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By Herb Kane | May 2, 2001

Day two was our first full day of watching films. An interesting piece called “Stanley Kubrick, A Life in Pictures” kicked off the day and an interesting panel discussion followed with Jan Harlan (brother-in-law to Kubrick). He spoke of Kubrick as being the only real “perfectionist” he has ever known. Kubrick was indeed one of the industry’s most talented directors, but I think he lost it when he completed his final project – “Eyes Wide Shut.” Yet the movie was done in Kubrick style – a thinking vehicle that forced you to discuss the many mysterious elements of the film’s characters and plot. Shortly after filming “Eyes Wide Shut,” Kubrick died.
The next movie was “Maryam,” and director Ramin Serry and producer Shauna Lyon joined Ebert on the panel following the film to talk about the importance of the film’s theme and how the events of that time effected society’s view toward one another.
Director Sturla Gunnarsson joined Ebert on the panel and spoke of the challenges presented in filming the movie “Such a Long Journey” in another country (India). They often times used hidden cameras in real street settings. “Songs From the Second Floor” was a stranger than strange movie. Lars Nordh and Stefan Larsson III, the film’s stars, joined Ebert on stage following the film’s screening. ^ ==============================
REVIEW: ^ MARYAM (2000) ^ * * * * out of 5 stars ^ “Maryam” is a movie about an Iranian-born teenage girl who has lived most of her life in suburban New Jersey. She thinks of herself as an American and never thought twice about it. Then comes her cousin from Iran who is confronts the girl’s non-traditional view of her Iranian roots. Then havoc breaks out across America due to the hostage crisis in Teheran. It’s a touching movie and you really want everything to work out for the girl, the cousin and the family.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) said, “In a time when most movie teenagers are bubble-headed pawns in sex comedies, here is a teenager with brains and courage, who doesn’t simply rebel against her parents but wants to understand them, and who doesn’t collapse into weeping victimhood, but depends on her mind and values.”
Yes – it is nice to see smart movie about a smart teenager, thoughtful of family and friends. You watch her handle the bullies in her school with her own cool; and how she brings together a family on the verge of separation due to the political climate of the time. I enjoyed Maryam – a movie not to be overlooked. ^ =============
REVIEW: ^ SUCH A LONG JOURNEY (2000) ^ * * * out of 5 stars ^ “Such A Long Journey” is a movie about Gustad – an Indian husband whose life is suddenly challenged by a rebellious son, a sick daughter, a break-out of violence in his neighborhood. At every corner, it seems he faces challenges and must make difficult decisions to overcome them. I may have actually liked this film if I had understood what people were saying in the film – literally.
Indian dialect isn’t the easiest form of speech to understand – it’s fast and muddled. Makes me kind of sad because there was a real story here, real characters and good acting and direction. But my own senses wouldn’t allow me to enjoy this movie. There are elements I couldn’t overlook – like Gustad’s loving relationship with his wife; many of the comedy elements featuring some really strange characters; the texture of the plot and the interesting area in which it was filmed.
In a panel discussion with Sturla Gunnarsson, he said they used hidden cameras during some of the street scenes. So at times we are seeing real people in real situations. I admit. I think others may enjoy this film – but I just couldn’t bond with it. For some, maybe it shouldn’t be overlooked. ^ ===========
REVIEW: ^ SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR (2000) ^ * * * out of 5 stars ^ Perhaps this film should have been called “Songs From the Third Dimension.” Here director Roy Andersson creates a strange world with strange people in strange situations. Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) recalls: “The Swedish film is audacious, offensive, original, surrealistic. It is a series of vignettes in a lonely city gripped by psychic meltdown.”
I found the movie to have some of the most hilarious moments I’ve seen on film. Then other times, I just wanted to puke – like when I saw one man doing just that in a local bar scene. A drunk girl was trying to stand up next to him and kept falling down. You think of that old woman in American commercials advertising one of those medical alert systems for the elderly. The lady panics and says, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
And that’s pretty much what happens to all the characters in this movie. There was one disturbing scene where a man is stabbed for no apparent reason. He falls to the ground and blood flows like a tiny river from his body. There is a scene involving a broke business man who loses all his money from investing in crucifixes he could not sell on the market. He throws them all in a junk pile and calls Jesus a loser. Indeed the film wasn’t trying to put down Jesus or Christianity (merely showing the level in which greed had consumed this man), but still came across somewhat offensive.
Ebert said in a panel discussion that this kind of scene reminds us of how religion profits off the things of God. We’ve all witnessed much corruption in religious circles due to the dollar bill – and this movie made it brilliantly clear. Lars could not speak any English and Stefan could barely be understood. But I did catch one comment. Stefan said about one scene in the movie, “It took us two months to film one scene.”
I’m not so sure this movie should be overlooked or not. I enjoyed much of the comedic elements and the way the characters were put in all of these ridiculous situations. However, I doubt I will want to see this one again.
Read Herb Kane’s next report from “Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival” and get the scoop on screenings of “Nosferatu,” “Girl on the Bridge,” “3 Women” and more!>>>

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