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Friday 6 October

Peppermint Candy

Lee Chang-dong, screenwriter of Park Kwang-soo's magnificent To the Starry Island and A Single Spark, has outdone himself in this, his second directorial outing. A film of daunting scope and power, Peppermint Candy opens inauspiciously enough, with a highly disturbed man, Yongho, screaming in the face of an oncoming train. We go backward from there, not in conventional flashbacks but in carefully labeled, irregular dollops--three days earlier, three years earlier, ten years before that--making history seem a lot less linear. Peppermint Candy isn't the first film to be structured in reverse--Betrayal comes to mind--but it's by far the most devastating. The further into the past we go and the more we learn about this suicide case--about his failed business, the ugly breakup of his not-very-attractive marriage, his brutal career in the police--the less we know what to expect. For the perspective slowly widens to include a broader social context, until there seems nothing inevitable or personality driven in the hero's destiny. The story of Yongho becomes a scathing indictment of the history of South Korea, the derailment of his life less a question of personal psychology than the betrayal of a generation. Interwoven into his bio are cameo appearances by the title bonbon, leitmotif of his first love and signpost of his lost innocence. By the time we arrive at the end (or the beginning), we barely recognize the gentle, sensitive young man beneath the railroad bridge of 30 years ago and readily understand his final scream of rage and horror at what he's become. 129 min. (RS) (600 N. Michigan, 3:30)

Swimming

Robert J. Siegel directed this sweet, low-key movie set in Myrtle Beach about a shy but perceptive teenager named Frankie (Lauren Ambrose) who, along with her older brother, manages the family restaurant during the summer tourist season. She and her flirtatious best friend (Jennifer Dundas Lowe) spend their evenings guy watching and prowling for dates, but their relationship is threatened by the arrival of a seductive waitress, who instigates Frankie's sexual awakening. There's nothing exceptional about this coming-of-age story. But it's presented in such a nicely understated manner, and Ambrose turns in such a good lead performance, that it rises several notches above most of today's teen movies. 98 min. (RP) (600 N. Michigan, 4:00)

A Time for Drunken Horses

Writer-director Bahman Ghobadi returned to his native village near the Iran-Iraq border to make his feature debut, the first Iranian film in Kurdish. Reminiscent of Italian neorealism, A Time for Drunken Horses uses nonactors to tell the heartrending story of a family of poor orphans desperate to find money to pay for an operation for their handicapped brother, Madi. Madi is a teenager who's no bigger than a two-year-old and suffers from terrible pain that expensive medicine only partly relieves. His time is clearly running out, but his five young siblings are devoted to him and try everything in their limited power to prolong his life. The eldest sister agrees to marry a man from Iraq with the understanding that her in-laws will pay for Madi's operation and is devastated when they refuse. Then 12-year-old Ayoub joins a group of smugglers driving horses loaded with contraband over the border--the film's title comes from the smugglers' practice of lacing the horses' water with alcohol so they'll keep working. More grim and less sentimental than other Iranian films featuring plucky children, this strikingly photographed work stresses the harshness of daily life in Iranian Kurdistan. It shared the Camera d'Or for best first feature at Cannes with Djomeh, another Iranian film that's screening at the festival. 120 min. (AS) (Doc Films, 6:30)

One Week

Already the winner of top honors at festivals in Acapulco and New York, this homegrown film offers intense and intelligent drama about responsibility and relationships. Columbia College graduates Carl Seaton (director and cowriter) and Kenny Young (cowriter and lead actor) filmed their debut feature here with a talented cast of local actors. Twentysomething Varon is in the middle of wedding preparations when he's contacted by someone from the partner-notification program of a local health clinic. He's devastated to learn that a former lover is HIV positive. He gets tested but won't know the results for a week. As he debates how and when to tell his fiancee, he discovers that his slacker buddy Tyco faces the same situation. The taut and cleverly structured screenplay makes every conversation and event gain in significance as time passes, but it also includes welcome moments of outright hilarity, as well as acute observations of the young, black urban professional lifestyle. This is a work with the courage of its convictions--independent filmmaking at its best. 97 min. (AS) (600 N. Michigan, 6:30)

Brother 2

After the tightly orchestrated excitement of Brother and the fascinating oddity of Of Freaks and Men, Alexei Balabanov's latest film, Brother 2, comes off as, well, a sequel. On the plus side, the ever-engaging Sergei Bodrov reprises his role as Danila. On the downside, Brother 2 sweeps away the moral and sociological contradictions that made this baby-faced killer an ambulatory question mark and turns him into a more overt hero, leaving us no option but to subscribe to his skewed code of chivalry. Where Brother started with Bodrov being forcibly ejected from a movie set, Brother 2 opens with his appearance by invitation on a television show. Perhaps more than anything else, this defines the difference between the two films. In the original, he repeatedly stubles into careful setups and blows them sky-high--an improvised ethic cleansing. Here, everything seems like a setup, including the gangster- and pimp-ridden United States that's Danila's newest stomping ground. He coolly dispatches the would-be exploiters of a homeboy hockey player, taking out a club full of goons in a matter of seconds--showing a disdain for lackeys, blacks, and poor people that's anything but comradely. When the fair maiden he rescues, a bold, bald Russian prostitute, raises a defiant finger in farewell to the US of A, the gesture seems aimed at a wider public. 123 min. (RS) (Music Box, 6:30)

Swimming

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 6:45)

Innocence

Paul Cox's new film, his 18th, chronicles an affair between two people in their 70s who meet after a 50-year hiatus, only to fall in love all over again. To say anything against this tender, touching portrait of twilight passion risks putting oneself in a circle of hell just below little boys who pull wings off flies and just above theater critics. Certainly the film is chock-full of dignity and grace, not to mention awash in would-be profundities about the meaning of life and death. Julia Blake does make a septuagenarian sex object of surpassing beauty, and the couple's lovemaking is nothing if not tastefully done, the camera constantly cutting between the past (nubile young bodies rolling around in the grass) and the present (dignified peeks at their more mature selves betwixt the sheets). These lovers suffer from none of the little indignities of old age--Cox deals in nothing smaller than cancer and angels and organs and apotheoses. And they're blessed with children of rare understanding, who support with brio their parents' search for significance before the final bow. The one element of conflict and drama Cox allows to disturb the idyll (besides the Specter of Death) is magnificently played--the woman's husband's myriad reactions to his wife's betrayal, from uncomprehending pain to childish spite to an understanding that's 40 years too late. Only here does the film show any flash of humor, any departure from just-flawed-enough-to-be-human noble sentimentality. Otherwise it's all so overdetermined--each encounter of the present-day lovers mirrors some moment fromthe long-ago day when they parted--that it reduces their whole affair to a matter of last-minute revisionism. 92 min. (RS) (This film was selected for the critic's choice section of the festival by Roger Ebert.) (600 N. Michigan, 7:00)

The Day I Became a Woman

This compelling collection of three loosely connected vignettes owes the hypnotic quality of its best moments to the quietly relentless direction of Marziyeh Meshkini. In the title story a reluctant little girl is told on her ninth birthday that she's now a woman and must wear the chador and no longer play with boys. What could easily become a somber take on the preordained condition of women in Iran unexpectedly turns into a sweet account of the girl's last hour of freedom. In the second and most striking segment--whose final image is heartbreaking--dozens of women swathed in black chadors are seen endlessly pedaling their bicycles along a road by the seashore. It seems that by riding her bike one of the women has dishonored her family, her tribe, her husband, and herself. In quick succession the offended husband, the village elders, and the woman's brothers come riding their horses alongside the road, angrily asking her to cease and desist, but she stubbornly pedals on, never uttering a word. The third segment, about a poor old woman who comes into some money and goes on a buying spree, is more conventionally whimsical, but it ends engagingly. Two of the female cyclists and the nine-year-old reappear at the end, as if to underscore that the film is a tribute to the resilience of women. 80 min. (JPC) (600 N. Michigan, 7:00)

George Washington

Twenty-four-year-old David Gordon Green sometimes comes across as a gifted poet who hasn't yet mastered prose. This film about working-class teenagers, most of them black, in a small town in North Carolina--based on memories of Green's boyhood in Texas--has memorable characters and images. Yet the story is elusive and occasionally puzzling, and some of the ideas are amorphous and self-conscious. Working with nonprofessional actors and getting them to improvise part of their dialogue, Green seems at times to be brandishing strangeness, but there's plenty of lyricism in his 'Scope framings, his junkyard settings, and his extremely vulnerable characters. The movie isn't especially violent, particularly by contemporary standards, yet it has more to say about the desperation behind the killings at Columbine High School than any number of editorials. There's been a substantial buzz about it ever since it premiered at the Berlin film festival last winter, but I suspect it's too odd to have much of a mainstream commercial life ahead of it--so catch it while you can. 89 min. (JR) (Music Box, 7:00)

Peppermint Candy

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 8:45)

101 Reykjavik

What happens when Hlynur, a nerdy Icelandic guy, has a one-night stand with his lesbian mother's fiancee that may have got her pregnant? 101 Reykjavik doesn't deliver the arctic-circle weirdness of the Kaurismaki brothers or the sexual shenanigans of Almodovar, but it does have some good moments. It's at its best when exploring Hlynur's loser lifestyle at home with mom or his cruising through the pickup bars of Reykjavik, where he finds someone he can treat worse than the local jocks treat him. The introduction of Spanish actress Victoria Abril as his mother's hot-to-trot lover screams of coproduction quotas; she injects a jarring dose of Mediterranean heat just when the comedy seems to be finding its own deadpan Icelandic way. The earnest emphasis on the mother's coming out and the schematic, politically correct resolution don't help. 100 min. (BS) (600 N. Michigan, 6:00)

Good Housekeeping

Frank Novak's hilariously demented American independent film revolves around the marital battles of an Italian immigrant forklift driver and her unemployed husband in blue-collar LA and each one's attempts to rally the neighbors to his or her side. The characterizations are down and dirty but never mean-spirited--it's essentially an affectionate portrait. The wacky, profane dialogue and the multiple obsessions--including the passion most of the male characters have for collecting toy action figures--have the ring of truth. The film's best sequences use comedy to get at some deeper, wicked insight into human nature--the moment the wife's new lesbian lover, a yuppie accountant, sees the wife's table manners, you know it's over. Yet the Pyrrhic glee with which the husband reacts to a nasty incident involving his wife's car paradoxically evokes more pity than laughs, nicely setting up the finale. 90 min. (BS) (600 N. Michigan, 9:00)

Supersonic Shorts 2: Adventures in Outer Space

Ten international shorts, including one by Canadian eccentric Guy Maddin (the four-minute Hospital Fragment), as well as others from Germany, New Zealand, Belgium, Norway, the U.S. and the U.K. 86 min. (Music Box, 9:15)

The Sea

Agusti Villaronga (In a Glass Cage) directed this handsomely photographed Spanish period drama about three young people at a tuberculosis sanatorium who, during their childhood in Majorca, had witnessed the revenge killing of a classmate. That event, tied to Franco's persecution of dissidents during World War II, has been pivotal in shaping the youngsters' psyches and lives. Francisca is now a nun, Manuel is deep into Catholic guilt, and Ramallo has turned to hustling. The film plays with the notion of TB as the plague of the 40s but doesn't get beyond weepy scenes of emaciated boys coughing and dying. Its real focus is on the self-loathing homosexual attraction--suggestive of Genet and Mishima--between the ascetic Manuel and the rowdy Ramallo. Villaronga seems to be after a parable about young people's terror of death and the church's failure to offer them spiritual shelter, but he ends up with a sensationalistic melodrama about the torments of sexual yearning. 107 min. (TS) (600 N. Michigan, 9:30)

Harry, He's Here To Help

Dominik Moll's sly thriller is almost too clever for its own good. At its center is Michel, a nice-guy husband and father who finds--given a heat wave, three querulous little girls, a broken-down car, an even more broken-down country house--that a vacation can be far more stressful than any kind of work. Enter Harry, forgotten schoolmate from 20 years ago, who believes that every problem has a solution. He also believes, fervently and inexplicably, in Michel, whose adolescent poetry he can recite verbatim and whose high school sci-fi epic, "Flying Monkeys," he yearns to see completed. So he sets about making Michel's familial problems "disappear." We're in twisty Highsmith, Strangers on a Train territory, with Harry carrying out what could be the hidden, dark, evil yearnings of Michel's soul. Yet nobody's particularly dark or evil. Harry--played by the open, beaming Sergi Lopez, gentle hero of many a Poirier film--genuinely wants to help, though with friends like this . . . Moll sticks closer to his characters than Hitchcock or Chabrol and aspires to a less overweening God's-eye view. His vision of the evil accomplished in the name of love finds its best expression in more mundane and down-to-earth details, like Michel's parents' surprise gift to his family: a blindingly bright bathroom in a particularly gruesome shade of fuchsia that seems to spread like a malignant rash through the somber old house. 117 min. (RS) (Music Box, 9:30)

Best in Show

All your cult-favorite Waiting for Guffman actors--Eugene Levy, Catherine O'Hara, Parker Posey, Bob Balaban--are back in Christopher Guest's new comic romp about a Grand Hotel of crazy people who've descended on Philadelphia to participate in a juried pet show. Each hopes his or her obsessively groomed dog will win the coveted blue ribbon for "best of show." The picture's mighty funny--definitely a chortle a minute. But it still isn't a very good movie. It's easy to make fun of schlocky pet shows, and Guest's attempt to create dramatic tension around which dog will win goes nowhere. Who cares? The four actors above are as winningly dippy as they were in Guffman--O'Hara is especially amusing as Levy's Norwich terrier-owning wife, who, to Levy's consternation, seems to have slept with every man in America. And kudos to the irrepressible Fred Willard as a hilarious birdbrained TV commentator covering the show. The biggest disappointment is Guest himself, who was delightful as the vaguely closeted gay theater director in Waiting for Guffman. Here he's a hound-owning North Carolinian who tells unfunny convoluted hunting and fishing stories that seem ripped off from Errol Morris's Vernon, Florida. 90 min. (GP) (Music Box, 9:30)

The Howling

Director Joe Dante and screenwriter John Sayles, who worked together previously on the exuberant exploitationer Piranha, reteam for a crack at modern-day werewolves (1981). The film slides into its situation in a clever, fresh way, and the balance of wit and horror is well maintained throughout, though Sayles's decision to divide up the protagonist's chores among four main characters costs him something in the intensity of audience identification. Dante, a former cutter, gets some wonderful things going in the editing, though he tends to emphasize rhythm over sense. Visually, the film is very handsome, with a bold, expressionist use of color and sinuous camera movements. Hommage crazed, the film features walk-ons by Roger Corman, Dick Miller, Jonathan Kaplan, and Sayles himself, as well as good work from the official cast--Dee Wallace, Dennis Dugan, and Patrick Macnee. 91 min. (DK) (Music Box, midnight)

Saturday 7 October

6ixtynin9

I was the head of the critics' jury at last spring's Hong Kong film festival, which awarded half of its first prize to this macabre 1999 comedy-thriller from Thailand. It's as commercial as anything from Hollywood--as was writer-director Pen-ek Ratanaruang's previous feature, a crazed Tarantino spin-off called Fun Bar Karaoke that I liked even more. Ratanaruang spent eight years in New York studying at the Pratt Institute and working as a freelance illustrator and designer, which explains his mastery of American-style entertainment--though his Thai and global observations are no less striking. This picture might be described broadly as clever Hitchcock lite, but that doesn't mean it doesn't also have pertinent things to say about the recent Asian economic crisis. 114 min. (JR) (Music Box, 1:45)

Good Housekeeping

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 2:15)

Matinee

John Goodman stars as "the screen's number-one shock expert" and ballyhoo specialist, Lawrence Woolsey (affectionately based on William Castle), who turns up in Key West in 1962 to present a preview of his latest horror B film, Mant, about a man transformed by radiation into a giant ant. This highly enjoyable and provocative teenage comedy, set during the Cuban missile crisis, was directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace) and written by Dante regular Charlie Haas and Jerico, who all have a lot of fun cooking up the black-and-white Mant and other period absurdities, especially those provoked by war fever. They're also pretty adroit in suggesting some of the absurdities of the early 90s (Woolsey's scare tactics are a somewhat more benign version of the government's, and the movie cleverly exploits the parallels for all they're worth). With Cathy Moriarty, Simon Fenton (an English teenager who does an astonishing job of sounding American), Omri Katz, Kellie Martin, Lisa Jakub, and a number of enjoyable character actors including Jesse White, John Sayles, and Dick Miller. 98 min. To be screened as part of a double feature with Gremlins 2: The New Batch. (JR) (Music Box, 2:30)

Gremlins 2: The New Batch

This 1990 sequel to the beastie movie of 1984, directed like its predecessor by the irreplaceable Joe Dante, relocates the hero and heroine (Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates) to New York, where they're both working for a vain tycoon named Daniel Clamp (John Glover)--an obvious conflation of Donald Trump and Ted Turner--in a midtown skyscraper, where the gremlins manage to run loose and cause all sorts of mischief. Solid, agreeable entertainment that basically consists of plentiful gags and lighthearted satire spiked with Dante's compulsive taste for movie references, humorously scripted by Charlie Haas but without the darker thematic undertones and the more tableaulike construction of the original. You may want to see this more than once in order to catch all the peripheral details, but there aren't any depths to explore, just a lot of bright, free-floating comic invention. With Robert Prosky, Robert Picardo, Christopher Lee, Kathleen Freeman, and many cameos (including Daffy Duck and Leonard Maltin). 106 min. To be screened as part of a double feature with Matinee. (JR) (Music Box, 2:30)

Swimming

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 2:45)

The Four Seasons of the Law

A subtle allegory about Greece's movement toward modernity and a poke in the eye to its authoritarian past, Dimos Avdeliodis's third feature is a wry and memorable comedy of rural life that easily justifies its three-hour length. In 1960, a notoriously troublesome and supposedly haunted Greek village has difficulty finding a replacement for a field guard, who mysteriously died while chasing an unknown woman who'd been stealing fruit from an orchard. The film is divided into four seasonal sections, beginning with summer, in which candidates of differing temperaments--each a variant on customary stereotypes of Greek identity--try to fill the guard's shoes. The first quits after being stung by bees; the second, a stern disciplinarian, is fired after arresting children for stealing an orange; the third is a gambler; the fourth doesn't heed the warning of the dead guard's ghost and pursues the female thief who has entranced his predecessor. Stunningly photographed by four different cinematographers, the film is imbued with a bucolic charm, gently following the passing of time and landscape. It's also aided by a certain familiar piece of music by Vivaldi that, thankfully, is used more subtly than one might expect. 178 min. (MP) (600 N. Michigan, 3:00)

The Day I Became a Woman

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 3:00)

Yo soy asi

A Dutch film in Spanish, directed by Sonia German Dolz, about an elderly transvestite who performs nightly at a Barcelona nightclub; the title means "This is me." 97 minutes. (Music Box, 4:00)

The Bus Riders Union

Haskell Wexler is one of Hollywood's premier cinematographers (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Bound for Glory), but he's also a radical film director whose independent feature Medium Cool (1969), shot with his actors thrust among Mayor Daley's rioting Chicago police, remains an essential document of the 60s. Fortunately he's never cooled, and now he's back with this rousing agitprop documentary, which he directed and photographed on video. It traces the heroic four-year struggle in LA to make the Metropolitan Transit Authority respond to the needs of the city's "public transportation dependent"--the overwhelmingly poor and minority people who ride the buses. Or try to ride the buses--if they don't break down, if they ever come, if they aren't overcrowded. Organizers from the multicultural Bus Riders Union leaflet LA buses and march on MTA meetings with their demands: lower fares, nighttime buses, seats for everyone. They also want to force the city to stop transferring the bulk of the bus system's funding to the spiffy new rail system for suburban commuters, who are overwhelmingly white and wealthy. Is there a management side to the story? Not when it's being told by the unapologetically power-to-the-people Wexler. 86 min. (GP) (600 N. Michigan, 4:30)

Sound and Fury

Filmmaker Josh Aronson steps into a hornet's nest of controversy in this compelling documentary portrait of an extended family's struggle over whether to get their deaf children cochlear implants. Peter and Nita Artinian, both deaf from birth and strong proponents of deaf culture, are forced to confront the issue when their five-year-old daughter asks for one of the hearing devices. Their wrenching attempt to make a decision is contrasted with the choice of Peter's brother and sister-in-law, both of whom have normal hearing but gave birth to a deaf son, to get him an implant when he's very young. The deaf members of the family accuse the hearing members of destroying the children's deaf identity; the hearing members argue that to not implant the device is to deny the children the chance to fully participate in wider society. Most fascinating about this PBS documentary is the unflinching look at the dynamics between the three generations involved. There's plenty of narrow-mindedness, anger, and pettiness on all sides, but also a great deal of love and compassion, as the parents and grandparents wrestle with the age-old question of what it means to have your children's best interests at heart. A minor drawback: the voice-overs for the signing family members at times remind one of Godzilla movies. (A panel discussion and reception will follow the movie at 6:30 PM; the cost is $25.) 80 min. (RP) (600 N. Michigan, 5:00)

The Day I Became a Woman

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 5:00)

Innocence

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 6:30)

Sunday's Dream

Nothing much happens on the surface of Yoichiro Takahashi's muted psychological portrait of a disaffected, suicidal young man in a Japanese coastal town. Kazuya's parents are divorced, and he's unemployed. He nonchalantly looks for a job while befriending a salon hostess named Sachiko, who plays word games with him in a chaste relationship. Then one Sunday he inexplicably kills his new stepfather and winds up in prison. Takahashi borrows from the Ozu/Hou Hsiao-hsien school of direction, using static long takes and occasional slow pans to immerse us in the world of his characters. And recalling Takeshi Kitano in his early films on youth, he keeps the crucial events--a car accident, the killing, Kazuya's time in jail--offscreen. Instead he gives us long sequences in which Kazuya is submerged in a tub of water, circling on his bike, staring into space--solitary activities that hint at a silent rage. But Takahashi doesn't have Ozu's and Hou's exquisite sense of timing or their ability to construct a purposeful mise-en-scene, nor can he sustain emotional resonance the way they do. The unarticulated feelings of his characters seem more like poses, and the laconic dialogue comes across as precious. His late-90s rebel without a cause--supposedly emblematic of a humbled and doubtful postrecession Japan--is merely an enigma, too vague to gain our sympathy. 89 min. (TS) (600 N. Michigan, 6:45)

The Visit

This exceedingly earnest melodrama--written, produced, and directed by Jordan Walker-Pearlman--revolves around a young black convict named Alex (Hill Harper) who's serving time for a rape he insists he didn't commit. Embittered by his incarceration and the realization that he's dying of AIDS, Alex takes out his frustration on his older brother (Obba Babatunde), the only family member who's visited him in prison. After an especially angry confrontation, Alex persuades him to talk his parents into coming to see him, setting up a painful journey toward reconciliation. The film, adapted from a play by Kosmond Russell, clocks in at 126 minutes and could have used some serious trimming, especially of the bloated fantasy sequences and the painfully drawn-out conclusion, which finally dissolves into mawkishness. It's a pity, because the cast is impressive--Harper, Rae Dawn Chong, and Billy Dee Williams all turn in particularly good performances. (RP) (600 N. Michigan, 6:45)

Supersonic Shorts 1: Chicago Meets the World

Eight short works, including three from Chicago artists--D.P. Carlson, Justin Krohn, and Vanessa Buccella--and others from Poland, Thailand, Israel, France, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. 104 min. (Music Box, 6:45)

Chunhyang

A rapturously beautiful, lyrically dazzling work by South Korean filmmaker Im Kwon-taek, the 97th feature of his remarkable career. Im--who, like Douglas Sirk or Vincente Minnelli, has a deliriously passionate style--takes familiar material and through visual imagination, deft storytelling, and sumptuous period detail transforms it into high art. Set at the end of the 18th century, this film traces the unbreakable love between the title character, the daughter of a prostitute well regarded for her dignity, and the son of a provincial governor, who aspires to become a court official. When he accompanies his father to Seoul on a new assignment, Chunhyang becomes the prey of the brutal newly installed governor, who's infatuated with her. When she refuses his advances he orders his guards to attack her and throw her in prison. The movie is framed by the sung narration of a traditional Korean storyteller, a pansori, whose beautiful voice is accompanied by drums, and the musical numbers throughout--about longing, regret, and ambition--allow an intimate, graceful shading of character that plays well against the movie's grand scale. Chunhyang succeeds on a lot of levels--as a mood piece, as a formal achievement, and as a blistering critique on the subjugation of women. 120 min. (PZM) (Music Box, 7:00)

The Gleaners and I

A superb documentary by the sole woman member of the French New Wave, The Gleaners and I was not only written and directed by Agnes Varda (of Cleo de 5 a 7 and Jacquot de Nantes fame) but also shot by her with a digital camera, which produces astonishingly crisp, colorful images when they're blown up to 35 millimeters. The film begins by musing on people who pick up what's left on the ground after mechanical harvesting and moves on to interviews with other types of gleaners: artists who use found objects, a Michelin two-star chef who forages for herbs, and folks who troll for discarded food in supermarket Dumpsters, pick up edible detritus after market stalls have been struck, or furnish their homes with sidewalk discards. Varda seamlessly weaves in poetic interludes on famous images of gleaners by French artists, a magical sequence in which she stumbles upon a junk-shop work that combines two of her favorite harvest paintings (an adventure she tells us conspiratorially is 'not a movie trick!'), and her own feelings about aging, travel, and the cinema. Beautiful, absorbing, and touching, this film is a mind-expanding experience not to be missed. 82 min. (MB) (600 N. Michigan, 7:15)

Come Undone

The French title of this film--Presque rien, which means "almost nothing"--is more descriptive and accurate. This first feature by Sebastien Lifshitz is a gay coming-of-age story that resembles so many others I'm still trying to come up with some distinguishing characteristic beyond its clumsy flashback structure. Teenage boy meets teenage boy during a summer vacation near the beach (lots of rolling around in the surf), falls in love, comes out, and decides to move in with his lover rather than go to college. Neither of the boys is especially interesting, and the few other characters in the story are even more forgettable. 98 min. (JR) (600 N. Michigan, 8:45)

6ixtynin9

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (Music Box, 9:00)

101 Reykjavik

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 9:00)

Yi Yi

This is Edward Yang's most accessible movie, his best since A Brighter Summer Day (1991), and its mastery won him the prize for best direction at Cannes. The thematic counterpoint between generations is as adroit as the focus on a single generation in his earlier masterpiece. Beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral involving the same contemporary Taipei family, Yi Yi takes almost three hours to unfold, and not a moment seems gratuitous or squandered. Working again with nonprofessional actors, Yang coaxes a standout lead performance from Wu Nien-jen (a major screenwriter and director in his own right) as a middle-aged partner in a failing computer company who has a secret rendezvous in Tokyo with a former girlfriend he jilted 30 years ago and who's trying to team up professionally with a Japanese game designer. (The dialogue between the hero and the designer is in English, and Yang's own computer background serves him well.) Other major characters include the hero's spiritually traumatized wife, her comatose mother, his pregnant sister and her debt-ridden husband, his teenage daughter, and his eight-year-old son. The son--a comic and unsentimental marvel named Yang-yang--may come closest to serving as the director's mouthpiece; the kid becomes obsessed with photographing what people can't see, such as the backs of their own heads, because to him it's the half of reality that's missed. Yang seems to miss nothing as he interweaves shifting viewpoints and poignant emotional refrains. Cutting between the absentmindedness of three family members in the opening sequence and orchestrating comparable thematic rhymes later, he makes this family one of the richest in modern movies--with the deepest impact made by the oldest and youngest members. 173 min. (JR) (Doc Films, 9:15)

Saltwater

Playwright Conor McPherson wrote and directed this enjoyably lighthearted yarn set in an Irish seaside resort village, about an unusually eventful week in the life of the Beneventi family, owners of the local restaurant. Tired of watching his heavily indebted father grovel before the town's thuggish bookie, the family's eldest son (Peter McDonald) hatches a plan to rob the betting parlor, inadvertently involving his younger brother (Laurence Kinlan) and philandering best friend (Conor Mullen), both of whom are struggling with problems of their own. Like John Duigan's or Bill Forsyth's early films, Saltwater has a keen sense of local color, along with a warmth and humor that never descend into the forced sentimentality often plaguing movies like this. McPherson's low-key approach is complemented by a fine ensemble cast. 94 min. (RP) (600 N. Michigan, 9:15)

Best in Show

See listing under Friday, October 6. (Music Box, 9:30)

One Week

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 9:30)

Sunday 8 October

Sound and Fury

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (600 N. Michigan, 1:00)

The Visit

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (600 N. Michigan, 1:15)

The Second Civil War

This skillful 1997 made-for-cable satire directed by Joe Dante is the middle feature of his "war trilogy," preceded by Matinee (1993) and followed by Small Soldiers (1998). Viewers who consider it the best of the threesome may have a point. The governor of Idaho (Beau Bridges) decides to close his state's borders to a plane full of Pakistani orphans fleeing a nuclear disaster, and his actions are crosscut with federal deliberations (James Coburn's a presidential advisor) and various kinds of frantic media spin (Dan Hedaya's a network news director). Barry Levinson set this project in motion, so the parallels with Wag the Dog aren't accidental, but one of the essential ingredients brought to it by Dante, the least Swiftian of satirists, is that nobody's a villain, even when behaving like an idiot or a hypocrite. The governor, for instance, plays shamelessly to his xenophobic constituents while remaining smitten with his Mexican mistress, a reporter played by Elizabeth Pena, and the movie is determined to view him simply as a lovable asshole. With Joanna Cassidy, Kevin Dunn, James Earl Jones, Denis Leary, Ron Perlman, Phil Hartman, Brian Keith, Kevin McCarthy, Dick Miller, and Roger Corman. 100 min. (JR) (Doc Films, 2:00)

Saltwater

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (600 N. Michigan, 2:00)

Come Undone

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (600 N. Michigan, 2:15)

The Four Seasons of the Law

See listing under Saturday, October 7.

Peppermint Candy

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 4:00)

The Gleaners and I

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (Music Box, 4:10)

Greenfingers

Judging by what winds up in our theaters, one might think the British film industry is making only two kinds of movies these days--lighthearted romantic comedies and knockoffs of The Full Monty. Greenfingers, which attempts to combine both genres, tells the story of a group of hardened criminals with hearts of gold who, led by the ruggedly handsome Colin Briggs (Clive Owen), become successful flower gardeners in an alternative prison program. Their horticultural prowess catches the attention of a well-known gardening expert (played with appropriate snootiness by Helen Mirren), who encourages them to compete in the prestigious Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. As in The Full Monty, the humor is predicated on gruff-but-lovable blue-collar types being thrust into "unmanly" situations. But where The Full Monty earned its laughs with rich characterizations and a biting take on economic hardship, Greenfingers is content to trot out predictable stereotypes, adding a romantic subplot as filler. The story was "inspired" by true events, which were undoubtedly more intriguing than what transpires here. 91 min. (RP) (600 N. Michigan, 4:15)

Supersonic Shorts 1: Chicago Meets the World

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (Music Box, 4:30)

101 Reykjavik

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 4:15)

The Last Supper

Political allegory from Cuba, directed by Tomas Gutierrez Alea (1977). An 18th-century plantation owner invites 12 of his slaves to join him for a Good Friday dinner, stretching the bounds of unconscious irony to their absolute limit. Alea's essay on Christian idealism undercut by capitalist reality isn't up to his earlier Memories of Underdevelopment--it's too schematic and a little too obvious at times. Still, it's a very handsome production, photographed in lush capitalist color. 113 min. (DK) (600 N. Michigan, 6:00)

A Time for Drunken Horses

See listing under Friday, October 6. (Music Box, 6:00)

Good Housekeeping

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 6:15)

The Film Biker

Hollywood might hype this calculatedly sexy and sentimental melodrama from the Philippines as Cinema Paradiso crossed with soft-porn teen romance. Gregory (Piolo Pascual) is a bike courier who shuttles movie reels between dilapidated theaters in a poor section of Manila. He's a hardworking and reliable kid, courteous to strangers and solicitous toward his movie-crazy relatives and friends, including a frail grandfather, a projectionist, and a waitress who was once an extra. He also falls in love with a young woman (Janna Victoria) who--surprise, surprise--turns out to be a hooker. Director Mel Chionglo throws in enough complications to keep the action chugging along, but they don't add much to our understanding of the characters. And he seems to be depending on the maudlin, New Agey score to convey tension and drama. The film comes alive only when the camera goes verite, prowling through the crowded, grimy streets or peering into squalid apartments. 100 min. (TS) (600 N. Michigan, 6:30)

Saluzzi: Composition for Bandoneon and Three Brothers

An Argentinean documentary by Daniel Rosenfeld about musician Dino Saluzzi, master of the bandoneon, an instrument whose sound is said to have inspired the tango. 68 min. (Music Box, 6:45)

The Sea

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 6:45)

Harry, He's Here to Help

See listing under Friday, October 6. (Doc Films, 7:00)

6ixtynin9

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (600 N. Michigan, 8:15)

The Adventures of God

Another metaphysical thriller from Argentinean filmmaker Eliseo Subiela (Man Facing Southeast, Last Images of the Shipwreck, The Dark Side of the Heart), this one about a man with amnesia who finds himself at a large 30s seaside hotel. 90 min. (600 N. Michigan, 8:20)

Brother 2

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 8:30)

Djomeh

Hassan Yektapanah's first film attests to the deceptive simplicity of Iranian cinema, transforming the most minimal of props, scenes, and stories into a complex journey of discovery. Djomeh is a young laborer at an Iranian dairy farm, forced by the war and an imprudent love affair to emigrate from his native Afghanistan. As a foreigner, he's anything but welcome: village children steal his bicycle and throw stones at him with the tacit approval of their elders. So his apparently unrequited love for a girl who works in her father's grocery store--occasioning all kinds of unnecessary trips and purchases our smitten hero can ill afford--seems doomed to failure. Yet in his own politely stubborn way, Djomeh refuses to accept what to others seems immutable. Djomeh is a film about what's spoken and unspoken, about the finger-wagging redundancy of received wisdom and the daunting silence of "understood" conventions. Djomeh's "naivete" forces people to utter what can remain unquestioned only as long as it's unspoken. Yektapanah worked as assistant director to Kiarostami, and his main character is very similar to the young actor in Through the Olive Trees, both physically and in his dogged pursuit of a silent female. And the truck journeys between the dairy farm and the outlying villages recall many a dusty Kiarostami round-trip. Yet the straight-ahead, unblinking gaze Yektapanah directs at a doorway or a shop interior, the ingenuous class- and culture-defying openness of Djomeh's conversations with his boss, and the subtly varied rhythms of a dairy farmer's daily rounds are very different from their equivalents in Kiarostami's peripatetic urbanite-in-the-countryside quests. 94 min. (RS) (600 N. Michigan, 8:45)

Sunday's Dream

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (Music Box, 8:45)

George Washington

See listing under Friday, October 6. (600 N. Michigan, 9:00)

Monday 9 October

Manila

A group of German tourists and expats are thrown together during a long delay at the Manila airport. The characters divide roughly into talkers and listeners, and the revelations and sexual advances become increasingly uninhibited as the wait wears on. Despite its airport setting, this German production is no Wenders-like vision of displacement or boundaries-dissolving globalism. The perspective is snugly German, filled with references to national politics and pop culture, dominated by German characters and language--Filipinos are portrayed as satellites. Some of the characters are initially intriguing, but the ensemble effect is thrown off balance by Martin Semmelrogge's histrionic performance as an aggressive sleazeball. Director Romuald Karmakar attempts to pull the scattered pieces together in the overextended climax, which seems intended as a kind of transcendent Oktoberfest but simply falls flat. The cast includes Fassbinder regular Margit Carstensen as a prim history prof and American ex-ingenue Elizabeth McGovern as a half-German journalist. 113 min. (MR) (600 N. Michigan, 3:30)

To and Fro

There are many more striking, ironic, tragic, sly, or moving films about corruption and exploitation in Mexico, but the strength of Salvador Aguirre's debut film lies in its depiction of how a lack of a sense of collective self-worth among the Indians there allows and perpetuates social injustice. To and Fro, as its title suggests, covers a lot of ground only to wind up where it started. The protagonist, Filiberto, is a half-Indian peasant who literally doesn't know his place--a victim of his own gullibility, of his own illusory striving after the power, status, and autonomy denied him as a "damned Indian." The film isn't structured around identification with the central character, whose self-knowledge and awareness of his own compromised situation are wildly flawed. We learn about his past only in fragments, through the bits and pieces he left scattered when he went off to get rich in the States. In the three years since he left, his mother has died, his fiancee has married his cousin, and the benign feudalism of the old patron (his unacknowledged father) has given way to the murderous land-grabbing propensities of the new (his unacknowledged brother). In Filiberto--who alternately allies himself with the oppressor and the oppressed, and who's disenfranchised from any class, cultural, or national identity--Aguirre has created a disturbing portrait of a man doomed to be a wetback on either side of the border. 92 min. (RS) (600 N. Michigan, 4:15)

The Film Biker

See listing under Sunday, October 8. (600 N. Michigan, 4:30)

Grey Owl

A free screening of the most recent (1999, 118 min.) feature directed by Richard Attenborough, based on a true story and starring Pierce Brosnan as a pioneering English conservationist who moved to Canada and lived for the remainder of his life as an Indian named Grey Owl, dying in 1938. English film critic David Robinson will discuss Attenborough's biopics with Attenborough himself at a seminar held at Doc Films at 8:00. (Doc Films, 5:30)

Manila

See listing under Monday, October 9. (600 N. Michigan, 6:00)

Two Family House

Yet another charming, nostalgic look at a bygone New York populated by emotional and wisecracking Italian-Americans, with a sound track chock-full of Sinatra tunes. While singing in the service during World War II, amateur crooner Buddy (Michael Rispoli) is promised an audition by Arthur Godfrey once he returns to the States, but to appease his future wife, Estelle (Katherine Narducci), who's afraid he'll fail and be mocked by their friends and neighbors, he declines. After they're married he embarks on one ill-fated moneymaking scheme after another; only after years of working at the local factory does he save enough to move out of her parents' house and into a ramshackle two-story house on Staten Island, where he hopes to realize his dream of running his own tavern. Writer-director Raymond De Felitta has crafted a pleasant, low-key script that's full of small surprises, nice turns, and engaging, naturalistic dialogue, and he keeps the big, emotional family scenes, which often render this sort of material cliched and hackneyed, to a minimum. 104 min. (JK) (600 N. Michigan, 6:30)

Brother 2

See listing under Friday, October 6. (Music Box, 6:30)

Saltwater

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (600 N. Michigan, 6:45)

Sunday's Dream

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

The Visit

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (600 N. Michigan, 8:30)

To and Fro

See listing under Monday, October 9. (600 N. Michigan, 8:45)

Gimme Shelter

David and Albert Maysles's 1970 documentary on the Rolling Stones concert that killed. The film is a strong example of the cinema verite style at work, yet few films of the school show up the crisis of its "noninvolvement" policy more tellingly. There is a horrible sense of helplessness as the Maysleses' camera looks on while the Hell's Angels stab an unruly fan to death, and the implications of hippie fascism contained in that image are not meaningfully developed in light of the film's own excessive idolization of Jagger and company. The camera that looks up too easily looks down. 90 min. (DK) (Music Box, 9:00)

Strawberry and Chocolate

Neither fish nor fowl, Tomas Gutierrez Alea's touching yet compromised depiction of the persecution of gays in 1979 Havana was directed in collaboration with Juan Carlos Tabio when Alea became ill. It opts for an extremely broad depiction of gay mannerisms and tastes in its treatment of a campy but committed dilettante whom the hero, a university student and ardent communist, comes into contact with. Controversial in Cuba yet only mildly polemical by American standards, this 1993 movie is entertaining and evocative both as storytelling and as a description of intellectual life in Havana, but it also borders on the obvious in certain particulars. Written by Senel Paz; with Jorge Perrugoria, Vladimir Cruz, Mirta Ibarra, and Francisco Calorno. 110 min. (JR) (600 N. Michigan, 9:00)

Come Undone

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (600 N. Michigan, 9:15)

Supersonic Shorts 1: Chicago Meets the World

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (Music Box, 9:15)

Tuesday 10 October

Greenfingers

See listing under Sunday, October 8. (600 N. Michigan, 4:00)

Family Pack

The French title of this Belgian feature by Chris Vander Stappen, cowriter of Ma vie en rose, is much longer and means roughly "What Were the Women Doing While Man Walked on the Moon?" Set in July 1969, it focuses on a lesbian who's just quit medical school and is trying to decide whether to come out when she visits her family in Brussels. 102 min. (600 N. Michigan, 4:30)

Reef Hunters

Marilou Diaz-Abaya directed this elemental tale from the Philippines about an autocratic and abusive fishing-boat captain who hires village boys to do the dangerous work of diving after fish in coral reefs. Don't look for subtlety or sophistication in the storytelling--this is the kind of movie that asks you to cheer the good guys and weep at every setback, the kind that expects you to be unable to resist kids looking into the camera with big, innocent eyes. Still, Cesar Montano makes the captain a magnetic presence, even though the script burdens him with loads of silly lines, and the underwater sequences are breathtaking. 112 min. (TS) (600 N. Michigan, 6:15)

Guantanamera

The last feature (1994, 104 min.) of Cuban director Tomas Gutierrez Alea (Memories of Underdevelopment, The Last Supper), codirected by Juan Carlos Tabio and starring Alea's wife, Mirtha Ibarra. This charming and earthy road comedy, about a solution for the gasoline shortage hatched at an undertakers' convention, fleetingly recalls William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying as well as Luis Bu"uel's Mexican Bus Ride. It's touching to see Alea, a couple of years before his own death, deal with mortality as humorously and unpretentiously as he does here. Check this one out. (JR) (600 N. Michigan, 6:30)

Gimme Shelter

See listing under Monday, October 9. (Doc Films, 6:30)

Yi Yi

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

The Adventures of God

See listing under Sunday, October 8. (600 N. Michigan, 7:00)

Greenfingers

See listing under Sunday, October 8. (600 N. Michigan, 7:15)

Sound and Fury

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (Music Box, 7:30)

Pandora's Beauty

This is the sort of tragic-romantic melodrama that one would expect to be the worst kind of drivel imaginable, but the French have a proud tradition of turning such stuff out with great conviction. In spite of the contemporary look and the contemporary featured illness, this film is unapologetically in the tradition of Hugo and Zola. Strip away director Charles Biname's razzle-dazzle quick cuts and jump-cut editing, and you're left with a classic story of love found and love lost told with fervor. Biname and coscenarist Suzanne Jacob are so adept at pacing the story that you gladly ignore improbabilities and inconsistencies in the plot and accept the film's core message: that true love can happen, even in the most impossible circumstances, if people are receptive to it. And that no matter how painful or difficult, it's infinitely better than not having experienced love at all. 92 min. (JK) (600 N. Michigan, 8:45)

The Film Biker

See listing under Sunday, October 8. (600 N. Michigan, 8:45)

Family Pack

See listing under Tuesday, October 10. (600 N. Michigan, 9:00)

Krampack

This Spanish coming-of-age film, the second feature by writer-director Cesc Gay, distinguishes itself by not shying away from the polymorphous perversity of teenage sexuality. Dani (Fernando Ramallo) and Nico (Jordi Vilches), adolescent boys vacationing on the Mediterranean coast with Dani's family, are ready to leave behind their mutual masturbation sessions and lose their virginity, and their summer flirtations with two girls (Marieta Orozco and Esther Nubiola) seem likely to be consummated. But at some point both boys begin to realize that Dani is more interested in spending time with Nico than in pursuing women. Even before that conflict kicks in, Gay (adapting Jordi Sanchez's play with Thomas Aragay) avoids most of the pitfalls of the genre: his actors' droll, deadpan delivery edges the film away from wacky comedy and brings out its absurdist undertones. When the boys' diverging sexual desires start to pull the youth-comedy narrative apart, Gay develops their dilemma honestly and without sentiment. Not an immensely ambitious film, but a satisfying one. 90 min. (DS) (600 N. Michigan, 9:15)

Yo soy asi

See listing under Saturday, October 7. (Music Box, 9:15)

Wednesday 11 October

Reef Hunters

See listing under Tuesday, October 10. (600 N. Michigan, 3:30)

Happy End

This finely drawn first-time feature and Cannes "Critics' Week" opener from Korean director Jung Ji-woo portrays matrimonial harmony gone awry. When a banker (Choi Min-shik) loses his job as a result of the early-90s recession, he turns to reading mystery novels and tries to make the best of his home life--his hardworking wife (Jeo Do-yeon) cares less about her husband and child than about sneaking out to be with the sweetheart she lost years earlier when he was drafted. A Western sound track that repeatedly uses Schubert's Piano Trio no. 2 is clearly meant to give a Kubrickian slant to the husband's bubbling, hazardous emotions, but Barry Lyndon this is not. When the hapless banker discovers evidence of the affair, the film veers into predictably pathological territory, but it's so well paced and the misogyny is so subtle (until a rather overblown climax) that it's easily mistaken for nuanced relationship analysis. Beyond a certain stylistic virtuosity, the only thing accomplished is a painful modicum of social commentary. 99 min. (MP) (600 N. Michigan, 4:15)

Krampack

See listing under Tuesday, October 10. (600 N. Michigan, 4:30)

Chronically Unfeasible

Writer-director Sergio Bianchi is an incendiary sociopolitical figure in his native Brazil, which has produced more than its share of highly outspoken filmmakers. In his latest work a pessimistic outlook pervades virtually every human transaction, creating a discomfiting and at times claustrophobic sense of reality. Bianchi's restless camera traverses disparate regions of the country as it follows the exploits of six principal characters, including Luis, the owner of a trendy restaurant in Sao Paulo; Alfredo, a well-known writer who's on a quixotic journey around the country, trying to understand why Brazil has deteriorated into a cruel, exploitative social experiment; and Adam, a Polish emigre with a jaundiced outlook on labor-management relations. To Bianchi's credit, everyone's fair game as he meticulously itemizes the failings of his country--liberals and members of the labor movement are no less foolish in their cultural myopia than their right-wing counterparts. But he never takes the easy way out by resorting to hopelessness; rather he somehow hangs on to the possibility of rebirth, as witnessed in the breathtaking final scene. This tough, thought-provoking film should not be missed. 101 min. (JK) (600 N. Michigan, 6:00)

A Successful Man

Humberto Solas's opulent 1986 film about two wealthy brothers with different ideologies spans the three decades leading up to the Cuban revolution. 116 min. (600 N. Michigan, 6:15)

Amores Perros

This solidly engaging, supersized (153 minutes) Mexican drama by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu provides a look at the dog days of love through three separate stories linked by a calamitous car crash and some recurring canine characters. The feral rage and ugly aggressiveness of dogfighting (all simulated) characterize the first story, about a battered teenage wife's on-again, off-again attraction to her gentle, utterly infatuated brother-in-law. Obsessive love for a cuddly mutt proves highly symbolic in the second story, which chronicles a middle-aged married man's new start in life with a model half his age. In the third story, compassion for a dying dog becomes a turning point for an aging contract killer. The second story, with its soap opera characters and some surreal silliness about a dog trapped under a floor, is the weakest. The first and third--with their strong casting and ability to convey the flavor of Mexican lifestyles, high and low--carry the film. (BS) (Doc Films, 6:30)

Pandora's Beauty

See listing under Tuesday, October 10. (600 N. Michigan, 6:30)

Bedazzled

A prerelease screening of Harold Ramis's remake of the 1968 Stanley Donen comedy about a nebbish who strikes a Faustian bargain with the devil that accords him seven wishes. The nebbish is played by Brendan Fraser, the devil by Elizabeth Hurley; with Frances O'Connor. 110 min. (Music Box, 7:00)

Happy End

See listing under Wednesday, October 11. (600 N. Michigan, 7:00)

Saluzzi: Composition for Bandoneon and Three Brothers

See listing under Sunday, October 8. (Music Box, 7:15)

South Side Story

An Italian musical set in Palermo that retells the story of Romeo and Juliet in farcical terms; Roberta Torre directed. 87 min. (600 N. Michigan, 8:15)

Manila

See listing under Monday, October 9. (600 N. Michigan, 8:45)

Vertical Love

A 1997 Cuban comedy about the efforts of a psychiatric nurse and an architecture student to find a place where they can make love. Directed by Arturo Sotto Diaz. 100 min. (600 N. Michigan, 4:00)

Vertical Love

A 1997 Cuban comedy about the efforts of a psychiatric nurse and an architectural student to find a place where they can make love. Directed by Arturo Sotto. 100 min. (600 N. Michigan, 9:00)

Gaea Girls

Documentarian Kim Longinotto (Divorce Iranian Style) has teamed up with Jano Williams to portray the clandestine world of Japanese female wrestling. Allowed into a training compound run by seasoned professional wrestler Chigusa Nagayo, one of the top stars in Japan, Longinotto and Williams chronicle in excruciating detail the rigorous physical regimen endured by trainees completing a one-year program. If they're successful--and few are--they'll join one of Japan's more rarefied subcultures. The filmmakers build their story in a way that's more compelling and suspenseful than many narrative films. Will the driven Takeuchi pass the test? Will Wakabayashi, who ran away once before, be able to stay with the program? Is Nagayo, the autocratic yet benevolent leader, teaching tough out of necessity or because she was emotionally wounded by her bullying father? Longinotto and Williams's ability to penetrate facades is remarkable. 106 min. (JK) (Music Box, 9:15)

To and Fro

See listing under Monday, October 9. (600 N. Michigan, 9:15)

Legacy

Tod S. Lending's emotionally wrenching, quietly devastating documentary examines the social, cultural, and personal effects of poverty on a west-side Chicago family. Shot over five years, the film depicts the severe psychological and physical distress of living in the decrepit Henry Horner projects. It opens with a senseless tragedy--the murder of a promising 14-year-old boy--and goes on to explore the impact of his death and the remarkable transformation of his family. The film's conscience and narrator is Nikki, the boy's cousin--a poised, articulate young woman who becomes the catalyst of the family's rejuvenation but who's also clearly uncomfortable with how much the filmmaking imposes on her life. The process makes her reticent, but it opens up the other women--her grandmother Dorothy, her mother Alaissa, and most unforgettably, her aunt Wanda, the most tortured member of the family. Like Hoop Dreams, this is a sharp example of humanist filmmaking, providing a succession of haunting images and anguished pleas for decency, respect, and a shot at self-realization. On the same program, D.P. Carlson's short Sailorman, an impressively shot, well-written, and affectionate portrait of a young boy's afternoon on Lake Michigan in the company of a group of grizzled sailors, who regale him with improbable stories of adventure at sea. 90 min. (PZM) (Music Box, 9:30)

Thursday 12 October

South Side Story

See listing under Wednesday, October 11. (600 N. Michigan, 3:30)

A Paradise Under the Stars

In a timely twist on the ever popular Latin-American "life is a cabaret" genre--or to quote the film, "Life is not a dream; life is a show!"--Gerardo Chijona has fashioned a brightly colored extravaganza equally at home on the streets of Havana or the stage of the Tropicana. For it's the legendary Tropicana--venue of the biggest showbiz names at the height of Batistan decadence and still a popular nightspot under Castro--that's the central axis of the film. Spilling over with the requisite exuberance and theatricality of such a venture, Paradise also manages to connect to another popular Latin-American genre that's become very in of late, namely the coincidence pileup. Here the most disparate and far-fetched destinies cross and intertwine, with the help of plenty of hysteria and soap-operatic improbability (hereditary star-shaped birthmarks on buttocks play a key role). Paradise handles its whimsy well: in moments of exasperation the heroine is given to self-flagellation with a flyswatter, and zombies in stretch sateen and showgirls in towering headdresses strut their stuff in sync. But in the end this kind of sustained high energy can be fatiguing. Chijona might have done well to insert a touch of the semidocumentarian, behind-the-scenes rawness that characterized his first film, Adorable Liars. 90 min. (RS) (600 N. Michigan, 4:15)

Minerva's Quest

Minerva, a middle-aged failed novelist who's consumed with bitterness and anger toward her father and her lover, returns to her hometown in Mexico to try to understand why her life hasn't worked out the way she thought it might. She has always cherished the memory of her adoring ne'er-do-well Uncle Alberto, whose sporadic visits were an antidote to her father's stern coldness. But as she examines her childhood, it becomes clear that all was not as it appeared to be. Director Oscar Blancarte shows a lot of compassion for his main character, but compassion alone doesn't necessarily make for an interesting story. To up the dramatic ante, he reveals a big, dark family secret in the final act--a secret that's entirely predictable. He also tries to integrate elements of Greek drama--always risky because it invites comparison with the genuine article and can obfuscate themes. Some of the glimpses of the Pacific coast are spellbinding, but Blancarte hasn't managed to incorporate the character of the region in a way that has any relevance to the story. With Angelica Aragon and Francisco Gattorno. 115 min. (JK) (600 N. Michigan, 6:00)

The Captive

A considerable departure for Chantal Akerman: not only her first truly literary film but perhaps the one that works best in narrative terms. Inspired by the Albertine story that consumes two volumes of Remembrance of Things Past, and coscripted by Dutch filmmaker Eric de Kuyper, this is ultimately a better Proust adaptation than Raul Ruiz's playful Time Regained, despite--or perhaps because of--the fact that it's much freer, even to the point of altering plot. Essentially a feminist critique of the original, this film takes as its subject unlimited male jealousy. Stanislas Merhar plays Simon (Proust's Marcel), a wealthy asthmatic who lives with his grandmother and keeps his cherished mistress Ariane (Sylvie Testund as Albertine) as a mostly willing captive. The settings are all upper-class and elegant. In one characteristic scene, Simon and Ariane bathe in two tubs separated by frosted glass while intoning erotic endearments to each other. Ariane's deceptions and lesbian betrayals--whose extent is never clarified--make her an unlikely heroine, yet the moral weight of the narrative eventually falls on her side, a feat accomplished mainly through dialogue, mise en scene, and carefully calibrated performances. Beginning like Vertigo (a conscious reference) and at times evoking Les dames du Bois de Boulogne in its crafty handling of period (the look is contemporary but evokes the past), The Captive is gorgeous but less painterly than most of Akerman's films. I consider it her greatest work since D'est and a welcome return to form after the lapse of Sud, but it's slow and obsessive in the classic Akerman manner and at times incantatory--which is to say it isn't for everyone. Neither, for that matter, is Proust. 112 min. (JR) (600 N. Michigan, 6:30)

Once in the Life

The directorial debut of Laurence Fishburne, adapted from his off-Broadway play Riff Raff, in which he plays a criminal who re-encounters his half-brother (Titus Welliver), a junkie, in a police station. Others in the cast include Eamonn Walker, Annabella Sciorra, and Gregory Hines. 110 min. (Music Box, 6:30)

You Can Count on Me

You Can Count on Me, the directing debut of novelist-scriptwriter Kenneth Lonergan (Analyze This, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle) and a big winner at Sundance, has "little" written all over it. It's a little film about the little problems of a little family in a little town in upstate New York. A kind of benign version of Shadow of a Doubt, it revolves around a young woman with a young son who, vaguely dissatisfied with her life, desperately longs for her only family--her charming, feckless, irresponsible younger brother, Terry--to come home and pep up her life. Which ultimately he does. Nothing's really wrong with this movie. The structure is sound, the acting assured, and the payoff all the steadier for its modesty. The characters are carefully limned--realistic with just the right sprinkling of the unexpected to keep things interesting. Laura Linney's heroine is the responsible one, but she's still capable of kicking over the traces and having an affair that seems to ignore every moral, strategic, and personal consideration. Mark Ruffalo's Terry is prone to attacks of familial reliability, even if his parenting takes some rather iconoclastic turns. Yet somehow everything's a little too painstakingly doled out--every excess has its counterbalance, every disillusionment its epiphany. Lonergan's validation of big-minded small-town life has been neatened up to the point of blandness. I didn't miss the "quirkiness" or the loaded gun that passes for excitement in far too many indie productions. But this picture almost comes across as an advertisement for the films of "modest" budget, script, and scope that Hollywood, unable to produce them on its own, settles for distributing, hot off the Sundance press. 109 min. (RS) (600 N. Michigan, 6:30)

Reef Hunters

See listing under Tuesday, October 10. (Music Box, 6:45)

Play Dirty

This 1968 desert caper, the last film directed by veteran Andre de Toth, ranks among his best work. An inexperienced World War II captain (Michael Caine) leads a sub-Dirty Dozen crew on a mission behind German lines in North Africa; from the beginning the squadís superior officers are ready to betray them, and they return the favor. Tautly shot and edited, Play Dirty carries to a poetic extreme the betrayal theme that haunts de Tothís strongest films. The endless rock and sand traversed by the crew are a metaphoric treadmill, and small moments of mastery yield only more waste. Though de Tothís camera moves with his characters, zooming in and out of the landscape almost continuously, the filmís sense of space never really changes much. From a close pan following a jeep, the camera pulls back to reveal a huge cliff, and the initial sense of space opening up is quickly subsumed by the filmís larger continuum: a land and sky that seem to consort with the human treachery. 117 min. (FC) (This film was selected for the critic's choice section of the festival by Sergio Mims.) (600 N. Michigan, 7:00)

Legacy

See listing under Wednesday, October 11. (Doc Films, 7:00)

Family Pack

See listing under Tuesday, October 10. (600 N. Michigan, 8:30)

A Paradise Under the Stars

See listing under Thursday, October 12. (600 N. Michigan, 8:50)

The Debt

Two dreamers in contemporary Poland find themselves linked up with the mob in a feature directed by Krzysztof Krauze. 107 min. (600 N. Michigan, 9:00)

Happy End

See listing under Wednesday, October 11. (Music Box, 9:15)

Krampack

See listing under Tuesday, October 10. (Music Box, 9:30)

Whatever

Described as a French variant of In the Company of Men, this feature directed by Philippe Harel is called Extension du domaine de la lutte "Extension of the Domain of the Struggle" in French. 118 min. (Doc Films, 9:30)

Gaea Girls

See listing under Wednesday, October 11. (600 N. Michigan, 9:30)

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