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Review: Shortbus and more ...

By January 23, 2007December 30th, 2010One Comment

Shortbus posterIf you have ever watched American movies you’ll be famil­i­ar with the big yel­low bus that tra­di­tion­ally takes the kids to school. But evid­ently, there is anoth­er kind of bus, smal­ler, just for the troubled and the chal­lenged, what we now call “spe­cial needs”. It’s called the Shortbus, which is also the name of a sex club in New York where alternative-types hang out and shag each oth­er and the name of the new film by Hedwig-auteur John Cameron Mitchell.

The film fol­lows sev­er­al young New Yorkers (singles and couples; straight and gay) through a jour­ney to dis­cov­er them­selves. Yes, its about sex but more than that it’s about con­nect­ing – some­thing that seems increas­ingly dif­fi­cult in this day and age. Quote of the year (so far) from Justin Bond, host of Shortbus the club: “I used to want to save the world, now I’m happy if I can just leave the room with my dig­nity intact.” I have a feel­ing that Shortbus is going to have a long life once it leaves cinemas as word slowly gets around. Highly recommended.

Dreamgirls posterThe flashy music­al Dreamgirls is a lightly dis­guised re-telling of the story of Motown and the rela­tion­ship between vis­ion­ary boss Berry Gordy and his muse, Diana Ross. Unfortunately the won­der­ful music of the Hitsville USA era is nowhere to be found, just bland Broadway show­tunes gussied up to sound like The Supremes, etc. It’s always going to be a prob­lem for a music­al – songs that aren’t very good – but it’s the only prob­lem for a film that gets everything else pretty right.

The per­form­ances are good from all the prin­cipals, includ­ing Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé; and Eddie Murphy, but the stand-out is new­comer Jennifer Hudson, as the wronged Dreamette Effie White, who steals every scene she’s in and stops the show every time she opens her lungs. Truly, a star is born. Dreamgirls is worth watch­ing for Hudson and for the most out­stand­ing pro­duc­tion design I have wit­nessed in decades.

Offside posterSupporting a sports team is the fast­est intro­duc­tion to humil­ity I can think of (at least it is with the teams I fol­low) but at least those teams are usu­ally happy for your sup­port. Imagine that you are a pas­sion­ate, face-painting, sup­port­er of your nation­al foot­ball team, about to play their most import­ant match for a dec­ade but you’re not allowed in – ’cause you’re a girl.

This is the prob­lem facing sev­er­al young Tehrani girls des­per­ate to see Iran play their final World Cup qual­i­fy­ing game against Bahrain in 2005. In Iran, how­ever, women are not allowed in the sta­di­um. Jafar Panahi’s com­edy Offside is about a group of these girls as they try to out­smart the gorm­less young recruits tasked with guard­ing them.

Offside is a little dia­mond of a film, rough around the edges as one might expect, but funny and sweet at the same time. I know a little bit more about my world now that I’ve seen it.

Volver posterPedro Almodóvar’s Volver is all but per­fect. Try as I might I can­’t find a flaw with the per­form­ances, the story or the dir­ec­tion. Penélope Cruz has nev­er been bet­ter as Raimunda, hard-working moth­er of teen­age Paula, wife of lay­about Paco, sis­ter of homely home-hairdresser Sole, daugh­ter of probably-dead moth­er Irene and best friend of sickly Agustina.

It’s been a great week for art­house films and a week I heart­ily recom­mend you see more than one film.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 24 January, 2007.