Week of November 13, 2002

K3G (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham). Koran Johar.Year after year, India's film production, called Bollywood, outproduces Hollywood as it engenders audience fanaticism. K3G (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghan) epitomizes its theatrical appeal: lavish costumes and locations, dramatic camera movement, energetic editing, vivacious singing and dancing (often music-video style) -- all packaged in a heartbreaking melodrama with an explicit message about class, decorum and cultural dictates. K3G kicks off with a mother and father addressing the camera to proclaim their love of their very different sons -- one adopted, one natural, both dearly loved. Forget believability and surrender to the film's mantra, "It's all about loving your parents." This marathon film (clocking in at three hours and 40 minutes) never drags, delivering melodramatic entertainment with high production values. K3G presents the perfect initiation into Bollywood's charms. Primarily in Hindi with subtitles. Plays at 6:30 p.m. November 16 and 3:30 p.m. November 17 at the Tivoli. (DC)

Markova: Comfort Gay. Gil M. Portes. Though he's adamantly told to forget the past and though he certainly prefers not to remember it, Markova (Dolphy Quizon) reacts to a documentary on the tragic fate of World War II comfort women so profoundly that he must reveal to a reporter his own sad tale, that of a comfort gay. Told in intermittent flashbacks, with Dolphy's two sons portraying him in earlier years, a young Markova suffers unprovoked abuse at the hands of his older brother in particular and through societal prejudice in general. During WWII, with brief snippets of newsreel footage used to chart the war, the Japanese imprison and brutalize Markova and his friends, using them as sexual slaves. As Markova, the immensely popular and animated Filipino performer Dolphy uses his expressive face and graceful body to convey the true story of Walter Dempster Jr. A strong color palette and nicely paced plot overcome the lack of technical flair. Plays at 9:30 p.m. November 19 and 9:45 p.m. November 21 at the Tivoli. (DC)

Millennium Mambo. Hsiao-hsien Hou. Taiwanese director Hsiao-hsien opens Millennium Mambo with a mesmerizing, slow motion shot following the central character, Vicky, who works as a nightclub's PR representative -- and narrates this tale from ten years in the future. Hou's unique minimalist style conveys Vicky's conflicted relationship with her obsessively jealous boyfriend, observing them in dramatic as well as monotonous moments through long takes with little action. As Vicky considers the chilly appeal of Jack, a shady business investor, Mambo connects one vignette perplexingly to another. But the apparent aimlessness alternating with brief outbursts perfectly captures the postmodern world of contemporary urban youth. Vibrant colors, pulsating music and ambiguous, but never unimportant, connections penetrate the viewer's sensibility in a peripheral way, with powerful images seeping into, rather than assaulting, consciousness. In Mandarin with subtitles. Plays at 9:30 p.m. November 18 and 21 at the Tivoli. (DC)

Shorts Program 1: Comedy and Animation. Compilation programs benefit from the variety of topics and styles, from the rhythm of succinct works juxtaposed to enhance each other -- most of the time. But SLIFF's Shorts Program 1: Comedy and Animation combines an astonishingly unappealing collection that drones along with self-consciously cute children acting like dull adults and moronic adults acting like pseudo-children. Heavy-handed, mean-spirited, badly acted and boring -- it's all on display in the dozen here. "Timmy's Wish" is for his parents to die, and a slovenly Jesus delivers. "Kid Protocol" makes the familiar mistake of narcissistically thinking we care about aspiring directors trying to crash the system. "Who Slew" unreels a vacuous idea in bad verse, and "Hamlet" condenses the play with little imagination. And these typify the group. Instead of our wanting each to linger longer on the screen, this "shorts" program delivers a narcotizing knockout blow. Plays at 3:30 p.m. November 16 at Webster University. (DC)

Shorts Program 3: Drama. The Shorts Program 3: Drama collects a strong mix of ironic and earnest works, with many stories focusing on functional and dysfunctional (even deadly) interpersonal relationships. Most deliver their stories through effective understatement and impressive restraint, knowing and showing that less is often more, that indirectly revealing ideas proves much more engaging to the audience than aggressive advocacy. The overall feel is of a group of mature filmmakers with a sure grasp of cinematic technique and a decisive handle on the delicacy of the human psyche. My personal favorite, delightfully unusual and fresh, is "Traveler," about a 92-year-old woman, played by a wonderful Marie Kalish. Told she's "a danger to the community" and must give up her car, she's driven around by Flash, her punkish teenage "partner in crime." But fine performances and imaginative approaches characterize all these shorts to make for a rich program. Plays at 4:30 p.m. November 17 at Webster University. (DC)

Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Story of the Funk Brothers. Paul Justman. You can't argue with the central purpose of this film, a long-overdue appreciation of the Funk Brothers, the Detroit musicians who provided the essential and inimitable rhythm behind the Motown sound, only to be unceremoniously dumped by the label when it relocated to LA in 1971. The film overreaches, making a few clumsy stabs at the usual music-documentary models from The Last Waltz to Buena Vista Social Club as it strains to provide a historical context in which to place its subject; there are even some ill-advised dramatization of scenes from the past. It's more than redeemed, however, by the musical performances, augmented by guest vocalists that include Chaka Khan and Joan Osborne. One might wonder why only one real Motown artist -- Martha Reeves -- is on hand, but the absence of Smokey, Stevie, Diana et al only makes the significance of the studio musicians, flawlessly re-creating the original arrangements, all the more obvious. By the time the film serves up Bootsy Collins' take on the Contours' "Do You Love Me?", it's made its point. You may never listen to those old records in the same way again. Plays at 9:45 p.m. November 16 at the Tivoli. (RH)

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