Thursday, May 15, 2008

Week of May 16-22

What’s On At The Tropic
By Phil Mann

It’s quite interesting to see a film through many eyes, especially one with as many facets as THE VISITOR. At core it’s a human drama, the story of a college professor whose aimless drifting through life is brought up short when he meets and becomes involved with some undocumented immigrants. But it’s also part comedy, part love story and part political lesson wrapped in a music-themed package. The director Tom McCarthy will be known to you if you saw The Station Agent, his touching film starring Peter Dinklage in the role of his career, along with Patricia Clarkson. That’s McCarthy’s way: come up with a good story, people it with actors who are perfect for the roles, and draw us into their lives. With The Visitor he’s added another dimension, the hot-button politics of immigration. For varying points of view on the issues from McCarthy and his actors, check out the set of clips and interviews at No matter what your position is on the immigration question, you will care about the characters brought to life by this ensemble cast. As the Minneapolis Star-Tribune puts it, this is “a delicate, human reminder of why independent films matter.”

TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE, doesn’t tiptoe around its political issue… torture and what it’s doing to the American soul. Filmmaker Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) has prepared what amounts to a devastating investigative report that tracks, step-by-step, how our policies evolved, who is responsible for them, and how they operate in practice. The title comes from a video clip of V.P. Cheney on Meet the Press – “we’re going to the dark side… to use any means at our disposal” – and the detailed story of an innocent Afghani cab driver killed in detention. The victims include not only detainees, but also American soldiers led to this netherworld with ambiguous guidelines that demanded results but enabled higher-ups to evade responsibility. “Sometimes I feel that I should have gone with my own morality more than what was common,” says one, “but it was us against them… I didn’t want to appear to be going against my fellow soldiers,” explains another. The evil-doers are… you decide. Our only solace is that it doesn’t include anyone now running for President, from either party. Help is on the way. I’d say it’s your patriotic duty to see this movie.

Phew. You’ll be ready for something to restore your faith in humanity. Try NOTE BY NOTE, the story of the construction of a Steinway concert grand. It’s an inspiring tribute to the craftsmen and their craft. Or how about Wong Kar Wai’s first English language movie. MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS is an eye-candy-filled American road movie, starring Norah Jones, supported by Jude Law and Natalie Portman.

The Special Event of the week is a one-time screening of EUGENE WALTER: LAST OF THE BOHEMIANS, the true story of an American writer, puppeteer, chef, editor, costume designer, raconteur and bon vivant. Wednesday night at 7:00pm. Tickets $9, but free to Film Society members, even those joining that night.

[Originally published in Key West the Newspaper -]

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