(dir. Silvio Soldini, Italy)
In Hollywood, the amazing thing about women over forty is that they rarely actually look over forty. Sela Ward, Rene Russo, Cher--magazines scream over their great accomplishment: appearing closer to thirty. In this movie, the main character is a housewife with grown kids who looks about like a housewife, and she's terrific. She's well worth watching as she evolves from a harried mother on a bus tour to a freewheeling single woman establishing a new life in Venice. The comedy emerges organically, and sometimes rises to the level of slapstick. At moments, the film lifts off to surreal, dreamy passages, which complement the realism. Secondary characters are well drawn, with complex lives in process. This is an upbeat film with the happy message that love, passion, picnics and accordion music are available to everyone, at any age, as long as one is open to adventure. MONICA DRAKE
Fox Theater: 7:15 pm, Feb 9; 3 pm, Feb 10


(dir. Fritz Lang, Germany)
Anyone who doubts there were sophisticated people in olden days should be taken to see a film by Fritz Lang. The Dr. Mabuse of the title is a criminal mastermind out to destroy all decent life. Although the pace is slow for an audience nurtured on lightweight cameras and explosive visual effects¯oh, let's be frank, the pace is slow, period. But the sensibility is right up there with our own comic noir favorites, from Guy Ritchie of Lock, Stock etc. to the Quentin Tarantino of Reservoir Dogs. Much will depend on the quality of the print and the musical accompaniment. If they are poor, Mabuse will seem like moldy camp; but if good, relax and sink deep into a burnished fever-dream of pure, unadulterated eeeevilll. BARLEY BLAIR Whitsell Hall: Part I: 2 pm, Feb 18; Part II: 6 pm, Feb 18

(dir. George Butler, USA)

This is an aptly named movie for a film festival. Like Ernest Shackleton, whose almost disastrous South Pole trek this documentary chronicles, the viewer begins with a great burst of optimism at the array of titles soon to come, despite the seemingly insurmountable task all that lies ahead of seeing them. Then, like Shackleton and his crew caught in the disastrous ice pack, one realizes what one has got oneself into, as film after film comes at you. Also like Shackleton, wandering helplessly on the ice flow, you seem to get nowhere as you scamper from one theater to another, and films you really want to see prove elusive. Finally, like Shackleton abandoning his men to sail 800 miles across uncharted ocean to a small whaling community to get help, the viewer gives up, abandons friends, hunkers down, and tries to get to the closing night of the festival unscathed. Thus, this quietly competent documentary by George Butler, which, narrated by Liam Neeson, blends actual footage of the trek with new footage of the places they endured, plus interviews with the crew's ancestors, will seem very familiar to festival frequenters. D. K. HOLM
Whitsell Hall: 2 pm, Feb 10; 7 pm, Feb 13

(dir. Rassul Sadr Amerli, Iran)
This movie feels emotionally familiar, even though the story is set in what is (to U.S. sensibilities) the distant and culturally removed world of Iran. A 15-year-old girl, attracted to a philosophical and dreamy boy she meets in the park, finds herself nearly squashed under the oppressive rule of her parents and culture when the authorities step in. The girl is arrested, detained and given a pelvic exam to determine that her virginity is still intact. For obvious reasons, she's resentful and sullen. In an effort toward self-determination, she runs away from home. Most of the film takes place as she barely manages a night on the streets. The girl is universal in her idealism and urges. She's at odds with authority, and almost manic at moments, speaking to strangers in an unguarded way. Ultimately, the story is about the perpetual conflict between control and impulsiveness in a person, a family or a culture as a whole. MONICA DRAKE
Broadway Theater: 2:45 pm, Feb 10; 7 pm, Feb 12; 6:30 pm, Feb 15


(dir. Julian Kemp, Britain)
House is yet another British movie that looks like all other British movies (fuzzy camera, lots of "charming" old ladies with blue hair and raincoats, and most scenes taking place in front of brick London townhouses). In this particular Brit flick, the old ladies are extra "charming," as they come in the form of bingo players at La Scala, the archaic bingo house that represents all that is traditional and proper about England. La Scala is about to be put out of business by the new bingo parlor, which represents the new, evil, capitalistic age. Full of flimsy metaphors and paper-thin characters, this movie is pretty much boring, but it's fun to hear some real, live British accents and the heroine, Linda, is super cute. KATIA DUNN Broadway Theater: 7:30 pm, Feb 9; 4 pm, Feb 10; 9:15 pm, Feb 15


(dir. Wong-Kar-Wai, Hong Kong)
Wong Kar-Wai keeps his usual riot of romantic color but drops his hyperbolic visual kinesthesia in favor of an almost classical distance and patience; the result is the most achingly beautiful film anyone has made in years. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung are no less marvelous than you'd expect as the jilted spouses who always find themselves circling one painful step away from seeking comfort in each other's arms, but even these two comely actors are the least of the film's attractions. Every moment in the film, each image, each sound, snaps in place with the effortlessness of perfection. So sorrowful and sublime you can feel the filmmaker's hands press lightly against your chest; then push, till the wind is knocked clean out of you. BRUCE REID Guild Theater, 8:30 pm, Feb 17; 7 pm, Feb 19

(dir. Michele Ocelot, France)
Animated family film Kirikou and the Sorceress is by Western standards a crazy story, which is a good thing. Most African folk tales that are retold in American children's books or made into short films are straightened out--made to obey Western linearity, with all vulgar or offensive content carefully removed. Kirikou makes no attempts in the direction of cleanliness or order, and sticks, as close as it can, to the original content and narrative structure of the West African story. I really don't want to explain the plot of this film because it is too complex, and I'm too westernized. But I will say that it never loses its momentum, and you soon become used to the fantastic leaps and turns the bizarre story makes. CHARLES MUDEDE Whitsell Hall: 1 pm, Feb 24

(dir. Ed Harris, USA)
Another attempt from the film industry to mine the romantic lie of Bohemian life. This is actor Ed Harris' directorial debut (he also stars), and seems too hurried to establish the iconic events of painter Jackson Pollock's life--see Pollock urinate in Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace, see Pollock overturn the Thanksgiving table, see Pollock accidentally discover drip painting--instead of letting any of these moments achieve any natural resolution. It's like being hustled past works in an exhibition without being allowed to linger. One of the movie's great joys (besides Amy Madigan as a tart Guggenheim), however, is the sight of Harris painting: the pace slows, the camera lingers, and Harris comes to life, suggesting that Pollock found a fluidity in art that he never found in life. EMILY HALL
Whitsell Hall, 7 pm, Feb 11; 7 pm, Feb 12

(dir. Arik Kaplun, Israel)
In this surprisingly complicated and charming story, the title character tries to work through the serene riddle that her life has become. The year is 1991 and Saddam Hussein's forces are slamming Israel with SCUD missiles. Yana is a Russian immigrant, three months pregnant and recently abandoned by her husband in Israel, with a nosy, amateur filmmaker for a roommate. Think sex, lies & videotape with subtitles and gas masks. At first, Yana's Friends seems to plod through a murky collection of family, friends and wayward immigrants who live in adjacent apartments. But soon it becomes apparent that director Arik Kaplun has cleverly obscured the murky stories about these characters, their charms and complications. Wryly funny and clever, Yana's Friends has won umpteen awards. PHIL BUSSE Whitsell Hall: 7:30 pm, Feb 9; 4:30 pm, Feb 11

(dir. Edward Yang, Taiwan)
Confident enough in its rhythms to dwell gingerly over the rituals and mysteries of a teenager's first date yet almost rush without comment past a murder, Edward Yang's Yi Yi manages the miraculous feat of being a work of art that unfolds with the inevitability of life. The intimate hopes, sadnesses, regrets of a middle class Taipei family--dad hooking up with the love he left years before, mom admitting how worthless she feels, daughter longing for a forbidden boyfriend, son just reaching the age where childhood certainty and innocence are exchanged for confusion and knowledge--earns its epic length by compassionate attention to the tiniest details. If this family drama is not a masterpiece, the word is meaningless. BRUCE REID
Whitsell Hall, 7 pm, Feb 10