Amos Poe’s documentary about leftist singer-songwriter Steve Earle provides an interesting introduction to a compelling figure in contemporary pop music, but in all honesty I can’t say I’ve seen the whole film: at a preview screening, the masking of the 16-millimeter image cut off the bottom of the image, making most of the explanatory titles partially or completely unreadable. As long as I didn’t have to worry about these titles (some of which seemed important), I was held by Poe’s flashy style of processing and editing his material and by the plainspoken eloquence of Earle’s social and political commentarynot to mention the music. At 95 minutes, this clocks in at about the same length as the two-CD audio documentary of the same title. (JR)
Shot on 24-frame video but looking none the worse for it, this satirical comedy about Hollywood deal making trades on an Emperor’s New Clothes theme. A 24-year-old screenwriter and script editor (Jordan Bridges, son of Beau), irritated by the glibness of his studio-commissary lunch pals, invents an imaginary script (New Suit) and an author named Jordan Strawberry; before long the buzz about it has become so frantic that the hero’s former girlfriend (Marisa Coughlan), a rising agent, claims to be Strawberry’s representative and launches a bidding war. Though the premise seems obvious and facile, the execution and the delineation of the various characters (all recognizable Hollywood types) are likable and funny, and the cast is great. Francois Velle directed a first script by Craig Sherman; with Heather Donahue, Mark Setlock, Benito Martinez, Dan Hedaya, Paul McCrane, and Charles Rocket. 92 min. (JR)
A doctor in communist Poland learns that one of his patients plans to rob a bank and defect to the West in this Polish feature by Wojciech Wojcik. 96 min.
A young woman in a nomadic family in post-Taliban Kabul, grudgingly permitted by her father to attend a religious school, sneaks off instead to a secular school, where she expresses her dream of becoming president of Afghanistan and inspires a poet trying to woo her to print up her campaign posters. This is 23-year-old Samira Makhmalbaf’s third feature; it won the jury prize at Cannes, but it’s far less exciting than her first, The Apple. Attractively shot, it has moments of wit and poetry (the title comes from Lorca) but arguably adds less to what we know about contemporary Afghanistan than her 14-year-old sibling Hana Makhmalbaf’s documentary about its casting, Joy of Madness. In Farsi and Dari with subtitles. 106 min. (JR)