by Jeff Niesel
The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is showing several great movies this weekend. Here are capsule reviews of just two of them.
Across the Universe (US, 2007) Making creative use of several Beatles songs, Julie Taymor’s (Frida, Titus) musical tells the story of a young man (Jim Sturgess) who leaves his dockyard job in England to go on a quest to find his father in the States. He falls in love with the sister (Evan Rachel Wood) of his friend Max (Joe Anderson) and ends up staying longer than initially planned. Set in the ’60s, the film makes countless references to the era’s cultural touchstones (it’s not hard to figure out who’s supposed to represent Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady). The end result, however, is a cultural hodgepodge that’s a little dense to wade through, especially when the story itself isn’t that compelling. Still, the choreography and photography are astounding, particularly during one colorful, drug-induced romp in the countryside. At 7:05 p.m. Saturday, June 20. ** 1/2 (Jeff Niesel)
Tokyo Sonata (Japan/Netherlands/Hong Kong, 2008) When fortysomething Ryuhei (Teruyuki Kagawa) loses his middle-management job, he’s too ashamed to tell his wife (a touching Kyoko Koizumi) and kids. Ryuhei’s deception ultimately proves the undoing of both his marriage and his mental equilibrium. Until turning all soft and squishy in the final act, cult director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s brilliant drama is a provocative statement on the effects of corporate downsizing in today’s dog-eat-dog economic climate. Über-stylist Kurosawa brings along many of the same disorienting visual tropes of his J-horror flicks (Pulse, Cure) to eerie and sometimes hauntingly beautiful effect. Think of it as a Japanese companion piece to Laurent Cantet’s great 2001 French film Time Out, which also depicted a middle-aged salaryman’s existential crisis after getting pink-slipped. At 7 p.m. Friday, June 19, and 9:45 p.m. Saturday, June 21. *** 1/2 (Milan Paurich)