by Jeff Niesel
Highlights for this weekend's Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque schedule include Katyn, the latest film from Polish director Andrzej Wajda, and Two Lovers, James Gray's urban romance that stars Joaquin Phoenix and Gwyneth Paltrow. Capsule reviews follow.
Katyn (Poland, 2007) The 1940 Soviet massacre of 15,000 Polish soldiers in the Katyn forest is the jumping-off point for veteran director Andrzej Wajda’s (Ashes and Diamonds, Danton) provocative and compelling new historical drama. Told largely through the gut-wrenching stories of a group of slain Polish officers and their survivors, Wajda dispassionately exposes a Communist-engineered cover-up of the genocide for which Hitler was officially blamed. The 83-year-old Wajda remains Poland’s greatest, most poetic chronicler of that country’s 20th-century political upheavals and domestic traumas. A 2007 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Katyn screened twice at the 2008 Cleveland International Film Festival. At 9:25 p.m. Friday, May 29, and 7:05 p.m. Saturday, May 30. *** (Milan Paurich)
Two Lovers (US, 2008) Director James Gray (Little Odessa, We Own the Night) takes a break from his usual genre fare with this unexpectedly touching, beautifully played urban romance set in present-day Brooklyn. Joaquin Phoenix plays Leonard Kraditor, a bipolar young man who moves back in with his parents (Isabella Rossellini and Moni Monoshov) after getting dumped by his fiancée. While he’s only too happy to play along with his folks’ attempt to fix him up with the comely daughter of a business associate (Vinessa Shaw), Leonard really has eyes for the blonde shiksa goddess (Gwyneth Paltrow) who just moved into their apartment building. The emotional tenor of the movie feels exactly right, and the performances are extraordinarily empathetic. This is Gray’s most satisfying and mature work to date. Maybe he should give crime dramas a rest and concentrate on telling heartfelt people stories like this from now on. At 9:30 p.m. Saturday, May 30. *** 1/2 (Paurich)