WorldFest: Wild, Mild and Wicked

Moviegoers may find both their Sixth Happiness and Seventh Heaven in these 40 featured indie films

Bombay is also a lively character here. This was my first good look at the attractive coastal city, which, under veteran director Waris Hussein's light touch, looks romantic and inviting.

But more or less playing himself, Kanga is the real revelation. His Brit is almost (but not quite) devoid of self-pity, and he's a sardonic little fellow, though he'd give me a tongue-lashing for calling him little. The film parts company with My Left Foot and lesser ailment flicks when it begins to explore Kanga's sexuality. By its final third, The Sixth Happiness has become both daring and delightful, an unusual combination. (David Theis)

The Sixth Happiness Saturday, April 10, at 7 p.m. and Monday, April 12, at 5 p.m.

Umbrellas Forever
Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is being shown in retrospective. Those who caught the classic when it was restored and rereleased a few years ago are probably dying to see it again. There is no other movie quite like Umbrellas, and not just because it stars an almost unbearably radiant Catherine Deneuve in her debut role. Umbrellas is even more notable as perhaps the most down-to-earth musical in the history of film.

Every line, including the homeliest bon jour, monsieur, is sung, which is actually a bit off-putting until the film gathers steam. But as it enters its very straightforward love story between the fabulous Deneuve's Genevieve and Guy, a neighborhood mechanic who manages to successfully woo her, the local angel, Umbrellas plunges into very dark waters for a musical.

Guy is called to war in Algeria and leaves not knowing Genevieve is pregnant or that her anxiously bourgeois mother is pushing her into a more suitable marriage. Guy doesn't write as often as he should, and Genevieve allows herself to be convinced by her mother. Guy comes back crippled by the war and is now faced with heartbreak when he goes looking for his love. Then, as he struggles to accept his fate, the film plunges into an even darker depth of understanding, before coming back up to the light.

Beautifully melancholy, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece which looks and sounds great in its newly restored form. How it fits into WorldFest '99's program I can't quite say, but I'm just glad that it's here under any cover. (David Theis)

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg Sunday, April 11, at 1 p.m.

Wicked Ending
Wicked, as the closing-night film, sends WorldFest away on a darkly rousing note. The movie is the latest graduate of the school film founded on the premise that "when you get right down to it, aren't people just naturally nasty." It's also one of the best films on incest, an unhappily trendy topic.

Written by Eric Weiss and directed by Michael Steinberg, Wicked is a cruel study of life in a gated community. The developers should have locked out virtually every resident presented here.

Wicked focuses on the betrayals and travails of one family, headed by philandering parents and home to two very dark girls. One by one, starting with Mom, family members begin to fall, bludgeoned to death by -- whom?

This film is also a satisfying whodunit, as there are plenty of candidates. Is it Lawson (Patrick Muldoon), Mom's cretinous lover next door, the guy she just dumped? Or is it Dad (William R. Moses), whom she has also presented with walking papers. We're supposed to believe it's daughter number one, Ellie (Julia Stiles), who is most believably transformed from a typical 14-year-old to a man-killing vamp after Mom is out of the way. That transformation is chilling, and it makes her father's pathetic weakness, in falling for her, grotesquely believable.

The film works so hard to confound our expectations vis-a-vis the actual murderer that it winds up beyond the pale of credibility, but not before it has made some blood-curdling points. (David Theis)

Wicked Sunday, April 18, at 9 p.m.

Toe Kick
Kick begins with a prep-school sports victory so cliched it seems like a dream sequence. Poor-boy-made-good Matt Grant, against all odds, takes the Lawley College rugby team to victory in an improbable end run. His hot blond girlfriend (from the neighboring girls' school) kisses him. His classmates cheer and lift him onto their shoulders. It's not a dream, but poor Matt, he just doesn't seem to be enjoying perfection. The conflict in this Australian movie, directed by Lynda Heys, centers on Matt's really deep-down desire to be ... a ballet dancer. But can he face the ridicule of the pack of male Neanderthal latents that he counts as his classmates? Should he let them see him wearing tights? Well, duh.

If the plot is dismally simplistic, the ride is just okay. Kick has a spark of passion and some nice bodies doing some nice dance steps, but the leads (Russell Page as Matt, Rebecca Yates as his dance partner, Claire, and Radha Mitchell as his girlfriend, Tamara) lack the necessary magnetism to make a movie like this work, if there is a way to make a movie like this work.

Matt, especially, seems to earn neither his school's adulation, nor his lead role in the ballet Romeo and Juliet, nor the trust of his dance partner, Claire, who is the only one bordering on a real character. Instead, he squeaks by the way you would expect a school sports hero to squeak by, and the ensuing private-school mischief misses almost every opportunity for true humor.

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