Cinema 21 Program Notes

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Program Notes


One Week: December 31 - January 6

Touch of Evil

Revival (1958, 111 minutes)

IMDB Entry

Universal Studios has done a lot to make amends for what it did to Orson Welles masterpiece back in the late '50s, when Welles shot the film. As with most of Welles' films, the post-production and release history is enormously complicated. Universal management took Touch of Evil away from Welles and reshot or added some scenes and trimmed the length and added credits over the famous opening shot, among other things. In response to the studio-cut of the film, Welles wrote a 58-page memo that outlined how the film should be cut to his specifications. But the producers refused to cooperate, and in 1958 Universal released a 95-minute version. In 1975, a 108-minute version was discovered, but it proved not quite to be Welles' version, though it was closer. Finally, in the 1990s, producer Rick Schmidlin, collaborating with sound and film editor Walter Murch, altered Touch of Evil to conform, as best they could do it, to Welles' notes, arriving at a 111-minute version. That is the version offered here, so that fans of Welles, noir, and film history can see a film as close to Welles's intentions as it is possible to get.

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One Week: December 31 - January 6

INSIDE IRAQ: THE UNTOLD STORIES

Premiere (2004, 92 minutes)

Official Site

"After seeing images of the Iraq war on the nightly news, I knew there was much more to the story than the mainstream media was telling us. I decided to go to Iraq myself to meet the people and document what was going on first-hand." Thus does adventure traveler and director Mike Shiley matter-of-factly describe his motivation for going to Iraq twice in 2003, once during the major assault in the spring of 2003 and then again last Christmas. Armed with only a video camera, a press pass made at Kinkos and a phone number written on a crumpled piece of paper, Portlander Shiley journeyed from here to Amman, Jordan and then in an ABC news convoy to Baghdad. The war has been showcased as an example of American decisiveness and the catastrophic result of failed leadership. But beyond the debate, Shiley felt compelled to investigate in the Sunni Triangle, the northern Kurdish region and the Shiite-controlled south, interviewing both ordinary Iraqi citizens and US soldiers, most of them from the Oregon National Guard. What emerges is a remarkable scrapbook of verite snapshots of the afflicted country, a multitude of real-life moments from a most unusual tourist-turned-journalist. Shiley will appear at each screening to introduce his film, meet with the audience and take questions.

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Two Days: January 7 - 8

POONA THE F#CKDOG

Late Shows Only @ 11:30pm

Official Site

This hilarious collection of bedtime stories for grown-ups is the perfect antidote to the upcoming State of the Union address. In fact, the producer of POONA (2002, 120 minutes) was booted out of a top-level job at the National Endowment for the Arts by the Bush administration. He had the gall to produce this film that The Stranger called "smart, bold and insightful ... not to mention shit-yourself-hysterical!" Follow Poona's twisted path to the Kingdom of Do (where no one does), whose clueless voters elect a TV set as their ruler (any resemblance to recent elections is purely coincidental). Meet The Man Who Could Sell Anything (did you say Karl Rove?) and God (who will answer any question for $5). The Chicago Tribune hailed POONA as "equal parts funny, angry, imaginative, crude and hopelessly over-the top."

Produced by StageDirect, whose work has been recognized in publications ranging from the Wall Street Journal to MovieMaker.

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One Week: January 7 - 13

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

40th Anniversary (1964, 93 minutes)

IMDB Entry

It's hard to imagine today what the world was like in 1964, when the United States and the Soviet Union had enough nuclear weapons pointed at each other to destroy the world many times over. Several film makers tried to capture insanity of potential Doomsday as they lived through it - for example, Sidney Lumet's stoic drama "Fail Safe" - but Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" uses black comedy to capture the sentiment of the era perfectly. The story (similar to that of "Fail Safe") follows the plot of the unhinged US Air Force General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack on Soviet Russia and to enlist the US Government in the plan once they realize it is too late to call it back. Unbeknownst to the United States, the Russians have invented a Doomsday Machine that will go off if they are attacked. Can the meek President Merkin Muffley (Peter Sellers) coordinate his national security staff in time to call off the attack? Sellers has three roles in the film - as President Muffley, as a British officer, and as a nutty German scientist (Dr. Strangelove) enlisted form the Nazi regime (had Sellers not been in a car accident, he might also have played a fourth role as a bomber pilot, played instead by Slim Pickens). As terrific as Sellers is in every role, George C. Scott steals the entire movie with his dead-on performance as General Buck Turgidson, the epitome of the "nuke 'em til they glow" right-winger. "Dr. Strangelove" was ranked #26 in the American Film Institute's list of the best films of all time and has only grown in significance as the years since the cold war have passed.

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One Week: January 7 - 13

Duck Soup

Revival (1933, 68 minutes)

IMDB Entry

"Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale." - Internet Movie Database. Considered by some to be the Marx Brothers' finest film, it was banned in Italy by Mussolini when it came out, much to the Brothers' delight.

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One Week: January 14 - 20

Bad Education

Premiere (2004, 109 minutes)

Official Site View Trailer IMDB Entry

In what many reviews call Pedro Almodovar's best film in years, the director turns confessional. Not only does he draw upon his professional experiences in the contemporary movie industry, but also on defining incidents from his childhood. The film begins in Madrid in 1980, where movie director Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez) adapts the autobiographical short story of an old school friend, Ignacio Rodriguez (Gael Garcia Bernal), a story inspired by their problems with the school's priests, the repression, the hypocrisy, the distortion of the spirit, and the harassment. But Enrique soon discovers (and the movie recreates the experience) that reality is multi-tiered and the things he thinks he knows are in fact mysteries. Variety calls Bad Education, "superbly orchestrated, visually impressive." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone calls it, "a rapturous masterwork," while Richard Roeper says it is "incredibly complicated but intensely fascinating." Glenn Kenny of Premiere magazine says that Bad Education is a "dense, audacious film in which layers of cinematic artifice lovingly camouflage (at least for a while) its characters' dark, damaged heart."

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One Week: January 21 - 27

The Woodsman

Premiere (2004, 87 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

This film by Nicole Kassell takes a difficult subject and creates a work of art. Based on a play, it tells of Walter (Kevin Bacon), who, after 12 years in prison, moves into a small apartment across the street from an elementary school, gets a job at a lumberyard, and tries to keep to himself. He begins to date a tough-talking woman named Vicki (Kyra Sedgwick) who promises not to judge the sins of his past, but Walter cannot escape it: he is a convicted sex offender, shunned by his sister and is hounded by a suspicious police detective (Mos Def). David Rooney of Variety says that The Woodsman is a "stunningly crafted work," while Internet reviewer Steve Rhodes calls it a "chilling and compelling journey into a tormented mind." Rich Cline of Shadows on the Wall.com notes that, "Bacon delivers a startlingly edgy performance that bristles with controlled energy and subdued emotions."

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One Week: January 28 - February 3

GUERILLA: THE TAKING OF PATTY HEARST

Premiere (2004, 90 minutes)

IMDB Entry

In 1974, the teenaged heiress to a newspaper fortune was kidnapped at gunpoint from her Berkeley apartment, setting off one of the most bizarre episodes in crime history. The kidnappers consisted of a small band of young militant radicals, dedicated to the rights of prisoners and the working class. They called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. Over the course of about three years they robbed banks, killed two innocent people, instigated a firefight after attempting to shoplift a pair of socks, and, most famously, converted their hostage into a bank robber. They also incited the first media frenzy in modern history. Director Robert Stone (Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey) was unable to interview Patty Hearst herself, but talked to many other survivors of the SLA. Scott Foundas of the L A Weekly calls GUERILLA a "searching, questioning, purposefully irresolute investigation," while Tim Merrill of Film Threat calls it "a riveting account of this demented and scarcely believable American story." David Sterritt, of the Christian Science Monitor deems it a "must-see account that casts a harshly illuminating light on a key period of recent American history."

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One Week: January 28 - February 3

Sex is Comedy

Premiere (2002, 92 minutes)

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Catherine Breillat has sex on the brain. All kinds of sex: teen sex, S&M, you name, the French director has made a film about it. In her latest effort, she changes tone and style to tell a tale of a movie director (Anne Parillaud) making a sex-drenched new film that culminates in a scene in which a slick older seducer manages to convince a young, beautiful virgin to submit to his aggressive sexual advances coaxing her difficult actors into baring their souls and bodies. Though based in part on her experiences making Fat Girl, the emotional center of the film is the director's relationship with her gorgeous lead actor, played by Gregoire Colin. Chris Wiegand, of Boxoffice calls Sex is Comedy "endlessly engaging," while Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer finds that "there are insightful moments about the delicate relationships between a director and her cast, and about the mind games that go on both behind the camera and in front of it." Desson Thomson, of the Washington Post notes that, "if you want to see Breillat's funniest, most accessible movie, this is the one to watch."

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One Week: February 4 - 10

The Third Man

Revival (1949, 93 minutes)

IMDB Entry

Harry Lime (Orson Welles) has invited his old friend, the American western pulp novelist Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), to visit him in Vienna. But upon arrival, Martin learns that Lime is dead, killed in a car accident. Seeking to pry beneath the mysterious circumstances of Lime's death, Martins bucks up against the commander of the occupying British army, Major Calloway (Trevor Howard), who tells Martins that Lime was in fact a racketeer, dealing in diluted penicillin. Martins learns that a "third man" witnessed Lime's death, and believes him to be the key to restoring Lime's reputation. Brilliantly written and beautifully photographed, Carol Reed's film is a masterpiece utilizing a misdirecting core narrative with several plot twists that lead up to one of the most memorable "reveals" in cinema history, the introduction of Lime himself, along with the famous Ferris-wheel ride and the final chase through the noirish Vienna sewers. Anton Karas' zither music gives the film its unique sound.

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One Week: February 4 - 10

A Tale of Two Sisters

Premiere (2003, 115 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

Asian horror is the genre of choice for fans of scary movies these days, and A Tale of Two Sisters is perhaps the ultimate edition. Written and directed by Korean filmmaker Ji-woon Kim, A Tale of Two Sisters concerns two siblings who, after spending time in a mental institution, return to the home of their father and cruel stepmother. Once there, in addition to dealing with their stepmother's obsessive and unbalanced ways, an interfering ghost also affects their recovery. Ed Gonzalez of Slant notes that the film "unnervingly conflates fairytale lore with the angst of adolescent sexual development." Jamie Russell of the BBC calls it a "dark, dreadful, and utterly disturbing: a remarkable modern fairy story." Rich Cline of Shadows on the Wall likes its "haunting presences, inexplicable cutaways, overwhelming suspense, deeply disturbing sub-themes and a general willingness to leave things unanswered." David Parkinson of Empire magazine calls the film "masterfully manipulative and bloody scary."

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One Day: February 21

Noah's Arc Featuring Noah Snyder

Free Screening!

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Sorry, no program notes are available for this film.

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Three Days: February 22 - 24

Rear Window

Premiere (1954, 112 minutes)

IMDB Entry

Rear Window is arguably Alfred Hitchcock's most beloved film. That's because it is the last gasp of prestige Hollywood cinema, one of the last of the great studio films before the full impact of television, the studio-busting Consent Decree, new technology, and other factors were fully visited on the industry. This kind of delightful, deceptively light Hollywood film saw its final farewell in Hitchcock's own North by Northwest just a few years later. With its wit, delicacy, visual style, density, and music, Rear Window is a rich, fully realized experience. This is the movie people mean when they say that don't make movies like they used to. Rear Window offers a compelling story and illustrates how a director can triumph over an intriguing self-imposed aesthetic challenge. The film concerns a Life magazine photographer named L. B. "Jeff" Jeffries (James Stewart), laid up in his Greenwich Village apartment with a broken leg after a work-related injury, who, while fending off his high society girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly), begins to suspect that the traveling salesman on the other side of his rear courtyard, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), has murdered and disposed of his wife. The film explores the consequences of our curiosity. It's about the subterranean life beneath the surface of our society, the world few see. "That's a secret, private world you're looking at out there," Jeffries's cop friend Doyle tells him.

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One Week: February 25 - March 3

Sky Blue

Premiere (2003, 90 minutes)

IMDB Entry

Still on a Korean film kick, the Cinema 21 also offers Moon Sang Kim's animated film, a distopian vision of the future in which civilization has been destroyed by war and pollution. Earth's survivors have built one of the last cities, called Ecoban. As most natural resources have been exhausted, Ecoban is powered by pollution. In order to survive, the citizens of Ecoban need to continue creating pollution, which leads conflict with the inhabitants of Marr, where one man just wants to clear away the clouds and see the sky. Internet reviewer Brian McKay says that SKY BLUE is "an amazing piece of visual work." Mariko McDonald of Film Threat calls it "a tour de force blend of CGI, traditional cell animation, miniatures and live footage," while fan site Alex in Wonderland.com says it is "a breathtaking tale of political oppression, revolt, sacrifice, and war."

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One Week: March 4 -10

Nobody Knows

Premiere (2004, 141 minutes)

Official Site View Trailer IMDB Entry

One of the best films to come out of Japan in the 1990s was Hirokazu Kore-eda's After Life. Now he returns to the screen with Nobody Knows, about four children are forced to rely on one another after their mother abandons them. Basing the film on a true story, a 1988 case the press dubbed the "Affair of the Four Abandoned Children of Nishi-Sugamo," Kore-eda shot the film chronologically over the course of 12 months, and with just one principal location, a tiny apartment, and four non-professional child actors sharing the burden of the film's focus. Japan's entry in the Oscar category for best foreign film, Nobody Knows is a work that Jamie Russell of the BBC calls a "disturbing waking dream . a dazzling technical achievement." Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian adds that Nobody Knows is "absorbing, humane and deeply moving."

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One Week: March 11 -17

Travellers and Magicians

Premiere (2003, 108 minutes)

Official Site View Trailer IMDB Entry

Khyentse Norbu's follow-up to his audience favorite The Cup is the first feature film ever shot in the tiny kingdom of Bhutan. One of Himalayan Buddhism.s most revered lamas, Khyentse (Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche) weaves parallel fable-like tales about two men who seek to escape their mundane lives. Young government official Dondup dreams of escaping to America while stuck in a ravishingly beautiful but isolated village. When the first chance arrives, he immediately heads for town and an awaiting visa, but things don.t go quite as planned. Missing the bus, he hitchhikes with an elderly apple seller, a sage young monk, and an old man traveling with his beautiful daughter Sonam. Along the way, the perceptive yet mischievous monk tells Dondup a story of another young man who sought a land far away: a tale of lust, jealousy and murder that holds up a mirror to the restless Dondup and his blossoming attraction to the innocent Sonam. Internet reviewer Howard Schumann says that TravelLers and Magicians "is filled with gentle humor, gorgeous scenery and music, and astute observations on the foibles of human nature." Rich Cline of Shadows on the Wall notes that "the cast of novice actors is quite good, and the settings are stunningly photographed."

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One Week: March 18 -24

Gunner Palace

Premiere (2004, 85 minutes)

Official Site View Trailer IMDB Entry

What's it like in Iraq on a day-to-day basis? To find out, filmmaker Petra Epperlein followed the experiences of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment of the 1st Armored Division. Usually stationed in Giessen, Germany, the unit, also known as the "Gunners," spent close to a year an a half stationed in Iraq, most of the time living in Uday Hussein's palace, renamed Gunner Palace. Epperlein takes the viewer through the daily life and routine of an American soldier fighting in Iraq. It deals not only with the military aspect of their days and nights, but also with their down time, and how soldiers cope with the realities of war. A.O. Scott of the New York Times noted that GUNNER PALACE is "a raw, intimate and improbably funny portrait of the situation in Iraq in the year after President Bush declared that 'major combat' was over...[it's] not a movie anyone should miss."

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One Week: March 25 -31

Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids

Premiere (2004, 85 minutes)

Official Site IMDB Entry

In this powerful film, documentary filmmakers Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicle their time in Sonagchi, Calcutta and the relationships they developed with children of prostitutes who work the city's notorious red light district. Todd McCarthy of Variety found that the film's "exposure of a squalid city's most benighted neighborhood and its introduction of hope into nearly hopeless lives give it strong human interest value." For Brad Slager of Film Threat, "The real revelation is the personalities of the kids, who manage to have upbeat attitudes and desires for a better life and deliver them with a genuine enthusiasm of youth." Meanwhile, Jessica Winter of the Village Voice notes that, "The specter of long odds and narrow choices shades every frame of the film, yet the tone is often buoyant and legitimately inspirational." James Greenberg of the Hollywood Reporter concludes that Born Into Brothels is "a work of art so deep and resonant that it puts most narrative films to shame."

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