80 Minutes | Brattle: April 26 at 9:45 Pm + Coolidge: April 27 at 11:30 am | Directors/Stars David and Nathan Zellner
Even more pathetic than a person alone is a person alone except for a pet cat or dog. Is there any more potent tearjerker than Vittorio de Sica’s Umberto D.? Resorting to today’s “mumblecore” version of neo-realism, directors David and Nathan Zellner squeeze fresh tears and laughter from the scenario. David plays the protagonist, a defeated drone who’s lost his wife and been demoted at his job. When he tries to relax at home with a TV dinner and some on-line porn (fetishistic nude Asian women beating drums while being serviced from behind), he discovers that he’s lost his cat, Goliath (feline actor uncredited), as well. In between episodes of being degraded by his bosses (one a bearded Andrew Bujalski) and fellow workers (intent on fart jokes and debased sexual humor) and mortified by his embittered, estranged wife, the hapless hero desperately searches for Goliath. The result is tragic and hilarious when it doesn’t try too hard, as in the Falling Down–like climax involving a hedge trimmer instead of a rocket launcher.
90 Minutes | Somerville Theatre: April 27 at 5:15 pm | Directors Meg McLagan + Daria Sommers + Producer Steve Maing
One abuse of the Iraq War that’s been overlooked is the role of female military personnel. In theory the law forbids them from participating in combat operations, but since only women can search and interrogate female detainees, they must participate in raids on suspects’ dwellings and in full-scale operations like the bloody battle for Fallujah. To give these female troops some preparation, the Army has established the “Lioness Program” for searching Iraqi women — hardly compensation for being thrust into the trauma of battle without proper training and with no official recognition. Although this documentary from Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers does well to expose the situation, and the portraits of the survivors underscore their plight, Lioness lacks the coherence, the incisiveness, and the fuller context its subject demands.
80 Minutes | Coolidge Corner Theatre: April 28 at 8 pm | Director Guy Maddin
Even when Guy Maddin isn’t trying anything new, his inimitable fusion of silent-film techniques, absurdist collage, unapologetic weirdness, and a delightfully nightmarish black-and-white version of the universe is like nothing you’ve ever seen. That universe no doubt mirrors the home town of this film’s title, so the relative lack of ingenuity and unique inspiration in his memoir of Manitoba’s benighted, endearing capital is a bit surprising. Or, in this most autobiographical of his films, Maddin may just be taking things more seriously. Perhaps not with his recounting of such nuggets of local lore as when the horses fleeing from the burning racetrack froze in the river, their twisted heads remaining above the surface for months, providing a trysting spot for lovers. Or his meticulous re-creation of his family home decades ago, when his mother starred in the soap opera Man on A Ledge. But mentions of a brother who died as a teenager and a sexual initiation of sorts in a public pool offer clues to his bizarre genius.
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