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Best in Show

The Top 40 Picks of the Tribeca Film Festival

Brothers of the Head

As improbably touching as the Farrelly brothers' Stuck on You, this mock-doc tracks the rise and fall of a conjoined-twin glam-rock act in polysexual, Performance-era England. The tone is anything but mocking: Directors Keith Pepe and Louis Fulton (who made the Terry Gilliam doc Lost in La Mancha) avoid Behind the Music snark, focusing instead on period textures and oddball details (weirdest of all, an aborted Ken Russell biopic). The golden-hued footage is impeccably faked by ace cinematographer (and Dogme vet) Anthony Dod Mantle. Dennis Lim

The Case of the Grinning Cat

illustration: Jorge Colombo

As lively, engaged, and provocative as ever (not least in his use of digital technology), octogenarian Chris Marker meditates on the state of post–9-11 France. Part personal essay, part city symphony, this hour-long video takes as its premise the mysterious appearance of the enigmatic M. Chat—a wide-eyed, broadly smiling feline mascot who magically appears on Paris rooftops and building walls, as well as at political demonstrations. A minor mystery: The movie is dated 2004. Why has it taken so long to arrive here? J. Hoberman

Colour Me Kubrick

John Malkovich has recently played Gustav Klimt, Charles II, and of course himself, but this might be his most out-there performance yet. In Brian Cook's broad, breezy comedy, based on a real-life case, the up-for-anything thesp plays Alan Conway, a gay, effete, alcoholic slob who in the late '90s passed himself off as Stanley Kubrick. The lack of physical resemblance and the impostor's hilariously limited knowledge of the filmmaker's work didn't stop him from hustling his way into several bedrooms and bank accounts. The movie feels a touch attenuated even at 80 minutes, but Malkovich is transfixing, and his ridiculous mincing even attains a tragic dimension. D.L.

Comedy of Power

Fictionalizing the notorious "Elf Affair" that sent scores of corrupt French CEOs and oil execs to prison in 2003, New Wave lion Claude Chabrol casually stretches in the sun of a legal procedural that typically has less to do with facts than character and social intercourse. Isabelle Huppert, as the chief investigating judge of a corruption scandal involving millions in state funds, sauces up the movie so indelibly it evolves into a post- feminist character study. Her workaholic avenging angel, dangerously underfed and self-amused, is pathologically invulnerable—even as the murder threats pour in. Therein lies her charm, and Huppert's star power. Michael atkinson

Day Break

In Iran, where a condemned criminal can only be executed or pardoned after a face-to-face meeting with his victim's family, Mansour (Hossein Yari) waits for his life-or-death appointment . . . and waits, and waits. Hamid Rahmanian's assured film begins in faux-documentary mode as a taut consideration of capital punishment in Iran, but it eventually switches gears to become a reticent interior journey, as Mansour's apprehension about his fate slowly transforms into the agony of a living death. Jessica Winter

The Dignity of the Nobodies

Radical thunderflash Fernando Solanas proceeds with his searing career project—documenting Argentina's political plunder and its human costs, for all the world to see—with this continuation of 2004's fist-in-your-face history lesson A Social Genocide. Here he focuses on "the usual victims," peasants knowledgeable enough about who's guilty to use the term neoliberalism during incessant street protests. Solanas makes the third-world poverty doc look easy and imperative, examining how collective activity—soup kitchens, farm auction interventions, factory takeovers—has spontaneously arisen from the IMF-dictated exploitation. M.A.

Home Front

Left blind and brain-damaged in Iraq, army ranger Jeremy Feldbusch returns home to Pennsylvania into the care of his parents; he faces an uncertain and depressingly sedentary future, but does link up with other vets to lobby Congress for the "Wounded Warrior" bill. Richard Hankin's poker-faced documentary is conventional in its outlines, but it's alarmingly valuable as a working sketch of the pro-war heartland circa now. J.W.

Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis

Already controversial within experimental-film circles—not least due to ongoing legal battles over the legendary downtown artist's estate—Mary Jordan's long-awaited doc is surprisingly snappy; ironically, for celebrating such an uncompromising figure, it's one of the most accessible portraits of an avant-garde filmmaker ever made. Best known for the scandalous '60s flick Flaming Creatures, Smith is depicted as the unsung force behind the rise of the Warhol star system and performance art, and an anti-capitalist ranter whose personal philosophy embodied the ne plus ultra of undergroundness. Ed Halter

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

The ultimate death knell for '60s idealism sounded on November 18, 1978, at Jonestown, Guyana, where Reverend Jim Jones and more than 900 acolytes of his Peoples Temple destroyed their utopian aims in a paroxysm of paranoia, murder, and mass suicide. The conventional PBS formatting of Stanley Nelson's documentary only makes Jones's rise from Indiana pet monkey salesman to pansexual socialist megalomaniac more surreal—and heartbreaking, given the noble early goals described by still-dazed survivors. In the end, there's just the grim evidence of the doc's horrifying last half-hour, the on-camera slaughter of a dream: history as Cannibal Holocaust. J.R.

Land of the Blind

Bizarrely and rather dunderheadedly outrageous, radicalized undergrounder Robert Edwards's first feature imagines a fictionalized ur-nation bouncing from the reign of a Caligula-like despot (Tom Hollander), to a quasi-socialist revolution led by a playwright/messiah (Donald Sutherland), to a Stalinist/Taliban fascism. Who exactly is the one-eyed man in this Mad magazine version of dialectical materialism isn't clear; it surely isn't Ralph Fiennes, as the passive hero who graduates from being a good soldier to being Winston Smith in a re-education torture chamber. M.A.

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