Really Big Show

The Miami Film Festival goes global

"And we can only grow," says Guillemet. "It's all for the audience, you know. For the filmmakers too. But most of all for the people of Miami."

Modigliani (Feb. 4 at Gusman, followed by a glitzy opening night bash): The big event, Mick Davis's over-the-top, chutzpah-fueled biopic starring Miami's own Andy Garcia as the soulful, tortured Modernist icon. The art direction alone would make this picture a must-see, and Garcia's intense and disarmingly exposed performance as Modigliani is already cooking up both controversy and a healthy buzz about the underrated Cuban actor.

More film feast (from left): Red Dust, Ladies in Lavender, Diary of a Provincial Girl
More film feast (from left): Red Dust, Ladies in Lavender, Diary of a Provincial Girl

Liv Ullmann: The Norwegian goddess is honored not just once but three times at the MIFF. Sure to be the most touching is a

(Feb. 8 at Gusman) where the actress, director, and human rights champion will be on hand in person for an evening of clips and chat about her brilliant career so far. As a bonus, the festival is scheduling a special tribute screening of Ingmar Berman's 2003 Saraband, which will give local film buffs a rare chance to experience this devastating sequel to the epic Scenes from a Marriage reuniting Ullmann and Erland Josephson (Feb. 8 at Gusman, following the tribute). There also is a special screening of Faithless, a Bergman-esque essay of relationships and show business directed by Ullmann. Starring Lena Endre, Thomas Hanzon, and Kirster Henrikson (Feb. 7 at Cosford).

Ladies in Lavender (Feb. 10 at Gusman) and The Edukators (Feb. 8 and 12 at the Regal South Beach, Feb. 10 at the Intracoastal): These two pictures from two different countries have little in common except for this: They both star Daniel Brühl, the breakout German dynamo who charmed audiences at last year's festival with Goodbye Lenin and is now well on the way to international stardom. An entry in the World Cinema Competition, Hans Weintgartner's The Edukators is not quite the postmod Jules et Jim it desperately wants to be, but is nevertheless a fascinating glimpse at alienated youth in today's Berlin, observed with almost cruel clarity and boasting beautifully calibrated performances. In the tender Ladies in Lavender, a little jewel of a film, the beloved British actor Charles Dance changes hats and directs his first feature, with Brühl as a young Jewish violinist fleeing the Nazis and finding shelter in the Cornwall seaside in 1936. Did I mention who takes him in? The formidable Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith play the ladies in the title, their lives upset, their sexual desires rekindled, and their political consciousness (almost) raised by the handsome intruder in their midst.

Red Dust (Feb. 6 at the Intracoastal; Feb. 10 and 12 at the Regal South Beach): Hilary Swank hangs up her boxing gloves and dons a basic black dress to play a lawyer in Tom Hooper's feature debut, based on Gillian Slovo's murder thriller set against the unsettling backdrop of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission Tribunal. The picture, in the festival's World Cinema Competition, suggests that the wounds of apartheid may well be healing, but there is still a lot of pain in the process.

Day and Night (Feb. 6, 9, and 11 at the Regal South Beach): This one sounds crazy, and it probably is. For anyone out there who might think the Dogme movement isn't austere enough, here is Simon Staho's Nordic take on Abbas Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry, produced by no less than Lars Von Trier himself, filmed entirely inside an automobile and depicting a day in the life of a man seriously considering suicide. Mikael Persbrandt stars, upclose and personal, in this one-day, one-car, one-man experiment that looks like a strong entry in the World Cinema Competition.

Ibero-American Cinema Competition: An embarrassment of promises, and perhaps the most daring feature of the MIFF, with a chance to discover a baker's dozen of first and second features by directors from Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. Live-In Maid (Feb. 9 at the Regal South Beach; Feb. 10 at the Intracoastal; Feb. 12 at Cosford), with Jorge Gaggero at the helm, brings together Norma Aleandro and Norma Argentina in a heartfelt tale of nostalgia, class confusion, and love in a brutally changing Buenos Aires climate. There are two saucy fantasies from Spain, Alicia's Names (Feb. 7, 10, and 11 at the Regal South Beach), about an even more peculiar live-in maid, this one in a Spanish coastal town; and Body Confusion (Feb. 5 at Tower Theatre; Feb. 7 and 10 at the Regal South Beach), a post-Almodóvar bit of madness that pays tribute to Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo while taking apart the pretensions of films and filmmakers. From Helena Solberg, who gave us the impossibly adorable Carmen Miranda: Bananas Is My Business, comes the new Diary of a Provincial Girl (Feb. 6 and 10 at the Regal South Beach; Feb. 9 at the Intracoastal), her adaptation of a classic Brazilian novel that looks likeliest to find an international audience.

Five Easy Pieces (Feb. 10 at the Regal South Beach): This may well be the big surprise among the festival's Classic Films Series, which also includes the Western Bad Day at Black Rock by John Sturges (Feb. 12 at Cosford) and Anthony Mann's Man of the West (Feb. 13 at Cosford), both in Cinemascope. Can it really be 35 years since the world first saw a hot Jack Nicholson and a mad Karen Black in Bob Rafelson's unlikely American masterpiece?

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