BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC In my years devising strategies for tackling Film Fests I always skipped attending offerings like A Comedy of Power. It has nothing to do with the quality of Claude Chabrol’s latest thriller, it is just that you should get ample chance to catch up with the film during its regular run or on home video. Chabrol is a dependable talent who has had his films distributed in the states beginning with 1968’s Les Bitches through 2003’s Flower of Evil. However since A Comedy of Power opened in New York way back in January, the era may have passed when we could take for granted the fact that the latest film from directors like Chabrol and Jacques Rivette will have a run here in Philadelphia (heck, even David Lynch’s latest Inland Empire somehow missed opening here). So why not jump at the chance to catch latest collaboration (his seventh) with actress Isabelle Huppert? Chabrol is lazily pegged “the French Hitchcock” but Hitch never made a film this plodding, hanging around nondescript government offices as Huppert delivers endless interrogations investigating a somewhat undefined corporate corruption case. Just like character, the film mostly ignores her domestic strife and instead allows Huppert to show off her icy intelligence as a dry-witted unflappable prosecutor who turns these white collar crooks into a sweaty, itchy puddle of goo. It’s first-rate Huppert and she’s as mesmerizing as ever, but not top-notch Chabrol. Tonight 7:30 Ritz East and Saturday April 14th 2:30, Ritz East
It is a disheartening sign of the times that documentaries like A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash are out there filling up art house screens across the U.S. Again, it isn’t the content, A Crude Awakening gives a sobering and important vision of what the world economy faces when fossil fuels, the ubiquitous and non-replenish-able resource that the modern world runs on, runs out. What is disappointing is that this sort of educational documentary used to have plentiful space on PBS or investigative shows like 20/20 but have now been squeezed out into darkened theaters, where far fewer eyes will see them. Things that can’t go on forever don’t and A Crude Awakening interviews a surprising number of talking heads from inside the oil industry who ring a pretty scary alarm. As propaganda it makes a tight and persuasive case that we all could be living like the Amish by the end of the century (and that’s the best case scenario) but as cinema it’s a case argued without much wit or pizzazz. Tonight 7:00 The Bridge and Friday April 13th 5:00pm National Constitution Center
So to summarize the lessons from tonight’s screenings, corporations are thieves, they’re leading us Armageddon and as shown in the highly tense German drama Fair Play, they’re full of pricks too. Lionel Bailliu’s debut presents the worst office work conditions since Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross. There is only a handful of set-pieces in this lying, cheating and back-stabbing jamboree but the film rarely gets more ratcheted up than it does early on in an extended scene showing the company’s fresh recruit playing a no-holds barred game of racket ball with the boss. It’s a grim piece of work but it sure to make your boring job seem like a godsend in comparison. Tonight 2:30 Ritz East, Friday April 13 2:30 The Bridge & Monday April 16 7:15 Prince Music Theater
Also playing tonight is the best reviewed of the Festival’s “Asian Gangsters” series, director You Ha’s A Dirty Carnival (local critic Joe Baltake’s favorite fest film, last time I talked to him), the brain-boiling sci-fi thriller from Spain The Kovak Box (with Timothy Hutton) and the madly dirty and violent Danish cartoon Princess. Until tomorrow, hope to see you out at a screening. If you don’t recognize me, I’ll be the guy who laughs when it’s not funny.