As long as writer-director Henry Jaglom is satirizing the way both Hollywood blockbusters and indy features get pitched, this Cote d’Azur comedy has some flavor, and Ron Silver gives a swell impersonation of a cool and slimy studio executive. Unfortunately, the movie also has plenty of glib ideas about the irrational factors that lead to sexual and romantic coupling, all of them unconvincing, and the awkward Jaglom-style improvisation by the actors and the monotonous crosscutting (a Jaglom specialty) only make this exercise seem even more padded and attenuated. Among the participants/victims are Jenny Gabrielle, Greta Scacchi, Kim Kolarich, Rachel Bailit, Craig Mann, Zack Norman, Anouk Aimee, Maximilian Schell, and Camilla Campanale, with cameos from Peter Bogdanovich, Louise Stratten, Faye Dunaway, and William Shatner, among others. 99 min. (JR)
Though the feeling persists that this movie wants to bring the spirit of Neil Simonmeaning the Jewish middle class and the New York suburbsto lesbian farce, this adaptation by costars Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen of their own off-Broadway play is both better and worse than that description implies. Better because the cast is wonderful and the story is commendably free of the sectarian us-versus-them tone of many romantic gay movies, and worse because the jazzy vocals are too strident and Charles Herman-Wurmfeld’s direction lacks the polish of a well-mounted Simon comedy. Still, this is possibly the funniest lesbian romp since Go Fish. 94 min. (JR)
Started in 2000 near the Afghan border in Iran, shot in rough and haphazard conditions, and completed the following spring, this is one of Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s strangest films. An Afghan woman (Nelofer Pazira), exiled to Canada, returns to look for her sister, who still suffers under the Taliban and has threatened to kill herself during the forthcoming solar eclipse. This may sound like a setup for action and suspense, but the narrative is much more splintered than that, combining poetry, black comedy, social protest, and a sharp sense of actuality. The acting is mainly horrendous and the English dialogue is frequently awkward, but they’re overcome by the beautiful colors and settings and a grim sense of the uncanny spilling over into twisted humor. I didn’t even mind when the narrative stopped abruptly; in retrospect, Kandahar seems like an experimental film, a horror story, and a slapstick comedy–sometimes all at once. In Farsi with subtitles; also known as The Sun Behind the Moon. 85 min. Music Box, Friday through Thursday, February 22 through 28.
Chantal Akerman’s greatest film–made in 1975 and running 198 minutes–is one of those lucid puzzlers that may drive you up the wall but will keep you thinking for days or weeks. Delphine Seyrig, in one of her greatest performances, plays Jeanne Dielman, a Belgian woman obsessed with performing daily rounds of housework and other routines (including occasional prostitution) in the flat she occupies with her teenage son. The film follows three days in Dielman’s regulated life, and Akerman’s intense concentration on her daily activities–monumentalized by Babette Mangolte’s superb cinematography and mainly frontal camera setups–eventually sensitizes us to the small ways in which her system is breaking down. By placing so much emphasis on aspects of life and work that other films routinely omit, mystify, or skirt around, Akerman forges a major statement, not only in a feminist context but also in a way that tells us something about the lives we all live. In French with subtitles. Admission is free; a new 16-millimeter print will be shown. Northwestern Univ. Block Museum of Art, 1967 South Campus Dr., Evanston, Monday, February 25, 7:00, 847-491-4000.