Thursday, October 9, 2008

What's On starting October 9

A new kind of spy movie as dark as night!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, October 9

by Thomas Ohlson

Best Bets: Body of Lies. I'm Not There [at Film Space].

At the end is my list of movie times for Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and for Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, October 9, 2008. Attached is the same list in Word format. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks. This is Issue Number 50 of Volume 3 of these listings.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* Body of Lies: US Drama – Directed by Ridley Scott, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. About a CIA operative who attempts to infiltrate the network of a major terrorist leader operating out of Jordan. Based on a 2007 novel by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon: Takes a rather broad look at a wide range of American involvement in the Middle East and our attitude and treatment of the people living there and working for the United States, in this case the CIA. It does a fantastic job of drawing the distinction between the guys doing the work (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the guys pulling the trigger from their comfy office chairs or perhaps a kids' soccer game (Russell Crowe). A controlled thriller that looks fantastic and moves at a quick clip.

David Denby, The New Yorker: the movie is smart and tightly drawn; it has a throat-gripping urgency and some serious insights.

Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter: A new kind of spy movie as dark as night and as ruthless and vile as Abu Ghraib.

If Ridley Scott gave us a new kind of war movie with Black Hawk Down, where an army unit functioning in total chaos in a hostile city became a collective protagonist, he now engineers a new kind of spy thriller in Body of Lies.

Here is a landscape of deserved paranoia and horrific violence, of countless life-or-death scenarios, total distrust of enemies and allies alike, and open contempt for anything American -- again not undeserved. It may not be as much fun as old spy movies starring Cary Grant . . . but it feels all too accurate.

To be sure, the film retains familiar genre elements: It has double crosses and plot twists, a romance -- an improbable one -- chases, gunfights and last-minute rescues. But the fiction is rooted in a Middle Eastern reality that is always grim and unsettling. Stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe will certainly bring out their admirers, but how the action-thriller crowd will react to such a disturbing environment is a tough call.

William Monahan's tough-minded screenplay, based on a novel by journalist David Ignatius, who has covered the CIA and Middle East, sees no action or impulse as heroic. It acknowledges bravery, but this bravery is sometimes foolish and its goals often murky and counterproductive.

DiCaprio's Roger Ferris is the angry and often frantic man on the ground in the war on terror in Iraq and Jordan. Back in the U.S., Crowe's arrogant CIA veteran Ed Hoffman hovers over laptops and tracks ground movements half a world away via spy satellites. Hoffman, who would sacrifice his mother to single-handedly win the war on terror, easily earns Ferris' enmity, but Ferris needs his eyes and strategies.

In trying to flush a ruthless terrorist (Alon Aboutboul) out of hiding, the uneasy duo encounters a silky and charismatic head of Jordanian intelligence (British actor Mark Strong), an often bewildered local guide (Oscar Isaac), a computer whiz (Simon McBurney), a hapless pawn (Ali Suliman) and a nurse (Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani).

. . . Scott pushes the film at breakneck speed. He switches points of view rapidly from Ferris in treacherous terrain to Hoffman multitasking on the phone while dealing with his family and suburban life to overhead camera angles of the Predator tracking system. Urgency fills the characters' every waking moment. Rules of the day are established with primacy given to swift execution by a colleague if anyone is likely to fall into enemy hands and suffer horrifying torture.

What motivates Ferris is never clear, and this is the film's greatest weakness. With Hoffman running operations behind his back, he has no safety net, even an illusory one. He is a little too much of a white knight in this dark world, but DiCaprio gives the role plenty of brio, while Crowe -- who reportedly gained 50 pounds to play the morally and physically slovenly office spook -- is agreeably obnoxious.

Rated R in the US for strong violence including some torture, and for language throughout. Early reviews: Mixed or average: 57/57 out of 100.

* E-Tim Tai Nae / อีติ๋มตายแน่: Thai Action/Comedy – Director Yuthlert Sippapak’s new film is written by and stars comedian Udom Taepanich (known by his nickname “Note”). Note plays a boxer, Ei-Ting, performing in a boxing show in Pattaya. He meets a Japanese tourist named Itemi (Asuka Yanagi) or “E-Tim” and falls head over heels for her. At the end, Ei-Ting has to prove his love for E-Tim and to prove he is worthy of her attentions. Looks dreadful, unless you like comedy based on the torturing of male genitalia, by smashing testicles. (Supposedly, according to Wise Kwai, this is a parody of a similar torture scene in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale, where Daniel Craig as 007 is sitting naked on a chair with the seat cut out, and a heavily knotted rope is swung with great force under the hole in the seat. Here they graduate from a simple knot to the use of a spiky durian. If this is your idea of fun comedy, you can watch this very long 3-minute sequence in the trailer here and then spare yourself the agony of going to the movie.) After seeing this preview in the theater, I could not believe that they would call it a comedy.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: US Animation/ Action/ Adventure/ Sci-Fi – 90 mins – A new adventure in the "Star Wars" series, here done with animation. The movie has gotten generally negative reviews, most saying that the mechanical animation and a less-than stellar script make The Clone Wars a pale shadow of George Lucas' once great franchise, and a cheap excuse for a big-screen spectacle. It’s more like a long Saturday morning cartoon, and a trailer for the upcoming new Star Wars series on the Cartoon Network. Parents may be perturbed by the film's relentless violence. Generally negative reviews: 35/31 out of 100.

Disaster Movie: US Comedy – Returning to their seemingly bottomless well of flatulence humor, racial stereotypes, and stale pop culture gags, Friedberg and Seltzer have produced what is arguably their worst “Movie” yet. Seldom has a film been more appropriately titled. Reviews: Extreme dislike or disgust: 15/17 out of 100.

Luang Pee Teng II / The Holy Man II / หลวงพี่เท่ง 2 รุ่นฮาร่ำรวย: Thai Comedy – Bad boy becomes monk, meets misadventures, makes merit. The first Luang Pee Teng (The Holy Man) was the No. 1 Thai film at the box office in 2005, earning 141 million baht, even beating out Tony Jaa in Tom Yum Goong. This second of the series has a new star: Thai rapper, hip-hopper, and ex-skateboarder Joey Boy (shown at left), one of the Thai stars in the ill-advised and poorly-received rock version of the Ramakien that played Lincoln Center in New York in the summer of 2006. You can check out a sample of Joey Boy’s rap style at:

The cast is fleshed out by the usual contingent of Thai TV comedians. No English subtitles at Vista.

Eagle Eye: US Action/Mystery/Thriller – With Shia LaBeouf and Billy Bob Thornton. In Eagle Eye, Jerry Shaw (LaBeouf) and Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) are two strangers thrown together by a mysterious phone call from a woman they have never met. Threatening their lives and their family, she pushes Jerry and Rachel into a series of increasingly dangerous situations using the technology of everyday life to track and control their every move. As the situation escalates, these two ordinary people become the country's most wanted fugitives, who must now work together to discover what is really happening. Fighting for their lives, they become pawns of a faceless enemy who seems to have limitless power to manipulate everything they do.

The script has the feel of something once substantive, but which was poked, prodded, cut, and crimped until all semblance of intelligence was wrung out of it. Apparently, it means to say something about anti-terrorism surveillance and civil liberties, but most reviewers who try to say what it’s about, say it's about as dumb as can be.

Mixed or average reviews: 43/45 out of 100. Vista has a Thai-dubbed version as well.

You Don't Mess with the Zohan: US Action/Comedy – 113 mins – Starring Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Nick Swardson, and Rob Schneider. Zohan is an Israeli commando who fakes his own death in order to pursue his dream: becoming a hairstylist in New York. It’s an Adam Sandler comedy, and if you like his kind of low and crass comedy, you should like this one well enough. Here he plays the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for laughs. I laughed. A lot. And cringed. A lot. Mixed or average reviews: 54/53 out of 100.

Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, October 16

Max Payne: US Action/Thriller – 125 mins – Starring Mark Wahlberg. Based on a popular interactive video game, this is the story of a maverick cop determined to track down those responsible for the brutal murder of his family and partner. Hell-bent on revenge, his obsessive investigation takes him on a nightmare journey into a dark underworld. “As the mystery deepens, Max (Wahlberg) is forced to battle enemies beyond the natural world and face an unthinkable betrayal,” or so says the studio.

Scheduled for Chiang Mai cineplexes on Thursday, October 23

Beverly Hills Chihuahua: US Comedy – With the voices of Drew Barrymore and Salma Hayek. In this Disney comedy, a pampered Beverly Hills Chihuahua named Chloe (voice of Drew Barrymore) finds herself accidentally lost in the mean streets of Mexico without a day spa or Rodeo Drive boutique anywhere in sight. Now alone for the first time in her spoiled life, she must rely on some unexpected new friends – including a street-hardened German Shepherd named Delgado (voice of Andy Garcia) and an amorous pup named Papi (voice of George Lopez) – to lend her a paw and help her to find her inner strength on their incredible journey back home. This one actually looks quite delightful, to gauge by the previews.

Tropic Thunder: US Comedy/War – 107 mins – I have seen this, and it is absolutely outrageous, even more outlandish than Zohan. Robert Downey, Jr. is on a roll recently, and this is another truly amazing performance from this acting genius. Here he plays a very method actor who, when given the role of a black in a movie, had his skin pigmentation blackened surgically so as to better play the part. See his two faces in this picture to the right. Unbelievable! – and if you’re not thoroughly put off by the idea, you might just have the best laughs you’ve had in years. I heartily recommend the film, but only for those not easily shocked.

Also starring Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Tom Cruise. It’s an action comedy about a group of self-absorbed actors who set out to make the biggest war film ever. After ballooning costs (and the out of control egos of the pampered cast) threaten to shut down the movie, the frustrated director refuses to stop shooting, leading his cast deep into the jungles of Southeast Asia where they inadvertently encounter real bad guys. Directed by Ben Stiller.

Rated R in the US for pervasive language including sexual references, violent content, and drug material. Generally favorable reviews: 71/72 out of 100.

- Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance is nearly on par with what Heath Ledger did as the Joker... -- Cinema Blend

Tropic Thunder Co-Star Praises Robert Downey, Jr.

Tropic Thunder actor Brandon T. Jackson knows that co-star Robert Downey Jr. might receive some criticism from his unusual role in the comedy. But Jackson has a message to those that have a problem with the Caucasian Downey painting his face black for most of the movie.

"To be honest, he played a black dude better than anybody I've seen!" Jackson told People Magazine about Downey's performance in the Ben Stiller-directed film.

Jackson did admit to having initial hesitations about Downey's part. In the movie, Downey portrays Kirk Lazarus, an Academy Award-winning actor that's cast in the most expensive Vietnam war film ever.

However, Lazarus's character, Sgt. Osiris, was originally written as an African-American. So Lazarus dyes his skin to play the role.

"When I first read the script, I was like: What? Black face? But when I saw him [act] he, like, became a black man," Jackson said. ""It was weird on the set because he would keep going with the character. He's a method actor."

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

At Alliance Française on Friday, October 10: Travaux, on sait quand ça commence... / Housewarming (2005) by Brigitte Roüan – 95 mins – France/UK, Comedy. English subtitles.

With Carole Bouquet, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Aldo Maccione, Didier Flamand.

Chantal Letellier is a “wonderful woman.” She's a lawyer and she always wins her cases. In her professional life she's a heavyweight, but in her private life she's a pushover. She's divorced - and didn't even litigate - and is saddled with two teenage kids who are very well brought up in a bad kind of way. When it comes to love, think “desert” - she's got no time. But flesh is weak and one night she lets loose with a client. He falls madly in love with her and settles in. To get rid of him, she undertakes major renovations with the intention of making the house unlivable. To top it all, she employs a young Colombian architect, an immigrant worker whose illegal status she's just rectified. Eternally grateful, and taking advantage of the situation to spruce up his press-book, the architect gives her house an entire makeover with the help of illegal workers. She didn't request that much!

Alliance description

Variety: Anyone who has ever had workmen over to remodel their home will instantly identify with Housewarming, a madcap, mile-a-minute French comedy starring Carole Bouquet as a liberal lawyer and single mom who hires Colombian immigrants to do the job. Good social intentions and high-spirited direction widen the appeal of this infectious, rather silly comedy. Brigitte Rouan certainly rolls out the laughs in a breezy, ironic film.

The lovely Chantal (Bouquet), who is introduced in her black counselor's robe literally dancing around the judges, is unbeatable in court. She marches in pro-immigrant demonstrations and takes on social cases, while cheerfully running a household with two teenagers. Everyone is in love with her, even her ex-husband. The only thing is, her upstairs apartment needs to be joined to a downstairs apartment with a staircase.

Choosing from her immigrant contacts, Chantal hires a motley crew of Colombians lead by a mad architect to do the work. They proceed to demolish the place. Through it all, Chantal remains optimistic -- until they accidentally set the building on fire. She fires them and rehires them and, surprisingly, all ends splendidly. Until the police come.

Rouan directs the unruly ensemble cast like a lion tamer, keeping the level of chaos high.

Original title quotes the wise old adage, "Remodeling: You know when it starts but not when it'll be over."

At Alliance Française on Friday, October 17: Coup de torchon / Clean Up / Clean Slate (1981) by Bertrand Tavernier – 128 mins – France, Comedy/ Crime/ Drama. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 72 out of 100.

With Philippe Noiret, Isabelle Huppert, Guy Marchand, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Stéphane Audran.

A bid for survival” located in Bourkassa, a small village in French Eastern Africa, Lucien is a policeman embroiled in a series of murders. Ridiculed by his fellow whites, he is going to take revenge… in his own way.

Alliance description

Roger Ebert / April 6, 1983:

Bertrand Tavernier's Coup de Torchon is a cruel intellectual joke played on its characters -- who endure boredom, self-contempt, hate, dust, flies, and sometimes even death without being allowed to know they're only part of an existential parable. Tavernier's film is about poor white trash in Africa in 1938, and there are times when they seem almost real -- but they're never allowed the pulse or the stubborn indomitability of their slovenly cousins, William Faulkner's Snopes family.

The movie is set in a small Senegalese village, on the eve of World War II. Tavernier shot on the actual location, and he achieves an absolutely convincing reality, right down to the reddish mud that has been splashed by the rain onto the yellowing stucco walls of the village sheds. His village is populated by lazy, corrupt French colonials, and by a supporting cast of Africans who drift through the background, unconcerned with the lives of the whites except when they have the misfortune to incur their wrath.

Lucien Cordier is the police chief here. Played by Philippe Noiret, he is a shambling, sloppy bureaucrat who keeps his intelligence well hidden. He holds the crushing boredom of his life somewhat at bay by practical jokes (like dumping a provincial officer through the outhouse floor) and sexual confusion (while Cordier's wife caresses the man who may or may not be her brother, Cordier has an affair with the local schoolteacher). All the colonials in this village have long since lost all self-respect, and none more than Cordier, who is openly taunted even by the village pimps.

One day, Cordier quite simply decides to start killing his enemies. He wants to start over with a clean slate (the title's English translation). He shoots the pimps, spreads false rumors about their fate, and then begins to kill, or arrange the deaths of those who offend him. On those rare occasions when he talks about what he has done, he strays precariously close to the hero of Albert Camus' "The Stranger," who found killing to be an assertion of his own existence. This story, which sounds so absorbing, is told by Tavernier in such a strange, distancing way that there's hardly a moment when we really believe we're observing plausible human beings. It's all just the manipulation of events and ideas.

Tavernier is one of the very best of the new French directors, and when he does choose to observe the daily lives of deeply felt characters (as in his movies The Clockmaker and A Week's Vacation), we feel an immediate empathy. But Coup de Torchon left me cold, unmoved, and uninvolved. All I could find to admire was the craftsmanship.

That was after two viewings. I saw the film first at last November's Chicago Film Festival, and was not quite sure I had really engaged with the film. Was I missing something? I saw it again recently and had the same strange feeling that the events on the screen, even though they were so firmly grounded in a real location, were insubstantial. Despite the dust, despite the slow-moving muddy river, despite the dirty housedresses and the 5 o'clock shadow and the yawns and sudden fights and bawdy practical jokes, this movie never quite breathes. It's an exercise. You can admire an exercise, but it's hard to really care about one.

Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant:

Coup de torchon plays like the proverbial auto wreck in slow motion - it's ugly, it's something you'd rather not know about, but you can't take your eyes off of it. The cynicism is neither cheap nor exploitative but a compelling world view that makes you think. Lucien Cordier is a Harry Lime without good looks, charisma, or even ambition, a soulless killer in a Godless world.

This is a deceptively well-made thriller: most of the scenes seem wilted with the heat and boredom of the tropics, yet the story moves along at a brisk pace until you find you can't look away. Phillipe Noiret is simply excellent as Lucien, and the well-known actresses Audran and Huppert are very credible as the low women in his low-life. In most crime dramas, the killer keeps killing because it's a requirement of a genre completely given over to exploitation; here you really get the feeling that Lucien is himself astounded at the utter lack of justice or retribution in the world. His reaction to his own crimes is both amusement and despair.

A unique and superior murder thriller, with a truly exotic location and some of the most believable lowlife characters ever to sleaze-up a film noir.

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Film Space is now showing “A Month of Musicians” throughout October. [In December, they will give you another chance to view Kieslowski’s great Three Colors Trilogy, plus his Veronique.]

Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school, on the 2nd floor. Or maybe the roof. A small but nice place to view movies. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

At Film Space on October 11, 7 pm: I'm Not There (2007) by Todd Haynes – US/Germany Biography/ Drama/ Music – 135 mins. Starring Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Ben Whishaw, and Marcus Carl Franklin. I'm Not There is a film that dramatizes the life and music of Bob Dylan as a series of shifting personae, each performed by a different actor — poet, prophet, outlaw, fake, star of electricity, rock & roll martyr, born-again Christian — seven identities braided together. The unique editing, visuals, and multiple talented actors portraying Bob Dylan make for a deliciously unconventional experience. Each segment brings a new and fresh take on Dylan's life. Rated R in the US for language, some sexuality, and nudity. Generally favorable reviews: 73/71 out of 100.

This is a brilliant work in my estimation, but very irritating I am sure to all who don’t know an awful lot already about the life and work of Bob Dylan. It would be infinitely confusing. The film was made by those who love Bob Dylan, and who tried to capture the multiple facets of his personality and his life, using an amazing variety of film styles and techniques, and most importantly references. There are references in the film to film styles, to details about the periods, and to a wide variety of movies and TV shows current in each one of the periods.

There are indeed some marvelous performances, and extraordinary thought has gone into the six performances by the six actors playing different sides of Dylan, or embodying different personas. I especially liked Marcus and Cate. Marcus Carl Franklin was 11 years old when he personified the Woody Guthrie side of Dylan, and the kid gives a performance of amazing nuance, and he does indeed sound like he’s been singing songs he himself has written for years, in the folk-song tradition. A terrific performance in my opinion – you can see the marvelous though very short 1-minute sequence where he sings “When the Ship Comes In” by clicking here. You can hear the original song as sung by Dylan here. And you can see a performance of the song in Australia in 1967 by Peter, Paul, and Mary here; this is the way I remember the song being frequently performed, oh so long ago! Marcus Carl Franklin ends up in the Felliniesque closing sequence dressed up like Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp, another always-present aspect of Dylan’s public persona, who was often described as being Chaplinesque.

As for Cate Blanchett, she takes over the feminine side of Dylan when he went through a period when he was sporting effeminate hand and arm gestures on stage. For some reason, for me, she captures the Dylan I was familiar with to a degree that I found spooky, because she caught his essence so completely.

The film becomes better the more you know or learn about Bob Dylan and the more references you can detect. In the Felliniesque sequence toward the end, the camera pans across the town of Riddle (how often do you see a giraffe wandering calmly through a Wild West town?) and captures briefly three poor kids sitting on the ground half dead and half hostile, with a girl whose hand is resting on a dead pony with a red wound at its throat. It’s simply a throwaway reference to a line in the song “Hard Rain:” “I saw a young girl beside a dead pony.” The movie is dense with such references.

But ultimately it depends on your view of Dylan himself, whether he is an artist and poet who speaks to you. For me, he spoke to me intimately at a period of my life, but now much of his “poetry” I find suspect as to whether it has any meaning at all. And for sure some of his speeches and dialogue, which are very faithfully reconstructed and researched here, with almost every word he utters in the film directly taken from something recorded or something he actually said or wrote – a great deal of it is an awkward attempt to confront authority, but without power or sense or sensibility, using poor sentences that often don’t even make sense syntactically. He was constantly pouting at a world that he thought didn’t understand him, and that wouldn’t let him spout his views without question. Yes, a spoiled brat rebel for most of his life, some of whose private life and views (like his antifeminism) do not bear exposure to light. But it’s certainly a fascinating and enjoyable experiment.

From Playlist: Here are all the Dylan's in Todd Haynes' biopic, I'm Not There:

Cate Blanchett (Jude): Plays Bob during his recalcitrant, "Don’t Look Back" rebellious phase where Dylan would fuck with fans and the media alike. Going electric was almost a purposeful fuck-you to those that wanted to pigeonhole him as a political protest singer. Much of her time is spent in England with hanger-on buddy Bobby Neuwirth.

Christian Bale (Jack/John): Portrays Dylan twice: Once in his protest-music period, characterized by songs like "The Times They Are a-Changin'," and the singer's religious phase, exploring gospel music (typified by the 1980 album Saved).

Ben Wishaw (Arthur): Bob fused with the 19th-century poet Arthur Rimbaud.

Richard Gere (Pat): Dylan in what Todd Haynes calls a "hippie Western" vignette. His Dylan composite is named Pat - as his character is vaguely modeled from Dylan's appearance in Sam Peckinpah's western, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Dylan wrote music for and co-starred in the film).

Marcus Carl Franklin (Woody): The young Franklin plays Dylan as a boy named Woody, modeled from Guthrie at a young age or some similar composite.

Heath Ledger (Bob): Ledger's Dylan seems the most opaque. He represents Dylan in the extremely vague "Dylan-esque" phase and cheats on his hen-wife Sara (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg). This is a Blood on The Tracks - Desire era (though he does look a little New Morning).

From JenLAND: I’m not there, but everything was. So what if nothing is revealed...or was everything revealed? Director Todd Haynes is a mischievous visionary who puts the music and the myth of Bob Dylan before us in I'm Not There and dares us not to revel in the troubadour's poetic, contentious, ever-changing essence. It's a feast for the eyes, the ears, and the Dylanologist scratching around our minds and hearts. And, get this, never once does Haynes mention the name of the mesmeric changeling at his film's center. There's no need: Cover versions of Dylan songs occupy the movie like angels and demons doing battle at an exorcism. Not content with just one actor to portray Dylan in the act of inventing and reinventing himself, Haynes hired six and hit the fucking jackpot with Cate Blanchett. She burns through Haynes' head-trip odyssey like an illuminating torch. Blanchett's soon-to-be-legendary performance is not a stunt; it's some kind of miracle. Playing the very skinny, androgynous Dylan in his electric years — when his hair stood on end to match his fried nerves — Blanchett extends the possibilities of acting. You won't see a better example of interpretive art this year by man or woman.

As for the movie itself, don't hang back with the brutes who dis it as art-house blather. One very interesting fact, Dylan thought enough of Haynes to give him rights to his music. Haynes is a formalist who likes to experiment, be it queer-world fantasy (Poison), glam rock (Velvet Goldmine), environmental terrorism (Safe) or 1950s melodrama (Far From Heaven). In I'm Not There, form and substance coalesce instead of colliding as they did in Todd Solondz's Palindromes, when eight actors of assorted age, sex, race and body type played the same pregnant teen. Why not six actors to rep six phases of Dylan's career, especially with these actors?

Up first is the remarkable Marcus Carl Franklin, then 11, Haynes' inspired choice to portray Dylan as a vagabond black boy named “Woody” (an homage to Woody Guthrie). Then there's British actor Ben Whishaw, dandied up as Arthur in tribute to Dylan's admiration for the French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud. The reliably superb Christian Bale gets to manifest two sides of the master, as folk prophet Jack and later the Christian convert Pastor John, revving up the congregation with "Pressing On." Heath Ledger digs deep into the challenging role of Robbie, an actor who plays Dylan in a movie and whose relationship to the painter Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) mirrors Dylan's marriage to and divorce from Sarah Lownds (marred from 1965 to 1977). Which I just learned. The final section of the movie, and the most problematic in terms of style shock, belongs to Richard Gere as Billy, not just the outlaw Dylan played in Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid but the Dylan who went into exile in Woodstock, New York, after his 1966 motorcycle crash. The Gere sequence, opulently produced and featuring an irresistible rendering of "Goin' to Acapulco" by Jim James, may throw audiences off. But the Fellini-esque circus atmosphere is exactly where the film has been heading all along.

Haynes, who collaborated with Oren Moverman on the deftly intricate script, blends film styles from Jean-Luc Godard to Richard Lester (watch out for an inspired Beatles interlude) to show how far Dylan had to run to escape being pinned down in the lethal glare of public perception. This is never more clear than in the Blanchett segment. Her toking, doping Dylan, named Jude, trades insights with gay poet Allen Ginsberg (David Cross), hits on an Edie Sedgwick-like socialite (Michelle Williams), rages against a prying journalist (Bruce Greenwood) and (surreal alert!) imagines gunning down the folkie audiences at Newport '65 who booed when Dylan traded acoustic for electric. Even behind shades, Blanchett lets us in close to the trapped escape artist rattling his cage. The film, shot by the great Ed Lachman with a camera eye that misses nothing, produces Dylan himself in the end. But he's still not there. Such is the talent of Haynes — and the magnificent Blanchett — that chasing Dylan's shape-shifting shadows becomes an unmissable movie event.

Being noticed can be a burden. Jesus got himself crucified because he got himself noticed. So I disappear a lot. –Dylan

At Film Space on October 18, 7 pm: Sid and Nancy (1986) by Alex Cox – UK Biography/ Drama/ Music – 112 mins. Alex Cox's biopic tells the bleak, heroin-drenched story of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his disturbed American girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman delivers a bravura performance as Sid, matched by Chloe Webb's grating, clearly unhinged Nancy. The two lovers' childlike tenderness with each other contrasts sharply with their bleak, violent nihilism, and while the script implies that Nancy's death was accidental, the line between intention and accident is deliberately blurred. By turns romantic and horrific, Sid and Nancy is often grueling to watch, but always compelling. Cox's romantic vision draws us in while throwing us back in time to London and New York at the inception of the drug-laden British punk era. The film's dreamlike style and a hypnotic score dramatize the schism between Sid and Nancy’s world and the world around them--and the inevitable horror when those worlds collide. Generally favorable reviews: 72 out of 100.

At Film Space on October 25, 7 pm: Linda Linda Linda (2005) by Nobuhiro Yamashita – Japan Comedy/ Drama/ Music – 114 mins. A somewhat beguiling teenage charmer that follows the antics of four high school friends, all girls, who decide to form a band only three days before a potential gig at the annual school festival. Unburdened by plot or hormonal drama, the movie follows the girls through lengthy rehearsals, minor setbacks, and painfully awkward encounters with boys and teachers. With the title taken from a catchy 1980s tune by Japanese punk icons The Blue Hearts, Yamashita's film is as unconventional and understated as a teenage drama can be, yet it's fairly enjoyable with moments of painfully awkward humor, and solid performances by the four lead actresses.

Page 1 of 3 By Thomas Ohlson - Printed Thursday, October 09, 2008