Tuesday, November 01, 2005

3 NEEDLES - don't be put off by the gruesome title

Without a doubt, if this movie had the backing of a major studio, it would be up for Oscars. But what am I saying? No major studio would back a movie that reads like such a “downer”. 3 NEEDLES tells three separate stories of people suffering from AIDS – a porn star in Canada, plantation workers in South Africa and villagers in China. There is lots of gruesome stuff – young African boys undergoing ritual adult circumcision for starters – but this is not a pretentious didactic grim mess. There are a lot of movies out there that you admire more than enjoy. But here you can do both. Many of the scenes are very very funny and the film wears its social message lightly.

chloe sevigny plays a nun so you have to reckon she is going to fall off the celibacy wagon at some point, right?3 NEEDLES is directed by a young American director - Thom Fitzgerald. Despite his relatively unproven track record, he has been able to attract a brilliant cast, including Chloe Sevigny, Sandra Oh, Olympia Dukakis, Stockard Channing and Lucy Liu.

In the Canadian strand, Stockard Channing ("Anything Else", "Practical Magic") plays the working class mother of a young porn star who has AIDS but is fiddling his blood tests so he can keep acting. He knows he is infecting his co-workers but needs the money. In the South African strand, Chloe Sevigny ("The Brown Bunny", "Melinda and Melinda") plays a novice who becomes a missionary to South Africa, working in a health clinic attached to a plantation where AIDS is pandemic, the plantation owner is reluctant to fund healthcare and the victims believe that they can cure the virus by sleeping with a virgin.

In the Chinese strand, Lucy Liu ("Charlie's Angels", "Kill Bill") plays a woman who is running an illegal blood supply business. Driving round villages in a white van she offers peasants five dollars for their blood, which is then sold on to hospitals. Her equipment is contaminated and infects whole villages. This strand is actually surprisingly funny and touching in how it depicts the relationship between a father and his young daughter who is a blood donor. The comic timing is all the more amazing given that this is a cast of largely untrained actors. Lucy Liu also gives an outstanding performance of real pathos. Who knew she could actually act?

This film was originally shown at the Toronto film festival in September 2005 and ran at 123 minutes. The version shown at the London film festival 2005 – the European premiere - was 15 minutes shorter for which we can “thank” the Canadian distributor. However, the Director intimated that a European release would have the extra footage restored. 3 Needles will get a limited US release in December 2006.

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