Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Vincent Gallo is an actor not afraid of risks. Consider the challenge of making Jerzy Skolimowski's "Essential Killing," in a role for which he speaks not one word and must endure great physical hardship, much of it apparently real. Many another actor would glance at the screenplay and call for a taxi. That the film was worth doing was confirmed at this year's Venice Film Festival, where he won the best actor award and Skolimowski won the Special Jury Prize.
In it, Gallo plays a Taliban terrorist fighter in Afghanistan. A terrified, exhausted man, who shakes so badly he can barely hold a rocket launcher as he kills three Americans who stumble upon him. One of the Americans is a battle-ready infantryman, and the other two seem to be dopeheads working for a contractor. Their rendezvous with destiny comes in a rock labyrinth opening from a valley floor.
The death scene is shielded from view from helicopters circling overhead. The Talibanist (never named) is so frightened he runs away, making himself visible, and he's quickly captured. Then follows a painful sequence where he's cross-examined during torture. The sound track suggests he can't hear the questions because of a ringing in his ears caused by an explosion. Whatever the reason, he doesn't talk, and is subjected to waterboardings and beatings.
Despite the contemporary setting, "Essential Killing" makes little point of politics. Yes, the man is Taliban and yes, he's tortured, but there are no speeches and precious little dialogue by anyone, let alone the Gallo character. It's pure action, and then you're free to find your own parallels.