Fresh off its Starz Denver Film Festival 36 premiere, The Broken Circle Breakdown returns to Denver for a one-week engagement at the Mayan Theatre. Elise (Veerle Baetens) and Didier (Johan Heldenbergh) fall deeply in love at first sight. She runs a tattoo parlor while he sings & plays the banjo in a bluegrass band. They both love American music and culture, as evidenced in Elise’s stars and stripes bikini that manages to smartly show up in all of the marketing & advertising. The film uses flashbacks and flash-forwards to juxtapose the highs and lows of their relationship. Their daughter falls ill, which throws their happy family into disarray as Didier rails against George W. Bush & the Religious right’s fight against stem cell research. Director Felix Van Groeningen balances their melodramatic tale with loads of damn good bluegrass music. Visually appealing and very well acted, especially Baetens as the heart-broken bluegrass chanteuse.
12 Years a Slave & Blue is the Warmest Color, two of this year’s best films are still playing at the Mayan. Both come highly recommended and really need to be seen up on the big screen. Dallas Buyers Club, featuring Matthew McConaughey’s lauded performance and Philomena, with Steve Coogan and Judi Dench, plays at the Esquire Theatre. The Great Beauty, another great foreign film from SDFF36, plays at the Chez Artiste along with the charming & irascible Nebraska and WWII film The Book Thief.
Christian Bale’s new movie Out of the Furnace opens up wide this weekend. Russell Baze (Bale) is forced to find his disappeared brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) after the local cops won’t lift a finger. Rodney returns home from fighting in Iraq only to get mixed up with a crime ring in the Northeast. When he mysteriously disappears then Russell embarks on his own investigation, revenge-movie style. This is the second film written and directed by actor Scott Cooper whose first film Crazy Heart managed to get an Academy Award for its leading man Jeff Bridges, the Dude. Early word on Out of the Furnace is decidedly mixed with your humble reviewer unable to catch a screening before press time. The chief concern with Crazy Heart was that Bridges was great in a very marginal film. Bridges deserved a better story to be in which leads to concerns of the same for this film. Cooper has managed to jam the cast of Furnace with Woody Harrelson, Sam Shepard, Zoe Saldana, Willem Dafoe and Forest Whitaker, to name just a few.
The powerful and visceral documentary Narco Cultura explores the uneasy relationship between Mexico’s rampant drug cartels and their influence on pop culture. Since the Drug War was declared in Mexico in 2006 – 60,000 people have been confirmed murdered, who knows how many others. In Juarez alone 4,500 people have died since 2006. Israeli-born filmmaker Saul Schwarz has spent years covering the drug war as a photographer, focusing on Juarez since 2008. The film explores ‘narcocorridos’ – songs that praises the drug traffickers as heroes, sorta like gangster rap in America. Their songs sound like traditional Mexican music yet the lyrics sings the praises of theses gangsters like they’re modern day Robin Hoods. The film chronicles the life of a US-based narco singer who is trying to make it big with the life of a crime-scene investigator in Juarez, who fears for his life every single day. The tragedy & violence in Juarez is shocking, especially in comparison to relatively safe El Paso, TX right across the border. Schwarz dives right into the crime scenes and ride-alongs with the police, you can almost feel the imminent danger. Listening to the cries and protests of the families who have lost loved ones to the senseless war stands in stark contrast to the boastful, hollow narco songs. This powerful and important documentary opens today at Cine de Aurora, check HERE for times and tickets.
The Denver Film Society this weekend has the BolderLife Film Festival showing a variety of films at the SIE Film Center. They are also showing James Gandolfini’s last movie Enough Said along with music documentary Muscle Shoals, Kill Your Darlings and a program of shorts selected from this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
On Wednesday, December 11th the Denver Film Society is hosting a one-night screening of After Tiller, a documentary that intimately explores the highly controversial subject of third-trimester abortions in the wake of the 2009 assassination of practitioner Dr. George Tiller. The procedure is now performed by only four doctors in the United States, all former colleagues of Dr. Tiller, who risk their lives every day in the name of their unwavering commitment toward their patients.Directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson have created a moving and unique look at one of the most incendiary topics of our time, and they’ve done so in an informative, thought-provoking, and compassionate way.
As always, be kind to each other and have fun watching movies.