Friday, September 9, 2005

Magic films reign at annual festival

Film Festival raises curtain

Express Staff Writer

Dame Maggie Smith and Dame Judi Dench enjoy sibling rivalry in "Ladies in Lavender."

The Magic Lantern cinema in Ketchum slyly opens up the fall movie season with its 17th annual Fall Film Festival.

Why sly? Because, the movies this year run the gamut from documentaries on extreme behavior ("Murderball," "Grizzly Man") and charming ("Ladies in Lavender," "Après Vous," "Junebug") to quirky and inventive ("Heights," "Me and You and Everyone We Know," "Broken Flowers") to daring and a bit risqué ("The Beat My Heart Skipped," "Happy Endings," "Aristocrats").

Six of the 12 movies featured in the festival open today and run through Thursday, Sept. 15. A new batch opens on Friday, Feb. 16, and runs through Thursday, Sept 22.

Beginning today, "Murderball" follows competitive quadriplegic rugby teammates during a couple of seasons where the off-court drama is as fraught with tension and rivalry as it is on court. Rife with battles in a one-of-a-kind full-contact sport, the film was the winner of the Documentary Audience Award and a Special Jury Prize for Editing at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

"Ladies in Lavender" stars Dames Judy Dench and Maggie Smith as two spinster sisters living together in 1936 in Cornwall. Along comes a stranger. Lives are turned topsy-turvy, and it all looks divine. The movie is the directorial debut of British actor Charles Dance.

Merchant Ivory (Productions) comes to New York with "Heights." Renowned for historically correct stylistic melodramas, this new film breaks with conventions. First, the location is Manhattan. Second, it's contemporary, and third, it was directed by newcomer Chris Terrio from a play by Amy Fox. Glenn Close stars in this everyone-knows-everyone-but-doesn't-know-it-yet film about a mother, daughter, fiancé and the theatre world. Featured actors include Elizabeth Banks, James Marsden, Phil Tabor, George Segal, Jesse Bradford, Isabella Rossellini, Rufus Wainwright and Eric Bogosian.

The NPR review said: "Director Chris Terrio and screenwriter Amy Fox arrange a creepy little round robin of betrayals ... In a season when most of Hollywood is plumbing silliness, Heights is aiming — and reaching — a little higher."

The French film "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" is remake of a 1978 cult flick, directed by James Toback, called "Fingers." The remake world doesn't usually go this direction. Part psychological thriller, part love story, the film is about a gifted pianist who is prisoner to his violent lifestyle, and the father who controls it. Let's face it, when Dad is a loan shark and the chip off the old block loves to play piano, what's a guy to do?

The other French import, "Après Vous," is one of the most popular French films of the year. It has been nominated for six Caesar Awards including best picture. The wonderful Daniel Auteuil plays a man who acts impetuously but it's all for the good. After saving a man, he takes charge of his life and his loves. See this charming flick before it gets remade in the U.S. with Will Ferrell.

Finishing out the first week of offerings is quirky indie flick "Me and You and Everyone We Know," voted Audience Favorite at the recent Sundance Film Festival. Written and directed by Miranda July, a performance artist, "Me and You and Everyone We Know" is an ensemble piece, but it focuses mainly on the relationship between a struggling mixed-media artist (played by July) and a shoe salesman. The LA Times review called it "optimistic, humanistic and quirky, this oddball paean to hope is about lonely people struggling to connect however they can."

Screening the second week of the film festival are "Grizzly Man," "Broken Flowers," "The Beautiful Country," "Junebug," "Happy Endings," and "Aristocrats."

For more information, see the Magic Lantern's Web site:

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