RAMEAU'S NEPHEW BY DIDEROT (THANX TO DENNIS YOUNG) BY WILMA SCHOEN
Walker Art Center, Sunday at 7:00 p.m.
Far be it from me to understand a 30-year-old, four-and-a-half-hour experimental epic whose maker's bio claims that it has yet to be understood (at least not "widely"). What I do know is that Michael Snow's gently inscrutable meditation on the cinematic relationship between sound and image hardly ever screens, so adventuresome moviegoers will want to devote a third of the day to it no matter what. Dedicated (facetiously?) to Alexander Graham Bell, the film comes in 24 parts (one for each frame per second?), the most accessible of which--e.g., the long scene of a drummer drawing bongo-like sounds from a kitchen sink--make the point that we can never trust a movie's use of sound. (Mel Brooks plunked a similar note the same year in Blazing Saddles.) Still, Snow's film works best at its most abstract, hypnotizing (or lulling?) the viewer with good old-fashioned avant-garde psychedelia. Come wired or exhausted: Rare is the opportunity to space out for this long. --Rob Nelson
AS SMART AS THEY ARE: THE AUTHOR PROJECT
Oak Street Cinema, Sunday at 7:30 p.m.; and the Bell, Monday at 9:30 p.m.
Quirky and precious, One Ring Zero are exactly the sort of house band you'd expect at McSweeney's knickknack shop in New York. Using only an accordion and claviola (imagine a melodica crossed with a pan flute), the brainy duo began supplying klezmerish incidental music for readings by literary darlings such as Dave Eggers and Jonathan Ames, and eventually asked writers to provide them with lyrics. Frankly, the two come across as a wannabe They Might Be Giants (who, incidentally, provided musical accompaniment for McSweeney's national tour in 2002). For all its talk about how difficult it is for novelists to pen lyrics, the film offers little conclusion while burying its performance footage under ever more commentary.--Lindsey Thomas
TRAGEDY: THE STORY OF QUEENSBRIDGE
Oak Street Cinema, Sunday at 9:00 p.m. and Friday, October 14 at 10:00 p.m.
While New York's Percy Chapman was in the womb, his father was murdered. When he was a boy, his mother (now deceased) became a heroin addict. Just as Chapman was getting noticed for his rapping turns on producer Marley Marl's classic 1988 album In Control, he was sent to Rikers Island for armed robbery. In other words, Chapman has earned the stage name Tragedy. (You may also know him as Intelligent Hoodlum, under which handle he made a politically conscious album in 1990.) Like Marl, MC Shan, Nas, Mobb Deep, and other hip-hop heavies, Tragedy is from Queensbridge, the world's largest housing project. At its best, which is mainly when the self-aware Tragedy is being interviewed, Tragedy depicts a city within a city that's both a war zone and a tight-knit artistic hotbed.--Dylan Hicks
RADIOHEAD TELEVISION: THE MOST GIGANTIC LYING MOUTH OF ALL TIME
The Bell, Sunday at 9:15 p.m.
And you thought Current TV was boring. Just as Al Gore's new network aims to reinvigorate the wishy-washy consumer multiculturalism of the late '90s, Radiohead's online experiment-cum-Hail to the Thief rollout further plugged their vision of that era's techno-abject dark side with predictable how-did-we-get-here? malaise. The Most Gigantic Lying Mouth collects "24 frighteningly bizarre films" (read: expressionist gewgaw music vids), arranged as an anti-variety variety show, occasionally interspersed with in-studio look-ins and an interview with Thom Yorke in which he offers abstracted non-answers to pointed celebrity tell-all questions. One can glean a strange, gentle fix from this slow, sulking mess of urban opaques, separation anxiety cartoons, and market subjectivity spoofs, but, as with so much about this band, the rewards are only sometimes worth the work, no matter how passionate the dedication or deep the bong.--Jon Dolan
DRIVE WELL, SLEEP CAREFULLY: ON THE ROAD WITH DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
Bryant-Lake Bowl, Monday at 5:00 p.m. and Wednesday, October 12 at 5:00 p.m.
For emo-Americans insulted by your parents' debauched rock docs, here's your tour diary: a portrait of a hardworking group that prides itself on putting the "punk back in punctual." John Mitchell's film chronicles Death Cab's tour in support of 2003's Transatlanticism, a set of earnest, introspective ballads that cast them as poster boys for The O.C.-brand Seth Cohen rock. Milquetoast interview clips reveal nothing shocking, but the live footage, beautifully shot in 16mm, has a certain home-movie sweetness that flatters a band bent on nostalgia. Singer Ben Gibbard smiles shyly in his green blazer, then rocks you gently. Politely. Securely.--Melissa Maerz
Oak Street Cinema, Monday at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday, October 13 at 9:45 p.m.
Favelas are illegal squatter settlements seething with squalor and violence. Rio de Janeiro has about 600 of them and, according to this magnificently harrowing drama, their Bosnia is the favela known as Vigario Geral. That's the residence of Anderson Sa, a Christ-like figure (though he and the filmmakers prefer Shiva) trying to lead his favela through the carnage by means of an ever-expanding song and dance troupe and educational program known as Grupo Afroreggae. Any further plot synopsis would make the film sound like a hokey hybrid of Hotel Rwanda, Gandhi, Fame, and Walking Tall. All I can say is: Come with your staunchest skepticism fully loaded. Because whenever a question lingers too onerously, it's answered and extended into fodder for future plot twists.--Britt Robson