Two new "art" films open at the Cinema in Your Face! Theater this weekend, "The Raggedy Rawney," which marks Bob Hoskins' directing debut, and one of the documentary competition winners from the recent Sundance Film Festival in Park City, "Water and Power."
-"THE RAGGEDY RAWNEY" is an anti-war parable from co-writer/director Bob Hoskins, best known as the detective trying to decide "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."
Hoskins also stars in "The Raggedy Rawney" as the leader of a tribe of Gypsies who are on the lam, trying to escape the clutches of a vicious army that is out to grab every young man in the surrounding countryside for military service.
The time and place are deliberately obscure here, as is the reason for the long-running war, but the focus is clearly on a young soldier (Dexter Fletcher) who deserts after injuring his commanding officer. He goes slightly mad and takes on the persona of a "rawney," or witchlike character. He also masquerades as a woman for much of the film, his face covered with masklike makeup.
As well as belaboring its point that war is bad for you, "The Raggedy Rawney" also has the message that Gypsies are misunderstood, hard-working, kindly souls, which comes at us verbally on more than one occasion. Too bad Hoskins didn't trust his audience to pick up on this element without help, especially since there are several sympathetic characters who make the point quite nicely.
Hoskins does well with his actors, and there are some compelling moments here and there. But the film's narrative structure is occasionally a bit confusing, and the story is too superficial and underdeveloped to pack any kind of wallop.
"The Raggedy Rawney" is a nice try but never lives up to Hoskins' best intentions.
-"WATER AND POWER" is ostensibly a documentary about the Owens Valley, some 250 miles north of Los Angeles, which was once flourishing farm country but has become parched desert at the hands of the Department of Water and Power.
Intended as poetry, this experimental film is a series of visual images, some altered optically with layered pictures or time-lapse photography, to make a point about what was and what is.
As a movie, however, it requires great patience, which I must have been lacking when I watched it.
Sleep-inducing and obtuse, it left me unaffected.