By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Total Love -- A globetrotting shaggy-dog story with an amusingly anticlimactic payoff, this Israeli-produced comedy-drama plays like a tongue-in-cheek, slacker-skewing version of Return to Paradise. Director Gur Bentwich skillfully juggles time frames and points of view while focusing on the misadventures of four twentysomethings who dabble in petty drug peddling. Haim (Israeli pop singer Maor Cohen) concocts Total Love, an aphrodisiac he shares with a partner in crime, Renana (Tinkerbel), who becomes his lover. But Haim is incapable of long-term commitment, so Renana flees Tel Aviv with a stash of Total Love. When Haim hears of her incarceration in an Indian prison, he follows her route through Amsterdam and Bombay, learning along the way about her romantic dalliances with his two friends. Since each guy still loves Renana, all three agree to rescue her. Bentwich keeps the mood light and lively, even during fleeting bits of melodrama, and the overall lack of seriousness enhances the movie's low-key appeal. (J.L.)
Touch of Evil -- One of the greatest B movies ever made. There is more mood than matter here, as Orson Welles's flamboyant style overwhelms this flimsy melodramatic plot about crime, corruption and overzealous policing in a U.S.-Mexican border town. Charlton Heston is ludicrously miscast yet undeniably effective as a Mexican police detective who, while honeymooning with his American bride (Janet Leigh), runs afoul of a sleazy cop (Welles). Bad things happen, worse things are implied -- and everything, including Marlene Dietrich's cameo as a fortune-telling madam, appears larger and more lurid than life. It's hard to shake the suspicion that, for all its darkly dazzling technique, Touch of Evil is nothing more than sly sleight of hand by a master movie magician. But it's even harder to remain unimpressed by the sheer virtuosity of this brilliant trifle. (J.L.)
Une Affaire de Gout -- Bernard Rapp's French thriller, which received nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor (Bernard Giraudeau) at the 2000 Cesars, deals with a handsome young waiter who's hired by a wealthy industrialist to become his own personal "taster." But the dream job turns into a nightmare when the industrialist's obsessive nature encroaches into every aspect of the young man's life.
Uncle Saddam -- French talk-show host Joel Soler takes a scattershot approach to his sardonic exposé of Saddam Hussein, cramming a wealth of unique archival material and interviews into a 63-minute documentary.
Varian's War -- Set to premiere on Sunday, April 22, on Showtime, Lionel Chetwynd's World War II drama focuses on Varian Fry (William Hurt), a wealthy New York editor who risked his life to establish an underground network in Marseilles to smuggle prominent European artists away from Nazi persecution.
Voyous Voyelles -- French writer-director Serge Meynard's drama revolves around three teenage girls who take drastic steps to get even with various men in their lives.
Without a Net: Creating NYPD Blue -- Although technically part of WorldFest's program of shorts, this video production really stands out. The vast majority of the other 88-odd shorts run less than 30 minutes each. This 66-minute documentary is more like a feature in that it has a dramatic arc, fly-on-the-wall access to one of America's favorite TV shows, and an unforgettable lead character. The original premise was to document the last two weeks in co-creator David Milch's final season with the show -- and it does that. But it also draws an unforgettable portrait of a man who makes fictional madmen look tame. Milch won't let other people write the scripts on schedule, and he won't do it either. Instead, he dictates whole scenes off the top of his head to a pressured co-worker, who hands the lines to the actors only minutes before cameras roll. Needless to say, this management style creates chaos. Undoubtedly all this made for a lousy work environment, but it sure makes interesting viewing. (J.H.)
The Woman Every Man Wants -- Writer-director Gabriela Tagliavini's debut feature is a sci-fi farce set in a 2025 world run by women. Chronically unlucky in love, a bumbling plastics designer programs an android to be the girl of his dreams. Complications arise when he's drawn into a mysterious crime caper with his high-tech girlfriend.