September 19, 2008
The early fall timing of Aspen Filmfest couldn’t be better. The chilly temperatures and shorter days remind us to head toward the great indoors. More significant, the film industry increasingly packs its quality movies into the final quarter of the year, so by late September, a certain segment of filmgoers are desperate for a meaningful experience to take home from the cinema. The 30th anniversary edition of Aspen Film’s autumn festival, Wednesday through Sunday, Sept. 24-28, features plenty of such opportunities: the documentary “Life.
Support. Music,” about a musician who returns from a severe stroke; “Ballast,” an indie set in the Mississippi Delta that earned two major awards at Sundance; and “A Secret,” about a Parisian teenager discovering his parents’ hidden experience during World War II. For star power, there’s “Religulous,” featuring Bill Maher and directed by Larry Charles (“Borat”); and the opening night film “Flash of Genius,” with a cast of Greg Kinnear, Alan Alda and Dermot Mulroney.
New Jersey novelist Harlan Coben has been atop the best-seller lists for a decade, and his breathless crime thrillers seem a natural for the screen. So it’s puzzling that his work is only now making it to theaters. Odder still that the first film adaptation is a French production.
“Tell No One” is worth the wait for Coben’s fans. A moody doctor receives hints that his wife, whom he was suspected of murdering eight years earlier, is still alive, and looking for him. The dense plot features several more dead bodies, competing sets of mobsters, as well as cops, lawyers and lesbians. Ultimately, there is an unraveling of family secrets and a double-twist conclusion that leaves the issue of good and evil up in the air. The winner of Cesar Awards for director Guillaume Canet and actor François Cluzet, the film opens the door for Coben adaptations: Next up is his 1995 book, “Deal Breaker.” “Tell No One” shows Sunday and Monday, Sept. 21-22 at the Wheeler Opera House, and later this week at the Isis.
“Burn After Reading” doesn’t rank with “Fargo,” “The Big Lebowski” and “No Country For Old Men,” Joel and Ethan Coen’s masterpieces to date. Put it on a level with “Intolerable Cruelty” and “The Man Who Wasn’t There” ” Coen efforts that deliver smaller, but very real enjoyment. In this case, the pleasures are the acting ” Coen regulars Frances McDormand and George Clooney are both outstanding as slightly clueless residents of Washington, D.C. ” and the ending, in which a clueless CIA chief (J.K. Simmons) sums up the screwball antics (missing CIA files, serial infidelities, cosmetic surgery) with the pitch-perfect line: “Report back to me … when it makes sense.” Meaning, let’s not waste another second thinking about this nonsense. It’s showing in valley theaters.
“The Wackness,” which showed in Aspen earlier this month, was not merely an excuse for a wack hip-hop soundtrack. But if it had been, that might have been OK, too. The film is set in the Manhattan of 1994, and this soundtrack of vintage tunes is a strong argument that those were rap’s glory days. A Tribe Called Quest, KRS-One, the Wu-Tang Clan and the Notorious B.I.G., all represented here, are fresh, young and strutting their stuff. None of the material was newly made for the film, but “Summertime,” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, sounds like it could have been. The CD has true flow, but hearing these tracks accompanying the action in “The Wackness” is truly enlightening.