Redacted, Shattuck, Embarcadero Center, and Aquarius; opens Friday. An American soldier in Iraq videos everything he sees. A French documentary shows how checkpoints work and why they don’t. A security camera captures thugs planning a violent crime and talking about it afterward. Every shot in Brian De Palma’s Iraq war “fictional documentary– comes from a camera within the story. Redacted fictionalizes an incident that made headlines last year: the rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager, and the murder of her family, by American soldiers. But De Palma doesn’t dig as deep as he should. The two soldiers who actually commit the atrocity are too easily dismissed as simple villains, while at other times the movie hits you over the head with the horrors of war–“as if anyone who sees this film doesn’t already agree that the whole enterprise is very, very bad. Yet Redacted works–“and works in an original way. It probably won’t change your opinion of the war, but it offers a terrifying grunt’s-eye-view of what’s going on. Click here for my full review.
Romance and Cigarettes, Clay and Shattuck; opens Wednesday. With its corny songs and dances, raunchy humor, and entirely loopy logic, the first half of Romance and Cigarettes is gut-bustingly funny. The songs are familiar hits, and for the most part the cast (which includes James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, and Mandy Moore) lip-synchs the original recordings. The dancing looks more exuberant than professional. And yet there’s something real underneath it. We’ve all been in shaky relationships, and we’ve all wanted to break into song and dance on the street (at least I hope it’s not just me). But Romance and Cigarettes turns serious in the second half–“very serious. And with that turn it finds itself on less secure ground. It’s tricky to move from tomfoolery to tragedy, and writer/director John Turturro can’t quite pull it off.
Modern Times, Pacific Film Archive, Saturday, 3:00. Leave it to Charlie Chaplin to call an extremely anachronistic movie Modern Times. Why anachronistic? Because it’s a mostly silent picture (with a recorded score) made years after everyone else had stopped making silent pictures. Why Modern Times? Because it’s about assembly lines, mechanization, and the depression. Chaplin’s tramp moves from job to job and jail to jail as he tries to better his condition and that of an underage fugitive (Paulette Goddard, his future wife and the best leading lady of his career). The plot sounds depressing, but the tramp’s innate dignity and optimism, upholstered by Chaplin’s perfectly choreographed comedy, keeps Modern Times light despite the heavy theme. Part of two PFA series: Movie Matinees for All Ages and Charles Chaplin.
Chicken Run, Cerrito, Saturday, 3:00, Sunday, 2:00. Aardman Animations’ first feature is every bit as funny as their Wallace and Gromit work. Essentially The Great Escape with chickens, its hen heroines plot to escape their egg farm before they’re turned into pies. Yet another presentation from The Poop.
The Kid and The Pilgrim, Pacific Film Archive, Sunday, 2:00. Charlie Chaplin’s first feature, The Kid, isn’t among his best–there are times when you can feel him stretching to fill six reels, and others where the sentimentality overwhelms. But it has some of his best routines, most built around his very young co-star, Jackie Coogan. This may be the only time Chaplin allowed someone else to steal one of his films, and it was the right decision. The future Uncle Fester imitates Chaplin perfectly as an abandoned child raised by the little tramp. The Pilgrim, which is either Chaplin’s last short or his second feature, depending on how you want to define a four-reel movie, improves considerably on The Kid. Chaplin creates one of his best roles as an escaped convict posing as a clergyman in a story that mixes comedy and social commentary while keeping the sentimentality at a minimum. Part of the PFA’s Charles Chaplin series. Unfortunately, these silent films will not have live accompaniment.