Sex Education

The finale of the picture takes us to Kuala Lumpur, where they keep the world's tallest building and the really big money. The amount? A cool $8 million, which we get to see our heroes download as one millennium gives way to another. In addition to being anticlimactic, this last section has the added feature of being entirely incomprehensible, both in its action and in its relationships. Ving Rhames has a small part (mercifully) as (we think) Mac's good friend, but, ultimately, everything is left so scrambled that we don't know exactly who is allied with whom. What we're left with, finally, is a maddening feeling of frustration. We are told what the title means, though. "Entrapment" is what a cop does to a crook. Maybe. But it's also what you feel watching a woefully unremarkable movie.

Opens April 30.
-- Hal Hinson

PIZZICATA
Written and directed by Edoardo Winspeare

Documentary filmmaker Edoardo Winspeare's first feature takes its name, its rhythm and much of its spirit from the musical tradition of his birthplace, the Salentino peninsula of Southern Italy. The pizzica is a folk dance that comes in three highly symbolic variations, each continued on next pagecontinued from previous pageof which is seen in the film and mirrored in its tragic, romantic story. In the first, the pizzica de core, a man and woman circle each other suggestively but are never allowed to actually touch. The second, the danza della scherma, is a mock sword battle performed by two men. Whereas these two dances have their counterpart in other folk cultures, the third dance, the pizzica tarantata, is a strange ritual with an almost primitive history, dating from a time in which women suffering from a variety of mental or emotional disorders of the sort that used to be labeled "hysteria" were believed to have been bitten by a poisonous spider. Possessed by the creature, they were encouraged to perform a convulsive, exorcising dance for days at a time while praying to St. Paul for release. Every year on June 29 the tarantate of the Salento villages would re-create their possession in the town square.

Pizzicata takes place in the summer of 1943. World War II is dragging on, adding more hardship to the lives of the already struggling peasant farmers. An American plane is shot down, and the surviving pilot, Tony Marciano (Fabio Frascaro), is found and nursed back to health by Carmine Pantaleo (a fine performance by Cosimo Cinieri, the only professional actor in the cast), a widower who lives with his three daughters. Tony, who was born in a nearby village and moved to the U.S. as a child, is introduced to villagers as a distant cousin of the Pantaleos and soon finds himself falling in love not only with the country of his ancestors but with Carmine's engaged daughter Cosima (Chiara Torelli, whom the press notes say has since become a dentist, brings a proud, natural beauty to the role).

As a celebration/re-creation of Italy's peasant culture, Pizzicata joins -- and is perhaps overshadowed by -- the films of Francesco Rosi, the Taviani brothers and others, though Winspeare's portrait of rural life is motivated more by an emotional affinity and less by ideological interests than his predecessors. Similarly, it could be said that his sympathetic depiction of wartime Italy shares with Bernardo Bertolucci's Novecento (1976) (and to some degree Life is Beautiful) an interest in reclaiming the country's cultural past from the nightmare of 20th-century history. The fascists, villains in Bertolucci's film, are barely seen, and the war itself, although much discussed, is only a vague, distant threat. The villagers mourn the loss of their young men but seem indifferent to the outcome. Having no faith in either side, Carmine tries to protect his daughters from Tony's rosy description of a prosperous New York, loudly insisting, "In my family, nobody needs America for work."

Surprisingly, this wartime Romeo and Juliet never quite becomes the melodrama you keep expecting. Though the elements are there, Winspeare is more interested in sensuality than in pathos, filtering the story of the growing love between Cosima and Tony through the latter's hesitant discovery of the country and its customs. There is a sense of distance in Winspeare's handling of their story, a feeling that the young lovers are being helplessly carried along by the predetermined motions of the pizzica. The film avoids the pitfalls of melodramatic cliche by following its more intense and timeless rhythm.

In Italian with English subtitles.
Plays at 8 p.m. April 30-May 2 at Webster University.
-- Robert Hunt

IDLE HANDS
Directed by Rodman Flender

The most surprising thing about the new teensploitation horror film Idle Hands is the lack of masturbation jokes. It is a movie about a 17-year-old boy who loses control of his right hand to an evil demon, yet there's only one such obvious crack. As the gloriously lazy hero, Anton (Devon Sawa), prepares to slice off his possessed paw with a bagel guillotine, he explains why he's attached to his other hand: He needs it for channel surfing, lighting up his bong and "relieving tension." And when his friends (both zombies back from the dead) leave to get a first-aid kit -- "And burritos!" -- it's obvious that the film is answering to a higher power, that it's not a metaphorical trip into teenage sexuality or tedium or toilet humor. This, horror fans, is a good old-fashioned monster movie.

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