September 18, 2007
Even as he was making his name in teenage romantic comedies – some generic, some the best of the genre – John Cusack was also demonstrating a depth and likability that would sustain him. His ascension to adulthood had its share of missteps, but when he hits, he usually hits big: “Being John Malkovich,” “High Fidelity,” “Identity.” In “Grace Is Gone,” it is Cusack’s character, Stanley, who sheds his earlier identity, having to grow into the role of father to his two young girls. First-time director James Strouse’s film earned the Audience Award at Sundance and opens Aspen Filmfest 2007 with a screening on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
Jan Hrebejk has cemented his reputation not only as the premiere Czech director of his generation, but as one of Europe’s top filmmakers. His 2000 Academy Award nominee, “Divided We Fall,” gave a fresh, exhilarating take on the Nazi occupation of Europe. “Up and Down,” from 2004, mixed the comic and tragic elements that are found at the center of all stories about family. With “Beauty in Trouble,” the 40-year-old Hrebejk once again probes family dynamics, unearthing absurdity, lust, joy and friction in the tale of a sexy young mother and her extended relations. The film shows Friday, Sept. 28, at Aspen Filmfest.
“Fiddler on the Roof” made for a brilliant stage musical (witness Aspen Community Theatre’s production last year), and a sensational film (eminent critic Pauline Kael called the 1971 version “the most powerful musical movie ever made”). Less well-known is that “Fiddler” made for great jazz. Saxophonist Cannonball Adderley arranged eight songs from Jerry Bock’s original score for a 1964 recording. (The pianist on the album was Joe Zawinul, who died last week.) Jazz Aspen Snowmass kicks off its new Ten-Spot Concert Series with a local jazz band – led by drummer Bob Levey, and featuring trumpeter Tom Fix, reed player Warren Jones, pianist Andy Weyl and bassist Mark Gray – revisiting Adderley’s music. The show is Friday, Sept. 28, at Carbondale’s Thunder River Theatre.
With “Once,” Glen Hansard advances both his acting and singing careers. The film, showing Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 22-23, in the Wheeler Opera House Film Series, stars the Irish singer as a version of himself – a busker on the streets of Dublin. Hansard’s songs have nearly as significant a role as he does, which makes the soundtrack one of the rare ones that makes sense, and is worth hearing. His touch on “Falling Slowly” and the title track is gentle, yet the songs ache from romantic longing. The backing of Marketa Irglova – his co-star, musical collaborator and offscreen interest – falls in perfectly behind him.
It’s hard to fault David Cronenberg for revisiting elements of his 2005 sensation, “A History of Violence.” In “Eastern Promises,” the Canadian director re-teams with actor Viggo Mortensen for another film involving violence, crime families and cases of mistaken identity. In the latest film – set in London rather than the Midwestern, small-town America of “History” – Naomi Watts stars as a midwife who, in looking to correct a wrong, crosses paths with Mortensen’s Nikolai, a frightful figure in London’s underground. The film shows this week in Aspen.