Friday, October 30, 2009

The Tim Disney/Bill Haney AMERICAN VIOLET: shades of Stanley Kramer

A film as well-done and as important -- dealing as it does with race and justice in America (What? You've tuned out already?) -- as AMERICAN VIOLET ought to have created, if not a major surge, at least a minor blip at the box-office. That it disappeared so quickly with hardly a trace is indicative of both the plethora of small independent films currently washing over us and the "taint" of good intentions attached to a film like this one. Oh-oh: it's got an agenda. Well, yes -- rightly so.

The movie may bring to mind those of Stanley Kramer, that late and sometimes great producer/director and fighter for justice, who gave us films like The Defiant Ones, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Though Kramer is probably better remembered for his producing than for his directing (he had a rather heavy hand), his heart and mind were in the right place. As are those of the filmmakers of this new "Kramer" model (director Tim Disney is shown above, left). Best of all, they have a lighter, more adept hand concerning things like exposition, moralizing and the complex human character.

American Violet (a title change to something a tad more immediate and meaningful might have helped matters at the box-office) tells the based-on-life story of Regina Kelly (above, left, with screen-
writer Bill Haney), a young mother of four children who gets wrongfully caught up in a project-wide drug raid by the Feds and local officials. Her options appear to be "taking a plea," which would get her out of jail but deprive her of many important needs (her government-subsidized residence, for one), or pleading not guilty (a slam dunk into the permanent slammer, given the racist D.A. and police department). This girl is not a pure flower of virtue -- she's got a passel of unpaid parking tickets and her kids have several different fathers -- but she's decent and strong and most impor-
tantly has never had anything to do with drugs, as user or pusher.

The actress who plays Kelly (her movie character is now called Dee Roberts), newcomer Nicole Beharie (at left), is a find: as beautiful as she is believable, with the kind of strength necessary to bring this role home. She's abetted well by Alfre Woodard (below, left), who plays her mom, a woman who clearly has raised her daughter correctly but now lacks the strength (and any belief in her efficacy of her government) to see her through this ordeal. Xzibit (below, right, whose name it has taken TrustMovies about a year to figure out how to pronounce: This visual Ebonics will drive me bonkers) essays the role of Darrell, Dee's most recent man and father of at least one of her kids). He's very, very good: a fine combination of menace, caring, and strength, all sadly misused.

As often happens in movies like this, it's the good guys from the white over-class who end up helping the put-upon members of the underclass. Over the decades, this sort of thing has become increasingly tricky and problematic, but I'm pleased to report that Ameri-
can Violet
handles it about as well as possible, given its particular situation. The filmmakers and actors see to it that their white heroes -- played with their usual "smarts" and gravitas by Will Patton (seen at bottom, right, with Ms Woodard) and Tim Blake Nelson (shown below) -- demonstrate their understanding of how difficult it is for their black counterparts to stand up and be counted: what these people can lose in the process is made very plain. Even the villain, the town's D.A. (played well by Michael O'Keefe, shown above), is made both human and very nasty.

We need more movies like American Violet, which made its DVDebut a couple of weeks ago. Avoiding simple melodrama and wise about the web of racism, power and the criminal justice system, as well as the people in and out of power who become enmeshed in it and the compromises -- some necessary, others not -- that they must make, this movie should stand well the test of time. One caveat: I was aware from time to time of the musical score, which though low-key, still seemed obtrusive, taking the movie unnecessarily into further melodrama and cliche. I wonder if it might have made a better film with no musical score whatsoever. While this would not have quali-
fied it for "mainstream" status, since it never achieved anything close to that, this might have improved the movie noticeably.

The DVD, released via Image Entertainment, can be purchased on Amazon and rented via Netflix, Blockbuster or your local independent video outlet -- two or three of which may still remain open around the country.

(Photos are from the film itself,
except for that of Tim Disney by John Shearer,
© and courtesy of,
and Regina Kelly and Bill Haney by Patrick McDonald,
courtesy of

Thursday, October 29, 2009

STORM: Kerry Fox & Anamaria Marinca shine in Hans-Christian Schmid's smart film

The movie for me that first put The Hague's International Crimi-
nal Court on the map was The Reckoning, a documentary that opened the Human Rights Watch Inter-
national Film Fes-
tival, put on by the FSLC this past sum-
mer. That was an excellent film, given its -- and the court's -- limitations but I must confess that the new movie STORM by Hans-Christian Schmid (shown below) strikes me as the more interesting and inclusive, not to mention memorable, of the two films in terms of how it treats this important and necessary tool for the securing of criminal justice on an international level.

Although Storm is a narrative tale, Schmid's film has its own docu-
mentary look and feel that work wonders in commanding our atten-
tion and helping us believe in the veracity of what we're witnessing. Schmid has filled his film with smart detail: how the Court works (or doesn't -- both from the public and personal angles), how carefully it must build its cases, and how easily things can and do fall apart. As both director and co-writer (with Bernd Lange), he threads his story near-seamlessly with facts, figures and events that enable the adult viewer who has followed recent history (back into the 90s, at least) to also follow the film's many twists and turns.

The trial under consideration concerns the prosecution of a former Yugoslav National Army commander accused of deporting and later overseeing the killing of Bosnian-Muslim civilians. During the course of the investigation, the chief prosecutor's attention is turned from murder onto rape, and this appears to jigger the Court's procee-
dings something fierce. There's a definite feminist slant to the movie -- from the terrific performances of its two female stars to the relationships that the female prosecutor has with her boyfriend and her boss, and especially the suggestion that the mostly male top tier of the court would rather not concern itself with mere rape.

Those two stars, by the way, are the wonderful Kerry Fox (shown two photos above, and above right, from An Angel at My Table, Shallow Grave, Intimacy) who commands the movie via her strength and honesty, and the versatile Anamaria Marinca (below, left, from 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and the recent and terrific Five Minutes of Heaven), whom you be barely recognize from movie to movie. The fine supporting cast includes Stephen Dillane (above left), Rolf Lassgård, Alexander Fehling and a good newcomer Steven Scaharf (below, right). But it's Schmid's film, finally, and a more searing, anger-making movie you're not likely to sit through these days. Spoiler ahead: I might question the finale in terms of believability, but so desperately do we need something to hang on to by this point, that I must say, I welcomed it.

TrustMovies hopes to have an interview with the writer/director; if it happens, it'll be posted within the next few days. Meanwhile, see Storm, which opens tomorrow, Friday, October 30, courtesy of that priceless source of international cinema, Film Movement -- in New York City at two theaters: the Lincoln Plaza and the Quad. Check the complete list of national playdates for fall and early winter here.

MIDNIGHT MOVIE's Blu-Ray edition debuts

A film that TrustMovies spent some time and energy on last May -- MIDNIGHT MOVIE -- has just made its Blu-Ray debut (an event its director told us would be forthcoming). The review copy to be sent to us would have fallen upon a Blu-Rayless household, however, so instead we asked that the DVD be mailed to our our very old and dear and definitively movie-loving pal, artist Robert Adragna of Cobleskill, New York (the only person we know who actually owns a Blu-Ray machine). Robert watched the new version and reported back the following:

"A perfect title, if ever there was one, MIDNIGHT MOVIE is a film to see in a theater, on a Saturday night, with a crowd.

"As I watched the film at home, I could easily imagine the scares, laughs and groans from a live audience. Unfortunately, as a film, the movie never quite rises to a "B" level. It’s more in the “C” category.

"The acting is adequate, the cinematography adequate (yes, adequate is the word -- with the younger actors doing a better job than the the older ones). The best thing about the film is its hook: a Horror film within a Horror film, where the two meld at times, with both taking place in a movie theater. This hook is quite good, but a better script would have helped. However, on a late Saturday night, the audience will enjoy it.

"The Blu-Ray edition is not nearly up to the level of other Blu-Ray 'B' movies that I've seen, especially those put out by Lionsgate. I was surprised by this, as I had expected both the visuals and the sound quality to be better than they were."

Thanks for watching and reporting, Robert. Interested readers can find here TrustMovies' original review and interview with director Jack Messitt.

The Blu-Ray version of Midnight Movie, distributed via Phase 4 Films, is available from Amazon and elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Dan Eberle's THE LOCAL makes DVDebut

A low-end Brooklyn crime movie, THE LOCAL is the work of one, Dan Eberle (below), who writes, directs and stars in this weird mix of gritty realism and sentimentality that occasionally walks the line -- but never falls over it -- between stylization and over-the-top camp. You could call the film a vanity pro-
duction, I suppose, since it's pretty

much all Eberle, all the time. On the other hand, the guy has charisma. He's easy to watch, with a muscular body built for action and a face that may remind you of Mickey Rourke. As a performer, Eberle is just fine; it's the writer/director part that gives him some problems.

The Local offers us a lead character with no name. In fact, the credits list him as "Noname." He's (way) down on his luck, living in a friend's basement and doing drug runner jobs for 30 bucks a pop when he near-
simultaneously comes across a pretty young druggie, a suddenly abandoned baby, and a group of people, including her father, who dearly wants that pretty druggie back in tow. It takes one-third of the film to kick the plot into gear, another third is devoted to action-movie vamping (with one weird scene in which Noname and his "client" are knocked out, tied up and then made to fight to the death with some big lug who seems to enjoy killing), and then we have the expected finale that's been set up since that one-third mark.

The movie begin and ends with the remark that one can change his lot in life (the phrase even appears on the DVD cover), which leads to a little cheap-jack philosophizing between Noname and the film's most interesting character, an older woman client, played well by first-timer Janet Panetta. Of course you can change what you're given in life, yet the movie hardly bears this out, except in the most unbelievable of ways. Our lead character appears broke, but then he sometimes seems to have money; he's so strong he can easily beat the shit out of a hulking opponent -- except when he conveniently can't; he's off drugs -- clean -- until he's not; he's perfectly able to do his job one day, unable the next. When everything seems arbitrary, believability drains away -- and never more so than toward the finale when, in order to build a little suspense, there's suddenly a cop around when we haven't seen one during the entire movie.

Still, Eberle draws generally good performances from his cast -- which includes Maya Ferrara (above right, with Eberle) as the druggie -- despite giving his actors only so-so situations and dialog (the lingo used here often walks that same line between stylized and campy). The star himself certainly knows how to hold the screen, so perhaps his next outing will be more productive.

You can purchase The Local via Amazon or rent it from Netflix (although my queue this morning informed me that there's a very long wait, which may bode well for the movie's popularity).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sophie Okonedo, Sam Neill and Alice Krige star in Anthony Fabian's SKIN

"I'm not black," says little Sandra to her schoolmate, after the girl has mentioned that all her best friends back home are black. No, Sandra is "white," as we learn in a terrific new movie called SKIN, which, before it is over will have sent Sandra, officially, from black to white to black and back again. The adult Sandra is played by the beautiful actress Sophie Okonedo,

(shown above and in the second and third photos below) of Hotel Rwanda and Aeon Flux), and the younger version by the charming newcomer Ella Ramangwane (below, center), who is as lovely as she is intelligent.

Skin is about what its title suggests -- or more precisely about skin color and how it impacts on lives led in South Africa, from the 1960s until the 90s, at which time the official policy of apartheid came to an end. (How apartheid was practiced in South African schools is shown in one scene that should effectively curl your hair.) Sandra's skin is dark, you see, even though the child was born of two white parents, played extremely effectively -- Elephant Man-sized warts and all -- by Sam Neill (below, right) and Alice Krige (below, left). During the closing credit, we see the actual family upon which the film is based, and the resemblances are surprisingly strong.

How do you explain to your mixed race child the ins-and-outs of skin color and other racial features in a society where these count for all -- and the permutations by which that society twists itself into knots trying to smooth out all race wrinkles becomes initially ludicrous and then appalling? This is what Skin shows us so well as it tells the story of the Laing family and its three children (two of which pop out bearing the hallmarks of African, rather than Afrikaner, ancestry). Sandra's parents demand that she claim her heritage as white, though she clearly looks black, and they even go as far upwards as the country's Supreme Court, using the science of genetics to have the law changed to incorporate their needs. What about Sandra's needs? Her understanding of identity? These, it appear, do not count for much.

How this young woman grows up provides the meat of the movie, and there is plenty of it. This story, in fact, is such a good one -- so fascinating, if special to South Africa -- that it could easily get by with only a so-so telling. Fortunately Anthony Fabian (shown just below the movie's poster at top), the fellow responsible for the film's direction and story, tells it much better than that. Indeed, though it is not told with any great or obvious “style,” the film does not need additional frou-frou. Beginning at the time that apartheid was officially eradicated, Fabian introduces us to a rather cowed Sandra and then flashes back to her early years. In the very first scene from her childhood, the filmmaker neatly pulls our expectations up short. Near the end of the film, too, as a young man lounges on a couch, ignoring his sister's plea for help, we see his father reflected subtly but all too well in his lazy sense of entitlement. Small moments like these happen often throughout the film, raising it above the television venue in which stories such as this are more often found.

Skin is full of memorable, sometime shocking scenes -- a class recitation of the 7s multiplication table, sticking a pencil in the hair then shaking one's head as a test of racial identity, the sudden destruction of a shanty town that might bring to mind the recent District 9 -- all of which lead us to conclude how sick, brutal and destructive a country was South Africa under apartheid. Yet as awful as conditions were for blacks during this this, once Sandra is "freed" to live as a black, the cultural differences seem as immense as they often are oddly gratifying. Skin might best be seen on a double bill with the recent Disgrace: before-and-after book-
ends, the latter of which can be understood as one of the many unintended results of South Africa under apartheid. I cannot recommend either movie highly enough.

Skin opens in New York City and Los Angeles this Friday, October 30; other major U.S. cities will have theatrical runs in the coming weeks. You can find the entire list of playdates here.
(Photos are from the film itself, except that of Mr. Fabian.)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Available from iTunes: Liverpool's UNDER THE MUD, Nelson/Tunick NAKED STATES

As channels of movie distribution grow more bizarre and varied, look to some different sources for your viewing pleasure -- one of which might be iTunes, which is stacking up an ever larger library of films. Two of these came into TrustMovies hands in the past week, and so he promptly watched them in order to give you a heads-up.

UNDER THE MUD has quite a little history behind it: When the Liverpool-based Hurricane Films approached a youth-led community center in the area, a screenwriting project developed, characters appeared and were fleshed out, and finally a full-length film was completed -- which made the round of festivals but was not picked up for distribution (due, supposedly, to its cast's lack of star power), even though it garnered praise from a number of critics (The Guardian: "A wonderful, magical, uplifting tale... may be the best British film you'll never see." Understanding the maxim "Marketing is all," Hurricane began a kind of become-a-part-of-this-movie routine that has evidently raised enough funds to produce a DVD and to get the film on iTunes as a download.

Because Hurricane was also responsible for one of our favorite films of last year, Terence Davies' Of Time and the City, I had perhaps too high a set of hopes for this little movie about a scrappy, more-or-less happy family in Liverpool and its many crises that occur over a single day. To begin with, the DVD I watched had no subtitles in English, and the dialog is nigh unto impossible to understand -- even for this movie watcher whose dad hailed from the Liverpool area. (There's a very funny moment -- doubly funny, really -- that happens well into the movie when one particular character whose speaking is so indecipherable that the other characters make fun of her and actually add subtitles to a bit of her early dialog.) I stuck with the film anyway, even as I realized that maybe some one-third of the dialog had gone right passed me.

This day with family and friends -- and one, just-out-of-prison enemy -- involves unrequited love (adult and teen-age varieties), pregnancy and communion (there's a very funny scene of a stoner's take on the religious ceremony, plus a clever communion costume). Initially, the movie seems so very perky that you're not sure you'll survive it, but as it goes along, you'll probably hang on. The perfor-
mances are good and the director generally knows his stuff (a little too much so, from time to time), but by the finale I did wonder if the bandwagon for this movie was more successful than the film itself.


Another, older film -- NAKED STATES from 2000 -- is now available for download via iTunes. Directed by Arlene Donnelly Nelson (the cinematographer of the wonderful Beaches of Agnes), it deals with photographer Spencer Tunick, the fellow who was more often in the news some years back, due to his preference for photographing groups of naked people on city streets and in other public places.

Ms. Donelly Nelson tracks Tunicks' journey across country from east to west (stopping especially at the Burning Man festival) and back again, as he (accompanied by a small crew and his girlfriend) coaxes various individuals to pose naked by themselves or a part of a group. Often arrested but always let off -- he evidently has a very good lawyer -- Tunick also has an attraction to nudity and groups that is only slightly explained (at one point he refers to war, death, terrorism and the apocalypse). Why does the artist do this? His girlfriend claims that he's fearless, but who knows?

The film is finally more about its subject -- Tunick wants to film naked people in each and every one of the 50 states -- than about its artist. And that's OK, as it is consistently interesting and features lots of nudity which, after awhile, loses its power to titillate and becomes instead something to speculate about. When Tunick and company arrive at a nudist colony and director and crew must also disrobe, there's a sense of rough justice in what we see. (Tunick looks a bit like a fatter-faced, chubbier John Cusack.) The movie comes complete with occasional title cards, one of which, Public Solitude, introduces us to Deborah a very overweight but beautiful young woman whose photo against the rocks of a New York river is stunning indeed.

The film climaxes with the famous Phish concent in Maine, at which Tunick hopes to gather his largest nude crowd. Will the Phish folk help him? You'll find out -- and since the movie was made almost a decade ago, your memory will probably not be keen enough to spoil things.

(Stills are courtesy of Under the Mud and Hurricane Films.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Those CASI DIVAS come to DVD!

Having just sat through the mainstream Mexican hit CASI DIVAS for a second time, I think I can fairly recommend the movie to you once again. TrustMovies saw it shortly before it opened for its brief US theatrical run last August. It proved just as entertaining on second viewing -- funny, savvy, and so much fun about talent, ambition, tele-novelas and lots of things Mexican, as it tell its story of four young women (among many) competing for the chance to become the next big Mexican movie star.

My original review is here. If you missed this one, as most of America did, do yourself a favor and discover one of the most sheerly enjoyable mainstream movies from any county over this past year. Post-viewing, if you found it as much fun as much as did we, watch some of the DVD extras: a round-up of very smart comments from the cast and (mostly) from the talented director Issa López.

Mexico, it would seem, is able to offer us both smart art films and fine mass audience product.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Katherine Dieckmann & Uma Thurman explore MOTHERHOOD

For those who live in or know well this city, the very first shot of MOTHERHOOD, the new film from writer/
director Katherine Dieckmann (shown below, right) estab-
lishes where we are (New York). The second tells us in which part of that city (Greenwich Village), while the third is even more specific: We're in the apartment of a young family. This is movie-making of splendid economy and simplicity. The moment a few shots later -- in which the film's star Uma Thurman haltingly samples yesterday's left-over coffee and finds it bearable -- delights by giving us information quickly and stylishly. So simultaneously sleepy, joyous, funny and truthful is the entire opening section that I think it will ring bells for young urban mothers (and, one hopes, for appreciative fathers) of every stripe, everywhere.

Taking place over a single day in the life of mom (a luminously over-taxed Thurman, below, left), dad (a quiet and fine Anthony Edwards (below, right), two-year-old son (David and Matthew Shallipp), about-to-turn-six daughter (Daisy Tahan) and the family dog, the movie mostly tracks the moment-to-moment experiences of this harried writer (who has her own blog about "motherhood") as she tries to do everything necessary to get through this day -- the center of which will be her daughter's birthday party. Various set pieces are scattered throughout the film, the best of which combines dog poop with alternate-side parking, a roofer and a son who likes to climb. Later we discover (new to me, at least) a novel, though expensive, way to find a parking space.

In one marvelous touch, Dieckmann manages something supremely ironic and self-referential by having a movie shoot taking place on the block where the couple lives, creating further havoc in an already crazy day. We meet some of the family's friends and neighbors (a smart Minnie Driver, below, left, and the always-a-treat Alice Dummond among them), watch (with some trepidation) an encounter between mom and a handsome East Indian delivery boy (a sloe-eyed Arjun Gupta shown at bottom right), and rise to an almost-climax involving a set of edits from dad regarding mom's latest piece of writing. As the movie goes along, even as it builds, it begins to lose steam -- which is odd because so much of it -- and everyone in it -- is so good.

One of the reasons for this may be that a particular sense of entitlement, of discernible class distinctions, hangs over the film. This is apparent first in the early scene between Thurman and her brood and a wealthy French neighbor and daughter who live across the street. Then it surfaces soon after when Thurman imagines that she can't (but in reality actually won't) clean up after her dog; later it appears again, regarding cell phone use, among the people standing on line at a retail shop. Thurman's character is alternately in the right and in the wrong on these matters, and it is to Dieck-
mann's great credit that she allows the character the reality of being human, rather than a too-simple heroine. But perhaps be-
cause the filmmaker sees her film as a comedy -- rather than sim-
ply as a full-bodied "story" full of comedy, drama and whatever -- these more serious concerns, which are important in their way, are somehow not given their full due. The filmmaker also allows her movie to have a feel-good and too-pat happy ending that is ever so slightly undeserved, making the movie seem -- unfairly, I realize -- a too-easy look at a situation that's as difficult as it is rewarding.

Dieckman's previous films -- A Good Baby and especially Diggers -- also offered a strong sense of reality but without resorting to "feel-goodery," so perhaps the temptation here was too strong to resist. In the press notes, the filmmaker explains that she based the movie on her own experiences raising a family in a walk-up apartment in NYC's west Village. After a day like the one shown here, who wouldn't want to end it happily? Definitely worth seeing, Motherhood offers a number of wonderful individual scenes, a fine central performance from Ms Thurman and very nice work from a well-chosen supporting cast.

Via freestyle releasing, the movie opens Friday, October 23, in multiple locations all over the New York City and Los Angeles areas. Further cities/theaters will follow soon. Click here and enter your zip code to locate a theater near you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Karin Albou's THE WEDDING SONG begins its New York City theatrical run

To male American eyes of a certain age, there is some-
thing strange and wonderfully "foreign" that hangs over THE WEDDING SONG, a new film by Karin Albou (the director who gave us La petite Jérusalem a few years back). This foreignness has to do primarily with the setting of the film -- both its time and place (Tunis, North Africa, in 1942, as WWII raged) -- but

also with the fact that the film is so woman-centric. Without unduly beating the feminist drum, Ms Albou (shown, left) takes us into the realm of women -- their hopes, fears, feelings and thoughts -- as well as any director whose work I've seen of late.

Perhaps the first thing you'll notice, during what looks like competing bachelor and bachelorette parties of their day, is that the guys get a real woman doing a provocative dance to entertain and amuse them. The gals? Well, rather than the real thing, they must make do with another female, in drag, pretending (quite well and with some scathing humor) to be male. It's all here: chauvinism, sexism, tradition and religion combining to keep women underfoot. Yet Albou does not harp; she simply shows -- with irony, humor, understanding and even affection.

Her story is of two young girls, best friends on the cusp of adulthood -- one Muslim, the other Jewish -- the former of whom is about to marry the boy she loves (somewhat haltingly, due to inexperience). That her fiance is not gainfully employed adds to the uncertainty of the situation and provides a pivotal plot point. With the Germans now in control of the area, the situation for Jews, while not as dire as for those in Europe, is worsening. The Jewish girl's mother, played with reticence and ebbing strength by the writer/director, is trying to marry her daughter off -- for protection, economic and otherwise -- to a middle-aged doctor/son of one of the area's more powerful Jewish families.

All this would be more than enough to provide plenty of plot for any film, and while Albou tells her story proficiently enough, she is more interested in the emotional life of, and the connection between, the two girls. Because of religion, circumstance and the longing for acceptance, betrayals occur among both families and friends, but the strength of Albou's film-making comes through her refusal to demonize anyone. Yes, the men are sexist and the women too accepting; what else is new? Plenty, in that we can understand how each individual act has been prepared for, and how and why characters behave as they do, emotionally and intellectually. We may not like this but Albou sees to it that we must accept and deal with it, just as do her characters.

To properly capture the specific time and place, the writer/
director places her cameras in the home with the family at prayer and play, in the girls' school, with particularly interes-
ting scenes -- some relaxed and char-
ming, others grim -- in the women's bath house (below). To bring her film to life Albou has garnered a splendid cast, beginning with Lizzie Brocheré (above, left), as the young Jewess and Olympe Borval (with Ms Brocheré, at right) as her Muslim friend. Both are on-point throughout, making it difficult for us to not to understand them, even when they're behaving very badly. The Muslim boyriend, full of the shallow wisdom, daring and stupidity of youth is well played by Najib Oudghiri (just above) and, as the wealthy Jewish doctor, Simon Abkarian (shown at right, third photo up, and currently to be seen in Sally Potter's Rage) proves an ideal mixture of decency and desire, able to convey his strong passion and strength, as well as his mixed feelings concerning the fact that this arrangement is his choice, not hers.

Within the film is one scene likely to receive the most attention: a 1940s-style pubic hair-removal done to bring the bride into the kind of shape preferred by her husband-to-be. The scene is initially a turn-on that turns into something fierce, shocking and powerful -- the audience reaction to which, though perhaps mixed, should prove close to unforgettable. The Wedding Song, from Strand Releasing, open this Friday, October 23, in New York City the Quad Cinemas; and on Friday, November 6, at the Laemmle Music Hall in Los Angeles and the Town Center Five in Encino.