Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2010 at 6:07 AM

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

35 Shots of Rum (France/Germany, 2008) French modernist/visionary Claire Denis has been crafting sensationally tactile and sensual movies for more than two decades now, yet she’s still virtually unknown outside of the international festival circuit. Perhaps it’s because the hermetic, self-enclosed worlds Denis traditionally navigates — whether a French Foreign Legion unit in Beau Travail, a West African plantation in Chocolat or an enclave of cannibalistic Parisian vampires in Trouble Every Day — aren’t the easiest places to traverse, even for art house mavens. 35 Shots of Rum, Denis’ latest triumph, is one of her warmest, most accessible films to date, even though its setting — a working-class French neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris — may initially seem as exotic as Cameroon (Chocolat) or Djibouti (Beau Travail). The movie’s principal characters — Lionel, a widowed African émigré train driver (Alex Descas) and his beautiful college student daughter, Josephine (Mati Diop) — are merely the jumping-off points for a typically dense Denis-ian allegory that touches on everything from globalization, colonization and, of course, sexuality. Per usual, Denis brilliantly captures a sense of both time and place. Reduced to a thumbnail plot synopsis (a loving father experiences typical daddy issues when his adult daughter contemplates moving into her own apartment), 35 Shots of Rum might sound more conventional — and considerably less interesting — than it really is. But Denis’ steady, unhurried accretion of quotidian details is what makes her movie so gripping and emotionally transcendent. At 9:40 p.m. Friday, Feb. 5, 7:25 Saturday, Feb.6, and 8:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7. **** (Milan Paurich)

The Wedding Song (France/Tunisia, 2008) Two girls — one’s Jewish, the other’s Muslim — are engaged to be married in Karin Albou’s Tunisia-set World War II film. But many things (poverty, family, the war) get in the way of their pre-arranged happily-ever-afters. For one thing, Myriam (Lizzie Brocheré) doesn’t even like the guy she’s supposed to marry. And the Muslim man that Nour (Olympe Borval) is set up with works for the Nazis. Plus, Myriam clearly has a thing for her pal. The girls are best friends, sharing every secret, laugh and tear since childhood. The love stories at the center of The Wedding Song are just part of the movie’s drama. There’s class divide (even among the Jews and Muslims themselves, both of whom are persecuted by the Germans, albeit in different ways), racial barriers and sexual politics to overcome. But mostly the film is about the two girls. The Wedding Song hinges on their relationship, and the terrific Brocheré and Borval save the film from its ponderous thoughts on race, class and sex. Eventually, everything collides and the war catches up to them, exploding their personal problems into something the whole world — regardless of race, class or religion — can understand. At 9:25 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, and 6:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 7. *** (Michael Gallucci)

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