SF IndieFest 2012: “4:44 Last Day On Earth”, “Bullhead” and “Gandu” Reviews and Trailers

4:44 Last Day On Earth

How would you spend your last days on Earth if you knew the world was going to be destroyed in the morning?  That’s the premise in Abel Ferrara‘s (King of New York, Bad Lieutenant) claustrophobic new movie, starring Willem Dafoe and newcomer Shanyn Leigh in where the two play a Manhattan couple coming to terms with their final moments of existence.

Ferrara’s choice to shoot the majority of the film in one setting with a minimal amount of takes made me feel as if I were watching a play – not at all a bad thing, especially when the lead actor is Dafoe.  This play setting, along with the ‘sky is falling’ scenario practically begs for fueled performances to which both Dafoe and Leigh delivered.  The actors made the most of their surroundings and turned their emoting skills on high, only occasionally finding themselves being caught in fits of overacting.  This is where the movie falters, when the attention pays too much to the acting and not the scenario.  Still, the little bursts of over-the-top moments weren’t enough to detract me from the movie as a whole.

4:44 Last Day On Earth is a depressing way to kick off a film festival, yet not as depressing as kicking it off with a bad movie.  Fans of both doomsday scenarios and movies that show close-ups of Willem Dafoe’s pubic region should walk away eerily pleased from this one.

Bullhead AKA Rundskop

Don’t let the genre label of crime/drama deter you from seeing a fantastic and unique character study of a man and his addiction to steroids.  Though the script is strong and moves the movie along at a steady pace the real star here is in the fierce acting by the film’s lead, Matthias Schoenaerts.  Not since De Niro‘s portrayal of Travis in Taxi Driver, and most recently, Ryan Goseling in Drive have I seen such a strong and low-key performance.  He was as astonishing and complex as his character needed to be – making an already great film just that much greater.

Deservedly so, Bullhead is Belgian’s entry into the Oscars this year for best foreign film.  Missing your chance to see this one at Indiefest would be a mistake.

Gandu (Asshole)

Sex and drugs and rock and roll is all my brain and body need – Ian Dury & The Blockheads

Now, substitute the lyric of “rock and roll” for that of “rap”, and – in a nutshell – what you have in Gandu is the Bengali cinematic version of that now legendary punk anthem.

Shot in black & white, with flares of color scattered throughout the film’s bizarre third act, Gandu tells the story of an introverted and poor aspiring young rapper and his friend, Rickshaw, who aside from being obsessed with Bruce Lee, earns his living by driving – you guessed it – a rickshaw.

As a whole, this film is a bit of a mixed bag.  The entire first hour delivers a grade-A gritty character study, whereas grade-B wankerism looms heavy in the film’s overindulging self recognizing third-half.  Had the third act been cut out all together, the film wouldn’t have lost any of its impact and would have made for a much more enjoyable experience.

On a more positive tip, the beautiful black and white cinematography, timely editing and pitch-perfect use of both score and soundtrack give Asshole (Gandu) its wings.  Like drinking a refreshing blend of both Jim Jarmusch (director of Down By Law, Ghost Dog) and Larry Clark films (director of Kids, Wassup Rockers), Gandu, at least in its first two acts, has all the makings of being this generations sex and drugs and rock n’ roll rap.


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Categories: IndieFest, Reviews

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