- This Week
12.15.09 - 8:25 pm |
Film listings are edited by Cheryl Eddy. Reviewers are Kimberly Chun, Michelle Devereaux, Max Goldberg, Dennis Harvey, Johnny Ray Huston, Louis Peitzman, Lynn Rapoport, Ben Richardson, Matt Sussman, and Laura Swanbeck. The film intern is Fernando F. Croce. For rep house showtimes, see Rep Clock. For first-run showtimes, see Movie Guide.
Avatar Special effects master and woeful screenplay-penner James Cameron returns, for better and worse. (2:42)
Broken Embraces Pedro Almodóvar has always dabbled in the Hitchcockian tropes of uxoricide, betrayal, and double-identity, but with Broken Embraces he has attained a polyglot, if slightly mimicking, fluency with the language of Hollywood noir. A story within a story and a movie within a movie, Embraces begins in the present day with middle-aged Catalan Harry Caine (Lluís Homar), a blind screenwriter who takes time between his successful writing career to seduce and bed young women sympathetic to his disability. "Everything's already happened to me," he explains to his manager, Judit (Blanca Portillo). "All that's left is to enjoy life." But this life of empty pleasures is brought to a sudden halt when local business magnate Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez) has died; soon after, Ernesto Jr. (Rubén Ochandiano), who has renamed himself Ray X, visits Caine with an unusual request. The action retreats 14 years when Caine was a young (and visually abled) director named Mateo Blanco; he encounters a breathtaking femme fatale, Lena (Penelope Cruz) an actress-turned-prostitute named Severine, turned secretary-turned-trophy wife of Ernesto Martel when she appears to audition for his latest movie. If all of the narrative intricacies and multiplicitous identities in Broken Embraces appear a bit intimidating at first glance, it is because this is the cinema of Almodóvar taken to a kind of generic extreme. As with all of the director's post-'00 films, which are often referred to as Almodóvar's "mature" pictures, there is a microscopic attention to narrative development combined with a frenzied sub-plotting of nearly soap-operatic proportions. But, in Embraces, formalism attains such prominence that one might speculate the director is simply going through the motions. The effect is a purposely loquacious and overly-dramatized performance that pleasures itself as much by setting up the plot as unraveling it. For the complete version of this review, visit www.sfbg.com. (2:08) Clay. (Erik Morse)
Did You Hear About the Morgans? A married couple (Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker) move from Manhattan to a small town after witnessing a murder. (1:48)
In Search of Beethoven After the success of his In Search of Mozart, director Phil Grabsky applies his truth-seeking documentary template to Ludwig van Beethoven, a composer so genius he continued creating (and to a lesser extent, performing) even as he succumbed to deafness. Still photos, paintings, interviews with historians and musicologists, and visits to actual Beethoven haunts, along with dramatic readings of the maestro's letters (by actor David Dawson) and stern narration (by actor Juliet Stevenson, who also loaned her pipes to Mozart), flesh out this biographical portrait. But its most stirring moments come courtesy of its musical performances (by seasoned professionals) of Moonlight Sonata and other notable works. As the doc proves, there's no better insight into Beethoven's tumultuous, sometimes tortured life than the notes he left behind.