CHARLOTTE FILM SOCIETY Movies begin this Friday at the Manor and continue the following Friday at Movies at Birkdale. Call 704-414-2355 for details.
* CRIMSON GOLD Working from a script by internationally renowned director Abbas Kiarostami, Jafar Panahi (whose previous film The Circle was a past CFS offering) has made a movie that's remarkably incisive in its examination of the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. What's startling about this feature (loosely based on a true story) is its Iranian setting, bringing a global perspective to a problem that often feels like it's the exclusive property of the United States. Hussein (Hossain Emadeddin) is a portly pizza delivery guy who's barely making ends meet, yet because his job takes him into homes and neighborhoods far above his social standing, he gets to witness firsthand how the other half lives. Smacked at every turn by the excesses of the upper class -- and made to feel inferior by snooty jewelry store employees and even the cops -- Hussein eventually decides to commit an act that he hopes will make his life more comfortable. This criminal undertaking (and the fates of all involved) is revealed within the first 10 minutes of the movie; the rest of the time is spent detailing the petty humiliations and daily mundanities that propelled Hussein to make this ill-advised lunge for a piece of the pie. Crimson Gold may not seem especially remarkable as it unfolds, but its cumulative power will smack viewers with all the force of a rattlesnake to the cheek. 1/2
* Also: A major award winner in Israel, BROKEN WINGS () tells the story of an overworked widow and her equally put-upon teenage daughter, both of whom are doing their best to keep the family together. The latest from director Hector Babenco (Kiss of the Spider Woman), CARANDIRU (1/2) relates the true tale of a Brazilian prison known for its squalid conditions; this is a movie where the parts are better than the whole, with some gripping sequences set inside the prison walls forced to make room for lackluster flashbacks showing how the inmates landed in jail in the first place. And THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS () is another snatch of innovation from Dogville director Lars von Trier; here, the controversial control freak convinces reclusive Jorgen Leth to remake his own 1967 short film The Perfect Human five times, on each occasion guided by restrictions that von Trier himself imposes. It's pretentious as hell and probably shouldn't work, but damn if the experiments didn't keep me watching.
ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY Aimed squarely at the open-mouth-breathers who turned Dumb and Dumber and Big Daddy into hits, Anchorman is the movie as litmus test -- specifically, how much Will Ferrell is too much Will Ferrell? As a chauvinistic news anchor in 1970s San Diego, Ferrell gets to wear ugly clothes, make silly faces, and lust after the ladies, but unless you hold the opinion that the actor is a comic genius worthy of Chaplin or Tati comparisons, then this sort of obnoxious oafishness gets stale quickly. There are a handful of inspired moments, but these clever bits seem almost accidental in the midst of so much kitsch. 1/2
BEFORE SUNSET Richard Linklater's 1995 Before Sunrise was about two college-age kids who meet in Vienna, spend the night talking (and loving), and then go their separate ways. Before Sunset continues their story: Unfolding in real minutes (about 80 of them), this finds American Jesse (Ethan Hawke), now an author, and French Celine (Julie Delpy), an environmental activist, crossing paths in Paris nine years later. Superior to its predecessor in every way, this lovely film does an exemplary job of conveying the manner in which the freedom and naivety of youth inevitably fall by the wayside, leaving only cherished memories, present regrets, and the rigor mortis of a future that can only be avoided by those willing to take risks. Hawke and Delpy have never been better, and the ending is letter-perfect. 1/2
THE BOURNE SUPREMACY Taken together, both Bourne films feel like consecutive episodes of a mildly entertaining television drama that can't touch Alias in its attempts at trickery and, more importantly, character development. Here, Matt Damon's ex-CIA assassin Jason Bourne is even more tight-lipped than before; without girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente, former co-star reduced to cameo player) to bounce off, he's a rather one-dimensional figure, going through the motions as he tries to find out who's framing him for murder. The good stuff mostly comes during the first half; as the film progresses, the mystery slackens rather than deepens, and the movie culminates with a sloppily edited car chase that goes on for so long that I had to be reminded: Was Matt Damon playing Jason Bourne or Sheriff Buford T. Justice? 1/2