Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Week of May 28 to June 3 (Mann)

What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

I know you'd like to take these sultry, summery days for a languorous loll about, but why not cool off at the Tropic?

If you don't want to think too hard, BABIES is the movie for you. It's just babies, babies and… more babies, four of the little ones, American, African, Japanese and Mongolian. If you love babies, you'll want to see it twice. Otherwise, once might be enough, but what's not to like? You don't have to change them, or deal with them crying all night, just watch them be and do the cutest things. Ooo, aaaw. Look at that. It “just might restore your faith in our perplexing, peculiar and stubbornly lovable species,” says the New York Times. If you don't like it, I hardly want to know you.

On the other hand, it's difficult to imagine that these innocent bundles of joy will grow up like the characters in A PROPHET, the gritty French prison saga featuring Malik, a skinny, illiterate French-Arab, sent to prison at age nineteen, who becomes socialized there. That is, if you take “socialized” in the literal sense of becoming adapted to your environment. In Malik's case it's a world ruled by a Corsican gang headed by one César. As an Arab, Malik's not of their world, but he's a malleable tool, who learns to murder as he learns to read.

This movie, which nailed nine French Oscars, the Grand Prix at Cannes, and an American Best Foreign Film nomination, has been called “the ultimate cell-block saga…. nearly three hours of shanking, squealing and surviving” (Time Out-New York). Compared by many to The Godfather, it's an extraordinary, epic movie, not for the faint-hearted, but a must for anyone who appreciates the power of film to transport us into another world.

A Prophet is the third of this year's Foreign Film nominees to come to the Tropic (after The White Ribbon and The Secret in Their Eyes), all powerful and moving in their own ways. This was one of the most hotly contested categories, and many thought A Prophet should have won. All I can say is that any movie that can hold its own in that competition shouldn't be missed.

The real sleeper of the week is HERE AND THERE, an English-language Serbian romantic comedy. Say what? Robert is a depressed, down-and-out American musician. He's so hard up he makes a deal with Branko, a Serbian immigrant who needs someone to marry his fiancé and bring her into the U.S. The complication is that Robert has to travel to Belgrade to finalize the marriage. There he meets the prospective bride's surly brother (“We don't live in Belgrade, we survive in Belgrade.”) and he is put up in the apartment of Branko's youthful mother, whose attractions he at first fails to note . The pacing is European, and the characters are more real than movie-star beautiful, but the story is true to the all-American rom-com tradition. Sweet.

And then there's HARRY BROWN. Michael Caine is the title character, an elderly former soldier, now living in a project dominated by youth gangs. If this one-sentence description alerts you to the Grand Torino-Death Wish plot potential, you'll be right on. Emily Mortimer, who's been getting a lot of screen time lately in a wide array of films - Shutter Island, City Island, and Pink Panther 2 - is a police detective in the area. But while she and her colleagues are inadequate to the job, vigilante Harry isn't. It's young director Daniel Barber's first film after a successful career in commercials, and Michael Caine's one hundred tenth. This juxtaposition has produced interesting, tense tribute to Caine’s boundless talent.

Comments, please, to
[from Key West, the newspaper -]

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