Park Jin-pyo’s semifictional love story (2002) about a man and woman in their early 70s, played by a real-life couple who reenact some of their own experiences, was banned in Korea until late last year because of its explicit sex scenes. I admire this feature more than I like it, partly because I resent the hokey music and wonder if the filmmakers aren’t a little too pushy in advancing their noble intentions. Still, this is a serious look at the potential joys and sorrows of growing old, and Park Chi-gyu and Lee Sun-ye are certainly affecting in the lead roles. In Korean with subtitles. 77 min. (JR)
Brian Dannelly’s first feature is audacious and likable not only for its satirical treatment of fundamentalist Christian teenagers (Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Eva Amurri) and a couple of their elders (Martin Donovan, Mary-Louise Parker) but also for its sympathy toward them. Dannelly and cowriter Michael Urban seem to have firsthand knowledge of how religious vocabulary can deteriorate into a rhetoric that serves any agenda. Even more important, they balance their ridicule with a sharp sense of how difficult being a teenager is. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a teen movie as lively, as unpredictable, as generous, and as tough-minded as this one. PG-13, 92 min. Pipers Alley, River East 21.
From the Chicago Reader (May 28, 2004). — J.R.
Like Mystery Train and Night on Earth, this feature by Jim Jarmusch is a collection of short stories, but it’s funnier and more formally adventurous than either; it’s also ultimately greater than the sum of its parts. Shot in black and white over 17 years, its 11 episodes feature actors and/or musicians, usually playing themselves and hanging out together in cafes while consuming caffeine and nicotine. One recurring theme is the ethics and protocol of being a celebrity (explored most impressively by Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan, and by Cate Blanchett in a virtuoso double role as herself and her own cousin); another is the everyday tension that can develop between friends and relatives. Among the two dozen stars are Isaach de Bankole, Roberto Benigni, Steve Buscemi, GZA, RZA, Bill Murray, Iggy Pop, Bill Rice, Taylor Mead, Tom Waits, and the White Stripes. R, 96 min. Music Box.
Directed by Fernando de Fuentes, this popular 1936 feature helped launch a new genre in Mexican movies, the comedia ranchera, which mixed comedy and music in rural settings. It tracks the long-term friendship between a ranch owner (Rene Cardona) and the orphan who becomes his foreman (Tito Guizar); both fall for the same woman (Esther Fernandez), a conflict that’s brought to a head by a kind of musical duel. This is more nuanced than one might expect in the handling of gender and class, and the populist fervor that’s become part of the period flavor is infectious. The graceful cinematography is by the great Gabriel Figueroa, best known for later collaborations with John Ford and Luis Bu