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Friday, October 10

Private Confessions

Private Confessions was scripted by the retired Ingmar Bergman, who seems to delight in having other filmmakers expand on his parents' private lives. Pernilla August and Samuel Froler reprise the roles of Anna and Henrik Bergman they played in Bille August's 1989 The Best Intentions, with Bergman standby Max von Sydow as the father-confessor around whom the film is structured. Liv Ullman, in her third directorial outing, treats her mentor's parents' lives with suitable reverence, which includes fidelity to the script's many ironies. And as if there weren't enough Bergmanites on the set, the film's awash in Sven Nykvist's northern light. Yet Private Confessions doesn't feel like a Bergman film. It's far more grounded and slier, and it's ambivalent in emotional rather than intellectual ways. The movie, cut down from a longer TV version, is set up as a series of five "confessions" whose achronological sequence calls into question the "truth" being confessed. Ullman isn't particularly interested in the angst of human interaction or the difficulty of knowing truth; she seems fascinated by the pathos of feelings that are all the more intense for being of questionable integrity. (RS) (12:30)

Kini & Adams

At the geographic and moral center of Idrissa Ouedraogo's earlier films (Yaaba, Tilai) there was always the village. Here there's no village, only a road. On the side of the road is a broken-down jalopy that the title characters dream of fixing up and driving to the city. The dream is an old one--it has defined their relationship for years. It's not a particularly rational or well thought-out dream, which becomes increasingly evident as it begins to come true. When a local quarry reopens their lives become a paradox: they get well-paid jobs to make money to fix the car to go to the city so they can get well-paid jobs. As reality sets in and choices have to be made, their friendship begins to unravel, their integrity to falter. Kini & Adams, a Burkina Faso-French-Zimbabwean-English production, made in English with South African actors to reach a larger audience, consciously strives for universality. And there's absolutely nothing simplistic in this powerfully told tale. The cast is magnificent, and it's amazing what beauty can be found in a flat, dusty landscape or in the gray and white stones of a quarry. Yet one misses the unique contours of Ouedraogo's village and the specificity that rooted it so deeply in time and space. (RS) (1:00 and 3:00)

Private Confessions

See previous listing. (3:00)

3 Brother

Alexei Balabanov's Brother opens on a movie set from which our hero, Danila, who's unwittingly wandered into a shot and ruined the take, is forcibly ejected; he's then brutally beaten. Apparently moviemaking, like any other free enterprise, provides a pretext for strong-arming one's fellow citizens in today's Russia, which, on-screen at least, looks a lot like Chicago in the 20s. And it's not surprising that after the melee bloody victim and victimizer wind up chatting in the hospital corridor. Shortly thereafter, Danila goes to Saint Petersburg to join his older brother, a craven Mafia hit man in over his head who quickly draws his kid brother into a morass of double-cross assassinations in an attempt to cover his ass. Brother sets itself up as the tale of a fresh-faced country boy in the big bad city, but it's full of surprises, not the least of which is the ease with which the often genuinely nice Danila (played by Sergei Bodrov, the engaging young soldier in Prisoner of the Mountains) can polish off the opposition. At times the film looks like a Russian update of a Clint Eastwood western, extending a helping hand to the underdog and lobbing sticks of dynamite at the rest of civilization. One of the perks of life under capitalism is the creation of a highly individualized sense of morality. Of course such quirky individualism, when explored through the vagaries of an unformed kid who, for no particular reason, has little use for Jews but thinks Germans are all right, begins to seem less colorful than ominous. (RS) (6:45)

3 Destiny

Destiny opens with an auto-da-fe and exile in France and ends with a fatwa and exile in Spain, the implication being that free thought doesn't fare too well in an increasingly fanatic world. In between, however, there's a lot of joyous, finger-snapping singing and dancing--this is another of Youssef Chahine's lusty celebrations of love and tolerance. Like his 1994 The Emigrant, about the biblical Joseph and his sojourn in Egypt, Destiny is a sweeping historical saga set at the intersection of religious cultures--Islam, the dominant religion of 12th-century Andalusia, and the humanism of philosopher Averroes. The Emigrant was a bit unwieldy in its shifts from the personal to the historical, but here they easily coexist, since the extended family that grows up around Averroes includes not only scholars and Gypsies but the two sons of the caliph. Historical epics aren't generally known for their immediacy, but Chahine is nothing if not a master of the moment. Few, if any, of the films of this world-renowned director, who just received a lifetime-achievement award at Cannes, have ever been released in America; it's ironic that Chahine, whose ardent belief in multicultural diversity makes him the target of rabid fundamentalist attacks at home, should be deemed too Egyptian to be appreciated here. (RS) (6:45)

Kini & Adams

See previous listing. (7:00)

Kiss or Kill

Who needs another killer couple fleeing cross-country with cops in hot pursuit? Yet thanks to this Australian thriller's aggressive and unnerving formal approach--jump cuts that hurtle us through the story like a needle skipping across a record and an inventive camera style that defamiliarizes characters as well as settings--the characters' paranoia is translated into the slithery uncertainty of our own perceptions: this is the most interesting reworking of noir materials I've seen since After Dark, My Sweet and The Underneath. The creepy alienation of the lead couple (Frances O'Connor and Matt Day) from their victims and the world in general is eventually replicated in their own relationship, and variations on the same kind of mistrust crop up between the cops pursuing them and in just about every other cockeyed existential encounter in the film. Apart from some juicy character acting and striking uses of landscape, what makes this genre exercise by veteran director Bill Bennett special is the metaphysical climate produced by the style, transforming suspense into genuine dread. The outback is an eyeful too. Slated to open commercially soon. (JR) (7:00)

The Other Side of Sunday

One of the problems with the Chicago International Film Festival is that once you get past the handful of top-notch foreign films or U.S. blockbusters opening commercially in the next few weeks, you're left with a large chunk of movies like The Other Side of Sunday--well made but wholly unremarkable. Directed by Berit Nesheim, this Norwegian production is the latest addition to what's become one of Europe's biggest exports, the coming-of-age film. Set in the 1950s, the story centers on Maria (a lovely performance by Marie Theisen), a bright, inquisitive teenager with a growing interest in boys and American rock 'n' roll. The trouble is that her father is the humorless, authoritarian town minister, who does everything in his power to save the soul of his increasingly rebellious daughter. Maria finds a confidant in the church secretary, a spirited single woman who encourages Maria's independence and reveals some secrets about the minister's past. This is all very earnest stuff that strives for a certain heartfelt quality but ultimately doesn't take you anywhere--exactly the kind of foreign movie the Academy Awards folks usually go gaga over, which probably explains its nomination for best foreign film last year. (RP) (7:15)

Private Confessions

See previous listing. (9:00)

Cosmos

Half a dozen young French-Canadian filmmakers--Manon Briand, Andre Turpin, Marie-Julie Dallaire, Denis Villeneuve, Jennifer Alleyn, and Arto Paragamian--pool their resources to produce a lively comic-sketch film in black and white, imaginative and satirical and sexy; part of its charm is that you can't always tell where one sketch ends and the next begins. A collective spirit and coordinated efforts make this breezy tour of youth culture in Quebec City homogeneous at the same time that each episode has its own distinctive flavor. The two segments I recall most fondly are a nightmarish interview with a filmmaker on a high-tech TV show (Villeneuve's segment) and a very funny chance encounter between two ex-lovers in a hotel (Turpin's segment), but just about everything here recalls the footloose, playful spirit of the French New Wave--not when its directors were trying to make hefty statements, but when they were just having fun. (JR) (9:15)

Funny Games

The latest by Europe's philosopher of violence, Michael Haneke, whose Benny's Video (1992) was a mixed blessing at best. If you're the sort of person who complains about violence in movies, don't even think about seeing this; otherwise you might be intrigued by this alternately cool and horrifying meditation on pain and human nastiness in which a middle-class Austrian family on holiday are set upon by two sadists who apparently have nothing better to do than torture them. Haneke has put a cerebral spin on the whole business, issuing a manifesto to the press last May at Cannes, where the film was in competition. His purpose, he says, is to show violence as something visceral and revolting as a counter to the cartoon carnage of a Schwarzenegger film. Near the end of Funny Games Haneke begins playing with the audience as Brecht might, foregrounding its role in the whole voyeuristic process. A brilliant yet chilling theoretical study. (PB) (9:30)

3 The Headhunter's Sister

Winner of jury prizes at film festivals in Seattle and Florida, Scott Saunders's second feature isn't the type of independent American movie to score big at Sundance--it's not neo anything, its characters don't wear their quirkiness like halos, and nobody dies. Its virtues are far more down-home, home being a tenement on New York's Lower East Side. The headhunter of the title is a nice guy named Ray, who's sliding into middle age without having ever quite grown up. He lives with Terry, a Colombian woman he married so she could get a green card. She speaks no English and he speaks no Spanish, but they share affection on about the level of clarity Ray's comfortable with. Both work on the phone--Ray in a ratty T-shirt at his office, incongruously recruiting powerhouse lawyers for megabuck corporations, Terry in the kitchen, moaning in feigned phone-sex ecstasy. Into this setup comes blond, suburban-California mother of two Linda, Ray's sister, whose three trips to New York the film chronicles. At first she's a stranger in a strange land, as disoriented as the audience. But the love between the siblings is palpable, and their acceptance of each other complete. The actors and dialogue are utterly convincing, and the film has an amazingly laid-back, lived-in feel that invites us to suspend judgment. It also knows better than most how to convert its low-budget liabilities into assets: the lead actor wrote the film, some of which is shot in his apartment. At a time of Hollywood overinflation, there's a lot to be said for true intimacy. (RS) (9:30)

Welcome to Sarajevo

Much anticipated at the Cannes festival this year, where it was received with quiet disappointment, Michael Winterbottom's Welcome to Sarajevo provides yet another cinematic perspective on the war in Bosnia--the most tepid contribution to the genre to date. Combining fiction, news footage, and reenactments of actual events, the film tells the story of a British journalist's crusade to bring world attention to the plight of Sarajevo's orphans. Winterbottom had good intentions but flawed judgment, most apparent in his strategy of validating his humanitarian message with star presence--Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei in supporting roles, to which they bring little but the box-office value of their names. Alternating focus between the stress-driven lives of jaded journalists, of whom Harrelson is one, and the central character's remarkably unengaging obsession with saving one orphan, Winterbottom squanders the potential impact of the film's many truly shocking and heartrending images. (BS) (9:30)

Saturday,

October 11

Short films 5:

World of Animation

Animated short films from Canada, Bulgaria, Great Britain, the U.S., Germany, Denmark, and Mexico. (1:00)

Assassin(s)

Mathieu Kassovitz's second feature (his first was Hate) was easily the most despised film in competition at Cannes, although there were relatively few walkouts. Like Michael Haneke's Austrian film Funny Games (see separate review), though much more lowbrow, this French thriller exploits affectless violence to the utmost while attacking the exploitation of affectless violence, as a 25-year-old punk (Kassovitz) is trained in fatherly fashion by a seasoned hit man (Michel Serrault). But it lacks the icy distance of Haneke's film, and its flagrant borrowings from Taxi Driver, GoodFellas, and Natural Born Killers also testify to the puritanical hypocrisy of those sources. Scorsese and Stone can get away with this sort of doublethink better than Kassovitz, however, because they put more emphasis on entertaining the audience than on preaching; Kassovitz, through sheer confused sincerity, too clearly exposes the muddled hypocrisy of his undertaking. Still, Assassin(s) has a certain dramatic voltage and communicates an underlying despair. And even when Kassovitz alternates between crass product placement and attacks on TV commercials, he's merely giving the mainstream press what it usually asks for from movies. Maybe part of the rage this film provoked at Cannes had to do with the near accuracy of its calculations. (JR) (1:30)

The Headhunter's Sister

See listing under Friday, October 10. (2:00)

3 Brother

See listing under Friday, October 10. (2:30)

Love's Debris

Devoid of any narrative pretext, Werner Schroeter's Love's Debris strives to capture the fleeting mystery of the operatic voice--where does it come from, why does it move us? With the help of the magnificent, multi-talented Elfi Mikesh, Schroeter has gathered a dozen opera singers and actors in a spectacular medieval monastery and invited them to "stage" their relationship to their voices. A young, tomboyish soprano sings Carmen; a woman discusses her love-hate relationship with her singing mother. Actress Isabelle Huppert asks diva Martha Mšdl for advice on how to sing better; after the voluptuous arias we've been treated to, the actress's thin voice sounds a bit pathetic, but her courage and persistence win over the audience and Mšdl. At the end of the film Schroeter asks Anita Cerquetti, a luminary of the Italian opera who tragically lost her voice at the age of 19, to listen to one of her recordings. In a quasi-sublime moment, the kindly old lady--who can't say where all the feelings she can no longer express by singing have gone--suddenly livens up, opens her mouth to mimic the lyrics, and swoons over the passionate words sung by her young self. If there were a heaven for dead voices, Love's Debris would be its anteroom. (BR) (2:30)

Funny Games

See listing under Friday, October 10. (3:00)

Univers'l

This documentary-style fiction is set in an LA strip mall on the day in 1992 when the Rodney King verdicts were announced. Among the few owners or employees of the mostly family-run businesses who aren't total bigots are Marcus (Tony Todd) and Ai Lein (Jackie Huynh), who are attracted to each other--something the story telegraphs early on will end in tragedy. Making fun of all the characters by portraying them as stereotypes that pander to audience expectations even as she mocks their ethnocentricity, writer-director Anna Nicholas achieves little. There's some humor when one character tells a joke to another, because for once we're encouraged to laugh with instead of at someone. But for the most part the repetitive narrative succeeds only in creating a low-grade suspense that's purposeless, patronizing, and even obnoxious. What the movie has to say about relations between members of different cultural groups is pretty obvious and comes across in the first few minutes. The actors might make a good ensemble for a sitcom though. (LA) (3:00)

Christmas Oratorio

Based on a best-selling novel by Goran Tungstrom, Christmas Oratorio unfolds with the strange ellipses that are often the consequence of rigorous fidelity to a longer form. Characters phase in and out, time is compressed and dilated according to rhythms and reasons that are virtually impossible to understand. Yet the film's considerable charm seems to lie in that twilight of incomprehension. Despite the publicists' attempts to pass the film off as a life-affirming paean, director Kjell-Ake Andersson was much closer when he described it as "typically Swedish"--very depressing, with a lot of nature. Perhaps it could be better characterized as manic-depressive. The narrator's mother is totally manic, whirling around the house to the strains of Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Her early death marks the turning point of the narrative--everyone measures time by how many years, months, days, and hours have passed since she was trampled by cows. Once she's gone the rest of the family, "cast out in the silence," get to be totally depressive. Even when the film goes to New Zealand to find someone for its characters to communicate with, it discovers their mirror images, bathed in soft antipodal light. (RS) (4:30)

The Headhunter's Sister

See listing under Friday, October 10. (4:30)

Cosmos

See listing under Friday, October 10. (5:00)

The Journey

A comedy-drama from the U.S. about the cultural clash that ensues when a recently widowed Indian schoolteacher (Roshan Seth) comes to America for the first time to visit his son's family and finds a way of life very different from his own. The son is a successful doctor married to a loving but uptight white woman, and both have professional commitments that leave little time for their young daughter. The grandfather spends his days trying to comprehend this country's high-speed culture and the way men and women relate to each other, finding some solace when he bonds with his lonely granddaughter. The story is amiable enough, but in director Harish Saluja's hands it never goes beyond the superficial. The humor is pretty tired stuff, especially montages of the grandfather trying unsuccessfully to work remote controls, open a bag of potato chips, and control a vacuum cleaner. Seth's winning performance as the grandfather gives the film a welcome boost, but it suffers greatly from some awkward supporting performances and some very stilted dialogue. (RP) (5:00)

Secrets of the Heart

The child's-eye view has long been the forte of Spanish cinema, and that is the perspective from which Montxo Armendariz Barrios's Secrets of the Heart views life in provincial Spain in the early 60s. For nine-year-old Javi and his older brother, almost all knowledge is a secret. It must be ferreted out, intuited, or pieced together from odd bits of information, attitudes, gestures. The most important secrets usually involve sex and death--occasionally separately, more often together. They come from the past and weave themselves into everyday objects, corners and crevices of the present. What's fascinating in this film is that the revelation of even the most potentially devastating secret--a father's suicide, a mother's infidelity, a neighbor's spousal abuse--when shared and actively puzzled out, becomes an integral part of growing up. It's a very unjudgmental view, quite different from the movie's "official" version of sin and punishment--the class play, in which students who cut classes get attacked by wolves in the woods. (RS) (5:15)

In the Name of Innocence

In the opening scene of Andreas Kleinert's film, a vibrant young woman (Katharina Zapatka) tries to persuade her withdrawn mother (the incomparable Barbara Sukowa) to leave a sanitarium and come home. Into this brief exchange, perhaps five minutes long, the two actresses manage to compress a lifetime of exasperated love and understanding. So when the young woman is murdered in a rape attempt, her loss is keenly felt--we want to see more of this extraordinary mother-daughter relationship. A police investigation draws the mother out of seclusion and into the life of the new top cop on the beat (Matthias Habich). One look at this rumpled, world-weary alcoholic and it's clear that the man's posting to this East German backwater was hardly a promotion. Kleinert is very good with these likable, sort of sexy marginal people. The murderer, by contrast, is a rich bastard: he and his attendant wife and mistress, with their cadaverous makeup, bloodless rapacity, and precise gestures, look like they wandered in from a Fassbinder film. Unfortunately, when these two worlds collide in what should be the film's dramatic flash points--in a courtroom and at the scene of the crime--the confrontations seem flat and unfocused. It's as if rape and murder were the only possible meeting ground and everything else were doomed to anticlimax. (RS) (5:15)

Ill Gotten Gains

At the very least, Ill Gotten Gains has to be among the weirdest movies showing this year. The film's hauntingly beautiful credits seem to promise something special, but it all falls apart as soon as the actors open their mouths. The film is set in 1869 aboard a U.S. schooner involved in the illegal slave trade; a group of slaves in the ship's hold plans a revolt while the ship is anchored off the Guinea coast. The insurrection is prompted by a sorcerer among the slaves who's possessed by a spirit called "the Wood," an animated clay creature; dubbed by a heavy-breathing Eartha Kitt, it sounds more like an obscene caller than a menacing spirit. The rebellion is quickly put down by the crew members, who behave and speak like foul-mouthed characters from a Three Stooges two-reeler, but the slaves regroup and plot a second attack. Ben Kufrin's exquisite black-and-white cinematography clashes with writer-director Joel Marsden's script, which can only be described as juvenile. The slaves speak in a variety of accents, using contemporary black slang, while the captain and his crew spout lines like "You guys are a bunch of pussies!" What's more amusing (or perhaps frightening) is that the publicity breathlessly hypes the movie as a powerful indictment of racism and slavery. Right--and Good Times was a hard-hitting expose of life in public housing. (RP) (6:45)

Broadway Damage

Unremittingly coy yet engaging in a silly kind of way, this comedy about young NYU graduates negotiating love and careers in Manhattan is intended, according to director Victor Mignatti, as an antidote to cynicism. Best friends Marc, an actor, and Cynthia, an overweight, rich shopaholic, become roommates in a Greenwich Village dump that they transform overnight with an avant-garde decorating job worthy of a magazine spread. From this citadel Marc ogles the local men, searching for his "perfect ten," while Cynthia wallows in neuroses and schemes for the job of her dreams, assistant to Tina Brown. Marc's friend Robert, a nerdy songwriter who has the hots for Marc, is doomed to play the court jester in their lives. Mignatti's take on romance, primarily gay romance, is of the mush-for-brains variety, and his male characters while away the time in starry-eyed contemplation of the mostly inaccessible objects of their lust until false values fall away moments before a happy ending. In the press kit Mignatti, who spent five years directing television commercials, is quoted as saying, "I wanted to put a movie into the world that spoke to the romantic idealist in all of us." Somehow Broadway Damage speaks loudest to the teenage sap in all of us. (BS) (7:00)

Moebius

A young mathematician specializing in topology is consulted when a subway car full of people disappears from the Buenos Aires transit system but continues to set off the system's monitors as if it's still running. He investigates the mystery with the inadvertent assistance of a young girl; watching her ride a roller coaster, he sees an analogy to what may be going on underground. Exquisitely composed and photographed, this 1996 movie uses radical shifts in focus so frequently that the technique, instead of merely drawing attention to the artifice of cinematography, becomes lyrical. The visuals dissipate the science fiction story's forced ideological content by emphasizing that the characters, like the compelling, oppressive subterranean locations, are physical objects. Written by Arturo Onativia, Natalia Urruty, and director Gustavo Mosquera R. (LA) (7:00)

The Prince of Homburg

At the center of Heinrich von Kleist's last play is a life-and-death struggle between father and son, military expediency and emotional integrity that should be right up Marco Bellocchio's alley, yet curiously his film invests little in this conflict. The prince suffers from somnambulism, and the way in which the camera moves in and out of windows, through rooms, and down moonlit garden paths has little to do with theater and everything to do with dreams. In many ways Bellocchio's movie, passing from one fevered dream state to another, looks like the realization of the closet dramas romantic poets never quite managed to stage, in which the world exists as a fragmented reflection of the ego. What's amazing about this romantic tone poem is the constantly shifting focus: objects and people float in and out of definition, shadows loom larger than the objects that throw them, the dead come alive, and the living dream they are dead. Even the prince's disputed actions on the battlefield are seen only as subjective fragments, isolated skirmishes with dashing cavalrymen barely passing through our field of vision. The only objective overview of the battle is a table full of toy soldiers deployed for war--an objectification that belongs to death, to history, and to the waking world. (RS) (7:15)

The Sixth Happiness

Derived from the fictionalized autobiography of Firdaus Kanga, who plays himself, this is a British feature about the life of a man born in Bombay with a disease that made his bones brittle and kept him from growing taller than four feet; Waris Hussein directed. Based on what I've sampled, it's an eclectic and far from negligible picture. (JR) (7:15)

3 I Hate Love

Laurence Ferreira Barbosa's second feature (after Normal People Are Nothing Special) manages to strike a unique tone somewhere between melodrama and farce--an out-of-body experience might have the same effect. At the film's center is a doctor (Jeanne Balibar) making her rounds--house calls, hospital visits, office appointments--on a scooter, riding through the streets of Paris in August, when most of the country is on vacation. Although Balibar is in virtually every scene, it's extremely hard to identify her emotions, since as a doctor her subjectivity never enters into the equation. The one time she does talk about her feelings toward her terminally ill patients, at a dinner party, she brings all conversation to an embarrassed halt. Her private life evolves from nonexistent to impossibly stressful as she becomes involved with two men, one who's afraid to live and one who's afraid to die. I Hate Love is a comedy about coping with death, disease, and commitment. It's also a marvelous case history of the ultimate bad date. (RS) (7:30)

Assassin(s)

See previous listing. (9:00)

3 Brother

See listing under Friday, October 10. (9:15)

Kitchen

I saw this intriguing Hong Kong drama before I read "Banana," Yoshimoto's touching best-selling Japanese novella on which the film is based; clearly the changes from Japanese locations and idioms to Chinese "equivalents," not to mention other alterations in the narrative, are both subtle and complex. The gifted writer-director Yim Ho (Homecoming, The Day the Sun Turned Cold) is an able storyteller with a visual flair and some feeling for actors, but what really unifies the film (and the novella) is the powerful feeling of intimacy it creates, as well as the offbeat handling of gender roles. When a young woman's grandmother dies, she moves into the home of a young hairdresser and his chic mother, who runs a nightclub and has an unexpected past--which you may figure out before the film tells you. (And if you don't, the festival's blurb blithely spills the beans.) A touching, fairly unpredictable love story with wacky comic touches, Kitchen is one more illustration of the axiom that Asia is where you go nowadays to find modernity, not to mention the future. (JR) (9:15)

The House of Yes

Whether or not you like director Mark Waters's debut will depend largely on your appreciation for over-the-top acting and fashionable decadence. Set in a suburban luxury home near Washington, D.C., it chronicles a Thanksgiving from hell that's more tense than the one in The Myth of Fingerprints and a lot weirder. Genevieve Bujold is magnificent as the mother, who's blessed with sharp, theatrical lines like, "Conversation only leads to trouble," but the film's center is commanded by Parker Posey, in top form as the mentally unstable daughter obsessed by Jackie Onassis. Based on a stage play by Wendy MacLeod, the film purposely indulges a sense of arch artificiality, and its neurotic, excessive ending reaches a new low in vulgarity. Rounding out the cast are Josh Hamilton (who also appeared in Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming) as Posey's twin brother and Tori Spelling (Beverly Hills 90210) as his girlfriend, who's freaked out by his bizarre family. (PB) (9:30)

Killer Condom

A witty and inventive gross-out comedy suggesting a synthesis of John Waters and Terry Gilliam, Martin Walz's German film adapts Ralph Konig's popular graphic comic book about a killer strain of contraceptives unleashed in a diabolical plot to wipe out New York's gay population. (Actually the band of condoms, which eviscerate or castrate their victims, make no distinctions when it comes to sexual orientation.) The hysterical plot has Luigi Mackeroni (Udo Samel), a gay Sicilian police detective, tracking down the source; in the movie's longest running gag he's one of the first victims, losing one of his testicles during a hotel tryst. Walz introduces enough noir shadings (Luigi delivers the ironic voice-overs) to elevate the material into something pure and continually resourceful. Set in a New York constructed out of establishing shots and imaginative uses of soundstages and Berlin locations, the movie has a skid-row squalor and a poetically bleak atmosphere. Walz's camera placement is generally smart and revealing, especially the thoroughly weird shots from the point of view of the condoms, and the dialogue is frequently hilarious (when a transvestite tells Luigi he suffers from castration anxiety, the cop retorts that the transvestite suffers from penis envy). Unfortunately Walz can't sustain the wonderful energy and momentum. Killer Condom certainly isn't for all tastes--at times mine included--but it's impossible to walk away indifferent. (PM) (9:45)

Sunday,

October 12

Love Stories

A Polish film consisting of four episodes written by, directed by, and starring Jerzy Stuhr, one of the favorite actors of the late writer-director Krzysztof Kieslowski (to whom the film is dedicated). (JR) (2:00)

Broadway Damage

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (2:15)

Short films 1: Culture and Lost Civilizations

Comic short films from the U.S., Great Britain, Lebanon, and Switzerland. (2:30)

The Other Side of Sunday

See listing under Friday, October 10. (2:45)

Bogwoman

A reasonably engaging film from Northern Ireland that covers a decade, 1958 through 1969, of the political upheavals in that country, seen through the eyes of a Donegal woman named Maureen (Rachael Dowling), who moves to Derry to marry and raise her children. As the political tensions in Derry mount, and as her gambling husband becomes increasingly aloof, all but abandoning his role as a father, Maureen comes to rely on a small network of neighborhood women facing similar problems. Director Tom Collins does a nice job of expanding the sense of place and historical events by deftly incorporating documentary and Super-8 footage from the era. The performances are good, and the story holds your attention well enough. But by the end the film seems a bit thin and hasn't broken any new ground. (RP) (3:00)

The Journey

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (3:15)

3 Destiny

See listing under Friday, October 10. (4:15)

Best Man: "Best Boy" and All of Us Twenty Years Later

Ira Wohl's sequel to his Oscar-winning 1979 documentary Best Boy, about his mentally retarded cousin Philly, who's now in his 70s and, with the help of his sister, preparing for his bar mitzvah. (4:30)

Love's Debris

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (4:30)

Ill Gotten Gains

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (5:00)

Moebius

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (5:00)

The Prince of Homburg

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (5:30)

Secrets of the Heart

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (6:45)

The Dinner

An occasionally interesting, though somewhat perverse and finally troubling, first feature by former football player and character actor Bernie Casey, whose primary purpose appears to be an intelligent and thoughtful discourse on the state of black identity and the dovetailing issues of masculinity, responsibility, character, and self-reliance. A kind of black My Dinner With Andre, the film follows a dinner conversation among three accomplished men: Brother Man (Doug Johnson), a gifted jazz musician; Young Brother (Wren T. Brown), a social theorist; and Good Brother (Casey), a former star running back and religious leader. The film registers as a series of isolated monologues that never fully mesh, and the characters were clearly created for polemical reasons. Still, Casey is after something valuable--a difficult and penetrating examination of social and personal responsibility within a collective framework--and the exposition is ambiguous enough to render much of the film fresh and invigorating. Unfortunately, Casey tacked on framing sequences with an all-powerful, ominous white figure who orchestrates Good Brother's downfall through the devil, Good Brother's beautiful blond mistress--an inexplicable drift into paranoia that at best seems a bizarre apology for the actions of O.J. Simpson. (PM) (7:00)

The Ice Storm

Onetime independent producer James Schamus adapted this from Rick Moody's novel about sexual confusion and hypocrisy in New Canaan, Connecticut, set during Thanksgiving 1973, but existentially speaking, this is puritanical Hollywood yuppie-think, right down to its inevitable retribution reel. Its characters ride the same commuter trains as Whit Stillman's, but the higher forces placing them there are less up-front about their neocon refusal to see beyond their own class-bound hides. I can't deny director Ang Lee's sensitivity with actors or the fine cast strutting its stuff (including Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Christina Ricci, and Sigourney Weaver); some of the period details are fun, and Lee offers some nicely observed moments. But the tragic and highly "symbolic" death toward the end, which is supposed to illustrate the sins of the parents sowing bitter fruit for their children, barely resonates at all, because most of the insights are strictly incidental. The film elicits guilty, lascivious chuckles, not analysis. (JR) (7:00)

In the Name of Innocence

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (7:15)

3 Suzaku

Naomi Kawase's astonishing debut feature is so nuanced it makes an average Ozu film look downright flashy. Suzaku is about a family living in a somewhat remote rural area of Japan, but more than anything it's about time and memory. We're introduced to the Tahara family--mother and father, grandmother, young daughter, and older nephew--at quiet moments of their lives: in the kitchen as they prepare dinner, in the dining room as they sit around eating or looking out over the mountains, in the countryside on summer outings, along the paths that lead to work or school. We rejoin them 15 years later, and on the surface little has changed. But they are part of a disappearing way of life, and the complex fabric of emotional links between family members has begun to mutate. The camera's long, repeated trajectories follow the characters outside the house as they go on their predictable rounds, but now they pass or link up with each other only erratically, lingering or hurrying in the unpredictable rhythms of change. Even more haunting are the almost imperceptible movements of the camera inside the house, each space overlaid with slightly shifting points of reference that map the topography of memory. (RS) (7:30)

Dogtown

A veritable symphony of small-town stagnation, George Hickenlooper's Dogtown opens with two guys scraping roadkill off the highway and goes downhill from there. Cuba, Missouri, hasn't changed much in the decade since Philip (Trevor St. John) left for Hollywood. The town is a collection of natural-born losers, chief among them his self-delusional mother (Karen Black), who's intent on seeing his intermittent employment as a Hollywood extra as stardom. The only people he or anyone else really cares about are Blessed William, the cigar-smoking village sage (Harold Russell, as imposing at 82 as he was in The Best Years of Our Lives), and the town's ex-cheerleader and ex-Miss Missouri hopeful, the luminous, fragile Dorothy (Mary Stuart Masterson). Having failed in a wrist-slashing suicide attempt, Dorothy has opted for what seems like a particularly gruesome form of self-immolation by continuing to date the town's worst loser, E.Z. (Jon Favreau), a self-loathing, malevolent compendium of redneck cliches. Despite Dorothy's unlovely alcoholic acting out and Philip's hinted-at involvement in porn, it's obvious that these two Aryan beauties, unlike everyone else in the film, don't really belong on the wrong side of the tracks. Even in this hopeless Hicksville privilege and notions of inbred class rear their ugly heads--a disappointingly old-fashioned Hollywoodism for the director of the demystifying documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. (RS) (9:00)

Fred

After a long and successful career as a music-hall comedian and a commentator, Pierre Jolivet is now one of the most independent of the younger generation of French directors. Fred follows a semiemployed laborer who finds himself involved in a construction-theft scam and then a murder. The film functions as a thriller, yet Jolivet is more interested in exploring Fred's emotions, values, and humanity. Jolivet's intelligence and compassion are evident, especially in his treatment of France's deadening and ugly industrial suburbs. (DO) (9:15)

The Witman Boys

This is an extremely unsettling, genuinely creepy film. Janos Szasz's 1994 Chicago film fest entry, Woyzeck, seemed to indicate that the director is no proponent of unbridled joie de vivre, though it wasn't clear how much of the film's unmitigated bleakness could be attributed to its source. This time he's dug up a story by the Hungarian master of the macabre, Geza Csath, the tale of two young brothers in 1914 Hungary driven to matricide to gain the love of a prostitute. Woyzeck's extraordinary black-and-white snowscapes were unrelieved by any hint of color, but here the snowy darkness is broken by deep crimson velvets and jewels that glow with the seductive promise of a woman's warmth--a false promise. Extremely compelling visually, the film does exercise its own icky fascination, particularly if torturing owls and puppies is your thing. (The drawn-out ritual animal sacrifice takes place offscreen, sort of, though shadows and pain-filled eyes more than fill in the blanks.) The Witman Boys is a case study in anomie: once their father dies, early in the film, the boys' smooth, young faces remain as closed and mysterious as the workings of their minds. As in Woyzeck, the world is a mirror image of the soul--and, baby, it's cold outside! (RS) (9:15)

Life Is All You Get

Writer-director Wolfgang Becker is part of the new generation of German filmmakers, heirs apparent to yesterday's enfants terribles Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, and Werner Herzog. In his latest film Becker takes a simple premise--a love story set in contemporary Berlin--and ends up with a plangent comedy-drama that addresses, among other things, alienation in big cities, disintegration of the family structure, and unemployment. He focuses on the burgeoning love of Jan, a soon-to-be-unemployed slaughterhouse worker, and Vera, a musician who makes ends meet working at a mall. Their love is hampered by a number of obstacles: Jan may have contracted AIDS through a previous liaison, he doesn't have good job prospects, he can't trust the enigmatic Vera, who's constantly slipping out into the night after they've slept together. Eventually they form a surrogate family with Buddy, Jan's rock 'n' rolling pal from the slaughterhouse, and Kristina, a young Greek woman who's searching for her missing brother. Never sentimental and demonstrating at times a dry, acerbic wit, Becker has much to say about all of the topics he throws into the narrative mix, and most of it he says exceedingly well. (JK) (9:20)

Cosmos

See listing under Friday, October 10. (9:30)

Killer Condom

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (9:30)

Monday,

October 13

Christmas Oratorio

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (2:00)

Dogtown

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (2:30)

Love Stories

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (2:30)

Indiscreet

The stars of Notorious, Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant, are reunited for Stanley Donen's 1958 film--with a title that may or may not be an allusion to Hitchcock's masterwork. The action also runs somewhat parallel: Bergman is in love with Grant, but he keeps putting her off for reasons that remain mysterious. A fine light comedy, with unexpected passages of seriousness, marked by the Donen touch in its adventurous visuals and vivacious performances. (DK) (3:00)

The Sixth Happiness

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (3:00)

The Witman Boys

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (3:30)

3 Suzaku

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (4:30)

Fred

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (5:00)

Wednesday

The basic premise of this documentary turns out to be a bit of a gimmick. Saint Petersburg-based director Viktor Kossakovsky has embarked on a search for some 100 people who were born in what was then Leningrad on the same day he was--a Wednesday 36 years ago. He finds many of them still living in the city; some are successful businessmen, others live on the fringes of society. The film is at its best when it unpretentiously records parts of the subjects' daily routines, offering simple yet poignant glimpses into their hopes and fears. And the variety of individual tales creates a rich tapestry that probably represents urban Russia today. Most of the time the camera either waits patiently or moves ever so slowly, allowing the individuals to express themselves in ways they find comfortable, but occasionally Kossakovsky awkwardly prods his interviewees to clarify their statements and even resorts to using jarring subjective-view shots. He also frequently returns to some subjects even though they have nothing new to say and inexplicably abandons others. Yet the biggest problem is that, in an attempt to tie threads together, he introduces an offscreen narrator who repeatedly ponders aloud the issues of fate and chance and how the two determine the time and place of one's birth--a metaphysical turn that's incongruous with the stark reality of the rest of the film. (ZB) (5:00)

Best Man: "Best Boy" and All of Us Twenty Years Later

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (5:15)

The Ballad of Cable Hogue

Sam Peckinpah followed The Wild Bunch with this intimate, eccentric, appealing comedy (1970), which treats many of the same themes in a soft, regretful mode. As Hogue, the tapped-out prospector who has no one but God to talk to in the middle of his yellow desert, Jason Robards puts his theatrical gestures to good use; he's rarely seemed so at home in a movie. But the film belongs to Stella Stevens, who, as the prostitute who moves in with Hogue, shows the kind of warmth and spirit that would have made her a major star had she not been pinioned by changing tastes. With David Warner, a devil's emissary who arrives on a big black motorcycle. (DK) On the same program, Paul Seydor's half-hour The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage. (6:30)

Christmas Oratorio

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (6:45)

The Witman Boys

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (6:45)

Dogtown

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (7:00)

Gattaca

New Zealand-born Andrew Niccol's first feature is a disquieting Orwellian thriller about shifting identities, role-playing, and biological determinism, set in a future where idealized humans are developed through genetic engineering. Ethan Hawke plays Vincent Freeman, a naturally conceived man whose genetic imperfections (a heart defect, weak eyesight, and a short life span) render him obsolete in the rigid social order. Obsessed with becoming an astronaut, Vincent tracks down a DNA black marketer and appropriates the identity of Jerome (Jude Law), a genetically superior man shattered by a paralyzing accident. Virtuoso Polish cinematographer Slawomir Idziak's spare, razor-sharp images create a chilling and sinister texture, and Niccol's work is direct and concentrated, without the baroque flourishes or shouting exhortations that frequently afflict young directors' films; he beautifully underplays the rhythms between the two characters, contrasting Vincent's nerve and daring with Jerome's detached cynicism. The story is almost undone when Vincent becomes the prime suspect in a murder committed inside the space program, an unnecessary complication that satisfies the narrative demands but disrupts the discordant and unsettling flow of images. Yet in its best passages Gattaca becomes a meditation on memory, loss, and recovery, its final image one of absolute freedom. (PM) (7:00)

Univer'l

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (7:15)

Assassin(s)

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (9:00)

Welcome to Sarajevo

See listing under Friday, October 10. (9:00)

3 Suzaku

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (9:15)

3 Beyond Silence

This beautiful first feature by German director Caroline Link is memorable not only for its nuanced and delicate direction but its impressive command of form and style. A meditation on memory and loss, separation and heartbreak, the film observes the fragile, melancholy world of Lara (expressively played by Tatjana Trieb as a nine-year-old and Sylvie Testud as a young woman). Her parents are deaf, and she's their conduit to the outside world, their voice and interpreter. When her free-spirited, musically inclined aunt presents her with a clarinet, Lara reveals immense promise. Her parents--especially her father--are increasingly unable to fathom her fascination with music, and tension becomes rupture. Link, who wrote the screenplay with Beth Serlin, works out her ideas and themes through a series of interconnected visual metaphors: the snow-capped landscape, ice, and water all conjure up Lara's isolation; the open spaces of concert halls and apartments are her refuge. Transcending language and words, without sentimentalizing its subject, Beyond Silence limns a world between ecstasy and grief. (PM) (9:20)

The Sixth Happiness

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (9:30)

3 Destiny

See listing under Friday, October 10. (9:30)

Tuesday,

October 14

That Touch of Mink

Inevitable bachelor Cary Grant chases inevitable virgin Doris Day (why does he bother?). With Gig Young, Audrey Meadows, and the smarmily enjoyable John Astin; redoubtable hack stalwart Delbert Mann (Marty) directed (1962). (PG) (2:30)

Life Is All You Get

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (3:00)

Wednesday

See listing under Monday, October 13. (3:00)

3 Beyond Silence

See listing under Monday, October 13. (4:30)

3 The River

In Rebels of the Neon God (1992) and Vive l'Amour (1994) Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang followed Lee Kang-sheng, a young, nonprofessional actor, through the streets of Taipei. A seductive misfit, an alienated urban dweller struggling with loneliness and sexual identity, Lee is here reunited with his fictional family of the first film. The mother (Lu Hsiao-ling) works as an elevator operator and seeks solace and affection in a trite affair with a porn-video salesman; the father (Miao Tien, a former kung fu actor), now retired, cruises Taipei's fast-food restaurants and bathhouses for young male bodies; and Lee, against his better judgment, agrees to play a corpse floating in a dirty river to help a commercial film director (Ann Hui). As always in Tsai's films, water means trouble, excess, passion: as soon as Lee dips into the river he experiences excruciating pain in his neck and shoulders, which traditional Chinese medicine is powerless to cure. Meanwhile a leaky faucet wreaks havoc in the father's bedroom, but since the members of the family barely talk to one another, nothing is done about it until the dark, moving, unexpected climax. Filmed in a single cut, with the minimal sounds of breathing and rustling paper, this scene is one of the most beautiful, disturbing, yet tender ever produced by contemporary Taiwanese cinema. A quiet masterpiece. (BR) (6:30)

La Mo–os

Innocuous fluff from Spain about a town's crazy woman, known to the children as "la Mo–os," who scurries about town singing for crowds and holding conversations with herself. Two small girls decide to follow her around to see where she lives, and as they do, the woman's past is magically revealed to them through a series of flashbacks. The old woman was once a beautiful but lowly seamstress on a local estate who began a secret romance with the aristocratic family's only son. When the relationship was discovered, the lad's nasty parents conspired to put an end to the affair. Much of this is presented as a whimsical fantasy, but it's hard to tell what kind of audience the movie was intended for. Kids will probably be bored by the adult melodrama, and adults are likely to find the whole thing far too cutesy. Mireia Ros directed. (RP) (6:45)

A Bucket of Blood

Failed beatnik Dick Miller discovers the secret of artistic success when a cat gets into his plaster supply. The resulting masterpiece, titled Dead Cat, becomes the hit of the coffeehouses, and Miller wastes no time looking for more ambitious subjects. This tiny horror comedy was assembled by Roger Corman in the space of a few days in 1959. Its notions of satire aren't particularly sophisticated, but the film has a punk exuberance, a brashness, that makes it irresistible. With Barboura Morris and Ed Nelson. (DK) To be shown as a double feature with X--The Man With the X-Ray Eyes. (7:00)

X--The Man With the X-Ray Eyes

Scientist Ray Milland discovers a potion that gives him X-ray vision, becomes a freak, and ends his days as a sideshow attraction promoted by Don Rickles, who gives a fine low performance. This queasy 1963 SF parable was directed--quickly and cheaply--by Roger Corman for American-International, drawing some of its strength from its tawdry, drive-in overtones. Milland grows through his debasement, and the production offers plenty of it. With Diana Van Der Vlis and John Hoyt. (DK) To be shown as a double feature with A Bucket of Blood. (7:00)

The Dinner

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (7:00)

Gallivant

A personal American documentary by Andrew Kotting, reportedly eclectic in style as well as content, about his trip along the British coast with his grandmother and his daughter, who are able to communicate only through sign language. (7:00)

Bogwoman

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (7:15)

Bad Manners

In adapting his play Ghost in the Machine for the screen, David Gilman hasn't strayed far from its Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? setup, with childless, married professors playing host to the wife's old flame and his younger girlfriend for an extended weekend. The get-together starts with overt aggression, thinly disguised as dry wit, and quickly deteriorates into nasty sniping, unpleasant accusations, and an extended search for "truth." This search plays out on three levels: economic, through a convoluted trail of suspicion, cowardice, and betrayal after a $50 bill disappears; sexual, through conflicting versions of a possible in-house infidelity; and professional, through an undignified scramble to salvage reputations after a proposed musical link between God and computers goes off-line. Director Jonathan Kaufman has done well enough given the tirelessly confrontational material: the locations are neither claustrophobic nor insistently cinematic. The cast--Bonnie Bedelia as the trapped tenured academic, David Strathairn as her embittered nontenured spouse, Saul Rubinek as the enthusiastic explicator of aleatory music, and Caroleen Feeney as the nihilistic young agent provocateur--is highly believable, though only Bedelia's pensive lucidity transcends the shrillness of the script and imparts some generosity to the film. (RS) (9:00)

Funny Games

See listing under Friday, October 10. (9:00)

Life Is All You Get

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (9:00)

Four Days in September

Brazil's entry for the 1997 Academy Awards, this is the kind of controlled, authentic political drama nobody makes anymore. Bruno Barreto (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands) returns to an incident in Brazil's history that continues to resonate: in 1969 a Marxist guerrilla cadre kidnapped the American ambassador to Brazil, Charles Burke Elbrick, and demanded the release of 15 political prisoners. Barreto adheres closely to the autobiography of Fernando Gabeira, one of the kidnappers, and the scenes of the young revolutionaries are credible and claustrophobic; particularly effective is Fernanda Torres as Comrade Maria, the cadre's most strident ideologue. Alan Arkin turns in a surprisingly winning performance as the Republican ambassador, who proves a model prisoner. (GP) (9:15)

Fred

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (9:15)

Wednesday,

October 15

Love in the Afternoon

A Lubitsch-touched romantic comedy by Billy Wilder, set in Paris and made in 1957. An aging (and obviously aging) Gary Cooper, as a jaded American playboy, romances naive music student Audrey Hepburn to the accompaniment of papa Maurice Chevalier's thunderous Gallic drollery. As Andrew Sarris says, not without its cruelties, but not without its beauties as well. (DD) (3:00)

3 The River

See listing under Tuesday, October 14. (3:00)

Gallivant

See listing under Tuesday, October 14. (3:30)

La Mo–os

See listing under Tuesday, October 14. (3:30)

Bad Manners

See listing under Tuesday, October 14. (4:30)

Devil's Island

Iceland's most acclaimed director, Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, is a minimalist by nature, but he greatly expands his scope for Devil's Island, drawing inspiration from John Ford's tragicomic white-trash classics, The Grapes of Wrath and Tobacco Road. Fridriksson packs his frame with squabbling, hard-drinking, economically downtrodden families who make their homes in an abandoned U.S. Army barracks on the edge of Reykjavik in the 50s, among them an aging dockworker, his fortune-teller wife, and their out-of-control kinfolk. Like Ford, Fridriksson creates a whole ensemble of colorful, raucous characters and gets us to care for them. Alternately farcical and tender in his tone, he deftly juggles a complicated story, when he's not busy assembling a fabulous sound track of 50s rock 'n' roll. (GP) (6:45)

3 The Life of Jesus

Despite its title, Bruno Dumont's extraordinary first feature is not about Christ, at least not on any literal level. Nor is it about the Antichrist, though to some, the loutish young men tooling around Flemish backwaters on their motorbikes would appear to announce his coming. At the center of the group and the film is Freddy, a semiautistic epileptic who lives with his mother at the local bar. Freddy and his friends have little prospect of employment, so there's nothing much to do with a day except ride around, go to the beach, or watch a friend's brother die of AIDS in the hospital, though Freddy also has mindless, almost brutal sex with his girlfriend Marie at every opportunity. Yet Freddy is capable of great tenderness. He and Marie have an amazing ability to stand around silently for hours, holding or touching or leaning on each other as if connected in a closed circuit to the earth. Freddy's stillness is part of the incredible sense of corporeality Dumont is able to evoke. It's in the faces of his nonprofessional cast, particularly in the brooding presence of David Douche's Freddy. It's in the flatness of the CinemaScope landscape, in the insistent austerity of the sound track, and in the inertia that explodes into violence. The Life of Jesus may not be about religion, but like the films of Bresson, it is about redemption. (RS) (6:45)

Short films 5:

World of Animation

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (7:00)

Wednesday

See listing under Monday, October 13. (7:00)

The Wings of the Dove

This British film updates Henry James's late novel in more ways than one--not only setting the story several years later (mainly, it seems, to make a nonanachronistic reference to a Klimt painting) but also inverting the morality of the original: in keeping with 1990s ethics, the gold-digging villains have been transformed into sympathetic heroes. By literary standards this is a disgraceful job, but for armchair tourists and oglers it's a nice, glossy spread. Apparently director Iain Softley and screenwriter Hossein Amini decided, contra prudish James, that marrying a dying American heiress for her loot is exactly what a penniless English journalist should do, even when it involves the collusion of his mistress. Ergo, heiress Milly Theale, the soul of the novel, barely exists here. This movie had more traditional music when I saw it, before Miramax decided to muck around with it and "update" it still more, but I can't imagine this change matters much: the film has little to do with art, intelligence, or values (except for the kind found in department stores). It's about pretending to catch up with what you didn't read in college, and oohing and ahhing over conspicuous consumption and pretty sites in Venice, including one or two glimpses of Helena Bonham Carter's bare ass. Others in the cast include Linus Roache, Alison Elliott, Elizabeth McGovern, Charlotte Rampling, and Michael Gambon. (JR) (7:00)

Clandestine Stories in Havana

Four love stories set in Havana--about an Argentinean divorcee who meets a taxi driver, a filmmaker who plans to kill himself, a closeted gay couple, and a straight couple shooting a documentary. Diego Musiak directed this Cuban-Argentinean production. (7:15)

La Mo–os

See listing under Tuesday, October 14. (8:45)

The House of Yes

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (9:00)

Love Stories

See listing under Sunday, October 12. (9:00)

The Ride

Craig Boyd and Michael Shannon do competent, low-key versions of John Travolta's and Samuel Jackson's Pulp Fiction characters in this slow though not unfunny crime comedy written by Kris Kondrad and directed by Jeff Myers. The coincidence-laden plot unites a number of aspiring and reluctant criminals in the pursuit of a convertible that belongs to a troubled young fundamentalist who's got relationship problems. But after a private investigator who's modeled himself after fictional gumshoes gets involved, the tone yo-yos from scene to scene as Myers alternates contrived grittiness with over-the-top reflexive styling--and it's hard to keep readjusting. (LA) (9:00)

3 Beyond Silence

See listing under Monday, October 13. (9:15)

Post coitum, animal triste

This superb second feature by Brigitte Rouan is a daring exploration of the ecstatic if self-destructive impulses of l'amour fou, complicated here by dovetailing issues of feminine desire, sexual expression, and class. Rouan (who collaborated on the script with four men) plays a 40ish editor, wife, and mother who enters into a torrid affair with a handsome 25-year-old engineer (Boris Terral). The flow of movements leading up to the affair--physical, sexual, and intellectual--is beautifully modulated, the political and class connotations deftly woven in. Initially the affair is presented as a means of liberation, but increasingly it denotes a perverse self-paralysis, suggesting the woman's inability to function in any other capacity. Rouan delineates the conflict between self-definition and social and personal accountability, as the woman's desire for individual expression and freedom complicates every social, sexual, and professional relationship, and the affair's inevitable disruption occasions the woman's severe emotional disengagement. Post coitum, animal triste establishes Rouan as an exciting new French director. (PM) (9:15)

Thursday,

October 16

Devil's Island

See listing under Wednesday, October 15. (3:00)

The Grass Is Greener

A charming, if a bit claustrophobic, Stanley Donen drawing-room comedy (1960), with British nobleman Cary Grant's sedate marriage to Deborah Kerr threatened by her flirtation with visiting American businessman Robert Mitchum and Grant's own flirtation with Jean Simmons. (DD) (3:00)

3 The Life of Jesus

See listing under Wednesday, October 15. (3:30)

The Ride

See listing under Wednesday, October 15. (4:00)

The Long Way Home

A documentary about the liberation of Jewish concentration-camp survivors in 1945 and their immigration to what would become the state of Israel. Written and directed by Mark Jonathan Harris. Critics have been requested not to review this movie for the festival because it's scheduled to have a theatrical run later this month. (4:30)

Short films 2:

Twisted Sheets and Other Tales of Strange Desire

Short films about love and pain from the U.S., Canada, and Great Britain. (6:30)

3 Love and Death on Long Island

A reclusive, old-fashioned, intellectual widower-novelist living in London (John Hurt) stumbles accidentally into a screening of Hotpants College II at his local multiplex and becomes hopelessly, obsessively enamored of one of its young American costars (Jason Priestley). Fan magazines and the purchase of a VCR fail to satisfy his longings, so he travels to the Long Island town where his beloved resides and plots to encounter him in the flesh. This perfectly realized, beautifully acted, sweetly hilarious first feature by English writer-director Richard Kwietniowski, adroitly adapted from Gilbert Adair's short novel of the same name (a comic variation on Thomas Mann's Death in Venice), is a witty, canny meditation on the power of pop culture in general and the rationalizations of cinephilia and film criticism in particular. What makes it perhaps even better than Adair's clever novel, which is somewhat limited by its first-person narration, is the beautiful balance of humane sympathies Kwietniowski achieves; at no point does the foolishness or vanity of either central character wipe out our sense of his dignity, and Fiona Loewi as the movie star's girlfriend is no less touching. A "small" film only in appearance, this is as solid and confident as any first feature I've seen this year, and it looked even better on a second viewing. It's been picked up for U.S. distribution but is unlikely to open before February. (JR) (7:00)

The Winter Guest

British actor Alan Rickman turns director in this comedy-drama about four pairs of characters in a rugged Scottish seacoast town; among the cast are Emma Thompson and her real-life mother, Phyllida Law. (7:00)

D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner

A sharp and often funny film from Japan by first-time writer-director Sabu, about three losers fate brings together with disastrous results. A would-be bank robber forgets his mask on his first big heist, then screws up his attempt to shoplift one from a convenience store. The store's clerk, a washed-up rock star, begins to chase the thief and literally runs into a thug from the Japanese mob he owes money to. This starts a three-way foot chase through the streets of Tokyo that lasts through the night and into the next day, eventually dragging in the Yakuza and the Tokyo police. The relationships between the characters are gradually revealed by flashbacks interspersed throughout the chase. Sabu's lean, economical style keeps the story moving along at a lively clip, with much of the humor supplied by the script's trenchant take on the male ego. Only toward the very end, when the film succumbs to some trendy nihilism, does the story falter. Still, D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner is an enjoyable directorial debut--definitely worth checking out. (RP) (7:15)

Gallivant

See listing under Tuesday, October 14. (7:15)

Bad Manners

See listing under Tuesday, October 14. (9:00)

3 I Hate Love

See listing under Saturday, October 11. (9:00)

3 The River

See listing under Tuesday, October 14. (9:00)

Three Days

Yet another comedy-drama about people in their 20s realizing that it's time to stop slacking and grow up, this one directed by 25-year-old Chicago filmmaker Adrian Fulle. The loosely structured plot, set in a Chicago suburb, covers the crisis experienced by Andrew Foley (Steve Key) after his mother dies in a plane crash. The funeral and related events become something of a reunion for Andrew, complete with old high school buddies and dotty relatives. Dropped into the mix are Andrew's long-distance girlfriend, who arrives and announces that she's engaged to someone else, and Mark DeCarlo (former host of the TV show Studs) as a Corvette-driving god who gives Andrew a few pointers. For a low-budget independent, this is a polished piece of filmmaking, but it travels some very worn terrain and the forced humor undermines its effectiveness as a coming-of-age story. A large part of the problem is that Fulle invests little warmth or personality in his characters, most of whom come across as caricatures. The exceptions are Key, who makes an appealing lead, and Elizabeth Laidlaw, who gives a fine performance as Andrew's new love interest. (RP) (9:15)

Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist

One of the many questions raised by this film concerns the nature of the collaboration between Flanagan, his lover/mistress Sheree Rose (a video maker and documenter of Flanagan's activities), and filmmaker Kirby Dick. The world of sadomasochism is a very private one; how can an outsider--and here Dick acts as a stand-in for all the nonmasochists in the audience--penetrate the inner workings of the love and desire that that world creates? A lifelong sufferer from cystic fibrosis--the painful disease that eventually killed him in 1996 at the age of 43--and a dedicated "supermasochist," Flanagan turned his suffering into performance art. In his relationship with Rose, whom he made a dominatrix, spectacle was always part of the game, with the audience--but an art audience, already familiar with body art--as a third party. Something was lost in the translation to film, but something was also gained, as evidenced by the success of Sick. Flanagan is an endearing ham, a genuinely cinematic subject, though in our sympathy for the man we may lose sight of the subversive aspects of S-M. A lyrical exploration of Flanagan's last months, Sick offers some insights on the slow, inexorable work of death, and it resonates with unanswered questions. Not for children, not for the fainthearted, but not designed for sexual outlaws either. (BR) (9:30)

3 Voyage to the Beginning of the World

Born in 1908, Manoel de Oliveira is the only still-working director anywhere in the world who started his career in the silent era. For this meditative feature he enlisted the somewhat younger Marcello Mastroianni--in what proved to be Mastroianni's last performance--to play someone very much like de Oliveira, an aging film director named Manoel setting out on a car trip with a few of his coworkers. Basically an exploration of the director's Portuguese roots and the French and Portuguese roots of one of the actors, the film is laden with memories both personal and historical and associations both cultural and familial; a moving (as well as slow-moving) road movie, it resembles many of de Oliveira's other works in its paradoxical combination of 19th-century modernism and aristocratic Marxism. Not the least of its oddities is the fact that it starts out as a film about Manoel, then shifts focus halfway through to the French actor Jean-Yves Gautier, whose father was Portuguese and who's meeting his Portuguese aunt for the first time. On the basis of a single viewing, I wouldn't call this a great film on the level of de Oliveira's Doomed Love or Francisca, but it's easily his best since The Valley of Abraham and one of his most accessible. Strand has picked it up for U.S. distribution. (JR) At press time, this screening is tentative. (9:30)

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