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AFI Fest A to Z: Hey Man, Yeah 

Our critics' picks for what to see and skip at this year's festival

Thursday, Nov 4 2010
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Page 4 of 6

NOTHING'S ALL BAD A neurotic exhibitionist pervert and his gorgeous gigolo son; a lonely, sexually repressed widow and her mastectomied daughter. Around these four begging-for-analysis individuals, writer-director Mikkel Munch-Fals crafts his first feature, Nothing's All Bad, a yarn of depravity, dysfunction and absurd coincidences. Munch-Fals is a major critic in the Danish film community, but his writing here would suggest that his viewing is limited to works from the ongoing cycle of melodramas wallowing in the seedy underbelly of suburban America (Solondz, Field, Jenkins, Mendes), but his directing brings in ideas about space from Antonioni and color from Fassbinder's reading of Sirk and shows a true critic's sensibility by playing out the incredibly silly climax exclusively in knowing looks — at once a triumph of physical performance and an acknowledgment of his film's failure. (PC) (Nov. 9, 9:45 p.m., Chinese)

CRITIC'S PICK  OKI'S MOVIE It's a pity that Hong Sang-soo's movies come and go in the States so swiftly, especially since his latest might be his most accomplished yet. Set at a film school seemingly plagued by bad ideas — romantic and professional — four nested stories play out affairs of the heart that unexpectedly cut to the quick, among them the comic misadventures of a pompous young director. His off-balance, Rohmeresque encounters and another student's musings on two boyfriends of very different ages are the highlights of the film, which also delivers Hong's comic specialty: scenes of drunken mortification that feel like one's most bumbling what-if daydreams thrown on-screen. (This time it's the young director's post-screening Q&A, which hilariously falls under the category of "worst-case scenario.") The abrupt daisy-chaining of the characters' lives and their personal films keeps you on your toes, but it's all in the service of drawing out intimately felt insights. (NR) (Nov. 6, 4:15 p.m., Chinese)

OUTRAGE After a few years spent indulging himself with goofy, self-referential postmodern "comedies" — you really have to see 2007's insane Glory to the Filmmaker! to believe it — Takeshi Kitano returns to the ultraviolent yakuza genre that made his reputation. Alas, his heart doesn't seem to be in it anymore. Where his earlier films walked an arresting line between brutality and tenderness, Outrage seems content to merely serve up gruesome carnage à la carte, gradually excising various body parts until the film's entire sprawling ensemble cast is dead, horribly mutilated or (usually) both. For a while, the sheer absurdity of this over-the-top spectacle makes for fine black comedy, but well before the finale, Kitano's empty parade of functionally anonymous butchery becomes monotonous, numbing, even dull. He's reached an aesthetic dead end. (MD) (Nov. 8, 9:15 p.m., Chinese)

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CRITIC'S PICK  PINK SARIS Veteran British documentarian Kim Longinotto makes portraits of strong women who lay down the law — or just throw down. Rural Indian women's rights advocate Sampat Pal Devi probably could do either: She's like a frontier sheriff as she settles disputes and leaves men dumbstruck in her wake. Bride beatings, Romeo-and-Juliet romances and other village affairs are settled in the open; she turns shame back against male wrongdoers and teaches girls respect. Sampat is savvy about her public on a small scale (a typical rousing one-liner: "This man's an idiot. That's all there is to it") and on the media stage: The title refers to the dazzlingly dressed gang of supporters she convenes for protests. But instead of belting out a girl-power anthem, Longinotto also shows Sampat's own deeply wounded private side, in a wrenching wind-down. (NR) (Nov. 9, 7:10 p.m., Chinese)

POETRY Lee Chang-dong's latest feature won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes this year, but like his equally acclaimed Secret Sunshine, Poetry throws a bunch of tonally disparate elements together and dares you to assemble them into something coherent — an approach easily mistaken for profundity. Yun Jung-hee is a marvel as Mija, an elderly woman who impulsively signs up for a poetry class and struggles to find inspiration in everyday beauty. Her distractions include, in no particular order: a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, which has begun to plunder her memory; negotiating a financial settlement to compensate the family of a young girl who committed suicide after being gang-raped by a group of school bullies, including Mija's grandson; and an old man with cerebral palsy for whom Mija cares, who keeps demanding a mercy fuck from her. How does this all fit together? That's the poetry, I guess. (MD) (Nov. 10, 6:45 p.m., Chinese)

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