By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Wednesday, April 21, at 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 24, at 9:15 p.m.
There are probably any number of communities throughout the world, hidden to the Western eye, where traditional ways of life are threatened by government- and/or corporate-sponsored modernization. While filmmakers like Jia Zhangke and Olivier Assayas take as their subjects the far more visible consequences of a transforming China and Europe, it's left to the smaller documentarian to highlight uncovered and at-risk pockets of humanity in less developed parts of the world. In Garbage Dreams, Mai Iskander's handsomely shot and intermittently fascinating look at Cairo's Zaballeen community of trash collectors, the filmmaker documents an entire population faced with extinction. While the Zaballeen have long made their living scouring the streets for garbage and recycling their findings into raw materials, the government's desire for modernization has led them to institute the city's first concerted garbage-removal system, outsourcing the work to foreign companies and leaving an impoverished community further impoverished. But with new problems come new opportunities, and Garbage Dreams smartly focuses on a younger generation of teenage workers who stand to benefit from the Zaballeen's new focus on education and updated techniques. But since even these kids lack the training for anything but garbage work, Iskander's film registers most powerfully as a lament for a community left behind. —Andrew Schenker
Saturday, April 24, at 9:30 p.m.; Wednesday, April 28, at 5 p.m.
The opening scenes of Home—a nighttime game of street hockey, a bathing session that turns into a five-way splash fight—establish the anarchic sense of play that defines the interactions of the film's central family, while the casual nudity on display hints at the vaguely incestuous tensions in this uniquely insular clan. The rest of Ursula Meier's confident, appealingly bizarre theatrical debut subjects these tensions to the hothouse environment of a self-willed isolation. When the five members of the central family find their remote domestic paradise invaded by the reopening of the abandoned highway adjacent to their house, they resort to increasingly lunatic measures to block out the noise—it's but a small step from earplugs to bricking up their house entirely. Eventually, paranoia and open hostility set in as a family defined from the start by too great a sense of closeness is forced into even closer proximity. Working with all-star cinematographer Agnès Godard, Meier effectively communicates the sense of upended privacy, moving easily from the nighttime intrusion of brightly clad construction workers (the eye-straining oranges and yellows of their uniforms registering as a truly alien presence) to the incongruous sight of Isabelle Huppert tending her garden as blurry streaks of traffic zip by. —Andrew Schenker
Tuesday, April 20, at 7:45 p.m.; Saturday, April 17, at 5:15 p.m.
Watching this lauded but fatally slight comedy of manners about a middle-aged Italian who finds himself caring for four spunky old dames, it's hard to believe writer, director, and star Gianni Di Gregorio also co-wrote the bloody mafia hit Gomorrah. Amiably self-deprecating to a fault, the semi-autobiographical Mid-August Lunch features Di Gregorio as Gianni, an aging slacker who cares for his demanding mother (Valeria de Franciscis) in their decrepit Rome apartment. Forced to take in several other matriarchs to win a reprieve on his overdue rent, Gianni wakes up to a functioning community of vibrant broads (all gallantly played by non-pros) whose preference for fun over balanced cholesterol levels provides whatever charm can be wrung from this desultory slice of life. By contrast—and if that's the point, it remains unexplored—Gianni is a pale ghost of a man who desires nothing and does little more than rustle up dainty dishes, knock back white wine by the liter, and, in a coda you can see coming from scene one, whirl the randy old girls around in a valedictory living-room dance. Indeed, the only whiff of passion comes from the sadistic care that has gone into putting garish clothes and makeup on the mother, which give her the ghoulish air of Jeanne Moreau in a fun-house mirror. Of all the ritzy festival awards Mid-August Lunch has won (including Best First Film at Venice), it rates at least Bologna's Golden Snail Award for Best Food Feature. —Ella Taylor
Friday, April 23, at 5 p.m.; Tuesday, April 27, at 9:50 p.m.
Beer and sausage and mullets and mayhem are the stuff of a young Belgian teen's upbringing in Felix Van Groeningen's earthy adaptation of Dimitri Verhulst's popular novel. Thirteen-year-old Gunther Stobbe (Kenneth Vanbaeden) plays little brother to four rowdy strapping Stobbes—his hooting dad (Koen de Graeve) and three overgrown uncles—all living under sharp-eyed grandma's small-town roof in a state of arrested (or perfected) boozing-louthood. Through the eyes of Gunther—in the '80s, and in flash-forwards, grown, an author, and annoyed about his moon-faced pregnant girlfriend—we chortle at their chest-beating, step aside to make room for their righteous brawls, and listen to them sing drinking songs about pussy. Acerbic and hatchet-faced as an adult (played by Valentijn Dhaenens), Gunther joins the grand tradition of writers recalling a house-bursting-with-knockabout-family. His, and Van Groeningen's, bear hug of these men is ostentatiously unembarrassed. Though Van Groeningen knows where to stick the camera in a belchy testosterone-filled room, the back and forth between prideful independence and oblivion can get a little practiced, and is not helped by a final lugubrious turn, a strange daintiness at key points, and blasts of repurposed mood music. But The Misfortunates is often very funny, and the rolling remember-when vignettes trump the typical low-country wild-hairy-man sideshows. —Nicolas Rapold