By Juan Barquin
By Amy Nicholson
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Travis Cohen
By Juan Barquin
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Amy Nicholson
By Juan Barquin
Ghobadi switches to fast-cut music video montages as they audition musicians. Each genre matches up with a different side of life in Tehran: When the heavy metal sounds, we see breakneck traffic. Blues rock depicts refugee children sleeping on the streets. Yet Tehran's indie rock scene looks a lot like ours. Take It Easy Hospital exchanges secret copies of British music magazine NME with other bands, the musicians wear CBGB T-shirts alongside women in burqas, and at one point, Askhan says his greatest wish is to go to Iceland to see the band Sigur Rós play.
The film, with its MTV-style music video montages and pop culture references, runs the risk of feeling like a lighthearted documentary. But in the final ten minutes, the tour through Iranian rock makes an abrupt and disturbing turn. The film, which won the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes, was co-written by Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was sentenced to eight years in jail in 2008 after the Iranian government deemed her a spy. Amanda McCorquodale March 8 at 9:30 p.m., Regal Cinemas South Beach; March 12 at 7:15 p.m., Tower Theater, 1508 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-642-1264
Blood and Rain
A few hours after midnight, a man and a woman meet randomly on the cold, wet streets of Bogotá. He's Jorge (Quique Mendoza), a taxi driver whose brother was mysteriously murdered. She's Angela (Gloria Montoya), a sexy but emotionally damaged party girl with out-of-control coke and liquor habits. Gradually, as chance events and targeted violence bring the pair closer, a strange but undeniable attraction develops.
In his first feature, director Jorge Navas leads the characters (and viewers) on a slow, methodical descent into the Colombian underworld, from after-hours clubs and strip joints to killing fields. Blood and Rain depicts a dark sphere of existence, where chaos reigns, outbursts of brutal violence are common, deeply irrational behavior is the norm, and drugs are eaten to erase bad memories.
But it's not bleak. One of the reasons is the luridly bright nightscape photography of Juan Carlos Gil, who soaks the streets of Bogotá in saturated blacks and warm yellows that make abandoned lots and trash-filled alleys seem beautiful. Then there's the acting: Both Mendoza and Montoya deliver human performances that redeem profoundly fucked-up characters. And finally, consider Navas's clarity of vision. At only 36 years old, he's a mature filmmaker with enough perspective to tackle the inexplicable. S. Pajot March 7 at 7 p.m., Tower Theater; March 10 at 9:15 p.m., Regal Cinemas South Beach
The Rizzos are an average family — two parents, two kids — who make their home on City Island, an old fishing town in the Bronx. The patriarch, Vince (Andy Garcia), is a New York State corrections officer with dreams of being an actor. His wife, Joyce (Julianna Margulies), is a beautiful but aging housewife and mother who laments the education she lost when she became pregnant with her daughter, Vivian (Dominik García-Lorido), now college age. And then there's Vinnie (Ezra Miller), a skinny 15-year-old master of the smart-ass remark.
The Rizzos live together, eat together, and bicker like hell about everything. Plus they're all intensely secretive. Each and every member of the family smokes cigarettes but lies about it. Vinnie hides his love of fat girls, otherwise known as BBWs, and his fantasies about feeding them massive quantities of food. His older sister, Vivian, doesn't spend her days studying as Mom and Dad assume; she strips for dollar bills at a low-rent nudie bar. Joyce, meanwhile, suspects her husband of cheating but won't confront him. And Vince takes acting classes while telling his wife he's out playing poker with the boys. That's not all, though. Vince is keeping something from his family. He calls it his secret of secrets.
City Island is not one of those no-laughs, black-to-the-bone family comedies like Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding. This movie actually plays toxic dysfunction for quick and easy giggles. When City Island works, it's thanks to the strong ensemble cast and writer/director Raymond De Felitta's nice, light touch. But Felitta, the 45-year-old, NYC-born filmmaker who also helmed 2005's The Thing About My Folks, glosses over some of the deep hurt that should be part of the story. And so, ultimately, City Island is a charming, if not entirely realistic, movie about a big, messed-up modern family. S. Pajot March 12 at 7 p.m., Gusman Center
The Wind Journeys
This is the story of a man's road trip across northern Colombia to return an evil accordion to its master. That's all you really need to know, though you might like to be informed that the wife of the protagonist, Ignacio (Marciano Martínez), has just died, so he no longer wishes to play the instrument.
Along Ignacio's journey, we meet long-lost brothers, hoodlums, and former lovers who all remind him that he can never leave his instrument behind. There are also piquerías, basically the accordionist's version of a rap battle, in which Ignacio lays the squeeze box down on others. If the rhymed quatrains and solos don't send you over the edge smiling, there are also sorcerer/accordionists dueling it out against our exorcising hero for the love and adoration of the local townspeople.
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