The Book of Life

Written and directed by the often inspired but equally often pseudointellectual Hal Hartley, this meditation on the millennium, set in New York City on New Year's Eve 1999, is the story of Jesus (Martin Donovan), Magdalena (PJ Harvey), Satan (Thomas Jay Ryan), a compulsive gambler, and a good-hearted waitress. The blurry, canted images are abstractly eloquent and moodily complemented by music by Harvey, P. Comelade, and David Byrne. But the themes are exasperatingly thin even for 63 minutes, and the tone, especially the attempts at humor, is nearly always off the mark. Created for the French TV anthology “2000 Seen By.”

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