CINEMA: Our Daily Film Fest Picks

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IL DIVO (2008, directed by Paolo Sorrento, 118 minutes, U.S.)

No film at the Festival screams “Masterpiece” quite like this audacious docudrama about the former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.  Andreotti is a political legend in Italy, serving as Prime Minister three times, with his last term ending in disgrace in 1992 when his Christian Democratic Party dissolved in the fallout of allegations of mob ties and the “Bribesville” scandal.  You’d be forgiven for believing that this prizewinner from last year’s Cannes Film Festival would be a dry bore yet director Paolo Sorrento has transformed this political bio into the dream-like vision of sweeping political power.  The ever-floating camera glides across red velvety rooms filled with priceless art till it reaches our hunched little man who is making political war through poetically vague orders.  Toni Servillo’s performance as Andreotti (he was recently seen as the friendly toxic polluter in Gomorrah) reminded me of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s turn as Truman Capote; he’s another weird, fragile-looking little man whom you can’t take your eyes off.  Andreotti barely smiles, says a few ambiguous things then moves off into the night, gliding away with a deliberate movement of a high-priest in mid-ritual.  His ivory tower is such a bubble of grace and luxury you can almost believe the flurry of violence that stems from his actions has nothing to do with him.  Reviewers have mentioned Il Divo‘s brilliance yet always comment that they believe the film is unmarketable.  Let’s hope its ingeniousness might count for something.
Friday April 3, 7:00, Ritz 5
Sunday April 5, 5:00, Prince

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TULPAN (2008, directed by Sergey Dvortsevoy, 100 minutes, Kazakhstan)

The best thing to come out of Kazakhstan since Borat!  The confident debut from director Sergey Dvortsevoy is a humorous and honestly inspiring tale of Asa, a quiet sailor who comes home from the sea with dreams of owning his own sheep herd and marrying the only available woman available on the arid steepe.  The young woman is named Tulpan and Asa is not even allowed to see her face but the perspective bride has already said no: she finds Asa’s ears too big.  The film has just the wisp of a story, the real draw is this depiction of life on the dusty, seemingly unlivable steepe, where the sweet-natured Asa imagines a paradise of sheep, starry skies and satellite TV.  All that is missing is the uncooperative Tulpan.  You may think you know what to expect with this film, whose draw is in its ethnography as much as its cinema, still there is a surprising sense of humor and joyousness that runs throughout the story (Asa returns to his prospective in-laws with a picture of Prince Charles, showing that even a Prince might have big ears and Asa and his pal speed around the steppe singing along to Boney M’s “Rivers of Babylon”).  Its final scene of natural drama couldn’t be any more every day but it is guaranteed to transfix audiences nevertheless.

Friday April 3, 7:15, The Bridge
Sunday, April5, 12:00, Ritz East 1

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MORRIS COUNTY (2009. directed by Matthew Garrett, 91 minutes, U.S.)

There is a lot of talent on display in this well-shot, well-acted trio of stories, each showing a subject at the edges of human experience.  There is a sexually destructive young girl, a suicidal, closeted husband and an older woman who is disappearing into dementia while living with the corpse of her elderly husband.  An air of emotional disengagement infects first-timer Garrett’s direction that recalls the work of Todd Haynes but Garrett seems to have little empathy for its pitiful characters, nor does it share in their cathartic urges.  If there is anyone the director seems to relate to it is the young son of the second piece, who is shown blankly prodding white mice in a jar.

Friday April 3, 9:30, I-House

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