World Affairs

Journey to the Sun Life in Istanbul is precarious, even for those whose papers are in order. A sweet young man with a decent job and loving girlfriend loses almost everything when he's arrested for his skin color. His desperate adventures on the margins continue when he tries to take the body of his best friend, a Kurdish refugee, back to his decimated hometown for burial. A former architect, director Yesim Ustaoglu has a vivid sense of place—the film opens in a teeming city and ends in a devastated rural landscape whose emptiness is truly haunting. March 29 and 30 (Amy Taubin)

Northern Skirts Barbara Albert paints an unsparing picture of life in an Austrian town where men are brutes and women are trapped in dead-end jobs and conflicted about unplanned pregnancies. But the place seems like a mecca to refugees crossing the border from the former Yugoslavia. While the early scenes have a Fassbinder-like toughness, the episodic narrative loses momentum. March 29 and 31 (AT)

Shower Winner of audience awards from Rotterdam to Thessaloniki, Zhang Yang's second feature uses an old-fashioned Beijing bathhouse as the site for a family reconciliation—will a modern son take his traditional dad's place alongside a mentally retarded brother? The movie has its quirks but it's far too soggy for my taste—although an American remake would allow Tom Hanks to play either (or both) of the brothers. Sony Classics plans a summer release. March 30 and April 1 (J. Hoberman)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey's frothy makeover of televangelism's raccoon-eyed dowager travels a drag-queenish path—from weepy public disgrace to clenched-teeth triumph—with both blind sympathy and dutiful, winking irony. There are priceless moments, but the breathy RuPaul narration and the hand-puppet chapter headings wear rapidly thin. Lions Gate gives the film a theatrical run in July, but its natural home is the E! channel. March 31 and April 2 (Dennis Lim)

El Medina Wannabe actor leaves Cairo for Paris, gets kicked around, and comes back home. He's not sure who he is and neither is Yousry Nasrallah's movie—a not-altogether-uninteresting, sometimes hysterical, hodgepodge of slum melodrama, neorealist tub-thumping, and near-musical entertainment. (That Claire Denis gets a cowriting credit only adds to the mess.) Some scenes were shot on video—perversely, they are the best bits in the movie. April 1 and 2 (JH)

Le Bleu des Villes The protagonist of Stéphane Brizé's bittersweet first feature is a French provincial meter maid stuck with a dumb morgue-attendant husband. Her disaffection leads to revolt after she bumps into an old schoolmate, now a TV weathergirl in Paris. This modest comedy's main asset is the restrained lead performance of Florence Vignon, who also coscripted. April 1 and 2 (Elliott Stein)

Two Women Tahmine Milani's heroine is a brilliant University of Tehran student whose passion for freedom attracts two pathologically possessive men—one a stalker, the other her husband. The film is a no-holds-barred critique of the treatment of women under a reactionary regime. But while one never doubts the truth of the narrative, Milani's extremely melodramatic style works to her disadvantage. The movie plays Cinema Village in July. April 1 and 2 (AT)

Martin The subject of this hour-long video doc is a self-appointed genius loci—a former POW inmate who haunts the site of the Dachau concentration camp, giving unofficial tours to mainly American sightseers. Shot first-person and filled with unexpected revelations, Ra'anan Alexandrowicz's effectively amateurist film is itself a sort of monument—haunting and cautionary. April 3 and 4 (JH)

Crane World In a rough, relaxed faux-vérité, Argentine director Pablo Trapero chronicles the struggles of a paunchy, middle-aged crane operator, whose fond memories of his distant youth—as a member of a popular rock band—are beginning to feel like taunts. With a resonant, sympathetic performance, Luis Mangani turns this unvarnished character study into an indelible, humbling portrait of decency. April 3 and 4 (DL)

 
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