FAM D: Serge Elissalde, Grégoire Solotareff w/ Vahina Giocante, Guillaume Gallienne (voices). France. 71 min. Saturday, September 9, 9:45 AM ISABEL BADER THEATRE; Monday, September 11, 7:30 PM VARSITY 4 or 5; Saturday, September 16, 5:30 PM VARSITY 5 Rating: NN
Your understanding of this bizarre animation production might be helped by inhaling whatever hallucinogens the writer and director must have enjoyed while creating this beyond-strange little film. The sexual undertones overly endowed bunny figure who makes breast-shaped pies and other confusing messages are entirely inappropriate for children, and the story, about a girl who needs help and the unicorn named U who aids her, is too simplistic to recommend to adults.
Too bad, because the hand-painted animation, with its rich palette of darks and lights, is worthy of a better film.
EMPz 4 Life
MAST D: Allan King. Canada. 113 min. Saturday, September 9, 11:45 AM VARSITY 8; Monday, September 11, 5:45 PM VARSITY 7 Rating: NNNN
The septuagenarian King turns his vérité camera on the 'hood in this case, Scarberia to follow Brian Henry, a sort of freelance social worker who's trying to intervene with "at risk" youth to get them, and their schools, to focus on their academic skills. Henry's life is depicted as a shifting landscape of hope, anger and despair, from watching his kids succeed with the benefit of advanced math tutoring to being stopped for DWB (driving while black) by Toronto's finest. Slow-building and powerful.
THE U.S. VS. JOHN LENNON
RTR D: David Leaf, John Scheinfeld. U.S. 96 min. Saturday, September 9, 3:30 PM RYERSON; Monday, September 11, 8 PM VARSITY 2 or 3 Rating: NNN
Produced by VH1, this is another rockumentary that relies on talking heads and sound bites to organize its narrative, because it seems to fear using voice-over and becoming an episode of Behind The Music. It's part of the ongoing strip mining of boomer nostalgia for everything Beatles and focuses on Lennon's early American post-Beatles period, his forays into radical chic and the attempts of the Nixon administration to deport him. There's some good period documentary footage and a sampling of Lennon's music from the Plastic Ono Band period. Yoko Ono cooperated. Blandly respectable.
CWC D: Rachid Bouchareb w/ Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem. France/Morocco/Algeria/Belgium. 120 min. Saturday, September 9, 6:15 PM VARSITY 1; Tuesday, September 12, 11:15 AM PARAMOUNT 4 Rating: NNNN
This is a heartfelt and compelling attempt to rescue from oblivion the 130,000 forgotten soldiers from France's African colonies drafted during the second world war to help liberate from Nazi occupation a motherland they'd never set foot on only to be denied, when the war ended, the pensions and citizenship they'd been promised. Aiming for maximum emotional impact, Bouchareb focuses on the men rather than the battles. His choice pays off, aided by a strong ensemble cast who walked off with a very much deserved collective best-actor prize at this year's Cannes Festival.
CWC D: Dror Shaul w/ Tomer Steinhof, Ronit Yudkevitch. Israel/Germany/Japan. 97 min. Saturday, September 9, 7:30 PM CUMBERLAND 1; Monday, September 11, 9 AM AL GREEN Rating: NNNN
The confines and comforts of kibbutz life in the 70s are fascinatingly observed through the eyes of about-to-be bar mitzvahed Dvir (Steinhof) as he copes with the realization that his adored mother, Miri (Yudkevitz), is mentally ill. The universal story of a child who must act as parent works perfectly in the specific context of a socialist kibbutz where everybody works for the greater good. The setting helps anchor the occasionally melodramatic story, but the film's real strength is its cast: French actor Henri Garcin as Miri's older suitor, the remarkable young Steinhof and the haunting Yudkevitz. This film will get to you.
DISC D: Joachim Trier w/ Espen Klouman Høiner, Anders Danielsen Lie. Norway. 105 min. Saturday, September 9, 8:15 PM VARSITY 2; Monday, September 11, 12:15 PM PARAMOUNT 4 Rating: NNNN
A euphoric prologue that constitutes an inventive homage to Jules And Jim gets your attention right away in this impressive feature film debut about the loves and lives of two 20-something best friends who would be novelists. Its playful exuberance and sensory overload (reminiscent of Desplechin) are accompanied by the likes of Joy Division, New Order and the Jam, but it's Trier's daring exercise in re-examining and reimagining events that makes his film so original. Like cinematic stem cells, its narrative threads can lead anywhere and everywhere. And its dazzling sensibility allows for all possible worlds: the potential for true romance, creative success and the depths of depression burst forth with the full force of youth.
CWC D: Tony Gatlif w/ Asia Argento, Birol Unel. France. 103 min. Saturday, September 9, 8:30 PM PARAMOUNT 4; Monday, September 11, 3 PM PARAMOUNT 1; Friday, September 15, 6:15 PM VARSITY 4 Rating: NNN
A woman travels halfway across Europe in pursuit of her lover only to be rejected by him in the middle of a pagan festival in the heart of Romania. So what's a poor girl to do? Since she's that peculiar life force known as Asia Argento, go native and immerse herself in the culture of this seductive place. Fortunately this Eurocine cliché also features unusual, infectious music (sometimes linked to dance, sometimes literally trance-inducing), impressive cinematography and Head-On's Unel. The two stars make a divine pair in Gatlif's larger-than-life operatic road movie, especially if you're in the mood for a hot-blooded romantic fantasy.
GALA D: Alejandro González Iöárittu w/ Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett. U.S. 142 min. Saturday, September 9, 9:30 PM ROY THOMSON HALL; Sunday, September 10, 11:30 AM VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) Rating: NNNN See review.