Friday, June 5, 2009

Week of June 5 to June 11 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic

By Phil Mann


It's foreign film week at the Tropic, starting with the most out-landish of all, STAR TREK. “Go with us where no one has gone before,” says Paramount's promo for this newest, but in a sense first, movie about Captain Kirk, Spock and the gang. Rather than bringing us the further adventures of the Starship Enterprise, filmmaker J.J. Abrams has taken us back to the beginning, to the birth of Kirk and the origins of the story. The word on the street is that this may be the best-ever trek in space, beloved by Trekkies of course, but also a perfect introduction and a fun time for initiates. “An affectionate, exuberant picture that seeks to bring even those who don't know Klingon from Portuguese into the embrace of a pop-culture phenomenon,” affirms no less an authority than


Meanwhile, back on Earth, but across the sea in France, SUMMER HOURS could not be more different. The opening scene introduces us to the family at their traditional country house. It's a birthday celebration for the elegant, but aging widowed mother in her domain filled with museum quality art and objets. Her three children are there, the daughter, a designer living in New York (Juliet Binoche); the younger son, a marketing executive living in Asia; and the older son, an economist who has remained in France; along with their spouses and children. It's all wonderful, but the mother insists on pulling the older son aside to discuss what will be done with the house and the art on her death, so we know where the plot is going. Soon they are gathered again with the necessity of resolving these issues, and they don't all agree. Don't expect a knockdown, drag-out battle. That's not what the movie is about. It's more about possessions and memories and what they mean to us. It's about generational change, from the inbred so-French generation of the mother; to the more-worldly and more-open generation of her children; to the generation of their children, who seem from another culture entirely. The shift may have particular meaning for the French, but it's “packed nearly to bursting with rich meaning and deep implication” (New York Times) for us as well.


And, finally, returning to our hemisphere, SIN NOMBRE takes us to Mexico, where we are immediately overwhelmed by harsh and powerful images that seem from another universe than that of Summer Hours. A family of Honduran immigrants, including a lovely young daughter, is struggling across Mexico, riding atop freight trains, trying to get to the States. Their paths cross with a Mexican slum gang whose idea of creative criminality is to rob these immigrants. Grossly tattooed, with religious-like rituals, and initiation ceremonies that subject the novitiate to brutal kicking and require him to murder someone with a zip gun, the gang is evil incarnate. The writer-director, Cary Fukunaga, is a Japanese-American, but the energy and violence of the movie reminds us of Mexican films like Amores Perros. “Riveting from start to finish,” says Roger Ebert of this Sundance winner. Thank goodness for the movies, which allow me to experience this world without coming near it.


This week's revivals and classics include movies from David Lean (BRIEF ENCOUNTERS), Alfred Hitchcock (THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY), and Ingmar Bergman (FANNY AND ALEXANDER). So there's plenty of reason to stay cool at the Tropic.


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 [from Key West, the newspaper -]

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