April 15-21, 2004

movies

pff


Following are reviews from the closing week of the Philadelphia Film Festival, April 15-21. Up to the day of the show, advance tickets may be purchased in person at all TLA Video locations (11 a.m.-10 p.m.) and The Bridge (5-11 p.m. only), by phone at 267-765-9700, ext. 4 (10 a.m.-9 p.m.) and online at www.phillyfests.com (up to 36 hours in advance). Same-day tickets are available only at the appropriate venue. Regular ticket prices are $9, $7 for matinees before 4 p.m., with discounts for Philadelphia Film Society members.

A PROBLEM WITH FEAR

Laurie (Paulo Costanzo) is afraid of just about everything: escalators, open spaces, crossing the street, and according to his girlfriend Dot (Emily Hampshire), commitment. Thus he is the perfect customer for Global Security’s new product, a bracelet that senses when danger is near. Soon a rash of bizarre deaths related to his phobias creates an epidemic of fear and Laurie fears he may be responsible. Canadian director Gary Burns’ satire of our Orange Alert world fails to follow through on its ideas beyond the most obvious points. With such a timely subject, ripe for black comedy or absurdist parody, Burns settles for broad caricatures (Hampshire in particular overplays Dot as a John Waters grotesque) and sitcom-level humor. A Problem with Fear is a disappointingly missed opportunity. -Shaun Brady (4/17, 9:45 TB; 4/18, 4:45 PMT)

recommended BAADASSSSS!

Either serving as family therapy or stirring up an urgent need for it, Melvin van Peebles’ account of the making of Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song comes to the screen in an adaptation directed by and starring son Mario, with a central focus on the relationship between the battered but determined director and his then-13-year-old son. Baadasssss! (originally titled How to Keep the Man’s Foot Outta Your Ass) doesn’t have the lunatic energy of the film it chronicles, but it’s a loving, well-made tribute to one of American cinema’s great success stories. –Sam Adams (4/15, 9:30 PMT*; 4/17, 5:15 TB)

recommended BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS

It’s no Faster, Pussycat, but Russ Meyer’s ode to hippie decadence is welcome on Philadelphia screens any day, especially in a new 35 mm print. Taste the black sperm of my vengeance, indeed. –S.A. (4/17, 10:15 PMT)

BREAKFAST WITH HUNTER

Bottle of Chivas ever at the ready, Hunter S. Thompson appears in Wayne Ewing’s documentary as an unhinged elder statesman, dining with George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy, shooting guns with Johnny Depp, feted by countless celebrities and fans. But adulation ill-suits a figure whose excesses are as legendary as, and as inseparable from, his virtues. Alex Cox and Tod Davies’ disastrous proposal for a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas movie sets Thompson off on his only tear, and provides the movie’s only stretch of real drama. –S.A. (4/17, 2:30 IH; 4/18, 9:30 PMT)

CARANDIRU

Hector Babenco’s chronicle of a bloody Brazilian prison riot is most notable for its humanistic portrayal of the prison’s transsexual inmates, which surpasses by far the camp sideshow of his Kiss of the Spider Woman. The two-and-half-hour running time seems overgenerous, not least because the movie, based on the memoirs of a prison doctor, is almost totally anecdotal in structure. Without the energy of City of God or the bracing complexity of Bus 174, Carandiru can’t help but feel a bit redundant. –S.A (4/18, 4:00 TB; 4/19, 9:15 PMT)

recommended THE CITY THAT SHOVES YOU BACK

This Philly-focused FestIndies program features the annual Big Tea Party entry, this time a well-informed piece on local organic farms, and Benni Berman’s thoroughly enjoyable Boy, Stop Playing With Your Package, a chronicle of the last days of the sorely missed one-man-institution Atom and his Package. Even longtime fans should learn a thing or two. –S.A. (4/15, 9:00 IH*)

recommended THE CLASSIC

Kwak Jae-yong follows up My Sassy Girl — the highest-grossing South Korean comedy in history — with this moody drama about bizarre love triangles in two generations. Ji-hae, a painfully shy college student, stumbles on a box of her mother’s old love letters and discovers that her mother was in love with one man while engaged to his best friend. In the meantime Ji-hae helps her friend woo campus hunk Sang-min, only to realize that she is in love with him herself. It’s the perfect setup for a Cyrano-type comedy, but this is not a funny movie. Kwak presents a melodrama of epic proportions, contrasting the social norms of two eras: the dictatorship of the 1960s and the present day democracy. While Ji-hae’s storyline is less compelling than her mother’s, The Classic examines the way their fates intersect with great sensitivity and visual flair. –Elisa Ludwig (4/15, noon, RE; 4/16, 7:15 TB; 4/18, noon RE)

recommended COME AND GO

João César Monteiro’s body may have grown weak in his last years, but it seems only to have sharpened his erotic imagination: Pent-up fantasies pour forth with shocking, sly force in this, his last film. Stretching nearly three hours, and mainly composed of static, center-focused shots that glow with natural-seeming light, Come and Go alternates what might be thought of as an elderly widower’s daily routine — bus rides, long stretches in the park — with scandalously forthright sexual monologues, exchanged with a series of women Monteiro is ostensibly interviewing for a cleaning lady’s position. At last, long-take aficionados have their Marquis de Sade. –S.A. (4/16, 1:30 RE; 4/19, 4:00 TB; 4/20, 6:15 RE)


COWBOYS & ANGELS In this Irish drama about life in the big city, Shane, a civil-service worker with a secret passion for drawing, moves into a Limerick apartment with Vincent, an acquaintance from high school now enrolled in fashion school. Shane is shy and inexperienced, and Vincent goes out to clubs and picks up guys on a regular basis. It’s not long before Vincent goes all Queer Eye on his awkward roommate, trying to help him adapt to his new surroundings with a makeover. Vincent also introduces Shane to his friend Gemma, and Shane is instantly smitten with her. But Shane takes his newfound coolness a little too far, putting himself into compromising situations with the neighborhood drug dealers. Cowboys and Angels tries to dismantle good boy/bad boy, gay boy/straight boy stereotypes, but lame dialogue and wooden acting keep it from ever passing from the predictable into the particular. –E.L. (4/15, 7:15 PMT; 4/18, 2:45 RE)

EVERGREEN Enid Zentelis’ debut was developed through the Sundance Laboratory, apparently as part of an experiment in expanding Afterschool Specials to feature length, pat morality intact. Kate (Cara Seymour) moves to Washington state to live with her Latvian mother (Lynn Cohen, never meeting an article she doesn’t drop) and try a new start in a makeup factory. In tow is Kate’s teenage daughter Henri (Addie Land), ashamed of her poor family once she takes up with suburban rich kid Chat (Noah Fleiss). Henri is a particularly clueless creation, awed by amenities as if she was raised by wolves. Zentelis’ heavy-handed script trots out the familiar noble-poor versus dysfunctional-rich stereotypes as she slowly traces Henri’s moral awakening. What was that about money and happiness again? –Shaun Brady (4/19, 9:30 IH*; 4/20, 5:00 IH*)

THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS It would seem Lars von Trier doesn’t treat his heroes any better than his actresses. Trier pronounces his mentor Jürgen Leth’s The Perfect Human a perfect film, but that doesn’t stop him from charging Leth to remake the short subject five times over, each time under a different set of ingenious constraints: For the first attempt, no shot may be more than 12 frames long, the questions posed in the original must be answered and the film must be shot in Cuba. Leth’s original is seen only in snippets, which makes it difficult to get a complete grasp of how he’s reworked it, though his inventiveness in navigating Trier’s roadblocks makes it clear why Leth accepted the challenge in the first place. Eventually, though, the movie is more about Trier than about Leth, specifically about his barely concealed desire to destroy his mentor instead of saving him — not surprising, since Trier’s own movies indicate he has trouble differentiating between the two. –S.A. (4/16, 7:45 RE)

HAIR HIGH

Bill Plympton’s fourth animated feature concerns a Rydell-ish ’50s high school populated by rococo-coiffured teen grotesques. Rod and Cherri are the prom royalty-apparent, until Cherri falls in love with her indentured dweeb Spud, and Rod exacts deadly revenge, which will literally come back to haunt him. It’s the stuff of (particularly off-kilter) gothic bubblegum pop, but the plot is not the reason to see or not see Plympton cartoons, which always sound more entertaining than they actually turn out to be. The art is always interesting (edgy, fractured lines; wacky camera angles; weird transmogrifications and scene dissolves) and the voice talent in this one is first-rate (including Dermot Mulroney, Sarah Silverman, Craig Bierko and the Carradines). But does Plympton’s animation for adults always have to be so goddamn juvenile? The first, say, five dick jokes are funny, and then the sixth one’s funny because the joke becomes how many dick jokes there are. Dick jokes number 7 to 30: a little limp. –Ryan Godfrey (4/17, 3:00 PMT*)

recommended A HANGING OFFENSE

Over a succession of empty rooms and unpopulated landscapes, police captain Michûle Varin (Josiane Balasko) recounts the nightmares that plague her as the anniversary of her son’s death approaches. This elegiac opening sets the tone for Hanging Offense, an ostensible police procedural that becomes a somber study of grief and isolation. Investigating an apparent suicide after wrestling with her own depression, Varin is newly sensitive to the cavalier attitudes of her fellow officers; suffering from insomnia, she sleepwalks through life, entering into an affair devoid of emotional involvement. Guillaume Nicloux is so unconcerned with the genre storyline that the film’s action-heavy resolution is almost incomprehensible, while a few quiet moments provide the proper measure of redemption for Varin’s personal story. –S.B. (4/15, 5:15 RE; 4/17, 4:45 RE; 4/18, 7:30 TB)

recommended A HOLY EXPERIMENT

Two long documentaries make up this engrossing (and, again, inconveniently scheduled) Fest Indies program. Chris Boebel and Nick Poppy’s Containment: Life After Three Mile Island returns to Middletown just in time for the recent 25th anniversary of the worst nuclear accident in American history. Many questions still remain frustratingly unresolved, not least how much radiation was actually released into the atmosphere on March 28, 1979. Containment doesn’t provide answers, but it seeks out those who have lived with the uncertainty for more than a generation. Filmon Mebrahtu’s Rencontrer (To Meet) is a vibrant portrait of Philadelphia’s African community that joins six five-minute profiles into a surprisingly evocative whole. The trick is in the title; apparently unstaged meetings between profile subjects link most segments, giving the feel of a story being passed from hand to hand. –S.A. (4/16, 5:00 IH*)

recommended IMELDA

Like The Eyes of Tammy Faye, Imelda captures the uncanny self-delusion that allows the wives of infamous men to abet their abuses of power. Imelda Romualdez wed Ferdinand Marcos in the 1950s, helping him win the presidency, serving as Manila’s governor and a diplomat before both were forced into exile in the 1980s. In candid interviews, Imelda appears sympathetic until she starts insisting that it was her duty to be as glamorous as possible because the poor needed a “star” first lady. Alternating Imelda’s endless blather on beauty, culture and love with footage of the terrorizing military, impoverished villages and gruesome stories of human-rights abuses during the Marcos regime, Ramona Diaz raises the question of who Imelda really is, and whether she is to be believed when she calls herself naive. Imelda won the Cinematography Award at Sundance, and it also deserves top honors from the American Psychological Association. –E.L. (4/16, 5:00 PMT*; 4/17, 7:00 IH*)

IN JUSTICE

23-year-old Philadelphia writer/director Alexander Ballas shot In Justice, his debut feature, in just 14 days with a miniscule budget and an all-volunteer crew. Unfortunately, accomplishment outpaces content, as the film itself is a Fugitive-styled thriller lacking suspense or originality. Frank Miller (Mike Tyler), a Philly cop nominated for city commissioner, is framed for the murder of his wife and left for dead. Surviving the assault, he sets out to avenge her death. Clocking in under 70 minutes, In Justice feels more like a TV cop drama than a feature film, and the locked-down camera and single-take scenes betray its amateur origins. Ballas leaves no doubt that his heart is in this project; hopefully in the future he can find material equal to his enthusiasm. -S.B. (4/18, 9:30 IH*)


recommended ORWELL ROLLS IN HIS GRAVE

“What you want in a media system … is ostensible diversity that conceals actual uniformity.” That’s not Rupert Murdoch, but Joseph Goebbels, formulating the best strategy for keeping an information-hungry populace in line. Robert Kane Pappas’ documentary doesn’t exactly accuse modern conglomerates of promulgating a fascist state, but hints that the differences aren’t as deep as we might like to think. As media critic Robert McChesney says, “Had Nicaragua had an election like [the American presidential race of 2000], the very people who won this election would have insisted we invade.” The argument is blunt, the onscreen graphics cheesy, and the film commits the oft-repeated sin of acting as if 1984 was the only book George Orwell ever wrote. Still, it’s important viewing, not least for anyone who couldn’t get into The Corporation. –S.A. (4/15, 5:00 IH*; 4/19, 7:15 IH*)

recommendedOTAKU UNITE!

“Otaku” refers to obsessed fans, a derogatory term in Japan but proudly co-opted by American devotees of anime and manga, Japanese animation and comic books. Otaku Unite! provides an overview of anime in the U.S., from 3rd-generation tapes swapped by underground networks to exposure via late-70s English-dubbed TV syndication and eventual growth into a cottage industry. Philadelphia filmmaker Eric Bresler approaches his subjects with good-natured humor, refraining from mockery even when interviewing middle-aged men dressed as schoolgirls. The reliance on material culled from conventions, however, maintains an insular perspective; there is little attempt to provide any real-world context. The one instance where Bresler does venture outside the convention hall offers a fascinating glimpse into the desperate need that both drives and isolates these most obsessed of fans. -S.B. (4/17, 4:45 IH*

recommended PICCADILLY

Should Anna May Wong’s star power ever be doubted, compare the moments in E.A. Dupont’s 1929 film when she’s on screen with those when she isn’t. Elevated from a nightclub scullery to its dancefloor after a private “audition” with owner Jameson Thomas, Wong’s Shosho quickly muscles out old flame Gilda Gray, but her success not surprisingly proves her downfall. If the movie’s message is essentially conservative, its opulent style is anything but, signaling its desire, just like Shosho’s, to rewrite the rules. A restored print is shown with live accompaniment by Don Kinnier. –S.A. (4/17, 5:30 PMT*)


PLEASE TEACH ME ENGLISH

Na Young-ju (Lee Na-yeong), an awkward and introverted government worker, is forced by her office to enroll in an English-language course, where she falls for Moon-su (Jang Hyeok), a smooth-talking shoe salesman with eyes for their Australian instructor (Angela Kelly). All the pieces are in place for a standard-issue romantic comedy, but along the way director Kim Sung-su laces the narrative with a martial-arts video-game parody, animated characters and comic-book thought balloons. Fairly typical of recent Korean comedy, Please Teach Me English is unrelentingly silly and wears thin over the course of its excessive 118 minutes. Lee and Jang turn in charmingly broad performances but cannot sustain the momentum once the film transitions from over-the-top laughs to cloying sentimentality. –S.B. (4/16, 12:00 RE; 4/17, 7:15 TB; 4/20, 5:00 TB)

RECONSTRUCTION

Any doubts about the paucity of last year’s Cannes offerings should be settled by the fact that this pale, pretentious Dutch entry took the Caméra d’Or for best first feature. Love stories multiply and overlap, with director Christoffer Boe using satellite-cam shots and bursts of static to liven the mood, but the grade-school self-consciousness (“it’s all a movie, dude!”) is instantly tiresome. –S.A. (4/17, 2:45 RE; 4/19, 7:15 RE)

SEVEN DAYS, SEVEN NIGHTS

Filmed in Havana without Castro’s permission, the story behind Joel Cano’s film is undoubtedly more interesting than the film itself. There’s potential for a grand, Almodóvar-style semitragic farce about a loosely connected group of Cuban women in the waning days of communism, but Seven Days is instead a mishmash of barely related scenes that don’t add up to much, and don’t even make much sense. None of the characters is particularly likeable, or even tolerable –the effect is base misogyny on the order of Dr. T and the Women, without Altman’s gift for structuring the unstructurable. “You don’t understand at all. I don’t even understand,” one character complains. That makes three of us. –R.G. (4/15, 9:30 TB; 4/17, noon TB; 4/18, 4:45 RE)

16 YEARS OF ALCOHOL

Former Skids frontman Richard Jobson’s writing and directing debut is obviously a labor of love; the story of Frankie, an Edinburgh yobbo trying to go straight, it’s dedicated to (and presumably based on) the life of Francis, Jobson’s late brother. Kevin McKidd (Trainspotting‘s Tommy ) is strong as the well-meaning but violence-prone Frankie, and Susan Lynch and Laura Fraser are terrific as the women who try to help him stay sober, responsible and functional. Despite great performances and lush DV lensing from cinematographer John Rhodes, the film is boggy and uneven. Even the brief 102-minute runtime is too long by 20 minutes, and Frankie’s obtrusive voiceover, meant to be elegiac, comes off as an unintentional parody of Auden’s “Funeral Blues” (“Stop all the clocks,” etc.). What’s wrong with my watch? –R.G. (4/15, 7:00 RE; 4/17, 2:15 RE)

recommended SPARE PARTS

Damjan Kozole’s fictional account of smuggling immigrants across the Slovenian-Italian border is simple and brutally effective. Over and over, the human traffickers (one of whom roundly condemns drug importers as evil and immoral), load up a truck with Africans, Asians and assorted Slavs willing to pony up 1,000 euros apiece in a desperate bid for a better life in the E.U. Then, always on the lookout for police, they drive their human chattel to the sporadically guarded international border. Sometimes the refugees are caught and deported; sometimes they die en route. The lucky ones that make it safely into Europe are likely to become prostitutes and black-market organ donors. It’s horrifying business (the film could serve as a prequel to Dirty Pretty Things) and the smugglers whose story this is are not romanticized; they’re mercenaries performing an awful service — a service for which there is far too much demand. –R.G. (4/17, 7:45 TB; 4/18, 2:30 TB)


STRAYED

Overlapping provocatively with The Time of the Wolf, André Téchiné’s quietly intense drama concerns a mother (Emmanuelle Béart) and her two children fleeing a real-life near-apocalypse: WWII. It’s June 1940, and Béart and les gosses scour the French countryside, looking for a place to hide from the rapidly advancing Nazis. Yvan (Gaspard Ulliel), a taciturn but worldly young man whose jailbird past is obvious long before it’s explicitly revealed, takes them provisionally under his wing, but Béart remains suspicious. The social and sexual tension (Téchiné’s specialty) mounts, but somehow the whole feels distended, less prepossessing than it should be. –S.A. (4/20, 7:15 PMT)

A TALE OF TWO SISTERS

Already en route to a Dreamworks remake, A Tale of Two Sisters is the latest post-Ring Asian ghost story to reach these shores, this time hailing from Korea. Two young girls (Im Su-jeong, Moon Geun-young) return home after an extended absence, apparently a stay in a mental institution, to live with their father (Kim Gap-soo) and new stepmother (Yeom Jung-ah). As the familial relationships become increasingly tense, strange occurrences and manifestations bring to light the events that initially tore this family apart. Writer-director Ji-woon Kim indulges in the game of plot-twist one-upmanship that has become obligatory for the genre, but has an unerring eye for composition and color and establishes a genuinely creepy atmosphere. –S.B. (4/16, 10:00 TB; 4/17, 7:30, RE)

recommended A TALKING PICTURE

Ninety-five-year-old Manoel de Oliveira’s newest film is Russian Ark in reverse, albeit without the one-shot gimmickry. Heading east from Oliveira’s native Portugal, a history professor (Leonor Silveira) reverses the march of Western civilization; stop by stop, the monologues she delivers to her young daughter retrace history’s steps, while a series of additional narrators turn up to supplement her accounts. Once the movie, if not the ship, has reached its destination, the film switches gears: Its second half is composed almost entirely of a discussion between the ship’s captain (John Malkovich) and his table of honored grandes dames, played by Catherine Deneuve, Irene Papas and Stefania Sandrelli. Each converses in her own language and yet is understood by the others, but Silveira’s Portuguese remains incomprehensible to them, prefiguring a blunt ending which might reflect on Portugal’s involvement with the European Union (or, er, might not). With its long stretches of conversation, the movie is aptly named, but never uncinematic; Oliveira’s composition and rhythmic sense is unerring. –S.A. (4/18, 7:15 RE; 4/20, 4:00 RE)

THE LEGEND OF THE EVIL LAKE

Heavily influenced by epic Hong Kong fantasy films of the eighties, Korean director Lee Kwang-Hoon’s Legend of the Evil Lake hits all the mythic archetypes: an ancient curse held at bay by a magic sword; palace intrigue and betrayal; a royal love triangle resulting in a peasant girl’s death and resurrection as avenging spirit. Lacking the delirious imagination of HK classics like Zu: Warriors of Magic Mountain and A Chinese Ghost Story, or even the quirkiness which distinguishes much recent Korean cinema, Legend still manages to be wildly entertaining for its tightly packed 92 minutes. Besides a slight over-reliance on CGI in place of martial arts and swordplay, especially at the climax, undiscerning genre fans should be pleased. -S.B. (4/9, 5:15 TB; 4/10, 10:30 TB; 4/12, 5:00 PMT)

THE TESSERACT

Lame attempt at an existential non-genre thriller by director Oxide Pang (The Eye, Bangkok Dangerous), filming in English for the first time. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Saskia Reeves are foreigners doing time in a Bangkok flophouse: He, a drug dealer waiting on a deal; she, a budding filmmaker interviewing street children. The plot twists desperately but only ties itself in knots, and the practically arbitrary insertion of gunplay indicates that Pang isn’t yet ready to make the leap. –S.A. (4/16, 10:00 RE; 4/19, 10:00 TB)

THE TIME OF THE WOLF

If The Piano Teacher didn’t make Michael Haneke’s control fetish abundantly clear, this abstract, airless post-apocalyptic tale ought to do the trick. Isabelle Huppert re-ups as a mother guiding her children through the French countryside in the wake of an unexplained disaster which has quickly brought out the animal in her countrymen; an opening murder is filmed with the passive remove of a nature documentary. Though Code Unknown showed Haneke’s ability to balance dark and light, The Time of the Wolf‘s monolithically dour outlook feels forced, not forthright, though Huppert and Olivier Gourmet’s performances prevent it from being another Dogville. –S.A. (4/16, 5:15 RE; 4/20, 7:30 TB)

THE TULSE LUPER SUITCASES: THE MOAB STORY

It’s the grandest (if not the greatest) of Peter Greenaway’s many grand conceits: a vast multimedia picaresque of the atomic age, reconstructed courtesy of the contents of the abandoned luggage of writer, explorer and experimental filmmaker Tulse Luper (an anagram of “Peter’s lulu”?). The Moab Story depicts merely the first three of 16 episodes (and 21 of 96 suitcases) in Tulse’s life: as a Welsh boy of 10 after WWI, in 1934 on holiday in the wilds of southeastern Utah, and then working in Antwerp in 1938 — occasions marked by sex, imprisonment, humiliation and Mormons. This is a movie about uranium? Greenaway’s hypercubist approach — multiple, evanescent frames; layers of noise, music, dialogue and narration; text and numbers as formal visual elements — is by turns hypnotic and numbing; revelatory and infuriating. Dramatically, there’s nothing much holding up all that artifice, but that seems to be the point. Greenaway is either the vanguard of the future of cinema, or its most baroque fillip. –R.G. (4/15, 4:30 PMT)

recommendedUNKNOWN SOLDIER

First-time writer-director Ferenc Toth makes the most of limited resources to produce this surprisingly nuanced look at the roots of homelessness and crime in inner-city youth. Ellison (Carl Louis), evicted from his Harlem apartment after his father’s sudden death, falls in with small-time gangsters after spending time on the streets. The script rebukes popular assumptions regarding the homeless (Why don’t they get a job? Where are their friends?) without ever resorting to didacticism or finger pointing — Ellison’s stubborn pride is as responsible for his problems as are his circumstances. Toth also manages to sidestep dramatic cliches, avoiding the gangsta-film traps into which he could easily have fallen. While suffering from the usual indie-film flaws, Unknown Soldier overcomes with a political statement that never fails as human drama. –S.B. (4/16, 10:00 IH*; 4/18, 5:00 IH*)

recommended WHEEL OF TIME

Werner Herzog’s Dalai Lama doc has a lyrical beauty comparable to his Lessons of Darkness. Humbled by his subject, though not over-reverential to it, Herzog narrates some passages and lets other long stretches speak for themselves, whether it’s pilgrims making hundred-mile journeys by prostrating themselves at each step, or a near-riot that breaks out as Tibetan monks throw lucky dumplings to a crowd. Unlike the recent Cry of the Snow Lion, Wheel of Time doesn’t treat Tibetan Buddhism as a spiritual accessory, but allows a much fuller picture of Tibetan life to shine through. –S.A. (4/16, 7:45 TB; 4/17, noon RE)

YOU CAN’T STOP THE MURDERS

In the tiny Australian backwater of West Village, a biker, construction worker, sailor, cowboy and Indian have been murdered, their bodies rearranged to spell “YMCA.” Co-written by its stars, three Aussie comedians, Murders happily manages to avoid the kitsch and gross-out humor suggested by its premise. Unfortunately, most other comedic opportunity is squandered as well – the Village People connection isn’t raised until the final minutes, and the trigger-happy Sydney detective (Anthony Mir, who also directed) is an anachronistic Miami Vice parody. Gary Eck largely carries the film with a deadpan performance as the unassuming constable concerned as much with winning a line-dancing championship and wooing the local anchorwoman as with solving the murders. What results is an amiably goofy if not particularly memorable comedy. -S.B. (4/9, 9:45 RE; 4/12, 12:15 RE)

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