Art films: independently innovative

September 13, 2001|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Forget the summer hoopla over splashy special effects in sci-fi fantasy movies. This fall, the art and independent scene may corner the most expressive innovations.

Before Thanksgiving, Richard Linklater, the director of Before Sunrise, will be giving us a couple of potential groundbreakers. His computer-animated Waking Life features three-score characters moving through a sometimes real, sometimes surreal landscape; his live-action drama Tape follows a mere three characters (Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman and Robert Sean Leonard) shot in close quarters with a digital video camera.

In 1995, the Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jeunet dazzled audiences with the visual wizardry of his City of Lost Children. Come autumn, American audiences will get to see Jeunet's Amelie, the tale of a waitress who has a magical effect on everyone around her. A huge hit in France, it roused controversy in trade circles because of the reluctance of Jeunet - and his star, Audrey Tautou - to hit the international promotion circuit. They had the radical notion that their work should speak for itself.

A trio of critics' darlings who occasionally go mainstream will return to the arthouse. David Lynch offers Mulholland Drive, a Hollywood-set film noir about memory, nightmares and death. Stephen Frears, riding a wave of goodwill from last year's High Fidelity, goes back to gritty British locations with Liam, a tale of poverty-stricken Liverpool between the two world wars. Barbet Schroeder, whose big hit was Reversal of Fortune, delivers Our Lady of the Assassins, a portrait of Medellin, Colombia, the capital of the cocaine trade. Like Tape, this new movie is shot in high-definition video.

A fistful of movies on this list - Bread and Roses, Brother, The Princess and the Warrior, The Vertical Ray of the Sun and Lost and Delirious - were supposed to open here in spring and summer. The delays have nothing to do with quality or buzz; the auteur behind The Princess and the Warrior, for example, is Tom Tykwer, of Run Lola Run fame. No, the delays have to do with this city's limited number of screens for cutting-edge fare. The few opening dates attached to the capsules below are tentative. If these movies catch your interest when they appear, you'd better run, cineaste, run.

We've also listed local film series as additional alternatives to blockbusters. Lori Sears compiled and wrote the following entries.

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