-hop star (though a couple of them appear) or an energy drink, nor any debut directorial vision. Instead, Boom sells the viewer back to him/herself: “This is what you like,” the film’s mash of confidently broad laugh-lines, “lovably” repugnant characters, and abrupt plunges into violence suggest. The ensemble cast includes Donald Faison as a pothead deliveryman who mistakenly delivers a massive cocaine drop to two ineffectual thugs (Mike Epps and Wood Harris). When the Puerto Ricans next door start taking heat from their Mexican drug lord for the missing package, a sort of Keystone Cops sequence of events is set into motion. Except there are no cops, not much farcical energy, and none of the satiric edge it would take to pull off the film’s grim denouement. Next Day Air is a straight shot up the middle. (Citywide) (Michelle Orange)
OUR CITY DREAMS Like rushed gallery-hopping, Chiara Clemente’s doc on five multigenerational, multinational women artists, all living in New York, provides only a cursory view of what’s on display. The director — daughter of painter Francesco, the focus of her first film, the short Three Worlds — starts with the youngest of her subjects, the Gen-Y cutout artist Swoon, and works backward to pioneering second-wave feminist octogenarian Nancy Spero. The women who bookend Clemente’s film are, coincidentally, the only two offering a sense of how New York has affected their practice — supposedly the uniting theme in Our City Dreams. Marina Abramovic, who moved to NYC in 2004, appears to have no connection to the city other than performing at the Guggenheim; Ghada Amer talks about house-buying jitters on an MTA bus; Kiki Smith is filmed briefly on an East Village block. A Gotham resident since 1964, Spero (creator of the fantastic glass-mosaic murals in the Lincoln Center subway station, captured fleetingly in the doc) gives the most forthright assessment of the agony and the ecstasy of trying to sustain life as an artist there, noting that she, painter husband Leon Golub and their tykes settled first in Paris in the ’50s as a more hospitable location. For even more candor, seek out the women who are barely able to pay rent on their studios in Sunset Park, Long Island City or Red Hook. (Music Hall) (Melissa Anderson)
GO REVANCHEAn unidentified object sends ripples across the surface of a lake at the start of Götz Spielmann’s Revanche, and in the two hours it takes the movie to loop back to that crucial moment, we see another set of shockwaves issue forth from a bucolic Austrian town. A bank robbery is committed by Alex (Johannes Krisch), a proletariat lug working for a cheap-suited pimp in Vienna’s red-light district and in love with a Ukrainian call girl (Irina Potapenko) equally eager to escape the pimp’s thuggish clutches. It is, Alex says, in the way of all movie smalltimers trying to get rich quick, a foolproof heist — and so it might be, were it not for Robert (Andreas Lust), the provincial cop who happens to be patrolling the street where Alex illegally parks his stolen getaway car, and who fires the fateful shot that violently upends Alex’s perfect plan.
Alex takes cover at his elderly grandfather’s nearby farm, which turns out to abut the property of Robert and his wife, Susanne (Ursula Strauss) — a coincidence that might have seemed like a cheap provocation, but which Spielmann deploys with the cool inevitability of a Greek tragedian. It’s the untidiness of human relationships, however, more than the weight of moral reckoning, that drives Revanche, which was one of the few deserving nominees in the forlorn Foreign Language category of this year’s Academy Awards. As Alex seethes with vengeful thoughts, he finds himself unexpectedly drawn to Susanne, and comes to realize that he is not the botched robbery’s only collateral victim. The shooting and its ensuing investigation have also taken their toll on Robert, and in turn formed fissures in his marriage — or maybe (as an empty upstairs nursery suggests) magnified ones that were already there. When cop and robber finally meet again, it is not in a violent standoff, but rather a dialectic.
Directed with terrific control and economy of means by Spielmann — a film and theater vet who has had only one previous movie distributed in the U.S. — Revanche gets its hooks into you early and keeps them there, alternately suggesting a darkly romantic film noir in the vein of Nicholas Ray’s On Dangerous Ground (which navigates a similar journey from seedy urbanism to lyric countryside), a Strindbergian chamber play opened up for the great outdoors, and a Jacobean revenge drama stripped of its ceremonial bloodshed. In his first major screen role, stage actor Krisch cuts an intensely physical presence, making vivid business out of scaling a wall or somersaulting across a bed to answer the door, but proving even more adept at registering the rage and resignation that pass behind Alex’s eyes as he stares out into the horizon, weighing his fate. (Nuart) (Scott Foundas)
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