Directed by Pantham Thongsang
June 3 through 9, ImaginAsian

Adapted from an award-winning novel by Chart Kobjitti, producer-turned-director Pantham Thongsang's The Judgment harks back to a more modest time in Thai cinema—the 1980s—when fewer than a dozen local films were released each year, and none dreamed of competition slots at Cannes. A deeply moral parable about a Buddhist novitiate named Fak (Pitisak Yaowananont) who returns home to find his aging father remarried to a sexed-up, much younger, and apparently brain-damaged woman named Somsong (Bongkot Kongmalai), The Judgment derives its title from the trial-by-gossip held by the neighbors when Fak's father suddenly dies, leaving the son and his screwy stepmother in a suspiciously intimate state of cohabitation. With a soundtrack of infectious golden oldies and Bongkot's palpitation-inducing incarnation of the erotically addled Somsong, Thongsang's film is likable enough for a while, though it grows increasingly brutalizing as the neighbors' venal verdict is rendered. Even if it recalls still another aspect of '80s Thai cinema by remaining almost entirely free of the aesthetic ambitions of Last Life in the Universe or Blissfully Yours, the condemnation of the Thai propensity for throwing stones from glass houses remains timely at home. For international audiences accustomed to the separation of cinema and sermonizing, it's likely to mean little or nothing at all. CHUCK STEPHENS

photo: Joann Malandro/Newmarket Films


Rock School
Directed by Don Argott
Newmarket, opens June 3

Walter Reade, June 1 through 9

Is Italy a glossy land of shopping malls and corporate headquarters or a wilderness of ruined industrial spaces and crumbling social services? Both sides are on display in this series of 12 films. The documentary A Private Silence charts the relationships among filmmaker Stefano Rulli, his wife, Clara, and Matteo, their 24-year-old autistic son. The film is organized around their visits to a vacation home for mentally challenged adults in the Umbrian hills. Handsome, prone to violence, but also terribly fragile, Matteo remains on the sidelines despite his family's efforts to draw him out. At the heart of their dilemma lies a challenge common to parents—how to make contact with another person on his or her terms.

The older generation resolutely fails at that task in Daniele Gaglianone's Changing Destiny. Alessandro, 15, takes care of his mentally ill single mother; his best friend Ferdi, 17, puts up with an alcoholic father who lives off disability payments from the factory job that poisoned him. Moving between recollection and fantasy, the film follows their increasing disaffection from school and society. Though marred by melodrama, it's an affecting portrayal of Italian youth in crisis.

For midlife crisis, see Amatemi! (Love Me). Renato De Maria's sophisticated tale of erotic misadventures stars his wife, Isabella Ferrari, as Nina, a beautiful 35-year-old who loves her job as an announcer at a shopping center and her husband of 20 years. When he suddenly leaves her, she flails about—then finally gets her act together, buys some new clothes, and begins a series of (at times hilarious) encounters with men. And presto—she's suddenly able to sell everything from lawnmowers to green apples. With a sly wink to commodity theory, De Maria even gives this genre-bending fable of one woman's needs and pleasures a happy ending. LESLIE CAMHI

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