Film Capsule Reviews

All Hell Let Loose (Sweden, 2002)

In this prickly domestic drama that veers wildly between inspiration and cliché, the internal tensions of an Iranian family living in Stockholm are thrown into sharp relief when the prodigal daughter returns from America for her sister's wedding. Actress-turned-writer-and-director Susan Taslimi peppers her knowing tale of rebellion and assimilation with sharp comic moments, making the setting both specific and universal. The freshest bits belong to the highly sexual and enthusiastically modern women, who scheme, scrap, and lie to wrest every bit of autonomy they can from the bombastic head of the household. Yes, the father is the heavy, although he gives welcome hints of being ready to join the 21st century -- until, that is, a desperate, misguided attempt to maintain his patriarchal authority explodes in disaster. The chilling nuptial meltdown he precipitates doesn't evoke My Big Fat Greek Wedding so much as last year's superior Israeli entry, Late Marriage. (Michael Fox)

Sunday, April 20, 9:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Sunday, April 27, noon, AMC Kabuki

Blissfully Yours (Thailand, 2002)

For a movie by a filmmaker whose work has been described as "indescribable" by a number of critics, this picture contains plenty of things that can be described -- but descriptions barely approach its effect on someone who actually watches it. Young Thai factory worker Roong has had a hard day, so her Burmese illegal-immigrant friend Min takes her on a long drive out to the Thai-Burmese border for a picnic. This idyllic jungle by a stream is the setting for the rest of the movie -- a paradise of bliss in which the characters pick berries, wade in the waters, and make love, but can't banish worries about work, health, and the future from their minds, much like the red ants that crawl into their food and their shirts. The sex doesn't seem particularly blissful, either. This second feature by Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Mysterious Object at Noon) continues his experimentation with semi-documentary narrative and evokes moments of unfulfilled desire for a man who must keep moving and can't be touched, both figuratively and literally. (Frako Loden)

Friday, April 18, 7 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Sunday, April 20, 6:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Durval Discos (Brazil, 2002)

In Anna Muylaert's breezy, unpretentious answer to High Fidelity, the owner of a São Paulo record shop carries only vinyl, and only, apparently, the best '70s Brazilian pop -- of which, the soundtrack mildly reminds us, there's plenty. The fortysomething Durval (a lanky, big-haired Ary Franta, perfectly cast) doesn't seem to mind living as an anachronism any more than he minds living with his pushy mother (Etty Fraser), until they get stuck looking after an energetic 5-year-old girl. Notwithstanding the trio's occasional impromptu dance parties, tension mounts when Durval's mother stubbornly spoils the girl and, upon discovering that she'd been kidnapped, stalls Durval's efforts to involve the authorities. Here Muylaert flips to the story's B-side, yielding melodic runs of dark humor and absurdity. Her method, as analog as an old record, isn't slick; the tone is shifty, but nimbly so, rather like the affable tunes she uses for punctuation. (Jonathan Kiefer)

Saturday, April 19, 9:45 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Tuesday, April 22, 4:30 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Eat, Sleep, No Women (Germany, 2002)

When the elephant scratches his ear, what happens to the gnats on his back? All sorts of tiny yet momentous things, muses German journalist-cum-filmmaker Heiner Stadler, especially when the elephant is the United States and the itch is Afghanistan. This unsatisfying pseudo-documentary globe-hops from a Pakistani sign painter to a French saxophonist to Brazilian gold miners to an Egyptian pop star, weaving fact and invention into an ambitious but nebulous survey of the global village on Oct. 7, 2001 (the day America opened war on the Taliban). Professionally shot and edited, and held together for a while by Stadler's ironic, coy narration, the film sustains a nice tension until it dawns on you after about half an hour that no insights or connections beyond the most tenuous or banal are in the offing. Aiming to bridge the distance between first-person essay and objective journalism, Eat, Sleep skitters into the abyss. (Michael Fox)

Monday, April 21, 9:45 p.m., Pacific Film Archive; Wednesday, April 23, 1 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Saturday, April 26, 1:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki

Fear and Trembling (France, 2003)

Amelie, a young Belgian woman (Sylvie Testud) not to be confused with the perky heroine of the recent French blockbuster, gets a job as an interpreter in a Japanese megacorporation in Alain Corneau's film of an autobiographical novel. Violating all of the corporation's hierarchical rules is a disaster for this spunky do-gooder, who runs afoul of a string of bosses, the lot of them stupid, petty, and/or sadistic. In particular, Testud is caught up in a love-hate relationship with her immediate superior, Fubuki (Kaori Tsuji), for whom Western-style sisterhood has no charms, even as Amelie moons over her "fiery beauty." A workplace comedy with appeal to beleaguered underlings of any culture, Fear and Trembling presents a particularly harsh portrait of the Japanese corporate world, where "to make the screaming stop I'd invade Manchuria." (Gregg Rickman)

Saturday, April 19, 9:15 p.m., AMC Kabuki; Monday, April 21, 4 p.m., AMC Kabuki

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