Week of February 26, 2003

Derrida. Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering Kofman. One of the last of that exquisitely formidable group of French intellectuals to emerge from the later 1960s and still be with us past the turn of the century, Jacques Derrida has always seemed a formidable figure on the printed page. Incredibly prolific, quick-witted and, above all, deep, the creator of the school of philosophy known as deconstruction has acquired both friends and enemies on both sides of the Atlantic. However, in this film by Dick and Kofman (with a lovely score by Ryuichi Sakamoto), he's the figure of suave, affable amiability. Though in no way pretending that it can boil Derrida's exceedingly abstruse thoughts down to 85 minute movie form, or even offer a glimpse of the "real man," Derrida is sure to delight fans and intrigue those who know him just as a name. Filled with information about his life (of particular import the prejudice he suffered being an Algerian-born Jew), plus glimpses of his home life (truly amusing to see the wife tell "Jackie" not to forget his keys), Derrida proves how richly entertaining the world of philosophy can be. Screens at 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, February 28 and March 1 and 2, in Webster University's Moore Auditorium, 470 E. Lockwood. (David Ehrenstein)

Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees. It took five challenging years to make a film about the chimpanzees of Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park -- five years of Imax-camera-damaging humidity, early mornings and uncooperative primates. In the end, the footage of chimps shrieking, playing, leaping through the trees and picking nits is interesting, but was the large-format camera really necessary? The opening shots from a plane, capturing herds of zebra and wildebeest running across the green hills and savannahs of Africa, are awesome. But why project close-ups of hairy chimps (and their distended assholes) on the inside of a giant dome? Dramatic it ain't. Still, the material on Goodall's 40-year effort to understand these long-lived animals is inspiring, and it's interesting to see chimps' diverse personalities and complex jungle pecking order. When viewers are informed that 99 percent of the DNA of humans and chimps is identical and then the film shows the male chimps patrolling their "border" and killing every animal in a rival community, it explains a lot about human behavior. At the St. Louis Science Center's Omnimax Theatre until May 2. (Byron Kerman)

The Scalphunters. Sydney Pollack. Trapper Joe is on his way to town with all the hides he yanked off poor varmints, but a band of Indians snatches his loot -- and all they leave him in return is an escaped slave named Joseph. A Western adventure tale starring Burt Lancaster as one Joe and Ossie Davis as the other Joe. Part of "The Reel West" film series. Screens at 2 p.m., Friday, February 28, at the Kirkwood Public Library, 140 East Jefferson. For information, call 314-821-5770, ext. 0. NR

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Michael Schultz. A contemporary fantasy, based on music of the Beatles, about a rock band's rise to stardom and their battle to defeat a plot of eliminate love and joy from the world. Stars Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, Billy Preston, Earth Wind & Fire and George Burns. Screens at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 5, at Beatnik Bob's Café, third floor of the City Museum. NR

Seven Days in Tehran. Reza Khatibi. In a casually discursive way, Seven Days in Tehran reveals the progressive changes and restrictive traditions of contemporary Iranian society. Motivated by the re-election of Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, director and co-writer Reza Khatibi returns to his homeland after a fifteen-year absence with a French television crew. Interlacing fictional narrative with documentary footage, Khatibi autobiographically plays the conflicted French/Iranian director shooting the TV program. Candid interviews with women students, a spontaneous soccer game, encounters with police over permits, despair expressed by educated citizens over scarce desirable jobs, touching meetings with Khatibi's mother and a close friend, plus numerous casual conversations during an array of meals -- these experiences and other everyday activities paint a picture of the "real" Iran that Khatibi seeks. Though sometimes slow, Seven Days takes the viewer along for a week's worth of cultural immersion. In Farsi and French with English subtitles. Screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, 4, in Webster University's Moore Auditorium. (Diane Carson)

Should I Kill Them? Sergio Bianchi. A scathing look at the consequences of midguided government policies and uncontrolled development of Brazil's vast Amazon region in the '70s. With Bianchi's Divine Social Service and The Second Beast. Screens at 7 p.m., Thursday, February 27, in Webster University's Moore Auditorium. NR

Straight Time. Ulu Grosbard. Based on an autobiographical novel by ex-con-turned-author Ed Bunker (best known as the short-lived Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs), Straight Time offers a rare chance to see Dustin Hoffman in quasi-hipster mode (think of a cleaned-up Ratso Rizzo crossed with Who Is Harry Kellerman?) as a newly released prisoner who discovers that when it comes to re-entering society, the odds are against him. Grosbard gives the film a gritty authenticity but spends so much time establishing Hoffman's character as a likable victim of circumstance that his eventual lapse into crime and violence seems false. Still, the film has excellent performances from Hoffman, Theresa Russell, Gary Busey and a very young Kathy Bates. And for those who accept Roger Ebert's critical edict that no film with Harry Dean Stanton or M. Emmet Walsh can be a total waste of time, Straight Time has both. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, in the Fontbonne University library's Lewis Room. For information, call 314-719-8061. (Robert Hunt)

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