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Critical Consensus: Danish Doc "Armadillo" Tops criticWIRE This Week

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire April 13, 2011 at 3:43AM

Opening in limited release this week is an eclectic batch: Janus Metz's Afghanistan war doc "Armadillo," Robert Redford's Lincoln assassination take "The Conspirator," 2010 Cannes Jury Prize winner "A Screaming Man," Bertrand Tavernier’s "The Princess of Montpensier," another Cannes 2010 alum, Zeina Durra's directorial debut "The Imperialists Are Still Alive!," and "Atlas Shrugged (Part 1)," the low budget first part of a planned series of adaptations of Ayn Rand's novel.
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Opening in limited release this week is an eclectic batch: Janus Metz's Afghanistan war doc "Armadillo," Robert Redford's Lincoln assassination take "The Conspirator," 2010 Cannes Jury Prize winner "A Screaming Man," Bertrand Tavernier’s "The Princess of Montpensier," another Cannes 2010 alum, Zeina Durra's directorial debut "The Imperialists Are Still Alive!," and "Atlas Shrugged (Part 1)," the low budget first part of a planned series of adaptations of Ayn Rand's novel.

The clear critics' pick of the lot, at least according to criticWIRE, is "Armadillo," which Lorber Films is releasing this Friday in New York before expanding nationwide. The film, which follows a thrill-seeking behavior of young soldiers, was the first documentary to screen in the Critics’ Week competition at Cannes, where it ended up picking up a prize. The film also screened at DOC NYC and the Toronto International Film Festival in September, and won the Grierson Award at the London Film Festival. It also has the honor of being this week's critical consensus pick of the week (the top scoring film with five or more grades), averaging a "B+ from 9 different critics. That included "A" level grades from the likes of Todd McCarthy, David Fear, Joshua Rothkopf, and indieWIRE's own Eric Kohn.

Kohn summarized his take on "Armadillo" and other new releases below:

Two classic tales of conflicting values and political upheaval hit theaters this weekend, although you're probably better off sticking with the contemporary options. While "Atlas Shrugged (Part 1)" returns to the iconoclastic novel and "The Conspirator" studies the death of Abraham Lincoln, neither has garnered much praise for pulling off these lofty goals. Reality check: New stories often service contemporary audiences better than any effort to dip into the past.

Although not as radical as Rand, "The Imperialists Are Still Alive!" portrays a modern-day New York bohemian of Middle Eastern descent snidely coping with a post-9/11 world. Owing a great debt to Whit Stillman, "Imperialists" cleverly penetrates a world of ritzy Tribeca loft parties and high-minded art projects. Feisty conceptual artist Asya (Lodie Bouchez) constantly battles the conflicting worlds of assimilation and xenophobia while drifting around a familiar chic Manhattan subculture, growing increasingly paranoid about FBI surveillance while at the same time simply going about her life. Writer-director Zeina Durra's first feature, which I wrote about last year, takes the rare form of a sad comedy about interpersonal politics. That might not sell tickets, but it's a much better alternative to the raging pundits on the evening news.

Although quite different in terms of content, the Danish documentary "Armadillo" (this week's Critical Consensus pick) has a similar immediacy. Controversial upon its overseas release last year, Janus Metz's powerful portrait focuses on young Danish soldiers stationed in Afghanistan whose contempt for their setting leads to ferocious outbursts of violence. Metz's camera gets up-close with the combat - there is a lot of death onscreen - and uses a screaming rock soundtrack to mirror the intense emotional instability building up inside his subject's heads. Far removed from the specific motives behind the war, the young men in "Armadillo" express timeless sentiments about the hopelessness of battling a faceless threat. Someone ought to put that on the evening news.

Check out the links below for more extensive takes on "Armadillo," The Princess of Montpensier," "A Screaming Man," "The Conspirator," "The Imperialists Are Still Alive," and other new releases. Also offered is the top ten criticWIRE scores for films already in theaters, which is currently topped by Joao Pedro Rodrigues acclaimed Portuguese import, "To Die Like a Man" (read iW's review of the film).

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

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week
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.

Armadillo (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

A Screaming Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

The Princess of Montpensier (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

The Imperialists Are Still Alive (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The Double Hour (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The Conspirator (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

criticWIRE: 10 Best Bets Already In Theaters

1. To Die Like a Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

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

3. Kati With An I (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

4. Le Quattro Volte (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

5. Meek's Cutoff (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

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

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

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

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

10. Hanna (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B


Previous Picks of the Week:
April 6: Kelly Reichardt's "Meek's Cutoff"
March 30: Michaelangelo Frammartino's "Le Quattro Volte"

This article is related to: In Theaters






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