Director: Majid Majidi. With Hossein Abedini, Mohammad Reza Naji, Zahra Bahrami, Hossein Rahimi. (105 min.)Skip to next paragraph
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Sterritt **** The unglamorous setting is an Iranian construction site, and the unlikely hero is an Iranian man who falls in love with an Afghan woman after a string of misadventures with an illegal immigrant who works alongside him. Majidi became one of Iran's most internationally famed filmmakers with "Children of Heaven" and "The Color of Paradise," but he far surpasses those sappy melodramas with this expressively filmed story of rivalry, romance, and cultural conflict. In Farsi with English subtitles.
Director: Chris Marker. With voices of Jim Broadbent, Cyril Cusack, Robert Kramer. (179 min.)
Sterritt **** This towering documentary spans the world in its overview of the war between left-wing radicalism and right-wing conservativism during the troubled '60s and '70s era. Completed in 1993 from material first assembled in 1977, it reconfirms Marker as one of the most serious-minded and artistically gifted filmmakers in France, or anywhere else. In English, Spanish, and French with English subtitles.
Director: Woody Allen. With Allen, Téa Leoni, Mark Rydell, George Hamilton, Debra Messing. (114 min.)
Sterritt *** See review, page 15.
Director: Chris Smith. With Bill Tregle, Linda Beech, Ben Skora, Darlene Satrinano. (66 min.)
Sterritt *** If one's domestic environment is a kind of autobiography, then the five households visited by this entertaining documentary reveal fascinating lives indeed. One couple lives in a converted missile silo, another in a home designed more for their pet cats than for themselves. Other folks live in a treehouse, an alligator-friendly boathouse, and a suburban house crammed with mechanized gadgets. Home, sweet home, was never like this!
Director: Ismail Merchant. With Aasif Mandvi, Om Puri, Ayesha Dharker, Zohra Segal. (117 min.)
Sterritt **** A little knowledge can be a wonderful thing, or so it seems to the hero of this delightful comedy-drama. He's an Indian man living in Trinidad, where his smattering of book learning brings him enough local prestige to become first a masseur and healer, then a small-time book writer, and then an aspiring politician although each step up the ladder of success doesn't necessarily bring more of the personal happiness he's always in search of. Merchant usually works as the producing half of the Merchant Ivory filmmaking team, but his skills as a director have grown by leaps and bounds. This delicious fable reflects his great love of language, his delicate visual sense, and his ability to make you think and laugh out loud, often at the very same time.
Director: Samuel Raimi. With Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco. (121 min.)
Staff ***See review, page 15.
Director: Shohei Imamura. With Koji Yakusho, Misa Shimizu, Mitsuko Baisho, Manasaku Fowa. (119 min.)
Sterritt ** On a quixotic hunt for buried treasure, a lonely man makes peculiar new acquaintances in a seaside Japanese town, including a woman whose body is attuned to the world of nature in disconcerting ways. Imamura has directed near-legendary films like "The Insect Woman" and "Vengeance Is Mine," but his acute sense of color and offbeat storytelling style aren't enough to make this sometimes sensual fantasy more than a whimsical trifle. In Japanese with English subtitles.
Director: Peter Bogdanovich. With Edward Herrmann, Kirsten Dunst, Cary Elwes, Jennifer Tilly. (112 min.)
Sterritt ** The place is newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst's yacht in the mid- 1920s, and the characters include comedian Charlie Chaplin, gossip columnist Louella Parsons, film producer Thomas H. Ince, and Hearst himself. They're hoping for a good time on their pleasure cruise, but the sea breezes carry whiffs of jealousy and danger. Based on a real-life murder case, this amiably dull comedy-drama resembles its setting: Everything is arranged for fun and diversion, but the vehicle takes too long to get us where we're going.