Film

Altering States

VOLVER (Sony Pictures Classics) IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS (Typecast Releasing with HBO) It happens to almost every successful director, and it has certainly happened to Pedro Almodóvar: he has entered the Age of the Larynx. In this age, sheer talk--the interview--becomes as much a part of a director's life as anything other than directing itself. Almodóvar interviews flood the press, especially just before a new film appears. He is more supple and funny than most directors can be, but even he can indulge in interview lingo. (From a recent one: "What always attracts me, and it's almost a physical need,

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Parting of Ways

Old Joy (Kino International) The Beat movement in literature is said to have begun in 1952 with Jack Kerouac and John Clellon Holmes. No such specific date that I know is cited for the movement’s spread to films. (Underground film is something else.) The first Beat picture that I can remember didn’t come until almost forty years later, with Richard Linklater’s Slacker in 1991. Since then there has been a fairly steady stream. I’d dub them Listless Films, even though that term is easy to misunderstand. The people in these films, mostly in their twenties, are not dull or lazy.

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TSOTSI (Miramax) THE FILM SNOB’S DICTIONARY (Broadway Books)  AN OLD MYTH TELLS OF A bird that had to press its breast against a thorn in order to sing, which it then did beautifully. Political troubles have served as that thorn for some writers, and the end of those troubles has, along with its benefits, deprived them of their singing. George Konrád, the Hungarian author of major novels about the travails of life under totalitarianism, has dwindled as a novelist since democracy reached Hungary.

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Sorts of Truth

FATELESS (THINKfilm)   CONVERSATIONS WITH THE GREAT MOVIEMAKERS OF HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE AT THE AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE (Knopf)       MANY OF US HAVE reservations about the Holocaust as a subject for enacted films. Claude Lanzmann, who made the monumental documentary Shoah, said, "Fiction [about the Holocaust] is a transgression. I deeply believe that there are some things that cannot and should not be represented." Still, even if we too think that we believe this, when a Holocaust film is manifestly serious--one can almost say consecrated--it is hard to resist.

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By now the filmgoing world knows that Steven Spielberg has three selves. First is the self most frequently summoned, the maker of superlative entertainments (Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). His second self applies his talent seriously to serious subjects (Schindler's List, Amistad). The third self produces hybrids, films that use both of the other two selves (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan). Spielberg's new film, Munich, was made by the third self.

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Out West

Ang Lee continues to astonish. In 1995, when his best-known film was Eat Drink Man Woman, set in his native Taiwan, the producers of Sense and Sensibility tapped him to direct their picture: an act of perception, of courage, for which all of us owe them thanks. Lee proceeded—incredibly—to make the best of the Jane Austen films.

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Familiar Haunts

First time tragedy, second time farce. Fifth time? Judging from Takashi Shimizu's The Grudge, by then you know what you're doing. The Japanese director has essentially been recycling the same eerie ghost story since 2000, first in two installments made for Japan's video market (entitled Ju-On and Ju-On 2), then in two theatrical-release remakes (Ju-On: The Grudge and Ju-On: The Grudge 2), and now in a Hollywood-produced English-language version, The Grudge, just released on video.

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Undercover Brothers

The Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs begins with a Buddhist epigram, though not a particularly memorable one (something about "Continuous Hell" being the worst of the eight hells).

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Village Idiocies

In 1999 it looked as though American filmmaking might be on the cusp of an exciting period not unlike the Coppola-Scorsese-Allen 1970s, with several original young directors coming into their own at once. That year, fortyish David O.

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Reality Bites

Reality is in, and not just on network TV. In indie filmmaking, too, there has been a shift away from the Tarantino- and Coens-influenced comic experimentalism of the 1990s toward simpler narratives told with a minimum of cinematic trickery.

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