Adapted from a 1999 “Frontline” episode broadcast on PBS, this better than expected action thriller stars Dwayne Johnson as a father whose teenage son is wrongly accused of drug distribution and is facing a mandatory 10 years in the slammer. In desperate to save his son, he makes a deal with the U.S. attorney to go undercover and infiltrate a drug cartel. But it’s a deal with the devil, and even though the dangerous mission risks his family and his life, the tables are turned when it all comes down. Now playing.
Rudolfo Anaya’s iconic 1972 coming-of-age novel is often compared to such beloved classics as “The Grapes of Wrath” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Thankfully, the movie adaptation directed by Carl Franklin remains true to the spirit of the book and takes its time to find the right balance to the forces that tug on Antonio, our young hero. Set in New Mexico near the close of WW II, Antonio must cope with the teachings of Catholicism and the contradictory wisdom of traditional Indian culture when his family invites elderly relative Ultima to live with them. Ultima is a bruja, a witch. Magic potions, demonic possession, prejudice, fear, faith and the notion that Rome does not have all the answers are things that Antonio must integrate as he embraces a wider mystery of life. Good, solid action explodes around a disturbing moral and political issue. Now playing
Somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, in a small isolated village, Komona, a twelve year-old girl, lived peacefully with her parents until the day the rebels came. They pillaged the village, captured Komoma and forced her to slay her parents. In the rebel’s camp, the training is merciless: Komona is hungry, scared, and the revel leader, who has no pity for her tears, repeatedly beats her if she cries. She quickly learns to endure, to fight and survive. During a battle against the Government’s army, only Kimona is spared. The rebel chief sees this as a sign and declares she is the new sorcerer. Kimona is brought to Great Tiger, the leader of the rebels. He makes her his war witch. Kimona befriends the only person willing to listen and help her, a 15 year-old albino soldier named Magician. Kimona and Magician fall in love and escape to a place of peace, but a brutal incident ends their brief moment of happiness. Time passes. Kimona, now 14 and pregnant a rebel commander’s child, wishes to forget the past but the ghosts of her parents haunt her. She realizes that if she doesn’t want the ghost to haunt her baby, she must make the long journey to her birthplace.
Montreal-based filmmaker Kim Nguyen’s poignant and harrowing film was inspired by a real story that took place in Burma. Nguyen filmed WAR WITCH in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He worked on the film for 10 years and the result is a minor masterpiece on every level, including the music. Don’t miss this exquisitely crafted film that was included in the Best Foreign Film Oscar© nominees. Now playing.
NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:
SANSHO THE BAILIFF
Certainly among the small group of world cinema masterpieces, SANSHO THE BAILIFF is the compelling, richly layered story of an idealistic governor who disobeys the reigning feudal lord and is cast into exile. His wife and children, left to fend for themselves, are wrenched apart by vicious slave traders. Kenji Mizoguchi’s dazzling film of a classic Japanese story became one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces. Mizoguchi’s artfully composed, simple images maximize a feeling of natural order that hovers over and around the moral chaos.
This breathtaking black and white 1954 film is widely regarded as a “monumental, empathetic expression of human resilience in the face of evil.” It remains a relevant and deep reflection of the human condition that is as much a part of our world as it was that of 11th Century feudal Japan.
Nice extras include: Audio commentary featuring Japanese-literature scholar Jeffrey Angles; Interviews with critic Tadao Sato, assistant director Tokuzo Tanaka, and actress Kyoko Kagawa on the making of the film and its lasting importance. Plus: a booklet featuring an essay by scholar Mark Le Fanu and two versions of the story on which the film is based: Ogai Mori’s 1915 “Sansho the Steward” and an earlier transcription of oral variation. Criterion. Blu-ray.
THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE
Luis Buñuel’s life-long cinematic exploration of the absurdist complications of love and desire resulted in perhaps his best film. Adapted from Pierre Louys’ 1898 novel La Femme et le Pantin, Buñuel’s 30th and final film tells in flashback the story of Mathieu, a wealthy, middle-aged French sophisticate who falls madly in love with his former chambermaid, 19 year-old Conchita. The affair seesaws as Conchita manipulates Mathieu’s lust while trying to gain absolute power over him – and he over her. There’s no missing the satiric intent and subversive wit of the tale that’s set in a decadent, decaying society infected by political discontent and moral bankruptcy. In some ways, the world of the story strikes a familiar nerve. Lionsgate. Blu-ray.