Picks, Pans, All That – Day Eight: Thursday, April 10

April 10, 2008 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

The Good
Thanks to Spellbound (which, like many evil trendsetters before it, is actually quite terrific), niche documentaries have adopted an increasingly tiresome template: meet the participants in the first half, watch them in some ultimately irrelevant competition in the second. So my hat is off to Erich Weiss’ Hori Smoku Sailor Jerry, a doc on the art of tattooing that’s strictly old school. Weiss explores the artform – all while making a strong case that it is an artform – through the tale of pioneer Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins. The film’s gallery of aging tattoo icons – among them gravel-voiced Philadelphian Eddie Funk – relate a walking contradiction: On one hand Collins was a right-wing blowhard and bigot; on the other he was a man of culture and high artistic principles who helped bring elaborate Japanese designs to the States. It’s a transcendently salty experience and, more important, it only screens once. (9:30pm, Prince Music Theater)

Also: A rave for Alexandra (2:30pm, Ritz East) here, even if it is being screened on video. The Mugger (5pm, Ritz East), from Argentina, is an intense, succinct account of an aging thief that suggests what a genre film from Belgium’s Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Rosetta, The Child) would look like. Not, sadly, a revival of Werner Herzog’s great 1971 doc of the same name, Fata Morgana (7:15pm, International House) has some perdy Moroccan vistas but its tale of a pretty young couple lost in the desert and at the hands of an ambiguously-motivated stranger (Betty Blue’s Jean-Hughes Anglade) is eventually impatient-making on both sides of the screen.

Not So Good
A rare exported film from Uruguay, The Pope’s Toilet (7:15pm, Ritz 5) takes a satirical, anticlerical set-up – the impoverished trying to get rich off a visit from John Paul II – and only winds up proving that light and nearly declawed comedies know no borders. Where’s Luis Buñuel when you need him? Pistoleros (9:30pm, Ritz East) is Guy Ritchie in Copenhagen. Epitaph (9:45pm, Ritz East), from South Korea, offers up another fractured narrative, this time with vengeful ghosts and roughly ten thousand big plot twists.

And those I haven’t seen (yet) but which possess buzz and/or look promising
Phawker’s Dan Buskirk raved to me about the Mexican Bad Habits (2:30pm, Ritz East), which features interconnecting stories involving eating disorders and one seriously torrential downpour (see above). I also have it on good faith that the Estonian Autumn Ball (4:45pm, Ritz 5), while a bit of a rough going portrait of people in a rundown hotel, is quite strong. University of the Arts presents its animation program with Cartoonucopia (4:45pm, Prince Music Theater). The End (5pm, International House) sits down with some troublingly candid former East London gangsters, all of them shot in impossibly grainy 16mm. John Leguizamo picks up his Artistic Achievement Award in tandem with a screening of his new film The Take (7pm, Prince Music Theater). The doc Heavy Metal in Baghdad (7:15pm, International House) is about just that. Finally, there’s the first of two screenings Richard Fleischer’s newly reevaluated 1955 heist pic Violent Saturday (9:30pm, Ritz 5 – and also screening, you guessed it, Saturday), which shows not just the thieves but the rot of the town in which they’re stationed. The drool-worthy cast includes Victor Mature, Lee Marvin, Sylvia Sidney and Ernest Motherfucking Borgnine.

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Entry filed under: Picks.

What I Peeped: Day Seven What I Peeped: Day Eight

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