Week of July 24, 2002

Ford Free Fridays. The St. Louis Art Museums offers Friday-night features as part of its Ford Free Fridays program. This week features Patrice Leconte's The Widow of St. Pierre (2000). In the mid-19th century, on a tiny French island near Newfoundland, two drunken sailors commit a senseless murder. One of them, Neel (the great Yugoslavian director Emir Kusturica, in his acting debut), is sentenced to die, but Saint-Pierre is such a remote outpost that it has neither a guillotine nor an executioner. While the authorities wait for France to remedy this, they remand Neel to the custody of the captain (Daniel Auteuil) of the local military attachment. As the captain's liberal wife, Madame La (Juliette Binoche), takes Neel in as her protégé, the prisoner is revealed to be a brave and ethical man who becomes a hero to the townspeople. There are many moments when The Widow of Saint-Pierre threatens, ever so briefly, to turn into an anti-capital-punishment tract. But Leconte (Ridicule, The Girl on the Bridge) is, as always, more interested in the passions than the ideas; he cares about the feelings behind the characters' ideology and how these feelings define them. In the end, this is a romance with three characters, a story in which not all the affections are (in the usual sense) "romantic."(AK)

St. Louis Filmmaker's Showcase. The St. Louis International Film Festival continues its celebration of the work of St. Louis-area filmmakers. In all, seventeen programs consisting of more than 70 film shorts, locally produced commercials, features and documentaries will be screened over the course of five days, July 24-28. Each showcases a different aspect of the local film scene. For a complete listing of programs, films, times and panels, check the St. Louis International Film Festival's Web site, NR

Sunday Afternoon Film Series. The Holocaust Museum and Learning Center hosts a monthly series of movies relating to the Holocaust. This month features Jeroen Krabbé's Left Luggage (1998). For yet more proof that every actor who wants to badly enough will some day be a director, look no further than this personal statement from B-movie baddie Krabbé. Set in 1970s Antwerp, which was apparently peopled entirely by English and German-accented folk, Left Luggage follows the coming of age of Chaja (Laura Fraser), daughter of two Holocaust survivors (Maximilian Schell and Marianne Sägebrecht) who deal with their pain by becoming obsessive-compulsive. Despite Chaja's being "fed up with this whole Jewish thing," the young woman's desperation for money leads her to take a job as a nanny for a strict Hasidic couple (Isabella Rossellini and Krabbé). Chaja quickly strikes up a deep and intimate bond with their youngest son, Simcha (Adam Monty), a redheaded, freckle-faced tot with an adorable penchant for pants-wetting. Soon enough, Chaja starts respecting folks who are more uptight than she, and Simcha starts to open up for the first time in his life. Although it would be too much to ask for a movie about Holocaust survivors to actually be happy, Krabbé is way too heavy-handed in trying for a tragic atmosphere, so much so that it's impossible to be moved by the climactic crisis, which is so drastic that it feels completely unreal. Needless to say, the cast is what makes the movie worth watching. Schell, Rossellini and Sägebrecht are predictably strong, as is (Chaim) Topol as Chaja's elderly mentor. Plays at 2 p.m. July 28 at the Holocaust Museum. (LYT)

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