This Week's Attractions

Bonhoeffer, I Capture the Castle, Chaos, Northfork, and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.


Runs Sat., July 26-Sun., July 27, at Little Theatre Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a Lutheran theologian who praised the Lord and passed the ammunition. Recruited by his brother-in-law, whose high position in the Nazi intelligence office hipped him early to the Holocaust, the pacifist Bonhoeffer joined von Stauffenberg's plot to assassinate Hitler, then was hanged days before the Allies liberated Berlin. As Martin Doblmeier's plodding, artless, yet also fascinating and inspiring 2000 documentary demonstrates, Bonhoeffer was better prepared than most Germans to see what had to be done, because his eyes had previously been opened to America's own murderous racist hypocrisy. While at the seminary in New York, Reinhold Niebuhr had him read writers of the Harlem Renaissance, and Bonhoeffer effectively joined the Abyssinian Baptist Church, whose preacher, Adam Clayton Powell Sr., gave him his key idea: the fraudulence of "cheap grace." Cheap grace, Bonhoeffer wrote, is "forgiveness without requiring repentance. . . . Costly grace is the Gospel. It costs people their lives." The idea is, Christ wasn't kidding: The Sermon on the Mount was a direct order, and you must put your life on the line to save your fellow man. Right now! Back in Germany, Bonhoeffer made his Nazi-defying theology students listen to Paul Robeson spirituals: Black music had taught him that truth is polyphonic, a blending of melodies and traditions, and not the monolithically "pure" concept Hitler advocated. The black church convinced him that German theology's dry didacticism cut it off from the human feeling that makes the church a communion of saints. In a way that morally rubbery Americans find hard to imagine, many Germans supported Hitler even after they wanted to challenge him, because they felt bound to the loyalty oath he made everyone swear. Bonhoeffer taught many that there was a way out of this legalistic dilemmaan appeal to the higher court of human responsibility. There are two direct paths proceeding from Martin Luther: One leads to Hitler (obedience), the other to Martin Luther King Jr. (resistance). Bonhoeffer shone a light on the right path. Bonhoeffer, for all its flaws, shines intriguing light on his mind and martyrdom. (NR) TIM APPELO I CAPTURE THE CASTLE

Opens Fri., July 25, at Seven Gables O, the beloved English novel turned into a movie. It can go well (see: Merchant-Ivory), or it can go badly (see: Merchant-Ivory). Dodie Smith's autobiographical 1948 marriage drama is no classic, but it is beloved, and Castle is rather too belabored with its belovedness. In addition to ponderous voice-overs from sensitive, overlooked 17-year-old Cassandra (who vies with her glamorous, fickle older sister, Rose, for two rich American brothers who move in next door), the movie has to show you her writing in her diary. In case you missed the point. About her being a future writer. And all that. Anyway, the Suffolk countryside is picturesque; the girls' family is colorfully eccentric; and Castle, set in the '30s, will satisfy those women looking for a very, very diluted shot of Jane Austen. For men, it'll seem like estrogen therapy, although Tara Fitzgerald supplies interest as the girls' bohemian stepmother, a dedicated nudist. (R) BRIAN MILLER CHAOS

Runs Fri., July 25-Thurs., July 31, at Varsity So you and the wife are all done up, on your way to a late-night Parisian cocktail party. You take an ill-advised back-alley shortcut, where a lady of the night flies onto your windshield begging, pleading, screeching for you to open the fucking door before the three pimps right behind her thrash her into a coma. What's the next move? To Chaos writer-director Coline Serreau, this excruciatingly brutal prologue is a red herring: What seems like a question of scruples is really a question of karma. The husband, Paul (Vincent Lindon), calmly locks the car. The wife, H鬨ne (Catherine Frot), is frozen in disbelief and terror, and their Lives Will Change Forever contingent on their respective actions and, um, sexes. Chaos might be reduced to an angry feminist formula bad characters (men) are punished for being bad (lying, domineering, covetous walking dicks), while good characters (women) are rewarded for being good (empathetic, progressive survivors). Yet Chaos instead develops into a sly, empowering, and possibly Pam Grier-inspired warning about underestimating the wrong lady, punk. The next morning, Paul and H鬨ne resume routine in their tidy, safe apartment, but their relationship is already irreparably fractured. H鬨ne gives in to her conscience and visits the battered, inert, Algerian prostitute, Malika (Rachida Brakni), in intensive care. Lest you think Chaos will settle into a redemptive, bedside Talk to Her groove, Serreau takes a series of audacious U-turns to tell Malika's shockingly tragic back story, a jarring, unlikely convergence of religious fundamentalism and sexual slavery. Between hospital visits, the exhausted, guilt-ridden H鬨ne docks at the old apartment, which is fast degenerating into a pigsty in her absence. Serreau shapes these domestic squabble sequencesfeaturing the increasingly huffy, lazy Paul, his womanizing collegiate son, and H鬨ne's neglected, widowed motherwith grace and humor, craftily exploiting the everyday, throwaway misogyny of traditional family interaction. Malika, played with formidable, explosive range by Brakni, is H鬨ne's key out of the kitchen and possibly into a mortuary. When these two women's divergent worlds collide, it's the chaos of freedom. (NR) ANDREW BONAZELLI NORTHFORK

Opens Fri., July 25, at Uptown The Polish brothers' third feature brings them back a little closer to the promiseif not quite the same bracing strangenessof their 1999 debut, Twin Falls Idaho. Set in an intentionally grayed-out, barren Eastern Montana in 1955, the movie is a religious parable thick with angels, floods, foundlings, and intimations of death. God may not have forsaken the inhabitants of Northfork, who are being displaced so a dam can flood their town, but the local priest (Nick Nolte) isn't offering any cheery reassurances. Northfork's best moments come in the landscape montages beneath Nolte's sermonizing voiceso well suited to the harsh land and even harsher scripture. The worst are spent with a host of fey, annoying angels (including Anthony Edwards and Darryl Hannah) who appear in the dreams of a dying orphan boy. Then there are the comic-ominous federal "evacuators" (led by James Woods) ridding the town of its last souls. It's kind of David Lynch meets Matthew Barney--absent the genius part. (PG-13) B.R.M. THE SON

Runs Fri., July 25-Thurs., July 31, at Grand Illusion Man, have the Dardenne brothers made another film about moping. Their 1996 La Promesse and 1999 Rosetta were both quite excellent and unstinting in their depiction of blighted Belgian lives just barely gilded with conscience and compassion. But The Son feels like a tired rehash of the same themes, where their strict naturalismusually a strengthbecomes mired in pathos and boredom. We spend the first 45 minutes of The Son watching creepy carpentry instructor Olivier (Olivier Gourmet) spy on Francis (Morgan Marinne), a new teen pupil at his reform-school institute, with what seems the avid gaze of a chicken hawk. But Olivier's interest isn't sexual. After a slow, slow three-quarters of an hour filled with woodworking, woodworking, and still more woodworking, we learn that Francis, just released from jail, is the same kid who killed Olivier's only son some five years earlier during a botched robbery. We spend the next hour wondering if Olivier is going to avenge himself by wringing Francis' skinny, pimply neck, not that it would be any great loss. The kid isn't just sullen and uncontrite, he's uncharismaticunlike wonderful wastrel ɭilie Dequenne in Rosetta. Olivier's character is even blanderwe get the idea that he's a loner, but do we need to watch him doing sit-ups and chewing his food? Meanwhile his ex-wife appears occasionally to tear up, faint, and inform Olivier that she's now pregnant by her new boyfriend; i.e., she's moving on with her life, as Olivier has failed to do. The Son's blue-collar characters speak Frenchwhen they can be bothered to speak at all. So, on the up side, this lumpen-prole miserython is actually easier to take than the thickly accented English sad-sackery of Ken Loach (Sweet Sixteen) or Mike Leigh (All or Nothing): You don't have to read as many subtitles. Yet while the movie is annoyingly shot (handheld and claustrophobically close) and off-puttingly glum, with absolutely no music, it's also the purest film about Christian forgiveness I've ever seen. It has a final muted payoff. Maybe that's the problem: Admirable in their intentions, minimalist in their execution, the Dardennes have made a moving parable but not a motion picture. (NR) B.R.M. SPY KIDS 3-D: GAME OVER

Opens Fri., July 25, at Metro and others Although young Spy Kids fans may clamor to see Robert Rodriguez's presumed franchise ender, adults will simply find it tiresome. In the action-packed Game Over, helter-skelter plot twists are so many and so superficial that they irk rather than intrigue. Even the premiseour two preteen heroes become trapped in a virtual-reality video gameisn't that interesting, since the fun of video games is playing them, not watching somebody else do so. So wait for the DVD, I would say, but for Dimension's naked marketing gimmick of making a not-very-good sequel a not-very-good sequel in 3-D. Those blue-and-red paper glasses aren't going to work the same magic staring at your living-room TV, although my 13-year-old sister claims 3-D was the advantage that N64 had over Super Nintendo. And she thought the 3-D effects in Game Over were pretty cool at times. So you could at least hire a baby-sitter to take the kids and spare yourself the glasses. (PG) KENNEDY LEAVENS

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