Side Shows

Intermittently, Farber appears as self-deprecating and oblique, describing what's termitic about a white-elephant painter like William Turner or making cryptic comments like "they don't know what it's like to nail a whole supermarket roof by yourself—in the summer." To raise the bombast level, Petit imports cowboy art-critic Dave Hickey, who holds forth freely to no great effect ("when Manny looks at a B picture, it's fucking high art") while supplying the canned laughter for his own jokes.

** The most crowd-pleasing attraction at the last Toronto Film Festival, The Cup represents a new development in the merger of Western and Tibetan pop culture. Khyentse Norbu's first feature—the first by a Bhutanese-born director and perhaps the first made by an incarnate lama since Irving Thalberg—is an exceedingly gentle comedy set in an exiled Tibetan monastery in northern India (ribbed several times for its "underdevelopment").

The lovability quotient is as high as the altitude. The kids play kick the (Coca-Cola) can and the smallest and spunkiest of the gang is a total soccer fanatic—a uniform beneath his saffron robe, a pinup shrine in his room—who is obsessed with the World Cup matches, sneaking into town at night to follow its televised progress and ultimately convincing the abbot to allow him to rent a TV so that the entire monastery can watch the final game between Brazil and France.

Circus maximus: Gray and Power in Nightmare Alley
Circus maximus: Gray and Power in Nightmare Alley

Details

Nightmare Alley
Directed by Edmund Goulding
Written by Jules Furthman, from the novel by William Lindsay Gresham
A Criterion Films rerelease
At Cinema Village
Opens January 28

Negative Space
Directed by Chris Petit
At the American Museum of the Moving Image January 29

The Cup
Written and directed by Khyentse Norbu
A Fine Line Features release
Opens January 28

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The Cup is small but conventionally well-made. It's officially an Australian production and the mode is far closer to Anglo-Euro art cinema than to Asian pop—shot on location with natural lighting and no zooms. Nor is the cuteness raised to the miramax. Despite a natural spot for Hot Chocolate's "I believe in miracles" refrain, the sparse background music is provided by authentic Mongolian overtone singers. Indeed, The Cup is a sort of psychodrama in that the nonprofessional cast is drawn mainly from the monastery where the movie was shot and play versions of themselves.

It's also a new kind of sports inspirational. No movie has ever celebrated TV more joyously. The satellite is connected and suddenly the world arrives! The monks can only thank Buddha that the big game wasn't preempted by a visual kali-yuga like Any Given Sunday.

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