Kandahar (2001, Mongrel), dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf w/ Niloufar Pazira, Hassan Tantaï. Rating: NNN
Pazira is an Afghanistan-born Canadian journalist whose family fled the country in 1989. She returned in 1998 when she received a letter from a friend there who seemed to be threatening suicide.
Iranian director Makhmalbaf uses this story as a jumping-off point for his film, which follows Nafas (Pazira) as she attempts to reach her suicidal sister across the refugee-filled wastes of the Iran-Afghanistan borderlands. The film's inadequacies as drama -- the entire cast is non-professional, and the female characters are mostly covered up in burkas -- tend to pale before its power as documentary. So this is what the worst place on earth looks like. A stunning transfer.
EXTRAS: Lifting The Veil (a W5 feature on Pazira), commentary track by Pazira, theatrical trailer, English and French subtitles, stills gallery.
L'Ennui (1998, Mongrel), dir. Cédric Kahn w/ Charles Berling, Sophie Guillemin Rating: NN
L'Ennui (Boredom) is so French that you just want to scream. Berling (Ridicule) plays a philosophy teacher who becomes obsessed with a 17-year-old artist's model who doesn't give him anything but sex. He hates himself for wanting her -- "She has no conversation!" -- but can't stop. The film alternates between scenes of empty sex in his apartment and his endless self-recrimination with his ex-girlfriend (Arielle Dombasle, still a philosophical cutie all these years after Pauline At The Beach). A disappointment from a director whose last film, Trop De Bonheur, is one of the buried treasures of recent French cinema.
EXTRAS: Theatrical and video trailer, cast and director biographies. English subtitles.
Also this week
Shallow Hal Jack Black falls for a well-proportioned gal.
Sidewalks Of New York Ed Burns's romantic comedy.
Nora Ewan McGregor plays James Joyce.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb
No rating indicates no screening copy