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Beyond the mainstream

Category: Dear Frankie News
Article Date: August 22, 2004 | Publication: New York Daily News | Author: ELIZABETH WEITZMAN
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A huge raft of indies & foreign imports heads our way

Before the Revolution: Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna in 'The Motorcycle Diaries.'

Star-driven independent films dominate the art-house lineup this season, and some of them are certain to appeal to Oscar voters. There's also a broad spectrum of movies from Europe and Asia.
Kevin Spacey has the most at stake, and it's clear he's taking no chances with the Bobby Darin biopic "Beyond the Sea." As well as starring - and singing - in the film, he also directed and co-produced it.

With a TV contract running out and the dud "Welcome to Mooseport" behind him, Ray Romano had better hope everybody loves "Eulogy," a comedy about three generations of eccentrics who gather for a funeral.

Directed by Hungarian master Istvan Szabo, "Being Julia" stars Annette Bening as an unfaithful actress in '30s London. "Unfaithful" star Diane Lane, meanwhile, returns with "Fierce People," about a drug-addicted woman trying to do the right thing for her teenage son.

Christian Bale won't pull in the big bucks until next year's "Batman Begins," but he's sure to draw attention with his transformation into the emaciated protagonist of the twist-heavy thriller "The Machinist." There are also surprises in "Criminal," in which John C. Reilly, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Diego Luna reenact the Argentinean crime caper "Nine Queens."

Gael Garcia Bernal, Luna's fellow heartthrob in "Y Tu Mamá También," stars as the young Che Guevara in "The Motorcycle Diaries," and in Pedro Almodóvar's drama "Bad Education" about a man haunted by the abuse he suffered in Catholic school.

LINNEY DOES 'KINSEY'

Another actor doing double duty is Josh Lucas. In "Around the Bend," he's a devoted dad forging a hesitant connection with his own father (Christopher Walken); Michael Caine co-stars. In "Undertow," Lucas plays a psychopathic ex-con stalking his brother (Dermot Mulroney) and young nephews (Jamie Bell, Devon Alan).

Laura Linney stars in "P.S.," a minimalist drama about an admissions officer who has an affair with a prospective student (Topher Grace). She's also in "Kinsey," a biopic of the pioneering sex researcher Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson).

Whereas "Kinsey" is comparatively conservative in its approach to sex, other fall movies are more explicit. Director James Toback indulges in some characteristic voyeurism with "When Will I Be Loved," starring Neve Campbell as a scheming young femme fatale. John Waters' NC-17-rated comedy "A Dirty Shame" stars Tracey Ullman as a woman who suddenly becomes a sex addict, much to the surprise of her husband (Chris Isaak). And "The Brown Bunny," which stars writer-director Vincent Gallo and Chloe Sevigny, is a rambling road movie already notorious for its sexually graphic ending.

Mike Leigh's "Vera Drake" is a powerful drama about a kindly back-street abortionist (Imelda Staunton) who runs afoul of the law in socially split 1950s Britain. Gender issues are explored in "Stage Beauty," starring Billy Crudup as a 17th-century actor whose livelihood is threatened by an amateur actress (Claire Danes).

AUSTEN GOES BOLLYWOOD

Jane Austen's most popular novel, "Pride and Prejudice," memorably adapted into a 1995 miniseries, gets a Bollywood makeover in Gurinder Chadha's "Bride and Prejudice" (Keira Knightley stars in a traditional version next year).

World War I is the setting for the French romance "A Very Long Engagement," starring Audrey Tautou as a woman who believes news of her fiancé's death has been greatly exaggerated.

Also from France comes "La Petite Lili," a modern update of "The Seagull" starring "Swimming Pool's" Ludivine Sagnier; "Our Music," in which Jean-Luc Godard explores the concepts of Hell, Purgatory and Paradise as they relate to contemporary conflicts; and the tense marital drama "Red Lights."

From Hong Kong comes the smash hit "Infernal Affairs," about a cop and a gangster who swap lives. (Martin Scorsese's version, "The Departed," with Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio, is scheduled for next year.) Look out, too, for the Chinese period epics "House of Flying Daggers" and "Warriors of Heaven and Earth."

On the heels of Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" comes another British zombie flick, "Shaun of the Dead." Boyle himself returns with "Millions," a comedy about two British kids who stumble on a fortune. "Enduring Love" is about an English couple (Daniel Craig, Samantha Morton) who choose the wrong field in which to have a picnic.

In "Dear Frankie," a single mother (Emily Mortimer), who drifts from town to town in Scotland, is forced to find a surrogate father for her deaf son. Intimate and understated, this is the sort of quiet film for which art houses were made.

 


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