Thursday, December 18, 2008

What's On starting December 18

The Day the Earth stillborn at boxoffice!

Chiang Mai movies beginning Thursday, December 18

by Thomas Ohlson

Best Bets: Traitor. Twilight. Ong-Bak 2. EU Film Festival.

Here are my comments on the films playing at Major Cineplex at Airport Plaza and at Vista at Kadsuankaew for the week beginning Thursday, December 18, 2008. There is also information on film programs at the Alliance Française and CMU’s Film Space for the next three weeks. And you will find the remaining schedule for the European Union Film Festival which started its public showings last Friday at Vista in Kadsuankaew, and runs through this coming Sunday, December 21.

This is Issue Number 8 of Volume 4 of these listings – in our fourth year!

The Day the Earth Stood Still didn’t fare too well at the US boxoffice on its opening weekend; it did better overseas, but created only a tepid boxoffice response here in Thailand. Seldom have I seen such rants against an actor as there were for the boy in the movie, who most reviewers call an atrocious actor in a badly written part that was even more badly directed. I think he skewered the film way off the track and filled viewers with irrelevant hate toward the child as a person and as an actor, and brought into the film irrelevant issues of race. And all because he was given the part through the power and influence of his father, Will Smith, who seems determined to turn him into a star whether we like it or not.

Now playing in Chiang Mai * = new this week

* Happy Birthday / แฮปปี้ เบิร์ดเดย์: Thai Drama/ Romance – 90 mins – Starring Ananda Everingham. Looks like a real weepy love story. This time Ananda is a travel photographer who travels around Thailand with his guide/girlfriend, until the girl is involved in a terrible car accident and ends up in a hospital in a coma, while Ananda waits at her bedside for her to wake up. It’s a follow up to the 2007 well-received film Me ... Myself, also starring Ananda, which I enjoyed. From the previews, I have to say this one looks perfectly tedious, despite the fact that I’m a fan of Ananda. We’ll hope for the best.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: US Sci-Fi/ Drama/ Thriller – 103 mins – Other than the child, I enjoyed this! If you like sci-fi thrillers, you should too, except for the child. Of course, you have to be willing to accept a lot of the “aliens invade Earth” conventions. I did, and found it a lot of fun. Except for the child, who simply spoils every scene he’s in – and he’s in it a lot. Seems to me he’s a sterling example of why you shouldn’t adopt stray kids. However, the bright side of it is he’s apparently a thoroughly spoiled brat of an actor who very likely will take to drugs and self-destruct soon, saving us from having to see him again. (But none too soon – would you believe, he’s now been given the role of the Karate Kid in the upcoming sequel? May the Saints preserve us!)

Never have I seen such hate-filled reviews and internet reaction to an actor and his performance! Some samples:

IMDb viewer deconspiratoromania: i hate him i hate him i hate him i hate him

Another: I spent the whole movie waiting for his character to die.

Another: This has to be one of the most unnecessary characters in a movie EVER! I kept hoping the aliens would finish off the planet just so we could be free from that annoying little BRAT! No such luck!

Another: i wanted him to get eaten by those bugs.

He suffers from the same problem as his dad, he thinks just because he stars in a movie that he can also serve as the screenwriter (or take over as screenwriter). His character in this film didn't seem far removed from who he seems to be in real life, an egomaniac like his dad, and a bossy one at that.

I was almost physically pained when this kid was onscreen.

No casting director, producer, executive producer, director, etc. would give that kid a second look if he came in for an audition. The fact that he can't act is bad enough but to have such a ludicrous, outlandish 'fro like that where he looks more like a Muppet than a 10 yr. old boy is completely insane. It’s painfully obvious that his old man used his pull with industry execs to get his kid the part.

What kind of parents allow their kid walking around with hair like that? Are they scared to take him to the barber? They think he's grown enough to say no? Will and Jada....CUT THE BOY'S HAIR!

That rat's nest is a disgrace and clearly his parents are to blame. I can only imagine the cooties that this kid has. It’s not just gross, it’s DISGUSTINGLY gross.

Looks like the bush I have in my garden that needs to be pruned. He looks like a damn Muppet and he totally ruined "The Day the Earth Stood Still" for me. He has no acting talent and obviously his father used his muscle to get his kid the part. No casting director in their right mind would hire him looking like that and not being able to bring any sense of conviction to the role. Every scene with him made me cringe and I just couldn't take the movie seriously.

I can honestly say that this kid is atrocious in the film and clearly got the part because of his Father's prominence in Hollywood. There are literally thousands of other kids that could have done a much better job with the role...its painfully obvious that nepotism speaks louder than talent and merit these days. And what director/producer/casting director in their right mind would pick a kid with such a hideous hairstyle???? I found this kid's appearance so ludicrous that it actually gave the movie a comical feel to it. The movie would have been moderately enjoyable with a seasoned child actor in such a pivotal role. The kid absolutely ruined this movie for me.

(On a more restrained note!):

Jordan Hoffman, Ugo Movieblog: I may be allowing some bizarre and irrational emotions to take over here, but I think I hate this kid. The fundamental reason is this: I’m gonna’ be stuck with this kid for the rest of my life. You see, I intend to continue watching and being enthused by the cinema until I am no longer drawing breath. Young Mr. Smith, being just the age of 10, it stands to reason that I have now been condemned to spending a goodly part of my life with this tyke. He’ll be cast as The Kid in at least one major motion picture a year until he gets a little older. Then he’ll no doubt take a shocking star turn in the 2015 remake of Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. He’ll be dubbed a hero for taking such chancy roles and then there’ll be no stopping him from there.

I was not consulted on this!

I know I sound ridiculous, but I have a little bit of a point. There is a little bit of a pact between we, the movie going audience, and Hollywood when they anoint new stars. We have to at least be given a chance to discover them ourselves. Jaden Smith is just straight-up nepotism, and I think we all can’t stand that. We get enough nepotism and favoritism in life.

Jaden Smith isn’t the world’s worst kid actor – but he’s certainly no better than the 500 other ones currently in the Screen Actor’s Guild who could have played the part. Yet there he is, with his cool floppy hair and smug attitude. . . . So, in conclusion, Eff You, Jaden Smith.

And again:

Brad Brevet, Rope of Silicon: . . . critiquing the performance of a child actor is not something I typically like to lower myself to doing, but Smith is downright terrible in this flick. It wouldn’t have mattered, as it often doesn’t with child actors, had so much of the third act not depended on his storyline.

But as for Keanu Reeves, he’s perfect for the part of the alien! Absolutely perfect, because he really is an alien himself! We have always known that. Think about it – think about him in any movie he’s ever been in. He is not human! He is truly an alien himself, a little spooky, but accessible, and I love him just the way he is!

This is a remake of the landmark film of 1951 with Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, and Sam Jaffe, directed by Robert Wise. This time Keanu Reeves plays Klaatu, a mysterious alien who travels to Earth with a simple mission: to save the planet. He lands his vast space ship in Central Park, New York, and tries without success to announce his plans to the world via a speech at the United Nations. He’s shot and taken into custody instead. Thus rebuffed, to goes to the backup plan: He will destroy everything, then re-populate our planet with clones of the current species. All, that is, except humans who he feels are responsible for Earth's destruction and must be permanently destroyed. He unleashes swarms of dust size robots who sweep through New York and the surrounding area dissolving everything in their path. As mankind fights to survive, one female scientist, with her horrid son tagging along, tries to convince Klaatu to stop the earth’s destruction and give us a second chance.

Mixed or average reviews: 40/41 out of 100.

Transporter 3: France Action/ Crime – 100 mins – I’ve seen it, and I can attest that it’s an action movie – meaning that there’s a lot of explosions, car crashes, and men being violent and assertive. And it’s all quite well done, and seasoned with just the slightest bit of plot and humor. If that’s what you like, this is for you.

Jason Statham returns for a third time now as Frank Martin, a former British Special Forces soldier turned mercenary, whose specialty is delivering risky items in a timely fashion. In this third installment, Frank who has just relocated to Paris, awakes to find himself with a bomb strapped to his wrist which threatens to blow up should he try to remove it. Mixed or average reviews: 51/50 out of 100.

Roger Ebert: A perfectly acceptable brainless action thriller.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua: US Comedy/ Adventure/ Family – 91 mins – With the voices of almost every Spanish-accented voice in Hollywood, including Plácido Domingo! 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. Now alone for the first time in her spoiled life, she must rely on some new friends to help her to find her way back home. It’s a pretty ordinary talking animal picture, but well done of its kind, so if this is your cup of tea, you should enjoy it well enough. Especially if you like dogs, because they really are terrific! Critical reaction seems to be very mixed, with people either loving it or hating it. Overall, it comes out as mixed or average reviews: 41/50 out of 100.

Ong-Bak 2: Thai Action/ Adventure – 100 mins – With Tony Jaa, who also directed. I’m not sure what your reaction will be to this film, for it’s rather difficult and really not too much fun to watch. It’s quite dark, and exceptionally violent. Not for children! But it’s extraordinary in many respects, and approaches almost every aspect of an action film in a new way. And it seems a terribly personal film for Tony Jaa, in which he apparently is trying to exorcise some inner demons. I think it’s a fascinating attempt.

Here is the official synopsis: “Set in the regal times of King Naresuan, Tony Jaa plays Tien, a man who was born into nobility but had it stripped from him after his parents were brutally murdered. During his childhood Tien learned Khon, a form of dance which is usually reserved for royalty. Although he didn't know it yet, Khon would later prove to be an invaluable aide to him. After seeing his parents murdered when he was at the tender age of 10, Tien is forced to live on the streets where he is eventually captured by a group of thieves who take him in and teach him how to steal and fight. Tien’s expertise as a thief and fighter grows, and it isn't long before he is made head thief. Then Tien sees something that makes his stomach churn. A competition is being held to find the best knights to serve under the very man who had killed Tien's parents all those years ago. Tien passes the tests easily and is made Lord Rachasana's 2nd Knight. Now, he has his opportunity to strike but he will have to use all his skill and ingenuity if he is going to get his revenge on the man who killed his parents, and stay alive.”

Twilight: US Vampire love – 121 mins – It’s quite well done overall, and I rather enjoyed it. Robert Pattinson is indeed a handsome, smoldering devil as the vampire.

In the story of Twilight, you have your against-the-odds teen love, your woman in peril, your vampires, and your cult following. It’s a complex story, in three volumes so far and more to come. Mixed or average reviews: 56/53 out of 100.

Vista has a Thai-dubbed version only, with no English subtitles. Airport Plaza has it in the original English, with Thai subtitles.

Traitor: US Drama/Thriller – 114 mins – With Don Cheadle. Probably in its last days. See it while you can. Another serious look at the world of moral uncertainty amid the war on terror. I am very fond of this movie; I think Don Cheadle gives another outstanding performance in this film – really a great person to watch. And I found the story (by Steve Martin) very engrossing.

James Berardinelli, Reel Views: Traitor is an uncommonly intelligent espionage thriller that explores the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by agents who go deep undercover in the service of their country. For movies that revolve around terrorist organizations and acts, there are typically two approaches: a gung-ho, "John Wayne" style and a story that seeks to humanize the terrorists. Traitor takes a different, less straightforward trajectory that exhibits the complex motivations of the terrorists as well as those who oppose them without resorting to caricatures on either side. The film's villains are not cookie-cutter bad guys and the FBI agents are neither bumbling nor infallible. Caught in the middle of everything is a man trying to save innocent lives but whose actions end up taking them as well.

. . . As a thriller for adults who don't require manic chases, frenetic shoot-outs, and ten cuts per second, Traitor is smart, effective, and at times suspenseful. It's one of a very few terrorist-themed movies that presents its situation without resorting to exploitation or oversimplification.

The story: Straight arrow FBI agent Roy Clayton (Guy Pearce) heads up the investigation into a dangerous international conspiracy, and all clues seem to lead back to former U.S. Special Operations officer, Samir Horn (Cheadle). A mysterious figure with a web of connections to terrorist organizations, Horn has a knack for emerging on the scene just as a major operation goes down. The inter-agency task force looking into the case links Horn to a prison break in Yemen, a bombing in Nice, and a raid in London, but a tangle of contradictory evidence emerges, forcing Clayton to question whether his quarry is a disaffected former military operative – or something far more complicated. Obsessed with discovering the truth, Clayton tracks Horn across the globe as the elusive ex-soldier burrows deeper and deeper into a world of shadows and intrigue. Only mixed or average reviews: 60/60 out of 100. Nevertheless, despite the lukewarm reviews, I suggest you go. At Vista only, sharing a cinema with the EU Film Festival.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

EU 2008 Capsule Reviews

European Film Festival: Capsule Reviews for the Remaining Films

Ulzhan – A troubled man from the West abandons his car and sets out on foot – leaving behind his phone, giving away his money and passport – and tries to lose himself in the endless wilderness and barren deserts of central Asia, as the only way of killing the pain he feels inside. Even in Kazakhstan however, that proves more difficult than he imagined. Ulzhan provides plenty of exoticism, mysticism, cultural and lifestyle issues, and an underlying political undercurrent, with stunning vistas. A beautifully crafted film, and with a relevant statement about current global issues. Thu Dec. 18 at 6 pm, and Sun Dec. 21 at 2 pm.


Northern Light – Focuses on a man who has difficulties communicating with his son after the death of his wife and daughter. It is a story of few words and many pictures, a minimalist tale that tries – and succeeds – in visualizing the destructive power of a lack of communication. Even when the son finally decides to speak up, he does so through music and images rather than words. Thu Dec. 18 at 8 pm.


Arabian Nights – A Luxembourg man's obsession with an Algerian woman leads to tragedy in this tightly structured film whose underlying theme deals with Westerners' misconceptions of the Arab world. This compelling drama is first-rate, boasting fine performances and production values. The gorgeous photography supports the storyline with two distinct looks – everyday realism in Luxembourg and a more allegorical feel for the stark Algerian desert. Fri Dec. 19 at 6 pm.


The Edge of Heaven – Reviews: Universal acclaim. This is probably the most highly regarded film in the festival, having won a number of top prizes, and was the German entry for Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007. A film of wide scope and a contemplative, deliberate mood, with a cumulative power, both intellectual and emotional. In this extraordinary film by the German writer-director Fatih Akin children are lost, lost parents are never found, and generational and geographical distances grow wider, propelled by beautiful camerawork and scenery that moves back and forth between pastoral idyll and urban chaos. Fri Dec. 19 at 8:15 pm.


Monkeys in Winter – Portrays the destinies, anxieties, and internal conflicts of three Bulgarian women whose lives revolve around motherhood and children. Their stories unfold during the last forty years of Bulgaria’s most recent social and political history, which is organically interwoven with the women’s personal dramas. In a captivating and challenging way, motherhood becomes the driving force in the lives of these women and the cause of intentional or unintentional murders and deaths. But there are sparkly beads of black humor throughout that relieve the gloom. Sat Dec. 20 at 12 pm.


Porcelain Doll – Said to be an extraordinarily journey from the mind of writer-director Peter Gardos. Revolving around a small Hungarian village and its inhabitants, three unique folk fables are presented in a fairy tale fashion. I’ve seen a preview, and it looks scary enough to me!

Paired with the 20-minute short film El Balancín de Iván / Ivan’s See-Saw – A woman goes back to the house where she spent her childhood during the 1976 Argentine dictatorship. Once there, she remembers the last moments she lived there with her brother and her parents, as they hide from the police and the military. Sat Dec. 20 at 2:30 pm.


One Day in August – Three couples escape Athens' summer heat but hit personal problems instead in this quilt of virtually separate vignettes linked by a fourth strand – a sexually confused young man, lovingly lensed in a state of permanent half-nakedness, who breaks into the couples' empty apartments in Athens and goes through his own kind of crisis as he makes free with their belongings. Sat Dec. 20 at 4:30 pm.


Control – A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of the late 1970s post-punk band Joy Division, whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23. One of the most perceptive of rock music biopics, it’s been made by two people who knew him very well: his wife Deborah, a teenager when they married; and a photographer, also director of the film, whose early photos helped establish Curtis' image as young, handsome and sorrowful. Generally favorable reviews. Sat Dec. 20 at 6:45 pm.


The Ball – A flamboyant star role for Italian singer Laura Morante as a ditzy single mother and chanteuse in this cute and slender feature – only 80 minutes including credits and onstage song interludes. Having walked out on her latest boyfriend – at 4 am, drowsy child in tow – nightclub singer Monica (Morante) again plunges her pint-sized 12-year-old son into domestic chaos. He decides the only way to secure their future is by engineering a permanent boyfriend for mom. Sun Dec. 21 at 4 pm.


Dalecarlians – There’s more than a small element of truth in Maria Blom’s debut film, a depiction of small town life with its eccentric characters and close-knit community contrasted with big city lifestyles. Dalarna, a county north of Stockholm whose residents are called Dalecarlians, is famous for its landscape, and the inhabitants are stubborn and self-centered. Mia, the youngest of three sisters, moved away from Dalarna 15 years ago and has turned into a fast-living Stockholm single. However, her father is turning 70, so Mia reluctantly drives back to her hometown for the celebration. Mia's eldest sister is married with children, and the years have made her cynical. The other sister is recently divorced. When the birthday party starts, anger and jealousy, fueled by booze, rise to the surface. By the following morning, lives have been changed forever. The portrayals of the three sisters are generally considered quite excellent. Sun Dec. 21 at 6:15 pm.


Empties – Well on its way to becoming the most successful Czech film ever, it’s the third in a trilogy of metaphorical works about maturation that began with "The Elementary School" (childhood) and continued with the mellow and Oscar-winning international smash hit "Kolya" (middle age). This third collaboration between director Jan Sverak and his writer-actor dad, Zdenek, was delayed over some father-son disagreements on the lead character's direction. Not hard to understand why: Self-centered and manipulative, he is largely unsympathetic — at least to non-Czech viewers. He’s a Czech lit teacher and natural contrarian who, exasperated by the unruliness of his students, quits his job. This leaves him stuck at home in modern day Prague with his wife, a linguist who has tolerated Josef's past indiscretions and general curmudgeonliness at the expense of a reservoir of resentment. Theirs is a universal love-hate relationship: at the end of the day their affection, though grudging, is present. Sun Dec. 21 at 8:15 pm.

Alliance Française schedule

At Alliance Française on Fridays at 8 pm

At Alliance Française on Friday, December 19: Diva (1981) by Jean-Jacques Beineix – 117 mins – France, Action/ Drama/ Mystery/ Romance/ Thriller/ Music. English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 80 out of 100.

With Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez, Frédéric Andréi, Richard Bohringer, Thuy An Luu.

Jules is a postman who’s mad about Opera. His is crazy about Cynthia Hawkins, a Diva who refuses to have any album of her own; so he tries to record her voice illegally but he is in trouble with pirate disc dealers…

Alliance description

Variety: Diva is an extraordinary thriller and first film from Jean-Jacques Beineix, complex, stylish, and fast-moving.

The story [from the novel by Delacorta] involves a young mail courier (Frederic Andrei) with a passion for opera. His idol, Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelmenia Wiggins Fernandez), has made a career of avoiding the recording studio but the industrious young man manages to covertly make a high-quality tape of her Paris performance. At the same time, a prostitute hides a cassette recording she's made in his delivery motorcycle putting the finger on a drug kingpin before she's killed.

His only ally is a mysterious, shadowy character, Gorodish (Richard Bohringer), who lives with a Vietnamese nymphet (Thuy An Luu). Character has been popularized in a series of French novels and provides an element of fun to the picture, popping up to help the hero throughout the story.

The director dots the tale with bizarre types who continually cross each other's paths and wind up doing more harm to each other than to the young postman. The novel touches, bizarre chases and plot twists, breathtaking camerawork by Philippe Rousselot and tension-filled editing, make Diva a superior piece of entertainment.

Lost at Sea: In 1981, Beineix's Diva was a forerunner of the Cinema du Look movement that would come to hold a prominent role in the French films of the following decade. Wikipedia defines the movement as one that "referred to films that had a slick visual style and a focus on young, alienated characters that were said to represent the marginalized youth of Francois Mitterrand’s France." Common themes within the genre included alienation and doomed love, with a focus on the conflicted state of the country's youth and the frequent use of the Paris Metro. Beineix's wonderful film incorporates all of these aspects and more, showcasing a director truly fascinated by the possibilities of filmmaking and the tools of color, music, sound, and mise-en-scene. Diva is clearly a thriller, but one with very little action; the first car chase, minor as it is, doesn't occur until well past the film's halfway mark.

At Alliance Française on Friday, December 26: No film shown. Holiday!

At Alliance Française on Friday, January 2: No film shown. Holiday!

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Film Space in December is presenting “A Month of Krzysztof Kieslowski” featuring the Three Colors Trilogy, films of which I am very fond, plus his The Double Life of Veronique. In January they present simply a series of films by some directors they like.

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. Now that the weather is cool, they are resuming their rooftop showings, weather permitting. You might want to bring something to sit on or lie on. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

Saturday, December 20: Trois Couleurs: Rouge / Three Colors: Red (1994) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 99 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.

With Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Samuel Le Bihan, Marion Stalens.

Third and last part of Kieslowski's trilogy . . . Valentine is a young model living in Geneva. Because of a dog she ran over, she meets a retired judge who spies his neighbors' phone calls, not for money but to feed his cynicism…”

Alliance Française description

This is my favoriete of the three Color films. The craftsmanship astounds me, and I am deeply moved by the story. Sometimes it seems very strange to me how films end up in their final shape, much of it due not to artistic design, but as a result of accident and coincidence, and things that have very little to do with the original impetus of the film. The ending of White, for example, was an afterthought, and while filming this film, Red, Kieslowski called back the actors of White to hurriedly film what seems to me an essential closure scene that I find amazing wasn’t a part of the original plan.

And in Red, much of the background of the protagonist played by Irène Jacob – the ever-absent boyfriend who only talks on the telephone, continually berating her, bossing her about, demanding she perorms certain actions, and in general being thoroughly disagreable; the mother in England; the brother with his picture in a newspaper after a drug bust – all of this was not even in the script when it was first given to Ms. Jacob, according to what she said in an interiew on the DVD disk of the film. She says she complained to Kieslowski that in the part of the old judge he seemed to pour a great deal of himself and he was thus a vital complete character, while her character was unformed. She said Kieslowski listened to her, and then went off and rewrote her part. I find it hard to believe all that wasn’t a part of the original conception, but apparently not.

However it happened, it did turn out to be a masterpiece in my view, and nicely rounds off and completes the trilogy. I’m amazed at how powerful the work is and how much we care about the character of the judge after having thorughly put us off of him when we first encounter him. We think he is a dispicable human being, and really don’t want to have anything to do with him.

James Berardinelli, Reel Views: Red, the final chapter of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, is a subtle masterpiece. With its satisfying exploration of such complex and diverse themes as destiny and platonic love, Red is not only a self-contained motion picture, but a fitting conclusion to the series. Through one brief-but-important scene, this movie adds closure to both Blue and White, tying both to each other and to Red, and thereby reinforcing the commonality of ideas threaded through all three.

Saturday, December 27: La Double vie de Véronique / The Double Life of Veronique (1991) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 98 mins – France/ Poland, Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance. In French and Polish, with English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 77 out of 100.

With Irène Jacob, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Sandrine Dumas, Guillaume de Tonquedec, Aleksander Bardini.

I will have more to say about this film next week, because though I appreciate the mastery of its filmmaking, I think it is a mess – a very flawed masterpiece. Nevertheless, it was Krzysztof Kieslowski’s international breakthrough, and it remains one of his most beloved films, and is to be sure a ravishing, mysterious rumination on identity, love, and human intuition. Irène Jacob is incandescent as both Weronika, a Polish choir soprano, and her double, Véronique, a French music teacher. Though unknown to each other, the two women share an enigmatic, purely emotional bond, which Kieslowski details in gorgeous reflections, colors, and movements, aided by Slawomir Idziak’s shimmering cinematography and Zbigniew Preisner’s haunting, operatic score. Just before he began work on his stunning film trilogy Blue, Red, and White, Polish writer/director Krzysztof Kieslowski made a film that could easily have been part of the same series, and probably should have been called Yellow, but was titled The Double Life of Veronique instead. Like the three color films, Veronique is a meditation on the interconnectedness of people, told in poetic style with a visual language that repeats itself with the comforting cadence of a nursery rhyme. It's a film experience, in other words, in which the sensuous nature of the medium takes over, and the plot matters less and less as the film goes on.

The Double Life of Veronique is propelled by an idea, and by the excellent performance of Irène Jacob in dual lead roles—as Weronika, a young woman in Poland, and Vèronique, her identical counterpart in France. Weronika receives the shocking news first: She learns about her double when she spies Vèronique in a busload of picture-snapping French tourists on a plaza in Krakow. Vèronique finds out later, when she develops her snapshots from the trip, and is equally devastated. A doppelganger, in this case, is not a pal who knows what you're going to say before you say it; it means that feelings of loneliness and isolation are passed back and forth between the characters, doubling their despair.

Saturday, January 3: Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? (2008) by Morgan Spurlock – 93 mins – France/ US Documentary. In English. Mixed or average reviews: 45 out of 100.

A Nutshell Review: Of course it will be silly to presume that this film can find the answers to the multi-million dollar question, or even come close to it, so just what was the intention?

Director Morgan Spurlock isn't new to controversy, having burst onto the documentary scene with his real life gorging on MacDonald's for every meal in order to drive home the point that junk food really does junk your well being. So for this new film of his, it stems from his desire to seek out the world's #1 wanted man, and ask him just what floats his boat. He may be putting on his jester cap with his somewhat hilarious introduction, but looking at the preparation with vaccination and even attending some terrorism survival course, he's quite dead set in his mission to find that elusive man.

Until of course you realize that he's hitting all the relative safe havens for the most part, before venturing into the more likely places in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But what he seeks to unearth is the Middle East's attitudes towards Americans, and it seems that the common consensus is that while they have nothing against the people, almost everyone that Spurlock chose to showcase, has issues with the foreign policies. And from interviews with the average Joes, they sure have issues with politics at home more than those that are from abroad. Spurlock also takes opportunity to slam the US foreign policy, and does so through a hilarious animated sequence involving Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty herself, in what would be a realistic case of sleeping with the wrong bedfellows.

Bringing the camera from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, and interview people from the state of Palestine and Israel, what he had presented were compelling arguments for and against, as well as plenty of moderate views that seek to debunk the bulk of western media who find delight in demonizing those in the Middle East. Through the looking glass peering at their everyday lives, the film comes to present the basic need for survival and providing for one's family, no matter one's geography, country, religion, and culture. Naturally there were some feathers ruffled, especially when dealing with closed cultures who clam up, or intolerant folks who have no qualms in using violence, but in general, this documentary serves to be rather tame.

Yes it's gimmicky in its title, and half the time you're not sure whether Spurlock will take that plunge and really head to where he will likely find some inkling of positive leads, but what it has presented instead is something more powerful: that this world really needs to reach out and have everyone take a more tolerant attitude, and to understand one another a lot more, to avoid conflict. This should be a world without strangers, and this documentary manages to show just a glimmer of that hope.