By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
As the story begins, their long-lost Vietnamese mother is about to reappear in their lives. That doesn't thrill their stepmother (Mary Alice), who feels threatened by this blast from her husband's past. This is potentially juicy, culture-crossing fare, but it's all so badly executed by director Chi Moui Lo that it's impossible to care. None of the scenes rings true. One in particular is a flashback whose time change is supposed to be indicated by a very bad wig worn by Alice. It is a cinematic disaster, and her character in general is a disaster, and she's pivotal to the film. (David Theis)
Catfish in Black Bean Sauce Wednesday, April 14, at 5 p.m. and Saturday, April 17, at 7 p.m.
Wrestling with Alligators certainly sounds like an independent, low-budget film: It's a coming-of-age story set in 1959 America, as both a young girl and a country get ready for momentous changes. It plays a little better than average, with some good performances, but this female-bonding tale is ultimately weighed down by too much talk.
Writer and director Laurie Weltz obviously has her heart in this film, the story of a runaway tomboy who escapes to a boarding house where she finds a new family among her eccentric roommates. She has a first romance with, of all people, a carnival worker, and her adopted family endures such problems as an unwanted pregnancy.
The cast includes Claire Bloom, as a fading silent-screen actress, and Joely Richardson, daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and sister of Natasha, as a runaway.
Far be it from us to use the term "chick flick," but you pretty much are getting what's advertised here. If you like this kind of film, you'll probably get wrapped up in this one; those for whom a little of this goes a long way are not likely to be persuaded otherwise. (Richard Connelly)
Wrestling with Alligators Saturday, April 10, at 5 p.m. and Sunday, April 11, at 9 p.m.
Heaven's Almost Here
The festival had no advance review copy of Seventh Heaven, the penultimate by French director Benoit Jacquot. But if its quality is within shouting distance of his A Girl Alone, which appeared on local screens a couple of years ago, this is a must-see.
It is the kind of film which should have found a local booking a year ago, so be glad it has turned up even for one night.
According to the festival synopsis, the film involves a pretty, young woman married to a successful surgeon. She is undergoing an identity and sexual crisis. When through hypnosis she is able to find a solution to her problems, her husband, who is used to dealing with illness in a clinically rational and logical manner, begins to have an identity crisis of his own. With Sandrine Kiberlain and Vincent Lindon. (David Theis)
Seventh Heaven Sunday, April 18, at 5 p.m.
Rose's is one of the festival's weaker entries. The Frank Patterson film attempts to be a colorful slice of Southern life. It follows a flower-shop owner's befriending a recently released murderer and then asking him to help her dispose of the body of her recently murdered husband (do I detect a whiff of Faulkner's A Rose for Emily?). But the movie founders on its weak acting and poorly drawn characters. The lead actress, Leslie France, is a nonentity in a role that calls for hidden depths. (David Theis)
Rose's Saturday, April 10, at 7 p.m. and Monday, April 12, at 9 p.m.
Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God ... Be Back by Five is a film directed by Richard Schenkman, who also made the more successful October 22. This film begins poorly -- it's as heavily voiced-over as an episode of The Wonder Years and features a very intrusive soundtrack. Its story about two former high school buddies out to rescue a third pal, who now lives on the streets, unfolds far too slowly and unconvincingly. (David Theis)
Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God Friday, April 16, at 9 p.m. and Saturday, April 17, at 5 p.m.
Jon Reiss's debut feature film, Cleopatra's Second Husband, is a harrowing yet delicious and often wickedly funny study of power and submission. What begins as a dark romantic comedy soon morphs into a nightmarish psychological horror film. With Paul Hipp and Boyd Kestner. (not reviewed)
Cleopatra's Second Husband Sunday, April 11, at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, April 13, at 9 p.m.
The Climb is a story of bravery, friendship, death and courage. A 12-year-old boy and a dying man form a unique bond and end up teaching each other about life. Directed by Bob Swaim. With John Hurt, Gregory Smith and David Strathairn. (not reviewed)
The Climb Wednesday, April 14, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 11, at 5 p.m.
In Le Coeur au Poing ("Streetheart"), Louise is a woman with a thirst for life who devises a game which allows her to enter other people's worlds. At random, she stops passersby on the street and offers herself to them, to do with her as they please for one hour. This Canadian film is directed by Charles Biname, with Pascale Montpetit, Anne-Marie Cadieux and Guy Nadon. (not reviewed)