★★★ out of four stars
Unrated by the MPAA.
"If you plan revenge, dig two graves," the saying goes. This cool, tense Austrian thriller, a 2009 Oscar nominee for best foreign film, follows a Ukrainian hooker and her petty criminal boyfriend as they try to escape their dead-end lives. Freedom seems to be just one small-town bank job away, until a local policeman wanders across their path. The would-be robber finds a home near the rural cop and his lonely wife, and a psychological cat-and-mouse game of exquisite tension pulls them into a dangerous triangle. The film opens as a crime melodrama, writhes through surprising twists and turns and deepens into a reflection on guilt and revenge. The movie digs deep into its characters' emotions, with enough imagination to show us a policeman drowning in grief over an accidental shooting and a criminal who vents his aggression by creating life rather than causing death. It ends with a rumbling, symbolic clap of summer thunder that's more nerve-racking than a car chase and shootout.
★ out of four stars
Unrated by the MPAA.
On the surface, an understated family drama. Dig deeper and the film, commissioned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the French art gallery Musée d'Orsay, becomes a consideration of France's dimming role as a center of art and culture in a fast-changing world. Regal Edith Scob plays a matron divvying up her estate in anticipation of her death. She owns many valuable artworks collected and created by her uncle, a renowned painter. Her heirs debate maintaining the collection, selling it piecemeal or finding a museum to buy it and display it as a set. With their globe-trotting business affairs, they have only a slight sentimental attachment to the objects and the lovely country estate; selling off his third would give one young fellow a good down payment on an apartment in China. While the ideas are worth considering, director Olivier Assayas moves the story at an escargot's pace, and the characters are gossamer thin. The Musee would have been better served by ordering up a straight documentary instead of funding this dull rewrite of "The Cherry Orchard."