Film Openings

Week of April 6, 2005

The Ballad of Jack and Rose. (R) The fluent writer-director Rebecca Miller (Personal Velocity), daughter of the great playwright Arthur Miller, gives us a fascinating, highly literate film about idealism, freedom, and the forms they demand. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as an unreconstructed hippie environmentalist living on an island with his sheltered, thoroughly indoctrinated teenage daughter (newcomer Camilla Belle). When their self-imposed exile is disturbed by outsiders (Dad's rudderless girlfriend and her two sons), young Rose at first resists, then begins to evolve and blossom. Can Jack, the lefty fundamentalist, yield self-determination to his own daughter? As the title suggests, a potential for tragedy looms over the piece. A bit tedious in places, perhaps, but beautifully written and acted. With Catherine Keener, Paul Danoand Ryan McDonald as the intruders. (Bill Gallo) TV

Eros. (R) This is not a single film but three, joined in a common goal. The first segment was made by Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love) and the second by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich); the final, by any measure the climax, was by legendary director Michelangelo Antonioni. Kar Wai's "The Hand," about a tailor (Chang Chen) besotted with desire for an elegant courtesan (Gong Li), is a gorgeous work of slow and painful longing, saturated in gray, soaking in romantic pathos. Soderbergh's "Equilibrium," about a neurotic man fussing over a sexual dream, is a lighter, though intelligent piece of work. Antonioni's "The Dangerous Thread of Things," in which a couple's relationship has tanked, is rich with delights, naked breasts among them. Eros is a tribute not merely to the entangled concepts of romantic love and sexual desire -- and to the human failure to achieve the former and fulfill the latter -- but to Antonioni himself. In the words of Soderbergh: "I wanted my name on a poster with Michelangelo Antonioni." (Melissa Levine) TV

Fever Pitch. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. ARN, CGX, DP, EQ, J14, KEN, MR, NW, OF, RON, STCH, STCL, WO

Melinda and Melinda. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. PF

Sahara. (PG-13) This is a stunning piece of work -- stunningly inept, stunningly incoherent, stunningly awful in every way. Directed by Breck Eisner, son of Disney chief Michael Eisner, it looks like Donald Duck made it. The story, based on a novel by Clive Cussler, is such a messy tangle of twists and contrivances that for a good 45 minutes, Sahara doesn't make a bit of sense. What's most stunning is that Eisner and his army of screenwriters actually ejected some of Cussler's more ridiculous plot machinations and still found room for a James Bond-Indy Jones explorer (Matthew McConaughey) searching for a Civil War-era Confederate ironclad in the African desert, a World Health Organization doc (Penelope Cruz) searching for the source of a plague, and a creepy industrialist (Lambert Wilson) operating a toxic nuclear waste disposal plant in the middle of the desert. And did I mention the giant Civil War ship that ends up buried in the middle of Africa? No? Well, then, there ya go. Noise and nonsense. (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EQ, J14, KEN, MR, NW, OF, RON, STCH, STCL, WO

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