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Cover Story: Atlanta Film Festival Schedule

Atlanta Film Festival 2004

ASSISTED LIVING Image Image (NR) This quirky docu-narrative is the definition of a film with its heart in the right place but some insecurity about where to take it. Director Elliot Greenebaum's odd, lyrical but just as often frustratingly rambling film was shot inside a Kentucky nursing home. The residents become extras in the story of a dope-smoking, immature orderly who befriends an elderly woman slowly succumbing to the effects of Alzheimer's. The film's at times jokey antics and Koyaanisqatsi-meets-Kubrick tracking shots down long institutional hallways often suggest the elderly as comic straight men or space aliens, an unfortunate result when Greenebaum tries so hard in many other places to remind us of their vulnerability. June 12 at 4:30 p.m. and June 15 at 6:30 p.m. at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. --Felicia Feaster

AVOID EYE CONTACT: THE BEST OF NYC ANIMATION Image Image Image Sex and violence repeatedly pop up in this scattershot collection of 18 shorts from New York animators. Unexpected bloodshed undercuts the otherwise realistic portrait of hostile slackers in Patrick Smith's "Delivery," while Signe Baumane's "Five Fucking Fables" features graphic sexual gags that resemble Hustler magazine cartoons. The finest rise above R-rated giggles, such as George Griffin's "A Little Routine," which renders a father-daughter bedtime ritual with wild puns and childlike fantasies. None measure up to the splendid fusion of tune and image in "Bathtime in Clerkenwell" and "Terminally Ambivalent Over You," Aleksey Budovsky's playful black-and-white videos for the band (The Real) Tuesday Weld. June 13 at 8:30 p.m., Central Library. --Curt Holman

BORN INTO BROTHELS Image Image Image (NR) In Calcutta's red light district, hundreds of children grow up in a shadowy labyrinthine world of prostitution, drug abuse and crime. Photographer Zana Briski tried to offer these children of prostitutes a window out of the city's rank brothels by teaching them how to take pictures and giving them point-and-shot cameras to document their own lives. The results can be poignant, with the children offering — considering their age — shockingly perceptive, eloquent insight into their situations, and some exquisite photographs to boot. But perhaps due to Briski's preternatural, unflappable calm, the film is a surprisingly emotionless, distanced view of these children's lives, which is not always a good thing. The camera allows them to establish their individuality, but it's also a camera that separates us from them. June 16 at 7:30 p.m., The Carter Presidential Center. --FF

BREAKFAST WITH HUNTER Image Image Documentarian Wayne Ewing trails "gonzo" journalist and aging party animal Hunter Thompson as he fights a DWI charge in Colorado and basks in the adulation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' 25th anniversary. A few fly-on-the-wall moments capture the monumental egos of literary celebrity: Cartoonist Ralph Steadman claims his illustrations made Las Vegas' reputation, and later Repo Man director Alex Cox recoils from Thompson's naked hostility after suggesting that the Las Vegas feature film incorporate Steadman-esque animation. Despite cameos from Thompson fans like John Cusack and Johnny Depp, Breakfast With Hunter feels like raw, randomly assorted footage without any insights into the writer's life, self-destructive tendencies or lasting importance. June 16 at 9 p.m., Central Library. --CH

DIG! Image Image Image Image Image (NR) Two bands with groovy retro-sampling sounds, the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, become friends and then splinter into artistic rivals in this documentary. The Dandys are the product of good stable homes and the Massacre, of dysfunctional ones and drug abuse. The Dandys work hard at bohemian ambiance. The Massacre live it. The Dandys hit it big. And the Massacre, fronted by the brilliant but unstable Anton Newcombe, destroy nearly every chance at a record deal in a suicidal effort not to sell out. It's hard to look away from Ondi Timoner's fascinating and painful film about the ugly forces at work in a creative pursuit often ruled by money, ego and dangerous glamour. June 12 at 5:30 p.m. and June 17 at 7 p.m., Landmark Art Midtown Cinema. --FF

HAIR HIGH Image A nerd falls for the most popular and bitchy girl in school in this crude animated feature that starts with Grease's 1950s retro vibe and ends with Carrie's supernatural horrors at the prom. Bill Plympton, famed for such animated shorts as "How To Kiss," so thoroughly squanders his voice cast (including comedian Sarah Silverman and Dermot Mulroney) that you wonder if he deliberately sabotaged the actors to prevent them from upstaging his exaggerated visuals. The handful of funny sight gags don't come close to compensating for Hair High's relentless ugliness, witless gross-outs and fatally flat characters. June 18 at 10:30 p.m., The Rialto. --CH

MADNESS AND GENIUS Image Image Image Tom Noonan movingly portrays a brilliant, burned-out science professor in the debut film of writer-director Ryan Eslinger. Jordan (David James Hayward), an amoral student with a photographic memory, attempts to blackmail Noonan's half-crazed researcher, while Jordan's only friend Nigel (David Williams) experiences first-hand the limitations of science as he succumbs to a degenerative illness. Madness and Genius' spare, muted narrative might work more effectively as a stage play, but the filmmaker proves genuinely fascinated with the dark shadows of the ivory tower. While visually limited, Eslinger's exploration of the currency of abstract ideas makes A Beautiful Mind seem superficial by comparison. June 17 at 4:30 p.m., The Rialto, and June 18 at 9 p.m., Central Library. --CH

METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER Image Image Image Image Image (NR) You don't have to be a Metallica or heavy metal fan to get lost in this consistently engrossing film about how a band whose infighting and alcoholism threatened to sink it used a psychologist and some surprisingly candid group therapy (shown in the film) to work things out. Party animals growing older, the band members begin to question the machismo of the rock 'n' roll mythology and examine how, despite their individual desires, they could have allowed the monster of Metallica to grow and flourish and threaten to overtake them. Paradise Lost directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have gained unbelievable access to their subjects and produced another fascinating, multilayered film. June 14 at 8:30 p.m., Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. --FF

PROTEUS Image Image Image Image If documentarian Ken Burns dropped acid, he might make a film like David Lebrun's weird but compelling glimpse at the 19th century's tensions between science, art and religion. Lebrun loosely centers the film around now-neglected biologist Ernst Haeckel, but he also throws in accounts of the era's major discoveries as well as excerpts of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Proteus consists of images from 19th-century paintings, photographs and illustrations, including animated montages of one-celled organisms, as intricate and unique as snowflakes, that for Haeckel illustrated God's handiwork in nature. Apart from Yuval Ron's overly modern music, Proteus ingeniously puts its viewer into another century's frame of mind. June 12, 2:30 p.m., and June 14, 6:30 p.m. at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. --CH

REPLACING DELPHINE Image Image Image Image (NR) There are 100-plus shorts screening at the Atlanta Film Festival this year, and Replacing Delphine is just one. Made by Polish-born, Atlanta-reared Kasia Kowalczyk and featuring luminous black-and-white cinematography, the film is billed as "a tale of love, loss and taxidermy." It features an angelic blond child (Amelia Hanson) locked in her room by a grief-stricken professor (Frank Roberts) who lost his own child in a fire 25 years earlier. An array of stuffed bunnies and a toy lamb with a skirt made of yarn conspire to help the child escape her plight in this fairy tale worthy of the Grimm Brothers, both creepy and sweet. The short screens as part of the Tales of the Weird shorts program. June 13 at 5 p.m., The Rialto Center. --FF