A youth movie about an interconnected set of Antwerp dwellers who all end up at a party one summer night, "Any Way the Wind Blows" looks good and sounds better with its eclectic range of music, but eventually runs out of steam despite being crammed with incident. In its first six weeks, film tallied more than 50,000 admissions in Belgium.

A youth movie about an interconnected set of Antwerp dwellers who all end up at a party one summer night, “Any Way the Wind Blows” looks good and sounds better with its eclectic range of music, but eventually runs out of steam despite being crammed with incident. A substantial hit on home turf, it has a hipster vibe that may help it cross borders within Europe with modest success, especially around Benelux, but it’s unlikely to make much noise internationally. In its first six weeks after opening in mid-June, film tallied more than 50,000 admissions in Belgium.

Pic revolves around a day and night in the life of various residents — some ordinary, some extraordinary — of the Flemish-speaking city. The most unusual of the lot is Windman (dancer Sam Louwyck from Tom Barman’s short, “Turnpike”), a gangly, herky-jerky moving character who can create a mini air-current around him and suffers from back pain. Windman crosses paths with newly pink-slipped cinema projectionist Walter (Frank Vercruyssen), who’s DJ-ing a party thrown by his girlfriend, Natalie (Natali Broods), later that night. Natalie’s brother, Chouki (Matthias Schoenaerts), disturbed by the recent death of their father, steals a deadly virus from a laboratory which will later be released accidentally.

Walter has a child by ex-g.f. Lara (Diane de Belder),who’s now on the prowl for a new mate, while failed novelist Paul Garcin (Belgian distrib Eric Kloeck) is looking for some female company to shore up his low self-esteem. Also weaving in and out of the story are two guys pasting up posters around town and dodging the police, while a couple of cops are making door-to-door inquiries about residents’ feelings on art.

After a stylish, partially animated opening, pic grows sluggish in the hour it takes to introduce the various characters and plot lines, some of which are left irritatingly unresolved at the end. But along the way, there are some imaginative flourishes, using slow motion and visual effects, as well as highly effective choreography to create a joyful ensemble dance sequence led by Windman during the party sequence where the film starts to build.

Helmer Barman is better known to alternative music fans as the founder of dEUS, whose sound mixes snatches of jazz, funk, folk and unexpected ephemera with house rhythms. “Any Way the Wind Blows” shares a similar scratch and sample aesthetic, but in Barman’s directorially inexperienced hands, it works less effectively on screen than in music.

Still, perfs are fine and pic builds a lush soundscape, mixing source noise with incidental music by Barman himself and tracks by artists including Charles Mingus, JJ Cale, Queens of the Stone Age and Roots Manuva, among others. Likewise, tech credits are generally good, giving the film a polished pop-vid look.

Editing struggles to harmonize the overextended plot, and pic could still lose 20 minutes painlessly. Title refers to a Frank Zappa song.

Any Way the Wind Blows

Belgium

Production

A Corridor production. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Kaat Camerlynck, Alex Stockman, Christan Pierre. Directed, written by Tom Barman.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Renaat Lambeets; editor, Els Voorspoels; music, Barman; art director, Johan van Essche; costume designer, Catherine van Bree; sound (Dolby Digital), Christian Monheim; sound design, Senjan Jansen. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 7, 2003. Running time: 127 MIN.

With

Natali Broods, Frank Vercruyssen, Diane de Belder, Eric Kloeck, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sam Louwyck, Dirk Roofthooft, Jonas Boel, Titus de Voogdt, Annick Christiaens, Sura Dohnke, Diane Meersman, Valentina Sauca. (Flemish, French, English dialogue)
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