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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

Posted By on Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 12:29 PM

The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is showing several great movies this weekend. Here are our reviews of just a few of them.

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Broadway Danny Rose (U.S., 1984) Woody Allen (not to mention cinematographer Gordon Willis) shot this personable comedy in lovely black and white, at a point in his career when he seemed to be on a creative roll with no repetition (though there’s an ambiance of nostalgia more overt in Radio Days). The Damon Runyon-flavored narrative features the director-writer casting himself nicely as the title fellow, a small-time but big-hearted N.Y.C. talent agent of yesteryear with a motley stable of lower-berth acts — third-rate ventriloquists, magicians and jugglers. When one of Danny’s “stars,” an Italian crooner (the unsung Nick Apollo Forte, a genuine character on the club-and-Catskills circuit, who died not long after this film was made) starts to ascend, Danny’s professional relationship is strained by the attraction he develops toward the lug’s mob-moll girlfriend (Mia Farrow, Allen’s girlfriend/muse-du-jour, cast against type). At 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, and 9:05 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25. *** 1/2 (Charles Cassady Jr.)

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Import/Export (Austria, 2007) In the long and somewhat laborious Import/Export, the lives of two disparate characters never actually intersect. Yet their paths to new lives take similar courses. Olga is a Ukrainian single mother and nurse. To make ends meet, she takes a job at an online porn company, masturbating in front of a webcam for rude, faceless customers. Pauli is a young and not-too-bright musclehead living with his mom and loutish stepdad in Austria. He loses his latest job as a security guard after a gang of thugs humiliate him in a parking deck. It’s not long before both Olga and Pauli hit the road — she heads to Austria, he to Ukraine — for new jobs. But anyone expecting rosy futures for the pair doesn’t know much about indie or international cinema. The relocations merely amount to new but still soul-sucking work for Olga and Pauli. Director Ulrich Seidl laces some dark humor in Import/Export, but nearly every scene places the leads in some desperate, desolate or degrading situation. It’s not particularly fun to watch these hard-luck working-class characters suffer. And it’s not particularly rewarding to watch lengthy scenes (many of them wordless) about run-down lives parade in front of the screen for two-plus hours. In fact, it’s downright exhausting. At 8:10 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, 9:20 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25. ** 1/2 (Michael Gallucci)

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The Room (U.S., 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 that 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, Oct. 24. ** 1/2 (Cassady)

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Waterlife (Canada, 2009) The point this new Canadian eco-documentary — handsomely illustrated with Cosmos style graphics and an eclectic soundtrack — seems to be making is that the Great Lakes are indeed being loved, but not wisely. Here, in lakes Superior, Huron (which seems to get the most screen time), Erie, Michigan and Ontario, where 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater supplies are concentrated, director Kevin McMahon finds situations analogous to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. Sure, the waters are clearer, but that’s because zebra mussels, an incredibly pernicious invasive species, have taken root by the billions, just one of numerous harmful critters playing hob with ecological niches. Bacteria counts are still astronomical off the wastewater outlets around Chicago, and the overall water levels have been dropping steadily. We’re left with the impression that unless something is done soon, the Great Lakes will someday have concrete bottoms painted in aquamarine and be called the Great Swimming Pools. At 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25. *** (Cassady)

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