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The Reader's Guide to the 39th Annual Chicago International Film Festival

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* = highly recommended

Friday

October 3

Oasis

* Skating fearlessly on the edge of tastelessness and sentimentality, Oasis is another strong, provocative film by Lee Chang-dong (Peppermint Candy), an edgy tale about a dense jailbird and a woman with cerebral palsy who grimace, grunt, and thrash their way toward an awkward but affecting last tango in a dingy Seoul apartment. As it ranges through harrowing melodrama, discomfiting comedy, bitter jabs at bourgeois hypocrisy, and sweet, fleeting fantasies, Oasis demonstrates the tonal elasticity and moral elusiveness that characterize much of the new South Korean cinema. Lee is a director of dogged force rather than finesse, and here much of that force comes from the fierce lead performances of Sol Kyung-gu (the blighted antihero of Peppermint Candy) and the remarkable Moon So-ri, who's quickly establishing herself as one of the most intriguing talents around. In Korean with subtitles. 132 min. (MR) (Landmark, 6:30)

Callas Forever

* Director Franco Zeffirelli collaborated with soprano Maria Callas in her prime--their 1957 stage production of La traviata is the stuff of operatic legend--and his 2002 drama conveys the intimacy, admiration, and exasperation of their long-standing friendship. Fanny Ardant plays the middle-aged singer in 1976, living as a recluse in Paris and still smarting from her rejection by Aristotle Onassis and her disastrous farewell recital; Jeremy Irons is the Zeffirelli surrogate, a gay impresario who used to manage Callas and is now urging her to star in a film version of Carmen (with the vocal to be dubbed from an old recording). Ardant embodies the diva's dazzling blend of glamour, hauteur, and vulnerability, and despite a faintly campy script by Martin Sherman, Zeffirelli captures the artistic imperative that drives both characters--and deepens their loneliness. 103 min. (TS) (Landmark, 6:45)

The Flower of Evil

Director Claude Chabrol cowrote the screenplay for this domestic tragedy with Louise Lambrichs and child psychiatrist Caroline Eliacheff--the latter also contributed to the superior Merci pour le chocolat and The Ceremony. If you can keep track of the family's intricate and incestuous backstory, there are things to appreciate about their saga, though the rewards are more cerebral than emotional. When a woman (Nathalie Baye) runs for mayor in a town in present-day Bordeaux, an anonymous broadside is published containing damaging revelations about her family's activities during the Vichy regime (a plot catalyst similar to the poison-pen letter in Henri-Georges Clouzot's 1943 Le corbeau). Meanwhile a romance buds between her daughter and stepson. This kept me absorbed, but I was less than fully satisfied at the end. In French with subtitles. 104 min. (JR) (Music Box, 7:00)

My Architect: A Son's Journey

* This absorbing, beautiful documentary is the first-person odyssey of Nathaniel Kahn, son of legendary architect Louis Kahn by one of his longtime mistresses. Despite his accomplishments, Kahn Sr. died a penniless loner in Penn Station in 1974, leaving behind three families, none of whom had been aware of the others' existence. Seeking to unravel his father's mysterious personal life, Nathaniel combines rare personal footage and compelling interviews with the elder Kahn's colleagues, friends, and families. While avoiding easy answers, Nathaniel achieves a spiritual communion with his father by studying his architectural legacy (which includes the Salk Institute and the National Assembly of Bangladesh). The great buildings are shown in meditative tracking shots that affirm the life-altering power of art. 116 min. (DS) (Landmark, 7:00)

Kops

Josef Fares directed this Swedish comedy about a small-town police department struggling to cope with a lack of local crime. The six cops spend their days playing cards with senior citizens, hanging out at a snack joint eating "hot dog waffles," and fantasizing about Hollywood-style crime-fighting mayhem. When word arrives that the government plans to disband the force, two cops plot to save their jobs by boosting the town's crime figures. The film has a lively visual style and some tartly funny moments, but too often succumbs to cloying folksiness and an overeagerness to please. 87 min. In Swedish with subtitles. (RP) (Music Box, 7:15)

Loving Glances

One of the most important Yugoslav directors of the 70s and 80s, Srdjan Karanovic (Petra's Wreath, The Fragrance of Wild Flowers) was also a vociferous opponent of the Milosevic regime. Loving Glances, his first feature in 12 years, is a gentle, pensive satire on destructive nationalism. Labud, a Serb, is a refugee in Belgrade in 1996. While searching for his lost girlfriend, he finds a new one--a Muslim--via a computer dating service. The romance is monitored by the disapproving ghosts of his ancestors, who want him involved with someone ethnically "pure." A fairy-tale ending sees multiculturalism triumph and love conquer all. In Serbo-Croatian with subtitles. 97 min. (GP) (Landmark, 7:15)

Three

A 2002 trio of stylishly gruesome tales from the East, the best of which is Peter Ho-sun Chan's muted and hauntingly photographed "Going Home." A cop (Eric Tsang) moves into a seedy Hong Kong apartment tower with his son and befriends the couple next door, who harbor a sad and unsavory secret. As in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, vast empty spaces connect past and present, though Chan also draws on the Chinese ghost story's common themes of fate ironically twisted and redemption that leads to love eternal. "The Wheel" by Nonzee Nimibutr of Thailand plays like an exotic variant of a Hollywood slasher, with shadow plays and evocative gamelan music decorating a tale of cursed puppets bringing death to a greedy and jealous clan of puppeteers. "Memories" by Kim Jee-woon of South Korea cuts back and forth between a husband trying to recall what he's done and a wife trying to figure out where she is. Kim borrows liberally from Hideo Nakata's The Ring and Christopher Nolan's Memento, but his Grand Guignol creepiness is deflated by a cop-out ending. In Korean, Thai, Cantonese, and Mandarin with subtitles. 128 min. (TS) (Music Box, 9:15)

Mambo Italiano

Frequent zoom shots of ranting family members set the tone for this gay sitcom about a closeted young nebbish (Luke Kirby) tiptoeing around his loudly cliched parents (Paul Sorvino and Ginette Reno) in Montreal's Little Italy. They want him to find a nice Italian girl, so naturally there's a lot of shouting at God when they discover their son is sleeping with the local patrolman (Peter Miller). The "Big Fat Wedding" formula dictates a certain amount of ugly-duckling fantasy along with the ethnic scenery chewing, so despite his modest looks Kirby attracts nothing but dreamboats. Steve Gallucio adapted his own play, aided by director Emile Gaudreault. 88 min. (JJ) (Landmark, 9:15)

The Man of the Year

Jose Henrique Fonseca's 2002 feature debut is a blackly comic riff on the notion that blonds have more fun. Maiguel, an unemployed Brazilian, is obliged to bleach his hair after losing a sports bet. When a local punk makes fun of his new look, Maiguel kills him. Instead of being prosecuted as a murderer, he's hailed as a vigilante hero and winds up a celebrity hit man. Arguably, Fonseca is saying something about violence in Brazilian society; unfortunately he lets the film devolve into a threadbare imitation of Tarantino. In Portuguese with subtitles. 113 min. (MP) (Music Box, 9:30)

Empathy

Director Amie Siegel blends fiction with various documentary forms in this uneven but intriguing deconstruction of psychoanalysis. The nonfictional elements of the film work best, especially the interviews with four male analysts, who give away more than they intend under Siegel's pointed questioning, often with funny results. There are also two delightfully quirky digressions into the relationship of psychoanalysis to architecture and the Eames chair. The dramatized segments, while conceptually interesting, are awkwardly executed and shed less light on the film's central questions about the role of narratives in shaping human personalities and relationships. The movie is nicely shot by Siegel's coproducer, Mark Rance. 96 min. (RP) (Landmark, 9:30)

Go Further

* While it didn't convince me to give up corn dogs, Ron Mann's 100-minute celebration of actor Woody Harrelson's Simple Organic Living tour (a bus-and-bicycle caravan spreading the gospel of holistic living along the Pacific coast) is a highly entertaining form of ecological agitprop--radical but accessible. Mann's shrewdest ploy is to shift his focus from Harrelson to Steve Clark, his junk-food-addicted production assistant, whose comic encounters with strangers along the way look staged but purportedly weren't. Great music and animation plus a pivotal cameo by Ken Kesey helped make this a popular favorite at the Toronto film festival. (JR) (Landmark, 9:30)

Yes Nurse! No Nurse!

Imagine a Mentos commercial crossed with a sitcom dumber than Married... With Children and blown up into a 104-minute musical and you're still a long way from grasping the wretchedness of this 2002 Dutch mess about a feisty nurse who runs a rest home full of lovable madcaps, to the annoyance of her evil landlord. The songs are shrill and cloying (if mercifully forgettable), the choreography is embarrassing, and the comedy sets a new global standard for puerility--and not in a fun way. This is reportedly based on a "beloved" TV series, which makes me wonder if the national sense of humor has been distorted by the psychic pressures of living below sea level. Pieter Kramer directed. In Dutch with subtitles. (CD) (Landmark, 9:45)

saturday

October 4

Callas Forever

* See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 12:15)

Jon E. Edwards Is in Love

A legend in his own mind, singer, bandleader, and self-proclaimed "number three soul man" Jon E. Edwards has been crisscrossing the country for years, playing small venues and waiting for his big break. Filmmakers Chris Bradley and Kyle LaBrache spent over two years with Edwards and followed him through some major personal changes, including moves from New York to Los Angeles to look after his dying mother and then back to New York just in time for September 11. Although he talks longingly about the Armani-swaddled high life that eludes him, Edwards is more than just a pathetic hanger-on and enjoys a cult following among Manhattan hipsters. 85 min. (JK) (Landmark, 12:30)

Cinerama Adventure

David Strohmaier's engrossing documentary covers the history and impact of Cinerama, the granddaddy of the wide-screen format. Not to be confused with the single-lens, 70-millimeter version marketed later under the same name (and used in films like Stanley Kubrick's 2001), the original Cinerama, the brainchild of film director and technician Fred Waller, used three cameras and required specially equipped theaters with three synchronized projectors, an enormous curved screen, and a soundboard operator for every show. The process came to the attention of legendary Hollywood showmen Merian C. Cooper, Lowell Thomas, and Michael Todd in the early 50s, and they turned it into an enormously successful venture. Strohmaier's approach to the material rarely rises above the staid PBS documentary style, but it hardly matters--the larger-than-life stories and people make this a treat for all movie buffs. The interviewees include Leonard Maltin, Debbie Reynolds, Joe Dante, Eli Wallach, and Kevin Brownlow. 93 min. (RP) (Landmark, 1:45)

Move!

Niki List's 2003 documentary follows a trio of young female video makers trying to establish a production company in the Viennese studio space they share with a quartet of aspiring male hip-hop artists. List manages to impart a sense of both groups' drive and ambition, but she lingers too long on garden-variety acts of youthful rebellion like pot smoking and beer-fueled all-night bull sessions--though it's nice to see the extent to which these young Europeans bring their political awareness to bear on their creative pursuits. To my ears most hip-hop sounds alike, and it turns out that's still true even when the rap is in German. In English and subtitled German and French. 90 min. (JK) (Music Box, 2:15)

Yes Nurse! No Nurse!

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 2:15)

Loving Glances

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Music Box, 2:30)

The Maldonado Miracle

Salma Hayek's directorial debut, a DV cable feature, is a devoutly Catholic work. Searching for his father, an 11-year-old undocumented worker takes sanctuary in the church of a faltering border town; soon afterward a crucifix begins crying tears of blood, triggering a media frenzy. A troubled priest (Peter Fonda, salvaging a potentially thankless part) must investigate the "miracle," a task complicated by his own religious doubts and conflicts. The film is visually flat and blandly written, but Hayek manages to avoid sanctimony and demonstrates a real affinity with the actors. The cast--which includes Mare Winningham, Ruben Blades, and Eddy Martin as the boy--is uniformly impressive. In English and subtitled Spanish. 99 minutes. (PZM) (Landmark, 2:30)

Perfect Strangers

In Gaylene Preston's romantic thriller from New Zealand, the heroine (Lantana's Rachael Blake) goes off with a total stranger (the ubiquitous Sam Neill) to his houseboat, not knowing for sure whether she's being courted or kidnapped. 98 min. (Landmark, 2:45)

Incantato

A thoughtful schoolteacher (Neri Marcore), son of a papal tailor in Rome, arrives in Bologna to find himself a bride who'll produce an heir to the family business, but the woman he chooses--a beautiful but impetuous blind woman (Vanessa Incontrada)--neither pleases his parents nor returns his passion. The story couldn't be simpler or its denouement more predictable (especially if you've seen Chaplin's City Lights), but veteran writer-director Pupi Avati has a such a fine sense of narrative proportion that this Italian feature unspools like silk. In Italian with subtitles. 107 min. (JJ) (Landmark, 4:00)

My Architect: A Son's Journey

* See listing under Friday, October 3. (Music Box, 4:30)

Forest

Definitely not a film for those who like their is dotted and ts crossed. This first feature by Hungarian writer-director Benedek Fliegauf presents a series of seven enigmatic vignettes--disconnected, out-of-context conversational snatches, some nearly indecipherable, but all decidedly creepy and unsettling. One scene concerns a man trying to persuade an extremely annoyed woman to care for his dog so that he can go off and immolate himself. In another episode a husband goes into disquieting detail about his ten-year-old daughter's burgeoning sexuality, to his wife's despair and his eavesdropping daughter's fascination. A woman recounts a nightmare to her lover, segueing into a vehement defense of her beloved dead grandmother, whose sadistic punishments seem to have fueled the dream. Shot on DV, in claustrophobic handheld close-ups of brilliant nonprofessional actors, the film dips alternately into absurdity, humor, and dread. In Hungarian with subtitles. 90 min. (RS) (Landmark, 4:30)

The Stroll

Veteran documentarian Alexey Uchitel directed this frenetically paced feature about a day in the life of three Saint Petersburg youths with true guerrilla aplomb, shooting it all in the streets with a handheld camera. Out walking, the beautiful Olya (Irina Pegova) is brazenly approached by Alyosha (Pavel Barshak), who tries to convince her of love at first sight. Initially leery, Olya warms to him, and soon they are planning a midnight sojourn to Moscow. The tone of the story darkens after Alyosha summons his best friend, Petya (Yevgeny Tsyganov), to whom Olya is also attracted. Though the last ten minutes are a bit of a letdown, the first 80 are a knockout. In Russian with subtitles. 90 min. (JK) (Music Box, 4:45)

The Man of the Year

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 4:45)

Charlie Chaplin--The Forgotten Years

Felice Zenoni directed this disappointingly cursory and conventional account of Chaplin's later years in Switzerland, from his arrival with his family in 1952 until his death in 1977. The home movies and interviews with Chaplin's children are certainly worth seeing, but Zenoni's largely celebratory, and at times mawkish, approach skims over the interesting material, offering little insight into this portion of Chaplin's life. In English, French, and German with subtitles. 54 min. (RP) First-rate film historian and Chaplin biographer David Robinson will host the screening, which includes three rarely screened Chaplin shorts. (Landmark, 5:00)

The Twilight Samurai

Veteran Japanese director Yoji Yamada (of the popular Tora-san series) has concocted an atypical samurai film, whose unassuming hero, Seibei, a low-ranking, poorly paid samurai who works as a clerk, prefers hearth and home to wine, women, and fighting. This serene portrait of a loving family man, as risible to his peers as he might be attractive to a modern audience, is set in the mid-19th century, at the tail end of the feudal Edo period. Seibei, incarnated by the charismatic Hiroyuki Sanada, reveals some well-hidden fighting skills when he comes to the defense of a childhood sweetheart, but his subsequent sword fights, liberally sprinkled with antiviolence philosophizing, take a backseat to romance in this gentle, muted film of limited aesthetic ambition. In Japanese with subtitles. 129 min. (RS) (Landmark, 6:30)

Monsieur Ibrahim

Francois Dupeyron (The Machine) directed this sentimental story about a friendship between a wise old Turkish shopkeeper (Omar Sharif) and a neglected Jewish boy. Their raffish Parisian neighborhood, home to both prostitutes and petite bourgeoisie, gets a bit of added excitement when Godard and Bardot (incarnated by the scarily ageless Isabelle Adjani) show up to shoot a scene for Contempt. The plot takes a turn for the picaresque when the two comrades buy a flashy red convertible and take a road trip to the old man's birthplace--an exotic, brilliantly colored realm, seemingly centuries older than 1960s Paris. The boy's mundane adult life, glimpsed briefly at the film's end, contrasts poignantly with the adventures of his youth. In French with subtitles. 94 min. (MB) (Landmark, 6:45)

That Day

Most of Raul Ruiz's films have some element of deadpan surreal farce; this one's a farce through and through. When an ethereal Swiss lunatic (Elsa Zylberstein) comes in line to inherit the equivalent of several countries, her venal father (Michel Piccoli) schemes to have her bumped off by another nutcase. As corpses pile up, a couple of local cops indulge in some hilarious rationalizations for doing nothing. The sweetness of Zylberstein's performance and the ambience in general are oddly old-fashioned--reminiscent of Harvey and Arsenic and Old Lace--while the gracefully meandering camera echoes the domestic thrillers of Claude Chabrol. Alas, this is second-best Ruiz and wears out its welcome before the end. Still, it has its share of wit and invention. In French with subtitles. 105 min. (JR) (Music Box, 7:00)

Off the Map

* Based on a play by Joan Ackerman, this dreamy memory piece from director Campbell Scott reflects the influence of his mentor and frequent collaborator Alan Rudolph. Valentina de Angelis stars as the precocious 11-year-old daughter of bohemian parents (Sam Elliott and Joan Allen) trying to live off the land in rural New Mexico in the early 70s. While coping with her father's depression, the spirited girl expresses her need for wider horizons by dreaming up elaborate consumer-complaint scams to get free merchandise. The plot is minimal, but the film is essentially an acting showcase. Allen is excellent as the girl's overburdened mother, and her Steppenwolf associate Jim True-Frost does a subtle, mesmerizing turn as a government agent whose investigation of the family's tax returns leads to unexpected entanglements. 111 min. (PZM) (Landmark, 7:00)

Jesus, You Know

Six Catholics, each sitting alone in an empty church, pray out loud to the camera in this engrossing documentary by Austrian maverick Ulrich Seidl (Models, Dog Days, Animal Love). The director, himself the product of a devout Catholic family, delivers a preface identifying Jesus as "the master of this film," which was something of a relief to me, given what an imposing, even oppressive presence Seidl has sometimes been in earlier films. The first supplicant, an articulate older woman named Elfriede Ahmad, manages to bring the Lord some gratitude along with her problems, but most of the others are unable to look past their pain, loneliness, confusion, and despair. This paints a fairly distressing picture of Catholics' relationship with God; apparently His patience, like His peace, passeth understanding. In German with subtitles. 87 min. (JJ) (Music Box, 7:15)

Today and Tomorrow

This first feature by Argentinean Alejandro Chomski charts 24 hours in the increasingly desperate life of a young stage actress (Antonella Costa) in Buenos Aires. Faced with eviction after losing her job as a waitress, she reluctantly decides to turn some tricks, only to be dragged deeper into trouble. With a camera that dogs her steps and jump cuts that hurtle us from one moment to the next, Chomski displays a more expressive style than Costa, but the collaboration between the two is purposeful and effective. In Spanish with subtitles. 87 min. (JR) (Landmark, 7:30)

Small Cuts

Daniel Auteuil stars as Paul, a dyspeptic journalist and halfhearted communist with an unraveling marriage. When his disgruntled wife takes a trip to Lyon to see her mother, Paul and his mistress drive to see his uncle, the communist mayor of a town near Grenoble, who is suicidal over his wife's infidelity and the prospect of losing an upcoming election. A gifted scenarist and frequent collaborator with Jacques Rivette (Va savoir, Secret Defense), director Pascal Bonitzer imbues his script (cowritten with Emmanuel Salinger) with a pungent misanthropy, tormenting his protagonist with one last, slim chance at happiness in the form of Kristin Scott Thomas, the neurotic and vulnerable wife of one of his uncle's political rivals. But this relationship, like all the others in this curdled story, is ultimately doomed. In French with subtitles. 91 min. (JK) Also screening, Dominique Monfery's animated short Destino, based on the storyboards for a never-completed Salvador Dali-Disney project. (Landmark, 9:00)

Three

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Music Box, 9:15)

Oasis

* See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 9:15)

Alexandra's Project

Common threads of rage and revenge run through Australian director Rolf de Heer's previous feature--The Tracker, an avant-garde aboriginal western--and this thriller in which a

man comes home to an empty house and watches a video prepared for him by his wife. While extremely unpleasant, Alexandra's Project is compulsively watchable, and actors Gary Sweet and Helen Buday both turn in tour de force performances. What begins as a story about a smug and insensitive husband getting his just deserts crosses a line that will have some blanching at the wife's behavior as well. Like the work of Neil LaBute and David Mamet's Oleanna, de Heer's film puts us all on the spot. 103 min. (JR) Also screening, Anders Morgenthaler's short Araki, the Killing of a Japanese Photographer. (Music Box, 9:30)

Distant

The routines of an emotionally detached photographer in Istanbul are disturbed by an unexpected visit from an unemployed cousin in this drama directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Clouds of May). This won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes this year, as well as the award for best actor, shared by the two leads. In Turkish with subtitles. 110 min. (Landmark, 9:30)

Go Further

* See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 9:45)

Sunday

October 5

The Twilight Samurai

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, noon)

The Stroll

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

Callas Forever

* See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 1:00)

Cinerama Adventure

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 1:15)

That Day

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Music Box, 2:15)

Shorts: Homegrown

This 107-minute program of nine short films by Chicago and Illinois filmmakers includes Duane Edward's Hit & Run, Julie Lofton's The Parody of the Giving Tree, and Joe Denk's I Was a Mathlete Until I Met Margo Marris. (Landmark, 2:30)

Forest

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 2:30)

Benilde, or the Virgin Mother

Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira's first experiment with an explicitly theatrical aesthetic was this 1975 feature about a virtuous middle-class girl who mysteriously becomes pregnant. She swears to her family that she is a virgin, explaining her state as a result of "divine intervention," and the film never undercuts her, although Oliveira suggests that the false miracle is somehow a product of the film's historical background, the early years of the fascist Salazar regime. In Portuguese with subtitles. 112 min. (DK) This film is Jonathan Rosenbaum's festival critic's choice. (Landmark, 3:30)

Off the Map

* See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 3:45)

Monsieur Ibrahim

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

Small Cuts

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

Jesus, You Know

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Music Box, 5:00)

Jon E. Edwards Is in Love

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 5:00)

Mambo Italiano

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 6:15)

The Flower of Evil

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 6:30)

In America

After the death of their son, a young Irish couple emigrate to New York with their two daughters, moving into a dodgy tenement in a rough neighborhood. The father (Paddy Considine) looks for work as an actor; the mother (Samantha Morton, in a quicksilver performance) tries desperately to hold the family together; the children (played by sisters Sarah and Emma Bolger) explore their new world of junkies, transvestites, and infinite possibilities. Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father) cowrote the semiautobiographical movie with his two daughters and dedicated it to his brother, who died at the age of ten. The result is a blend of kitchen-sink and magical realism: sentimental, but well acted and freshly observed. 103 min. (MB) (Music Box, 6:45)

Incantato

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 6:45)

Move!

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 7:00)

Today and Tomorrow

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 7:00)

Grimm

Abandoned in a Dutch forest by their parents, Marie and Jacob make their way to Spain, where Marie marries Diego, a rich surgeon. Seething with jealousy, Jacob torments the household by seducing a servant. Directed by Alex van Warmerdam (The Dress) with his usual flair and attention to decor, this postmodern fairy tale is made that much stranger by the fact that the Hansel-and-Gretel pair are well into their 20s. Although it slowly loses momentum after the siblings leave the Netherlands, the film is consistently watchable and unpredictable. In Dutch and Spanish with subtitles. 112 min. (MP) Also screening, Pavle Vuckovic's short Run Rabbit Run. (Landmark, 8:45)

Kops

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Music Box, 9:00)

Yes Nurse! No Nurse!

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 9:00)

Sex Is Comedy

An amalgam of the highbrow and the hard-core, Catherine Breillat's films embody her obsession with sex and the right way to shoot it. In the self-reflexive Sex Is Comedy she casts Anne Parillaud (La femme Nikita) as a director of erotically explicit art films preparing her actors and herself for the filming of an intense sex scene. In French with subtitles. 92 min. (Q) (Landmark, 9:00)

Japanese Story

Impatient viewers may find the first half of Sue Brooks's second feature disconcertingly banal. The instant hostility between a no-nonsense geologist (Toni Collette) and a Japanese businessman (Gotaro Tsunashima) she escorts through the Australian outback threatens to deteriorate into either a set of culture-clash cliches or an anemic screwball comedy. But just when the urge to flee the theater gets strong, the film turns into something richer and stranger. Brooks's audacious attempt to frustrate viewer expectations is more a cannily executed stunt than a tour de force, but Collette's pitch-perfect performance and the stunning evocation of the forbidding and beautiful outback make this film unexpectedly rewarding. In English and subtitled Japanese. 107 min. (RMP) (Music Box, 9:15)

Three

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 9:15)

Monday

October 6

Jon E. Edwards Is in Love

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 4:15)

Grimm

See listing under Sunday, October 5. (Landmark, 4:30)

Incantato

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 6:15)

La petite Lili

Claude Miller's wan, bittersweet look at an extended family of bickering actors and directors is not without its charms. Miller and coscreenwriter Julien Boivent have a gift for aphoristic, if glib, dialogue, and Nicole Garcia and Ludivine Sagnier do their best to flesh out hopelessly one-dimensional characters. But it remains a decidedly halfhearted attempt to rework the romantic entanglements of The Seagull, with Chekhov's surly young playwright mechanically transformed into a cocky filmmaker (Robinson Stevenin) and his nubile girlfriend predictably dumping him for his mother's lover. 100 min. (RMP) (Music Box, 6:30)

The Twilight Samurai

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 6:30)

A Talking Picture

Before turning 70 in 1978, Manoel de Oliveira had made just five features; since then he's directed another 19, some of them masterpieces and some just mannerist curiosities. A comic parable deceptively couched in the form of a 19th-century travel narrative, this film is a little of both. A young Portuguese history professor and her daughter sail from Lisbon to Bombay, tracing the roots of civilization during stopovers in France, Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Three famous women (Catherine Deneuve, Stefania Sandrelli, Irene Papas) join the voyage and dine every night with the American captain (John Malkovich). Initially this seems naive and archaic, but it conceals a Bunuelian stinger in its tail. In Portuguese, French, and Greek with subtitles. 96 min. (JR) (Landmark, 6:45)

Noi Albinoi

Writer-director Dagur Kari's 2003 feature debut is a tale of alienated youth set among the fjords of Iceland. Noi (Tomas Lemarquis) is a disaffected albino teen who lives with his grandmother in a snowbound, claustrophobic village far removed from hip Reykjavik. He struggles to get along with his alcoholic father, fights with the narrow-minded authorities at his high school, and pines for the pretty girl who works at the one-pump gas station. Kari combines Kaurismaki's deadpan minimalism and Truffaut's sensitivity toward adolescent yearning with a hefty dose of gallows humor, and tops it all off with an apocalyptic ending. In Icelandic with subtitles. 90 min. (GP) (Landmark, 7:00)

Forest

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Music Box, 7:15)

The Man of the Year

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 8:30)

The Singing Detective

* Less a remake than a reinvention of the landmark 1986 BBC miniseries, Keith Gordon's vibrant, hyperstylized feature is based on a script completed by Dennis Potter shortly before his death in 1994. Potter conceived the film version of his story about a pulp novelist hospitalized by a skin disease as a corrective to the 1981 MGM production of his Pennies From Heaven, which he felt was misguidedly polished--"It was supposed to be a homemade musical," he complained. Accordingly, the musical fantasy scenes in the new Singing Detective are raw and purposely amateurish. Although Gordon sometimes fumbles the tonal shifts of the material, the acting is rock solid. Robert Downey Jr. turns in a bravura performance as the afflicted writer and Robin Wright Penn is his match as the femme fatale, but the revelation is a virtually unrecognizable Mel Gibson as a loopy, sympathetic psychiatrist. 109 min. (DS) (Music Box, 8:45)

Loving Glances

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 8:45)

The Stroll

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 9:00)

Go Further

* See listing under Friday, October 3. (Music Box, 9:15)

Perfect Strangers

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 9:15)

Tuesday

October 7

Shorts: Homegrown

See listing under Sunday, October 5. (Landmark, 4:15)

La petite Lili

See listing under Monday, October 6. (Landmark, 4:30)

A Thousand Months

Faouzi Bensaidi's leisurely evocation of life in a small Moroccan village in the early 80s is deceptively simple, most of its drama revolving around a wooden chair. Yet beneath the seemingly innocuous folkloric color and the gently satiric depiction of local officials lurks a quiet desperation, rooted in religious and sociopolitical repression. Though at first the family at the film's center seems an integral part of the dusty landscape and the rural routines, the woman and her son are actually from the city, forced to take refuge with her father-in-law after her husband is unjustly arrested. The young boy, told his father is in Paris, handily adapts to his new environment, but his mother and grandfather slowly crack under the pressure of exile and economic hardship. When events turn sinister, albeit still quasi-farcical, flight, not tragedy, brings down the curtain. In Arabic with subtitles. 124 min. (RS) (Landmark, 6:30)

Kops

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 6:45)

Empathy

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Landmark, 6:45)

The Station Agent

Fin, the protagonist of writer-director Tom McCarthy's feature debut, is a timid dwarf obsessed with trains (Peter Dinklage in an impressive, controlled performance) who moves from Hoboken to a remote part of New Jersey, where he has inherited an abandoned rail depot. Despite his shyness, Fin is drawn into friendships with two other outsiders, a talkative hot dog vendor (Bobby Cannavale) and a painter (Patricia Clarkson) estranged from her husband since the death of their child. McCarthy occasionally compromises his spare style with corny, would-be showstopping moments, and the score by Stephen Trask is intrusively quirky. Still, the rural setting and the loners-banding-together theme are affecting and the supporting players--especially Michelle Williams and Raven Goodwin as two more outcasts--are all superb. 90 min. (JH) (Music Box, 7:00)

That Day

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 7:00)

Jesus, You Know

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Music Box, 7:15)

Bright Future

Alienated youth is one of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's favorite themes. Bright Future is an alternately comic and macabre portrait of a deranged friendship between Mamoru (who's maniacally devoted to his pet, a luminous jellyfish) and Yuji, his veritable disciple. Action and horror enthusiasts have embraced some of Kurosawa's films--notably Cure (1997) and Pulse (2001)--but this antiformulaic movie is unlikely to exert the same appeal. Still, adventurous viewers may appreciate Kurosawa's ability to invest his psychotic antiheroes with a strange poignancy. The film closes with a parade of teenagers in Che Guevara T-shirts (Guevara has become a cult figure in Japan), signifying perhaps that their apolitical rage has the potential to spawn revolutionary fervor. In Japanese with subtitles. 92 min. (RMP) (Landmark, 8:45)

Move!

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Music Box, 9:00)

The Singing Detective

* See listing under Monday, October 6. (Landmark, 9:00)

The Triplets of Belleville

* Just when Jeffrey Katzenberg has loudly declared the death of 2-D animation, along comes this sly, inventively drawn, brilliantly executed cartoon that blows the cumbrous studio leviathans out of the water. While 3-D epics scramble to attach themselves, pixel by pixel, to clunky "realism," Sylvain Chomet's dashingly grotesque, hilariously imaginative flights of fancy soar unencumbered by overshading and redundant celebrity voice work, the cacophonous sound track as free of recognizable dialogue as a Road Runner chase. The richness of character owes everything to the drawing. Chomet's mordant mix of the obese and the skeletal is unlikely to launch a new line of action figures, but his gallery of unclassifiable eccentrics is unforgettable: Champion, the semiautistic bicyclist whose calves are larger than his head, his indefatigable little Portuguese grandmother, and their aging, overweight dog, whose dreams and nightmares propel the action. There are also zoot-suited villains, black-garbed malevolent twin packs, and the triplets of the title--a desiccated trio of elderly vaudeville tunesters whose clever use of household appliances as musical instruments is matched by their culinary resourcefulness in their all-frog diet. 82 min. (RS) Also screening, Aristomenis Tsirbas's short Terra. (Landmark, 9:00)

Small Cuts

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Music Box, 9:15)

Alexandra's Project

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 9:15)

Wednesday

October 8

A Thousand Months

See listing under Tuesday, October 7. (Landmark, 4:30)

Cinerama Adventure

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 4:45)

I Was Born, But . . .

* One of Yasujiro Ozu's most sublime films, this late Japanese silent (1932) describes the tragicomic disillusionment of two middle-class boys who see their father demean himself by groveling in front of his employer; it starts off as a hilarious comedy and gradually becomes darker. Ozu's understanding of his characters and their social milieu is so profound and his visual style--which was much less austere and more obviously expressive during his silent period--so compelling that the film carries one along more dynamically than many of the director's sound classics (including his semiremake 27 years later, the more purely comic Ohayo, which has plenty of beauties of its own). Though regarded in Japan mainly as a conservative director, Ozu was a trenchant social critic throughout his career, and the devastating understanding of social context that he shows here is full of radical implications. With Hideo Sugawara, Tatsu Saito, and Chishu Ryu. 91 min. (JR) This screening, which is Roger Ebert's festival critic's choice, will include a live performance by Midori Sawato, a benshi, or Japanese narrator of silent films. (Music Box, 6:30)

S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine

Rithy Panh's moving documentary revisits the horrors of the Khmer Rouge's Stalinist campaign against city dwellers and "politically incorrect" intellectuals in the 70s, focusing on the brutal torture inflicted on political prisoners at a notorious detention center, Security Office 21. The survivors' testimony and the confessions of their captors (who, in time-honored fashion, insist that they were only following orders) are presented without a smidgen of sensationalism. The efforts of victims and victimizers to come to terms with historical trauma are admirable, but the film is too tough-minded to espouse a facile discourse of "healing" in the face of genocide driven by ideology run amok. In Khmer and Vietnamese with subtitles. 101 min. (RMP) (Landmark, 6:30)

Grimm

See listing under Sunday, October 5. (Landmark, 6:45)

This Very Moment

A chilling update of "Hansel and Gretel," German director Christoph Hochhausler's debut feature fascinates even as it repels, unfolding with the pitiless logic of the fairy tale. An exasperated woman orders her young stepchildren out of the car and drives off. By the time she returns they've vanished. Obsessively fearful of losing her husband's love, she shuts herself off in the austere emptiness of her house, denying all knowledge of the kids' whereabouts. Girl and boy wander through the woods, hooking up with a Polish handyman who leads them on a gypsy odyssey of religious pilgrimages and impromptu blackmail schemes. The characters are mostly unsympathetic, with the exception of the little boy, whose spontaneous niceness is routinely quelled by his bitchy sister. Hochhausler ruthlessly toys with his audience's fear of disaster, creating a sense of locale that functions like a hypnotic destiny while withholding the balm of empathy. In German and Polish with subtitles. 94 min. (RS) (Music Box, 7:30)

La petite Lili

See listing under Monday, October 6. (Landmark, 7:00)

Father and Son

Alexander Sokurov's new feature, conceived as a companion piece to his 1997 Mother and Son, concerns a father and son living alone. Accounts of this feature from Cannes describe it as slow and minimalist--making it more characteristic of Sokurov's work than his Russian Ark--as well as homoerotic. In Russian with subtitles. 83 min. (JR) Also screening, Paul Bush's short Secret Love. (Landmark, 7:00)

Never Get Outta the Boat

Fans of Apocalypse Now will remember "never get outta the boat" as Frederic Forrest's jittery mantra after he's charged by a tiger in the Vietnamese jungle, and it proves an apt title for this gritty, sincere drama set in a halfway house for recovering addicts. Director Paul Quinn and screenwriter Nick Gillie break new ground in their close observation of household dynamics: all the residents grapple with the resurgence of their sex drives, the veterans' hostility toward newcomers masks their fear of being dragged under, and the tension explodes into hilarity as often as rage. Eventually the film succumbs to genre conventions (a lovable character overdoses, the conclusion is a banal 12-step sermon), but it's buoyed by a strong ensemble including Gillie, Darren E. Burrows, Sebastian Roche, Lombardo Boyar, and Thomas Jefferson Byrd. 111 min. (JJ) (Landmark, 8:45)

Empathy

See listing under Friday, October 3. (Music Box, 9:00)

Perfect Strangers

See listing under Saturday, October 4. (Landmark, 9:00)

Noi Albinoi

See listing under Monday, October 6. (Landmark, 9:00)

Fuse

This heartfelt but muddled farce from Bosnian filmmaker Pjer Zalica falls well short of its models, Emir Kusturica's Underground and Milos Forman's The Fireman's Ball. When the corrupt mayor of a Bosnian village learns that President Clinton is scheduled to visit, he and the townspeople scramble to erect a facade of communal respectability, even disguising the prostitutes as folksingers. Despite the proliferation of half-baked subplots and a grossly underdeveloped love story, the film retains a rollicking energy and a corrosive edge. In Serbo-Croatian with subtitles. 105 min. (AK) (Landmark, 9:15)

Crimson Gold

* Having taken his formalist bent to extremes in The Circle (2000), Jafar Panahi switches to lumpy neorealism with minimal loss of force. The script by Abbas Kiarostami (who also wrote Panahi's 2000 The White Balloon) was inspired by a news story about a pizza deliveryman in Tehran who shot a jeweler and then himself in the course of a robbery attempt. Panahi cast a real pizza deliveryman, Hossain Emadeddin, as the robber, only to discover that his overweight, middle-aged lead was a paranoid schizophrenic, which may account for his deadpan, oddly commanding presence. The film's candid treatment of the class resentments brewing in contemporary Tehran have made the film unshowable in Iran, where the government has branded Panahi an American agent--a painful irony given that he can't even enter this country. In Farsi with subtitles. 97 min. (JR) (Music Box, 9:30)

Thursday

October 9

Never Get Outta the Boat

See listing under Wednesday, October 8. (Landmark, 4:15)

This Very Moment

See listing under Wednesday, October 8. (Landmark, 4:30)

Fuse

See listing under Wednesday, October 8. (Landmark, 4:45)

Life Is Life

Moshe Ivgy plays a Tel Aviv literature professor stuck in a loveless marriage and struggling with midlife, an overactive libido, and a bad case of writer's block. Things only get worse when the affair he's having with a beautiful, soulful former student (Yael Abecassis) begins to founder. At first glance, this wistful romantic comedy seems to have taken as its muse Woody Allen in his Annie Hall mode. Fortunately, writer-director Michal Bat-Adam is interested in more than celebrating male arrested development, and the film's glibness gives way to a richer and more emotionally honest take on relationships. In Hebrew with subtitles. 87 min. (RP) (Landmark, 6:30)

Josee, the Tiger and the Fish

A group of men in an Osaka mah-jongg parlor speculate that a mysterious old woman who pushes a baby carriage through the streets just before daybreak is a drug courier or worse. Tsuneo, a university student, finds himself face-to-face with her one morning and discovers that she is actually transporting her handicapped granddaughter, Josee, a charming and bookish young woman who took her name from a character in a Francoise Sagan novel. Director Isshin Inudo limns this unlikely love story with folktale elements, and the combination works quite well. The cast is uniformly excellent, especially Satoshi Tsumabuki as Tsuneo and Ikewaki Chizuru as Josee. In Japanese with subtitles. 116 min. (JK) (Music Box, 6:45)

Japanese Story

See listing under Sunday, October 5. (Landmark, 6:45)

Father and Son

See listing under Wednesday, October 8. (Music Box, 7:00)

Olga's Chignon

Jerome Bonnell's 2002 drama, about a French family coming to terms with the death of a loved one, has inspired comparisons to the films of Eric Rohmer. In French with subtitles. 96 min. (Landmark, 7:00)

The Station Agent

See listing under Tuesday, October 7. (Landmark, 7:00)

The Agronomist

Jonathan Demme's liberal politics, glimpsed in his features, find fullest expression in his documentaries, four of which concern the struggle for democracy in Haiti. Years ago, Demme fell in love with the elegant face, bearing, and voice of Jean Dominique, charismatic owner of Haiti's sole independent radio station, and started filming him to demonstrate Dominique's star potential to Hollywood producers. As a political dissident, Dominique incurred the wrath of dictator "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his successor, "Baby Doc" (named "president for life" at 19). Twice exiled, Dominique returned to resume his role as a political commentator until he was assassinated outside the station in 2000. Demme's moving documentary turns the story of his dead friend into the story of Haiti. In English and subtitled Creole. 90 min. (MB) (Landmark, 8:45)

Sexual Dependency

Although at times didactic, this punchy DV feature from Bolivian-American director Rodrigo Bellott provides a sobering look at youthful sexuality, shifting from the alcohol-fueled bed hopping of South American teens to a violent sexual assault on an American college campus. Much of the dialogue was improvised by the nonprofessional cast, a strategy that sustains the film's humanity as it turns into an upper-level seminar on male hazing rituals. Less successful is Bellott's perpetual use of split-screen gimmickry, a largely pointless distraction. Still, few movies on the subject of peer pressure offer so wide a cultural critique, even pointing a finger at underwear billboards, and Bellott's roving eye makes him a filmmaker to watch. In English and subtitled Spanish. 105 min. (JHR) (Music Box, 9:00)

Chokher Bali: A Passion Play

Bollywood gets all the attention, but there's more to Indian cinema than colorful dance numbers, as evidenced by Rituparno Gosh's long (167 minutes) but engrossing film based on a popular 1906 novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Rabindranath Tagore. Going the classic love triangle one better, the story concerns two close friends, hedonistic Mahendra and studious Behari, and their romantic entanglements with two beautiful women. After rejecting the beautiful Binodini as a bride, Mahendra marries Ashalata, once intended for Behari. Married and widowed within a year, Binodini joins Mahendra's household as a companion for the women, initiates an affair with him, is banished, and offers herself to Behari. An analogy could perhaps be drawn between Binodini's struggle for independence and India's, but most viewers will be too bewitched by the amazing face of the actress who plays her, Aishwarya Rai, to bother. In Bengali with subtitles. (MB) (Landmark, 9:00)

A Thousand Months

See listing under Tuesday, October 7. (Landmark, 9:00)

Jealousy Is My Middle Name

South Korean filmmaker Park Chanok's feature debut is an intelligent portrait of a young man whose personal life is out of control. Recently dumped by his girlfriend, Lee Won-sang (Hae-il Park) undertakes to write a magazine article on Marguerite Duras, then discovers that his ex was having an affair with the magazine's married publisher. On the rebound, he falls for a freelance photographer and gets her a job at the magazine--but then she too is seduced by the publisher. Though the film sometimes slips into soap opera territory, Chanok is an acute observer of the subtle shifts of power in romantic relationships. In Korean with subtitles. 124 min. (JK) (Music Box, 9:15)

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain directed this documentary about the attempted 2002 coup against the Chavez government of Venezuela. In English and subtitled Spanish. 74 min. (Landmark, 9:15)

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