9:30 p.m.: All About My Mother (Todo Sobre Mi Madre). Pedro Almodovar, Spain, 1999, 101 min. In his most mature, least manic film to date, acclaimed Spanish director Almodovar uses the accidental death of an adored teenage son to send distraught mother Manuela on a journey of symbolic and literal discovery. Searching for the absent father now known as Lola, Manuela builds a substitute family, including a nun and her agitated mother, a famous actress and her junkie, and a transsexual prostitute. Coping with grief through new friendships and an admirable resilience of spirit, Manuela reinvents her life through the theater and its community. All About My Mother celebrates and moves us with joyful and humorous, ironic and sad moments in Manuela's struggle. Superb performances by all, accomplished cinematography and art direction, Alberto Iglesias' effective music and, above all, heartfelt empathy for the human struggle earned Almodovar this year's best-director award at Cannes. In Spanish with English subtitles. (DC)


7 p.m.: Train of Life (Train de Vie). Radu Mihaileanu, France, 1998, 103 min. Because we need another Holocaust comedy, France brings us Train of Life, a rollicking tale of an entire Jewish town that attempts to escape the Nazis by staging its own deportation. Led by Shlomo, the village idiot (as usual, the smartest member of the town), these resourceful people sew Nazi uniforms, buy and renovate their own cattle train, forge papers and set off for Palestine. Along the way, they confront members of the Resistance, gypsies and, of course, actual Nazis. Although the film relies heavily on stereotypical jokes and predictable Jewish cultural references, it's often warmly funny, and there are some moments of sheer exhilaration. On the other hand, the fantasy is soon and often wearying in the face of what we all know to have been grim reality. Whether the shocking ending redeems the film is hard to say, but it's definitely a bold move on writer/director Mihaileanu's part. In French with English subtitles. (ML)

7:30 p.m.: That's the Way I Like It. Glen Goei, Singapore, 1998, 91 min. In late '70s Singapore, mild misfit Ah Hock (Adrian Pang) becomes entranced with the world of Saturday Night Fever and molds himself in the image of John Travolta. Goei's lighthearted movie is one of the few feature films to emerge from that country's tiny film industry in the past decade and presumably the first to receive commercial distribution in the U.S. since the two Cleopatra Wong action movies of two decades ago. You have to give Goei points for the film's good-naturedness and its slickness in the absence of money. Unfortunately, the movie isn't so much an homage to Saturday Night Fever as it is a remake, which makes things awfully predictable. And although the cover versions of Bee Gees tunes with which Goei has had to make do on the soundtrack are acceptable, the presence of an imaginary John Travolta (Dominic Pace) as Hock's spiritual advisor (à la Play It Again, Sam) is a problem; Pace's Travolta imitation just isn't good enough to pass muster, at least to American ears. In Hokkien and English with English subtitles. (AK)

9:30 p.m.: The Wisdom of Crocodiles. Po Chih Leong, U.K., 1999, 99 min. In Po Chih Leong's post-Bram Stoker, post-George Hamilton, post-Coppola view of vampirism, it's high time for Vlad the Impaler to go completely postmodern in the '90s. Steven Grslcz (Jude Law) has ditched the black cloak for designer threads. He sacks out not in a musty coffin but in a decorator- furnished London flat. He's playboy-slick, and he speaks in dense, ironic riddles that not even he seems to understand half the time. Self-conscious and tormented about good and evil, he bamboozles a trusting cop (Timothy Spall) but not the plucky heroine (Elina Löwensohn). She's no swooning Victorian maiden but -- we're not kidding -- an asthmatic structural engineer who's developing a new kind of waterproof concrete. One day, maybe she can start patching up Dracula's unsightly castle with the stuff. Meantime, this pompous and dispassionate movie leaves you longing for something besides a grandiose philosophical construct to sink your teeth into. (BG)

9:45 p.m.: Laura. Otto Preminger, U.S., 1944, 85 min. Too elegant to properly be labeled noir and too willfully perverse to fit in with the conventional drawing-room mystery, Preminger's 1944 classic finds a nearly perfect balance of Hollywood glamor and dark obsession. Though the story follows all of the usual mystery-novel steps, Preminger is less interested in exposing a murder than in creating a sense of collective guilt. The dead Laura, a tangible presence throughout the film thanks to her portrait on the wall and David Raksin's ever-present theme music, is the figure of desire that links cop and criminal and makes every character a potential lover or murderer. The flamboyant Clifton Webb steals the film, but Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney are at their best as well, and those who know Vincent Price only for his charmingly campy presence in horror movies of the '60s and '70s will be surprised to see what a delightful -- if somewhat mannered -- actor he could be when he played it straight. Introduced by Vincent Price's daughter, Victoria, author of Vincent Price: A Daughter's Biography. (RH)

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