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Movie Reviews

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    REVIEW | The Archaeologist's Dilemma: Jeremy Podeswa's "Fugitive Pieces"

    Nostalgic, deeply felt, and refreshingly astute, "Fugitive Pieces" is something of a rare bird these days -- a big-budget, transnational historical drama that actually justifies its scope and subject matter with more than visual opulence. On the surface, it looks like the kind of mainstream art-house fare that marries historical romance with a superficial exoticism; with its meandering sense of space and time and its rich sensual engagement, Anne Michaels's novel has drawn comparisons to Ondaatje's "The English Patient," and similarly Podeswa's adaptation will draw comparisons to Minghella's film. But what might have been an overly sentimenta...

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    REVIEW | Knock Off: Claude Lelouch's "Roman de gare"

    Sixties art-house standby Claude Lelouch is, as it turns out, alive and well and living in Paris. He's even directed a new film; the title, "Roman de gare," incessantly punned with in the film, apparently refers to those cheap paperback thrillers available at train stations, tawdry stuff good for a ...

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    REVIEW | Seeing Is Believing: Errol Morris's "Standard Operating Procedure"

    Often when it comes to Errol Morris, the more you see, the less you know. Some documentarians aim to answer and resolve, but Morris is almost too content to leave us adrift in ambiguity, regardless of the political, moral, and epistemological repercussions. After a New York Film Festival screening of his last film, the Oscar-winning "The Fog of War," the woman seated next to me was angry -- violently, vocally angry -- at what she perceived to be the film's sympathetic treatment of Robert McNamara (or should I say, its failure to unequivocally indict him?). I wondered then: why the vitriol? Was it because she disagreed with the film, or becaus...

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    REVIEW | I'll Be Seeing You: Vadim Perelman's "The Life Before Her Eyes"

    Diana and Maureen are in the girls' room, gossiping about boys and bio between classes, when shots ring out. It's the sound of an assault rifle wielded by Michael Patrick, the school nerd, on a violent, Columbine-like rampage. How do we know? "Yesterday in trig he told me he was going to bring a gun...

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    REVIEW | Growth Factor: Sue Williams's "Young & Restless in China"

    With the controversial Beijing Olympics just around the corner, the eyes of the world continue to attentively watch the rapid and profound changes taking place in the social, cultural, and environmental life of China, currently staking a claim as the global market's most powerful economy. "Young & Restless in China," a documentary in the vein of the ongoing "Up" series, examines how these radical transformations are affecting the latest Chinese citizens to enter the workforce, a dislocated and confused generation of young people awkwardly caught in the move from, as director Sue Williams puts forth, "idealism to materialism." It's a shift dir...

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    REVIEW | Strange Fascination: Ari Libsker's "Stalags"

    Many Americans have never heard about the Stalag fiction phenomenon; Ari Libsker's short but valuable documentary, simply titled "Stalags," makes for a troubling, though thoughtful, introduction. Stalags constituted a genre of cheap exploitation novels that briefly thrived in Israel in the early Sixties during the period of the Adolf Eichmann trial, when the atrocities of the Holocaust were initially and tentatively broached in the public sphere. Stalags usually stuck to the same tried and true formula, pawning themselves off as translations of memoirs by American or British soldiers who had been imprisoned during World War II by the Nazis an...

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    REVIEW | Weird Science: Shi-Zheng Chen's "Dark Matter"

    "Dark Matter" begins with a shot of Meryl Streep practicing tai chi, and therein lies a precise encapsulation of the film's attitude toward the intersection of Eastern and Western cultures. In its 90-minute duration, the film grapples with a number of weighty themes: the origins of the universe, the...

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    REVIEW | Compassion Play: Tom McCarthy's "The Visitor"

    Tom McCarthy's surprise indie hit "The Station Agent" was something of a minor miracle. A touching, big-hearted character study propelled by three vibrant performances, "The Station Agent" distinguished itself with its sensitivity and grace, qualities sorely lacking in an independent film culture that too often prizes the clever, the glib, the cute, and the smug. With his sophomore effort as a writer-director, "The Visitor," McCarthy once again proves himself to be refreshingly out-of-step with the indie mainstream, taking an improbable set-up and patiently observing as his damaged but likeable characters work their way through it. Despite it...

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    REVIEW | Old Joy: Stephen Walker's "Young @ Heart"

    Can rock music and colostomy bags mix? (Insert your own hilarious "Shine a Light" joke here.) The subject of Stephen Walker's new documentary is Farmingham, Massachusetts' "Young @ Heart" chorus, a 24-member group with several international tours under its belt. The singers' median age, we're inform...

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    REVIEW | Such Great Heights: Hou Hsiao-hsien's "The Flight of the Red Balloon"

    Like his 2004 film "Cafe Lumiere," Hou Hsiao-hsien's sublime new movie "The Flight of the Red Balloon" finds the director in a foreign country paying homage to another filmmaker. With "Lumiere," Yasujiro Ozu was Hou's reference point and Tokyo his canvas; here, Hou reimagines Albert Lamorisse's classic 1956 short "The Red Balloon" as a Parisian family melodrama. Hou's film, much like Lamorisse's, opens with the magnificent titular object hovering barely out of the reach of seven-year-old Simon (Simon Iteanu); as he gets on the Metro, it floats just above the station, drifting up into the trees. The balloon, and by proxy Lamorisse's film, serv...

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