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Two sides of the American way: Man of Steel and Dirty Wars. Also, a Spanish Snow White and The East

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Jeremy Scahill, who writes for The Nation, tells it like a mystery story. He went to an Afghan village where a raid on a party had resulted in several deaths, including the police chief and two pregnant women. The villagers said Americans did it. NATO knew nothing about it and the Americans said it was probably an honor killing by the Taliban. But Scahill found cell phone video of American hands digging the bullets out of the bodies so they couldn’t be traced. The U.S. military eventually owned up to it and compensated the village with some sheep.

But who were these Americans? Scahill dug some more and found JSOC, Joint Special Operations Command, an outfit he had never heard of before. It’s top secret, reports only to the president and has more recently been credited with the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. It also killed an American citizen in Yemen, and a few days later his son. It specializes in night raids and can go anywhere it deems necessary. 75 countries so far, says one speaker in this gripping documentary. That’s scary. (International Village) 4 ½ out of 5

BLANCANIEVES:  After those two awful Snow White films last year, rejoice. Here’s a very good one, from Spain, where it won 10 of that country’s top movie awards (the Goyas) including best picture. It’s black and white and silent, like The Artist and though not as buoyant as that one, very entertaining as a gothic drama.

In this version, Snow White is a nickname for Carmen, the daughter of a famous bullfighter who was paralyzed in an accident. Her mother died giving birth to her and an avaricious nurse has taken charge to get control of her father’s wealth.  As she grows up, she secretly visits her dad on the off-limits second floor of their mansion and learns the techniques of bullfighting from him. She’s played charmingly by TV actress Macarena Garcia.


When her stepmother (Maribel Verdú, known to us from Y Tu Mama Tambien) orders her killed, she joins a band of dwarf bullfighters and becomes a star herself.  The Grimm tale, including that apple, transfers well to the bull ring in 1920s Spain, with operatic emotions, melodramatic extravagance and beautiful visual compositions.  And once again, we get a reminder how good actors can communicate so much even when we can’t hear them speak.  (5th Avenue) 4 out of 5

THE EAST: A form of the Stockholm syndrome is afoot in this one, but we’re not quite sure how deep it is. The film develops it believably and takes us inside a secret anarchist faction but then weakens to leave us guessing at the end.  Brit Marling stars as a corporate security sleuth who goes underground to infiltrate a band of eco-terrorists. She lives in their commune, eats food they’ve gathered dumpster diving and joins their elaborate pay-back actions on bad companies. Big pharma’s dangerous new antibiotic? Spike the champagne with it at a company do.  Oil pollution? Make the president and his wife stand in it.


Gradually, the more she mixes with the charismatic leader (Alexander Skarsgård), a fiery acolyte (Ellen Paige) and several others she comes to understand their cause. That evolution and the details of the life and rituals of the group are well-drawn. They make the film worthwhile. But how far does her sympathy go? We don’t know. The film proceeds  to a third action, or “jam” as the group calls it, that feels out of place, a scriptwriter’s construct that gets into thriller territory instead of finishing the ideas it has raised.   (International Village)  3 out of 5


Also to watch for …

THE CINEMATHEQUE is holding its 5th annual open house Saturday afternoon where you can see a couple of free movies (Charlie Chaplin’s Easy Street and Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last), tour the projection booth, library and archives,  bid in a poster auction and join a Chaplin look-alike contest. You get a free bag of popcorn too.  For details visit

Incidentally the regular screening that night and Sunday at 4 p.m. at the 1131 Howe Street movie house is Ben Hur, the 1925 version with Ramon Navarro.  Also a classic, and that makes four silent films showing this week.

NOTE:  These images are movie stills provided by the studios. They are the exclusive property of their copyright owners.


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