Friday, May 15, 2009

Week of May 15 to May 21 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
By Phil Mann

Imagine yourself going back in time, to a music hall in Paris in the late 1930’s. That’s what director Christophe Barratier did to make his new movie, PARIS 36. Finding no suitable location for his period piece, he constructed an entire Parisien neighborhood on a set outside of Prague. The result is beautiful, with showstoppers that evoke Busby Berkeley, and scenes reminiscent of American in Paris and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The story is simple enough. Business is bad and the fascist capitalists want to close down the music hall. But three left-wing guys want to keep it open, and they find their secret weapon in the charming young Douce (Nora Arnezeder), an undiscovered actress (in real life and in the movie) who reminds many of Audrey Tatou with a voice.

Settle back and enjoy the music and the setting. As Roger Ebert notes, it’s the kind of movie that if it “had been made years ago, it would now be considered a classic.” The world is going to hell in a handbag, with the depression in full power and the Nazi invasion only a few years away. But people could still sing and dance. Now that’s a message for our time.

If that’s not enough inspiration, maybe yoga would help. With her documentary ENLIGHTEN UP! filmmaker Kate Churchill seeks to show how there’s nothing like yoga to revive the mind and body. Her strategy, take a neophyte subject (New York journalist and skeptic Nick Rosen) and follow him around the world to meet with yoga gurus of all stripe. I can’t give away the ending, but there is a story line… and it may not be what you expect.

The amazing Disney EARTH continues its run on the big Carper screen. The theater has been full of little kids most mornings, coming with their teachers to see special shows of this movie. I’ve heard some concern that the harshness of nature may be a little strong for them, but I say, hey, what do you think Bambi was about, or The Lion King? Disney, in its way, has always gone where no real family would want to go.

The classic revivals this week are the THE BIRDS at the Saturday matinee (part of the new Hitchcock in HD series), and the John Huston - Humphrey Bogart spy spoof BEAT THE DEVIL on Monday night. Called the first “camp” movie, Beat the Devil’s sharp comic dialogue was authored by Truman Capote, who was brought in as a script doctor when Huston decided to toss the original screenplay. With Gina Lollobrigida (as Bogey’s wife), Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley and Peter Lorre rounding out the cast, there’s more than enough reason to find yourself downtown on Monday to join this ragtag band of criminals in their seedy Italian locale.

And speaking of Italy, this week’s performance in the Great Operas of Europe series is GIULIO CESARE. This is a modern adaptation of the Handel opera Julius Cesar in Egypt, starring the young soprano Danielle de Niese as Cleopatra. The performance was shot in hi def at the Glyndebourne Festival, and called "strong, luxurious and exciting" by Paul Griffiths in the New York Times.

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