Samurais and Whores 

Succinct Reviews for the Discerning Cinephile

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price
dir. Greenwald
Sat Nov 19
Fifth Ave. Cinemas (Director in attendance)

Wal-Mart does such a good job of shooting themselves in the foot that siccing Robert Greenwald—the director of previous lefty-rallying docs Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism and Uncovered: The War on Iraq—seems a bit superfluous. But here we have it, with Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price, a film that's... well, pretty much what you'd expect from an exposé about one of the world's most despicable corporations.

Most of Wal-Mart's foibles are here, if evidenced in varying effectiveness: their shitty wages, their unapologetic use of sweatshop-made goods, their skill at decimating mom-and-pop stores, their adamant anti-union stance, and their passive racism and sexism.

True, Wal-Mart isn't that good of a movie—Greenwald's hacky, overbearing presence means we get a lot of hilariously melodramatic music cues, heavy-handed editorial tactics hitting you over the head with Message, and even a maudlin montage of a desiccated, post-Wal-Mart town, soundtracked to Springsteen moaning "This Land is Your Land." Still, it's a powerful and moving film, despite its clumsiness, and must-see viewing for anyone who's not already anti-Wal-Mart. If everyone in America—especially the rural, Red State areas that enable Wal-Mart to continue—was forced to watch this shit, maybe there'd be some semblance of hope. ERIK HENRIKSEN

Rashomon
dir. Kurosawa
Opens Fri Nov 18
Clinton St. Theater

Marge: You liked Rashomon.
Homer: That's not the way I remember it.

On a dark and stormy night, a young samurai violently meets his maker, leaving behind three witnesses—each with a different spin on the events leading up to the dirty deed. To further muddy the waters, they all claim to be the killer. Roshomon, the film that first put director Akira Kurosawa on the international map, is a uniquely feudal spin on the courtroom drama, with a deep, dark meditation on human nature underlying its dazzlingly fluid array of conflicting flashbacks. The once novel concept of unreliable narration may have lost some oomph in the wake of repeated imitations, but this well-deserved Oscar winner still boasts beautiful cinematography, some marvelous tracking shots, and a bursting at the seams performance by Kurosawa regular Toshirô Mifune. What more does a masterpiece need, for heaven's sake? ANDREW WRIGHT

Or (My Treasure)
dir. Yedaya
Opens Fri Nov 18
Hollywood Theatre

Sometimes all it takes to get accolades at film festivals is to make a politically charged movie about a bleak subject. Or (My Treasure), an Israeli film, is about prostitution, and it garnered a lot of acclaim when it made the festival rounds last year. Surprisingly though, Or overcomes the bleakness of its festival-friendly subject matter to tell a compelling story.

The emotional core of the film is the restrained yet ultimately tragic relationship between Ruthie (Ronit Elkabetz), a prostitute, and Or (Dana Ivgy), her teenage daughter. Money is tight in their one bedroom apartment, and Or shirks school to work various odd jobs around town. She tries to get her mother respectably employed as a housekeeper, but domesticity is hardly Ruthie's forté; she's back on the streets in no time. Ruthie's return to prostitution comes at a bad time—just as Or's tryst with a neighbor boy gets complicated.

While it's not exactly revolutionary, Or does, in the end, satisfy, without being too obvious about any political or moral agenda it might have. Bleak, yes, but what do you expect—Pretty Woman? MIKE FILTZ

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