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The Thorn in the Heart (L’épine dans le coeur)

Director: Michel Gondry
Cast: Suzette Gondry, Jean-Yves Gondry, Sasha Allard, Remi Andre, Lucas Andreo, Laura Arjailles, Sophie Balderelli, Viviane Bastide

(Oscilloscope Laboratories)

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The Thorn in the Heart (L’épine dans le coeur)


“We have some memories!” says Madame Boyer. “Oh, many memories!” confirms Suzette Gondry. They laugh, two former schoolteachers who worked together in Revens some 40 years ago. They are also off screen. As they recall organizing parties for their students, the camera remains on one side of a blue door, waiting for the women to enter. They murmur and coo. And then Michel Gondry scoots into the frame, opening the door a crack to reveal a bright whoosh of light. “Come on, Suzette,” he encourages, then carefully closes the door again, so she can open it and the ladies can enter, reminiscing.  Like so many moments in The Thorn in the Heart is at once weird and delightful, exposing both the process of remembering and the process of recreating memories. In this, it’s typical of this wonderful documentary, seemingly simple and sweet, while also staging that simplicity and sweetness. Memories, the film proposes, shape experience and relationships, but they are ever mutable, a life’s accumulation of images and effects that never quite cohere or stop. As Gondry’s aunt looks back on her life—as a teacher, wife, and mother—the movie illustrates, with home movies and snapshots, interviews and reenactments. None of these versions of the past is absolute, and all help to produce the present. Cynthia Fuchs


 

 



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Four Lions

Director: Chris Morris
Cast: Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Adeel Akhtar, Craig Parkinson

(Drafthouse Films)

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Four Lions


I usually respond negatively to overhype on “socially topical” (a term I just made up) movies: when a story deals with certain hot-button issues of the day I’m immediately skeptical of the filmmakers’ intentions, since an audience-baiting awards grab of a picture can lose its authenticity or integrity pretty quickly. If anything, though, this film about bumbling British Al-Qaida suicide bombers has been underhyped. Even though it was easy to guess what would happen to them in the end, I cared deeply about each of these characters almost instantly, charmed by their foibles and their uneasy relationships to one another, their deity and the world around them. I often found myself openly weeping while all churned up inside, because I truly wanted to be laughing hysterically at the same time.  Jenn Misko


 

 



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Mesrine

Director: Jean-François Richet
Cast: Vincent Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier, Michel Duchaussoy, Myriam Boyer, Cécile De France, Gérard Depardieu

(IFC Films)

13


Mesrine


A film in two parts chronicling the life of the titular French criminal, Jean-Francois Richet’s epic provides Vincent Cassel with a vehicle to go all out, performance-wise, in the grand tradition of James Dean, Marlon Brando and Heath Ledger. As the morally reprehensible Jacques Mesrine, Cassel not only makes the audience care about his eventual end, but, with his sheer magnetic charisma, he makes them care about Mesrine as a person, too. Richet’s deft and able direction aids the films’ fairly disjointed, jumpy narrative in such a way that the sudden jumps in time don’t seem jarring at all, but as natural as the early seasons of Lost. With the story’s depictions of entirely insane true events, including a daring prison break-out, Mesrine makes audiences really root for the cinematic gangster for the first time since GoodFellas. Kevin Brettauer


 

 



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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Cast: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Stefan Sauk, Ingvar Hirdwall, Sven-Bertil Taube

(Music Box Films)

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Imagine Hannibal Lector sponsored by the Free Masons and you’ve got some idea of how brilliant the basic premise of this foreign thriller really is. Combining Nazis, secret societies, eccentric wealthy families (and their isolated estates) and the unlikely duo of a disgraced investigative journalist and his angry Goth gal computer hacker sidekick as our “heroes”, this Swedish Silence of the Lambs is just amazing. It’s taut, terrifying, and when it needs to be, tough to endure. With the absolutely stunning Noomi Rapace as the title character and a narrative that plays out over three incredible novels, this introduction to the late Stieg Larsson’s take on the thriller is very special indeed. Bill Gibron


 

 



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Best Worst Movie

Director: Michael Stephenson
Cast: George Hardy, Michael Stephenson, Darren Ewing,  Jason Steadman, Jason Wright, Claudio Fragasso

(New Video Group)

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Best Worst Movie


Best Worst Movie is a wonderful film about the joy of moviemaking, the disappointment of making a bad movie, and the cult audience that develops around certain bad movies. That it manages to do all three of these things is precisely because of the conflict of interest of its creator, Michael Stephenson. Stephenson was the child star of Troll 2, a notoriously awful movie filmed in then-remote Park City, Utah, by an Italian director, producer, and crew, and with a cast of mostly-local amateur actors. Stephenson recruits George Hardy, who played the father in the movie but is now a dentist, to revisit it. They travel the world talking to fans, attending midnight screenings, and tracking down the rest of the cast and crew to discuss their reactions to Troll 2, then and now. The result is Best Worst Movie, a hilarious documentary that’s also unexpectedly poignant in places.  Chris Conaton


 
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