Nine Fridays/Saturdays of film for $35

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September 9 & 10, 2011


Starring Abdelhafid Metalsi, Abdellah Moundy, Abdellah Moundy, Benhaïssa Ahouari, Farid Larbi, Jacques Herlin, Jean-Marie Frin, Lambert Wilson, Loïc Pichon, Michael Lonsdale, Olivier Perrier, Olivier Rabourdin, Philippe Laudenbach, Sabrina Ouazani and Xavier Maly.

“Of Gods and Men,” loosely based on real events, is about a group of French monks in Algeria. They inhabit a remote monastery in the Atlas Mountains, tending to the needs and ailments of local Muslim villagers—an ideal of charity which, needless to say, finds itself under threat. Islamic unrest creeps close, and the monks cannot agree whether to flee, in the hope of safety, or to stay and serve. There are long debates, led by the severe-looking Brother Christian, and passages of chanted prayer, yet the film rarely stalls; we feel the gathering shadow of the characters’ plight, and the darkness is finely leavened by the presence of Michael Lonsdale, who plays Brother Luc, the doctor to the community and the fount of its tolerant humor. The climax is both misty and unforgettable: a sacrifice that looks like a ghost story. New Yorker (122 minutes) (In French and Arabic).

September 23 & 24, 2011

Rating: Unrated

Starring Da-wit Lee, Hira Kim, Jeong-hie Yun, Nae-sang Ahn and Yong-taek Kim.

The women and few men sitting at their desks in the film “Poetry” have open faces and smiles. They’re good pupils, these older people who have come to the cultural center to learn. Perhaps because they have chosen to be there, they don’t have the look of sullen resentment and cultivated boredom that glazes the faces of the high school students glimpsed now and again. Instead these latter-day bards gaze at the man who has come to say something to them about art and maybe life. Instead he holds up an apple and talks about seeing. The importance of seeing, seeing the world deeply, is at the heart of this quietly devastating, humanistic work from the South Korean filmmaker Lee Chang-dong. NY Times. (139 minutes) (In Korean).

October 21 & 22, 2011


Starring Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, and Ruth Sheen.

Class consciousness has frequently played a role in Mike Leigh’s films, and not only because, as a storyteller whose native terrain is modern Britain, he can hardly hope to avoid it. And sure enough, the observant viewer of his splendidly rich and wise new feature, “Another Year,” will notice the shadows that an always evolving system of social hierarchy casts over the passage of the seasons. “Another Year” is about the unequal distribution of happiness. Why do some people — like Tom and Gerri, the post-’60s 60-something couple at the center of this episodic story — seem to have an inexhaustible, even superabundant supply, while others seem unable to acquire even the smallest portion? Can happiness be borrowed, stolen or inherited? Is it earned by meritorious works or granted by the obscure operations of grace? These may sound like silly, abstract questions, but they could hardly be more serious or more relevant. Here in America, after all, the pursuit of happiness has the status of a foundational right, coincident, but not quite identical, with material prosperity. In Britain, where dourness can seem to be as much a part of the stereotypical national character as bad food, foul weather and precise distinctions of status, the assertion of a right to be happy can seem almost revolutionary. NY Times (129 Minutes) (In English).

December 9 & 10, 2011


Starring Abdelghafour Elaaziz, Allen Altman, Anthony Ecclissi, Bader Alami, Baya Belal, Karim Babin, Lubna Azabal, Maxim Gaudette, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Mohamed Majd, Nabil Sawalha, Rémy Girard, and Yousef Shweihat.

Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies,” a film very much occupied with some of the grisly realities of recent history, nonetheless has the structure, and some of the atmosphere, of an ancient folk tale. It is a quest narrative, about children searching out the mysteries of their parentage, and also the story of a resourceful heroine, the mother of those children, surviving an almost unimaginable series of ordeals. These entwined plots unfurl in the recognizable, modern world — in Quebec and an unnamed country that closely resembles Lebanon — and at the same time in an allegorical universe governed by the tightly coiled logic of fate. Judged by strictly naturalistic standards, the flurry of revelations and coincidences that wrap up the double story may seem implausible. But strict verisimilitude would not serve the dramatic ends that “Incendies,” based on a play of the same name by Wajdi Mouawad, sets out to serve. The knotted destinies of its characters are like the family secrets in a Shakespearean or classical comedy but turned to a darker purpose. NY Times (130 minutes) (In French, Arabic and English).

January 6 & 7, 2012


Starring Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, and Paul Giamatti.

Recession-era blues and vagrant hopes in suburban New Jersey. Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), a lawyer who works with elderly clients and coaches high-school wrestling on the side, commits a small act of fraud to make some extra money for his family. He’s not a bad guy, just a temporizing, overworked man hungry for a little success. He takes in an emotionally cut-off runaway kid, who turns out to be a terrific wrestler, and has to figure out how to keep the kid’s druggy mother out of the picture. The independent writer-director Tom McCarthy (“The Station Agent” and “The Visitor”) is good at capturing the irregular rhythms of strangers barging into each other’s lives and forming an impromptu new family. The movie is amiable and funny. New Yorker (106 minutes) (In English).

February 24 & 25, 2012

RATING: R for language and some sexual content.

Starring Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, and Mélanie Laurent.

Father and son Hal (Christopher Plummer) and Oliver (Ewan McGregor) are both newbies in “Beginners,” Mike Mills' beautifully shaped and shaded autobiographical drama about the opportunity to remodel one's life, at any age, to make more room for happiness. After the death of his wife of 44 years, Hal comes out of the closet, flourishes in a loving relationship with a younger man, and — no spoiler — faces a diagnosis of terminal cancer. For his part, when Oliver meets freespirited Anna (Inglourious Basterds' Mélanie Laurent) shortly after his father's death, the son recognizes just how much of a beginner he himself is when it comes to long-lasting romantic love. And as memories of the past mix with his learner's-permit life in the present, Oliver's relationships with both his late father and Anna deepen and reorder. The great Plummer creates an inspiring, fully rounded man in late bloom, and McGregor responds with a performance to match. Entertainment Weekly (105 minutes) (In English).

March 30 & 31, 2012

RATING: R for violent and disturbing content some involving preteens, and for language.

Starring Camilla Gottlieb, Eddie Kihani, Elsebeth Steentoft, Emily Mglaya, Gabriel Muli, June Waweru, Markus Rygaard, Mary Hounu Moat, Mikael Persbrandt, Satu Helena Mikkelinen, Synah Berchet, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Wil Johnson, and William Jøhnk Nielsen.

This year's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film (“In a Better World”) is a fine example of Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier's talent for weaving together accessible domestic melodrama and issues of ethical awareness of the world beyond our doorstep. Swedish star Mikael Persbrandt plays a humanitarian doctor who devotes himself to practicing medicine in an African refugee camp, a despairing witness to the ravages of brutal tribal revenge. He later returns home to Denmark to find that his sensitive son has fallen under the sway of a well-mannered little school friend mourning the death of his mother by acting out his own darker impulses. Bier's inviting film asks but doesn't answer: Is the male urge for violence innate? Is it passed from father to son? And if it is, how can we teach our children well? Entertainment Weekly (119 minutes) (In Danish).

April 20 & 21, 2012

RATING: Not Rated

Starring Claire Keelan, Dolya Gavanski, Kerry Shale, Margo Stilley, Rebecca Johnson, Rob Brydon, and Steve Coogan.

The Trip, a hilarious and touching road movie starring the actor-comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as (slightly) exaggerated versions of their real selves, is like a funnier, flakier, madcap British version of My Dinner With Andre. The conceit is that Coogan, tall and Byronic, with his deceptively sweet egomaniacal shark's grin, gets a magazine assignment to review a dozen outrageously pretentious country restaurants in the chilly north of England. For company, he brings along his friend and colleague, a rubber-faced Welsh-born impressionist (Brydon). The entire movie consists of these two driving, eating, and talking. They do their dueling impersonations of Michael Caine (the funniest scene of the year). They trade quips, insults, poems, and philosophies. They sing wistful snatches of ABBA and Kate Bush. The Trip looks like a lark — and is — yet there's a sneaky resonance to the way it celebrates what acting means to these two rogue cutups. In this movie, to pretend to be someone you aren't is the best way to reach outside of yourself, to fashion your voice into a kind of explorer, an instrument of empathy. Entertainment Weekly (107 minutes) (In English).

May 25 & 26, 2012

RATING: PG-13 for some sexual references and smoking

Starring Adrien Brody, Alison Pill, Carla Bruni, Corey Stoll, Gad Elmaleh, Kathy Bates, Kurt Fuller, Léa Seydoux, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Mimi Kennedy, Nina Arianda, Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and Tom Hiddleston.

The definitive poem in English on the subject of cultural nostalgia may be a short verse by Robert Browning called “Memorabilia.” It begins with a gasp of astonishment — “Ah, did you once see Shelley plain?” — and ends with a shrug: “Well I forget the rest.” Isn’t that always how it goes? The past seems so much more vivid, more substantial, than the present, and then it evaporates with the cold touch of reality. The good old days are so alluring because we were not around, however much we wish we were. “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen’s charming new film, imagines what would happen if that wish came true. It is marvelously romantic, even though — or precisely because — it acknowledges the disappointment that shadows every genuine expression of romanticism. The film has the inspired silliness of some of Mr. Allen’s classic comic sketches (most obviously, “A Twenties Memory,” in which the narrator’s nose is repeatedly broken by Ernest Hemingway), spiked with the rueful fatalism that has characterized so much of his later work. Nothing here is exactly new, but why would you expect otherwise in a film so pointedly suspicious of novelty? NY Times (94 minutes) (In English).