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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 6:13 AM

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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Play It Again, Sam (U.S., 1972) The entertaining film version of Woody Allen’s 1969 stage farce came to the screen with the original cast intact: playwright-actor Allen as nudnik movie-magazine scribe Allan Felix, amicably abandoned by his wife for being boring. Trying to pull Allen/Allan out of the dumps and get him laid are his best friend Dick, a workaholic businessman (Tony Roberts, the most hilarious straight man this side of Bud Abbott) and Dick’s own neglected spouse Linda (Diane Keaton). But lingering in the scenery is also the celluloid spirit of Felix’s screen idol Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacy), who occasionally materializes to mentor the clumsy schlub in how to romance women, old-school Warner Brothers style. True, much of the humor was fresher in the glory days of the sexual revolution, and Allen would get better at writing female parts. But the wit (and love of cinema) is sharp throughout, and a great, Casablanca-inspired ending involves a plane leaving for a business conference in Cleveland. A strike in Manhattan compelled director Herbert Ross to relocate the setting to San Francisco, and more than one critic noted that this comedy doesn’t overtly carry the East Coast “neighborhood filmmaker” baggage of most of Allen’s subsequent comedies. At 6:45 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14. *** (Charles Cassady Jr.)

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Still Walking (Japan, 2008) The spirit of the great Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story, Late Autumn, et al) lives in Still Walking, an exquisite new Japanese domestic drama by Hirokazu Kore-eda (Nobody Knows, After Life). As much a tribute to Ozu as Hsiao-hsien Hou's 2003 masterpiece Cafe Lumiere, Kore-eda's movie pivots on a bittersweet family reunion commemorating the death of the eldest son Junpei, who died 15 years earlier in a freak accident while trying to save a drowning child. Nobody seems particularly happy about this annual ritual. Sole surviving Yokohama son Ryota (Hiroshi Abe) still harbors a grudge against his steely old man (Yoshio Harada) for not making a secret of his preference for the dead Junpei. While mom (Kirin Kiki) tries to make peace between the resentful Ryota and his dad, kid sister Chinami (You) is making none-too-subtle hints about moving her family into her parents' spacious digs. It's an emotionally messy situation fraught with issues both colossal and mundane, but Kore-eda wisely doesn't play up the melodrama. Like Ozu, he prefers addressing the more quotidian aspects of his characters' lives: the preparation of meals, children playing in the backyard, the fuss made over a reluctant houseguest. Still Walking earns its tears honestly, and without any bogus sentimentality or coy manipulation. At 9:35 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12 and at 7:20 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13. *** (Milan Paurich)

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Storm (Germany/Denmark/Netherlands, 2009) The tempest at the center of Storm has nothing to do with a thunder- and lightning-packed downpour. It’s a political thriller about a Dutch attorney who stumbles on a new batch of war crimes while building evidence against a Serbian army general who may be responsible for ethnic cleansing in Sarajevo. At the center of this storm is lawyer Hannah Maynard (Kerry Fox), determined to bring the army commander to justice, especially after her chief witness kills himself — but not before the witness lies in court, effectively damaging whatever case Hannah and her prosecuting team had made against the general (who has been in prison three years awaiting trial). It doesn’t help matters that Hannah was hoping to head the prosecutor’s office, a job that instead went to the man who’s now her boss (and who’s more than eager to pass on the flimsy case to her). Starting from basically scratch, Hannah begins to uncover new details. Director Hans-Christian Schmid steers his smart, probing drama into a mystery for much of the film, as Hannah peels away parts of her witnesses’ lives, uncovering new layers of terror. There are no fancy camera moves, stylish visuals or brash mood-setting music — Schmid builds the dread naturally, and the results are way more suspenseful than most Hollywood thrillers. At 9:15 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11 and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12. *** (Michael Gallucci)

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The Yes Men Fix the World (France, Britain, U.S., 2009) The too few who saw Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story last year beheld the gadfly filmmaker declaring that even in the wake of 2008’s I-told-you-so economic collapse, he was too old for more media pranks against unregulated, amoral, monstrous multinationals. Fortunately, the Yes Men — anti-corporate pranksters Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno — are still on the job. This film follows 2004’s The Yes Men, updating audiences on latter-day Yes Men hoaxes as they pretend to be arch-capitalist shills or company spokesmen, issue phony press statements that subvert the plutocracy, launch fake websites and stage tasteless trade-show events (an Exxon plan to turn human bodies into a “Vivoleum” fuel, complete with tribute film to a company janitor who sacrificed himself; a Halliburton anti-terrorist survival suit, affordable only by the rich, that resembles a giant bloodsucking tick). Yes, corporate toadies are held responsible for Hurricane Katrina — the left beats that into the ground the same way the nutzo right pimps 9/11, and it’s getting tired — and we learn nothing serious about Bichlbaum/Bonanno. But with Dow, AIG and probably Bernie Madoff at this point having enormous PR divisions and free-market think tanks defending their crimes, it’s nice to know these two unfair, unbalanced characters haven’t been downsized out yet. At 9:35 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, and 8:35 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 14. *** (Cassady)

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