Reel World

Charlotte Rampling's alluring aloofness is on display in two upcoming films

The Plow That Broke the Plains Some years ago, Gunnar Madsen -- Berkeley composer, record producer, and co-founder of the a cappella group the Bobs -- shot a series of training videos for his father's garbage company. Madsen had no illusions that his work for the Palo Alto Sanitation Co. made him a filmmaker. But it sure came in handy when his brother asked him to come to Russia and make a documentary about the remarkable farming commune he'd helped found, where developmentally disabled people work and live alongside volunteers and their families.

"It's important in music and film, more so than in a novel, to have an arc," Madsen says. "I can do an eight-minute industrial video, sure. But a 45-minute film is akin to writing a symphony. The biggest challenge was the writing: "How do I make the voice sound right?'" Madsen opted to narrate the film in the first person, rather than use the detached voice-over endemic to educational films. Then, while he was editing the film, Madsen happened to hear director Norman Jewison's DVD commentary about scenes he left out of The Hurricane. Something clicked, and Madsen realized he had to cut some powerful sequences that didn't quite fit. Svetlana Village: The Camphill Experience in Russia, a genuinely inspiring and unsentimental portrait, has its world premiere at Berkeley's Fine Arts Cinema at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 26. The screening is a benefit for Svetlana Village, with both Madsen brothers in attendance.

Max, Mon Amour "People say, "You take all those strange roles.' I'm entirely to blame for everything I've done," Charlotte Rampling says with a cheery laugh. "I was lucky enough from a very early age to have a choice in all sorts of different types of films. You can do that more in Europe, certainly, than you can in America." While younger filmgoers might not know the British-born, French-educated actress' edgy work in The Damned and The Night Porter, Rampling's alluring aloofness is on display in a pair of new films opening soon.

For the widow who denies her husband's disappearance in Under the Sand, Rampling says that director François Ozon wanted to show "a run-of-the-mill woman washing up, Hoovering, and all that. I said, "I don't think we see eye-to-eye.' Then he said, "I want you to be very accessible, a very everyday woman, without losing your mystery.' That seemed quite a good deal. I rather prefer cinema which sublimates slightly the character, which keeps people guessing about -- about what? -- about the depth of the person, about where she actually is." Anyway, Rampling adds, "I don't know how to be an everyday person. It's not something I've ever done." Under the Sand opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center and the Shattuck (see Page 179 for a full review), and Rampling's other new film, Signs & Wonders, opens July 6 at the Lumiere.

Music Box The Jewish Film Festival will inaugurate Saturday afternoon screenings in its July program. This change might not seem like a big deal, since 78 percent of the secular fest's audience do not belong to a synagogue, and even the Jerusalem Cinematheque has shows on the Sabbath. But it is a sensitive matter in the Orthodox community. ... After a successful one-week run, Jay Rosenblatt's short films will remain at the Roxie with weekend matinees at noon. ... Director Chris Blum will be in the house when the Rafael begins an exclusive one-week revival of Big Time, Tom Waits' delightful 1988 performance film, on May 24. Some rare Waits clips are on the bill, but don't expect the troubadour extraordinaire (a habitué of the theater) to take the stage.

 
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