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Last Resort


Last Resort

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Jim Jarmusch's Down By Law has a great visual joke: Three convicts, having escaped a bare Louisiana prison cell appointed only with two hard bunk beds, seek refuge in a tiny riverside house after narrowly evading the authorities. When they open the door, they get their first taste of freedom: a bare room and two hard bunk beds. In Pawel Pawlikowski's starkly beautiful Last Resort—which resembles early Jarmusch in its bleak, poetic minimalism—a young Russian woman seeking political asylum in England experiences a similar feeling of déjà vu. Upon landing at the airport and declaring her intentions, Dina Korzun and her young son (Artyom Strelnikov) are jettisoned to an immigrants' center in a dreary Southern coastal town, where they're required to stay until their application is approved. Due to a massive bureaucratic backlog, they won't be given an answer for 12 to 16 months. During the long limbo, they're given a dilapidated high-rise apartment and vouchers for food, but the depressed job market and their lack of work permits make it impossible for them to earn decent living wages, and the government keeps them contained under heavy surveillance. As in the Jarmusch film, freedom seems conspicuously close to its opposite, like the worst image of Korzun's native Moscow under Communist rule. A former documentarian for the BBC, Pawlikowski mounts a strong indictment of the immigration system, but like Ken Loach at his most effective, his critique is so embedded in his characters' everyday lives that his points are not so much preached as smuggled. As a single mother looking to start a new life in London with her fiancé, a dream dashed in one ruthless cut, Korzun gives the film its weathered soul, traversing a foreign landscape with desperation and grit. Paddy Considine, memorably frightening as a schizophrenic in last year's A Room For Romeo Brass, brings the same wired energy to the role of an arcade manager who befriends Korzun and her downcast son. Set against the grim backdrop of boarded-up businesses and an abandoned amusement park, Last Resort's milieu resembles the off-season Panama City Beach in Ruby In Paradise, with the three characters left to huddle against the lonely chill. An exceptional start to The Shooting Gallery's third film series, Last Resort is just the sort of intimate, low-key gem that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks. As a bonus, the film is preceded by Guy Maddin's brilliant short The Heart Of The World, which was originally produced as a "Prelude" for the 2000 Toronto Film Festival. Described by the director as "the world's first subliminal melodrama," it compresses a feature-length love triangle into a frantic five minutes, expertly aping the style of early Soviet silents.