Friday, April 27, 2007

Tribeca 2007: Day Two

-Gardener of Eden
As with most superhero origin stories, it takes a long series of coincidences to bring Adam to the turning point. But Gardener of Eden has no hero, just an anger-management-needing man-child who gets lucky that the person he self-destructs on is a wanted serial rapist. Director Kevin Connolly tries to make Adam likable, but the plot is harder to get past than Lukas Haas's whining, nasal voice.

The film struggling to break free of the erstwhile violence is a variant on Garden State, as Adam falls for the girl he saved (after the fact) and tries to remain in "The Loop," a barter system he and his three best friends have worked out. Though these characters are formulaic, there's always room in a film for sweetness, and all the comic-book nonsense that Connolly and writer Adam Tex Davis have thrown in seems forced, and far too dark for the cinematography. The one saving grace of this film is Vic (Giovanni Ribisi), a charismatically nasty drug dealer who, despite his criminal connections, actually serves more of a purpose than Adam, or this film. When you factor in the anachronistic shots of Manhattan (hookers in Times Square in 1999?), ill-defined characters (like Adam's over-the-top military father), and all the loose plot sequences, it becomes clear that Gardener of Eden still has one too many weeds to make it worth caring for.

-Two Embraces (Dos Abrazos)
Enrique Begne's beautiful double-feature doesn't have a plot, but it has a wonderful mood. His two short films are tied together by a single baton-passing shot, and linked by a haunting and paralleled image of a vital, necessary embrace. Between doling out odd aphorisms ("If anyone had never been born, nobody would ever know") and making much of long camera shots that refocus rather than cut the action of two characters on screen at the same time, Begne finds a way of catching quiet little smiles in the midst of the dark and solid reality of Mexico City.

Both high-school student Paco and checkout girl Silvina have anger issues (she's bipolar, and his mood is entirely dependent on hers), but they each find a quiet peace in each other. The stronger of the two segments follows an angry taxi driver who makes the most unlikely of connections when a fare of his has a stroke, leaving him to find the man's estranged daughter. The stories are simple, but the emotions Begne captures with his artistic choice of lighting and effect (his happier shots have been solarized) are complex and very relatable. Whether it's endorphins or just physical contact in a lonely city, sometimes we all need a hug: Begne has two.

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