Noah Baumbach, who co-wrote last year’s soggy “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” appears poised to make quick amends. “The Squid and the Whale” earned Baumbach awards at the Sundance Festival for both writing and direction. Baumbach draws on his own life for this story of a 1980s Brooklyn family in crisis. Jeff Daniels plays the self-centered novelist Bernard Berkman, a stand-in for the filmmaker’s father, Jonathan; Laura Linney is Joan, his cold wife. Stranded in the middle of their separation are teenage brothers Walt and Frank, who reacts in ways both predictable and distressing. Aspen Filmfest shows “The Squid and the Whale” Thursday, Sept. 29.
The measure of success for many documentaries is creating interest in a subject that audiences had no idea they would be interested in. (Did anyone have an urgent curiosity about Emperor penguins two months ago?) “Ballets Russes” is about the companies that gave birth to modern ballet in the middle of the 20th century, a topic that might appeal to dance fanatics and not many more. But Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine’s film has a far broader appeal, thanks to the extensive archival footage, a story that entwines with the Soviet Revolution, World War II and American racism, and a cast of dancers who, mostly in their 80s now, retain the sense of beauty, artistry and character that made them stars of the stage. “Ballets Russes” shows Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Aspen, and Saturday, Oct. 1, in Carbondale.
Bob Rafelson has plenty to reveal, about his career behind the camera and his life away from the movies. As far as his filmmaking goes, aspiring directors presumably have much to learn from the director of the incomparable adventure film “Mountains of the Moon,” and five movies starring Jack Nicholson, including the classic “Five Easy Pieces.” But what makes Bob Rafelson: Confessions of a Filmmaker, on Saturday, Oct. 1, so enticing for a general audience is his maverick attitude about cinema and everything else. An iconoclast to the core, Rafelson abandoned Hollywood in the ’60s in favor of Aspen, where he still lives. His spirit of adventure and commitment are evident in his approach to “Mountains of the Moon,” about the search for the headwaters of the Nile. Rafelson didn’t just shoot the film in Africa, but spent months beforehand trekking the continent.
With the French film “Happily Ever After,” cinema has given us yet another take on marital infidelity, what must be the most frequented source of material for the big screen. Directed by and starring Yvan Attal, and featuring his real-life wife Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Happily Ever After” combines a sense of humor – no boiled rabbits here, only a lot of squirting water – with a sense of the complexity of the subject. None of the ensemble of characters, all well-to-do Parisians, really wants to cheat on their spouses. Or, at least, they don’t get immense satisfaction from it. But with domestic life so stressful, the years passing by so endlessly, and so many attractive bodies available, what’s a middle-age person to do? “Happily Ever After” shows Friday, Sept. 30, in Aspen, and Sunday, Oct. 2, in Carbondale.
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