⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for some language and nudity.
Theater: St. Anthony Main.
The anxious eco-thriller “Night Moves” plays like a saboteur’s procedural. It opens with a methodically detailed build-up to an act of violence against an Oregon reservoir. We come to know resentful farmhand Josh (Jesse Eisenberg), adventure-seeking rich girl Dena (Dakota Fanning) and mysterious ex-Marine Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard) primarily through their actions. They unite to blow up a salmon-killing dam, will separate after the mission, and share as little information about themselves as possible. The personalities emerge slowly, like photos in developing fluid. Character revelations come from how they behave under pressure — Dena is surprisingly suave buying fertilizer for explosives — and the internecine squabbles that inevitably erupt as the team gets wise to nihilism’s dark side. The fear-clenched Eisenberg, who specializes in sweetly intellectual young men, here exposes seams of desperation painful to behold. When he freezes at the sound of unfamiliar tires on the gravel road to his home, you’re likely to break out in a sympathetic flop sweat. Director Kelly Reichardt puts her trust in simplicity and naturalism; her coolly prowling camera and Jeff Grace’s music amp up the tension as everything goes gut-twistingly wrong. An 11th-hour confrontation flirts with, but doesn’t quite topple into, melodrama.
THE DANCE OF REALITY
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Nudity and onscreen urination. In subtitled Spanish.
Poetic. Brilliant. Grandiose. Lunatic. You need words like these to describe the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, the eccentric Mexican filmmaker whose surreal films (“El Topo,” “The Holy Mountain” and “Santa Sangre”) and overpowering visual style back up his mythic status. His first film in 25 years, “The Dance of Reality” is a picaresque, bizarre but warmhearted autobiographical reverie of his childhood in Chile. Little Alejandro (Jeremias Herskovits) is tormented by his father Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky), who wants the boy to be a stoic warrior, and cosseted by his full-bosomed mother, Sara (Pamela Flores), who sings her dialogue opera-style. All the world seems to him to be a cycle of suffering and relief, endlessly repeated. Jaime is a caricature of a tough guy, relieving himself on his radio when he disagrees with the news reports, and endlessly inventing ways of toughening up his weakling son. With the country in the grip of an economic crisis, Jaime resolves to assassinate the dictator, abandoning his family and hijacking the story with his tragicomic misadventures. There are plenty of Fellini-esque touches here, with clowns, half-nude holy men, a mob of furious amputees, and a view of the world as a sinful, cruel, comic and astounding place. The story is patchy and stitched together, but Jodorowsky’s images can be stunning, and his ability to acknowledge pain without being depressing is a rare gift. The film is a wayward dream but well worth embracing.
ON MY WAY (ELLE S’EN VA)
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: Lots of smoking.
Theater: Lagoon. In subtitled French.
Bettie, a onetime beauty queen who only went as far as the regionals, hits the road in a not-new Mercedes station wagon with just one outfit, her purse and a phone. Lending a tremendous boost to this familiar setup is the fact that Bettie is played by Catherine Deneuve. Now sixtysomething and no longer svelte, Deneuve probably hates her neck, but she remains gorgeous and sports a terrific swirl of highlighted blond hair. More, she conveys in every scene a convincing and touching openness to life as experienced in the moment. Widowed years earlier, Bettie lives in an old house with her crabby mother and runs a bustling provincial restaurant. She’s enough of a French-style romantic to be very upset when the married man she’s dating dumps her and his wife for a much younger woman. Her aimless drive-about is at first random, leading her to brief encounters with an old farmer, a bunch of rowdy gal pals at a small-town bar, and a scary wife beater at a rest-stop diner. When her angry, estranged daughter asks for help, Bettie agrees to baby-sit with Charly, the bratty/adorable 11-year-old grandson she barely knows. Her mission to deliver Charly to his grandfather sets up the dramedy’s joyous ending that, bien sur, involves a wonderful big outdoor meal with wine, family and friends in the French countryside.
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: R for nude sexual images.
“Anna” is a solid if unsurprising thriller about John Washington (Mark Strong), a “memory detective” on a tricky case. In the near future, John, a psychic who has suffered the loss of his wife, is eased back into the work by the case of a rich teen (Taissa Farmiga) who has stopped eating. John revisits her memories with her and solves that problem in a flash. But Anna is a compelling subject, with nightmarish stories about her life with her mom and stepdad, and John agrees to delve deeper. First-time director Jorge Dorado learned his chops on the sets of movies by Guillermo del Toro and Pedro Almodovar, and he wrings as much suspense out of the memory flashbacks as he can. Strong is a compelling lead, and is subtle enough to get across John’s rising paranoia without chewing the scenery. But what little suspense the script conjures up is frittered away in the performances, particularly Farmiga’s.
ROGER MOORE, McClatchy News Service