Foreign Legion

Topless Slovenians, Hiccuping Hungarians

The Missing Gun Small-town, stumblebum Chinese cop awakes hungover to find his revolver gone; cue subjective flashbacks and an overwhelmingly undermotivated murder mystery. Despite tricksy visuals and star Jiang Wen's energetic doofus mugging, Lu Chuan's feature debut is increasingly unable to conceal its fundamental hollowness. A Columbia release. April 2 and 3 (Dennis Lim)

Autumn SpringVladimír Michálek's mild anti-retirement picture stars Vlastimil Brodsky as a henpecked Czech octogenarian who, along with a friend, pulls scams to keep busy. His tricks turn cruel when he fakes his own death, leading his wife of 44 years to demand a divorce. Faltering health inevitably puts an end to these Sunshine Boys' shenanigans, at which point the film fizzles into fuzziness. A gut punch, however, comes with the knowledge that the charismatic Brodsky committed suicide soon after shooting. April 3 and 4 (Mark Peranson)

Guardian of the FrontierThree liberated college girls from Ljubljana take a canoe trip along the Croatian border, despite rumors of a serial rapist on the loose. Stripping off their shirts, they soon encounter antagonism from a reactionary countryside populace riddled with unctuous, power-hungry males. Maja Weiss's ludicrous debut, the first feature by a Slovenian woman director, is an Eastern European gloss on Deliverance by way of late-night '80s Cinemax. Titillation and feminism, as usual, make for odd bedfellows. April 3 and 4 (MP)

Excuse me! A scene from György Pálfi's Hukkle.
Excuse me! A scene from György Pálfi's Hukkle.

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New Directors/New Films
Through April 6, at Alice Tully Hall, the Walter Reade, and MOMA Gramercy

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Angela In mid-'80s Palermo, the title character contentedly manages her crusty mafioso husband's shoe-store front, until he hires a swarthy young lothario and—you know the rest. Predictable as it is, Roberta Torre's married-to-the-mob tale documents the criminal grind in a deglamorized pseudo-verité reminiscent of Abel Ferarra's 'R Xmas and even comfortably negotiates a late bid for mythic sorrow. A First Look release. April 4 and 5 (DL)

Camp Packing more power-ballad histrionics and clamoring Eve Harrington ambition than a season of American Idol, Todd Graff's confection—a de facto Fame sequel—is as eager to please as its teen protagonists: assorted freaks and geeks plus a token stud at an upstate New York summer camp. An IFC release. April 4 and 6 (DL)

Hukkle There's virtually no dialogue in this exceedingly curious, fiendishly clever Hungarian contraption devised by 28-year-old György Pálfi. A bizarrely associative montage proceeds from an old man's hiccups (hence the title) to a barnyard frolic to a murder mystery with a sardonic punchline. The movie's cartoon pantheism sometimes suggests an eccentric nature documentary (or a comic version of Humanité), but basically Hukkle is one of a kind. April 5 and 6 (J. Hoberman)

Abouna Their father mysteriously gone, their mother depressed and irritable, two Chadian brothers are herded off to a rural Koranic boarding school. Haunted throughout by its ambiguous opening shot of a man dropping out of the frame, Mahamat Saleh Haroun's follow-up to Bye Bye Africaleavens its archetypal 400 Blows-ish scenario with magic-realist dustings, fashioning a rueful meditation on abandonment and rootlessness, both individual and national. April 5 and 6 (DL)

The Clay Bird More explicit than Abouna in its personal/political parallels (and somewhat Iranian in its shrewd deployment of moppet viewpoints for social critique), documentarian Tareque Masud's affecting fiction debut is set in the former East Pakistan during the buildup to the 1971 civil war from which Bangladesh emerged. While Anu's uncle exposes the curious young lad to Hindu rituals and Marxist notions, his Islamic fundamentalist father refuses even to allow his ailing daughter Western medical treatment. As the country disintegrates, so does the family. April 5 and 6 (DL)


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