dir. Franÿois Dupeyron
Opens Fri March 5.
Set during the early '60s, Monsieur Ibrahim is about a lonely Jewish boy, Moses (Pierre Boulanger), who is befriended by an Arab named Ibrahim (Omar Sharif), who runs a small grocery store across the street from his apartment. The movie begins with the boy breaking his piggy bank, converting the coins into cash, and using the money--30 francs--to buy sex from a blond hooker. He enjoys the experience and soon becomes a regular to a variety of professional women who walk up and down the street that separates his home from the Arab's grocery store. Because his real father is utterly useless and on the verge of imploding, Moses turns to Ibrahim for a father figure. A follower of the mystical side of Islam, Ibrahim happily assumes the role and, with the help of the prostitutes, guides Moses from boyhood to manhood.
Had the movie remained within the limits of this plot, and stayed enclosed within this vibrant section of Paris (the busy narrow street; the boy's dark, book-packed apartment; the bright piazza where a teen girl practices American dance moves; and the small but well-stocked store), it would have been perfectly charming. But instead, the director, François Dupeyron, wanted something more than all he had--a warm relationship that develops between two people who come from opposing religions, ages, and races. This something more that the director wanted to squeeze out of the modest scenario is a major statement, a declaration about the fate of all mankind. Dupeyron attempts this during the last fifth of the film, which leaves the pleasant Parisian quarter for an unbelievable road trip to the East, to the mythical expanses of Arabia, where Ibrahim and Moses journey in a red convertible toward what the movie will never arrive at: cinematic greatness. CHARLES MUDEDE
dir. Joe Johnston
Opens Fri March 5.
In a gushing article recently published in Vanity Fair, Viggo Mortensen, with his rugged good looks and soft-spoken but intense personality, was called the perfect man. He can do the romantic comedy bit, portraying a drug-addicted baseball player/playboy with a sweet spot for Sandra Bullock in 28 Days; he can sustain the rigors of a three-part epic playing King Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy; and he's a sexy lover who makes a fool out of Michael Douglas in A Perfect Murder. Add that to the fact that Mortensen is also a published poet and painter, who from 1987 to 1997 was married to X frontwoman Exene Cervenka (the two have a teenage son together), and I guess, yes, he is the perfect man. He even got roaring drunk and rode horses with the author of that Vanity Fair article, and while it's no ride in the saddle, I had the chance to sit directly across a table from him as he drank tea (dang!) at the Fairmont Hotel.
Mortensen also did a lot of drinking and riding in his first starring role--as Frank Hopkins, a cowboy devoted to his horse Hidalgo in Hildago, which is a minor history lesson in the form of a surprisingly decent, if cheeky, Disney flick. Hopkins was known to be the greatest distance rider in the West, and after a lot of Native Americans--and horses--were slaughtered at Wounded Knee, he became a drunken sideshow joke until a dare placed him and his faithful horse Hidalgo on a 3,000-mile race across the blazing Arabian Desert. There he becomes a guest in Omar Sharif's ridiculously opulent, traveling pitched-tent palace. Sharif, a sheik, is more interested in Buffalo Bill Cody storybooks than the safety of his daughter, whom he plans to marry off to a jerk competitor of Hopkins', a joke that is little more than silly.
Hidalgo screams Disney with its Wild West (and East, although it was actually shot in Morocco and Africa) adventure, and especially the hammy relationship between Hopkins and his horse, who could easily play Mr. Ed if called upon for the upcoming remake of the '60s television series. Whenever Hopkins makes a fool of himself, Hidalgo the Wise raises his eyebrows, or snorts, and even bleeds if the mood calls for it, making Hidalgo quite possibly Mortensen's most romantic film to date. KATHLEEN WILSON
dir. Felipe Lacerda and José Padilha
Opens Fri March 5.
His name was Sandro do Nascimento, and on June 12, 2000, he boarded a bus in downtown Rio de Janeiro, a meager revolver in hand, and took the passengers hostage. He had no real mission; fresh from a grueling stint in Rio's jails, he was confused, addled, and desperate. He only wanted money. Hours later, he was dead--shot down by the local police while surrendering.
Bus 174, a tiny, important documentary, chronicles Sandro's entire ordeal, from his boarding of the bus to his falling at the hands of authorities. With access to the ridiculous amounts of television footage of the event, directors Felipe Lacerda and José Padilha use Sandro's sad life (he lived on the streets, his mother was murdered before his eyes when he was a child) to scold not just the Rio police (whose ineptness approaches a legendary level), but the city of Rio's pathetic handling of poverty as well. The end result is a film that shatters and upsets. It is a documentary that is near perfect in its simple execution, and one everyone should seek out. BRADLEY STEINBACHER