Amacord (Italy, 1973) — At this point in his career, Federico Fellini could pretty much write his own ticket, and he did indeed, with a vivid immersion into fragmentary adolescent memories of a seaside Roman hometown (reminiscent of the filmmaker's own Rimini) under Mussolini in the 1930s. The plot is basically a procession of affectionately outsized magical-realist vignettes, of Volpina, the village prostitute; of the smug, bullying Blackshirts; of school; of arguing parents and daffy family; of pubescent sexual awareness and awakening (see: Volpina, the village prostitute); of Catholic church ominously co-existing with a giant icon-like portrait of Il Duce fashioned from rose petals; of the children and citizens playing in a rare snowfall; of mentally ill Uncle Teo hiding up in a tree, naked, shouting "I want a wooooooooman!" It's Fellini's world, and we're just privileged to live in it, at least while the projector whirrs. An Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Feature. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7:20 p.m. Saturday, April 4, and 3:45 p.m. Sunday, April 5. ****(Charles Cassady)
Cruel Story of Youth (Japan, 1960) — Two rebellious teens engage in a series of sexual shenanigans in this Nagisa Oshima film. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Sunday, April 5.
Czech Dream (Czech Republic, 2004) — This wry documentary feature is intro'd and staged by a pair of Czech film students that sounds like something out of Terry Southern's The Magic Christian. Without telling why (but promising we'll find out, which proves accurate), they pay off big Prague ad agencies to help them prank the consumer public, with a local ad blitz promising the opening of "Czech Dream," a nonexistent deep-discount hypermarket, the whole hoax to be caught on camera as it unravels. We see the frighteningly elaborate mechanics of the advertising/marketing whizzes going into high gear, apparently infatuated with the phoniness as they design logos, photograph ads and print up circulars. Only midway through the project do some of these creative media folk realize how angry and deceived would-be customers might feel about Czech Dream being fake when they show up for a grand opening (the date coinciding with a solar eclipse) and learn there's nothing to it. Wonder how many Americans — brainwashed for much longer by the capitalist marketplace than Eastern Europe has been — would take home a lesson from this stunt? Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 3, and 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 4. *** 1/2 (Cassady)
Fast and Furious — This sequel to The Fast and the Furious starts out firing on all cylinders as Dom (Vin Diesel) and his gang, including girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), pull off a daring fuel-truck heist. That’s followed by a foot chase in which FBI Agent Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) smashes through at least two windows and the roof of a parked car in order to get his man. A surprising early twist reunites these old adversaries, as well as Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). Justin Lin’s direction remains confident throughout, especially in the action scenes, and the film also benefits considerably from the screen presence of its stars. But it gets bogged down by a convoluted plot and never quite lives up to the promise of its early scenes. As a mindless popcorn movie about fast cars, it’s not bad, but it felt like it had the potential to be better. ** (Ignizio)
Mabou Mines Dollhouse (France, 2007) — This video rendering of Mabou Mines' radical re-imagining of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's 1879 proto-feminist masterpiece A Doll's House faithfully replicates the uniqueness of director Lee Breuer's vision — the actresses are almost six feet while the male roles are played by little people — but is primarily of interest to Ibsen scholars and fans of avant-garde theater. The exaggerated, silent-comedy-style performances (replete with Inger Stevens' Farmer's Daughter accents), Pee-wee's Playhouse sets and frequent cutaway shots to an audience composed entirely of freakish-looking wooden marionettes occasionally give it the vibe of a hallucinatory David Lynch fever dream. Too bad Breuer didn't surrender directing chores to Manoel de Oliveira, Straub-Huillet or some other cinematic visionary who understands how to film theater without making it seem like, well, theater. Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall. At 1:30 p.m. Sunday, April 5. *** (Milan Paurich)
Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (Britain/Japan, 1983) — A fanatical camp commander (Ryuichi Sakamoto) becomes infatuated with one of his prisoners (David Bowie) in this Nagisa Oshima film. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, April 2, and 9:20 p.m. Friday, April 3.
The Sun's Burial (Japan, 1960) — This garishly colored Nagisa Oshima drama of the damned souls wallowing in Japan's lower depths is closer in tone to the nihilism of the cult-horror satire Street Trash than the superficially similar but more humanistic Akira Kurosawa homeless saga Dodes'kaden, of exactly 10 years later. The sweltering setting is a slum-shantytown outside over-industrialized Osaka. A very loose plot (which feels longer than it has to be) concerns assorted individuals trying to get a leg up, in disloyal alliances and power struggles with the local yakuza gangs and a beautiful but cynical, self-actualizing prostitute whose specialty is collecting and selling black-market blood from desperate men. Co-writer and director Oshima's real venom seems reserved for the character of a right-wing WWII vet, still ordering others around with his doomsday-weapon of a live hand-grenade and running his own identity-theft ring with a stated goal of arming the ghetto for impending battle against the U.S.S.R. For the iconoclastic filmmaker, he seems to represent the Imperial "Greatest Generation" who let Nippon degrade to this. OK, OK, I'll cancel my vacation trip there. Happy now? Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:55 p.m. Sunday, April 5. ***(Cassady)