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.
Before turning 70 in 1978, Manoel de Oliveira had made just five features; since then he’s directed another 20, some of them masterpieces and some just mannerist curiosities. A comic parable deceptively couched in the form of a 19th-century travel narrative, this 2003 film is a little of both. A young Portuguese history professor and her daughter sail from Lisbon to Bombay, tracing the roots of civilization during stopovers in France, Italy, Greece, and Egypt. Three famous women (Catherine Deneuve, Stefania Sandrelli, Irene Papas) join the voyage and dine every night with the American captain (John Malkovich). In some ways this seems naive and archaicespecially the assumption that civilization is basically found north and not south of the Mediterraneanbut it conceals a Bu