Four Minutes

dir. Chris Kraus

SIFF Cinema, Sat June 9 at 9:30 pm

SIFF Cinema, Mon June 11 at 4:30 pm

Recently named best picture in Germany's version of the Academy Awards, the lesbian-pianists-in-prison picture Four Minutes seems unlikely to follow in the footsteps of last year's somber winner, The Lives of Others. But it is, in its own way, precious. Racist old piano tutor Frau Krüger, still smarting from the death of her beloved in a Nazi-era prison, develops a grudging hankering for wild young murderess Jenny, who tinkles ivories like no one else in the pen. Four Minutes isn't as campy as it sounds (der sigh), but the climactic scene—a piano competition at an opulent opera house—is just nuts. ANNIE WAGNER


dir. Mika Ninagawa

Neptune, Thurs June 7 at 6:30 pm

Neptune, Fri June 8 at 4:15 pm

This absolutely beautiful film by Mika Ninagawa, a photographer turned director, is based on a manga about an Edo-era girl who is sold by her parents to a whorehouse in Yoshiwara. The girl's feisty and flamboyant personality at first gets her in a lot of trouble with the establishment; but no whip or stick can break her will or her sense of independence, and eventually she becomes the queen of the whorehouse. Sakuran is no Memoirs of a Geisha. It has a sense of humor, outrageously colorful costumes, and is scored not by period music but jazz, electronica, and Japanese pop. The star of the movie, Anna Tsuchiya, is of mixed race. Half of her is Russian American; the other half is Japanese. The whole of her, like the whole of the whorehouse, and the whole of the movie, is stunning. When she walks in tower shoes in a procession near the end of the movie, you want to fall on your knees and worship her greatness forever. CHARLES MUDEDE

Soldiers of Conscience

dir. Gary Weimberg

SIFF Cinema, Thurs June 7 at 7 pm

Harvard Exit, Sat June 9 at 1:30 pm

A century ago, less than 25 percent of soldiers in combat actually fired their weapons at the enemy. By Vietnam, the firing rate was up to an efficient 85–90 percent. How's that? Maybe it has something to do with this basic-training call and response: "What's the spirit of the bayonet?" "Kill. Kill. Kill without mercy." "What makes the green grass grow?" "Blood. Blood. Blood makes the green grass grow." This chilling documentary explores how we condition our children to bypass their morals and reduce other humans to wet piles of stuff. It's important. LINDY WEST

Opera Jawa

dir. Garin Nugroho

SIFF Cinema, Tues June 12 at 6:30 pm

SIFF Cinema, Wed June 13 at 4 pm

In this gorgeous, frightening, freakishly weird musical adaptation of the Ramayana, Setyo and Siti are a blissful married couple driven apart by Ludiro, the aggressively seductive local butcher. It's a mesmerizing debacle. Movement and masks turn humans into twitching monkeys or swaying mantis beasts. Ludiro caresses a skinned ox carcass hanging in a room full of golden heads. Siti is abducted by an army of spinning, screeching wicker cones. And love, soured by jealousy, transforms from something sublime ("My love for you is like my love for the earth") to something dead ("Oh, heart! You are just a red shape"). LINDY WEST

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema

dir. Sophie Fiennes

Harvard Exit, Fri June 8 at 9:30 pm

Egyptian, Sat June 9 at 11 am

The Slovenian philosopher du jour Slavoj Zizek brings his peculiar brand of cerebral slapstick to the movies in this innovative documentary/travelogue/academic lecture. Put together with wit and whimsy by Sophie Fiennes (sister of actors Ralph and Joseph), the film literally places Zizek—whether by rebuilding crucial scenes or revisiting famous sites—in some 43 seminal films. There he discourses on the nature of desire, death, and our addiction to fantasy, be it in Blue Velvet, The Birds, or City Lights. In the end, the journey is breathtaking—both in terms of its scope and its breakneck intellectual speed. PETER BOWEN

The Paper Will Be Blue

dir. Radu Muntean

Pacific Place, Sun June 10 at 1:30 pm

Pacific Place, Mon June 11 at 7 pm

Set in Romania during the fall of communism, this hyperrealistic work is aesthetically reminiscent of Paul Greengrass's Bloody Sunday. Setting his film during a single exhausting night, director Muntean absolutely nails the visceral, and at times surprisingly humorous, chaos of a crumbling nation, along with the natural camaraderie found among those trapped in an armored transport for days on end. Few opening shots are as well constructed; when Muntean returns to the same scene at the end, the result is a brilliant, devastating, and must-see package. BRADLEY STEINBACHER


dir. Rob Stewart

SIFF Cinema, Fri June 8 at 7 pm

SIFF Cinema, Sun June 10 at 11 am

Did you know that 90 percent of the world's sharks have been killed in recent years, largely by being hauled onto a boat, having their fins sliced off while they shuddered, and then being thrown back into the water, where they immediately fell to the ocean floor and bled to death? You must watch Sharkwater. Must. Its central human subject, Canadian Rob Stewart, directs. In between his passionate voice-overs, Stewart is underwater hugging sharks, or being chased by a Central American shark-poaching-mafia gunboat, or narrowly avoiding arrest, or nearly losing his leg. What did I tell you? JEN GRAVES