Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Documentary ‘Edge of Outside’ celebrates the original movie rebels
Talk of maverick filmmakers often revolves around players from the current American independent movie scene, John Sayles, Steven Soderbergh and Kevin Smith, to name a few. In fact, we refer to this trio as “indie” veterans; directors who can discuss the beginnings of contemporary alternative cinema (the 1980s) with firsthand knowledge.
But serious talk about rebel cinema means going back to the original mavericks, directors who worked some forty years before Soderbergh’s 1989 debut drama “sex, lies and videotape.”
Shannon Davis, senior vice president of original production Turner Classic Movies (TCM), directs and produces the documentary mini-feature “Edge of Outside,” a celebration of early mavericks: Orson Welles, Stanley Kubrick, Nicholas Ray, Samuel Fuller, Sam Peckinpah and John Cassavetes.
Before there was a Sundance Film Festival and Miramax Films, back before the digital revolution and inexpensive digital cameras and multi-hour cartridges, filmmakers like Kubrick and Ray worked within the studio system and yet, still managed to make distinct movies that spoke to their own interests, talents and personalities.
Like all historical documentaries, “Edge of Outside” thrives on its archival footage and face-the-camera interviews from various opinion makers.
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese provides welcome passion and heartfelt enthusiasm. Actress Gena Rowlands discusses her husband John Cassavetes with warmth and love.
John Sayles, director of modern-day landmarks “Lone Star” and “The Return of the Secaucus 7,” helps bridge the gap between past and the current “indie” scenes with thoughtful commentary.
Repertory cinemas that play film classics are a thing of the past for many people. So TCM steps in with a calendar of “maverick” films throughout July. If you want to fully understand alternative cinema today, it’s essential to acquaint oneself with the mavericks that came earlier.
“Edge of Outside” premieres July 5 on Turner Movie Classics (TCM). The original documentary repeats throughout July with a calendar of movies featuring filmmakers discussed in the film. Highlights include Sam Peckinpah’s “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” Samuel Fuller’s “The Naked Kiss” and Nicholas Ray’s “On Dangerous Ground.”
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
'District B13' - More Butt Kicking, S’il Vous Plaît
One way to avoid an oncoming speeding car is to leap over its trunk and sprint over its roof. It’s an acrobatic feat reserved to select street heroes like Leïto (David Belle), a young man trying to rise out of his Parisian ghetto, and his unlikely partner, Detective Damien (Cyril Raffaelli).
Leïto and Damien are gritty, roughhewn versions of Asian superstar Jackie Chan, capable of Spider-Man-like leaps and scaling the walls of buildings whenever the need arises. They’re also unlikely partners, incapable of trusting one another, which is part of the pulpy fun of the rollicking French action movie “DistrictB13 (Banlieue 13)”
A vicious drug lord named Taha (played by the film’s co-writer Bibi Naceri) has a deadly bomb directed towards central Paris. He also has Leïto’s young sister held captive. It’s up to the mismatched duo to infiltrate B13, a walled slum on the outskirts of Paris with no schools, no police and no post offices, find the bomb, free the girl and save the day.
Grim, violent, but infused with the playful spirit of a comic book, “District B13” offers straight arrow stunts and no-nonsense fighting that explodes in a worthy rooftop finale. Director Pierre Morel, a veteran cameraman making his directing debut, may lack the special effects budget of his American counterparts but he beats them at wowing audiences.
French filmmaker Luc Besson produces in addition to his co-writing duties with Bibi Naceri.
David Belle, the champion of parkour, a sport based on surmounting all obstacles at top speed, makes for a glum hero whenever he’s standing still but luckily he never stops moving. Cyril Raffaelli, a veteran stuntman, complements the dour Belle with equal agility and extra sass and charisma.
Their oil-and-water partnership borrows heavily from the “Lethal Weapon” films but the film’s grit and pulpy fun pays homage to beloved B action movies like “Escape from New York” and “Shakedown.”
The spirit of John Carpenter, the creator of “Escape from New York” and countless other B movies, is alive and well in “District 13” and that spirit beats Hollywood pizzazz every time.
“District B13” made its North American premiere at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival after playing theaters throughout Europe. Magnolia Pictures will release it in theaters across America this summer.