Film Reviews

Palm Beach, Off the Map

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Freddie Mercury: Love of Life, Singer of Songs — The Untold Story Although this movie has a hideously unwieldy title and the look and feel of an amateur college doc, it's still maybe the finest film ever made about the man once known as Farrokh Bulsara. Not because it's great cinema, per se — the average VH1: Behind the Music crew, for example, would have known not to traipse around Zanzibar with a buck-toothed pre-adolescent in a half-assed re-creation of young Freddie's daily walk to school — but because of the obvious love directors Rudi Dolezal and Hannes Rossacher had for their subject. These people went deep, traveling to Panchgani, in Maharashtra, India, to film the school where Freddie boarded at age 8, interviewing the daughter of his former art teacher, learning from the current principal that Freddie was a "thoroughly mediocre cross-country runner." Interviewing old college friends, they discover a cache of his pictures from art school — images of Cliff Richards, Paul McCartney, and Jimi Hendrix rendered with extraordinary skill; paintings that look like Peter Max prints filtered through art nouveau. Why other documentarians have failed to dig these up remains a mystery. Once we move into the Queen era, however FM:LoLSoS — TUS becomes more conventional, the only remaining surprise being the great attention paid to Montserrat Caballe. The Spanish soprano, whose voice was already on the wane when she and Freddie collaborated on the one-off popera record Barcelona, receives more screen time in Dolezal and Rossacher's film than Brian May. It makes sense, in a way: Barcelona was more important to Freddie than just about any work he ever did. Maybe he loved it, or maybe he thought singing with a diva made him legit. Regardless of Freddie's motivations, Dolezal and Rossacher are sweet for honoring his taste. One does wish they'd spent a few moments as journalists instead of fans, however. Never do the filmmakers address the question of whether Freddie's hesitance to talk about his AIDS in the '80s slowed public acknowledgment of the disease or whether the man could have helped stabilize race relations in Britain and Europe by admitting to his Indian ancestry. Of course, nobody ever asks those questions. Farouk Balsara is fast on his way to becoming St. Mercury, and this little picture constitutes another step toward his canonization. (Saturday, April 21, 9:30 p.m., at the Theatre, 854 S. Conniston St., West Palm Beach.)

The Insurgents The movie opens with these words: "If you're watching this movie, I guess I'm dead. And if you're watching this and I'm not, then everything's fucked and I guess I might as well be." It's not an intro that gives folks a lot of time to get settled, and there is no subsequent reprieve. Flashing through time, we meet disenfranchised young people who have come under the influence of an aging, soft-spoken revolutionary ("Robert," played by John Shea). Equal parts Noam Chomsky, Jason Bermas, Weatherman Maoist, and Theodore Kaczynski, we watch as he turns his youthful sycophants into a small band of would-be Timothy McVeighs. The kids — Henry Simmons' hulking, rage-filled Marcus, who had his balls blown off in the war; Juliette Marquis' Hana, who went from turning tricks to building bombs; Michael Mosley, a daft, earnest pawn in Robert's game, or so we're led to believe — are extraordinarily unhappy and utterly seduced by the notion that their unhappiness might be the fault of "the system." They as good as say this, which is unfortunate, but it's also the only incidence of audience spoon-feeding in Scott Dacko's otherwise admirably dispassionate film. There are times when Robert's appeals to nobility and extremism are very convincing — you know you could rationally defeat them, maybe, but the rhetoric and the movie containing it move too quickly for anyone to mount a reasoned response. The Insurgents flashes by, dropping impressions instead of ideas; the hurried, don't-look-back quality of the story a perfect reflection of its subjects' fractured lives. (Sunday, April 22, 1 p.m., at Sunrise Cinemas at Mizner Park, 301 Plaza Real, Boca Raton.)

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Brandon K. Thorp