Voices Through Time

Albeit Italian, this evocative piece of visual storytelling forgoes subtitles in its exploration of the secret life of a small town, focusing primarily on the faces and body language of its people. When it succeeds, the film leaves you with sequences that possess the vivid texture of real memories. These scenes have isolated power: children playing and bonding in the street, a wedding party with elderly couples waltzing in perfect sync, a park dance in which a gaggle of flirting teens displays every emotion from lust to jealousy. But fans of plot and character may pine for the exit door, since nothing unites these fragments except the Almighty Theme implied in the title and director Franco Piavoli's fascination with filmed portraiture. Still, not since Kids has a filmmaker so successfully made the viewer feel like an invisible voyeur onto a real, heretofore hidden world. (Peter S. Scholtes) Oak Street Cinema, Monday at 9:15 p.m.

The Way

While this dreamy, soft-spoken movie seems to be about an aging Chinese immigrant looking for love through the personal ads from his home in Budapest, Hungarian director Ferenc Moldovanyi has infused every scene with the weight of existentialism; it exudes the vast and insignificant feeling of having realized that planet Earth is probably just a tiny speck of dirt in a space creature's eyebrow. The way that Moldovanyi overlaps the old man's small-voiced monologues with slow-burn footage is incredibly subtle, panning along the back doors of restaurant kitchens so we can peek in at the unknowing customers and the staff. These voiceovers--in which the old man describes his loveless marriage, his devotion to education, and the horrible years of the Cultural Revolution, often in the form of vague riddles such as "You want to take the secret of life to heaven"--take on new meaning when they're coupled with smooth, elegant footage of everyday scenes. Watching the movie feels akin to staring at a passing landscape from a slow train, pondering its ordinary beauty. Scenes in which the old man chitchats with his hairdresser, scopes out a potential girlfriend, and visits with his son bear the same meandering spirit--one that leaves a complex impression of tedium, yearning, and humble affection. The fact that nothing really happens throughout the film only makes its bittersweet impact all the more intriguing. (Carolyn Petrie) Bell Auditorium, Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Will It Snow For Christmas?

This emotionally ambitious debut from French filmmaker Sandrine Veysset received warm reviews when it opened in New York last December, although the director herself has admitted that some people may be understandably bored by her movie. Indeed, this is one of those smart, well-made films that thoughtful viewers will appreciate intellectually but find tough to love. The story--which moves so slowly that it almost seems to unfold in real time--follows a saintly woman and her seven illegitimate children, who are de facto indentured servants on the farm of their tyrannical father. One of the kids' favorite games is to take turns trying to make each other cry; whoever doesn't cry wins. Days blend into one other as summer becomes fall becomes winter, and the work cycles of planting, harvesting, and going to school drive the children toward adolescence. The mother (Dominique Reymond) is the magnetic core of the kids' lives, but she's so incredibly perfect that we start to lose belief in both her and her equally ideal children. Along with the film's languorous pace and drab visual style, these flawless characters keep us at a distance and rob the surprise ending of its power. (Kate Sullivan) Oak Street Cinema, Tuesday at 9:15 p.m.

Deep Crimson

This Mexican film noir is pitch-black in tone, blood-red in style, and otherwise colored by the darkest misanthropy. Directed by Arturo Ripstein (White Lies), it's set in 1940s Mexico and based on the same true story that inspired the American cult classic The Honeymoon Killers: A pair of low-lifes embark on a savage killing spree, dispatching old widows and stealing their money until greed and jealousy tear them apart. The director's own sadistic m.o. involves dwelling on the killers' most unappealing qualities--the ludicrous vanity of the balding gigolo (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) who seduces the victims, the desperation of the obese nurse (Regina Orozco) who pathetically clings to him--while drawing out the murders to excruciating lengths. One widow is given a slow-acting poison that ravages her insides for more than 10 minutes of screen time, while the penultimate scene is so grisly that even the slightly edited version shown at the New York Film Festival last year was more than I could watch. Deep Crimson is a film that means to drag the viewer through the mud and make him feel filthy; it succeeds. (Nelson) Bell Auditorium, Wednesday, April 29 at 7 p.m.

Conceiving Ada

This story of a computer genius (Tilda Swinton) who communicates through cyberspace with a long-dead Victorian mathematician poses enough intriguing questions and dreamy technological solutions to hold its own. It's also helped in no small measure by Swinton's haunting performance as Ada, a woman who inherited her genius--as well as her affinity for sex, drugs, and gambling--from her father, Lord Byron. Multimedia artist Lynn Hershman Leeson has created a pioneering work of cyber-filmmaking here, although its form of out-and-out techno fantasy does demand a hearty suspension of disbelief from those who take their computer science literally. In particular, the simplistic method that a beautiful, work-obsessed codewriter (Francesca Faridany) devises to "find" and "save" scenes from Ada's life is tough to swallow, "explained" as it is by such excited mumbo-jumbo as "I've imported a memory bank made from DNA molecules." Still, sci-fi hurdles aside, the parallels of the women's lives--from their ambivalence about motherhood to their decidedly unfeminine ambition in a field as manly as math--seem to make the case that we've come a long way, baby. Or is Leeson's point that our ultimate creative power remains in the womb? The least one can say for Conceiving Ada is that it sets a clear path toward post-screening discussion--or debate. (Petrie) Oak Street Cinema, Wednesday, April 29 at 9:15 p.m.

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