Chilean writer-director Alicia Scherson, who won the Tribeca film festival’s new narrative filmmaker award, went to college in Chicago but shot this delightfully fresh first feature in Santiago. She’s remarkably inventive, with a surrealist eye and a sense of rhythm in her editing. Her film starts with boldly styled opening credits over exciting street photography, and it goes on to explore alternative lifestyles, cutting between a wealthy man who’s lost in swift succession his wife, his job, and his briefcase, and a live-in nursemaid from the sticks who finds the briefcase shortly before losing her ailing patient. In Spanish with subtitles. 105 min.
This brilliant if unpleasant puzzle without a solution about surveillance and various kinds of denial finds writer-director Michael Haneke near the top of his game, though it’s not a game everyone will want to play. The brittle host of a TV book-chat show (Daniel Auteuil) and his unhappy wife (Juliette Binoche) start getting strange videos that track their comings and goings outside their Paris home. Once the husband traces the videos to an Algerian he abused when both were kids, things only get more tense, troubled, and unresolved. Haneke is so punitive toward the couple and his audience that I periodically rebelled againstor went into denial aboutthe director’s rage, and I guess that’s part of the plan. In French with subtitles. R, 117 min. (JR)
A Broadway impresario (Nathan Lane) and his accountant (Matthew Broderick) plot to embezzle a million dollars by corralling investors for a show, staging a surefire flop (”Springtime for Hitler”), and pocketing the leftover funds. Directed by Susan Stroman, this screen adaption of the hit musical–itself an adaptation of the farcical 1967 movie by Mel Brooks–is a strange mix of the terrible and the wonderful. Some of the characters are stridently unfunny (Will Ferrell’s Nazi playwright, Gary Beach and Roger Bart’s flaming queens), yet Brooks’s sweetness, innocence, and boundless love of the infantile inform everything from the brassy production numbers (capped by an homage to Jailhouse Rock) to the final credits. Despite the pretense of cynicism, this hokey dinosaur is the precise opposite of Chicago in tone and spirit. With Uma Thurman. PG-13, 134 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Crown Village 18, Gardens 7-13, Lake, Pipers Alley, River East 21.
A young journalist (Jennifer Aniston), going home to Pasadena with her fiance (Mark Ruffalo) to attend her sister’s wedding, discovers that her maternal grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) might have been the inspiration for Mrs. Robinson in Charles Webb’s novel The Graduate. Intrigued, she hunts down the real-life model for Benjamin Braddock, now a suave zillionaire (Kevin Costner), who once made love to her mother and her grandmother and who might also be her father. In some ways this intricate piece of whimsy is closer to the romantic fantasy of Pretty Woman than the conformist satire of Mike Nichols’s The Graduate, but it shares with both these crowd-pleasers a faintly corrupt complacency. Under the circumstances, MacLaine, Costner, and Ruffalo acquit themselves well. Rob Reiner directed a script by Ted Griffin (Matchstick Men). PG-13, 96 min. (JR)
Steven Spielberg made us feel exhilarated about killing Arabs with Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981); a quarter century later he’s decent enough to have second thoughts, but he can’t find much to do with them in this mediocre thriller. Scripted by Eric Roth and Tony Kushner, it chronicles the grim mission of vengeance pursued by Israel’s Mossad after 11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped and killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics. Spielberg moves beyond the Zionist complacency one might expect, but Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan’s recent documentary Route 181 addresses the Arab-Israeli conflict with greater courage and curiosity. Munich may have value as an act of expiation but not as entertainment or art. With Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Geoffrey Rush, and Michael Lonsdale. R, 162 min. (JR)