Spring 2002 (2)
Andrei Roublev
7pm only - Wednesday, March 13

Filmed in stark black and white, and using long shots and fluid tracking, Andrei Roublev is a visual and cerebral journey: a thematically adaptive interpretation of Roublev's life, a conduit into the bleak existence of medieval Russia, a meditation on the search for the spiritual and artistic light. Contrary to what the title suggests, the film is not a biographical account of the Russian icon painter. Roublev (Anatoli Solonitsyn) is, in fact, almost a peripheral character: a chronicler of medieval life, attempting to create religious art in a harsh world devoid of inspiration and community. Director Andrei Tarkovsky is not interested in exalting Roublev through extreme sacrifices or great acts of kindness. He is all too human: a monk tempted by a sensual pagan woman, an artist doubting his skills in completing a church, a Christian who commits a fundamental sin. That Roublev's work survives today is a testament to his struggle to find beauty and inner peace in his turbulent world. It is a theme that resurfaces throughout Tarkovsky's tragically abbreviated career: man in relation to, and as a consequence of, his environment. (Excerpted from filmref.comRussia.) Russia, 1966, in Russian w/English subtitles, Color and B&W, 185 min., unrated.

The Man Who Wasn't There
7 and 9:30pm -- Thursday & Friday • March 14 & 15

The Man Who Wasn't There is the best adaptation of James M. Cain's gritty noir hellscapes as I've ever seen, and never mind that Cain had nothing to do with it. Shot on color film and then processed into stark-as-nightmares black-and-white by cinematographer Roger Deakins, this is the most visually striking of all the Coen Brothers' films to date. Blacks as dark as midnight collide with rich grays and subtle variations of shading, imbuing the whole film with the kind of psychological chiaroscuro not seen since the heyday of film noir, and before that, German film expressionists such as Lang and Murnau. It's that beautiful. The story, too, is rife with the Coens' ripe ambivalence, a black seriocomic opera of fouled-up American dreams, and a meditation on ambivalence that is itself at times as ambiguous as the emotional meanderings of its protagonist, the small-town barber (Billy Bob Thornton). It's the best-looking film of the year, hands down, and Thornton is dazzling, a dull diamond in the gutter rough. (Excerpt by Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle.) USA, 2001, English, B&W, 116 min., Rated R.

Saturday (7 & 9pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm)• March 16 & 17

For Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard and Uma Thurman, making this movie must have been scary. They have nowhere to run. The motel room is small, and they can't hide from the camera. Small moments must be real because there's nothing to cover them up. The screenplay by Stephen Belber is based on his own play, which in superficial ways resembles the battle in David Mamet's Oleanna. Both films are about how the same events can be interpreted differently through male and female eyes. But Mamet is angry and has a point of view–two points of view, really–while Belber's subject is points of view. And sneaking along underneath the argument about what happened, on that long ago night, is the question of who has the right to make use of it now. Richard Linklater, the director, has had quite a year. This film follows quickly on the heels of his Waking Life, and both films show a director using video instead of being used by it. In Waking Life, he used video footage as a starting point for an animated film of startling innovation. In Tape, he uses video as a way to move intimately and freely through a three-way conversation. (Excerpt by Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times.) USA, 2001, English, Color, 86 min., Rated R.

Turandot Project
7 & 9pm -- Wednesday • April 3

A must-see for opera lovers and a snappy diversion for cinephiles, The Turandot Project is documentarian Allan Miller's latest peek into the making of a cross-cultural musical lark. Best know for Small Wonders and last year's PBS doc From Mao To Mozart - Then And Now, Miller trails conductor Zubin Mehta from Florence to Beijing as he stages Puccini's warhorse with the participation of an honest-to-goodness Chinese citizen, filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern). The dazzling results certainly seem realistic, and no one is crass enough to mention that the slaved-over verisimilitude only throws the Italianate spectacle of the original work into sharper relief. Who'd want to rain on this parade? Zhang's lighting designer, Guido Levi, for one. Pompous and dismissive of a movie director's involvement in the project, Levi gives Zhang grief from start to finish. These frank, sharply observed scenes of clashing ideals are what give Miller's film its punch, and the politely contained frustrations of the disparate cast and crew contrast nicely with the overblown emotions in Puccini's opera. (Excerpt by Mark Holcomb, The Village Voice.) a US/German production, 2000, English, Color, 87 min., unrated.

What Time is it There?
7 & 9:30pm -- Thursday & Friday € April 4 & 5

To appreciate Tsai Ming-liang's What Time Is It There?, you have to undergo a certain change of perspective…You have to watch people thinking. You have to guess what's going on in there. You have to wait for little actions to give you a hint. Those actions take their time. But when they come, they're deeply rewarding. And if you can acclimate yourself to the pace of this movie, some sort of mysterious transformation occurs. You are more than a fly on the wall. You're the eyes of nature itself, watching with an almost spiritual clarity. And you'll enjoy some wonderful punch lines… Welcome to Tsai's languid, original storytelling technique. Tsai, a Malaysian-born Taiwanese who has made only five films, was the subject of a retrospective at New York's Lincoln Center last summer. His second feature film, Vive l'Amour, won the Golden Lion (for best picture) at Venice in 1994. What Time Is It There? shared the technical prize for sound at Cannes last year, and was well received at the Toronto and New York festivals. But it shouldn't be only the art film world that embraces him. Beyond the beautiful trappings of his work, Tsai's an eye on the real world for all of us. What he sees, we recognize. But it takes his vision for us to see it. (Excerpt by Desson Howe, The Washington Post.) Taiwan, 2001, in Mandarin, Taiwanese, and French, with English subtitles, Color, 116 min., unrated.

Werckmeister Harmonies
Saturday (7pm only) & Sunday (3 & 7pm)• April 6 & 7

Béla Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies, is a totally sustained immersion in the magisterially bleak, voluptuously monochromatic, undeniably beautiful universe of muddy villages and cell-like rooms that the Hungarian filmmaker has created in collaboration with reclusive novelist László Krasznahorkai. Three years in the making, this follow-up to the pair's epochal Sátántangó opens in a rural tavern frequented by stupefied sods. Just before closing time, young János Valuska, the resident holy fool, uses some of the locals to dramatize a cosmological model of a lunar eclipse, with the moon hopping past the earth as the earth staggers around the twinkling sun. This intimation of celestial order is echoed by the film's title: it's named for the 17th-century organist and musical theorist Andreas Werckmeister, who divided the octave into 12 equal tones to create a system of major and minor notes. (Order is generally fraudulent in this world. We eventually meet a villager who wants to correct Werckmeister's "mistake.") The final image has the great sensation of the age lying in the center of the debris. Mournful and sardonic, Werckmeister Harmonies ends in the baleful light of a postapocalyptic morning after. The movie invites allegory even as it resists it. (Excerpt by J. Hoberman, The Village Voice.) Hungary, 2000, in Hungarian and German with English subtitles, B&W, 145 min., unrated.

Wedding in Galilee
7pm only-- Wednesday • April 10

The mukhtar (chief) of an occupied Arab Palestinian village wants to hold a traditional, full-scale wedding for his son, but the Israeli military governor will allow it only if he and his officers are the guests of honor. As the ceremonies and festivities gradually unfold over a tense day and night, Belgian-based writer-director Michel Khleifi, who grew up in Nazareth, paints an intimate and multilayered view of the village and its various factions, including the three generations of the mukhtar's family. Beautifully filmed and edited, and effectively acted by nonprofessionals, this 1987 feature moves between an alienated grandfather, a group of flirtatious teenage girls, an angry group of young male terrorists, an impotent groom and a resourceful and beautiful bride, a horse that has strayed into a minefield, an Israeli woman soldier who changes into Arab clothes, and other diverse centers of interest. This is a fluid and lovely film that speaks volumes about Palestinian life. (Excerpt by Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Chicago Reader.) Belgium, France, Israel, 1987, in Arabic, Hebrew, and Turkish with English subtitles, Color, 113 min., unrated. Doors open at 6pm. Seats cannot be saved - you must be present to get a seat. Seats are not guaranteed and are taken purely on a first-come, first-serve basis.
7 & 9:30 pm -- Thursday & Friday • April 11 & 12

AUDITION, which director Takashi Miike (DEAD OR ALIVE) introduced in Rotterdam (where it won two awards) as "a film I know some of you will intensely dislike," invites a feminist reading. Video company executive Aoyama, who lost his wife seven years earlier, is urged by his teenage son to remarry–to stop him from aging so fast and becoming lonely. A colleague reminds Aoyama of an abandoned feature film project and suggests mounting auditions for the female lead, which will allow him to pick a potential bride. He’s greatly attracted to a 24-year old woman with dance training; her seeming docility and politesse are precisely the qualities he craves in a woman. His nightmarish comeuppance at her hands may be no more than a projection of his latent paranoia–or it may actually be true that she is vengefully obsessed with acupuncture needles and amputations. Miike constructs the climactic sequences as a series of alarming time-slips between alternative realities, but leaves no doubt that the central issue is the effect on women of Japanese male sexual attitudes, assumptions and actions. (Excerpt by Tony Rayns, Sight & Sound.) Japan, 1999, in Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 115 min., NC-17. Not for the squeamish!

Iron Ladies
Saturday (7 & 9:15pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm)• April 13 & 14

Winner of the Audience Award for Best Feature at both the San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Festival and the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, IRON LADIES is also the second-highest-grossing film in Thai box-office history… Every now and then a comedy comes along with a heart so big and a cast of characters so wonderfully bizarre that you cannot help but fall in love with it –while crying with laughter all the while. IRON LADIES is absolutely one of those films. Based on a true story, it describes the inexorable march of a volleyball team composed mostly of transsexuals, transvestites and some rather effeminate gay guys to the Thai male national championship in 1996. (Excerpt by Noah Cowan, Toronto Film Festival.) Thailand, 2000, in Thai with English subtitles, Color, 104 min., unrated. Co-sponsored by the Boulder Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

7 & 9 pm -- Wednesday • April 17

Writer/director Darren Aronofsky's audacious debut comes across like Eraserhead re-envisioned by cyberpunk author William Gibson. Sean Gullette plays a mathematical genius beset by debilitating headaches and an insatiable quest for a numerical series that links everything in the world, from the stock market to The Bible. After a breakthrough that costs him his homemade computer, Gullette is approached by members of a radical Jewish Kabbalah sect, as well as armed Wall Street goons. Shadowy figures lurk in subway stations, dripping blood and leaving behind a gory record of their presence. Ants infest Gullette's computer, oozing sticky goo. Brooklyn is visualized as narrow alleyways, claustrophobic rooms, and winding catacombs. Aronofsky lets most questions hang until the film's conclusion, and keeping the audience in the dark is just another way to heighten the chaotic, exhilarating, frequently imposing mood of Aronofsky's film. Pi won the Directing Award for Dramatic Competition at Sundance, and rightly so: Aronofsky's ability to capture the rush and confusion of racing down a timeline toward infinity, only to suddenly slam into a dead end, makes for impressive and occasionally disturbing stuff. (Excerpt by Joshua Klein, The Onion). USA, 1998, in English, B&W, 84 min., Rated R.

7 & 9pm -- Thursday & Friday • April 18 & 19

MAELSTRÖM is probably the first romantic drama ever narrated by a smelly dead fish. What might a dead fish have to do with love? It has something to do with the ocean whence life springs. And as it turns out, fish figure prominently in the symbolic structure of this fine French Canadian film, written and directed by Denis Villeneuve. Its protagonist, Bibi Champagne, is a beautiful and successful 25-year-old businesswoman. Virtually overnight, Bibi's sleek yuppie existence unravels, and she faces an acute spiritual crisis when she has a series of personal disasters. Commenting on her travails, the craggy-voiced fish, the movie's philosophical voice, periodically punctuates the soundtrack of a movie whose strategy is to surprise us by taking abrupt surreal sidetracks. At one point in the story, when a character in a restaurant complains about the toughness of her octopus, the film goes on a wild tangent as the waiter complains to the cook who in turn calls his supplier, and we follow the path the octopus took to reach her plate. As weird as it may sound, the movie's aquatic fixation is integral to its concept. For above and beyond telling a story, MAELSTRÖM is a meditation on the disconnection between the glossy surfaces of high-end urban existence and the life-and-death realities they camouflage. (Excerpt by Stephen Holden, The New York Times). Canada, 2001, in French with English subtitles, Color, 88 min., unrated.

Saturday (7 & 9:15pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm) • April 20 & 21

The enormously likable Swedish ensemble comedy TOGETHER attempts to demonstrate that the hippie-commune concept of the '60s and '70s is wasted on the doctrinaire (Marxist-Leninist-vegetarian) left and ought to have been (and still should be) the province of the liberal-humanist bourgeoisie. As there aren't many Marxist-Leninist-vegetarian communistas around to argue the other side, the demonstration is a heartwarming success. Set in 1975, the movie begins with the death of Franco before getting down to the main story: the arrival of Elisabeth, sister of one of the commune's residents, with her young daughter and son. She isn't a convert to Marxism; Elisabeth is fleeing her abusive alcoholic husband, and so her mild-mannered brother, Göran, has naturally offered her a place to crash. That doesn't sit too well with everyone in the household, however. Utopian generosity is one thing, and it's a drag that she and her kids have no place to live, but they, like, need that extra room to meditate, man. Gradually, subtly, the fragile ecosystem of the commune is disrupted. (Excerpt by David Edelstein, Slate.) Sweden, 2001, in Swedish with English subtitles, Color, 106 min., unrated.
7 & 9:15pm -- Wednesday € April 24

Raoul Peck's Lumumba is a rich and sorrowful portrait of an idealist who, against the greatest odds and with courage unknown to the rest of us, fought in vain for his country's independence. Patrice Lumumba, a man who made a living most of his adult life as a beer salesman in the Congo/Zaire but whose avocation was clearly to be a leader. It was his work as head of the Congolese National Movement that eventually landed him in prison but also secured him a place at a round-table discussion about the Congo's independence. And it was Lumumba's advanced way of thinking and his ability to articulate his goals that would not only catapult him, at age 36, to the position of the Congo's first elected prime minister following its ostensible independence from Belgium in 1960, but would also seal his fate as a man whose intelligence was too dangerous. The film does not stress his preordained failure as much as it depicts the vicious betrayals that did him in. (Excerpt by Joe Baltake, The Sacramento Bee). A coproduction of France, Belgium, Germany, Haiti, 2000, In Frencah and Lingala with English subtitles, Color, 115 min., unrated. Join other urban indie-film lovers at the 3rd Denver Pan African Film Festival, April 25-29 at the Starz Encore Film Center at the Tivoli on the Auraria Campus. For more information on DPAFF events go to www.panafricanarts.org or call 303.595.3456 x303.
American Astronaut
7 & 9 pm -- Thursday & Friday • April 25 & 26

Rooted firmly in the tradition of such major film eccentrics as Guy Maddin, Aki Kaurismaki and Darren Aronofsky of š, Cory McAbee's The American Astronaut crosses Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville with the Star Wars bar and Twin Peaks. It has been a hit at film festivals and has been described as a "midnight-style musical." (McAbee calls it his autobiographical/musical/space Western.) In an indeterminate future, interplanetary trader Samuel Curtis (McAbee) pops into an all-male culture of dance contests, sexual obsession and the occasional disintegration. The women of Venus, meanwhile, are looking for their singular male; Curtis wants the job. A demented killer wants him. Shot in glorious black and white, The American Astronaut is a true independent –independent of narrative convention as well as any particular need for continuity. It also bears a distinctly improvisatory ingenuity–from the sets, which may have been budgeted by whatever tightwad did the original Star Trek, to the music of the Billy Nayer Show, McAbee's cult band, which supplies much of the alternately eerie or headbanging or anthemic rock that carries The American Astronaut through its very special space. (Excerpt by John Anderson, Newsday.) US, 2001, in English, B&W, 91 min., unrated.

Code Unknown
Saturday (7 & 9:30pm) & Sunday (3 & 7pm) • April 27 & 28

On a busy Parisian street, Anne (Juliette Binoche), an actress on the brink of success, bumps into Jean, the younger brother of her non-committal war photographer partner Georges. After disclosing that he has run away from his father's farm, Jean insults Maria, a Romanian illegal immigrant by dropping his rubbish into her lap as she begs. The incident, which leads to Maria's deportation, is spotted by Amadou, a teacher of deaf children who angrily remonstrates with Jean. It is an incident which briefly links the lives of these five very different people. Michael Haneke's richly complex and intellectually rewarding film–, his first French language feature,–is a characteristically inquisitive and philosophical look at questions of communication, xenophobia, victimization and the abject coldness of contemporary consumer society. Provocative, stimulating fare, it's also undeniably engrossing. Binoche proves that she is one of the finest European actresses of her generation but she's more than matched by a faultless supporting cast. Code Unknown is European cinema at its very best. (Reviewed by David Wood, BBC) France, 2000, French with English subtitles, Color, 117 min., unrated.

7 & 9:15pm -- Wednesday • May 1

Produced two years after members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult carried out a sarin-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, Kiyoshi Kurosawa's unsettling and deeply enigmatic Cure tries to account for the unaccountable. Though ostensibly a high-concept serial-killer movie, Cure abandons the standard whodunit elements early on, instead asking more troubling questions about a senseless epidemic of violent slayings in the city. Like the gas attack, the murders are perpetrated by likeminded but separate individuals, in this case acting out the will of Masato Hagiwara, an amnesiac loner who appears to have hypnotic powers. What could lead seemingly ordinary citizens to commit such terrible crimes? Where does the impulse to kill originate? Does it pass through the culture like a contagion, or can it be curtailed? Kurosawa is deliberately coy about the answers, which seem to get further and further from reach, right up to an astonishing final shot guaranteed to fill coffeehouses with chatter. (Excerpt by Scott Tobias, The Onion.) Japan, 1997, in Japanese with English subtitles, Color, 111 min., unrated.

Brotherhood of the Wolf
7 & 9:45pm -- Thursday & Friday • May 2 & 3

The Brotherhood of the Wolf plays like an explosion at the genre factory. The film involves quasi-werewolves, French aristocrats, secret societies, Iroquois Indians, martial arts, occult ceremonies, sacred mushrooms, swashbuckling, incestuous longings, political subversion, animal spirits, slasher scenes and bordellos. I would be lying if I did not admit that this is all, in its absurd and overheated way, entertaining. Once you realize that this is basically a high-gloss werewolf movie (but without a werewolf), crossed with a historical romance, a swashbuckler and a martial arts extravaganza, you can relax. There is of course a deeper political message, and vague foreshadowings of fascism and survivalist cults, but the movie uses its politics only as a plot convenience. The one thing you don't want to do is take this movie seriously. Because it's so good-looking, there may be a temptation to think it wants to be high-toned, but no: Its heart is in the horror-monster-sex-fantasy-special effects tradition. (Review by Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.) France, 2002, French with English subtitles, Color, 142 min., Rated R.

Requiem For a Dream
Sunday only (3 & 7pm)• May 5

This odyssey into the shadowy abyss of drug abuse is a paranoiac mind-bender of creative proportions. Hats off to a film that unspools disturbing subject matter with daring grace. Chemical thrill-seeking is the tie that binds four central characters together in a surreal and destructive brotherhood. Harry Goldfarb (Jared Leto) is a scruffy Brooklyn hustler who’s ostensibly looking out for his next payday. Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) is his snaky partner-in-crime, hatching plans to move street dope and score a batch of pure heroin for resale purposes. Rounding out Harry's narrow universe are poor-little-rich-girl lover Marion (Jennifer Connelly), who wants to design clothes for a living, and his lonely, widowed mother Sara (Ellen Burstyn), who exists for the solitary bright spot of her daily TV fix. Four misguided souls yearning for swift gratification. Or perhaps visceral anesthetization? Director Darren Aronofsky š handles the material deftly and stylishly - with rapid, hypnotic images that match the effects of mood-altering drugs. A one of a kind, must-see, moviegoing experience. (Excerpt by Jeanne Aufmuth, Palo Alto Weekly) US, 2000, English, Color, 102 min., unrated.