also opening today

October 17, 2008

Before I Forget *** ( 3 STARS)

Before I Forget (Avant Que J'oublie) is not a film to everyone's taste. But in this case, Before I Forget is a film one can admire, but it is not "likable," per se, nor does its director wish it to be.

Jacques Nolot wrote and directed the film and also stars as Pierre, an aging gay hustler facing a loss of income when his richest client dies after a 30-year arrangement. The client has left him a sizable inheritance, but the man's family is challenging it. If poverty doesn't get him first, mortality will: He's not a well man. Worst of all, perhaps, he is an old man in a business that is not kind to the aging process.

Pierre seems to think he's still a young gay boulevardier. But every ache and pain, every sagging fold on his HIV-positive body tells us, at least, that he is not. Nolot's vision is bleak and unflinching. In fact, there are several moments in Before I Forget where you're likely to find yourself wishing he had flinched just a bit.

There is a scene, early in the film, where Jacques thrashes about in the dark with either night sweats or nightmares and wakes up. He walks naked through his house in semidarkness. His flesh hangs wearily on his frame. Lit starkly, Nolot's body evokes the work of both Lucien Freud and Ivan Albright. The images are meant to shock, but the shock is meant to open the door to our seeing something else, something that is almost beautiful because it is simply and without apology, truth.

Unrated . Time 108 minutes. In French with English subtitles.

David Wiegand, San Francisco Chronicle

Sex Drive ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2)

If the title doesn't say it clearly enough, Sex Drive is about young men (mostly), young women (tangentially), cars and sex (or the lack thereof).

Directed by Sean Anders, the film is adapted from the young adult novel All the Way by Andy Behrens, in which a young lad (Josh Zuckerman) makes a connection online with a girl in another state. Not wanting to head off to college a virgin, he swipes his older brother's muscle car, packs his two best friends along for the ride and is off in search of sex. In the broadest of contours, the film is similar to the '80s chestnut The Sure Thing, but it plays more like the randy, semi-sensitive anecdotal antics of a few entries in the American Pie series.

Anders smartly finds a way for many of the characters' most embarrassing moments to be somehow caught on tape, which leads to a quick cutaway to a YouTube page or makeshift Web site, capturing how the anxieties of adolescence can now be stingingly spread like never before. Touches like this keep Sex Drive from being just another run-of-the-mill teen comedy. Occasionally sharp but never quite as smartly formed as it could be, this Sex Drive is only partly worth the trip.

Rated R . Time 109 minutes.

Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times

Sixty Six ** ( 2 STARS)

In Sixty Six, an attention-starved, sad-sack boy in 1966 Britain wants to have the biggest bar mitzvah ever. However, his family's business fails and England's chance to finally win the World Cup falls on his big day. So he sulks when he can't have his Super Sweet 13 bash and roots against the national team.

Oy vey.

Director Paul Weiland, on whose childhood experiences the film is based, may be too close to the subject matter. The things that intrigued him as a youth are sprinkled throughout, but that fascination is not transferred to the audience. Because characters are played strictly as types, with no arcs to experience, the audience is presumed to care when selfish, foolish decisions are made.

That the performances are uniformly one-noted certainly doesn't speak well of the direction. Only Helena Bonham Carter, as the mother, achieves human warmth. Sixty Six may find a niche audience, but instead of depicting a boy's first steps toward manhood - ceremony aside - it turns into an uninvolving portrait of self-absorption.

Rated PG-13. Time 95 minutes.

Michael Ordona, Los Angeles Times

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