Village Voice 05.10.2017 : Page 44

46 May 10 -May 16, 2017 TRACKING SHOTS from p45 The Wall Directed by Doug Liman Amazon Studios/Roadside Attractions Opens May 12 Aaron Taylor-Johnson is playing a dude by a wall, not a dude with, like, wall-related powers. A merica is going to hate this movie. Doug Liman’s The Wall is a mean little thriller set in our desert wars, and its only American sol-diers are a dope and a weaselly atheist with a secret. These two spend most of the running time under fire, pinned down and outfoxed, their occasional ef-forts at movie-style heroism only making things worse. We never see their lives back home or photos of their sweet-hearts, never hear a word about what they’re fighting for. And I defy you to spot one American flag. When our boys’ tormentor, a sniper hiding someplace in a remote Iraqi construction site, asks Isaac (a grimed-over Aaron Taylor-Johnson) why he’s in-country, our hero can’t think of an answer, not even a quip about kicking ass or leaving no man behind. Liman ( Edge of Tomorrow , The Bourne Identity ) builds to a grim climax that his movie can’t afford to show you — not that seeing it would salve our annoyance at what it actually depicts. Isaac speaks like a real dude, pants like a real dude, grates on the nerves like a real dude. Taylor-Johnson honors real dude-ness by daring never to be any more arresting a presence than any real dude would be while hunkered down and bleeding in the sand behind a crumbling stone wall. We’re not encouraged to like Isaac; only a final-act backstory revela-tion allows us to find him compelling. Li-man, for all his action, struggles to make holing up exciting, although, between the colloquies between killer and soldier, he manages some tense sequences. ALAN SCHERSTUHL VILLAGE Amazon Studios way and asks God to provide her with a groom by the last day of Hanukkah. The Wedding Plan (previously known as Through the Wall ) is much choppier than Burshtein’s assured Fill the Void , her first made-for-outsiders film about Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, with jumpy editing that doesn’t provide a sense of how much time has passed — a big problem when counting down to a spe-cific moment. Still, as Michal swings from euphoria to despair on her journey to the altar, Koler makes this fantastical premise feel as real as the emotions rip-pling across her face. SERENA DONADONI Hounds of Love Written and directed by Ben Young Gunpowder & Sky Opens May 12, Maysles Documentary Center succeeds in making a psychological web of this troubled threesome. Chained to a bed, Vicki quickly catches on to John and Evelyn’s unstable dy-namic and realizes she’s not the only victim in the house. Watching Booth’s Evelyn teeter between the roles of the sadistic abuser and the abused woman with maternal instincts is the real thrill here. KRISTEN YOONSOO KIM The Last Shaman Directed by Raz Degan Abramorama Opens May 12, Landmark Sunshine lessen the suspicion that the filmmak-ers are themselves so implicated would have been for them to dig deeper into the lore and the lives they encountered. ALAN SCHERSTUHL Whisky Galore! Directed by Gillies Mackinnon Arrow Films Opens May 12, Cinema Village T The Wedding Plan Directed by Rama Burshtein Roadside Attractions Opens May 12, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Quad Cinema I T W he romantic-comedy genre re-quires its heroine to take a leap of faith, but Rama Burshtein takes it a step further in The Wedding Plan . Still single at 32, Michal (Noa Koler) doesn’t feel fully integrated into the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community she has joined, so she visits a spiritual adviser. Burshtein guides this familiar rom-com discussion (a woman wrestling with in-dependence and commitment) into a religious context where a single woman, no matter how devoted, isn’t valued. The American-born Israeli writer-director walks a fine line, potentially alienating women who view marriage as a choice, not a requirement. What makes the film work is Koler’s magnetic performance as Michal, who has screwball energy and a mind of her own. She wants to belong but isn’t a conformist, and finding love is as important to Michal as gaining social acceptance. So when her much hoped-for fiancé walks away a month before their wedding, she books the venue any-n his debut feature, Hounds of Love , Ben Young stirs uneasiness from the opening sequence. A slow-motion pan across what looks like a pleasant portrait of suburban adolescence quickly becomes corrupted, the lens seeming to leer, the shot lingering too attentively on the body parts of teenage girls. But this is not Young’s own male gaze, and he makes that clear by taking us out of the close-up to the eyes of those actually watching: John and Eve-lyn White (Stephen Curry and Emma Booth), a serial-killer couple in 1980s Perth, Australia, who stalk, torture, and murder girls. The story focuses on the abduction of Vicki (Ashleigh Cum-mings), who finds the wrong ride on the way to a party after a fight with her recently divorced mother. When ap-proached by the killers, Vicki hesitates, but the ruse is too good, and the pres-ence of a woman eases her wariness. She falls right into their trap. While Vicki’s screams are unnerving enough to spawn nightmares, Young spares us both the exploitations of torture-porn cinema and the formulaic nature of a procedural — the police are in fact al-most in denial that such menace lies beneath the hazy idyll of Perth, which is captured in effectively stark contrast. Hounds may be predictable in plot, but it he wearying metaphor of a physi-cal journey as a healing odyssey into the self gets tested in this documentary of a spiritual quest. For James Freeman, a young American whose mind has been seized by sui-cidal thoughts, it’s not enough to brave a trip deep into the Amazon rainforest, which here is filmed not as a terrifying wonderland but as a knowable, inhab-ited (and gorgeously verdant) river country. He seeks a shaman and the re-puted restorative powers of the potent — sometimes fatal — ayahuasca plant, which some tribes administer in cere-monies that involve being buried alive. Once upriver, given shelter by a local tribe, Freeman video-journals the months-long detox he must undergo before his own ceremony; in rapid montage, he grows skinnier before our eyes, and by Day 100 he’s speaking of visions. On occasion, director Degan attempts to capture the plant’s power via psychedelic montage, layering col-ors over jungle footage and Freeman’s home movies, but more fascinating are the details of the rituals, the river-trek photography, Freeman’s frankness about his struggles with depression, and Degan’s quick portraits of the peo-ple Freeman meets along his way — none of whom gets enough screen time. That’s especially true of the wiz-ened American Freeman meets in Peru, a would-be shaman himself, who de-clares, “Every one of us foreigners here is exploiting these people.” One way to hen originally released in 1949, Whisky Galore! — a sly British comedy about residents of a remote Scottish island “mourning for a spirit” when their supply runs out — the memory of World War II was fresh and the United Kingdom was still rationing food. Alexander Mackendrick’s directorial debut may not have had the satirical bite of his best known Ealing Studios films, The Man in the White Suit and The Lady-killers , or the corrosive allure of Sweet Smell of Success , but it captures the ef-fects of privation and institutional control with sharp immediacy. In their cozy re-make, director Gillies Mackinnon and screenwriter Peter McDougall take a less screwball approach to the source mate-rial: Compton Mackenzie’s 1947 novel and the real wartime wreck that inspired it (a ship carrying a load of scotch whisky ran aground in the Outer Hebrides and islanders salvaged, then stashed, thou-sands of bottles). Mackinnon establishes a battle of wits between crafty Scottish townsfolk and officious British bureau-crats, led respectively by shrewd post-master Joseph Macroon (Gregor Fisher) and plodding Captain Wagget (Eddie Izzard), head of the Home Guard. Domestic concerns are at the fore in this nostalgic vision, and events revolve around Macroon’s strong-willed daugh-ters, Catriona (Ellie Kendrick) and Peggy (Naomi Battick), both recently engaged. Mackinnon is more interested in ensur-ing women’s happiness than in quench-ing men’s thirst, and the fortuitous wreck on their shores helps the sisters to se-cure their future. Instead of glorifying the amber liquid, Whisky Galore! is a love letter to an isolated community trapped in amber. SERENA DONADONI

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