Wednesday, May 6, 4:15 and 9:30 p.m., Kabuki

Moment of Impact (U.S.A., 1998)
The body as battleground is the subject of Julia Loktev's absorbing documentary, shot in the rare medium of black-and-white video. In 1989, her father Leonard was struck by a car and left a paraplegic incapable of speech or much movement. Inexplicably rejected for home health care, Leonard is watched over by his increasingly unraveling wife Larisa. Moment of Impact shows every grueling detail of the Loktevs' lives, from Larisa giving her husband a bath that drags on for two hours to Julia's unsettling demands that her father speak. There are frequent bizarre touches and plenty of gallows humor. But much of the film is taken up with philosophical conversations between Julia and Larisa, both trying to make sense of a life narrowed to the vanishing point by a single unforeseen moment. (Gary Morris)

Friday, May 1, 4:30 p.m., Kabuki; Sunday, May 3, 7:30 p.m., Kabuki; Wednesday, May 6, 9:15 p.m., PFA

Motel Cactus (South Korea, 1997)
Not even the candy-colored, crazily kinetic cinematography -- done by Christopher Doyle -- can make this aimless directorial debut by Park Ki-Yong come to life. It's set in one room of the titular motel, as a procession of four young and attractive heterosexual couples check in, have sex, moon and mope around, have sex, and check out. It's not like any Korean film you've ever seen but, thanks to the wild, hand-held camera style, it is like a lot of recent Hong Kong films. Doyle's work is pretty much the whole show here, which makes it worth at least a look. (Tod Booth)

Friday, May 1, 4 p.m., Kabuki; Tuesday, May 5, 9:45 p.m., Kabuki

Murmur of Youth (Taiwan, 1997)
Lin Cheng-sheng's workload -- he has two films in this year's fest, had one in last year's, and has been acting as well -- doesn't seem to be having a negative effect. He's one of the great new Taiwanese filmmakers. Murmur of Youth is a delicate, meticulous study of two very different young women, each named Mei-li, who meet as ticket sellers in a movie theater. The film is remarkably intimate, thanks in no small part to the extraordinary performances of the two girls. It's a pure, crystalline dose of urban teen-age girl life, in all its charm and ennui. Definitely a festival highlight. (Tod Booth)

Friday, May 1, 9:15 p.m., Kabuki; Monday, May 4, 12:45 p.m., Kabuki; Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m., PFA

Off Season (Germany, 1997)
This German documentary about life in what's left of Yugoslavia employs a conventional "talking heads" format, as angry Croats and Muslims dicker about what to do with the ruined city of Mostar. The answer is "not much," as the city settles into seething east and west blocs akin to Berlin's own divide in the Cold War. Shot between 1994, two months after the last house-to-house battles, and 1996, when a U.N. administrator struggling to reunify Mostar finally despairs, this film would be instructive to diplomats, strike negotiators, and marriage counselors -- it'll be grindingly depressing to everyone else. Directed by Pepe Danquart and Mirjam Quinte. (Gregg Rickman)

Sunday, May 3, 12:30 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, May 7, 1:15 p.m., Kabuki

Once We Were Strangers (U.S.A., 1997)
This breezy, lighthearted comedy owes a lot to Woody Allen with its Manhattan backdrop, jazzy score, and intertwining tales of romantic travail. Rather than focusing on the well-heeled denizens of the Upper West Side that Allen is partial to, director Emanuele Crialese tracks a couple of striving young immigrants as they make their way through a romantic thicket. If Crialese does not yet have Allen's mastery of interweaving parallel story lines, his fresh first feature is nonetheless packed with gentle delights, from Antonio (Vincenzo Amato), an Italian king of love given to such pronouncements as "Beautiful women are for men with no imagination," to the chain-smoking bartender who sprays seltzer water on an overheated couple making out at the bar. (Sura Wood)

Thursday, April 30, 7 p.m., Kabuki; Friday, May 1, 1:30 p.m., Kabuki; Saturday, May 2, 7 p.m., Lark

Perfect Circle (Bosnia/France/Netherlands, 1997)
Bosnia's a blank for most of us, but director Ademir Kenovic brings it to life in this striking feature, shot in Sarajevo starting in 1992 and finished five years later. The plot is classic neo-realist: Against a wartime background, aging poet Hamza is abandoned by his wife and daughter, but finds another human connection when he adopts two urchins who've been bombed out of their home. Kenovic has a keen eye and his imagery is most powerful when it plays off what is obviously real: a bus with a huge hole in it careening through the town, a wounded dog with part of a wagon attached to its back racing down an empty street, a crowd of crazed citizens tearing down a small birch tree in a frenzy of self-destruction. (Gary Morris)

Wednesday, April 29, 1 p.m., Kabuki; Thursday, April 30, 9:15 p.m., PFA; Friday, May 1, 6:45 p.m., Kabuki; Sunday, May 3, 7 p.m., Lark

Season Five & short (Iran/France, 1997)
This excellent Iranian film traces a feud that refuses to die after a wedding feast involving two warring clans is disrupted by the groom's cold feet. The jilted bride (the wonderful Roya Nonahali) takes charge of her family's revenge. When the groom starts offering villagers rides to the big city in a shiny new van, one suspects political allegory is on director Rafi Pitts' mind, given comments about the land's financial potential and the symbolic role of Western-built transport. But the heart of the tale is the feud's emotional toll, which plays out in surprising and at times quite funny ways. The fact that Pitts tells his story with harmonious mastery of screen composition and dramatic pacing helps enormously. Screens with a beautiful slow-motion sunrise shot by Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami, The Birth of Light. (Gregg Rickman)

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