Don't wait for Jasmine Dellal's doc to end up broken between pledge-drive pitches: This joyous portrait of the 2001 "Gypsy Caravan" tour—a stateside showcase of Romani musicians representing their culture as splintered across Romania, Macedonia, Spain, and India—deserves to have its brilliant colors, lavish costumes, and vivacious musical numbers seen on the big screen. More than a vibrant experiment in ethnomusical cross-pollination, it's just great fun, tempered by loss but rippling with gusto—and that's even before a climactic appearance by Esma Redzepova, the Macedonian "Queen of the Gypsies" (and you'd dispute her?), an Etta James-meets-Edith Piaf force of nature who displays the performing zest of a Catskills tummler. (Jim Ridley) (Edwards Westpark, Irvine)
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
See "Dark Phoenix." (Countywide)
I HAVE NEVER FORGOTTEN YOU: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF SIMON WIESENTHAL
The almost unbearably moving story of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, I Have Never Forgotten You takes us from his shtetl childhood to his 90th birthday party at Vienna's Hotel Imperial, where Hitler once kept a suite. In between, director Richard Trank (The Long Way Home) gives us a spare, unblinking portrayal of the Holocaust, in which Wiesenthal lost his mother and 88 other relatives; afterward, purposeless, he devoted the rest of his days to nosing out Nazis across the globe, from Eichmann in Argentina to Hermine Braunsteiner in Queens. Wiesenthal's motive, he always insisted, was not revenge but justice. Celebrity narration (by Nicole Kidman) and deft filmmaking necessarily take a backseat here to the anger, grief, and incongruous good humor of the man himself. (Julia Wallace) (Regency South Coast Village, Santa Ana)
See "Interview Between Vampires." (Edwards University, Irvine)
When first we meet 9-year-old Joshua Cairn (Jacob Kogan), there's not an ounce of rambunctiousness in him. Joshua's more a parody of a pint-sized horror-show monster than the real deal, more lonely than loathsome—the kind of kid who asks his daddy (a toned-down Sam Rockwell) if he loves him because he's genuinely afraid the old man is losing interest. And then comes the beautiful baby girl, a little sister ready to command the attention Joshua expects and demands and craves. Joshua's mother (Vera Farmiga) can't take her wide eyes off the newborn; Dad can't put her down. So Joshua's left all alone—to dissect his plush toys, mummify his hamster, and maybe kill the family dog. But what parent hasn't said, "That kid's gonna drive me crazy"? Children are remarkably manipulative at an early age, and Joshua's merely a big-screen variation on the real-life version—a kid who takes great pleasure in freaking out his folks. (Robert Wilonsky) (Countywide)
Pascale Ferran's magnificently sensual adaptation of an earlier version of D.H. Lawrence's novel isn't remotely bawdy, but it is candidly, tenderly carnal in a way rarely seen in contemporary cinema, where sexuality crouches trapped between prissiness and prurience. This rapturously naturalistic movie about a passionate affair between an unfulfilled milady (Marian Hands) and her gamekeeper (Jean-Louis Coulloc'h) refuses to engage with the feminist theories that have sent Lawrence's posthumous reputation careening from literary god to chauvinist devil. The sex is fumbling, awkward and real—how hot could anyone look running around in the rain, breasts bobbing, clad only in Mary Poppins boots?—and the camera's unhurried contemplation of birds and flowers giddily invokes the National Geographic special. But Ferran slyly rereads the novel as a story of mutual liberation, and she both keeps faith with and holds in check Lawrence's romantic belief in the primacy of nature in all its forms over civilization. (Ella Taylor) (Edwards University, Irvine)
For summer blockbuster season, Werner Herzog's latest feature, based on his 1997 documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, offers a suitably fantastic tale of war, freedom, and fortitude, set in the jungles of Indochina and featuring an immigrant lad who turns out to be just as American as John McCain—or is it John McClane? Dieter Dengler was, like Herzog, a small child during World War II; his town was destroyed in an American bombing raid. At 18, he left for victorious America, enlisted in the Air Force, and eventually entered Navy flight school. Graduating in 1966 and sent to Vietnam, Dieter—played by Christian Bale with a sunny disposish and intermittent German accent—is shot down over Laos, captured by a scary band of Pathet Lao irregulars, and subject to the sort of torture Americans would never condone. Little Dieter Needs to Fly was a powerfully incantatory film in part because of the actual Dengler's matter-of-fact description of his escape—running barefoot through the tangled tropical foliage, dodging monsoons, eating snakes, and fighting delirium as well as sudden attacks by Laotian tribals. Rescue Dawn, which rivals Apocalypto as a jungle marathon, has all this and more. It's the closest thing to a "real" movie that Herzog has ever made. The lone conquistador has joined the club. (J. Hoberman) (Countywide)
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Nothing has turned out as expected for Nora, the drifting, doleful heroine played by Parker Posey in Broken English, writer/director Zoe Cassavetes' feature debut. Confronted in her mid-30s by a sinkhole of unaddressed expectations—only a few of them her own—we meet Nora as she attempts to slog through a backlog of doubt and uncertainty without going under completely. If urban female confusion is the new suburban male confusion, surely Posey's lost and wary eyes are the face of that angst. As a beautiful woman with the curious big-city habit of accepting loneliness as her lot, Posey is beguiling for the first third of Broken English; lovely, fragile, and tense, she's the lonely girl who screens phone calls and winces at compliments. But, alas, we must wait on for a fully realized investigation of what Nora's mother suggests is eating—and paralyzing—young women in the city today: too many choices. When the Manhattan man shortage threatens to doom the inexhaustibly stylish Nora (this girl has cute tops for days) to a life of closet rearrangement, a charming Frenchman swoops in with some grade-A Euro-lovin'. Nora's initially existential problems become nothing that a romantic pick-me-up can't fix. (Michelle Orange) (Regency South Coast Village, Santa Ana)
This film was not screened in time for our reviewers. A review will appear next week. (Countywide)
INTRODUCING THE DWIGHTS
Brenda Blethyn's trademark histrionics—maternal blubbering and drama-queen shrillness—worked smashingly for her intentionally trying role in Secrets & Lies, but her central performance in Introducing the Dwights sees these traits amped to a rather squirmy 11. Misleadingly (if more interestingly) titled Clubland when it screened at this year's Sundance, director Cherie Nowlan's patchy Australian dramedy stars Blethyn as divorce Jean, a once-famous bawdy comedienne who can't accept that she's past her prime. Oblivious to how her egomaniacal control issues are cock-blocking both of her sons, Jean is primarily stressing out strapping, 20-year-old mama's boy Tim (Khan Chittenden), whose fear of losing his virginity to insecure but totally horny Jill (Emma Booth) takes an unintentionally Oedipal bent whenever he runs home to support his mother's Benny Hill-esque act instead. Other son Mark (Richard Wilson) is slightly brain-damaged and dubiously written as the idiot-savant butt of many a gentle joke, which might have worked had the actor been more convincing (Aaron Hillis) (Edwards Westpark, Irvine; Regency South Coast Village, Santa Ana)