Film Openings

Week of April 26, 2007

Black Book

Black Book. (R) Paul Verhoeven can be a very bad boy and a very good filmmaker. Any of his movies could have been titled Basic Instinct — not least his epic World War II thriller Black Book. The movie opens in 1956 with a busload of Holy Land tourists gawking at "what is called a kibbutz." There, a Dutch woman recognizes our attractive protagonist Rachel (Carice van Houten): "You're Jewish?!" The two exchange awkward pleasantries, the tour bus pulls out, and with indescribable sadness, Rachel sits alone to relive the movie we now watch. A dozen years earlier, she was hiding with a Dutch farm family — forced to recite from the New Testament for her dinner. When a German bomber sheds its payload on the farmhouse, Rachel is on her own. Enlisting with the underground, she meets and vamps a handsome Gestapo officer (Sebastian Koch). But shit floats on the Day of Reckoning, and Rachel nearly drowns in it, stuck in a Dutch detention camp staffed by drunks. "I never thought I'd dread liberation," she says. That's the movie's melancholy moral. Repeatedly buried and resurrected, Rachel's a survivor. But as the final shot makes clear, resettlement in Israel hardly marks the end of her travail. She's another one of Verhoeven's non-Christian Christs. (J. Hoberman) PF

The Condemned. (R) Reviewed in this issue. ARN, CGX, DP, J14, MR, RON, STCH, STCL, TS12

Diggers. (R) A death in the family forces Hunt (Paul Rudd), a Long Island clam digger, to face up to his becalmed existence in Katherine Dieckmann's terrific movie about a dying way of life. The Ford-Carter debates simmer quietly in the background, but Dieckmann doesn't snow us with '70s symbolism. This very particular movie has a lyrical feel for place, period, and the rhythms of a small-town community trying — and tragicomically failing — to run in place while the world around it opens its arms to creeping corporatism. Rudd is sweet and funny; Ron Eldard and Josh Hamilton are great as the town's aimless stud muffin and philosophizing pothead, respectively. But the movie belongs to Ken Marino, who is riotously funny as the family man whose anger-management problem at last finds a fitting target in the big businessmen who come to destroy his living. Marino also wrote the outstanding script, which traps the foul-mouthed vitality of working-class speech in a bottle and makes it sing. Diggers is not a film you watch — it's a movie you live in, and when time's up you feel the same sense of loss as do these guys, who realize they have no choice but to move on. (Ella Taylor) TV

The Invisible. A ghost story with a teen angst twist: A pair of teens are invisible to others owing to emotional trauma that's, like, even spookier than acne. (NR) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, HP, KEN, MR, OF, RON, STCH, TS12

Kickin' It Old Skool. An occupational hazard of break dancing is breaking things. In this case, it's Justin Schumacher's (Jamie Kennedy) skull. After waking up after twenty years in a coma, he fights to reclaim his top break-dancer status, presumably with considerably less competition in 2006. (NR) ARN, CGX, DP, J14, KEN, MR, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

Next. If you could see a few minutes into the future, you'd naturally move to Vegas to be a magician, place small gambling bets and live off of your winnings. So life is going fine for Chris Johnson (Nicolas Cage) until his visions reveal that terrorists are planning an attack on LA. Does he hedge his bets...or go all in to stop them? (NR) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

Year of the Dog. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue. PF

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