Sundance 2005

“Lila Says”Directed by Ziad Doueiri Written by Ziad Doueiri, Joelle Touma and Mark LawrenceStarring Vahina Giocante, Mohammed Khouas, Karim Ben Haddou and Lotfi Chakri89 minutes

Four out of five stars

French Director Ziad Doueri’s “Lila Says” puts a contorted twist on love and friendship, breaking cultural and religious mores in the process.

Chimo is an Arab Muslim living in a poor neighborhood in Marseilles. He has writing talent that his mother and a schoolteacher push him to pursue, but he is held back by fragile self-confidence and a group of thuggish friends. When the exotic, blonde Lila moves into the neighborhood, she captures his attention. The first time they talk, she quickly breaks his notions of what young women can and can’t say sexually-he is instantly mesmerized.

The ensuing story of their relationship and the strain it causes on both their lives is at once touching, shocking and thoroughly engaging.

Judd Nielsen

“New York Doll”Directed by Greg WhiteleyFeaturing Arthur Kane, David Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain, Morrissey and Iggy Pop77 minutes

Four and a half out of five stars

One generally doesn’t expect former rockers to become born-again Christians. Former glam-rocker and punk pioneer Arthur “Killer” Kane of the New York Dolls, however, embraces faith in an unusual way.

“New York Doll” tells Kane’s story-from his band’s brief tenure in the music scene, to his crippling alcoholism, to his accidental discovery of the Mormon faith, and finally to a New York Dolls reunion.

The film includes interviews from Kane’s colleagues at the LDS Family History Center as well as music legends his band influenced. Director Greg Whiteley offers a poignant, funny and bittersweet portrait that probes further and deeper than your typical “Behind the Music” episode.

Judd Nielsen

“Monsterthursday”Norway, 2004, 103 Minutes, colorDirected by Arild stin OmmundsenWritten by Gro Elin Hjelle and Arild stin Ommundsen

Three and a half out of five stars

“Monsterthursday,” Norwegian director Arild stin Ommundsen’s inscrutable romantic drama, has a certain frigid appeal.

“Thurday’s” peculiar love story is set against a western Norwegian seascape, rippling with originality and subtle beauty.

This happens despite a series of admittedly meaningless motifs and symbols (Ommundsen confessed in the question and answer session that he just found certain things, like a hideous duck, fascinating).

Even (Vegar Hoel) has been coveting his best friend Tord’s (Christian Skolmen) wife Karen (Silje Salomonsen) for years-and all of us know how the big guy upstairs feels about that. When Tord goes out of town, Even starts to hang around his house, playing Mr. Fix-It, and trying to impress Karen by learning how to surf. Ultimately, Even’s attempts are all for naught. Even is spurned by Karen, and, feeling dejected and wretched, begins to search for a meteorological anomaly called a “monsterwave” (a colossal wave that Even cannot possibly tame).

Unfortunately, “Monsterthursday” loses much of its oomph in translation. The subtitles are clunky and sometimes incoherent. Powerful admissions and what should be enlightening philosophical discoveries inadvertently come across as staccato, apathetic intercourse.

Nevertheless, “Monsterthursday” provides an eye-opening, oft neglected window into contemporary Scandinavian life. Uff-da!

Ben Zalkind

“The Ballad

of Jack and Rose”

Elevation Filmworks

Written and Directed by Rebecca Miller

Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Camilla Belle and Catherine Keener

Rated R/111 min

Five out of five stars

“The Ballad of Jack and Rose” begins with a shot of an insect pollinating a flower. Wisps of wild grass bow in the wind. Waves crash. The air is charged with angst. The times, they are a-changin’.

Such visual beauty is only the backdrop to the heart-breaking story of Jack and Rose (Day-Lewis and Belle), father and daughter living alone on what used to be an island commune for peace-loving, acid-dropping hippies (like Jack).

Jack fills the hours tending to his garden, feeding the animals and lying on his back, cloud-spotting with his adoring, teenage daughter. He comes from Scotland. She was born and raised on the island.

But all is not well. Jack is dying. He fears for Rose, who has no friends, no formal education, and no experience in the real world. He brings some “guests” to the island, including his lover, Kathleen (Keener) and her two shaggy haired sons (Paul Dano and Ryan McDonald). His fear proves disastrous- Rose gets confused and dangerously jealous.

“The Ballad of Jack and Rose” was written and directed by Rebecca Miller, daughter of playwright Arthur and wife of Day-Lewis. It’s an astonishing film, with all the depth of a good novel.

Jack is a stubborn, selfish man who just now realizes the error of his ways. Day-Lewis plays Jack with the sort of commitment he’s known for. The authority he manages to bring to such a frail, downward-spiraling character is Oscar-worthy.

Belle’s Rose is an innocent young woman whose mind has been forever warped by isolation. It’s another great performance, and the role of a young lifetime for Belle.

“The Ballad of Jack and Rose” is a sobering drama, but the film also has its fair share of humor. Growing up is a dramatic, funny, horrifying experience-something this movie understands explicitly.

Aaron Allen