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Film Clips 

NEW RELEASES

CHARLOTTE FILM SOCIETY Movies begin this Friday at the Manor and continue the following Friday at Movies at Birkdale. Call 414-2355 for details.

* THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGEOISIE Luis Bunuel's classic conversation piece from 1972 -- an Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film -- is yet another wry attack on the capitalist mindset, as a smug group of friends repeatedly attempts to get together for dinner, with frustrating results. A bookend picture to go with Bunuel's 1962 The Exterminating Angel, this exercise in surrealism gets more twisted -- and more pointed -- as it progresses. 1/2

* THE ROAD HOME World-class moviemaker Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern) is working in a minor key here, spinning a slight if enjoyable yarn about a Chinese man reflecting on how his parents first met. This 1999 feature's greatest assets are its dazzling use of color (a staple in the director's work) and a pre-Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon performance by the lovely Zhang Ziyi, cast as Mom in the flashback sequences. 1/2

* Also: LUMUMBA, about the slain African prime minister, and THE VERTICAL RAY OF THE SUN, a Vietnamese feature about three sisters and their various relationships. (Unscreened)

LIGHT FACTORY FILM SERIES Screening will be held at 7:30pm this Friday at the Visulite Theater. Call 333-9755 for details.

* SONGCATCHER Why a motion picture with such deep Carolina roots failed to receive a proper run at any of Charlotte's regular movie houses is a complete mystery, and a rather disgraceful one at that (kudos to Light Factory film coordinator Wendy Fishman and her crew for providing this showing). In circulation since 2000, the same year it snagged a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, writer-director Maggie Greenwald's often lovely, always lyrical drama frequently plays like O Brother, Where Art Thou? without the self-conscious winks, as it relates the tale of an early-20th-century musicologist (Janet McTeer) who moves to the Appalachian Mountains (filming took place around Asheville) and decides to record the traditional ballads long preserved by the locals. The film's first half is so terrific, it's a shame the second part goes haywire with all manner of hoary melodramatic devices. Still, the music is wonderful (Iris DeMent and Taj Mahal turn up in small parts), and the performances (most notably by Pat Carroll and Emmy Rossum as musically gifted mountain folk) outstanding.

CURRENT RELEASES

BLACK HAWK DOWN This adaptation of Mark Bowen's account of the 1993 military operation in Somalia that left several Americans dead is being given the Oscar push, but the truth is that the film adds precious little to the long line of war pictures that have come out of Hollywood over the last century. On the contrary, the movie seems to exist in a bubble, hermetically sealed off from the emotional pull that helped define most of the great war flicks. From the start, this fails to provide much historical or political context to its proceedings, yet even more detrimental is that none of the key contributors -- director Ridley Scott, producer Jerry Bruckheimer or novice screenwriter Ken Nolan -- deemed it important to place any stock in their cast of characters. Obviously, Scott et al wanted to recreate the wartime experience in all its shell-shocked urgency rather than fashion a more traditional (read: narrative-driven) movie, but Saving Private Ryan managed to accomplish both objectives without any compromises. Some familiar actors pop up here and there, but for the most part, the unflagging sound and fury make it impossible to identify or empathize with these characters as individuals, since their primary function seems to be to serve as an anonymous slab of American fortitude.

BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF Movies that adopt an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach are often maddening messes, but this French import is reminiscent of countless other films and yet still manages to retain its own swagger of originality. With a first half that plays like Sleepy Hollow, a second half that begs comparison to From Hell, and elements of Jaws, The Last of the Mohicans, The Company of Wolves and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon scattered throughout, this delirious experience covers most bases and makes at least a cursory stab at the few it misses. In 18th century France, a naturist/philosopher (Samuel Le Bihan) and his Iroquois companion (Mark Dacascos) are sent by the royal court to investigate a series of slayings in the French countryside. The creature responsible is reportedly a monstrous wolf, but as the pair investigate, they discover that several of the locals may know more about the affair than they're admitting. This one's got it all: martial arts, political intrigue, tender romance (between Le Bihan and Rosetta's Emilie Dequenne), steamy sex scenes (between Le Bihan and Malena's Monica Bellucci), and a snapping, snarling, bloodthirsty beast.

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