Holy Ghost World

Perhaps that universal church is Woo's metaphor for Hollywood. Less state-of-the-art than Black Hawk Down in its combat sequences and far more banal in its dramatic conception than The Thin Red Line, Windtalkers lends itself mainly to personal allegory. Linguistic skills aside, the Navajo—who are often mistaken for Japanese by their bigoted comrades—function in the white man's war with a number of quasi-Hong Kong rituals (martial arts, mystic knife-throwing, meditation, and sacramental flute-playing). "What a magical pile of Navajo horseshit!" Enders exclaims at one point. Woo, the most successful Asian filmmaker in Hollywood history, knows that horseshit works.

Adapted from Simon Leys's philosophical novel, The Emperor's New Clothes is an old-fashioned, tidily designed Prince and the Pauper story in which an elaborate scheme allows the exiled Napoleon to escape St. Helena as a humble double takes his place. Dull, if not devoid of wit, this shaggy dog longs to frisk through the back alleys of history, but scarcely manages more than a modest, snoozy charm.

Nun of your business: Foster and Culkin in Altar Boys
photo courtesy of THINKFilm
Nun of your business: Foster and Culkin in Altar Boys


The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys
Directed by Peter Care
Written by Jeff Stockwell and Michael Petroni, from the novel by Chris Fuhrman
Opens June 14

Directed by John Woo
Written by John Rice & Joe Batteer
Opens June 14

The Emperorís New Clothes
Directed by Alan Taylor
Written by Kevin Molony, Taylor & Herbie Wave, from the novel The Death of Napoleon by Simon Leys
Paramount Classics
Opens June 14

The plan goes awry, and the penniless, unrecognized emperor (Ian Holm), stranded in Antwerp, makes his way across Belgium and through Waterloo to Paris, where he takes up with a lively grocer's widow known as Pumpkin (Iben Hjejle). The actor seems a bit elderly for his role, not to mention for his absurdly named mistress—more fittingly called "Ostrich" in the novel. Holmes does, however, conjure an appropriately mulish insistence once the time comes for his character to reveal his secret identity. (He's already proved himself a brilliant tactician and inspirational leader in reorganizing Pumpkin's business along military lines.)

Of course, no one really wants the superhero back, and the movie finally finds its single joke—you have to be delusional to imagine yourself as Napoleon. A trip to an insane asylum filled with similarly costumed "Napoleons" is less fruitful than it might have been had Alan Taylor, director of the estimable low-life farce Palookaville, opted for his earlier film's deadpan understatement rather than aspire to the warm and cuddly.

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