MORE

Los Angeles Film Festival: Reviews, A to Z

All Tomorrow's Parties

AFTER THE STORM (USA) Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, actor and writer James Lecesne wanted to go to New Orleans to help but was well aware of his limitations in such vital fields as manual labor. Instead, he and several other New York artist friends opted to use their stage skills to help some of the newly displaced teens in staging a musical (Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens’ Once on This Island) with themes relevant to rebounding from a storm. The play was for charity, the kids clearly got a lot of benefit out of it ... so is it churlish to complain that the movie simply isn’t very engrossing? (Mann Festival, Sun., June 21, 4:30 p.m.; Regent, Thurs., June 25, 7 p.m.) (Luke Y. Thompson)

CRITIC’S PICK  ALL TOMORROW’S PARTIES (U.K.) Part concert film, part rebel manifesto, this toe-tapping document covers several years in the life of a marvelous off-season music festival that’s been staged in the English countryside every year since 2002. The participants include musical iconoclasts at every level of fame: Nick Cave, Sonic Youth, Iggy Pop and Patti Smith share stages with Belle & Sebastian, Portishead, Slint, Mogwai, Roscoe Mitchell, the Boredoms and Seasick Steve, to name but a few. The atmospheric settings are deserted seaside “holiday camps” (shades of The Who’s Tommy). Director Jonathan Caouette weaves in a wealth of oddball news and home-movie footage from the 1950s and ’60s, which emphasizes the time-capsule flavor, and grounds the music in a pop continuum that spans 40 years. The late Jerry Garcia speaks to this from the archives, envisioning a concert-utopia in which “there would be no headliners. There would only be music.” One handycam-bearing interviewer asks ponderously: “When youth culture becomes monopolized by big business, what are youth to do?” Music itself is the film’s answer, as are these concerts, whose artists and fans mingle together with a friendly, homespun freedom. Caouette, who made the heartrending and unforgettable film-memoir Tarnation (2003), is 180 degrees more lighthearted here. He restricts himself to a “co-director” credit; his collaborators are billed as “All Tomorrow’s People,” and by this critic’s count are 152 strong — music fans with video cameras. The film thus pleasurably embodies the interactive generosity of talents whose confluence it describes. (Ford Amphitheatre, Wed., June 24, 8:30 p.m.) (F.X. Feeney)

AUTUMN (Turkey) Director Özcan Alper’s aptly titled debut stews in the consumptive juices of defanged activist Yusuf (Onur Saylak), a beaten man returned home after a decade in prison. The eponymous season slides into winter, as Yusuf settles into a dead-end existence with his aged, long-suffering mother, fails to connect with a gold-hearted hooker with a taste for Russian literature, and dedicates a whole lot of time to staring glumly into the middle distance. The brooding is relentless, the images of rural Turkey evocative, but the film doesn’t quite convince us of the existential weight it strives for. (Landmark, Thurs., June 25, 9:30 p.m. & Sat., June 27, 7 p.m.) (Lance Goldenberg)

BANANAS!* (Sweden) Swede Fredrik Gertten’s documentary about an L.A. trial alleging that Dole Food Corporation’s use of U.S.-banned pesticide DBCP sterilized generations of Nicaraguan banana workers has generated controversy prior to its LAFF unveiling, now that bus-ad mainstay Juan “Accidentes” Dominguez is being accused of fraud in his recruiting of plaintiffs. Dominguez is the unquestioned man-of-the-people hero of Gertten’s film, which means an opportunity to explore the complicated personalities of a thorny case — one that easily proves Dole acted sketchily — is lost. Gertten stuck with what he shot rather than updating his film, but even as it stands now, Bananas!* hews too drearily to courtroom footage and crusader worship to have any real impact as a screed against the abuse of multinationals. (James Bridges Theater, Sat., June 20, 7:30 p.m.; Landmark, Tues., June 23, 9:15 p.m.) (Robert Abele)

BIG RIVER MAN (USA) A wearying air of Boratic minstrelsy and Jackass heedlessness sinks this eager-to-please doc about beer-bellied Slovenian swimmer Martin Strel. Narrated in accented monotone by Strel’s wrangler/son, the middle-aged record-holder’s attempt to swim down the Amazon yields a surreal exercise in rubbernecking, with much manufactured gonzo. Director John Maringouin’s urge to surprise and entertain feels cynical as the expedition flirts with being a death trip and Strel often goes unheard. The tell comes when the son mentions doing Dad’s press interviews for him because he “knows what media likes.” (Majestic Crest, Sat., June 20, 10 p.m.; Landmark, Wed., June 24, 2:15 p.m.) (Nicolas Rapold)

CRITIC’S PICK  BORN WITHOUT (Mexico) Jose Flores is an armless dwarf who supports his large family as an itinerant street musician. He performs at outside fairs, bullfighting arenas and cockfighting pits throughout Mexico, and admits that his most generous patrons are drug traffickers. His irregular appearance once led to roles in films by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Nicolás Echevarría (clips included here show him to be an actor of undeniable depth). In this provocative documentary from the late Eva Norvind, Flores is at first presented as an object of pity, a lonely figure ignored by passersby and hassled by authorities as he blows jaunty folk tunes on his harmonica outside a fair; later, as a proud family man who has overcome extreme adversity to raise seven children with his adoring wife, Gracie. Norvind then brings forth some alarming revelations that place Flores in an entirely new light and raise some ticklish moral questions. It turns out that this seriously handicapped ladies’ man, who physically can’t hold a woman, refuses to allow his disability to stop him from practicing some rather unorthodox approaches to connubiality. Flores emerges as a complex, admirable and perplexing character in this unflinching portrait, which challenges prevailing perceptions of the disabled while completely avoiding sentimentality. (Landmark, Sun., June 21, 2 p.m.; Billy Wilder Theater, Wed., June 24, 9 p.m.) (John Tottenham)

 

GO  BRANSON (USA) Instead of delivering the expected look-at-the-losers portrait of the titular Missouri town, frequently dismissed as a tacky Midwestern Vegas, director Brent Meeske’s compassionate documentaryexplores the struggles of several little-known performers who are drowning in debt and debating whether the time has finally come to move on with their lives. Many individual stories break the heart, but the most poignant tale belongs to “Jackson Cash,” a Johnny Cash impersonator who bears a great vocal similarity to the Man in Black but who also seems to have inherited the legend’s addiction problems, which threaten to destroy his brief, unlikely stab at stardom. (Regent, Sun., June 21, 7 p.m. & Tues., June 23, 4:30 p.m.) (Tim Grierson)

GO  BRONSON (U.K.) As the violent British felon turned award-winning poet and artist Charles Bronson (née Michael Gordon Peterson), actor Tom Hardy proves more than ready for his close-up, cackling, snarling and head-butting his way through Pusher director Nicolas Winding Refn’s mercifully unconventional biopic. With a grab bag of visual and sonic tricks borrowed from the likes of Kubrick and Peter Greenaway, Refn stages Bronson’s life as a kind of sociopathic vaudeville, with the character recounting his misadventures before an audience, while a series of abstract formalist flashbacks illustrate his violent journey from the crib to various other barred enclosures. The constant is Bronson’s art-making, which flourished behind bars but may, Refn and screenwriter Brock Norman Brock argue, have begun the first time he committed armed robbery — a stickup as a form of standup. (Mann Festival, Sat., June 20, 10 p.m.; Landmark, Sun., June 21, 10 p.m.) (Scott Foundas)

CALIMUCHO (Netherlands) Dutch filmmaker Eugenie Jansen (Sleeping Rough) uses a real-life traveling circus as the backdrop for this scripted tale of a woman named Dicky (Dicky Kilian), who’s intent on raising the son of her late sister, a circus performer. Despite the film’s insight into the hardscrabble life of a one-tent big top, Jansen’s decision to shoot nearly every scene in tight medium shots while not always showing the face of the person who is speaking makes this slow-moving film even more maddening. (Majestic Crest, Sun., June 21, 1:30 p.m. & Mon., June 22, 9:45 p.m.) (Chuck Wilson)

GO  CALL IF YOU NEED ME (Malaysia) Long takes and lugubrious rhythms dominate director James Lee’s deglamorized account of low-level gangsters passing time in Kuala Lumpur. Anticipated themes of honor and loyalty abound, as country mouse Or Kia (Sunny Pang) comes to the big city to work in his cousin’s gang, but narrative takes a back seat to accumulating details, as vaguely seedy characters sit around chewing the fat and waiting for something to happen. There’s barely a sidearm in sight (the most lethal weapons here are the coffin nails sucked down by everyone in sight), but the smell of violence is palpable and meticulously entwined with the petty frustrations informing every move. (Landmark, Mon., June 22, 9:45 p.m.; Regent, Sat., June 27, 4 p.m.) (LG)

GO  CITY OF BORDERS (USA) The questions raised by Yun Suh’s vibrant documentary about the last days of Shushan, Jerusalem’s only gay bar (timed to the resignation of its owner from the Jerusalem city council), include whether the erstwhile clientele, struggling for recognition amid that holy city’s volatile mix of competing fundamentalisms, can sustain itself as a political constituency. Or does it make more sense to head out to greener pastures: Tel Aviv, maybe, or — strange but true — Cleveland? What’s certain amid so much uncertainty is that nightclub or no nightclub, political representation or none, nothing will prevent these people — man, woman, Arab, Jew ­­— from hopping fences, hooking up, making families. (Regent, Sun., June 21, 9:45 p.m.; Landmark, Tues., June 23, 7:30 p.m.) (Ron Stringer)

GO  COLD SOULS (USA) What is the shape and size of a human soul? And if you could remove your soul from your body, would you still be you? These are among the questions taken up by writer-director Sophie Barthes’ amusing existential divertissement about the little-known world of international soul-trafficking. During rehearsals for a production of Uncle Vanya, Paul Giamatti (playing himself) begins to feel weighed down by Chekhov’s lovelorn, chronically dissatisfied protagonist. So he puts his soul on deposit at a Roosevelt Island “soul-storage facility” (run by a kooky David Strathairn, not playing himself) that also deals in black-market, Russian-harvested souls ferried to the U.S. in the bellies of human mules. Maria Vasilyevna Voinitskaya Full of Grace? Not exactly. Cold Souls begins with a blast of self-assured ingenuity that it doesn’t quite sustain over the long haul, but Barthes’ low-fi futurism, generous good humor and respect for the audience’s literacy are easy to admire. (Mann Festival; Thurs., June 25, 7 p.m.; Regent, Sat., June 27, 1:30 p.m.) (SF)

 

CRITIC’S PICK  CONVENTION (USA) Convention is an unintentionally ironic title, considering both this film and AJ Schnack’s last — the poetic, quasi-installation Kurt Cobain: About a Son — illustrate the director’s proclivity for challenging the standards of nonfiction filmmaking. Not that this witty, sharp-eyed and effortlessly entertaining portrait of the city of Denver during the 2008 Democratic National Convention is so far removed from the vérité purism of Robert Drew or D.A. Pennebaker (if Frederick Wiseman had made the film, it would still be called Convention). But Schnack’s curious instinct is to remove the presidential and backstage politics entirely, instead focusing on the frenzied microcosm of cogs who often remain invisible if they’re doing their jobs well. From the tireless deputy city liaison whose mobility depends on learning from Mayor Hickenlooper how to drive his scooter and the poor Denver Post staffer who suffers a breakdown while facing impossible deadlines to the disorganized organizers who march their overreaching entitlement up and down the streets before hilariously getting trapped in a dead end, the film sees the logistics behind democracy in action. The eclectic Americana soundtrack is aces, as is Schnack’s formal rigor (the seamless multicamera shoot was helmed by a handful of notable documentarians, including My Country, My Country’s Laura Poitras and They Killed Sister Dorothy’s Daniel Junge). “I wonder if he’s nervous,” someone mumbles as Obama’s motorcade arrives, a delightfully appropriate query in a film about every person’s vital role in shaping society. (Majestic Crest, Mon., June 22, 7 p.m.; Landmark, Sat., June 27, 9:45 p.m.) (Aaron Hillis)

DEAR LEMON LIMA (USA) The lipstick traces of Todd Solondz and Wes Anderson are everywhere to be found in writer-director Suzi Yoonessi’s quirk-addled debut feature about a half-Eskimo Alaskan teen navigating the lower circles of the high school social inferno. Familiar lessons in self-empowerment abound as lonely Vanessa (appealing newcomer Savanah Wiltfong) pines for the affections of an arrogant, alpha-male jock while assembling a ragtag team of similar misfits to compete in their high school’s Survivor-style athletic competition. Despite the exotic setting and the attempt to say something meaningful about the tension between white and “native” culture, the movie is an Indiewood cliché through and through, complete with a third-act “twist” meant to seem irreverent that registers only as desperate. (Mann Festival, Sat., June 20, 7:15 p.m.; Landmark, Tues., June 23, 4:30 p.m.) (SF)

CRITIC’S PICK  EMBODIMENT OF EVIL (Brazil) When eccentric director José Mojica Marins set out in 1963 to make Brazil’s first designated horror film, At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul, he wound up changing national pop culture — and the world of global cult movies — forever. His character Zé do Caixão (internationally branded “Coffin Joe”), a nefarious gravedigger in search of the perfect woman to conceive a superior spawn, struck a chord with underprivileged Brazilian audiences: Anarchically challenging the hypocritical establishment, Zé also punished a timid society with contempt. He killed and tortured again in 1967’s equally contentious This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse, but the horror in these hallucinogenic Arte Povera films had more to do with their philosophical ideas and the theater of cruelty than their proto-gore excesses. Censorship problems forestalled a third entry in the series, although Marins gained public notoriety (and success) by merging with his screen persona, adopting Zé’s trademark look — black top hat and cape, and especially those long, long fingernails, which stretch through a cell door’s window at the opening of Mojica Marins’ long-awaited, triumphant 2008 comeback, Embodiment of Evil, realized after several difficult decades as a director. Zé may be haunted by old ghosts but hasn’t lost his commanding powers: Upon being released from jail, he relocates to a favela basement, where his dedicated followers prepare for gross experiments involving prospective mothers of their master’s scion while battling violent oppressors (corrupt cops and pernicious priests). Embodiment of Evil looks slicker than its predecessors, but it’s an old school midnight-movie experience to savor: a surrealist mix of trash and poetry resulting in a series of surprisingly strong transgressive images (often conflating torture and ecstasy, as when Zé cuts open a dead pig from which a beautiful girl emerges for a bloody embrace) that may well constitute the greatest film of 2008. (Majestic Crest, Fri. June 19, 10:30 p.m.; Landmark, Sun., June 21, 10 p.m.) (Christoph Huber)

 

CRITIC’S PICK  EXTRAORDINARY STORIES (Argentina) “Extraordinary” is by no means an immodest moniker for this incredibly audacious first dramatic feature by Argentine director Mariano Llinas, which suggests a telenovela co-scripted by Thomas Pynchon and Jorge Louis Borges, or what a true screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy might be like. The three primary story lines (though there are countless others) concern men known only as X, Z and H, respectively, each of them minor bureaucratic functionaries in nondescript Patagonian towns, who find themselves tossed by circumstance into unexpectedly complicated adventures. The first man witnesses a murder (before committing one himself); the second scours the countryside for clues about his predecessor, an international man of mystery with a possible sideline in illegal wildlife trafficking; the third travels up river in search of the large stone “monoliths” he has been hired to photograph. Each thread is a miniroad movie of a sort, although like the film’s whimsical (and questionably reliable) omniscient narrator, Llinas shows markedly greater interest in the journey than in the destination. Stories give way to other stories — some comic, some tragic, some romantic — which are themselves riddled with dreams and flashbacks, until we no longer care if we will ever reach the end, for so pleasurably intoxicating is the air of elaborate narrative gamesmanship. Don’t let the four-hour running time deter you: There is nary a dull moment here, or one devoid of visual or storytelling invention. This is a work of consistent astonishment. (Italian Cultural Institute, Sun., June 21, 7:30 p.m.; Landmark, Mon., June 22, 7 p.m.) (SF)

GO  HARMONY AND ME (USA) Writer-director Bob Byington’s Harmony and Me may feel like Andrew Bujalski–lite, but that doesn’t keep this slight anticomedy from being sufficiently funny. Justin Rice (from the indie-rock outfit Bishop Allen and star of Bujalski’s Mutual Appreciation) plays Harmony, a self-pitying shrug of a guy who’s pining for his ex-girlfriend, Jessica (Kristen Tucker). Byington doesn’t show much interest in Jessica — or in any of his female characters, for that matter — and instead spends the film’s slender running time focusing on deadpan non sequiturs involving Harmony and his equally socially awkward buddies. The unremitting ironic tone can grate, but Pat Healy’s fantastic jerk-boss character is a consistent pleasure. (Regent, Mon., June 22, 4:30 p.m. & Fri., June 26, 7:15 p.m.) (TG)

GO  HIGH-RISE (Brazil) Zeroing in on one essential facet of urban experience, documentarian Gabriel Mascaro whisks us to the islands in the sky known as penthouses and hears out their well-heeled inhabitants. A colorful variety of upper-class Brazilian city dwellers chat away, happily espousing isolation and control as ideals, while Mascaro injects clean, angled views from one sheer skyscraper to the next. The desultory doc has room to grow, but its milieu effortlessly provokes thoughts on inequality, satisfaction and oblivion. (Landmark, Sat., June 20, 9:45 p.m.; Italian Culture Institute, Sun., June 21, 2:30 p.m.) (NR)

HOLLYWOOD JE T’AIME (USA) Sad-sack adult naif Jérôme (Eric Debets) impetuously books a flight from Paris to Hollywood to escape his philandering ex-boyfriend and cramped new apartment. Once writer-director Jason Bushman gets Jérôme stateside, the character befriends clichés (including a semitragic Negro tranny and a jaded, weeping-on-the-inside white queen) as he navigates Silver Lake, West Hollywood and the cutthroat world of show biz. Chad Allen (looking skeezy) turns up as a weed-dealing, potentially ideal holiday romance until he unleashes some bigotry. With fantasy sequences that impart obvious life lessons, a superficial look at the politics of immigration, and welcome dollops of eye candy, the film is never more than mildly entertaining. (Majestic Crest, Sun., June 21, 7 p.m.) (Ernest Hardy)

CRITIC’S PICK  IN THE LOOP (U.K.) Taking the Dr. Strangelove view that nothing is funnier in the halls of power than a war of cockamamie spin, this scabrously hilarious warmongering farce co-written and directed by British comedy impresario Armando Iannucci reimagines the U.K./U.S. buildup to an inevitable Middle Eastern conflict as an absurdist school-yard bully-off between a ferociously insulting Downing Street adviser (the magnificently scary Scotsman Peter Capaldi, in one of the year’s great comic turns) and an American general (James Gandolfini) who’s seen enough bloodshed in his lifetime. Their pawn — and the movie’s jittery moral hero — is a well-meaning British secretary of international development (Pirates of the Caribbean’s Tom Hollander), whose ill-spoken answers on a talk show spark the movie’s pond-crossing crisis. Like Iannucci’s TV series The Thick of It — the fantastic BBC government satire that is this movie’s genetic cousin, from its use of the same actors (Capaldi among them) to the fly-on-the-wall camera style — In the Loop presents modern politics as little more than a constant state of leak-plugging, backtracking, shrewd stupidity and inelegant redirection. (Majestic Crest, Sat., June 20, 7 p.m.) (RA)

 

I SELL THE DEAD (USA) The always enterprising indie-horror auteur Larry Fessenden produced and stars in this goofy Dickensian monster movie as half of a grave-robbing duo (the other is played by The Lord of the Rings’ Dominic Monaghan) unearthing corpses of the human, vampire and zombie varieties in period-on-a-shoestring, 18th-century England. The cast — a who’s who of the genre faithful, including Guillermo del Toro regular Ron Perlman and Phantasm’s tall man, Angus Scrimm — keeps things fitfully amusing, but debuting writer-director Glenn McQuaid (previously a visual-effects supervisor on other Fessenden productions) fails to bring any distinctive personality or flair to material that ultimately feels all ghouled up with nowhere to go. (Landmark, Wed., June 24, 7:15 p.m.; Majestic Crest, Fri., June 26, 10 p.m.) (SF)

GO  THE LAST BEEKEEPER (USA) The precipitous decline of the American honeybee population, which has a creepy X-Files resonance, is shown from the point of view of three humans who have an immediate stake in the outcome, stubborn practitioners of an endangered profession. Jeremy Simmons’ crisp, tight, understated documentary doesn’t belabor the point that Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a microcosm of man’s increasingly dysfunctional relationship with the ecosystem. The very thought of a world without bees to pollinate the almond crop is bone-chilling enough. (Regent, Sat., June 20, 2:30 p.m.; Landmark, Thurs., June 25, 4:45 p.m.) (David Chute)

GO  LOS BASTARDOS (Mexico/France/USA)The second feature by the auspiciously talented 30-year-old director Amat Escalante (Sangre) is a blunt but undeniably effective social critique — imagine a Marxist riposte to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games — in which two Mexican immigrants working as day laborers in and around Long Beach spend one long night as unwelcome intruders in the suburban home of a disaffected white woman. In long, static wide-screen compositions, they take a gander at how the other half lives: eating the woman’s microwave dinners, swimming in her azure pool, and smoking her crack cocaine, before a predictable (albeit startling) blast of violence brings down the curtain on their doomed masquerade. (Regent, Tues., June 23, 9:45 p.m.; Landmark, Wed., June 24, 2 p.m.) (SF)

GO  MY DEAR ENEMY (South Korea) Ad-Lib Night director Lee Yoon-ki’s charmingly deadpan, socially awkward stroll through Seoul (once again adapted from a novel by Azuko Taira) is a thematic inversion of the Hollywood romcom, so stay tuned for the misguided remake. Broke as a joke, prickly 30-something Hee-su (Secret Sunshine’s Jeon Do-youn) hunts down her glib but feckless ex-boyfriend (The Chaser’s Ha Jung-woo) to demand repayment of a $3,500 loan. Setting off on a day trip to visit his friends and other exes for potential shakedowns, the two share a wary chemistry as nuanced as the film’s magnificent sense of wide-screen space. (Landmark, Sat., June 20, 7 p.m.; Regent, Mon., June 22, 1:30 p.m.) (AH)

OCTOBER COUNTRY (USA) Photographer/musician/writer Donal Mosher considers himself “the one who escaped” from his small-town family; with the help of co-director Michael Palmieri, he shows us exactly why. Dad’s an emotionally closed Vietnam veteran whose sister is a practicing witch who wished for him to be killed. Mom’s an abuse victim whose oldest daughter seems doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Throw into the mix a precocious preteen and a juvenile-delinquent, kleptomaniac foster kid. One year in their life, appropriately spanning the gap between two Halloweens, is at once more bizarre and more relatable than most scripted dramas. The Moshers are weird but in ways you’ll totally recognize. (Landmark, Fri., June 19, 7:30 p.m. & Thurs., June 25, 9:45 p.m.) (LYT)

GO  PAPER HEART (USA) Director Nicholas Jasenovec’s hydra-headed narrative/nonfiction hybrid follows the diminutive Asian-American comedienne Charlyne Yi (Knocked Up) as she sets out on a cross-country journey to discover whether true love is a reality or merely an illusion. For a while, as Yi decamps in Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma, posing her disarming questions to an assortment of ministers, science professors and barroom gurus, Paper Heart is a delight, as are the construction-paper-and-fishing-wire animated interludes Yi uses to dramatize key events from the lives of several longtime-married couples she interviews along the way. Of markedly less interest is the contrived “B” story line (which eventually becomes the “A” story line), in which Yi’s budding romance with Superbad and Juno star Michael Cera (who appears as himself) wreaks havoc with the documentary’s progress. (Mann Festival, Wed., June 24, 7 p.m.; Landmark, Fri., June 25, 5 p.m.) (SF)

 

GO  PASSENGER SIDE (Canada) Writer-director Matthew Bissonnette’s Passenger Side is a family drama wrapped inside a comedic road movie, draped in pop culture’s reigning faux-boho/slacker-turned-hipster/self-consciously-angst-ridden-SWM aesthetics. It’s a thinking man’s Judd Apatow flick. When ex-junkie Tobey (Joel Bissonnette) enlists his brother, struggling writer Michael (Adam Scott, wonderful), to chauffeur him for undisclosed reasons across L.A. and beyond — Silver Lake, the Valley, San Diego — they predictably meet an assortment of eccentric characters, and uptight Michael is slowly loosened by Tobey’s brotherly barbs. It’s a measure of Bissonnette’s talent that this one-day, cross-city road trip both embodies and subverts formula; it’s literate, amusing and unexpectedly moving. (Regent, Fri., June 19, 10 p.m.; Landmark, Thurs., June 25, 4:30 p.m.) (EH)

GO  REHJE (Mexico) Miles of parched, dusty landscape roll by outside a car window as a Mazahua woman returns home to her native village from a life of toil in Mexico City. While confronted with the harsh present-day reality of dry riverbeds and sick relatives, she wanders through the fields, recalling childhood memories and reflecting upon changes in the community. Enhanced by strong visuals and haunting music, this meditative documentary from the team of Anaïs Huerta and Raul Costa focuses on the contrast between the urban and the agrarian and comes to the conclusion that, either way, life is hard. (Landmark, Tues., June 23, 7.30p.m.; Regent, Thurs., June 25, 2.30 p.m.) (JT)

GO  SACRED PLACES (France/Cameroon) Focusing on a DIY cine-club in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, this sporadically fascinating documentary supplies so many worthwhile tangents that it’s easy to forgive how tenuously they hold together. Locals are interviewed (including one fellow claiming African filmmakers are the continent’s new griots), while director Jean-Marie Téno name-drops the Dardennes and struggles to put to rest rumors of the death of cinema. There’s not much hard evidence on display, however — and although it’s no surprise that even in Ouagadougou, an African masterpiece like director Idrissa Ouedraogo’s Yaaba can’t compete with Jackie Chan, that crucial piece of information goes largely unexamined. (Landmark, Sun., June 21, 4:30 p.m. & Tues., June 23, 9:45 p.m.) (LG)

CRITIC’S PICK  STILL WALKING (Japan) Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Maborosi, After Life) is a passionate student of memory, of how it snares and divides people against one another — and themselves. In his newest film, Still Walking, a family gathers for a weekend visit: That’s the plot. The subtle, nearly unspoken warfare between the eldest son (Hiroshi Abe) and his demanding, now elderly father (Yoshio Harada) is so intense as to amount to silent violence. There is a palpable “ghost” haunting this family: another son who died as a child, three decades ago, and whom the surviving son cannot hope to compete with in his father’s heart. The half-dozen other family members at this minireunion are just as richly drawn: the upright, ironical, outspoken younger sister; the mother who lives in a dreamy bubble of emotional disconnectedness and devotion to cooking; the sane, willfully serene young widow whom the son has married; and her 10-year-old son, a delightfully honest reactor to the adult provocations towering around him. The visual compositions rhyme each other subtly, from cut to cut — by my count, Kore-eda only moves the camera twice, a bit of discretion he restricts to scenes at the family cemetery — as if a hidden harmony were trying to make itself known to these loving sufferers. We’re privileged to see it, even if they cannot. Still Walking is the sublime work of a contemporary master. (Regent, Mon., June 22, 7 p.m.; Landmark, Wed., June 24, 4:15 p.m.) (FXF)

GO  13 MOST BEAUTIFUL ... SONGS FOR ANDY WARHOL’S SCREEN TESTS (USA) “I paint anybody, anybody that asks me.” An admirably democratic mission statement, though Andy Warhol was marginally choosier about the Factory denizens he invited to appear in the 500 or so black-and-white “screen tests” he “produced” (“the camera has a motor; you just turn it on and walk away”) from 1964 to 1966. This latest sampler, handpicked and musically bittersweetened by Luna’s Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips, packs plenty of ex post facto underground-star power (Nico, Lou Reed, Dennis Hopper, Edie Sedgwick, Mary Woronov, et al.), and comes spiked with just enough post-Beat, pre-hippie desperation to flutter our hearts for an hour. Screening hosted by Outfest. (Ford Amphitheatre, Sat., June 20, 8:30 p.m.) (RS)

THOSE WHO REMAIN (Mexico) Border crossing is less a political issue than a human one in co-directors Juan Carlos Rulfo and Carlos Hagerman’s lyrical documentary about the Mexican families who stay behind when their parents/children/spouses undertake the long, arduous crossing to the U.S. Some remain by choice, others out of fear, and still others because they have been to the promised land themselves and opted to return. At first, the film evokes stasis with its images of half-built dream houses and lives suspended in limbo, but Rulfo and Hagerman’s portrait is ultimately one of movement and renewal — of the births, deaths, weddings and other facts of life that go on, uninterrupted, even in the face of mass emigration. (Landmark, Fri., June 19, 9:45 p.m.; Mann Festival, Sat., June 20, 1 p.m.; Landmark, Sat., June 27, 7:15 p.m.) (SF)

 

TURISTAS (Chile) Ditched by her husband during their vacation after admitting that she recently aborted their child, Carla (Aline Kuppenheim) heads off into nature for a restorative camping trip with a gay Norwegian backpacker (Diego Noguera). Writer-director Alicia Scherson’s character drama has some quietly reflective moments that speak to the universal need to reconnect with oneself. But the film’s accumulation of similarly lost souls adds little to Carla’s personal quest, and Scherson’s gentle rhythms leave Turistas feeling undernourished rather than transporting. (Regent, Fri., June 19, 7:15 p.m.; Landmark, Mon., June 22, 4:30 p.m.) (TG)

UNMADE BEDS (U.K.) Bed-head is a way of life for spacey 20-year-old Axl (Fernando Tielve), who wakes up in a sprawling London squat one morning and moves in. The teddy-bear Spaniard is in search of his lost father; fellow flotsam Vera (Deborah Francois, brunette) drifts in and out of yet another tousled stranger’s orbit and snaps photos. A Flickr-ready wistful-blissful masquerade party pegs this present-tense nostalgia piece by director Alexis Dos Santos (Glue), who conjures some surprisingly affecting moments but stops short of delving deeply into the ephemeral milieu. (Landmark, Thurs., June 25, 2:30 p.m.; Regent, Sat., June 27, 9:30 p.m.) (NR)

CRITIC’S PICK  WAH DO DEM (WHAT THEY DO) (USA) Newly dumped by his girlfriend (singer Norah Jones, in a brief cameo), 20-something Max (Sean Bones) decides to go it alone on the Caribbean cruise he won in a contest. To his dismay, he finds himself the only young person on the boat, which leaves him plenty of time to mope. Although it takes writer-directors Sam Fleischner (who also did the superb camerawork) and Ben Chace a tad too long to get Max off the ship and onto the island of Jamaica, once they do, this terrific 75-minute movie takes flight. Max eventually finds himself stranded and at the mercy of the locals, most of whom treat this laughably pale-skinned tourist quite well. As played by the resourceful Bones (who gets a “collaboration” credit alongside the directors), the occasionally petulant, often clueless Max gradually learns to stop fretting and feel the moment, even when things are looking their worst. “Reach out to the end of the world without moving,” a Rastafarian advises the young traveler, whose heart slowly but surely enlarges before our eyes. Bones, a New York musician who’ll be performing with his band at the Echo on June 26, co-wrote and sings the end-title song with Jones. (Regent, Sat., June 20, 9:30 p.m.; Landmark, Wed., June 24, 4:30 p.m.) (CW)

WEATHER GIRL (USA) “Partly Cloudy With a 90% Chance of Total Meltdown,” reads the humdrum but marketable tag line of writer-director Blayne Weaver’s humdrum but marketable comedy. Unable to score another broadcasting gig after committing career hara-kiri, Seattle morning-TV’s “sassy weather girl” Sylvia Miller (Tricia O’Kelley) moves in with her smug slacker bro (Ryan Devlin) and faces the existential storm of being a single 35-year-old woman, until true love arrives as earlier telegraphed. O’Kelley performs with the confidence of an embittered Sex and the City girlfriend but more closely recalls the broad hysterics of a Cathy comic strip. Ack! (Majestic Crest, Fri., June 19, 7:30 p.m.; Landmark, Wed., June 24, 9:30 p.m.) (AH)

GO  A WEEK ALONE (Argentina) There’s social commentary percolating in A Week Alone, but thankfully it doesn’t boil over: Argentine director Celia Murga’s film — about a gated community whose adult residents take a synchronized vacation, leading to an upscale (and admittedly fairly gentle) Lord of the Flies scenario — is more focused on domestic textures than national allegory. Certainly, Murga has an eye for the accouterments of affluence, with each house a minimarvel of bourgeois set dressing — all the better for their inevitable despoilment by the home-alone crowd. The child actors are excellent, as is Natalia Gomez Alarcon, as the housemaid who doesn’t so much shirk her caretaking responsibility as watch it slowly slip away. (Regent, Fri., June 19, 4 p.m.; Landmark, Sun., June 21, 7 p.m.) (Adam Nayman)

CRITIC’S PICK  WE LIVE IN PUBLIC (USA) Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, director Ondi Timoner’s remarkable documentary follows obsessive self-documenter Josh Harris on his decadelong odyssey from multimillionaire Internet pioneer and Manhattan art-world cause célèbre to bankrupt (financially and emotionally), mentally unhinged exile. In 1999, before reality TV boomed or the words MySpace, Facebook and YouTube had entered the lexicon, Harris signed on for privacy-free life by launching the underground art project Quiet: We Live in Public, in which 100 like-minded exhibitionists lived for 30 days in open cells under the constant scrutiny of video cameras and Orwellian interrogators. Timoner (DIG!) was there from the start, and she stuck around for Harris’ equally catastrophic second act, in which he and his then-girlfriend equipped their apartment with wall-to-wall surveillance cameras and proceeded to live their lives, for your viewing pleasure, at the Web site weliveinpublic.com. Harris’ gradual implosion is both repellent and mesmerizing, Timoner’s film unsparing in its scrutiny. She films, therefore he is. (Mann Festival; Sun., June 21, 7:15 p.m.; Landmark, Wed., June 24, 9:30 p.m.) (SF)

 

GO  ZERO BRIDGE (USA) A tentative love story set in an uncertain region — Indian-occupied Kashmir — Zero Bridge packs an impressive emotional wallop despite its slim narrative and nonprofessional actors. Writer-director Tariq Tapa follows the unhappy lives of two strangers — shady teen schemer Dilawar (Tapa’s cousin, Mohamad Imran Tapa) and beautiful Bani (computer-science student Taniya Khan), who doesn’t realize he’s the culprit behind her recent pickpocketing. Without underlining his every intention, the filmmaker uses Kashmir’s poverty and crumbling infrastructure as fitting metaphors for a budding friendship that could blossom into something more if only the characters, like their homeland, could somehow catch a break. (Regent, Sat., June 20, 4:30 p.m.; Landmark, Wed., June 24, 7 p.m.) (TG)


Sponsor Content