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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | With Friends Like This...: Patrice Leconte's "My Best Friend"

    The latest incoming shipment in the modest import business of innocuously predictable French screen farces, Patrice Leconte's "My Best Friend" caters to that conservative audience who seek shelter under the implicit sophistication of subtitle, and who are still not acclimated to the blithe transgression that's become the standard in American screen comedy. But Leconte's inconsequential distraction is another sort of offense, displaying a total dearth of invention, relying only on its air of toothless benevolence. If you take your comedy seriously, the stateside arrival of "My Best Friend" is news every bit as devastating as the eleventh-hour ...

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    REVIEW | Hide and Seek: Steve Buscemi's "Interview"

    Those who know that Steve Buscemi's new film, "Interview" is a remake of a 2003 film of the same name by Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was brutally murdered in 2004 by a militant Islamist for his outspoken condemnation of Muslim treatment of women, may be surprised by how commonplace the film i...

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    REVIEW | Shrill Life: Cherie Nowlan's "Introducing the Dwights"

    A first impression of the titular family in Cherie Nowlan's "Introducing the Dwights" (formerly known as "Clubland") has one imagining the film will be a sunny, Aussie-style quirkfest in the vanilla vein of many a Sundance flick. When his new girlfriend, Jill (Emma Booth), asks about meeting the pa...

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    REVIEW | Body Contact: Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr's "One to Another"

    There's an ever more prevalent, if still marginalized, subgenre in international films today that is difficult to classify. In such films as Larry Clark's "Bully" and Gael Morel's "Le Clan" (released here as "Three Dancing Slaves"), groups of teenagers descend into violent oblivion while the filmmakers dispassionately, purposely objectify their supple flesh. The gap between the actions of the characters and the voyeurism of the filmmakers makes for an awkward, sometimes stimulating dialogue, even if it also leaves the actors somewhat adrift. The recurring image of these films are young, lithe bodies, supine, entangled: in "Le Clan," three eye...

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    REVIEW | Zero for Conduct: Fredi M. Murer's "Vitus"

    Of the thin trickle of foreign films that ever see proper U.S. release, the "subtitled moppets" subgenre seems to me the most superfluous - and when a film like Switzerland's "Vitus" comes along, press kit boasting an Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote on the cover, one can only prepare to be cloyed to ...

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    REVIEW | The Lower Depths: Asger Leth's "Ghosts of Cite Soleil"

    "Rap music influenced them people deep over there; they will live by it and they will die by it. And it ain't no Hollywood movie, it's the truth." So says Haitian-American musician Wyclef Jean, speaking on the street-level reality in Cite Soleil, a shantytown outside Port-au-Prince, and the central character of "Ghosts of Cite Soleil," a documentary on which Jean boasts both executive producer and original music credits. It's a statement that the film fails to follow through on the implications of, showing little curiosity as to what such an "influence" might imply for hardcore hip-hop music - a genre which, incidentally, has always borrowed ...

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    REVIEW | Prognosis: Dire, Michael Moore's "Sicko"

    After announcing itself with the requisite George W. Bush-as-incoherent-idiot sound bite, Michael Moore's "SiCKO" officially begins with a close-up of an unhealed wound. From that point on, Moore will train his camera on countless gashes and sores, most of them psychological, all of which hit the viewer with the force of a hurricane. The subject matter is so inherently powerful and frustrating, and the horror stories "SiCKO" relates are so relatable to American audiences, that one almost wishes that Moore had simply allowed his participants to just speak: to let the running camera record these everyday people's woes, to create a nonstop ethno...

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    REVIEW | The World at Large: Jennifer Baichwal's "Manufactured Landscapes"

    Initially, Jennifer Baichwal's "Manufactured Landscapes" recalls last year's "Our Daily Bread." A clinical crawl through a gargantuan Chinese factory - with its endless, evenly spaced stations of laborers glued to tedious tasks - hauntingly echoes similar tracking shots Nikolaus Geyrhalter used in h...

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    REVIEW | Under the Rainbow: Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley"

    Showered with Cesar awards in its native France, Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley" faces a more uncertain fate stateside (Gallic awards committees can't resist a pretty woman in a field of sun-kissed wildflowers; just ask Claude Berri). Though based on a version of D.H. Lawrence's long-banned, "pornographic" final novel, it's too restive and restrained to draw in the blithe, shock-hungry Terry Richardson/"9 Songs" contingent, too explicit for the AARP-discount crowd looking for a period romance that'll act as a soothing tonic - and as for American critics, there's never any shortage of twits eager to reenact the aesthetic skirmishes of fifty...

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    REVIEW | Staying Afloat: Aki Kaurismaki's "Lights in the Dusk"

    There's a fine line between an artist spinning out variations of core themes and merely treading water. No doubt some will find Aki Kaurismaki's deceptively slight, 77-minute "Lights in the Dusk" a textbook example of the latter, especially given the strenuously laudatory response that greeted his previous film, the Academy Award-nominated "The Man Without a Past." While there's not much value (outside of sheer contrarian pleasure) in poking holes in a fine movie four years after the fact, it's still worth noting that "The Man Without a Past" probably represents less a high water mark for Kaurismaki's filmmaking (see "Shadows in Paradise") ...

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