Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Hit and a Miss

ELITE SQUAD / Tropa de Elite [***1/2]
(Jose Padilha, Brazil, 118 mins.)

Captain Nascimento (Wagner
, Lower City, SIFF '07)

Though Jose Padilha's action-packed crime drama won the top prize at the Berlin Film Festival, a steady stream of controversy and acclaim has followed in its wake. Some critics have even accused the director of promoting fascism, while Padilha (Bus 174) contends that Elite Squad argues against totalitarianism (in this sense, it recalls Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist). Based around the activities of three special police battalion members, this brutal, bleakly funny film depicts 1990s Rio de Janeiro as Dante's Ninth Circle of Hell. Nonetheless, Brazilians made it an even bigger sensation than City of God, to which it serves as an essential companion piece.

Elite Squad plays the Uptown Cinema on Fri., 5/23,
at 9:30pm and Sat., 5/24, at 1:30pm (click the link for
ticketing information). For an examination of the furor
surrounding Padhila's film, this essay is worth a look.

(János Szász, Hungary, 109 mins.)

Ghostly white virgin Gizella (Kirsti Stubø)

Too often films about the mentally ill focus on symptoms to the detriment of the person behind them. Occasional exceptions occur in which seemingly normal people descend into madness, as in Iris or Away From Her. In those movies, the characters register as fully-rounded individuals before sickness takes hold. Though Kirsti Stubø gives it her all, the mental patient she portrays in Opium never becomes much more than a collection of ticks and tricks. Ulrich Thomsen (Brothers) plays the opium-addicted doctor who takes charge of her case. Their strange relationship sets off a few small sparks, but neither is especially compelling. A missed opportunity.

Opium plays the Harvard Exit on Fri., 5/23, at
7pm and SIFF Cinema on Sun., 5/25, at 4:15pm.

Endnote: Images from Galeria & Photoma-
, McClatchy, Mediawave, and Mixzona.

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