Saturday, January 9, 2010

Week of Jan. 8 to Jan. 14 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

Director Terry Gilliam's first movie was Monty Python and the Holy Grail, maybe the ultimate in brilliant satire, and that offbeat quality runs through all his work.

My favorite Gilliam scene is from the movie Brazil, which portrays a 1984-style future society controlled by all-knowing thought police. Because terrorism is so rampant, people have begun to take it in stride. In one scene a group of refined ladies are having an elegant lunch when a bomb goes off in the dining room. No matter. They simply continue to eat, while a waiter fetches a folding screen to close off the exploded area. Though made almost 25 years ago, the satire of Brazil is spookily relevant today.

Gilliam's new film THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS, takes us on a visually dazzling carnival trip that is being billed as "a fantastical morality tale." Christopher Plummer is Dr. Parnassus, a carny magician who has made a pact with the Devil (Tom Waits), giving him immortality and a great show. The starring role of Tony, a young hustler who spices up the show, was meant to be played by Heath Ledger, but he died half-way through the filming. The script was then tweaked to allow a group of his friends to share portrayal of the character in fantasy scenes. What friends! Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell. It's a trip... in all senses of the word.

If you prefer real people, doing real things (no C.G.I.), THE MAID will be more to your liking. Raquel is the live-in nanny and maid to a well-off family. She's been there for twenty years, and raised the kids. She's part of the family, but not. Even when they try to celebrate her birthday, she jumps up in the middle to wash the dishes. All this neat separation of functions begins to unravel when Raquel is injured and the family brings in a helper to lighten her load. With Raquel displeased and threatened, it seems that Steven King has taken over the script as Raquel segues into RaquHell. First time director Sebastian Silva has told interviewers that the movie was based on his own growing up in Chile. But he now lives in New York and says he'll never have a live-in maid. (Subtitled Spanish)

Special Events? Yes, starting with a hi def screening of the newly released LEONARD COHEN: LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT, 1970. Cohen is getting a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year's Grammys (along with Loretta Lynn and Michael Jackson) and he's still performing, with a European tour scheduled this spring, But this 1970 concert has been called his seminal performance. Shot by music documentarian Murray Lerner, whose work covers musicians from Isaac Stern to Jimi Hendrix and Jethro Tull, the film captures Cohen's 2:00 am performance, and adds interviews with Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson and Judy Collins. It'll be shown twice, on Friday and again on Saturday, at 10:00pm each night.

Then on Sunday, the Tropic is initiating the first in a new twist on its Visiting Filmmaker Series. At 7:00pm, they'll be screening the award-winning documentary GARBAGE DREAMS, which chronicles life in the Cairo underworld of garbage collection, where humans trump rats as the ultimate recyclers. Following the film, the producer/director Mai Iskander will join the audience live for a Q & A via cyberspace transmission. She'll be up on the big screen at the theater, and she'll be able to see and hear the audience on her end. This special screening will be a benefit for two of our local environmental groups, Last Stand and GLEE, as well as the Tropic. Only ten bucks, for a good cause and a film that is more intriguing that you might imagine.

The Monday Night Classic is the much censored (at the time) THE OUTLAW, starring buxom Jane Russell. UP IN THE AIR and INVICTUS continue for another week.

Full schedules and info at
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