Film Openings

Week of August 3, 2005

Après Vous. (R) A great many contemporary French comedies are male buddy-buddy scenarios in which mismatched personalities are thrown together, usually within a confined space such as a car or an apartment. More often than not, one character is an incompetent idiot and the other, out of kindness, stupidity, necessity, or a sense of superiority, attempts to "help" the first man, only to be slowly brought down to his level of ineptitude. Overly long and annoying at almost every turn, director/co-writer Pierre Salvadori's new film proves an absolute chore to sit through -- a view not shared by French audiences, who made it one of the year's big hits. Daniel Auteuil stars as Antoine, a waiter at an upscale restaurant who stops a complete stranger from committing suicide over a romantic breakup. The ungrateful Louis (José Garcia) becomes an albatross around Antoine's neck. Complicating matters further, Antoine's attempt to reunite the former lovers falters when he himself falls for the woman in question. As Clare Boothe Luce remarked, "No good deed goes unpunished." (Jean Oppenheimer)

Broken Flowers. (R) The restless energy and quirky humor Jim Jarmusch brought to surreal road movies like Stranger Than Paradise and Night on Earth are on full display again in his latest quest story for hipsters. Here, a poker-faced, world-weary Bill Murray portrays a dour, aging ladies' man (named Don Johnston, wordplay on "Don Juan") on the hunt for the mother of his 19-year-old son, of whose existence he's just learned via a cryptic note on pink paper. In this strangely affecting, uncharacteristically star-studded film, Don visits no fewer than four possible mothers (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton), each furnished with the famous Jarmuschian oddity. But in the end we have no clear answers; instead, we're left with the fetching existential ambiguities that earned Flowers the top prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Contentedly independent, Jarmusch always throws a lot of off-speed stuff, and once more, that's his glory. (Bill Gallo)

The Dukes of Hazzard. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. (Robert Wilonsky)

King of the Corner. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (Melissa Levine)

Lila Says. (Not Rated) So much about this French film (based on a 1996 novel) is delightful. Mohammed Khouas plays Chimo, a shy and aimless Arab-French teenager struggling to find meaning in a Marseilles ghetto, with sensitivity and light. Vahina Giocante, starring opposite as Lila, inhabits her strumpet/angel role with a surprisingly adept mixture of innocence and insouciance. The music is as rich and pulsing as the sexuality, of which there is plenty; Lila makes a sport of turning Chimo on with erotic stories, either acts she has performed or wishes to perform. The film has a lot to say about the plight of the young North African in France: "We're not about conquering the world. We're looking for something to do, and there is nothing." What's unfortunate about Lila Says is its ending, including a sudden act of violence and rushed resolution. The violence makes sense, and the film could have ended there; as it stands, it's an American ending tacked on a European film. (Levine)

We Were Painting Butterflies.... (Not Rated) This documentary, directed by newly minted Webster grad Jackson Styron, examines the circumstances surrounding the May 2003 raid on the "Bolozone," a south-city housing cooperative. The story -- about 27 activists who were planning a protest of the World Agricultural Forum in St. Louis and the over-the-top raids (and subsequent arrests) that took place when police got wind of the plans -- is not a new one, nor are there any revelations here. But Styron does an excellent job of editing, allowing his subjects to weave the narrative rather than forcing his own structure onto the film. And he wisely keeps the doc to 38 minutes, giving viewers insight into the story's subjects without retreading the well-documented events. Styron's emerging directorial style and clear sense of social responsibility make this film worth seeing, no matter how familiar one is with the story. Screens at 8 p.m. Monday, August 8, followed by a Q&A session with the director and several of the film's subjects. (Brooke Foster)

 
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