Movie Review
Short Takes #002

in the effort to broaden our movie coverage on Stylus, we present a new column entitled Short Takes.

Air Guitar Nation

Air Guitar Nation won this year’s Audience Award at the South by Southwest Film Festival and it’s hard not to understand why. Anyone who goes to that festival for the music probably has spent a few hours (or more) air guitaring to their favorite tracks. The film follows the inaugural edition of the United States Air Guitar Championships and the subsequent World Championships, held in Finland each year. The indefatigable Alexander Pope-quoting and Libertines-loving Dan “Bjorn Turoque” Crane steals the narrative, showing up across the United States in the effort to get a free pass to the event—seemingly more loyal to the ethos behind air guitar than the flashy favorite C-Diddy. Harmless fun, just like its subject, if Air Guitar Nation makes it out of the festival circuit and gets enough of its music licensed, it should end up hitting the same spot for hipsters that Spellbound did.

Air Guitar Nation is currently looking for a distributor.

Animals and More Animals / Ice/Sea

A one-hour look into the renovation of Paris’ Natural History Museum from 1991 to 1994, Animals and More Animals is a film ripe for the sort of self-parody that makes Air Guitar Nation hilarious. Luckily, Nicolas Philibert plays it straight, and achieves a result that’s just as fascinating. The film follows the discussions, the arguments, the (sometimes arbitrary) decisions, the cleaning, the painting, and everything else that went into getting the procession of animals ready for their close-up. A thirty-minute short, Ice/Sea precedes, which does little to recommend its subject (the beach) to anyone.

Animals and More Animals / Ice/Sea will play at Film Forum in New York from June 7 - June 13, 2006.


Those with even a passing interest in modern Indian popcorn movies should certainly check out Fanaa. It’s got it all: epic ambitions, great songwriting, passable performances, and narrative holes the size of New Delhi. Despite the latter, things move bright and quick for the film’s first half, positioning itself as the perfect romantic comedy musical. Right before and after the intermission, though, things change. Drastically. Thankfully, after twenty minutes of ridiculous gunplay and large explosions, helicopters (and the movie) come back to Earth. Shifting back to inexplicably charming from its charmingly inexplicable detour is impossible—the movie never quite recovers its initial rhythm. For a film that’s nearly three hours, though, there’s more than enough to chew on when the going gets slow: international intrigue, a child that only talks in the third person, and cinematography that dazzles.

Fanaa is now playing in theaters across New York.

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema

Dealing with the inexorable fact of globalism seems to be this year’s theme to the sixth edition of the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Whether it be the icy-turned-warm-turned-Siddharthan businesswoman of Sacred Heart or the network that rises to take over Rome in Crime Novel, many of the films seem to provide answers to the question: “If this is how it is, how are you/we going to deal with it?” Barbora Borbulova’s Irene in Sacred Heart drops out, unable to find a way to cope with the suffering all around her, while the friends of Crime Novel (written by those responsible for the outstanding Best of Youth) answer the question by attempting to control everything around them, realizing too late that empires inevitably fall.

The Wind Blows Around is one of the few films that uses rural settings in the series this year: a shepherd (played by Philippe Héraud) moves to a remote Italian village with his family and a herd of ghosts, only to find himself at odds with many of the people that have lived there for generations. One of the series’ best films doesn’t bother much at all with globalism as an idea, unless you count a love of cinema in general and Last Tango in Paris in particular. Quo Vadis, Baby? is a film noir, whose protagonist avowedly doesn’t watch films. Time after time, however, she finds herself connected to those who can’t live without it. Dark and thoughtful, it’s one of the many films worth investigating at Lincoln Center in the next week.

The films of Open Roads: New Italian Cinema will screen from May 31 - June 8, 2006 at Lincoln Center.

By: Todd Burns
Published on: 2006-06-01
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