Reviews of the Cinematheque's weekend films

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The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is showing several great movies this weekend. Here are our reviews of just a few of them.

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Anti-Christ (Denmark/Germany/France/Sweden/Italy/Poland, 2009) Danish enfant terrible Lars von Trier's Cannes-awarded cause celebre deals with a couple (Willem Dafoe and a risk-taking Charlotte Gainsbourg) who express grief over the accidental death of their young son in extraordinarily, uh, destructive ways. If a movie can be artistically sublime and transcendently ridiculous at the same time, von Trier's latest provocation definitely fits the bill. There's even a talking fox that appears mid-movie to utter the film's most ineffable (and quotable) line, "Chaos reigns." Indeed. Destined to become a cult flick for the ages, Antichrist proves that the Breaking the Waves/Dancer in the Dark director hasn't lost his skill for rattling an audience's collective nerve. Love it or loathe it, there's certainly nothing else like it in current release. At 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 6. *** (Milan Paurich)

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The Messenger (U.S., 2009) Woody Harrelson stars as Captain Tony Stone, a recovering alcoholic who teaches his new partner, Staff Sergeant Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), the ins and outs of working in the army’s casualty notifcation department. Tony is a by-the-book guy; Will is introverted and sullen but ultimately more compassionate. The two clash on more than occasion, especially after Will falls for the widow (Samantha Morton) of one of the dead soldiers. Will and the widow try to have a relationship, but grief gets in the way and things with Tony get increasingly tense. Co-written by director Oren Moverman and producer and film critic Alessandro Camon, the film goes to great lengths to be an accurate portrayal of a casualty-notification officer's life. Based on true-to-life testimonies, it’s a grim account of what a soldier’s life is like during wartime. At 7:15 p.m. Friday, March 5. *** (Niesel)

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Red Cliff (China, 2008) A lushly re-imagined, hyper-romanticized account of actual historical events that are as well known and widely celebrated throughout Asia as the stories of Gettysburg and Valley Forge are in the U.S., Red Cliff pits the vastly outnumbered armies of two small southern kingdoms against the battalion of corrupt Han general Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) in third-century A.D. China. Spectacular battle scenes — all shot on a humongous, cast-of-thousands scale — ensue. There are also terrific performances (including a masterly turn as a good-guy viceroy by Wong Kar-wai muse Tony Leung Chiu-wai who was a last-minute replacement for Chow Yun-fat), modern-day parallels (and metaphors) to contemplate and even a piquant love story at the core that's positively swoon-worthy. Woo has clearly studied at the altar of John Ford (“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”), and the quasi-mythical personages/archetypes who traverse his vast, sumptuously embroidered canvas would be right at home in any classic Ford Western. At 8 p.m. Thursday, March 4, and 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 5 (Part 1). **** (Paurich)

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