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Critical Consensus: Italian Fable "Le Quattro Volte" Is The Pick of the Week

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire March 30, 2011 at 4:36AM

As indieWIRE's recent April preview makes clear, specialty filmgoers have lots to look forward to in the coming weeks and this week starts that off with a wide array of releases including Duncan Jones' SXSW opener "Source Code," David Schwimmer's directorial debut "Trust," Susanne Bier's Academy Award-winning Danish import "In a Better World," "Saw" director James Wan's horror flick "Insidious" (the inaugural film from distributor FilmDistrict), IFC's highly buzzed Toronto pickup "Super," Quentin Dupieux's deranged tire opus "Rubber," and "Rubber"'s 2010 Cannes Film Festival peer "Le Quattro Volte," which won the top prize in Cannes' Director's Fortnight competition. While Michaelangelo Frammartino's "Volte" is perhaps the least high-profile of the group, it was the critical consensus pick of the week in this new weekly column, which highlights the top critics picks from our criticWIRE poll.
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As indieWIRE's recent April preview makes clear, specialty filmgoers have lots to look forward to in the coming weeks and this week starts that off with a wide array of releases including Duncan Jones' SXSW opener "Source Code," David Schwimmer's directorial debut "Trust," Susanne Bier's Academy Award-winning Danish import "In a Better World," "Saw" director James Wan's horror flick "Insidious" (the inaugural film from distributor FilmDistrict), IFC's highly buzzed Toronto pickup "Super," Quentin Dupieux's deranged tire opus "Rubber," and "Rubber"'s 2010 Cannes Film Festival peer "Le Quattro Volte," which won the top prize in Cannes' Director's Fortnight competition. While Michaelangelo Frammartino's "Volte" is perhaps the least high-profile of the group, it was the critical consensus pick of the week in this new weekly column, which highlights the top critics picks from our criticWIRE poll.

Technically a March release (it opens today at New York's Film Forum), "Volte" is a visually stunning, almost entirely silent Italian fable that works as a mediation on life and death told through four connected tales (including one that memorably focuses on a group of adorable goats). It topped all of this week's debuting films, taking the highest criticWIRE average. Based on 14 reviews, the film scored a "B+" average, including "A" level scores from the likes of The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, Reverse Shot's Michael Koresky, Time Out Chicago's Ben Kenigsberg, and indieWIRE's own Eric Kohn.

Kohn summarized his take on five of this week's releases below, suggesting there's just about something for everyone this weekend (unless, as far as he's concerned, they were looking forward to "In a Better World"):

Audiences can check out Best Foreign Film champion "In a Better World" this weekend to figure out if it's worth the hype. My take: It's not, but the accolades shouldn't take anyone by surprise. Danish director Susanne Bier's tugs on heartstrings with near-mechanical efficiency, a dubious skill that the Academy loves to champion. Bier has made a supremely earnest movie held back from greatness by a series of obvious twists and turns, but anyone following Oscar patterns probably expected as much.

Speaking of twists and turns, there are a few wild ones to be found in the pair of intriguing genre offerings opening this weekend: James Wan's "Insidious" and Quentin Dupieux's "Rubber." Wan, best known for kickstarting the "Saw" franchise by directing the first installment six years ago, leaves his torture porn roots behind with this goofy haunted house story. The whole thing is a mess, but a fun one, made possible thanks to an understated performance by Patrick Wilson and a ton of sudden jolts that prove Wan never takes this nostalgic experience--which shockmeister William Castle would have loved--too seriously (I wrote about the movie when it screened last month at Film Comment Selects.)

Even more self-aware and divisive, up-and-comer Dupieux's "Rubber" exclusively revolves around a deranged tire that comes to life in the middle of the desert and goes on a killing spree. Only, it's not really about that in the slightest; opening with a monologue about the lack of motivation driving virtually every blockbuster in history, the movie consistently mocks the rampant stupidity at the core of mass market entertainment. Some critics find Dupieux's meta-satirical approach too heavy-handed, and you can't really argue with them: For the first half of the movie, a group of American "audiences" assemble in the desert to watch the tire's murderous rampage. But the lack of subtlety underscores the message, as I wrote after the movie's Cannes premiere last year, which is that Hollywood ran out of good ideas a long time ago.

Of course, that doesn't mean there's no hope on the horizon for studio movies. "Source Code," the first commercial foray of "Moon" director Duncan Jones, successfully delivers a high concept sci-fi package without overdoing the CGI and falling back on mindless action sequences. It was also a fine opener for the SXSW Film Festival last month, when I reviewed it.

For anyone looking to move beyond mainstream releases, however, the hottest ticket in town--for those in New York and L.A., anyway--is this week's Critical Consensus pick, "Le Quattro Volte." Michaelangelo Frammartino's experimental narrative about anarchic goats, lively spiritual celebrations and reincarnation, which won the Europa Cinemas Label in Cannes's Directors' Fortnight last year, contains a number of cosmic delights for those patient enough to experience them. It's basically about a shepherd who dies and comes back to life as a member of his flock, but the virtually dialogue-free movie barely needs a plot, as it works just fine as a poignant audio-visual spectacle. And it's a lot more exciting than one measly killer tire.

Check out the links below for more extensive takes on "Le Quattro Volte," as well as "Source Code," "Rubber," "Trust," "In a Better World," "Insidious," and other new releases. Also offered is the top ten criticWIRE scores for films already in theaters, which is currently topped by Palme d'Or winner "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives," now expanding throughout the U.S. via Strand Releasing.

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week

Pick of The Week: Le Quattro Volte (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

In a Better World (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Insidious (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Source Code (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Circo (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Rubber (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Queen To Play (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

Super (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C

Trust (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C


criticWIRE: 10 Best Bets Already In Theaters

1. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

2. Nostalgia For The Light (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

3. My Perestroika (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

4. Certified Copy (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

5. I Saw The Devil (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

6. Jane Eyre (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

7. Poetry (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

8. Win Win (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

9. Potiche (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

10. Of Gods and Men (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

NOTE: The averages listed here are current as of the publishing of this article. They are subject to change as new grades come in, and will be updated in next week's edition of this article.

This article is related to: In Theaters, In a Better World





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