Saturday, April 30, 2011

Week of April 28 to May 5 (Mann)

What’s on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann

It’s a clean sweep as the Tropic clears the decks with new films in all four theaters.

Robert Redford’s period drama, THE CONSPIRATOR, will be on the Carper Theater screen. Robin Wright stars as Mary Surratt, a woman accused of aiding John Wilkes Booth’s plot to assassinate Lincoln. With passions running high, her public defender before a military tribunal (James McAvoy) has a challenging task, made all the more difficult because his client is more concerned with protecting her son (Johnny Simmons) and daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) who are more implicated than she is.

Redford has had an interesting career as a director, with several triumphs including Ordinary People and Quiz Show. The Conspirator is his first foray into history. One suspects that the parallels with current events -- use of a military tribunal rather than a regular court, widespread prejudice against anyone even accused of association with Booth – may have influenced his selection of this story. As you might expect, the details, like a courtroom lit by candlelight, are perfect. And the story is a compelling human drama that gives us much to think about after we leave the theater.

But don’t come just for the history. It’s also a tense courtroom drama and a “ripping good yarn.” (New York Observer)

Catherine Deneuve is a POTICHE (French for trophy wife) who discovers a new self when a union strike at her husband’s factory thrusts her into a management role and reawakens an affair with her old flame (Gerard Depardieu). The prominent director, François Ozon, is best known for sultry thrillers like Swimming Pool, but this is a farce, “funny, broad… made to please, and succeeds.” (San Francisco Chronicle).

, quite the opposite, is deadly serious. The men are a group of Trappist monks at a monastery in Algeria, and Muslim terrorist tormentors who take them captive. The Gods, I suppose, are their differing deities and their differing views of their obligations to them. The monks had been offered military protection, but rejected it out of a sense that it would have no place in a monastery. They knew this put them in harm’s way, but accepted it as their earthly duty. Winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes and nominated for numerous Best Picture Awards, this is “a superb drama, nothing less than sublime.” (Wall St. Journal) It was France’s submission to this year’s Academy Awards.

takes us across the ocean, where a penny pinching producer (Luis Toscar) is shooting a movie about Columbus’ oppression of Indians in the Caribbean. But he’s filming in Bolivia because the local Indians there are cheaper and more docile. A true story underpins the movie, set in 2000 when the Bolivian government gave over control of water rights to a private company which made it illegal for people to even collect rain water for their daily needs. The character of the movie’s director (Gael Garcia Bernal) is sympathetic to the local Indians, who are embroiled in a water-rights protest, while also working on the movie. Meanwhile Daniel, who is cast as the leader of an Indian insurrection in the movie, is also a water-rights leader. You get the complicated picture. A movie within a movie exploiting Indians while criticizing their exploitation, in the midst of a new real-world exploitation. Where will the filmmakers stand on the current protest? “Graced by a lushly evocative natural setting, gritty, documentary-like urban scenes and fantastic performances from its gifted cast… [Even the Rain tells] a story in which personal connections can transcend even the most crushing structures of history and politics. (Washington Post) This was Spain’s submission to this year’s Academy Awards.

And don’t miss Verdi’s AIDA, live from Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino at 2:30EDT (8:30 in Florence) with a delayed-live encore at 7:00EDT.

[from Key West, the Newspaper -]

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