Clash of the Titans Reviewed at clevescene.com.
District 13: Ultimatum (France, 2009) The Cinematheque doesn't show a lot of popcorn movies, but this nifty, adrenaline-fueled sequel to producer-screenwriter Luc Besson's 2004 cult favorite is terrific drive-in/grindhouse fare — albeit with English subtitles. Set three years later, Ultimatum returns to the titular, crime-ridden French ghetto where things have gone from bad to worse. Rival factions of Arab, Asian, black and white gangs reluctantly band together to stop a crooked cop (the wonderfully hissable Daniel Duval) from razing their neighborhood as part of a shady real-estate scheme. Good-guy cop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) and District 13's resident Robin Hood Leito (David Belle) aid and abet them. Since the charismatic Raffaelli and Belle are real-life parkour masters, the extraordinarily visceral, athletic, action choreography (lots of rooftop-to-rooftop jumping) is guaranteed to take your breath away. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 2, and 9:20 p.m. Saturday, April 3. ***(Milan Paurich)
Four Sheets to the Wind (U.S., 2007) Native-American writer-director Sterlin Harjo helmed this film about an Oklahoma native who leaves the reservation after his father's death. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 5:30 and 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 7.
La Cienaga (Argentina, 2001) Lucrecia Martel's breakthrough film is about how a decaying country estate brings two middle-class families together. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, April 1.
Police Adjective (Romania, 2009) The latest film by Corneliu Porumboiu (director of the 2006 Camera d'Or winning 12:08 East of Bucharest) is a superbly played deadpan comedy of Romanian manners, mores and the meaning of language. Recently married undercover cop Cristi (Dragos Bucur) is conducting surveillance on pot-smoking teenager Victor (Radu Costin) in hopes of nailing his source. But when he's ordered to bust Victor, Cristi has a crisis of conscience — he doesn't want to ruin the kid's life on a trumped-up drug charge. A climactic meeting between Cristi and his superior officer (Vlad Ivanov, the abortionist from 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) brilliantly crystallizes everything that's gone before and fully explicates Porumboiu's enigmatic title. As a parable/metaphor for life in post-communist Romania, the film is both incredibly brave and deeply moving. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 2, and 7:05 p.m. Saturday, April 3. *** 1/2 (Paurich)
A Prophet As the newest inmate at a French prison, Malik (Tahar Rahim) is in a predicament: He must either kill a fellow Arab inmate or be killed by the prison's Corsican ringleader Cesar (Niels Arestrup). Malik initially tries to report his problem to the warden, but Cesar controls the prison guards and thwarts his efforts. So Malikkills the Arab and eventually becomes Cesar's "eyes and ears." He also befriends Ryad (Adel Bencherif), who teaches him how to read. When Cesar's crew gets transferred, Malik becomes his new right-hand man and moves into the cell next door. Cesar eventually accelerates Malik's parole hearing, which leads to his release and job as Cesar's courier outside the pen. Despite Cesar's threats to punish him if he starts working for anyone else, Malik begins running a profitable business, thanks in part to his ability tonavigate between Corsican and Muslim communities. A Prophet is an epic film with a serious time commitment (it runs two and a half hours), but Jacques Audiard's graphically violent masterpiece is a spiritual journey propelled by Rahim's mesmerizing performance. Cedar Lee Theatre. ****(Jeff Niesel)
Rashomon (Japan, 1950) Akira Kurosawa's landmark film is just as powerful today as it was 60 years ago. Like Citizen Kane a decade before it, Rashomon revolutionized the way movies are told. Kurosawa's breakthrough film tells the story of a woman's rape and the mystery surrounding her dead husband. The innovated spin here is that the tale is related from four differing perspectives, each of which unveils new and conflicting details of the story, placing the truth in an open zone where fact and fiction converge and collide. It's brilliant storytelling and expert filmmaking. Kurosawa (and cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa) follows characters through the woods with the camera. Reality is bent and twisted throughout the movie. And there's no real conclusion to the question at the center of it all. The real treat is watching the story unfold layer by layer as characters narrate their side of it. Kurosawa (who co-wrote the screenplay) doesn't explain much, leaving the answers for viewers to sort through. It's a tremendous act of faith in a movie that overflows with it. The film celebrates its 60th anniversary with a new 35mm print. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:45 p.m. Thursday, April 1, and 5:15 p.m. Saturday, April 3. ****(Michael Gallucci)
Reel Injun (Canada, 2009) "The only thing more pathetic than Indians on TV is Indians watching Indians on TV," a character tells his Native American friends in a clip from 1998's Smoke Signals at the start of this documentary, which covers 100 years of Native Americans in movies. Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond begins his trek in the Black Hills, where he attempts to debunk myths about Crazy Horse, an icon who allegedly killed General Custer. He visits his descendents, who live on one of the poorest reservations in the country, and he goes to the old building where Crazy Horse was imprisoned and stops at a summer camp for suburban kids where Native American rituals are reenacted. Diamond then explores the transformation from "noble Injun" to "brutal savage." He visits Navajos who were extras on old John Wayne movies and translates their lines for the very first time, discovering that they often improvised and added insults directed at their white co-stars. There's a happy ending, however, as actors like Will Sampson (Chief Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) reclaim stereotyped Native American characters, triggering yet another shift in Hollywood. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 5:15 and 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 31.