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The Queen Conference (with director Stephen Frears, actress Hellen Mirren, actor James Cromwell, screenwriter Peter Morgan and producer Andy Harries)
Little Children Conference (with co-writer/director Todd Field, actress Kate Winslet, actor Noah Emmerich, and co-writer/novelist Tom Perrotta)
49 Up- In this continuation to the Up series, Michael Apted continues to fascinate. Like a reality TV program, the Up series captures the lives of many British individuals from the age of 7 until 49 in 7 year intervals. Apted includes flashbacks of the earlier stages in their life for those who haven’t seen the other films. Some scenes feel like they’re uncomfortably voyeuristic and intrusive into their private lives, but, for the most part the scenes seem like self-therapeutic for the individuals. So many of them get their complex lives examined that it’s difficult to remember all of them. In a refreshing scene, one individual complains that she’s sick of being filmed. Nonetheless, there’s plenty of insight and even some comic relief to keep you mildly engaged during the lengthy running time of 135 minutes. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: High. Screens Thursday, October 5th, 6 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Sold Out! Call the Alice Tully Hall Box Office, 212- 875-5050, for ticket availability. There will be a standby line before the screening. Released by First Run Features. Opens October 6th, 2006 at the IFC Center.
August Days- Directed by Marc Recha. In Catalan with subtitles. Twin brother Marc (Marc Recha) and David (David Recha) bond during a camping trip. Despite picturesque, breathtaking scenery, this film has nothing to offer in terms of entertainment value. Part of it is documentary while the rest of it is fiction, but it’s difficult to care which is which because both characters are consistently dull. Why one care about these twin brothers to begin with? Many scenes drag and feel pointless with boring dialogue—much like in a similar film, Gerry. With a running time of 93 minutes, this August Days feels more like 180 minutes. Entertainment Value: None. Spiritual Value: Low. Screens Saturday, September 30th, 3 PM and Sunday, October 1st, 6PM at Alice Tully Hall. Sold Out! Call the Alice Tully Hall Box Office, 212- 875-5050, for ticket availability. There will be a standby line before the screening. No distributor, yet.
Bamako- Directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. In French and Bambara with subtitles. . Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: High. Africans in Mali take IMF (International Monetary Fund) officials to court arguing that their policies have negative economic and social effects on Africa. Much of the film feels like a very fascinating, insightful documentary as IMF officials take the stand and defend themselves from the accusations. Co-producer Danny Glover shows up in a hilarious cameo during a Western film-within-the-film. The overall message regarding the IMF’s corruption and unfairness makes this an important and powerful film, although the running time of 115 minutes does feel a bit too long. Screens Monday, October 2nd, 6 PM and Tuesday, October 3rd, 9 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by New Yorker Films. Opens February 14th, 2007 at Film Forum.
Belle Toujours- Directed by Manoel de Oliveira. In French with subtitles. After catching a glimpse of Séverine (Bulle Ogier) in the audience of a symphony, Henri (Michel Piccoli) stalks her to try to confront her while she tries to avoid him. This sequel to Belle du Jour takes a while to get going as Henri and Séverine play a long game of cat-and-mouse. He searches for her at a bar, on the sidewalks and tracks her down in a hotel. When they both finally sit and talk about what happened 38 years ago when she rejected him, that’s when this film becomes engaging—but it takes almost an hour of redundant chase scenes to get to that scene. Both Bulle Ogier and Michel Picolli are well-cast and give decent performances. However, at a running time of only 70 minutes, Belle Toujour actually overstays its welcome. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low. Screens Thursday, October 5th, 9:30 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by New Yorker Films. Opens June 8th, 2007 at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Falling- Directed by Barbara Albert. In German with subtitles. Five female classmates in their thirties reunite at their teacher’s funeral. The women include Brigitte (Birgit Minichmayr), Nina (Nina Proll), Carmen (Kathrin Resetarits) and Nicole (Gabriela Hegedus). Over the course of 24 hours, they drive around, dance and talk a little. Unfortunately, the script by writer/director Barbara Albert lacks imagination. The thin plot often meanders and drags. Not enough character development makes this feel like a pointless, dull and forgettable film—a step backwards after her previous film, Free Radicals.Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Unfortunately, none. Screens Monday, October 9th, 6:30 PM and Tuesday, October 10th, 9 PM at Alice Tully Hall. No U.S. distributor, yet.
The Go Master- Directed by Tian Zhuangzhuang. In Mandarin with subtitles. Chang Chen plays Wu Qingyuan, a Chinese man who is talented at playing a board game called “Go”. Many slow-paced scenes show him playing the game without much communication between him and other characters. Unfortunately, the rules of the game aren’t really explained, so it’s difficult to be engaged during those scenes and any suspense is, therefore, diminished. On a positive note, the beautiful set design and cinematography help to add some eye candy to keep you somewhat awake. However, there are too many explanatory captions between scenes which feel rather distracting. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: Low. Screens Saturday, September 30th, 3 PM and Sunday, October 1st, 6PM at Alice Tully Hall. Sold Out! Call the Alice Tully Hall Box Office, 212- 875-5050, for ticket availability. There will be a standby line before the screening. No distributor, yet.
The Host- Directed by Bong Joon-ho. In Korean with subtitles. In this Korean “creature feature”, a mutant creature terrorizes Seoul. Kang-du (Song Kang-ho) must find his young daughter (Ko A-sung) who was swallowed by the creature and assumed to be dead. Although the animation looks cheesy and the plot becomes silly, it’s all a lot of fun thanks to co-writer/director Bong Joon-ho who keeps the tongue-in-cheek laughs coming and maintains a sense of thrill. There are also a few surprising death scenes, but, there’s nothing too gory—just slimy and icky. Fortunately, the plot remains focused on the capturing of the creature without any distracting romantic subplots. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: None is required or desired. Screens Saturday, October 7th, 12 AM and Monday, October 9th, 3:30 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by Magnolia Pictures. Opens March 9th, 2007.
Inland Empire- Directed by David Lynch. The very confusing plot has something to do with the experience of an actress (Laura Dern) who rehearses for her role as Sue. It also involves people in creepy rabbit suits that look like “Frank” from Donnie Darko. Good luck trying to decipher anything from this painfully long, 3-hour mind-fuck from the crazy mind of writer/director David Lynch. Everything from the lighting to the cinematography to the editing induces a very irritating feeling. None of the characters are remotely appealing. Inland Empire makes Mulholland Drive seem like a conventional film.Ultimately, this is another one of those love-it or hate-it films that will cause many walk-outs. It'll be interesting to see which U.S. distributor, if any, would be bold enough to actually release it in movie theaters. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: None. Screens Saturday, October 7th, 12 AM and Sunday, October 8th, 8:30 PM and Monday, October 9th, 11:30 AM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by 518 Media. Opens December 6th, 2006 at the IFC Center.
Little Children- Directed by Todd Field. Kate Winslet gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Sarah, a married woman who has an affair with Brad (Patrick Wilson from Hard Candy) who is married to Kathy (Jennifer Connelly). A pedophile (Jackie Earle Haley) lurks throughout the suburban town while a retired cop (Noah Emmerich) stalks him. Co-writers Todd Field (In the Bedroom) and Tom Perrotta beautifully weaves the ensemble cast together incorporating the themes of infidelity, unhappiness, intolerance and dysfunction without being confusing or contrived. The intricate plot is full of small surprises and subtle details that require close attention. During its engrossing 130 minutes, not a single scene drags. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Screens Saturday, Sept. 30th 9 PM and Sunday, October 1st 2:30 PM. Both at Alice Tully Hall. Sold Out! Call the Alice Tully Hall Box Office, 212- 875-5050, for ticket availability. There will be a standby line before the screening. Released by New Line Cinema. Opens October 6th, 2006.
Mafioso- Directed by Alberto Lattuada. In Italian with subtitles. Before The Godfather, Goodfellas and other movies about the mafia came Mafioso in 1962. Alberto Sordi stars as a man who brings his wife (Norma Bengell) and kids on a trip to his hometown in Sicily where he gradually gets involved in the mafia business. Sordi gives a charming performance and finds a nice balance between comedy and drama without seeming awkward. Surprisingly, there’s very little violence and action, yet not a single scene drags. It’s also worth mentioning the impressive visuals and that, thanks to the lively characters and witty dialogue, it’s easy to forget that this film is actually in black-and-white. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Screens Saturday, September 30th, 12 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Sold Out! Call the Alice Tully Hall Box Office, 212- 875-5050, for ticket availability. There will be a standby line before the screening. Released by Rialto Pictures. Re-opens in January 2007.
Marie Antoinette- Directed by Sophia Coppola. Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst) and Louis Auguste (Jason Schwartzman) become the youngest King and Queen of France and struggle to keep a good reputation among all the gossip. They also struggle to conceive a child because King Louis XVI is a little frigid in the bedroom. Purposefully miscast, this period piece is somewhat of spit on all other period pieces. Why go overboard by casting Molly Shannon in a supporting role as Aunt Sophie?The soundtrack is modern and hip along with a fast pace. Unfortunately, the plot feels bland as well as the characters. At least the elegant, colorful costumes have more liveliness and panache than anything else throughout this dull, meandering film. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: None. Screens Friday, October 13th, 9 PM and Saturday, October 14th, 3 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by Columbia Pictures. Opens October 20th, 2006.
Offside- Directed by Jafar Panahi. In Persian with subtitles. In order to watch an important soccer game, six Iranian girls disguised as boys try to sneak into the soccer stadium where only males are allowed in. Soon enough, incompetent young soldiers arrest them and place them in a holding cell not far from an entrance where they can hear the game. Much of this film feels like a documentary given the lack of a musical score and no character development. It’s more of a “slice of life” that captures the unfairness and even the comic absurdity of Iran’s treatment of women—somehow, Japanese women are allowed into the arena. Eventually, the minimal plot causes the film to occasionally drag and feel redundant, but at least it has a resonating message regarding the importance of women to have more freedom and equal opportunities in Iran. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Screens Friday, October 6th, 6 PM and Sunday, October 8th, 5:45 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by Sony Pictures Classics. Opens March 23rd, 2007 at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Our Daily Bread- Directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter. A documentary about how the way that different food we eat are processed. If you’ve never seen workers picking peppers, milling wheat or spraying pesticide on crops, now’s your chance. Without any musical score, dialogue or narration, this documentary communicates its message repetitively through natural sights and sounds of workers processing meats, vegetables, and grains. Occasionally, director Nikolaus Geyrhalter includes shots of a worker eating lunch or smoking. The truly horrific, vomit-inducing scenes are during the last 30 minutes when workers nonchalantly gut cows and pigs in a way that seems sadistic even though the animal is already dead. Ultimately, you’ll at least consider becoming an organic vegetarian after this traumatizing experience.Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: High. Screens Wednesday, October 11th, 6 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by First Run/Icarus Films. Opens November 24th, 2006 at the Film Forum.
Pan's Labyrinth-*Closing Night Film* Directed by Guillermo Del Toro. In Spanish with subtitles. During post-war Fascist repression in the 1940's, Ofelia (Baquero), a young girl, imagines a fantastical world of her own while living with her pregnant mother (Gil) and father, Vidal (López), a brutal army captain. Writer/director Guillermo Del Toro masterfully combines many genres into one including drama, fantasy, action/war and even some horror. The imaginative, endlessly surprising and intricate plot has splendid visuals and amazing computer animation. This is definitely one of those films that requires a second viewing just to observe and appreciate many intricate details. One of the most captivating, exciting and memorable movies of the year. It deserves to find a wide audience and become a sleeper hit. Entertainment Value: Very High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Screens Sunday, October 15th, 8:30 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by Picturehouse. Opens December 29th, 2006.
Paprika- Directed by Satoshi Kon. In Japanese with subtitles. In this new Japanese Anime film by Satoshi Kon, the director of Tokyo Godfathers, Dr. Atsuko Chiba (voice of Megumi Hayashibara) helps Detective Toshimi Konakawa (voice of Akio Ohtsuka) to interpret his nightmares and solve a murder through the alter ego of Paprika. At the same time, Paprika must retrieve a stole machine that allows other to enter others’ dreams. Unlike Tokyo Godfathers, this film doesn’t have enough humor, wit and suffers from a confusing and convoluted plot. The animation is certainly very lively, imaginative and provides for some mild entertainment value, but everything else, unfortunately, feels either headache-inducing or sleep-inducing. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: None. Screens Saturday, October 7th, 12:30 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by Destination Films. Opens March 2007.
Poison Friends- Directed by Emmanuel Bourdieu. In French with subtitles. At a university literature course, Eloi (Malik Zidi) and Alexandre (Alexandre Steiger) meet André (Thibault Vincon), a pompous, selfish man who ends up controlling their lives, but not for long. This smart, sophisticated French film has a very well-written script by co-writer/director Emmanuel Bourdieu. On top of that, each performance is convincing. There’s plenty of character development so that you truly care about Alexander and Eloi and despise André. Entertainment Value: Low. Spiritual Value: None. Screens Friday, October 13th, 6 PM and Saturday, October 14th, 9 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by Strand Releasing.
Private Fears in Public Places- Directed by Alain Resnais. In French with subtitles. Six lonely adults search for love in the city of Paris. Nicole (Laura Morante) leaves her husband, Dan (Lambert Wilson) who meets a younger woman, Gaëlle (Isabel Carré), on a blind date. Gaëlle lives with her brother, Thierry (André Dussollier) who has a crush on his assistant, Charlotte (Sabine Azéma). Charlotte also works as a caretaker for the father of Lionel (Pierre Arditi) who works as a bartender where Dan ends up taking Gaëlle to. The complicated plot with many directly and indirectly connected characters feels much like a French version of Love Actually without much comedy—except for an awkwardly funny scenes when Lionel watches Charlotte’s erotic sex tapes she personally handed him. The only character who unfortunately doesn’t get enough time onscreen is Nicole. Director Alain Resnais does a great job of keeping the pace moving briskly and transitions each scene with falling snow. The screenplay by Jean-Michel Ribes has enough wit and lively characters to keep you thoroughly engaged. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Screens Friday, October 6th, 6 PM and Saturday, October 7th, 3 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by IFC Films. Opens April 13th, 2007 at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
The Queen- *Opening Night Film* Directed by Stephen Frears. Helen Mirren’s outstanding, flawless performance as Queen Elizabeth II who gradually gets pursuaded by Prime Minister Tony Blair to maintain a good public image after the tragic death of Princess Diana.. Director Stephen Frears superbly mixes real news footage from the events surrounding Princess Diana’s death. It’s also worth mentioning the beautiful costume design, set design, and make-up which gives everything an authentic feeling. Ultimately, what makes this film most riveting to watch is Helen Mirren who sinks into her role with utmost conviction and delivers one of the most powerful performances of her career. Hopefully, she will be crowned with an Oscar for Best Actress. Full Review
Screens Friday, September 29th, 8:15 PM at Alice Tully Hall and at 9:00 PM at Avery Fisher Hall. Sold Out! Call the Alice Tully Hall Box Office, 212- 875-5050, for ticket availability. There will be a standby line before the screening. Released by Miramax Films. Opens September 30th, 2006.
Syndromes and a Century- Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. In Thai with subtitles. The film opens in a rural hospital with a steady shot of the exterior fields. A female doctor (Nantarat Sawaddikul) works there and asks another doctor that DDT stands for. After hesitating, he replies “Destroy Dirty Things”. At one point, the plot switches into a new location in an urban setting with the same actors playing doctors in a hospital. In a funny scene that loosely repeats a scene in the rural setting, a monk gives the doctor special herbal tea bag that would make her reduce her memory. She asks if it will help her forget about him after she drinks it. The rest of the film is filled with small scenes just like this with dry wit and some absurdity. Even though not much happens in terms of plot or character development, it’s still easy to be immersed in this beautiful, unique film by writer/director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady). The cinematography can be studied by film students given how detailed and exquisite each shot looks. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Screens Saturday, October 7th, 6:15 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Sold Out! Call the Alice Tully Hall Box Office, 212- 875-5050, for ticket availability. There will be a standby line before the screening. No U.S. distributor, yet.
Volver-*Centerpiece Film* Directed by Pedro Almodóvar. In Spanish with subtitles. Raimunda (Penelope Cruz) must hide the body of her abusive husband who was murdered by her own daughter (Yohana Cobo). Meanwhile, Raimunda’s mother (Carmen Maura) comes back to Raimunda and her sister (Lola Dueñas). Pedro Almodóvar is in top form here with a wild and darkly comical plot. The imaginative screenplay finds a nice balance between drama, comedy and fantasy without feeling contrived or awkward. A few subplots feel underdeveloped and contrived, though and require suspension of disbelief. Every performance is superb, but it’s Penelope Cruz who gives a truly Oscar-worthy performance as Raimunda. Entertainment Value: High. Spiritual Value: Moderate. Screens Saturday, October 7th, 9 PM and Sunday, October 8th, 12 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by Sony Pictures Classics. Opens November 3rd, 2006.
Woman on the Beach- Directed by Hong Sang-soo. In Korean with subtitles. Seung-woo kim plays a man who ends up in a love triangle between two women whom he meets at the beach. Although the characters are somewhat believable and the dialogue feels natural, the plot itself doesn’t have enough imagination to compensate for its lengthy running time of 2 hours and 7 minutes. Brief comic relief helps to enliven the film a bit, but the second act drags too much—it’s as if writer/director Hong Sang-soo is so in love with his characters, he feels the need to just show more scenes with them. Unfortunately, he’s alone in that feeling because the characters seem more boring and bland throughout the film. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: Low. Screens Saturday, September 30th, 6 PM and Sunday, October 1st, 9 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Sold Out! Call the Alice Tully Hall Box Office, 212- 875-5050, for ticket availability. There will be a standby line before the screening. No distributor, yet.
Triad Election- Directed by Johnnie To. In Mandarin and Cantonese with subtitles. In this sequel to 2005’s Election, Jimmy (Louis Koo) wants to be the head of the Hong Kong mob, a.k.a. the Triad. To do so, he must face Lok (Simon Yam) who breaks the Triad code by seeking re-election. Unsurprisingly, plenty of violence ensues. There’s some internal corruption and a few twists here and there. But, there’s nothing refreshing or particularly memorable here. It’s just a well-directed, mildly entertaining yet ultimately forgettable gangster film. Entertainment Value: Moderate. Spiritual Value: None is required or desired. Screens Tuesday, October 10th, 6 PM and Wednesday, October 11th, 9 PM at Alice Tully Hall. Released by Tartan Films. Opens April 25th, 2007 at the Film Forum.