The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is showing several great movies this weekend. Here are our reviews of just two of them.
(Italy/France, 1969) Pity the fools raised on Gladiator
who go to Federico Fellini's "free adaptation" of the ancient writings of Petroneus expecting something remotely similar, though there are bits that seem to anticipate the later Caligula. Setting of the pageant-like narrative is the Roman Empire at its most corrupt and pagan. In a rambling narrative (that, for the Fellini novice, can feel eons long) a stud named Encopius, a young, blond, bisexual, handsome and a would-be poet and "educated" man, careens from one disaster to another: he loses his androgynous boy-lover to a treacherous frenemy; he’s sold into slavery; he has to fight the Minotaur; and he suffers a bout with impotence. This last is evidently the worst possible fate, given the overriding grotesque decadence. Encopious is a little like the character Candide except with no particular character, leaving the viewer with nightmare-memorable backdrops (many of the sets, even outdoor ones, plainly theatrical artifice) , creepy Barbarella B.C. costumes and leering faces and occasional deformities. The obvious temptation for modern eyes is to link Fellini's pan-sexual, painted, prancing freaks with the offscreen flower-children, psychedelic fashion and drugged-up free-love hippies then prevalent in the late 1960s (which is just about as ancient history), and that's probably as fair an explanation as any. At 9:20 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 3:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5. ** 1/2 (Charles Cassady Jr.)
(Argentina/France/Netherland/Germany/Spain, 2008) Don’t go into Liverpool expecting a history of the Beatles or anything else fab, for that matter. This slow-moving look at a seaman on shore leave is a dreary, near-silent meditation on life, family and the big, empty world we live in. Not much is said or even happens in Liverpool. These are people of very few words. Minutes on end go by where the screen is silent (indeed: Subtitles are barely needed in this Argentinean film). Director and writer Lisandro Alonso plays it as a pensive exploration of cold landscapes and even colder emotions. Protagonist Farrel (Juan Fernández) takes leave to visit his family in his hometown of remote Tierra del Fuego. He walks in silence, eats in silence, drinks in silence, hangs out in a strip club in silence and, of course, sleeps in silence (Alonso steadies his camera on the snoozing Farrel for a while, so settle in). Liverpool
’s indie-movie pace and lack of story are deadly dull. Plus, there isn’t much character development — odd, considering Farrel is in every scene until the final act, which takes a pleasantly surprising turn. It’s fitting that we never really get to know the meandering Farrel — he says maybe a dozen words in the movie and doesn’t have much of a plan — since Liverpool doesn’t seem to know where it’s going either. At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6. ** 1/2 (Michael Gallucci)