Ma Vie en Rose (My Life in Pink) Set in a well-manicured Paris suburb, this French tale of a 7-year-old boy's fondness for girl's clothes would have been perfect for U Film's recent LGBT fest--except that Sony is certainly banking on a crossover landmark. Universal and upbeat (but plenty harrowing, too), it follows the adorable Ludovic (Georges DuFresne) through his efforts to cross-dress, despite the belief of his conformist parents (Jean-Philippe Ecoffey, Michele Laroque) that his outgoing nature reflects negatively on them. Undaunted, Ludo wears a fairy-princess costume to his family's housewarming party, and professes his desire to marry the son of his dad's boss. Drawing on crayon-colored fantasy scenes of God haphazardly dropping chromosomes through the chimney, director Alain Berliner filters Ma Vie through his young hero's eyes without shrinking from grown-up critique, creating a film that recalls Edward Scissorhands in its magic-realist take on suburban intolerance.
La Vie de Jesus Not the Christ story, thank God, but it is a passion play of sorts. Just a hair away from being a skinhead, Freddy (David Douche) is an unemployed and epileptic 20-year-old in the northern French town of Bailleul, who alternately hangs out with his crew of biker buddies and pressures his girlfriend Marie (Marjorie Cottreel) for sex. And that's about the extent of plot in this snail-paced piece of naturalist melodrama, a kind of rural Kids cast entirely with non-actors whose blank stares convey a hint of restless mischief. Accordingly, first-time director Bruno Dumont favors endless shots of the kids idly cruising the vacant countryside, and a sex scene of such clinical explicitness as to suggest that what Freddy and Marie are sharing isn't love. Still, like an over-revved scooter, the film gathers an aching momentum as the protagonist stews in his jealousy over Marie's Arab suitor (Kader Chaatouf) and quietly plots an un-Christlike revenge.
Mother and Son A thirtysomething man combs the hair of his dying mother, holds her close, tells her stories, administers her injections, nurses her with a bottle, and carries her through the Russian countryside while thunder rolls, the wind blows, and shadows fall. Are these the last two people on earth? As directed by the Tarkovsky disciple Aleksandr Sokurov, this is less a narrative film than a poetic rumination on the mother-son bond; its images are so flat, still, and minutely detailed that it often seems we're watching a painting. Then there are times when the camera moves so slowly that the mother almost appears to be levitating, as if preparing to pass from this world into the next. Although it's thoroughly and uniquely cinematic, Mother and Son is best seen not as a movie so much as an opportunity for meditation.
Fallen Angels I'd seen Wong Kar-Wai's pseudo-sequel to Chungking Express on tape more than once, but the NYFF's belated U.S. premiere made me wonder if this might be the coolest movie in years. Forgive the hyperbole, but Fallen Angels is just mindblowing: an alternately seamless and jagged mix of romantic melancholy, shoot-'em-up mayhem, screwball consumerism, futuristic dystopia, and mid-'90s Hong Kong travelogue, all impeccably timed to another of Wong's sexy jukebox compilations (Laurie Anderson, Massive Attack). The narrative tracks another set of lonely souls including an orange-haired punk chick named Baby (Karen Mong), her contract-killer ex-beau (Leon Lai), his agent (Michelle Reis), her ex-con acquaintance (Takeshi Kaneshiro), and his crush, the heartbroken Cherry (Charlie Young). The film is already over a year old, but we can at least be grateful that the buy-it-and-bury-it brothers at Miramax didn't pick it up: Now it stands a chance of actually being seen.