The Cinematheque is showing several great films this weekend. Here are our capsule reviews.
Il Divo (Italy/France, 2008) Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, Paolo Sorrentino's flamboyantly stylized, robustly entertaining biography of controversial seven-time Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti isn't always easy to follow (it helps if you have a passing knowledge of Italian politics over the past 50 or so years), but it's such a wild, batten-down-the-hatches ride that it simply doesn't matter. Chockful of bravura, thrillingly kinetic setpieces that recall Scorsese, Coppola, Fellini and Visconti, Sorrentino's one-of-a-kind biopic also features an astonishing lead performance by Toni Servillo that mix-and-matches commedia dell'arte with method-acting madness to galvanizing, frequently brilliant effect. On the basis of this and Matteo Garrone's recent Gomorrah, it's heartening to report that the Italian cinema is currently in the middle of a spectacular new revival. At 7 p.m. Friday, July 24, and 2:50 p.m. Sunday, July 26. **** (Milan Paurich)
Julia (France/U.S./Mexico/Belgium, 2008) When we first meet Julia (Tilda Swinton), she's on her way to becoming a drunken mess at a bar, spilling out of her dress and flirting with every man in sight. She wakes up the next morning next to some guy in the front seat of a parked car. This is how Julia greets most mornings. But this morning is a particularly brutal one: She's fired from her job and about to be kicked out of her apartment, all because she drinks way too much. Like most movie alcoholics, she treats AA meetings with disdain — fidgeting, rolling her eyes at other members' problems and eventually walking out mid-meeting. Elena (Kate del Castillo) — a shy, fragile and borderline psychotic Mexican neighbor — approaches Julia after a meeting and later tries to recruit Julia's help in kidnapping her son, whom Elena claims is being held captive by the 8-year-old's multi-millionaire grandfather. Julia eventually comes up with her own plan to double-cross Elena and hold the boy for ransom. The usually reserved Swinton (an art-house fave) gives an intense performance here, but parts of Julia don't ring true. For a woman who spends the first half-hour of the film either drunk or hungover, how is it that Julia goes for days without a drink after kidnapping the boy? Still, this story of a desperate woman in a desperate situation boasts another great performance by the London-born and versatile Swinton, playing a tough-talking American drunk looking for a way out of the hell she's dug herself into. At 7 p.m. Thursday, July 23, and 9:10 p.m. Friday, July 24. *** (Michael Gallucci)
The Room (US, 2003) Among film hipsters on the West Coast, cult notoriety has been conferred upon writer-director-producer-star-mogul Tommy Wiseau's tragic psychodrama. Wiseau, who kinda seems (in more ways than one) like Fabio crossed with Ed Wood, plays the lead role (no surprise there) of Johnny, a nice-guy San Francisco banking exec whose idyllic life starts to fall apart a month before his planned nuptials. FiancÉe Lisa secretly doesn't love him anymore (we are told this about four or five times) and is carrying on an affair with Mark, Johnny's "best friend" (we are told this about 400-500 times). With English-as-a-second-language dialogue, characters who awkwardly entrez and exeunt, laughable love interludes and from-hunger acting, the world may now be laughing at Mr. Wiseau, not with him. But grant The Room this much: It's not an amateur Tarantino/Lucas/Spielberg/Romero genre clone, like so many turkeys, but bravely blazes its own way, À la Wood's singular Glen or Glenda. At 9:10 p.m. Saturday, July 25. ** 1/2 (Charles Cassady Jr.)
Shall We Kiss? (France, 2007) This foreign film might be stereotypically French, but don't hold that against it. The story revolves around Gabriel (Michael Cohen) and Émilie (Julie Gayet), who meet by chance one afternoon. After Gabriel gives Émilie a lift, he senses the two have connected and offers her a "kiss without consequences." She turns him down, maintaining that innocent exchanges don't exist and proceeds to tell him a story about her friend Judith (Virginie Ledoyen), who thought she'd kiss her pal Nicolas (director Emmanuel Mouret) and nothing would come of it. Told in a series of flashbacks, Judith's story is both romantic and tragic, causing Gabriel to rethink his offer, even though he's even more attracted to Émilie after he spends several hours listening to her story. Like a Woody Allen movie, Shall We Kiss? is well-acted and -directed, even if its European sensibilities aren't likely to connect with mainstream American viewers. At 7:05 p.m. Saturday, July 25. *** (Niesel)