Daily Archives: November 3, 2006

3 Needles

Directed by Thomas Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden), this sprawling and ambitious three-part Canadian film (2005) traces the spread of AIDS on three continents, but it gets off to a confusing start: its South African story of infected teenage boys being treated by three nuns (Chloe Sevigny, Olympia Dukakis, Sandra Oh) is interrupted to recount how an entire Chinese village is stricken after farmers sell their blood to a naive government worker (Lucy Liu). Then a Canadian porn actor (Shawn Ashmore), eager to keep working, tries to hide his condition by stealing his father’s blood, while his mother (Stockard Channing) devises even more baroque ways of coping with the problem. By the time the movie returned to Africa, it had lost me despite its talented cast and its noble intentions. In English and various subtitled languages. 124 min. (JR) Read more

51 Birch Street

Documentary filmmaker Doug Block was still mourning the death of his beloved mother when his father, a relatively remote figure, startled him and his sister by marrying the woman who’d been his secretary 40 years earlier. After learning that his parents’ 54-year marriage hadn’t been nearly as happy as he’d assumed, Block started reading his mother’s voluminous diaries, and this film charts his discoveries during that period, when his father was packing up his belongings and preparing to move from Long Island to Florida with his new wife. This isn’t always adept as storytelling, and Block’s coming to terms with his own denseness occasionally tries one’s patience, but he manages to make the overall process of his reeducation fascinating and compelling. 90 min. (JR) Read more

Out Of Place: Memories Of Edward Said

I welcomed the prospect of a documentary about Edward Said, the Palestinian-American critic, theorist, activist, and pianist, and this 2005 tribute by Makoto Sato addresses most facets of his career. But I was put off by the video’s fetishistic attachment to places where Said lived and worked, ranging from a family summer home outside Beirut to his former office at Columbia University, which have few secrets to reveal. The interviews with Said’s family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are a bit haphazard and unfocused, suggesting at times that Sato is more interested in Said’s life than his work. (Passages from his writing are read as voice-over, but most of them are autobiographical.) Gradually, however, the movie begins to generate a kind of thumbnail sketch of the contemporary West Bank and other concerns of Said. In English and subtitled Arabic and Hebrew. 138 min. (JR) Read more

Nocturno 29

This is the first feature of Pere Portabella, the remarkable Barcelona-based Catalan filmmaker. He started out as a producer of art films by Carlos Saura, Marco Ferreri, and Luis Buñuel, and Buñuel’s first Spanish feature, Viridiana, so angered the Spanish government that it took away Portabella’s passport for many years. Nocturno 29 is a narrative film that refuses to tell a story and an underground anti-Franco film that was most often shown clandestinely (its title refers to the number of years Franco had then been in power), and it evokes both European art films of this period (its star is Lucia Bosé, an actress associated with Antonioni and Bardem) and the bolder experimental cinema Portabella would embark on soon afterward. Coscripted by poet Joan Brossa, it has the kind of moody provocation that captures its period indelibly. In Spanish with subtitles. 83 min. (JR) Read more