Circuit. Dirk Shafer. "Circuit parties," the massive days-long gay events held periodically in major cities and fashionable resort towns nationwide, are a subject ripe for movie treatment, and Shafer's film does a good job of capturing this scene, particularly its destructive side. Whereas dance parties are supposedly celebratory events, "circuit" affairs are more like Olympic competitions. Physical beauty is the sine qua non as pumped pectorals clamor for space in the dance spotlight, and sheer stamina is demanded for all the "designer" drug-taking that fuels the sexual action that starts once the dancing stops. When Circuit is on its game, it's very telling, and where it's at its best is detailing just how difficult it is for men so hedonistically self-involved to love one another. But what's most memorable about Circuit is that it's shot on digital video, whose tiny camera enables Shafer to navigate spaces both large ( the Palm Springs "White Party") and small (the tiny trailer in which the hero lives) with considerable aplomb. Opens September 13 at the Chase Park Plaza. (DE)
Ivan's xtc. Bernard Rose. More inspired by than adapted from Leo Tolstoy's story "The Death of Ivan Ilyich," director Rose's film is set in the very fast lane of a modern Hollywood that would have chilled the great Russian author to the bone. Ivan is a high-powered agent who snags a major actor as a client and lures him into a worthless project. Just as he's about to savor this "triumph," he' s found to have terminal lung cancer. Shot on high-definition video, this exceptionally well-made but exceedingly bleak peek at tinseltown would be unbearable were it not for the sympathetic performance of Danny Huston (son of John, brother of Anjelica) as a man who realizes too late that he's wasted his life. Peter Weller and Lisa Enos (who produced and co-scripted) are standouts in the large cast of a film that is sometimes unpleasant but is never dishonest. Plays at 8 p.m. September 13-15 at Webster University. (DE)
Mostly Martha. Sandra Nettelbeck. "I'm not compulsive; I'm precise," insists Martha Klein, the accomplished but rigidly self-contained heroine at the center of this enormously appealing romantic comedy/drama. The head chef at an upscale Hamburg restaurant, Martha (Martina Gedeck) is so focused and dour that she doesn't even recognize how empty her life is. Two events transpire to throw her well-ordered existence into turmoil: A car accident forces her to take in her strong-willed eight-year-old niece, Lina, and an easygoing, affable Italian chef is added to the restaurant staff. Martha is convinced that Mario (Sergio Castellitto) is after her job. Anyone evenly remotely familiar with Shakespeare will recognize that the stage is set for a love affair between these two polar opposites. And in a roundabout way, Lina is the catalyst for bringing them together. Writer/director Nettelbeck balances the humor and pathos adroitly, and she gets wonderful performances from all her actors. One or two plot developments prove unconvincing, but overall this is a delightful film. Opens September 13 at the Plaza Frontenac. (JO)
Stealing Harvard. Bruce McCulloch. Tom Green's in it, so don't expect Stealing Beauty or Stealing Home. In it, he plays -- surprise, surprise -- a nitwit who, along with a friend, is trying to raise a lot of money to send the friend's daughter to Harvard. Expect zaniness for sure, as well as some slapstick antics and an overall pratfall-laden adventure. Ha-ha-ha. Opens September 13 at multiple locations. NR
24-Hour Party People. Michael Winterbottom. Opens September 13 at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.