Paris, Texas

Your Guide to the Last Weekend of the Dallas International Film Festival

The Dallas International Film Festival heads into its last weekend, and it’s chock-full. The Texas Theatre swings into action, hosting screenings of the classic films Paris, Texas and Stagecoach. The Dalals Film Society Honors take place tonight at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas. The Crow hosts a conversation with star award winner Cheryl Boone Isaacs. And the winners in the various categories — docs, narrative features, silver heart, and shorts — are rescreened. Check out hte full lineup here. And here are our reviews of what is showing in the three days ahead, and what we caught over the past couple of days.

FRIDAY

Heli

1:30 p.m. April 11, Angelika 7

Grade: A

It opens on two men, bloodied and bound in the bed of a truck. Soon the film flashes back to tell us the story of how they came to be there and of the Mexican family torn apart by the incident. Director Amat Escalante was awarded the best director prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and it’s easy to understand why. Heli is both a harrowing tale of the toll that drug-related violence takes and full of beautifully observed moments of ordinary life. — Jason Heid

 

Firestorm

Grade: C-

Repeats 7:30 p.m. April 11, Angelika 6

Alan Yeun’s Firestorm is a claustrophobic cat-and-mouse police drama that center’s around a police inspector with an obsessive drive to catch the leader of a vicious gang, bringing him close to the heart of evil. Hong Kong has a long tradition as a filmmaking center that pushes the envelope of action aesthetic, but if Firestorm is indicative of a new stylistic wave, then chaos aesthetic of video games have eroded the future’s promise. Firestorm is clogged with visual shrapnel, prizing stimuli over what stimulates, leading to action sequences that are muddled and impenetrable, and failing in its attempts to slide moments of personal tenderness and dramatic pathos into the scattered melee. – Peter Simek

 

Touch of Sin

Repeats 9:30 April 9,  Angelika 7

Grade: A-

Four stories, loosely intertwined, offer a mosaic look at contemporary China. A rural worker protests corrupt local officials by going on a killing spree; a migrant worker returns to his wife and son but can’t turn away from the easy money robberies that have turned him into a fugitive; a mistress is dumped by her lover and abused by his wife, and then turns on lecherous men at the sauna/whore house where she works; and a young factory worker is caught in the rat hole of dead-end low wage work. Zhangke Jia pairs a panoramic visual sensibility, a rich sense of place, and flare for genre indulgence to craft realist cinema elevated by symbolic sensibility – an enthralling, though sullen critique of social and personal turmoil. – Peter Simek

The Sacrament 

10:30 p.m. April 11, Angelika 6 | 10:00 p.m. April 12, Angelika 4

Grade: C+

Horror director Ti West (The Innkeepers) shows some thematic maturity in his latest effort, a dark and subversive mock-documentary about a fictionalized version of the Jamestown cult massacre that lacks the courage to follow through on its convictions. The story chronicles some TV journalists who follow a man (Kentucker Audley) to a rural compound in a foreign country to find his brainwashed sister (Amy Seimetz), whose peaceful communal life with an eccentric pastor (Gene Jones) is not what it seems. What starts as a slow-burning and suspenseful story of religious fanaticism settles for a conventional resolution, with muddled social context and more narrative questions than answers. — Todd Jorgenson 

R100

11:59 p.m. April 4, Angelika 8 | 10 p.m. April 11, Texas Theatre

Grade: C-

This bizarre Japanese sex comedy follows a single father still grieving his wife’s death who joins a mysterious S&M club that allows dominatrices to pop up randomly in his everyday life. Naturally, this arrangement wears thin for its subject after a while, just like the movie on its audience. The sketchy result tries to create more shocks than suspense. — Todd Jorgenson

SATURDAY

Child’s Pose

12 p.m.  April 12, Angelika 4

Grade: A-

The latest riveting low-budget social drama from Romania follows the exhaustive attempts of an overbearing mother (Luminita Gheorghiu) to keep her adult son out of prison following a deadly car crash. The well-acted yet unsettling character study works as both an exploration of dysfunctional mother-son relations and as an indictment of upper-class entitlement in Eastern Europe. — Todd Jorgenson

 

The Face of Love

12:30 p.m. April 12, Angelika 6

Grade: C

Annette Bening and Ed Harris try to outshine subpar material in this trite romance about a widow who strikes up a relationship with a man bearing a striking resemblance to her late husband, but she tries to hide her motives from the doppelganger. Things get predictable from there as the central gimmick obscures any genuine emotional resonance. — Todd Jorgenson

 

Child of God

7:15 p.m. April 12, Angelika 7

Grade: B

A captivating performance by Scott Haze elevates this low-budget adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel from actor-director James Franco. Haze plays Lester, a man whose life descends into sociopathic madness following the loss of his home and family, leading him to mumble incoherently as he wanders through the woods of rural Tennessee. As he resorts to brutal violence against any intruders, a sheriff and others try to retaliate. The episodic film is highly unsettling at times and certainly not for all tastes, but as a raw and visceral portrait of sexual and social defiance, it conveys a powerful glimpse into backwoods desperation and survival instincts. – Todd Jorgenson

 

The Starck Club

7:30 p.m. April 12, Texas Theatre

As I mentioned in the preview, this screening is of an unfinished cut of the documentary Michael Cain and company have been working on for some time. Since I last saw The Starck Club, the documentary film has been edited extensively, though it still runs into the problems of earlier cuts. The movie feels like it starts three or four times in the first 5 minutes, and the various openingns set the stage for what appears to be a film that will argue for the cultural relevance of Dallas’ much-touted 1980s bacchanalian night spot. But the film eventually devolves into a nostalgic romp through the annals of Stark Club lore. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as the filmmakers intended to make a movie that will function like a class reunion of Dallas’ generation of new wave wild children.  But The Stark Club feels like it is trying to be more, with interviews from everyone from New Order’s Peter Hook to DJ Paul Oakenfold. Those two story lines — the Stark’s cultural agency in Dallas and the Stark’s influence in club and electronic musical history — run against each other, making for a clunky film. Chapters feel pinned onto the main narrative; major elements of the story (like the spread of ecstasy, or Stark’s supposed musical influence) are underdeveloped and insufficiently connected to the broader cultural moment; and sentimentality drowns perspective.— Peter Simek

 

The Sacrament

10 p.m. April 12, Angelika 4

Grade: C+

Horror director Ti West (The Innkeepers) shows some thematic maturity in his latest effort, a dark and subversive mock-documentary about a fictionalized version of the Jamestown cult massacre that lacks the courage to follow through on its convictions. The story chronicles some TV journalists who follow a man (Kentucker Audley) to a rural compound in a foreign country to find his brainwashed sister (Amy Seimetz), whose peaceful communal life with an eccentric pastor (Gene Jones) is not what it seems. What starts as a slow-burning and suspenseful story of religious fanaticism settles for a conventional resolution, with muddled social context and more narrative questions than answers. – Todd Jorgenson

 

We From Dallas

10:15 p.m. April 12, Angelika 6

Grade: A-

There has been a desire to tell Dallas’ cultural history lately, from theDallas: Sites art exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art, which surveyed 50 years of North Texas visual art, to the Stark Club documentary, which makes the case for this city’s relevance to the history of club dance music. We From Dallas is the best effort yet, a deeply engrossing look back at Dallas’ peripheral role in the emergence of hip hop, from beat masters to break dancers. For the unfamiliar (like me) a picture emerges of a city with its spoon very much stiring the wider cultural pot, and yet contributing to growth of a genre of music with little recognition. From early DJs at KNON, to The D.O.C., and dance groups in the 2000s, anyone interested in Dallas culture – or the history of hip-hop – should make sure this film is on their to-watch list. — Peter Simek

 

Long Distance

12:15 p.m. April 12, Angelika 7

Grade: B

Familiar themes are given a fresh spin in this contemporary romance about two Spanish lovers separated for a year when Alex (Natalia Tena) leaves for a yearlong residency in Los Angeles while Sergi (David Verdaguer) stays behind. They remain connected through social media, but their relationship is tested in a modest effort that’s both ambitious and intimate. — Todd Jorgenson

 

SUNDAY

Young and Beautiful 

12:00 pm April 13, Angelika 4

Grade: B+

Familiar territory for French filmmaker Francois Ozon (Swimming Pool) is given a fresh approach in this erotic coming-of-age tale, which follows the sexual awakening of Isabelle (Marine Vacth), a teenager whose obsession with sex begins when she loses her virginity, leading to a secret side job as a call girl for middle-aged men. But emotional satisfaction proves more elusive. It’s a candid but insightful character study about adolescent impulses that feels more insightful than exploitative. Plus, Ozon’s morally complex and modestly provocative script is punctuated by an expressive performance by newcomer Vacth, who has the talent to accompany the qualities mentioned in the title. — Todd Jorgensen 

The Congress

Repeats 10:30 p.m. April 13, Angelika 7

Grade: C

Some provocative ideas are left unfulfilled in this visually dazzling indictment of Hollywood and technology, and exploration of the volatile relationship between art and commerce, from director Ari Folman (Waltz With Bashir). The film mixes live action and animation in its story of a fledgling middle-aged actress (Robin Wright) who agrees to trade in her career for an ageless, animated lookalike that becomes a major star in the digital realm. The animated sequences feature an eclectic mix of styles, which helps compensate for an ambitious yet uneven screenplay that’s more pretentious than profound. The cast includes Harvey Keitel, Paul Giamatti, and Jon Hamm. – Todd Jorgenson