The Price of My Recommendations and Warnings

The Price of Sugar, Opera Plaza and Shattuck, opening Friday. Billy Haney’s expose of the Dominican Republic’s sugar industry takes us into a world where illegal immigrants from Haiti effectively become slaves. Kept behind barbed wire and controlled by armed guards, they’re imprisoned on the plantation and paid in vouchers redeemable only at the company store. Rare for a documentary, The Price of Sugar has a hero: Catholic priest Father Christopher Hartley, a Catholic priest of aristocratic upbringing who’s determined, compassionate, and courageous. He’s also multilingual, articulate, and photogenic. Catch this film if you need another reason to feel guilty about eating sweets.

How to Cook Your Life, Rafael, ongoing. Cooking and Buddhism make a tasty combination in Doris Dörrie’s documentary. And in the world view of its subject, Edward Espe Brown–Zen master, gourmet chef, and author of The Tassajara Bread Book. The camera does little more than follow Brown as he gives cooking classes, discusses the importance of thinking about what you eat, and drops pearls of wisdom like “If you have a little bit of shit on your nose, everything smells bad.” At 100 minutes, How to Cook Your Life runs a bit long. Near the end, I found myself checking my watch in a far-from-Zen mindset. But when I left the theater, I wanted to renounce junk food and spend the rest of my life eating only wholesome foods made from scratch.

Through a Glass Darkly, Castro, Tuesday. While on vacation on a remote island, a woman thought cured of her mental illness slides back into madness, and her family doesn’t know what to do about it. There are other family problems of course–difficulties with her husband and brother, for instance–but these are soon overshadowed by the pointless tragedy of insanity. Like so much of Bergman’s best work, Through a Glass Darkly illuminates a crisis of faith. On a double-bill with The Virgin Spring, which I’ve seen too long ago to review, but remember liking very much. But here’s some Virgin Spring trivia: Although he didn’t credit Bergman, Wes Craven clearly based Last House on the Left on Bergman’s story–same plot, but a very different approach.

Spirited Away, Parkway, Sunday, 2:00. Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece is a beautiful, complex, and occasionally scary tale of a young girl cast into a strange and magical world. The intriguing and imaginative creatures, not to mention the moral dilemmas, are beyond anything that Dorothy never had to deal with in Oz. Unfortunately, the Parkway will screen the dubbed, English version, which is still a great movie if not up to the original Japanese. A benefit for the Cornell School (Albany) PTA.

Fillmore (1972), Lark, Sunday, 5:00. I haven’t seen this one, which I’m told mixes concert footage from the legendary music hall’s last night with a documentary on Bill Graham. The presentation is a benefit for the Lark Theater, so even if the movie stinks, your money will go to a good cause. On the other hand, do you really want to benefit one theater with a documentary about another theater’s closing night?