THE SON'S ROOM
directed by Nanni Moretti opens March 22 at Uptown
TROUBLE EVERY DAY
directed by Claire Denis opens March 22 at Varsity
COOL AND CRAZY
directed by Knut Erik Jensen runs March 22-28 at Grand Illusion
HERE'S AN OSCAR party theme for this Sunday: movies that suck. No, not the nominees that suck (although there are plenty)—we're talking about those unwanted, unloved studio bastards traditionally dumped on Oscar weekend to avoid competing with the telecast's Nielsen ratings. (Last year the incest comedy Say It Isn't So was so interred; the year before, Romeo Must Die, well, died with equal ignominy.) So set some little votive candles on your TV set to mourn these otherwise unlamented cinema deaths. Say a little prayer of remembrance—because no one else will. (But please, don't dress in costume.)
First up, Miramax is unloading Cannes' inexplicably Golden Palm-winning The Son's Room, which Italy sensibly declined to make its foreign-language Oscar submission. It's the latest effort by director-star Nanni Moretti, best known as a wry, ruminative, slightly neurotic social critic in comedies including Caro Diario. Here he takes the role of a benevolent psychiatrist and devoted family man whose existence is upended by a teenage son's fatal accident. Moretti attempts to add something fresh to the bereavement cycle with vignettes from the shrink's office, but viewers will likely conclude from his self-absorbed couch-side manner that he was a terrible therapist to begin with. We also get the doctor's "What if?" fantasies and professional crisis, both grindingly predictable. With its easy pathos, haphazard construction, terrible music, and sheer triteness, Room succumbs to rigor mortis long before anyone croaks.
Next, Trouble Every Day comes from French director Claire Denis, whose beautiful but inert Beau Travail played SIFF '01. Basically a vampire flick, Trouble belongs in that realm of spectacularly bad films that can't even be redeemed by camp snickers. If Denis' goal was to produce an art-house horror movie, she conspicuously fails to produce either horror or art. Buffalo 66's Vincent Gallo plays an American doctor honeymooning in Paris with his wife (Tricia Vessey) with the secret agenda of finding a Dr. Frankenstein-like physician whose own wife (Betty Blue's B顴rice Dalle) has been transformed into a nympho-cannibal monster. The thin valence between eros and violence is a staple of the Dracula genre, but there's too much Gallic sulking here, not enough honest vampire action. "I want to go home," announces a weary Gallo after 101 minutes of Trouble; viewers will feel the same way 10 minutes into the movie. Among the picture's few unintended laughs, his random acquisition of a puppy suggests unrealized perversity. Will he kill it to achieve sexual release? Will he sodomize it? No, sorry, it's just a puppy.
JUST AS CUTE and pointless are the subjects of Cool and Crazy, a documentary profiling an all-male chorus in Berlev姬 Norway. If the film critic of London's Guardian newspaper could rave, Cool is "the best movie about music since Buena Vista Social Club," let me suggest that the writer is (a) tone deaf, (b) blind, and (c) senile. OK, the sight of the two Strand brothers, aged 96 and 87, bellowing into the frozen gales with their fellow singers is affecting. But who told them to go pose in the snowy windswept landscape? Director Knut Erik Jensen has essentially made the most dour, stoic music video ever filmed. Don't expect any of Aki Kaurism䫩's deadpan Nordic wit (e.g., Leningrad Cowboys Go America). Instead, Cool merely provides cursory snapshots of the choir members without eliciting any revealing personal histories.
In all, the net effect depressingly leads us back to TV, just as the studios intended. Whoopi Goldberg—take us away!