Time Capsules

Two capsule reviews from a brief stint at LA Weekly, before all film journalism went to shit (not in quality mind you, in ability to make a living):

MATTIE FRESNO AND THE HOLOFLUX UNIVERSE “Define distracted,” petty criminal Al Lewis (Ellen Cleghorne) asks murder suspect Mattie Fresno (Angela Pierce) early on in Mattie Fresno and the Holoflux Universe, and even in a story as unwieldily metafictional as this, it probably wouldn’t do to have Mattie name her own movie. But you get the point — distraction and diffuseness, not the proffered “unified theory of what is,” are the thematic and aesthetic core of director Phil Gallo’s failed political satire/media roasting/New Age fantasy. One could describe Mattie Fresno as being “about” the title character’s involvement in a convoluted assassination scheme, or “about” her physicist grandfather’s self-created alternate universe, but to do so would imply that the movie hangs together more coherently than the average YouTube video. Too bad, because the assassination plot, conceived by a public-relations firm to win the public’s eternal sympathy for a struggling client, briefly sustains a welcome, rabid cynicism about the politico-media complex, “spin doctors,” megalomaniacal TV personalities, fake holy men and an American public that laps it all up like a pig at the trough. Unfortunately, Mattie Fresno blunts these sharp satirical edges with moments of aimless screwball comedy, awkwardly composed flashbacks and green-screened dream sequences suggestive of anything but the universe’s deepest complexities. Rarely has a film killed off its own best instincts with more vigor.


DAVID & FATIMA Politicians and filmmakers, one might conclude from director Alain Zaloum’s suffocatingly simple movie David & Fatima, have developed similar approaches over the years: platitudes, platitudes, platitudes. But in the case of this Israeli-Palestinian twist on Romeo and Juliet, the young lovers and their warring clans inhabit a world too complex and too dusty with ancient conflicts for such banalities to ring true. The result is a film so emphatic in its treatment of the parallels between David Isaac (Cameron Van Hoy) and Fatima Aziz (Danielle Pollack) that the handful of affecting moments, like the lovers’ dance in a dilapidated shack by the Dead Sea, end up as whispers drowned out by the political din. More typical is the clumsy opening sequence in which David and Fatima’s mothers, going into labor, meet while en route to the hospital, perhaps spurring David’s belief that “if we pretend everything is OK, the world might change.” By the time Martin Landau swoops in as a radical rabbi who denies love’s power to conquer all, it’s too late: The humanist Realpolitik he imparts with his steady voice and watery eyes has gone distinctly out of vogue this year. “Do you think this is some kind of joke?” David’s sister asks him after discovering his tryst. “Some exercise in Middle East politics?” Unfortunately, the answer is yes. With Tony Curtis as a wizened romantic named Schwartz.


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