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Four Dramas from Life Size Entertainment

Rouleman (December 28/05)

From director Panos Karkanevatos comes this interminable, utterly pointless story revolving around the complicated relationship between Loula (Anna Sotiroudi) and Kosmos (Giorgios Glastras). After hooking up at a restaurant, the two immediately begin a torrid love affair that eventually self-destructs due to Kosmos' possessive tendencies. There's also a subplot in which a documentary film crew attempt to piece together what really happened to Loula and Kosmos, for reasons that finally become clear in the movie's third act. It's hard to imagine just what Karkanevatos was looking to accomplish here, as Rouleman comes off as an amateurish and shockingly unfocused piece of work right from the outset. The total lack of character development certainly doesn't help matters, a problem that's exacerbated by Sotiroudi and Glastras' flat, lifeless performances. Karkanevatos' directorial style is virtually non-existent, as the filmmaker eschews anything resembling production values in favor of an artificially gritty, thoroughly irritating handheld vibe. The bottom line is that Rouleman is just bad, and there's simply no shaking the feeling that something's gotten lost in translation.

out of

Sorry for Kung Fu (December 29/05)

Sorry for Kung Fu is a gentle, low-key comedy revolving around a young woman named Mirjana (Daria Lorenci), who returns home to Croatia after living in Germany during the Balkan wars. Her reception is complicated by the fact that she is pregnant and unmarried; her old-fashioned parents immediately set out to find her a husband in order to avoid embarrassment from their fellow villagers. Writer/director Ognjen Svilicic infuses Sorry for Kung Fu with a meandering structure that ultimately lends the movie an inconsequential sort of vibe, yet the filmmaker does an effective job of developing each of the central characters - to the extent that it becomes difficult for the viewer not to become wrapped up in their escapades (for lack of a better word). Svilicic peppers the story with several genuinely funny comedic moments - including a sequence in which a guest of the family wanders out into a mine field to take a whiz - but the incredibly poor subtitling occasionally makes it difficult to understand exactly what's going on (worse still, punchlines of certain jokes are omitted entirely!) The relatively short running time of 70 minutes occasionally feels longer than it actually is, particularly as the film becomes more and more sedate as it progresses. Still, Sorry for Kung Fu (a title which still makes no sense) is engaging enough, elevated by a distinct sense of authenticity and a series of better-than-expected performances.

out of

Steve + Sky (January 4/05)

While there's no doubt that filmmaker Felix van Groeningen possesses a certain amount of talent - visually speaking, Steve + Sky is almost always intriguing - the man comes up short in terms of creating characters worth caring about or a plot worth following. The film details the unlikely romance between Steve (Titus De Voogdt), a two-bit criminal, and Sky (Delfine Bafort), a beautiful yet mentally unbalanced free-spirit, as they attempt to reconcile their volatile personal lives with their desire to be together. Uneven to say the least, Steve + Sky features a first act that's surprisingly compelling - as van Groeningen's decidedly eye-catching directorial choices (he will, for example, throw in quick cuts to events that haven't happened yet) are perfectly matched by De Voogdt and Bafort's quirky but effective performances. But it's not long before we realize that the film's audacious sensibility serves no purpose other than to disguise the empty and ultimately pointless storyline. In the end, Steve + Sky just feels trivial; that the film was likely improvised (van Groeningen is credited with writing the "storyline") comes as absolutely no surprise.

out of

Wall (January 8/06)

Wall is an interminable, infuriatingly one-sided documentary revolving around the consequences that emerge after Israel erects a wall/fence separating itself from adjacent Palestinian territories. Director Simone Bitton establishes her ineptness early on, eschewing the sort of traditional elements one expects out of a documentary (ie interviews and the like) in favor of a far more esoteric sort of vibe. As a result, Wall is teeming with long, dialogue-free sequences that are presumably meant to come off as poetic but instead lend the film a feeling of abject pointlessness. Bitton even fails as an interviewer, asking her subjects some seriously inane questions that in no way further the viewer's understanding of how the wall has affected those who live near it. Given how many intriguing, eye-opening documentaries have dealt with the conflict in the Middle East (ie Checkpoint, Arna's Children, Death in Gaza, etc, etc), Bitton's complete inability to fashion anything even resembling coherence is particularly shocking; Wall is a thoroughly awful, downright insulting piece of work.

no stars out of

About the DVDs: Life Size Entertainment presents each of these films with letterboxed transfer, although extras are non-existent (Sorry for Kung Fu does come with a rather extensive behind-the-scenes featurette, however).
© David Nusair