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Three-star films

8 Femmes
François Ozon (France)

Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, the venerable Danièlle Darrieux and three stunning ingénues do a tongue-in-cheek impersonation of a wealthy family whose patriarch has been stabbed during the night. A snowstorm traps them in the chateau, where the women hurl accusations and incriminating evidence at each other in classic fashion. The novelty is that they also burst into song. Imagine Deneuve and Béart melodically accusing each other of being world-class sluts and you've caught the feeling of this preposterously entertaining farce. - R.C.
(Tues. Sept. 10, 9:45 p.m., VISA Screening Room, Elgin; Thurs. Sept. 12, 3:30 p.m., Uptown 1.)

Daisuke Tengan (Japan)
Now here's an unlikely happenstance: a moving Japanese film inspired by the true story of a Danish paraplegic whose life is redeemed through the martial arts. A spectacular car accident confines promising young boxer Taichi to a hospital bed, paralyzed and devastated. His life changes for the better when he meets a flighty temple assistant, who introduces him to the ancient art of aiki-jujitsu, which somewhat improbably (and, on-screen, comically) teaches its proponents to channel enough energy to turn away opponents with a flick of the wrist. The son of the great Shohei Imamura (and, most recently, screenwriter of Takashi Miike's Audition), director Daisuke Tengan attempts to merge the coming-of-age genre with spirituality and a humanist parable about the ability of disabled people to resist societal limits, yet somehow pulls it off. - M.P.
(Tues. Sept. 10, 9 p.m., Varsity 6; Sat. Sept. 14, 9 p.m., IBT.)

El Bonaerense
Pablo Trapero (Argentina)
One of the de facto leaders of the Argentinean New Wave, Pablo Trapero's gritty follow-up to Crane World follows a dim, rural locksmith, 35-year-old Zapa (Jorge Roman, effectively taciturn). He is going nowhere fast when he's sent to the big city, where he ends up over his head as a recruit in Argentina's most notorious and corrupt police force. A bit old to be at training school, Zapa learns how to shoot a gun, how to seduce his officer, and how to accept bribes - yet El Bonaerense is no exposé: Its drunken cops are more Police Academy than Training Day. It ends on one of many notes of sympathetic tenderness, confirming the love Trapero holds for his characters, irrespective of the wrong choices they make along the way to understanding their places in the world. - M.P.
(Sat. Sept. 7, 3 p.m., Uptown 2; Sun. Sept. 8, 9 p.m., Cumberland 4.)

Bowling for Columbine
Michael Moore (U.S.)

The 1999 high-school massacre is the starting point for Moore's sweeping portrayal of America as a country that, through historical racism and media manipulation, is caught in a vortex of paranoia and violence, both domestically and in its foreign policy. Several episodes in this hopscotch film are shocking and very funny, though some go awry when Moore over-torques his information, grandstands with victims or bullies an aged and confused Charlton Heston, the head of the National Rifle Association. Canadians, praised as a people of sanity and openness, with no slums or unlocked doors, may not recognize themselves. - L.L.
(Sat. Sept. 7, 6:30 p.m., Elgin; Sun, Sept. 8, 9 a.m., Varsity 8)

Im Kwon-taek (South Korea)

Veteran Korean filmmaker's portrait of the 19th-century artist of the title (played by Choi Min-sik), who started life as a peasant and maintained a rough appetite for plain speech, sex and drink, and pursued his own direction, oblivious to court favour and politics. The story of his life and talent is set against beautiful backdrops and Korea's struggle to endure both its Japanese and Chinese overlords. Im shared the directing award at Cannes for the film. - L.L.
(Tues. Sept. 10, 9:30 p.m., Roy Thomson Hall; Wed. Sept. 11, 3 p.m., Uptown 2.)

Cry Woman
Liu Bingjian (China/Canada/South Korea/France)

Cry Woman features a super titular performance by Beijing Opera performer Liao Qin, a smooth tempo and a sly sense of humour in the way it portrays the contradictions of mainland Chinese life under economic reform. After her husband pokes out another man's eye in a mahjong dispute, Wang Guixiang leaves her job and moves back to her rural hometown. When the bossy wife of the one-eyed man demands compensation, Guixiang whelps and turns on the voluminous tears, and soon after she starts performing at funeral celebrations as a professional mourner. Following from Guixiang's crocodile tears, which reveal just as much as they hide, the surface-level comedy of Cry Woman comes with a tragic core. - M.P.
(Sun Sept. 8, 9:45 p.m., Cumberland 1; Thurs. Sept. 12, 6:15 p.m., Varsity 1 or 6.)

Cuban Rafters
Carles Bosch, Josep M. Domenach (Spain)

This moving television-produced documentary follows follows the lives of seven Cubans - three women and four men - who were part of the exodus of tens of thousands of Cubans in 1994 in a brief window when Castro declared the borders open. The film begins with the subjects beginning their raft-building plans; it picks them up again during their incarceration at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay and then follows six of the seven as they make their way to various places in the United States, where separation from spouses and children and communal Cuban life is keenly felt. Finally, the film catches up with the rafters again last year and we see the seven originals, now all in America, and the various lives they are leading, the modest successes and sad failures. - L.L.
(Sat. Sept. 7, 6:45 p.m., Varsity 4; Sun. Sept. 8, 11:45 a.m., Cumberland 4.)

Divine Intervention
Elia Suleiman (France/Palestine/Morocco/Germany)

Be patient - this is an important film always bold in design, if only intermittently in execution. Palestinian director Elia Suleiman takes us to various sites in Israel - his hometown of Nazareth, the Al-Ram checkpoint, Jerusalem itself. There, borrowing from the likes of Tati and Keaton, he treats the moral chaos of the Mideast in a manner never seen on the nightly news - that is, not as a social/political tragedy but as an absurdist black comedy. In this bleak yet ridiculous world, the bickering of neighbours and the tyranny of soldiers can turn in an instant from the merely petty to the monstrously profane. With scant narrative but abundant style, Suleiman has devised a series of absurd tableaux designed as a satiric comment on the whole spectrum of inhuman behaviour. Ultimately, the movie's effect is to transform the region's tragic loss of common sense into a vivid display of nonsense. Yet Suleiman's comic perspective is never unfeeling - it mixes sorrow with love, and seems as refreshing as it is rare. - R.G.
(Mon. Sept. 9, 6 p.m., Uptown 2; Thurs. Sept. 12, 12:30 p.m., Cumberland 2.)

Itre et avoir
Nicolas Philibert (France)

This delicate documentary, starting in a frosty Auvergne mid-winter where the tiny silhouettes of students tramp through the snow, examines one of France's few remaining one-room rural schools. The children come from not-prosperous farms where well-meaning but coarsened parents often slap them through their homework, and return each morning to a bright room where they struggle through the multiplication table and the fearsome intricacies of language. Itre et avoir focuses on the teacher, Georges Lopez, a soft-spoken man of endless patience and insight. There is no narration, and the film expresses no opinions. But it will evoke childhood for many viewers, and cause others to wonder how the world could go on if not for the invisible heroism of people like Lopez. - R.C.
(Tues., Sept. 10, 10 p.m., Cumberland 1; Thurs., Sept. 12, 10:45 a.m., Cumberland 1.)

Every Day God Kisses Us on the Mouth
Sinisa Dragin (Romania)
Bleaker than bleak, Sinisa Dragin's tantalizingly titled modern fairy tale starts off as relentless, and lets up very, very rarely. Our antihero, the murdering butcher Dumitru (Dan Condurache), is introduced on release from an 11-year jail term. Just as fast as he can win a woman in a poker game, he's back on the path to darkness, but both an impulsion to slaughter and the aching for love reside in his troubled nature. Murkily shot in digital video and tinted with a sepia tone, Dragin creates an unsettling look of fascinating ugliness, which he matches with a cacophonous soundtrack of barking dogs and the howling elements. - M.P.
(Fri. Sept. 6, 7:30 p.m., Varsity 1 or 6; Sat. Sept. 7, 11:30 a.m., Cumberland 3.)

Le Fils
Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne (Belgium/France)

The Dardenne brothers (Rosetta, La Promesse) are in familiar territory in this tale of troubled working-class youth, though this time the narrative is compounded with a mystery. Olivier Gourmet plays a man who runs a workshop for hassled teens and has a strained relationship with his ex-wife. When a 16-year-old boy applies to the program, the older man initially rejects him, and then begins stalking him. The mystery concerns the secret connection between the man and boy, but the real pleasure, once you get past the uncomfortable shaky camera, is the great sad performance of Gourmet, who took the Cannes acting prize for his work here. - L.L.
(Thurs. Sept. 12, 9 p.m., Uptown 2; Fri. Sept. 13, 12:30 p.m., Varsity 4.)

Julie Taymor (U.S.)

Yes, the film is as visually rich as you'd expect from Julie Taymor, the stylish director who brought The Lion King to the stage and Titus to the screen. And, flashing a formidable mono-brow along with some real vivacity, Salma Hayek is surprisingly effective in the title role of Frida Kahlo. But the script, apparently assembled by several hands, can't quite escape the formulaic mustiness of the artist biopic. So there are Frida and hubby Diego Rivera being geniuses together - painting what's artistically right, embracing what's politically left, loving and laughing and fighting and suffering, all the while jumping in and out of innumerable beds (including Leon Trotsky's). The spectacle is definitely entertaining, and Taymor inserts several delicious transitions that move from the events of Frida's life to their reflections in her art. Yet it all begins to feel a bit pat and superficial - Pollock meets Lust for Life, and la vida loco snuggles up to la vie bohème. - R.G.
(Sat. Sept. 7, 6:30 p.m., Roy Thompson Hall; Sun. Sept. 8, 9:30 a.m., Uptown 1.)

Gambling, Gods and LSD
Peter Mettler (Canada)

Enigmatic and provocative images are often the most articulate part of this three-hour journey in search of something that is never really defined, but is somehow related to the director's visit to a river when he was a boy and his excited sense of wholeness with the world. Mettler's journeys from an ecstatic religious meeting at an airport hotel to a virtual sex parlour in Las Vegas to heroin addicts in Germany focuses, generally, on out-of-body experiences. The results are rather rambling, but punctuated with some memorable moments. - L.L.
(Sun. Sept. 8, 8:45 p.m., IBT; Tues. Sept. 10, 6 p.m., Varsity 5.)

The Good Thief
Neil Jordan (U.K./France/Ireland)

The Irish director has teamed up with Nick Nolte and a mostly European cast for this loose remake of of Jean-Pierre Melville's 1955 classic Bob le flambeur, with very entertaining results. The chief interest is a deeply lived-in performance by Nolte, as an expatriate junkie and gambler who sees one last chance to turn his life around, save a teenaged Russian prostitute and rob the Monte Carlo casino. Particularly good work from Tcheky Karyo as Nolte's police shadow adds to this clever, satisfying genre flick. - L.L.
(Fri. Sept. 6, 9:30 p.m., RTH; Sat. Sept. 7, noon, Uptown 2.)

Tom Tykwer (France/Germany/U.S.)

Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) adapted this movie from an unfilmed script by the late Polish master, Krzysztof Kieslowski (and co-writer Krzysztof Piesiewicz). It is offered here in English, with strong understated performances from stars Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi in the lead roles. At times one can feel the conflict between Twyker's caffeinated energy and Kiesowski's philosophical pace, but overall the movie works as an unlikely but effective moral thriller about a school teacher determined to kill the drug dealer who led to her husband's death, and a young policeman who takes pity on her. - L.L.
(Fri. Sept. 6, 6:30 p.m., Uptown 1; Sat. Sept. 7, noon, Elgin.)

Gyorgy Palfi (Hungary)

A true "festival film," Gyorgy Palfi's Hukkle draws viewers into an inventive, self-sustained cinematic world and won't let go. Palfi's delightful thesis film is set in a small, rural Hungarian village, and is introduced by the relentless hiccupping of an old peasant by the side of the road. The rhythm of the hiccup (which does remain exceedingly annoying) spreads out to what seems to be a creative - and very much wordless - depiction of rural life. But the hiccup that won't go away isn't the only thing that's gone awry in this serene town: somehow, well after Palfi starts his subtle hints, a murder mystery begins to unfold (and the echoes of Lynch are surely intentional). Palfi takes delight in pitching ever more curve balls, with a number of special effects that, like everything else in this elaborately structured yet unclassifiable film, come out of nowhere and stick. - M.P.
(Thurs. Sept. 12, 10 p.m., Varsity 2; Fri. Sept. 13, 10 a.m., Varsity 6.)

L'Idole Samantha Lang (France)
Did you know Leelee Sobieski (Eyes Wide Shut) speaks French? She is the `idol' in this luminous, mysterious film, a temptress who allows the men in her Paris apartment building to come and go through her open door as she preens in the bath and exercises on the floor - on condition that none dream of touching her. But Zao, an elderly Chinese across the hall, sees a death wish in the girl's glowing eyes and decides to save her life by becoming her servant, feeding her meals whose sensuality is even greater than the spell she is trying to cast on him. A film of great poise and intelligence. - R.C.
(Sat. Sept. 7, 6:30 p.m., IBT; Mon. Sept. 9, 9 a.m., Uptown 2.)

An Injury to One
Travis Wilkerson (U.S.)

A featurette included in one of the Wavelength programs focusing on experimental work, this creative documentary captures almost a century of mining at Butte, Mont.: the murder of union organizer Frank Little, the connections to Dashiell Hammett, Joseph McCarthy and the environmental disaster that is the current mine site. Using simple guitar music, photographs, cutouts and voice-over narration, he creates a film that combines strong elements of artful design with a political message. - L.L.
(Mon. Sept. 9, 9:45 p.m., Varsity 7; Tues. Sept. 10, 2 p.m., Varsity 7)

Madame Satã
Karim Ainouz (Brazil/France)

A kinetic, sumptuous spectacle that delivers a flying karate kick to traditional depictions of personal history, Karim Ainouz's debut is one of the most politically daring and confrontational films to come out of Brazil in recent memory. The de facto queen of Rio de Janeiro's bohemian Lapa quarter in the 1930s, Joao Francisco dos Santos (nicknamed Madame Sata) was a transvestite cabaret performer, a rough-and-tumble street fighter and a brothel cook - when he wasn't locked behind bars. Lazaro Ramos, in an exciting, confident and often humorous performance, shines as a man unashamed of his sexuality, who wears it with pride and refuses to suffer derision or abuse. - M.P.
(Wed. Sept. 11, 6:30 p.m., Uptown 2; Sat. Sept. 14, 7 p.m., Varsity 2 or 3.)

Morvern Callar
Lynne Ramsay (U.K.)

Scottish director Lynne Ramsay, who made such an impressive debut in last year's Ratcatcher, continues to flash her substantial talent here. She's set herself the daunting task of adapting Alan Warner's inwardly gazing book, where a twentysomething woman (Samantha Morton) awakens one Christmas morning to find her boyfriend dead of suicide and his finished novel alive on a computer disc. Her eerily pragmatic reaction sparks a literal journey that doubles as an interior quest - ain't it always the way in a road movie. Happily, Morton's performance (by turns wounded and angry) is compelling throughout, as is Ramsay's exemplary use of music. The entire soundtrack arises organically out of the plot and subtly magnifies the theme, no more so than in the very last frame - it's a memorable aural climax. - R.G.
(Fri. Sept. 6, 6 p.m., Varsity 8; Sun. Sept. 8, 3:30 p.m., Uptown 1.)

The Other Side of the Bed
Emilio Martinez-Lazaro (Spain)

Silly but inventive sex farce revolves around two young Spanish couples - Sonia (Paz Vega) and Javier (Ernesto Alterio), and Pedro (Guillermo Toledo) and Paula (Natalia Verbeke). Paula tells Pedro she's in love with someone else, who happens to be Javier, Pedro's best friend. Sonia feels the need to comfort Pedro, but Javier thinks she's in love with another woman. And so it goes round and round. What makes the comedy distinctive is that The Other Side of the Bed is also a musical, in which the characters spontaneously sing and dance to Spanish pop songs about their amorous troubles. - L.L.
(Fri. Sept. 13, 9:30 p.m., RTH; Sat. Sept. 14, noon, Uptown 2.)

Past Perfect
Daniel MacIvor (Canada)

A tender, small-scale movie that feels like a theatrical two-hander expanded to the screen. The piece is distinguished by smart writing (from screenwriter, star and director Daniel MacIvor), a clever double-time scheme that marks the beginning and (probable) end of a relationship, as well as good performances by principles MacIvor and Rebecca Jenkins. The two meet on an airplane in Halifax at Christmas time; he's a neurotic and prickly linguistic professor seeking a new job out west; she's a gardener returning to Vancouver after a disastrous romantic trip. One part of the story follows their meeting on the plane; the second, intercut, follows the subsequent unraveling of their relationship at an undetermined future time in Vancouver. - L.L.
(Sat. Sept. 7, 3:30 p.m., IBT; Mon. Sept. 9, 10 a.m., Uptown 3.)

Punch-Drunk Love
Paul Thomas Anderson (U.S.)

Who but Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights) would be strange or creative enough to try to prove the artistic genius of Adam Sandler? Reminiscent of Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy without the ironic quotation marks, Punch-Drunk Love is like a strange fable. It's the story of a misfit salesman, ingenious but unsuccessful, loaded with anger, mocked and belittled by his insufferable sisters. Then he falls in love with Lena (Emily Watson) and, in a development worthy of a typical Sandler movie, finds the power to defeat his evil enemies. The mixture of sentimentality and rage and abrupt narrative turns keeps the audience constantly guessing, even to the point of wondering if the events might actually take place in the head of a disturbed sales clerk stuck in a corner of an empty warehouse. - L.L.
(Fri. Sept. 13, 11 p.m., Uptown 1; Sat. Sept. 14, 2:15 p.m, Elgin)

Raising Victor Vargas
Peter Sollett (U.S.)

The tale is familiar but the telling is so wonderfully sweet. It's summer in New York, amid the Latino community on the Lower East Side, and the weather is almost as hot as Judy Rodriguez, the local lovely whom our boy Victor has vowed to seduce. But both his style and his conscience are cramped by his all-seeing granny, a stern matriarch determined to keep Victor and his younger siblings on the path of righteousness. What follows is a light and likable story of first loves, long on sentiment yet blissfully shy on sentimentality. Better still, in his feature debut, director Peter Sollett handles his non-professional cast with remarkable aplomb. The picture comes alive in the performances, which are good enough to double as a primer on the nature of acting - clearly, these well-rehearsed amateurs are capable of dissembling like pros. - R.G.
(Sat. Sept. 7, 9 p.m., Uptown 2; Mon. Sept. 9, 2 p.m., Varsity 3.)

Emanuele Crialese (Italy/France)

A tight-knit but isolated Italian fishing village can only describe Grazia, a fisherman's troubled wife, as "too happy when she's happy, too sad when she's sad." Beautiful Grazia swims bare-breasted and shames her husband; she releases a pack of wild dogs from the pound and terrorizes the town. Her husband loves her but succumbs to village pressure to send her to a psychiatric clinic in far-off Milan. Only her 13-year-old son understands that she would commit suicide first: He saves her by hiding her in a grotto, and now it's the town's turn to know Grazia's mental confusion. Is she alive or dead? And do they love her enough to let her live among them? A sensitive and mischievous performance from Valeria Golino. - R.C.
(Fri., Sept. 6, 7 p.m., Uptown 3; Mon., Sept. 9, 9:15 a.m., Varsity 1.)

Russian Ark
Aleksandr Sokurov (Russia/Germany)

It takes a little patience at the start, but this latest offering from the Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov (Mother and Son, Moloch) is a technical stunner. To create the film, Sokurov hooked up a hard disk to a high-definition digital camera for this single-take tour through the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, weaving a narrative through 33 rooms and using more than 2,000 extras while offering a tour of more than 300 years of European art. At the same time, it actually manages to tell a story as the invisible narrator wakes after an unspecified accident and finds himself in the early 1700s. The camera work is courtesy of Tilman Buttner, most famous for the very different pace of Run Lola Run. - L.L.
(Fri. Sept. 6, 3 p.m., Varsity 8; Sat. Sept. 14, noon, Varsity 8.)

Sex Is Comedy
Catherine Breillat (France)

Last year, Catherine Breillat's Fat Girl, which featured a harrowing scene with a teenaged girl being pushed into sex by her older boyfriend while her 12-year-old sister is feigning sleep in the same room, was banned in Ontario. That puts Ontario viewers, at least, at a disadvantage in understanding her new work: Sex Is Comedy is a parody of the behind-the-scenes documentary and a commentary on Breillat's former film and that pivotal scene. Actress Roxane Mesquida recreates her own role, with Anne Parillaud (La Femme Nikita) standing in for Breillat, a glamorous, arrogant director who will do anything - even betray her own principles - to get the scene she needs. - L.L.
(Wed. Sept. 11, 9 p.m., Uptown 1; Fri. Sept. 13, 9 a.m., Varsity 7.)

Jeff Blitz (U.S.)

Nine million American kids compete in spelling bees each year, but only one will be chosen best speller in a sesquipedalian showdown in Washington. Here's where poor black kids and the progeny of Mexican illegal aliens can do battle with the offspring of the upper class. This clever documentary follows eight kids through months of obsessive preparation to the final showdown where they spell words they don't understand ("logorrhea," "terrene"), chewing them like oenophiles at a wine tasting. Meanwhile, their hovering parents reveal a wealth of things about what really makes America tick. - R.C.
(Sun. Sept. 8, 6:30 p.m., Royal Ontario Museum; Tues. Sept. 10, 4:45 p.m., Cumberland 3.)

David Cronenberg (Canada/U.K./France)

After the grosser game of eXistenZ, Spider is an example of rigorous execution on a tight canvas by the Canadian director. Ralph Fiennes stars - a spooky, near-silent performance - as the title character, an out-patient from a mental hospital who moves into a musty old rooming house back in his childhood neighbourhood. Gradually, the traumatic past comes back to haunt him in a most remarkable way: The adult character wanders like a ghost, peering through windows and sitting in bars, watching his childhood life unfold as the relationship between his father (Gabriel Byrne) and mother (Miranda Richardson) takes a strange and violent turn. Richardson is extraordinarily good in a triple role. - L.L.
(Mon. Sept. 9, 9:30 p.m., RTH; Tues. Sept. 10, noon, Uptown 2.)

Standing in the Shadows of Motown
Paul Justman (U.S.)

A solid documentary and concert film that chronicles the contributions of the Motown house band, known as the Funk Brothers, responsible for dozens of hit records by such acts as The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and Stevie Wonder. Recruited from Detroit nightclubs, the musicians were primarily jazz players hired for their studio work, and were initially unaware of their huge impact on pop music. Along with the entertaining reminiscences of the Motown vets, the movie chronicles the career of the troubled and immensely influential bass player, James Jamerson. The concert sequences include the still rock-solid ensemble with contemporary singers Meshell Ndegeocello, Chaka Khan, Joan Osborne and Ben Harper. - L.L.
(Wed. Sept. 11, 7 p.m., Elgin; Thurs. Sept. 12, 4 p.m., Uptown 3.)

Take Care of My Cat
Jeong Jae-eun (South Korea)
Hello, kitty! Set in the South Korean port of Incheon during a drab winter, Jeong Jae-eun's engaging, heartfelt debut is a breezily realist look at five ordinary girls in an ordinary situation: making the uncertain transition from innocent high-school best-friendship to the mysteries to follow. Jeong leisurely examines the lives of 20-year-olds with a low-key seriousness lacking in almost all North American coming-of-age films; she also believably accents each character's individuality - they never become clichés. The vivid attention to detail involves giving extra-special care to the girls' continual use of cell phones, which culminates in a precious five-way, split-screen conversation. - M.P.
(Thurs. Sept. 5, 9:30 p.m., Varsity 2; Sat. Sept. 7, 9:30 a.m., IBT.)

Mike Hoolboom (Canada)

Prolific Canadian experimental filmmaker Mike Hoolboom pays tribute to a colleague in Tom, a portrait of New York filmmaker Tom Chomont. He is suffering from Parkinson's disease and AIDS and tells of his tumultuous life (incest, possible infanticide, fetishism and painful losses) with a dry humour and odd innocence. Mixing bits of stock footage and Hollywood images (along with clips from Chomont's 30-plus years of filmmaking) in a rapid, allusive montage that follows the narration, the film creates a window on the possibilities of pure strangeness of one person's life. - L.L.
(Thurs. Sept. 12, 9:15 p.m., ROM; Fri. Sept. 13, 3 p.m., ROM.)

A Transistor Love Story
Pen-ek Ratanaruang (Thailand)

A little bit of country and a whole lot of raucous soul, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's charming, often broad, musical satire doesn't know when to stop, and viewers shouldn't care. Adapted from a popular novel, the film stars a very engaging Suppakorn Kitsuwan (who performs his own songs) as Pan, a country yokel separated from his wife and child first by army duty and then to pursue his dream of musical superstardom. Ratanaruang's earlier films, Fun Bar Karaoke and 6ixtynin9, are chock full of a raffish violence that had many critics dubbing him a Thai Tarantino; if that's the case then A Transistor Love Story must certainly be his Jackie Brown. - M.P.
(Mon. Sept. 9, 8:15 p.m., Varsity 1; Wed. Sept. 11, 1 p.m., Uptown 3.)

The Trials of Henry Kissinger
Eugene Jareki (U.S./U.K.)

Inspired by Christopher Hitchens' book, this documentary makes a convincing case that, by most definitions of the phrase, Henry Kissinger, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, qualifies as a war criminal. In Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor and Chile, it says he encouraged the murder of civilian populations, in violation of international law. Impressively, the film makes its case without strain or particular malice. On the contrary, the story of a young German Jew who escaped the Nazi death camps and became a brilliant scholar of power politics has elements of the tragic. - L.L.
(Sun. Sept. 8, noon, Cumberland 3; Wed. Sept. 11, 3 p.m., ROM.)

The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams' Appalachia
Jennifer Baichwal (Canada)
Are Shelby Lee Adams's photo portraits of Kentucky hillbillies an exploitative catalogue of horrors (retarded children, snakehandling Christians, grinning yokels posing with a slaughtered pig) or a sensitive tribute to a culture forged by adversity in the place where, after all, he grew up? The camera follows Adams into the lost hollows where he works, introducing us to men and women who have been the subjects of his portraits. These sequences are intercut with art critics from the big cities who accuse Adams of exploiting his naive and illiterate subjects. Quite often we then cut to the subjects themselves, who explain with simple but solid common sense why they are not ashamed of the way they look or live. Warning: some scenes hazardous to middle-class assumptions. - R.C.
(Sat., Sept. 7, 6 p.m., ROM; Sun., Sept. 8, 12:45 p.m., Varsity 7.)

Rodrigue Jean (Canada)

A motley cast of troubled nomads are choreographed in action in Acadian filmmaker Rodrigue Jean's boundary-pushing road movie. Jean cares less about geography than psychology, and treats the genre as more of an internal than external journey, and the film - more Wild at Heart than The Wizard of Oz - seethes with small-town Lynchian creepiness. Even if it feels like Jean is trying too hard at replicating the mode of the European art film (especially in terms of ramping up the sexual perversion), Yellowknife could be the best-looking Canadian film ever made. - M.P.
(Wed. Sept. 11, 6 p.m., ROM; Fri. Sept. 13, 9:30 a.m., Varsity 4.)

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