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Film Openings

Week of May 22, 2002

Amadeus: Director's Cut. Milos Forman. Celebrated British playwright Sir Peter Shaffer (Equus) seems to have grasped the concept of jealousy in reorchestrating the intertwined lives of eighteenth-century composers Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce). With producer Saul Zaentz and director Milos Forman (Hair), Shaffer transformed fact into fantasia, maestros into metaphors. Now we're treated to the gluteally challenging but otherwise rewarding three hours of the director's cut, which is not too discernibly altered from the original cut's narrative about a truly beautiful mind, which swept the Oscars in 1984. Equally rapturous for the ear and eye -- thank conductor Sir Neville Marriner, choreographer Twyla Tharp, designer Patrizia Von Brandenstein and cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek -- Forman's take on Amadeus is as impressive as ever. Seeing Amadeus again also summons its stunning prescience in the pop world of the 1980s and early '90s as prodigious boy-men such as Prince and Michael Jackson would seem increasingly deranged and Kurt Cobain's specific genius would end in his untimely death. Note to pop stars: If you ever encounter your own personal Salieri, don't marry her. Opens May 24 at the Screening Room at the Ritz-Carlton. (GW)

Big Bad Love. Arliss Howard. Opens May 24 at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.

Enough. Micheal Apted. You probably saw this film the last time around, when it was called Sleeping With the Enemy. This one merely replaces Julia Roberts with Jennifer Lopez (was Ashley Judd too busy?) and adds a better car chase and more ass-kicking, plus a dubious interpretation of U.S. law in the mode of Double Jeopardy, which posited that Ashley Judd could legally murder her husband if she'd already done the time. Self-defense may not be murder, but stalking someone and breaking into his house with intent to beat them to death is not exactly legal. Then again, if said homeowner is a master of evil with agents everywhere, it's fully justifiable under movie-vengeance rules. Dressing down from her current pop-diva status, J.-Lo actually lets her hair look bad onscreen. The action is generally preposterous but hits all the right marks. Director Apted (Enigma) makes some odd choices (chapter headings?), but the cinematography by Rogier Stoffers (Quills) is way above average. Opens May 24 at multiple locations. (LYT)

Insomnia. Christopher Nolan. Opens May 24 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.

Spririt: The Stallion of the Cimarron. Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook. Notable only for its gimmick -- Spiritis the rare cartoon in which the animals do not speak, except in voiceover, itself a conceit if not a downright cheat -- this is dreary and overwrought. It tells of wild horses romping across the unsettled West circa 1880, but it's not mere tall tale. Rather, it feels as though it's intended to act as fable, a metaphor for slavery and the Holocaust. If so, it's a daring gambit -- and also a clumsy one, because the filmmakers are unable or unwilling to merge the lightweight (for the children) and the heavy (for their parents). Buried somewhere beneath the grandiloquent soundtrack is an often charming and occasionally touching film, but the filmmakers have so little faith in the audience's ability to keep pace with a story in which not much happens that they deaf-and-dumb you to death. Matt Damon chimes in as the voice of Spirit, a stallion born in freedom but subjected to captivity. Opens May 24 at multiple locations. (RW)

Time Out. Laurent Cantet. When a white-collar drone, sacked from his job, begins lying to his family about getting a new position and then proceeds to lure friends and acquaintances into a fake "investment opportunity," the scene seems set for a thriller in the style of Claude Chabrol. But even though it has many things in common with the work of that French master, director Cantet has other things in mind in this deft and moody character study of one man's implosion. Aurélien Recoing stars as a business-world reject who roams the highways and haunts hotel lobbies and parking lots in search of (imaginary) self-fulfillment. Karin Viard is excellent as his patient wife. And Serge Livrozet supplies a stunning supporting turn as an elderly con man who comes to be our befuddled antihero's unwitting mentor. Opens May 24 at the Plaza Frontenac. (DE)

Vengo. Tony Gatlif. Near the end of director Gatlif's phenomenal 1992 effort Latcho Drom, a vehement Gypsy woman, standing at the outskirts of a town, shrieks at the complacent landowners for giving more compassion to their dogs than to her. This galvanizing moment marked an epiphany for Gatlif, with the grimness of eternal wandering underscoring the ebullience of the cultures he loves and plumbs. Nine years and five films later, in Vengo, Gatlif leaves behind the us-versus-them paradigm to focus upon us-versus-us. Distraught in Andalusia, slick entrepreneur Caco (flamenco dancer Antonio Canales) mourns his daughter and dotes on his disabled nephew -- Diego (Orestes Villasan Rodriguez), whose father has nipped off to Morocco after murdering a member of the dangerous Caravacas clan, who look and act like a cross between Reservoir Dogs and Winger. There's danger in the dusty air, but despite the menacing glances, the impending violence and the ribald strippers, Gatlif's drama doesn't hold a candle to his documentary style. Holding on the raging notes, voices and faces of Tomatito, Sheikh Ahmad Al Tuni, La Caita and other musicians, this part of the film is spellbinding. There's just no arguing with twelve centuries of flamenco and, in this sensuous movie, no resisting it. Plays at 7 p.m. May 24-26 at Webster University. (GW)

 
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