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Tucson Weekly Film Clips

JUNE 14, 1999: 

AUSTIN POWERS: THE SPY WHO SHAGGED ME. In the '60s, the television show Laugh-In pioneered the idea that if there were 20 gags in a minute, only one in four had to be funny for the audience to stay entertained. Austin Powers slavishly follows this formula, even going so far as to have the characters wince shamefacedly into the camera after the lamest jokes. The best part of this '60s spy-spoof is Heather Graham's bizarre "I can't believe I'm doing this" performance as Austin's sidekick, Felicity Shagwell. She seems like someone who just won a "you can be in a movie" contest, and her inappropriate giggles and smiles during "tense" scenes are the perfect complement to the ridiculous plot, sets and characters. --James DiGiovanna


THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS. The structuring device of this French film is not a narrative but a location. The apartment that young transients Isa and Marie share is the site of the beginning and end of their relationship; it serves as their protection from the patriarchal world they have difficulty navigating, and rejects them when that realm is invited inside. Focusing on mundane events such as job hunting and dish washing proves effective in revealing well-rounded protagonists and the friendship that thrives within the safe haven they've found. In stark contrast, the male characters are merely devices to portray these women. Unfortunately, the film's second half is dominated by Marie's dramatic and unbelievable emotional shift, as she enters a simplistically vile relationship and follows it to a clichéd conclusion. --Polly Higgins


INSTINCT. After The Matrix and The Phantom Menace, I thought we'd have a dearth of "chosen one" references, but Disney keeps the trend alive by offering Cuba Gooding Jr. as its savior of the month. How exciting that men keep choosing men--this time, the smitten one is Anthony Hopkins. He plays Ethan Powell, an anthropologist who communes with gorillas for a couple of years until he is jailed in Rwanda for killing three men. When he's transferred to a psychiatric penitentiary in the United States, Theo (Gooding) is the doctor who attempts to discover Ethan's motives and understand how he was accepted into a simian family. The blossoming doctor-patient relationship is dialogue heavy and relatively free of tension as Ethan recalls his jungle days and teaches Theo "how to live." Most of the trips outside of the prison are disjointed, as Theo visits either his reality-based mentor Ben (Donald Sutherland), or Lyn (Maura Tierney), Ethan's heterosexually recuperative daughter. According to the musical score, every scene contains a highly dramatic moment, so be prepared to laugh, cry and cheer as Ethan sits down, Theo pours a cup of coffee and a gorilla grooms itself.--Polly Higgins


OPEN YOUR EYES. A sterilized-looking Madrid is the backdrop for this incredibly smart and challenging Spanish film investigating--you guessed it--virtual reality, body modification and immortality. As César (Eduardo Noriega) recounts stories of lovers, a disfiguring car crash and numerous plastic surgeries to a psychiatrist, his credibility is consistently undermined as reality is embedded in dreams which are in turn enveloped in nightmare. This engaging phenomenological tale is ostensibly guided by César, but he is plagued by a seemingly benevolent yet mysterious man who heads a cryogenics company. The protagonist dons a mask for much of the movie, raising issues of authenticity as well as self-image in contemporary Western culture. As the narrative layers are revealed and recovered, the characters are repeatedly duped; best of all, so are the viewers. --Polly Higgins


THREE SEASONS. Extremely beautiful cinematography doesn't quite make up for the trite stories in this Saigon-slice-of-life piece. A young woman who begins work at a lotus-blossom farm, a bicycle-taxi driver and a 10-year-old street urchin all encounter compelling others in the streets of modern Vietnam. Harvey Keitel does a long vanity bit about a former Marine searching for his daughter, and there's a hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold piece, but the show stealer is the story of the flower girl. Serene shots of lakes filled with blossoms and the women who row out to pick them make this a relaxing, if not entirely engaging, effort. --James DiGiovanna


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