Reel Wrap

Our critics review a sampling from week one of the film fest.

Deficit: Gael Garcia Bernal stars as Cristobal, the spoiled son of a wealthy Mexican government official who must slowly come to grips with his father's corruption and the probable erosion of his family's status. Bernal is a magnetic, kinetic actor who gets across the many emotional paradoxes Cristobal faces in this day-in-the-life narrative: showing off his beautiful home to a group of friends even as the bills go unpaid and the infrastructure deteriorates; partying even as he takes phone calls from his parents, who are hiding out in Zurich. The script places too much burden on Bernal; despite a cast numbering more than a dozen, there aren't any other clearly drawn characters. A sort of Upstairs/Downstairs subtext runs throughout the movie, with clear class divisions between the rich kids and Cristobal's servants and handymen, but they never quite erupt. Deficit ultimately is as inscrutable as its name, with little resolution, and — worse — little reason to expect or care about one. — Frank Houston March 2 at 5 p.m. Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 305-674-1040.

Mutluluk (Bliss): Based on the novel by Zülfü Livaneli, Bliss follows three characters whose destinies become interlocked after one of them is marked for death. Meryem (Özgü Namal) has been raped, but because she will not reveal the perpetrator, her rural Muslim family believes their honor is threatened and they order her cousin Cemal (Murat Han) to murder her in Istanbul. There Cemal and Meryem encounter the rich, disenchanted professor Irfan (Talat Bulut). The cinematography takes full advantage of the varied topography of Turkey, and the camera moves as purposefully as the plot does through Cemal and Meryem's struggle to reposition themselves in the world. No shot is wasted, every angle has meaning, and much like in Roman Polanski's Knife in the Water, Irfan's yacht becomes a floating metaphor for something else — in this case, the social complexities of modern-day Turkey. If this film were American, it would crush even a very deserving flick like No Country for Old Men at the Oscars. — P. Scott Cunningham March 2 at 9:45 p.m. and March 7 at 9 p.m. Regal Cinemas South Beach, 1100 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 305-674-6766. March 5 at 7:15 p.m. Sunrise Cinemas Intracoastal, 3701 NE 163rd St, North Miami Beach; 305-949-0064.

Silhouette City: This documentary attempts to link current Evangelical Christians such as presidential candidate Mike Huckabee with a paramilitary group from the early Eighties called The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. Unlike last year's Jesus Camp, which followed its participants closely enough to provide real intimacy, there's no central character in Silhouette City to provide a link between past and present, so the film often feels disjointed and, owing to the harsh digital resolution and Tron-era animation, amateurish. But when the camera rolls on the Christian right kingmakers making speeches in Washington, even the most laid-back liberal will begin to cringe, and there is a real journalistic gem lurking toward the end, in the story of how closely the Christian right is tied to the armed services, particularly the Air Force. The connection is only strengthened by the militaristic language displayed in the film by national ministries like Coral Ridge and Teen Mania. If your favorite kind of horror goblin is exemplified by Pat Robertson, you'll get the scare you're looking for. — P. Scott Cunningham March 2 at 9 p.m. Regal Cinemas South Beach, 1100 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 305-674-6766. March 4 at 9:15 p.m. Bill Cosford Cinema, University of Miami, Coral Gables; 305-237-3456.

And Along Came Tourists: This quiet film follows Sven (Alexander Fehling), a German twentysomething who does a year of civil service working at the Auschwitz Museum in Poland, an experience he shares with writer-director Robert Thalheim. Perhaps because he knows his subject so well, Thalheim doesn't force the material. Even while bicycling through former death camps, Sven and his love interest, Ania (Barbara Wysocka), somehow find humor; their onscreen chemistry is reminiscent of Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday — torrid because of its surprising tenderness. Thalheim, whose theater training has obviously shaped his adept sense of scene, allows the complicated relationship that still exists between Germany and Poland to leak into the plot through the characters themselves, rather through any hand-of-God contrivance, and the result is the opposite of that in most contemporary American cinema: a film that gains steam as it progresses, until it seems unfair that the characters should disappear at the end. We were just starting to get to know them. — P. Scott Cunningham March 3 at 5 p.m. Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 305-674-1040. March 8 at 9:30 p.m. Regal Cinemas South Beach, 1100 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 305-674-6766.

Leave Her to Heaven: Shot in 1945 at the pinnacle of the film noir era, Leave Her to Heaven is a hilariously strange mixture of Technicolor, Sirkian melodrama, and the kind of brutal fatalism mastered by Sam Fuller. Gene Tierney was nominated for an Academy Award for her leading role as Ellen Harland, a woman driven mad by jealousy. Eight years later, Tierney herself was receiving shock treatments at a mental hospital in Connecticut, so audiences have always wondered how much of it was really acting. By all accounts, Tierney was as intelligent as she was gorgeous, and it's a tragedy (the kind Hollywood is expert at producing) she never regained form after her hospitalization. Modern audiences with a more sophisticated sense of mental illness might snicker at the campier moments (a certain rowboat scene comes to mind), but there's no denying that Tierney's inexhaustible energy permanently locks one's eyes to the screen. It's also worth mentioning you'll probably never have another chance to see a fully restored print of this film on the big screen with 35mm projection, and after adjusting to digital pixilation, you will definitely drink in the vavoom of cinematography's golden age. — P. Scott Cunningham March 3 at 7 p.m. Bill Cosford Cinema, University of Miami, Coral Gables; 305-237-3456.

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