dir. Manoel de Oliveira
Fri Nov 22-Tues Dec 3
(no show Mon Nov 25) at
the Grand Illusion.
I'm Going Home is a film about being old, made by a man who knows a thing or two about the subject. Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira is in his mid 90s, and still active as a filmmaker, much like the octogenarian actor protagonist of this meditative death rattle of a movie, who confronts tragedy with work.
We first see Gilbert Valence (the great Michel Piccoli) on the stage; more to the point, what we mainly see is his back. Oliveira is fixated on long takes of seemingly insignificant objects--a pair of shoes, a street view through a shop window--which mutely echo the deliberate progress of old age. After receiving news of his family's death, Valence moves through life with an added emphasis on what matters (respect for his craft, devotion to his grandson). When an American director (John Malkovich) offers him a last-minute role in a production of Ulysses, he can't resist, but soon finds himself overmatched by the language (Valence is French), and suddenly unmoored.
Nothing much happens in I'm Going Home (and it takes its time), but the film's gentle sadness is gripping nonetheless. SEAN NELSON
El Crimen del Padre Amaro
dir. Carlos CarreraRemember Gael García Bernal, that gorgeous kid from Amores Perros and
Y Tu Mamá Tambi#233;n, the one with the etched cheekbones, the sleepy eyes and loose mouth, the odd Bob Hope nose that somehow turns the whole face almost unbearably sensual? Well, he's back, playing a priest, and the Mexican Catholic Church is having conniptions. Canon law requires that priests be portrayed only by really, really old people who are really, really funny-looking. Steve Buscemi and James Woods are okay for looks but way too young; Burgess Meredith is about the right age (he's dead) but way too handsome.
What's that you say? It's not Gael García Bernal that the Church objects to, it's the script? No way. Sure, I enjoyed the movie--stylish photography with just enough overexposure to suggest blinding sun; excellent character acting from half the beautiful people in Mexico; a fun soundtrack (I'll buy the CD if it includes that screech-owl hymn that hits Bernal as he enters his new parish church).
But the script? The script is taken from a melodramatic Portuguese novel written in 1875. It had little to do with the actual Church of 1875, let alone today; it's a soap opera. Are you trying to tell me the Catholic Church has no sense of humor? BARLEY BLAIR
dir. Akira Kurosawa
Fri-Thurs Nov 22-28 at
the Varsity.Through a delicious accident of timing, this week you can watch Seven Samurai at the Varsity and the last sumo tournament of the year at Uwajimaya. Both feature raffish heroes (swaggering Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, swaggering Mongolian wrestler Asashoryu); stirring family dramas (will noble Ko Kimura be allowed to marry across class lines? Can noble Tochiazuma uphold his name, revered in sumo for generations?); hard-bitten elders still capable of some amazing moves (gnarly Takashi Shimura in the movie, gnarly Takanonami in the tournament); and activities not immediately familiar to an American audience but oh so easy to understand (Japanese swordplay, Japanese wrestling). As they say in Tokyo: En-joy. BARLEY BLAIR
Friday After Next
dir. Marcus RaboyWith the coming of the holiday season, a friend and I were recently moved to a discussion about the most depressing Christmases of our lives--his spent with stoner roommates smoked out of their minds, mine with stoned friends watching Jackie Brown in a sparsely populated movie theater. The conclusion was a simple one, and resulted in something of a firm pledge: As the sanctity of the holiday belongs to the innocent, it should serve as a day of quiet, religious reflection devoid entirely of all impurity.
Which brings us to Friday After Next, the third installment of Ice Cube's "what the fuck happened to me?" ghetto-comic empire. This time around we find screenwriter/star Cube and his incrementally diminishing cast of talented characters treading through "Xmas in the 'hood," a sort of Home Alone-flavored seasoning of the original Friday formula, complete with a sea of belly laughs generated by domestic violence, homophobia, racial intolerance, rape, and of course the requisite hilarity of drug abuse ("Santa's a crackhead thief--now that shit is funny."). It's impossible for me to ask this without sounding entirely prudish, but, for god's sake, is nothing sacred? Please, just rent It's a Wonderful Life. Hell, rent Home Alone 3. For the sake of all that is pure in the world--do not pay money to see Friday After Next. ZAC PENNINGTON
dir. Atom EgoyanWho knows why the 1915 murder of more than a million Armenians by the Turks never seized the world's popular imagination? Perhaps its impact was washed away in the ensuing horrors of the Holocaust--though Hitler certainly remembered--or maybe there were simply not enough voices left alive to tell the story. With Ararat, Atom Egoyan (a Canadian of Armenian descent) attempts to address not just the genocide and its lingering effects on the identity of Armenians and Turks but also the very meanings of denial, memory, and fractured modern family life. Egoyan, the director of The Sweet Hereafter, builds his tales using layer upon layer of precisely intersecting parallel stories and the results are clinically interesting but characteristically chilly. With roughly three plots and even a film within a film tossed into the mix, the rickety construction threatens to collapse in upon itself at several points, which serves only to distract from the powerful truths at its foundation. Astoundingly, this is the first feature film ever made with the horrific conflict as its theme, but hopefully, it won't be the last. TAMARA PARIS