The first word that comes to mind in seeing Los Debutantes is Tarantino, since he's done so much to shape contemporary gangster films. This is a gritty, sleazy Chilean gangster film, by first-time director Andrés Waissbluth. The protagonists are two brothers, one 17, the other in his early twenties, getting involved with the bottom rungs of the Santiago underworld. The other main characters are a local gangster nightclub owner and his young mistress, who both brothers fall for. It's mostly a macho mix of women and guns, but there's interesting contrasts presented between the ambitious elder brother and more reserved and conventional younger.
Hell on Wheels
Hell on Wheels (Höllentour) is a documentary following Team Telekom in the 2003 Tour de France. While there are some magnificent shots of the mountain stages, or of the peloton charging through Parisian streets, the documentary focuses on the people. The main pair of cyclists are Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag, both older riders who've faced being second-best time after time. They're both very tough people, taking the physical and psychological abuse of the Tour and still trying to win. There's some coverage of the history of the Tour, and you get a real feeling of what it means to cycling and to France as a nation. The levels of determination and feats of endurance from all the riders really shines through from the documentary, as they ride the 170-240km stages day after day despite injuries, illness and exhaustion.
One Missed Call
One Missed Call is a Japanese supernatural thriller, but not a great one. The premise is that, one by one, a bunch of students are getting voice mail on their mobiles from the future foretelling their own death. There's no attempt to suggest that this isn't supernatural, the reaction of the police and media doesn't feel at all plausible, and your left just counting off the cast until the obvious protagonists are left facing the supernatural evil in an abandoned hospital, where it pops up out of cupboards and appears behind them while they spend minutes slowly opening doors and curtains with creepy music in the background. There is something of a message from the film, using the horror genre to talk about child abuse, obsession and how the abusers become the abused, but this is clumsily handled.
Rock School, well, rocked. It's a documentary about the Paul Green School of Rock Music, a performance school for 9-17 year olds in Philadelphia that teaches rock musicianship. The students learn everything from the power chords of Black Sabbath to complex Frank Zappa numbers. The head of the school, Paul Green, is a larger-than-life character. He charges around swearing and insulting the kids, but his energy and real desire to get the best out of his students comes across. He's aggressive but rarely seems to actually be nasty, certainly less so than some sports coaches in comparable situations. The core story for the documentary is Paul taking his star pupils through the preparations to play at a Frank Zappa festival in Germany. There are some fireworks as he pushes them to perform ever better, particular fireworks with one of his older pupils, and he sometimes goes further than I felt comfortable with, but it seems to work for most of the students.
The whole film is great fun to watch, with plenty of amusing situations, for example the pair of cute kids, aged 9 or 10, whose mother prepares their metal make-up for a Sabbath show (and the subsequent delivery of Iron Man with pre-teen vocals). The most impressive part was when one 12 year old prodigy, CJ, delivers a stunning guitar solo to the festival crowd. There's a great shot of one woman open-mouthed and shaking her head in disbelief at his virtuosity. The film gives such a sense of purpose and talent from the kids and Paul Green, who for all his unconventional approach is a dedicated teacher.
I'd compare it to Linklater's School of Rock, but when I tried watching that during a flight last year I got bored after half an hour and chose another film instead.