Early Spring

A Brooklyn waitstaff, a sullen teen athlete, and a crying camel step into the spotlight

Everyday People
March 24 and 25

Jim McKay's ensemble drama follows the diverse staff of a Brooklyn diner throughout a single day, as they learn that the establishment —a neighborhood institution—is to close soon, making way for an upscale mall. As in his superb Our Song, McKay refuses to define his characters purely by racial or socio-economic background—fittingly for a heart-felt valentine to multicultural New York, it's a movie that delights in complicating stereotypes and thwarting expectations. An HBO Films release. DENNIS LIM


Jasna Zalica in Fuse: Black Bosnian farce
photo: FSLC
Jasna Zalica in Fuse: Black Bosnian farce

Strong Shoulders
March 25, 27, and 28

A Swiss teen athlete decides she wants to compete with the boys in Ursula Meier's fiction feature debut. A coming-of-age In My Skin, Strong Shoulders concerns a single-minded protagonist's attempts to assert control over her own body—though her efforts are undermined by various adolescent stirrings. As the sullen, driven heroine, Louise Szpindel delivers an intense and ferociously focused performance. D.L.


The Middle of the World
March 25 through 27

A Film Movement release, opening April 2. Reviewed next week.


In Your Hands
March 25, 27, and 28

The new female chaplain at a women's cell block finds her own belief system shaken when she discovers that one of the inmates apparently has supernatural healing powers. Dogme worships at the altar of Dreyer yet again in Danish director Annette K. Olesen's theological melodrama, in which thorny questions of religious faith are advanced via rickety plot contrivances. D.L.


The Story of the Weeping Camel
March 26 and 27

Somewhere in the vastness of Inner Mongolia, a camel is born. Will his diffident mother let the little fellow nurse? Made by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni, this crowd-pleasing exercise in ethno-intimacy is not exactly The Fast Runner. Despite the yurt, rugged weather, and multi-generational indigenous cast, it's part old-fashioned Disney nature doc, part cozy home movie, part surprise musical. A ThinkFilm release. J. HOBERMAN


Seducing Doctor Lewis
March 26 and 27

In Jean-François Pouliot's eager-to-please comedy, the bumbling residents of a depressed Quebec fishing village concoct an elaborate scheme to convince a Montreal doc to sign on as resident physician—cue mild sitcom yuks as the yokels reinvent themselves to exploit the city slicker's love of cricket, fusion jazz, and international cuisine. Despite the whimsy, the film remains rooted in a harsh reality, never sweetening the economic desperation that motivates its characters. A Wellspring release. D.L.


Dig!
March 26 and 28

Ondi Timoner assembled her doc on the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols from seven years of footage and seems to have been present every time BJM frontman Anton Newcombe assaulted a bandmate. An indie-rock footnote—the love-hate relationship between the BJM's disaster-prone psych revivalists and the Warhols' smugly functional major-label neo-glam hipsters—serves as an improbable foundation for a meditation on the collision between art and commerce, and the enduring myth of the artist-madman. A Palm Pictures release. D.L.


Eager Bodies
March 27 and 28

In Xavier Giannoli's feature debut, a steamy affair develops when a fun-loving student and his girlfriend discover that she has cancer and he bonds with her seductive cousin. Lugubrious but touching, the film is well-served by its attractive young actors. In its unadorned preoccupation with harsh everyday realities, Eager Bodies seems principally influenced by Maurice Pialat. ELLIOTT STEIN


Fuse
March 27 and 28

This black Bosnian farce, about a corrupt town scrambling to create the illusion of togetherness on the eve of a Clinton visit, throws gasoline and dances in the conflagration like low-grade Kusturica. Smuggled hookers, martyr ghosts, relentless renditions of "House of the Rising Sun," guns everywhere: First-timer Pjer Zalica's film also recalls Jiri Menzel's Czech-village time capsules, but with the neighbor-to-neighbor war still lingering, the bite is deeper. A Global Film Initiative release. MICHAEL ATKINSON


B-Happy
March 27, 28, and 30

Gonzalo Justiniano's Chilean coming-of-age bad dream has a thoughtfully menacing rhythm—every little scene fades to black, suggesting square miles of unseen circumstance and off-screen emotional torque. The limping breakdown of a family, as seen by a guarded 14-year-old girl, B-Happy is executed with aplomb, but its Job-like descent seems too arbitrary to be moralizing. M.A.


Captive
March 27 and 28

A B-side to 1985's The Official Story, Gastón Biraben's film tracks the life of a teenage girl who discovers that she is not the daughter of her bourgeois parents but of an activist, disappeared by the state during Argentina's "dirty war." Fascinating in utero, but neither Biraben nor his cast are up to it; like many political films about outrageous national histories, it's a compelling mediocrity. M.A.


No. 17
March 27 and 28

"Let's eat before the bodies come in, because we'll be working all night," suggests a pathologist in this documentary, which recounts the search for the identity of a suicide bombing's mystery victim. Israeli director David Ofek's skilled procedural is slightly less interesting as a who-was-it than as an eye-opening portrait of the diversity of a society resigned to living with random violence. E.S.


Three Step Dancing
March 29 and 31

Local color rules in Salvatore Mereu's first feature, shot in Sardinia and composed of three unrelated anecdotes: A group of kids encounters the sea for the first time; a timid shepherd gets it on with a glamorous French woman; a young nun comes home for a family wedding. Mereu strains to wrap up with a desperate Fellini-esque finale. All the same, we're on a photogenic island and the eye is rewarded even while the mind wanders. E.S.


Untold Scandal
March 29 and 31

Choderlos de Laclos's Les Liaisons Dangereuses has inspired at least four other movie adaptations; E J-Yong's version transposes the amoral sexual scheming to the 18th-century Chosun dynasty (and largely preserves the novel's epistolary structure). The film's appeal is primarily visual: A feast of lacquered interiors, ornate food presentations, and multi-hued silk costumes, it's opulent enough to not seem entirely redundant. D.L.


Silent Waters
March 30, April 1 and 2

This lead-footed Pakistani drama about the nation's 1979 slide into Islamic fundamentalism is cannily convincing in its view of the social fabric fraying under pressure—the teenagers recruited with a sense of power and belonging, the bulldozing righteousness of public displays, the coercion and violence directed at secular individuals. Filmmaker Sabiha Sumar's story is filtered through a widow's tortured memory of the 1947 partition and war, but the characters have a Mira Nair-ish thinness. Shot, if never shown, in Pakistan. A First Run Features release. M.A.

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