Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

Posted By on Thu, Mar 11, 2010 at 10:01 AM

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

The Most Dangerous Man in America (U.S., 2009) If you can make it through the sluggish, pedantic first half of Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s Oscar-nominated documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in the World: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers provides a useful historical footnote, especially for those too young to have known the turbulent ’60s firsthand. As such, Dangerous Man demands to be shown in every high school in America. It’s as a theatrical release that the movie falls a little short. The enigmatic Ellsberg is front and center throughout, even serving as the film’s (occasionally) self-serving narrator. Chronicling his journey from Vietnam hawk to Nixon-reviled peacenik, Ellsberg seems like a genuinely decent and thoughtful man. He’s just not terribly dynamic. Fortunately for Ehrlich and Goldsmith, his story is a real corker. An ex-Marine who worked under Secretary Robert McNamara at the Department of Defense, where he fudged documents to help strengthen the war effort, Ellsberg became an almost accidental advocate of the First Amendment. The most fascinating parts of the movie describe how various major American newspapers — beginning with The New York Times — helped the antiwar effort by surreptitiously publishing sections of the RAND report, despite Ellsberg’s status as Public Enemy No. 1. At 7:20 p.m. Saturday, March 13, and 6:45 p.m. Sunday, March 14. ** 1/2 (Milan Paurich)

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (U.S./Germany, 2009) Ostriches, midgets and a sinister bowl of Jell-O figure prominently in this whatzit? collaboration between (director) Werner Herzog and (producer) David Lynch. A career low for both veteran auteurs, this impenetrable, insufferable hodgepodge of “true crime” pulp-fiction clichés and connect-the-dots Rorschach inkblots — most of them cobbled together from Herzog and Lynch’s combined oeuvres — will test the patience of even the most ardent fan. Nobody in the estimable cast (which includes dependably out-on-a-limb types like Michael Shannon, Chloe Sevigny, Willem Dafoe, Grace Zabriskie, Brad Dourif and Euro kinkmeister Udo Kier) is seen to their best advantage here. “What have ye done” indeed. At 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 12, 9:15 p.m. Saturday, March 13, and 8:40 Sunday, March 14. * 1/2 (Milan Paurich)

The Third Man (Britain, 1949) Director Carol Reed’s 1949 noir has provided some enduring moments to the annals of all-time movie classics, most notably Anton Karas’ zither-fueled score and Orson Welles’ climatic “cuckoo clock” speech. But the film’s influence transcends its most famous features. Set in Vienna, where an American writer (Joseph Cotton) is looking for a missing friend (Welles), The Third Man is a post-World War II treatise wrapped in a hell of a mystery. The final scenes — which include a revealing ferris-wheel ride and a nail-biting chase through rat-infested sewers — could very well be the best thing the British put on film during the era. There’s a sense of fatalism and resignation running throughout The Third Man, but Reed and his cast never get weighed down with all of it. In fact, many scenes are pierced with a sharp wit that runs against the movie’s deadly denouement. The film celebrates its 50th anniversary with a new 35mm print. At 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 13, and 4 p.m. Sunday, Mar. 14. *** (Michael Gallucci)




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