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Contagion, Warrior, Gainsbourg, The Interrupters vs. gang violence and a restored masterpiece

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Eric Elmosnino grabs you with a sly performance as the chain-smoking, high-living but also self-destructive composer and musician. Periodically we also get to see his alter ego, a large puppet that looks like a wildly exaggerated caricature of his own appearance and offers encouragement when he needs it. The director wrote the same gimmick in a graphic novel, where it probably looked and worked better. Still, it’s an enjoyable film that gives you a good introduction to a provocative personality, although it’s not as clear what it’s saying about his Jewish background. As a boy he openly mocked the German occupiers. As an adult, he may have been into self-loathing, but ever distracted by all those good times. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 3 ½ out of 5

THE INTERRUPTERS: Steve James has another strong documentary and it’s at least as good as his acclaimed Hoop Dreams.  In this one, he watches a group in Chicago confront the problem of youth and gang violence. It got so bad at one point, TV news termed parts of the city a “war zone” and the state governor suggested calling out the national guard. A local doctor, coming back after years overseas, had a better idea. Don’t judge, he said. Treat violence like a disease; stop it from spreading and infecting others.

We get to watch three volunteers in action. Ameena, Cobe and Eddie, two blacks and an Hispanic, all have gang or violent backgrounds so they know how to talk to these people. In an early scene, Ameena steps in between two guys shouting in the street just as they’re starting to fight; heads off the sister of one of them who comes charging with a butcher knife but misses another intruder who attacks with a piece of concrete. “All of it is stupid,” she says in another incident. We get a succession of them, up close, sometimes emotional, sometimes, as with a particularly volatile motormouth named Flamo, verging on comic. The camera captures many telling moments, including a scene in a car that demonstrates how easily a small disagreement can escalate into something much bigger and a meeting where two enemies listen to the caution and shame talk but still can’t bring themselves to make peace. The film is realistic and shows the misses too. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

Also now playing …

BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN: One of the undisputed masterpieces of cinema, this silent film by Sergei Eisenstein is back, restored and showing in a new 35mm print. Even though it’s studied in pretty well every film course, it’s no mouldy fig. It moves vigorously to tell the story of a 1905 mutiny on the Black Sea that helped spark the Russian Revolution. It was made 20 years later to mark the anniversary and is most famous for a sequence that is pure propaganda.

The massacre by the Tsar’s forces  on the Odessa steps is fiction but it lives on as one of the most celebrated few minutes in film, chiefly for the furious editing. Note the baby carriage in the midst of the carnage. You’ve seen it referenced, parodied or outright copied in films by Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Woody Allen and Hitchcock. There’s a montage of  those clips and more here.  

The original plays six times over four days (Sept. 12, 15, 17 and 18) at the Pacific Cinematheque. Check their website for times.  

CREATURE: This first film by TV production designer Fred Andrews, working here as writer and director, sounds pretty ludicrous. Not that that is always a detriment with a horror picture. A group of friends are told a scary legend and then proceed to inadvertently stir up the real thing: a half-man, half-alligator in a Louisiana swamp. The locals call him Lockjaw and revere him as a god. No previews but the usual gore and nudity is promised. Note there's another group of friends in theatres right now, also in Louisiana, fighting off hungry sharks. Wonder what the tourist people think. (International Village and a few suburban theatres)

BUCKY LARSON: BORN TO BE A STAR: The ad tells you all you need to know. Bucky is standing in a spotlight, his pants have fallen down to his ankles. Typical humor from Adam Sandler’s company, starring Nick Swardson as a Hollywood hopeful, in this case in porn films which he learns his parents used to perform in. The studio didn’t bother, or is that dare, preview this for the media. (International Village and suburban theatres)

NOTE: The images are movie stills supplied by the studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

 

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