'Next Door' Movie: Where Alfred Hitchcock Never Dared to Tread

Next Door neighbor Movie thriller'Next Door' movie with Kristoffer Joner and Julia Schacht.

'Next Door' movie: Going where Alfred Hitchcock feared to tread

Screened at Los Angeles' AFI FEST 2005, the Norwegian psychological horror-thriller Next Door / Naboer offers a portrayal of a desperate man (Kristoffer Joner) who finds himself in some very strange places – both literally and figuratively – following a nasty confrontation with his former girlfriend (Anna Bache-Wiig).

Besides director-screenwriter Pål Sletaune's solid grip on the disturbing, at times sexually charged, proceedings – Sletaune goes where Alfred Hitchcock never dared to venture – Next Door boasts several outstanding performances, including those of Cecilie A. Mosli and Julia Schacht as two peculiar sisters.

But most notable of all is Kristoffer Joner as the sisters' emotionally distraught neighbor. In fact, Joner's superb antihero, at turns creepy and pitiable – sometimes both – is by far the best male performance I've seen so far this year.

As a plus, Next Door boasts a first-rate Psycho-inspired score by Simon Boswell.

Next Door / Naboer (2005).
Dir. / Scr.: Pål Sletaune.
Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Cecilie A. Mosli, Julia Schacht, Anna Bache-Wiig, Michael Nyqvist.

Princess Raccoon Ziyi Zhang Jo Odagiri'Princess Raccoon' with Ziyi Zhang and Jo Odagiri.

'Princess Raccoon': Challenging but memorable musical

One of my two favorite films at AFI FEST 2005 took me completely by surprise. Eighty-two-year-old Seijun Suzuki's remarkable musical Princess Raccoon / Operetta tanuki goten consists of an eclectic mix of highly stylized and naturalistic sets, catchy tunes ranging from mild rap to hot salsa, myriad plot twists and turns, and special effects that are purposefully – and beautifully – simple. (One such brings back from the dead veteran actress Hibari Misora.)

All that, plus dialogue in a variety of languages, from Japanese to Portuguese. The result is a whimsical – if at times challenging and a bit overlong – mélange perfectly appropriate for the wacky fairy tale played out on screen.

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon actress Ziyi Zhang is charming as the Princess Raccoon of the (English-language) title – a “demon,” or spirit, who falls in love with a handsome mortal (Jo Odagiri). But it is Saori Yuki, as a cunning, rap-singing prophetess, who runs away with the film.

For the record, Michael Haneke's sociopolitical-psychological thriller Hidden, featuring Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, and Annie Girardot, was my other top movie at AFI FEST 2005.

Princess Raccoon / Operetta tanuki goten (2005).
Dir.: Seijun Suzuki.
Scr.: Yoshio Urasawa.
Ziyi Zhang. Jo Odagiri. Hiroko Yakushimaru. Saori Yuki.

Fuck movie poster'Fuck' movie poster.

'Fuck' documentary : Freedom of speech (or lack thereof) in the United States

Birds do it, but don't sing it. Bees do it, but don't buzz it. Humans do it, but should they be allowed to say it?

Directed by Steve Anderson, Fuck is a curious documentary that pretends to be about one of the most offensive (and most convenient and widely used) words in the English language, but that is actually a generally perceptive – if somewhat narrow in scope – examination of freedom of speech in the United States.

Ranging from recently deceased author Hunter S. Thompson, to whom the film is dedicated, to adult film star Tera Patrick, numerous talking heads debate the history, the myriad meanings and grammatical forms, and the symbolic value of that multi-faceted word.

Beware: After watching Fuck, you'll never see – or say – Pat Boone the same way again.

Fuck (2006).
Dir.: Steve Anderson.
Interviewees: Steven Bochco. Pat Boone. Janeane Garofalo. Ron Jeremy. Bill Maher. Alanis Morissette. Tera Patrick. Kevin Smith. Drew Carey. Billy Connolly. Chuck D. Ice-T. Alan Keyes. Ben Bradlee.

Joy Movie'Joy' movie.

Joyful noise: Quirky, Tel Aviv-set fairy tale 'Joy' offers simple but unusual pleasures

Directed by Julie Shles (of the 1999 comedy Afula Express), the quirky Israeli comedy-drama Joy / Muchrachim Lehiyot Same'ach is a modern fairy tale in which magic wands and pumpkin carriages are replaced by the more humanistic magic of empathy and forgiveness.

Set in Tel Aviv around the time of Yom Kippur, Joy chronicles the struggles of an overweight, homely girl (Sigalit Fuchs) who wants her lonely parents' former friends – Dad was a major womanizer who alienated a lot of people – to attend a televised friends & family reunion. Along the way, she discovers both self-respect and (an unusual) Prince Charming.

Although Shles' direction and Omer Tadmor's screenplay meander aimlessly every now and then, they should be commended for placing a strong focus on their characters' quirky traits while avoiding the trap of cheap sentimentality.

Joyful Noise Movie IsraelSigalit Fuchs makes joyful noise.

'Joy' movie: Highly capable performances

As a plus, Joy is well worth watching thanks to several remarkable performances, especially those of newcomer Sigalit Fuchs* as the (English-language) title character and Rivka Michaeli as the young woman's bossy mother – both of whom won, respectively, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Ophir Awards (Israeli Film Academy Awards) earlier this year.

In fact, Joy was nominated for 12 Ophir Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Tal Friedman), Best Supporting Actor (Yossi Pollak), and Best Cinematography (Itzik Portal). Besides winners Sigalit Fuchs and Rivka Michaeli, Natan Elkanovich took home the Ophir Award for Best Costume Design.

* According to the IMDb, Fuchs' sole previous big-screen credit was a small role in the multiple Israeli Film Academy Award-winning comedy-drama Nina's Tragedies.

Joy / Muchrachim Lehiyot Same'ach (2005).
Dir.: Julie Shles.
Scr.: Omer Tadmor.
Cast: Sigalit Fuchs. Tal Friedman. Rivka Michaeli. Dorit Lev-Ari. Alexander Senderovich. Eliran Caspi. Karen Mor. Yossi Pollak. Michal Yannai.

Brazilian Road MovieBrazilian road movie 'Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures' with João Miguel and Peter Ketnath.

Brazilian road movie at AFI FEST: 'Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures'

Among the positive elements in the Brazilian road movie Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures / Cinema, Aspirina e Urubus are the following:

  • Marcelo Gomes' careful direction.
  • Mauro Pinheiro Jr.'s striking cinematography.
  • Gomes, Karim Ainouz, and Paulo Calda's unusual screenplay.
  • Peter Ketnath's and João Miguel's excellent performances.

Set in 1942 and featuring an itinerant “cinema city” of sorts, Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures is a touching dramatic comedy about the grudging friendship that develops between a German World War II refugee (Peter Ketnath) and a Brazilian migrant peasant (João Miguel) in Brazil's arid, impoverished Northeast.

Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures / Cinema, Aspirina e Urubus (2006).
Dir.: Marcelo Gomes.
Scr.: Marcelo Gomes. Karim Ainouz. Paulo Caldas.
Cast: Peter Ketnath. João Miguel.


Fuck, Princess Raccoon, Next Door, Joy film, and Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures reviewed at AFI FEST 2005.

Images of João Miguel and Peter Ketnath in Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures; Sigalit Fuchs in Joy movie: AFI FEST.

Kristoffer Joner and Julia Schacht Next Door movie image: AFI FEST 2005.

Jo Odagiri and Ziyi Zhang Princess Raccoon image: Cineplex.com.

Fuck movie poster: THINKFilm.

AFI FEST website.

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1 Comment to 'Next Door' Movie: Where Alfred Hitchcock Never Dared to Tread

  1. This dude looks creepy!