By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
St. Anthony Main, Friday at 9:40 p.m. and Monday at 9:15 p.m.
British author Shamim Sarif takes her award-winning debut novel to the screen with mixed results. Set in the early days of South African apartheid, The World Unseen takes a refreshing, street-level look at its effects while also merging it with other societal straightjackets, including the traditional roles of women and same-sex relationships. The story centers on Miriam (Lisa Ray) and Amina (Sheetal Sheth), two Indian women living in a small town in the early 1950s. Miriam is a traditional housewife, though she has begun to realize that the bond between her and her husband is not strong. Amina is an independent woman who—horrors—wears trousers and runs a local café with a black man. All of this set up, however, doesn't make for a particularly engaging film. The efforts of first-time director Sarif bear most of the blame. The film is dull to look at and moves with a leaden pace that offers no real surprises or insight along the way. Some of the actors show some chemistry—Ray and Sheth especially have some good tender moments—but none of The World Unseen rises to the subject matter. —Ed Huyck
St. Anthony Main, Saturday at 5:05 p.m.
Bearing more in common with an A&E Biography than a feature documentary, Phillipe Kohly's Callas Assouluta hits the ground in an aimless sprint and doesn't stop until the credits roll. Kohly makes quick and messy work of Maria Callas, the most complex and tragic diva of 20th-century opera, cataloging her affair with Aristotle Onasis, her struggle with bulimia, and her eventual suicide with all the haste and exactness of a forensic examiner. Kohly's uneven, indecisive doc lingers where it should hurry (lengthy shots of costumed mannequins rotate for the camera like game hens on a spit) and hurries where it should linger (Callas's abrupt and permanent estrangement from her mother is glossed over in a single line of narration). Despite his efforts to keep Callas dripping in jewels and haughty perfectionism, Kohly selected footage that paints Callas as a retiring, almost modest woman. The footage would be poignant were it part of a campaign to expose the human bones of the vaunted diva, but Kohly is not so adventurous. He takes her diva status as read and seems uninterested in unearthing the complexities and risks of such a persona, and the footage undermines the concept of celebrity with which Kohly is clearly intoxicated. This paint-by-numbers biography still produces arresting scenes of Callas performing, but these moments are fleeting and far between. More informative than illustrative, Kohly's largely inanimate bio drains Callas's life of all its blood, an unfortunate mishandling of subject matter that should be as indulgently sensory as an opium dream. —David Hansen
St. Anthony Main, Saturday at 4:45 p.m. and Monday at 9:20 p.m.
"Everybody's lost, and nobody has nobody." So goes the most profound line muttered by Yugoslav smuggler Todor (Miki Manojlovic) to Nilofar (Diana Dobreva), the woman he was hired to move as cargo, but now decides to help smuggle to Paris. The line also perfectly embodies this staggeringly dull, often wordless film. The bulk of its screen time is devoted to Todor smoking on the docks of the Italian border town of Trieste, drinking with his blind friend Aurelio (Luigi Maria Burrliano, giving the movie much needed life), or sitting sullenly in his dank apartment with Nilofar. Manojlovic's haggard face, suggesting Walter Matthau by the Seine, is mesmerizing, but director Nora Hoppe undersells a potentially intriguing character and premise with inert pacing, washed-out photography, and about a hundred shots of the sea. —John Ervin
St. Anthony Main, Saturday at 4:50 p.m. and Sunday at 6:15 p.m.
Like The Story of the Weeping Camel and Mongolian Ping Pong, Tuya's Marriage is partly an anthropological survey of Inner Mongolia's grasslands, though director Wang Quan An shuns the allegorical and the fanciful for a more straightforward look at community. Wang's articulation of a vanishing way of life centers on young Tuya (Yu Nan), whose injured herder husband encourages her to take a new mate after she suffers a lumbar dislocation and is unable to care for their children. Around them, people booze and smoke to get by, and as the pinch of modernity tightens, suicide emerges as an exit strategy. Wang maintains an emotional remove from his subject, tracing the encroaching capitalism—as in the evolution from horses to motorcycles to cars—more clinically than poetically. Maybe because of Weeping Camel and Ping Pong, a frame chockablock with sheep is beginning to feel like dull visual shorthand for untainted primitivism. Maybe Tuya's Marriage would disappoint less if its pathos were more fearless and less contrived.
St. Anthony Main, Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
An examination of class, politics, religion, and sexuality through several tenants of an apartment building in Cairo, Egypt, this sprawling panorama feels like several movies in one. No surprise, since it's two hours and 40 minutes long! Despite the film's contemporary subjects—Islamic militancy, corporate corruption, drug use, abortion, etc.—director Marawan Hamed's sensibility is distinctly from the era of Casablanca. Though the film ultimately drowns in so many characters and stories, it is worth seeing for the enormous sets, lush photography, and impressive cast, led by Adel Imam as a wealthy, lonely bar hound, who looks like he actually was in Casablanca. Besides, how many chances are you going to get to see movies from Egypt, let alone ones with gay characters? —John Ervin