The movie is short (67 minutes) and concerns the death of an indie movie house in Montevideo, Uruguay. The world of this theater is not very different from the world of the theater that's screening the movie, Northwest Film Forum. To watch A Useful Life at this venue is to see something like a tunnel to another universe that is governed by similar laws (of attraction) and forces (of destruction). Both theaters are committed to the art of cinema, both have serious funding problems, both are constantly dealing with the realities of the ruthless market system. NWFF, however, is still afloat; the theater in the movie, the Cinemateca, is going under fast.

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At the center of the Cinemateca is a programmer, Jorge (he is played by the Uruguayan film critic Jorge Jellinek). He is 45 (or thereabouts); he has a little weight in the middle; he wears thick glasses; he lives with his parents; he has worked at the theater for 25 years; he can do nothing outside of programming and projecting movies, discussing film theory, and managing the theater space. The day of death finally falls. He has nowhere to go. Will he commit suicide? Go postal? Crawl under a rock? The plot makes a sharp turn and ends with a big surprise: A Useful Life is not really about extinction but regeneration. The message is simple and powerful: The market can destroy our possessions but not our souls. recommended

Northwest Film Forum, Fri–Sun 7, 9 pm; Mon 7 pm; Tues 7, 9 pm.

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