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.
Basque abstract artist Jose Antonio Sistiaga painted directly onto film with homemade inks to create this silent 1970 feature. But Sistiaga’s strangely titled work, which has recently been restored, is different from the films of Stan Brakhage, who didn’t come to film from painting and had his own rhythm. Among the predominant patterns in this abstract extravaganza are dancing drops and specks that alternately suggest satellites, flying saucers, or rushing bodies of water, and its combination of color and 35-millimeter ‘Scope (with about half an hour in black and white) yields the kind of spectacle one associates with musicals and SF epics. This gets richer as it develops, recapitulating and developing its motifs of shape and color, which inevitably suggest representational forms (pebbles and bubbles, bats and insects, stained glass and latticework), only to move beyond them, as music does. That’s why the silence here is absolutely necessary–it allows the images to sing. 75 min. Gene Siskel Film Center.
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
The only Jim Jarmusch feature that qualifies as apprentice work is his first (1980), shot in 16-millimeter for a master’s thesis at NYU. Sixteen-year-old drifter Chris Parker plays a version of himself as he walks the decrepit streets of lower Manhattan (the best scene shows him dancing to an Earl Bostic record). Jarmusch has already discovered his milieu, and his interest in both minimalist form and character as plot are already in evidence. But this lacks his characteristic charm, stylistic focus, and feeling for interactions between people, and the slowed-down Javanese gamelan music on the sound track only makes this seem more stodgy and intractable. 80 min. (JR)