FilmTalk focuses on Canadian gem


Director's debut skillfully depicts survival drama

March 12, 2004|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Tomorrow's FilmTalk at the Enoch Pratt Free Library centers on what its programmers call "the quintessential `little film.'" The 1990 Canadian movie Strangers in Good Company is that - and much more.

It takes a skilled, intuitive filmmaker to give audiences the illusion and the pleasures of unstructured time. First-time feature director Cynthia Scott pulls off this feat without breaking a sweat. In this unusual portrait of seven senior women and a female tour-bus driver stranded in the remote and gorgeous Mont Tremblant region of Quebec, Scott uses nonprofessional performers and draws on their real lives to flesh out an enticing, calm survival drama.

The movie's laid-back bliss compensates for its pokey, awkward spots. And Scott's attitude toward old age is restorative. She doesn't turn her heroines into iconic spiritual figures; experience hasn't smoothed off their rough edges. As they bond in a persuasive, unforced way, their thoughts and feelings about spouses, children, jobs, and their own self-images trickle, then spill out.

The movie is an Indian-summer harvest of offhand, unexpected insights and overviews, with balmy, serene cinematography. The program starts at 10 a.m. in the Poe Room of the Central Library.

The power of Penn

AFI Silver in Silver Spring continues its tribute to Sean Penn this weekend with screenings of Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown (1999) tomorrow at 2 p.m., and Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way on Sunday, 9:30 p.m. In between, on Sunday, 1:45 p.m., comes John Schlesinger's The Falcon and the Snowman. This fact-based espionage melodrama stars Penn as Daulton Lee and Timothy Hutton as Christopher Boyce - former fellow altar boys turned spies. Lee has become a drug dealer. Boyce works in the highest-security department of a surveillance-satellite manufacturer and monitor. He enlists Lee to transport state secrets of advanced spy technology to the Soviets.

Penn injects his scenes with a black-comic glee. There's an exhilarating audacity to the calculated frenzy of his insults to his Soviet partners, and when he tears up an embassy room in search of bugs or asks them to smuggle drugs in their diplomatic pouch, you wonder whether he's out of control or merely at the top of his game. At one point, Penn's Lee relaxes on a chaise like the Republican pusher that he is and voices regret that his friend Boyce will never be a priest: "I could have gone to confession and told the truth."

Penn is so good that he earns this botched adaptation of Robert Lindsey's nonfiction best-seller aesthetic absolution.

Check for updates; call 301-495-6720 for general information or 301-495-6700 for pre-recorded program information. Tickets: $8.50 for general admission, $7.50 for AFI members, students and seniors.

Ides of March movies

Creative Alliance at the Patterson continues its adventurous movie programming this week. Its annual Ides of March Animation Invitational goes on at 8 tonight, then the Orpheum Film Series takes over Wednesday at 8 p.m. with Pier Paolo Pasolini's rarely seen debut film Accatone (1961), the kickoff to the Orpheum's "Passionate Pasolini" retrospective.

Critic Stanley Kauffmann called this story of the downfall of a pimp "credible, not pat; hard, not tough; humane, not lathered with soapy social significance." Information:

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