Film Reviews: Gypsy Caravan and Strike

(Shadow Distribution)

EVENING See film feature

PICK GYPSY CARAVAN Don’t wait for Jasmine Dellal’s Gypsy Caravan to end up broken up between pledge-drive pitches: This joyous portrait of the 2001 “Gypsy Caravan” tour — a stateside showcase of Romany musicians representing their culture as splintered across Romania, Macedonia, Spain and India — deserves to have its brilliant colors, lavish costumes and vivacious musical numbers seen on the big screen. More than a vibrant experiment in ethnomusical cross-pollination, it’s just great fun, tempered by loss but rippling with gusto — and that’s even before a climactic appearance by Esma Redzepova, the Macedonian “Queen of the Gypsies” (and you’d dispute her?), an Etta James–meets–Edith Piaf force of nature who displays the performing zest of a Catskills tummler. Legendary documentarian Albert Maysles was one of the cinematographers; watch for the cameo by a Big Hollywood Star, as if his swashbuckling plumage of late and laissez-faire cool hadn’t already outed him as a wannabe Rom. (Nuart) (Jim Ridley)

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD See film review

NOVEL ROMANCE Jake Buckley (Paul Johansson) is a scruffy writer who lives in a beat-up leather jacket. He’s a lazy, diamond-in-the-rough talent whose skills need honing — the kind that only brilliant fiction-magazine editor Max, played by Traci Lords, can provide. After a few lashes of Max’s red pen, Jake becomes a literary juggernaut, much to the frowning Lords’ chagrin. Why her character scowls through most of writer-director Emily Skopov’s annoying comedy is unclear. After all, Max gets Jake to donate his sperm to her and, five years later, the result, a cooing daughter named Emma (Mikaila Baumel), begins asking the kinds of where’s-my-daddy questions that bring warring movie couples together in matrimony. We know this will happen from the start, of course, but are baffled by what happens in the 90 minutes in between — nothing in the story rings true, either as a publishing fable or as a mating lesson. Lords displays the ability to take on screwball sex comedy, but Skopov makes no distinction between screwball and senseless. Her film is told through the gimmicks of adult sitcom (e.g., Desperate Housewives) — ironical voice-overs, fake tango music, thought balloons, etc. This is really a hybrid movie, part single-parent film, part science fiction (Max’s hugely influential literary magazine is published in Los Angeles) — but adds up to less than the sum of its parts. (Monica 4-Plex) (Steven Mikulan)

RATATOUILLE See film feature

SICKO See film feature

STRIKE I’m sort of in love with Agnieszka, the heroine of Strike: As conceived by director Volker Schlöndorff (The Tin Drum) and played by the superb German actress Katharina Thalbach, she’s a tiny, bug-eyed bundle of energy who single-handedly brings down the Polish government, armed with nothing but humble proletarian determination. The character is based on Anna Walentynowicz, an illiterate shipyard welder who worked with Lech Walesa to form Solidarity, the first independent trade union in Poland. History has given most of the credit for the movement to Walesa, who went on to become the nation’s first democratically elected president, but Strike neatly turns the tables by making him into a sort of glorified game-show host, with a droopy mustache, weak smile and knack for demagoguery, sometimes at the expense of his principles. This is Iron Curtain porn at its most shameless — a rousing industrial-rock song plays in the background every time Schlöndorff wants to invoke the Spirit of Labor — but Thalbach’s Agnieszka is irresistible: She works so hard that she leads the shipyard in production 10 years in a row, and she still finds time to sing, dance, raise a son, take a lover and foment a revolution. (Music Hall; One Colorado) (Julia Wallace)


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