Although "Died Young, Stayed Pretty," a documentary about the underground rock poster movement, begins with a freewheeling array of diverting poster graphics and provocative artist interviews, it soon becomes apparent that there's no real structure or point of view to it all. In fact, by the movie's frustrating second half, it's almost as if director Eileen Yaghoobian (who also produced, shot and edited) decided to become as anarchic as the art she features here and just cut together her remaining footage willy-nilly, viewer engagement be damned.
The indie-rock poster subculture, at least as seen here, seems so largely populated by tunnel-visioned white guys living in a kind of low-paid, artistic exile, that, without digging beneath their offbeat surfaces (which Yaghoobian doesn't), they simply become tiresome mouthpieces. In addition, the fact that the wildly imaginative posters these iconoclasts produce have so little impact nowadays (the same is unfortunately true of the obscure bands, unseen and unheard here, that their artwork promotes) it ultimately makes the film's topic feel dated and superfluous.
However, after the movie drifts into such far-flung areas as drugs, the media, war and ice cream trucks, leaving behind a raft of unanswered questions about the rock poster world and its motley inhabitants, it's truly zone-out time.
Gary Goldstein --
"Died Young, Stayed Pretty." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.
'Palladin' fails to break new ground
"Looking for Palladin" meanders around Antigua (Guatemala) at a leisurely gait and enjoys the presence of Ben Gazzara in its central role. That's about all there is to find, however.
A short-tempered, Ugly American talent agent named Josh (David Moscow) has come, reluctantly, to persuade long-missing Hollywood legend Jack Palladin to take a lousy-sounding cameo in a project related to one of his old movies. After he finally finds the ultra-mellow Jack (Gazzara), who works for kicks as a chef, the two are off for a night of self-discovery. Yep.
The film simply isn't well thought out. It's not credible that Josh doesn't recognize his quarry when meeting him face to face, especially given their later-revealed personal connection. And Josh has come this far but knows nothing about the project he's pitching. Sure, Jeremy Piven has pretty much destroyed this type for a generation but Josh doesn't even introduce himself when working Jack. Jack, meanwhile, is too Yoda-like. He's perfectly happy. He doesn't need anything Josh is offering, so where's the tension?
Is this a wacky comedy, as its wild coincidences and sprightly music imply? Or is it a serious family drama, as the final 20 minutes or so suddenly seem to be? Veteran writer-director Andrzej Krakowski's pacing is languid to the point of torpor; shots linger without looking beneath the surface and scenes are slow without creating atmosphere. Paved with cliches, the apparently well-meaning "Looking for Palladin" is a long journey with no new places.
Michael Ordona --
"Looking for Palladin." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes. At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Town Center, Encino; Edwards Westpark 8, Irvine.
War tests bond between women
Writer-director Karin Albou follows up her impressive debut feature "Little Jerusalem" with the exquisite yet harrowing "The Wedding Song," a story of two teenagers, the Jewish Myriam and the Muslim Nour, whose lifelong friendship is tested severely with the advent of the German occupation of Tunisia in November 1942. With intimacy and sensuality, Albou explores what it means to be a woman and the bonds that women form with each other in an increasingly precarious situation.
Myriam (Lizzie Brochere) and her widowed seamstress mother, Tita (Albou), live in an upstairs flat that shares a courtyard with the family of Nour (Olympe Borval) and other apartment dwellers in an old, modest quarter of Tunis. As the plight of Tunisia's Jews worsens, Tita applies pressure upon her daughter to marry Raoul (Simon Abkarian), a slim, dapper, wealthy doctor in his 40s who has fled Paris for what he believed would be the safety of his hometown.