The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is showing several great movies this weekend. Here are our reviews of just a few of them.
District 13: Ultimatum
(France, 2009) The Cinematheque doesn’t show a lot of popcorn movies, but this nifty, adrenaline-fueled sequel to producer-screenwriter Luc Besson’s 2004 cult favorite is terrific drive-in/grindhouse fare — albeit with English subtitles. Set three years later, Ultimatum
returns to the titular, crime-ridden French ghetto where things have gone from bad to worse. Rival factions of Arab, Asian, black and white gangs reluctantly band together to stop a crooked cop (the wonderfully hissable Daniel Duval) from razing their neighborhood as part of a shady real-estate scheme. Good guy cop Damien (Cyril Raffaelli) and District 13’s resident Robin Hood Leito (David Belle) aid and abet them. Since the charismatic Raffaelli and Belle are real-life parkour masters, the extraordinarily visceral, athletic, action choreography (lots of rooftop-to-rooftop jumping) is guaranteed to take your breath away. At 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 2, and 9:20 p.m. Saturday, April 3. *** (Milan Paurich)
(Romania, 2009) The latest film by Corneliu Porumboiu (director of the 2006 Camera d’Or winning 12:08 East of Bucharest
) is a superbly played deadpan comedy of Romanian manners, mores and the meaning of language. Recently married undercover cop Cristi (Dragos Bucur) is conducting surveillance on pot-smoking teenager Victor (Radu Costin) in hopes of nailing his source. But when he’s ordered to bust Victor, Cristi has a crisis of conscience — he doesn’t want to ruin the kid’s life on a trumped-up drug charge. A climactic meeting between Cristi and his superior officer (Vlad Ivanov, the abortionist from 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
) brilliantly crystallizes everything that’s gone before and fully explicates Porumboiu’s enigmatic title. As a parable/metaphor for life in post-communist Romania, the film is both incredibly brave and deeply moving. At 9:30 p.m. Friday, April 2, and 7:05 p.m. Saturday, April 3. *** 1/2 (Paurich)
(Japan, 1950) Akira Kurosawa’s landmark film is just as powerful today as it was 60 years ago. Like Citizen Kane a decade before it, Rashomon revolutionized the way movies are told. Kurosawa’s breakthrough film tells the story of a woman’s rape and the mystery surrounding her dead husband. The innovated spin here is that the tale is related from four differing perspectives, each of which unveils new and conflicting details of the story, placing the truth in an open zone where fact and fiction converge and collide. It’s brilliant storytelling and expert filmmaking. Kurosawa (and cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa) follows characters through the woods with the camera. Reality is bent and twisted throughout the movie. And there’s no real conclusion to the question at the center of it all. The real treat is watching the story unfold layer by layer as characters narrate their side of it. Kurosawa (who co-wrote the screenplay) doesn’t explain much, leaving the answers for viewers to sort through. It’s a tremendous act of faith in a movie that overflows with it. The film celebrates its 60th anniversary with a new 35mm print. At 8:45 p.m. Thursday, April 1, and 5:15 p.m. Saturday, April 3. **** (Michael Gallucci)