by Jeff Niesel
So, yeah, the Da Vinci Code sequel, Angels and Demons, is going to do bang-up business at the box office this weekend. I've seen it and it's a snooze. Tom Hanks rushing around trying to save the Vatican from destruction as one insane plot twist gives way to another. Yawn. I'll take National Treasure over it anyday. And that's not saying much. If you're looking for something different this weekend, the Cedar Lee's opening two art flicks, reviewed here.
Beauty in Trouble This comedy-drama by Czech director Jan Hrebejk was made in 2001 and first released in 2006. Written by Petr Jachovský and inspired by a Robert Graves poem, the film tells the story of Anna Geislerová (lovely redheaded Marcela Cmolíková) who lives a frustrating life with her two children and husband Jarda (Roman Luknár), who runs a stolen-car chop shop, and with whom she shares a passionate sex life but little else. Anna and the children move in with her meddlesome mother (Jana Brejchová) and stepfather Richard (Jirí Schmitzer), who resents the intrusion and mentally terrorizes the children. Anna meets older, wealthy, kindhearted Evzen (Josef Abrhám) who whisks Anna and her children to his Tuscany estate. When Jarda is released from jail, Anna must choose between financial security with Evzen and returning to her husband. The film peers down some psychological dark alleys, and the acting is compelling — Schmitzer’s sinister stepfather, by turns generous and sexually threatening, is especially chilling. But the story threads don’t lead anywhere very interesting. The soundtrack’s inclusion of English songs now recognizable from the film Once seems oddly out of place, and the irresolute ending may leave viewers wondering what all the fuss was about. ** 1/2 (Pamela Zoslov)
Goodbye Solo The new film from Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart, Chop Shop) opens with an awkward scene in which William (Red West), a surly white Southerner, tries to pay a Senegalese cabbie named Solo (Souleymane Sy Savane) an exorbitant fare in order to act as his driver and eventually drop him off at a mountaintop outside the Winston-Salem area on a designated date. It’s a fitting intro for a film by Bahrani, who’s made a name for himself with his true-to-life style that exploits life’s grim realities. Despite their different ethnicities and a clear generation gap, Solo and William end up as friends of sorts in this slow-moving film, though Solo’s the far more sympathetic character. Savane is quiet good as Solo. He portrays Solo as a likeable guy who's just trying to make ends meet. And after his wife kicks him out of the house, he starts sharing a room William, a grump who can't even connect with his long-lost son, whom he sees every night when he goes to the movie theater where he works. While the film's certainly a poignant look at race relations in contemporary America, it's also so unnerving, it's difficult to watch. And William is such a bigot, it's hard to really feel sorry for him. ** 1/2 (Niesel)