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Small Cuts

Daniel Auteuil stars as Paul, a dyspeptic journalist and halfhearted communist with an unraveling marriage. When his disgruntled wife takes a trip to Lyon to see her mother, Paul and his mistress drive to see his uncle, the communist mayor of a town near Grenoble, who is suicidal over his wife’s infidelity and the prospect […]

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First a Girl

Victor Saville’s gender-bending 1935 musical comedy—about an actress who becomes famous posing as a man impersonating a woman—was based on a 1933 German film, Viktor und Viktoria; Blake Edwards recycled the same premise in 1982 with Victor/Victoria. Obviously Edwards was freer to riff on sexual themes, but Saville demonstrates definite comedic flair. Jessie Matthews, a […]

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It Kinda Scares Me

Youth counselor Tomer Heymann wrote, coproduced, and directed this 2001 documentary about his work with disenfranchised street kids from Azur, a Tel Aviv housing project. His organization, Youth Promotion, aims to steer adolescents away from the usual cycle of drugs, crime, and violence. Heymann attempts to create a play based on the group’s real-life experiences […]

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Rescue Me

An action-adventure comedy about a shy Nebraska teenager (Stephen Dorff) who unwittingly photographs the kidnapping by drug dealers (Peter DeLuise and William Lucking) of the popular classmate he’s obsessed with (Ami Dolenz), leading to adventures that take him to Colorado, California, and Nevada. Arthur Allan Seidelman directed from a script by Mike Snyder; with Michael […]

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Rutenberg

Eli Cohen strikes a solemn, meditative tone with this 1989 biopic of Pinchas Rutenberg, who brought electricity to Jewish Palestine in the early 20th century by building a hydroelectric power station in Nahararyim. Cohen and screenwriter Yaron Seelig take an elliptical approach to the story, setting it in 1931 when the power station was to […]

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Snow in August

Richard Friedenberg adapts the best-selling novel by Pete Hamill, a thoughtful meditation on faith and courage that cleverly retells the legend of the golem, the protective giant of Jewish folklore. An Irish-Catholic schoolboy in Hell’s Kitchen (Peter Tambakis), whose father died fighting the Nazis, witnesses a brutal attack on an elderly Jewish shopkeeper and later […]

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Minerva’s Quest

Minerva, a middle-aged failed novelist who’s consumed with bitterness and anger toward her father and her lover, returns to her hometown in Mexico to try to understand why her life hasn’t worked out the way she thought it might. She has always cherished the memory of her adoring ne’er-do-well Uncle Alberto, whose sporadic visits were […]

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An Invited Guest

Shot in Columbus, Ohio—though it might as well be New York or Los Angeles—this 1999 thriller stars Mekhi Phifer as Silk, who contrary to the film’s title shows up uninvited at the house of aspiring screenwriter Howard (Mel Jackson) while he’s working on a script with his two partners. Howard’s wife Debbie (Mari Morrow) has […]

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Oscar’s Magic Adventure

A young boy and his sister journey across Venezuela in search of their anthropologist mother, mistakenly convinced that she’s deserted them and their father, and along the way they encounter a forest shaman who teaches them to respect nature (2000). Writer-director Diana Sanchez tries to wed magical realism with zany comedy, but the two mix […]

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Possible Loves

Brazilian cinema generally cleaves into the sexy (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands) and the socially responsible (Pixote), with the occasional hybrid (Bye Bye Brazil). This 2001 feature by Sandra Werneck falls squarely into the first category: after Carlos (Murilo Benicio) is stood up by a beautiful woman, the narrative leaps 15 years into the […]

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Song for a Raggy Boy

Aidan Quinn is duly pensive and charismatic as a veteran of the Spanish civil war who’s hired to teach at one of Ireland’s notorious reform schools and finds it nearly as violent, thanks to its sadistic prefect (Iain Glen). Except for the outbursts of graphic violence and sexual molestation, this 2003 Irish feature is muted […]

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La libertad

This 73-minute Argentinean feature by Lisandro Alonso argues that our lives consist largely of unnoticed routines, which gain meaning only when observed by others. Whether they make for interesting viewing is a matter of opinion, but I was engrossed by this poetic portrayal of a day in the life of a humble and isolated woodcutter. […]

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Clouds of May

The acclaim for Iranian directors Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf has brought seriously overdue attention to other filmmakers from Iran as well as Iraq and Turkey, though some second-rate filmmakers from this part of the world have gained exposure by mimicking the deceptively simple and straightforward approaches of the two renowned directors. Turkish filmmaker Nuri […]

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Ten Days Without Love

The shadow of Pedro Almodovar hangs over this loopy 2001 Spanish comedy by Miguel Albaladejo, about a hospital psychiatrist (Sergi Lopez) who’s deserted by his unfaithful wife and then finds himself in the uncomfortable position of lodging his mother-in-law (Maria Jose Alfonso). The two begin to bond as the particulars of the wife’s betrayal come […]