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Eurocinema: New Films From Europe

The Weeping Meadow (New Yorker Films)

Once every 20 years or so, the British director John Boorman (Point Blank, Deliverance) gets it in his head to spin a modern morality play about a man of means torn between work and family, privilege and responsibility, love and desire. In 1970’s Leo the Last, that man was an end-of-his-bloodline monarch (Marcello Mastroianni) who found renewed purpose by crusading for the displaced tenants of a London ghetto. Twenty years later, in the overlooked Where the Heart Is, Boorman’s alter ego took the form of a New York land developer (Dabney Coleman) intent on teaching his freeloading adult children how the other half lives. Boorman’s latest, The Tiger’s Tail, completes the informal trilogy, and the good news for fans of the visionary filmmaker is that it marks a fine return to form following the misbegotten post-apartheid drama In My Country. The bad news is that, after a year on the festival circuit, the film remains without a U.S. distributor and comes to L.A. only by the good graces of the American Cinematheque, where it kicks off a weeklong series of similarly orphaned recent films from Europe. Rooted in a galvanic performance by Boorman’s The General star Brendan Gleeson, The Tiger’s Tail neatly inverts the premise of Heart, with Gleeson as a real estate tycoon who this time finds himself tossed out of house and home following the sudden appearance of his doppelgänger. Miscast in one key role (Kim Cattrall as Gleeson’s wife) and — like nearly all of Boorman’s work — uneven throughout, the movie is nevertheless an accomplished, darkly comic fable (with echoes of Dickens, Cheever and Peter Carey) bursting with resonant ideas about society’s haves and have-nots and the allure of roads not taken. In addition, the Cinematheque series features German director Stefan Krohmer’s Summer ’04 (2006), a superior entry in that subgenre of movies about strange passions awakened by summer heat — in this case, those of a 13-year-old girl (newcomer Svea Lohde) and her boyfriend’s mother (The Lives of Others star Martina Gedeck) for the handsome stranger they encounter during a Baltic vacation. But the undeniable series highlight is the long-delayed Los Angeles premiere of Greek director Theo Angelopoulos’ The Weeping Meadow (2004), which tells the story of a woman named Eleni from the time of her early childhood (as an exile from Odessa in 1919) through to the end of World War II. The set pieces in the film — including the flooding of an entire village constructed from scratch for the filming — are remarkable in their scale and in their sense of the havoc wrought on individual lives by the tide of history (a recurring Angelopoulos theme). Above all, The Weeping Meadow feels at once like a summation of the career of a master filmmaker, and something of a renewal. As Eliot said, “In my beginning is my end.” And vice versa. (American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre and Aero Theatre; thru Thurs., June 14. www.­americancinematheque.com)

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