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Autumn Sun, Beyond Silence, Can't Hardly Wait, Cousin Bette.

By Ray Pride, Ellen Fox, Sam Weller

JUNE 15, 1998: 

Autumn Sun

(Sol de Otono) Lovely acting marks Eduardo Mignogna's "Autumn Sun," a Buenos Aires-set love story about a middle-aged Jewish woman (Norma Aleandro) who, awaiting a visit from her American brother, takes out a personals ad to find someone - also Jewish - whom she can pretend to have a long-term relationship with. The ad's answered by Federico Luppi (last seen in "Men with Guns"), who turns out to be charming, articulate, handsome, but not Jewish. While the story distantly resembles the goony "Wedding Banquet," Aleandro and Luppi bring relish to their masquerade, and eventually, inevitably, their love. (Ray Pride)


Beyond Silence

(Jenseits Der Stille) Directed by Caroline Link. Don't be misled by the glamorous blonde in the poster. This film depicts the relationship between a child who plays a parental role and parents who possess childish obstinacy. Childhood resentment runs deep in "Beyond Silence," which follows the trials of a hearing daughter as she pursues a musical career amid the indifference and incomprehension of her deaf parents. The movie is actually two stories: the offenses that seem so harmless in the idyllic daze of childhood and the fruit these symptomatic seeds bear in adulthood. I preferred the first half, where we meet radiant, tousled little Lara, who is so well adjusted to her parents' handicap that she can still be a child, not a saint: rolling her eyes in exasperation at their public quirks and exploiting the communication gap for her own advantage during parent-teacher conferences. These scenes were worth the whole film to me, if only for their display of a modern Germany that never looked more intimate and cozy. Later on, Lara sprouts into a stringy, sullen German teenager and moves to dingy Berlin in the hopes of attending the conservatory. She is weary of parenting her own parents, always explaining and translating. And her father, who disapproves of her musical career, must resolve his resistance by confronting the family slights borne in his own youth. If the first half of the film draws the remarkable link between the vividness of childhood and the sensuality of deaf life, then the second half, in which Lara matures into the world of sound, is necessarily bleaker by comparison. (Ellen Fox)


Can't Hardly Wait

Directed by Harry Elfont & Deborah Kaplan. In a valiant, MTV-style whirlwind, filmmakers Elfont and Kaplan attempt to resurrect the John Hughes zit-flick, with mixed results. The story goes like this: graduating class gets together for one last drunken blow-out; lonely sensitive guy (Ethan Embry), after pining for the high school beauty (Jennifer Love Hewitt) for years, makes an attempt at professing his secret admiration amidst the wacky world of keggers, nerds, superjocks and beer bongs. There are some good laughes here, an abundance of party clichßs (with no puking - why?), but even Embry and Hewitt, with relatively tender performances, can't elevate the film to the Hughesian plateau. A little less shtick and a little bit more sensitivity would have gone a long way. Fewer "Home Alone" antics and more "Pretty in Pink" heart. And oh hell, throw Judd Nelson in for the fun it. (Sam Weller)


Cousin Bette

Theater noteworthy Des McAnuff makes his feature film debut with this intermittently compelling take on the 1846 Balzac novel (adapted by playwrights Lynn Siefert and Susan Tarr), a "naughty" yet icy rendition that suggests both the delicious and dreary aspects of stage melodrama. In 1840s France, Jessica Lange is the aging maid who helps a young sculptor (Aden Young, handsome yet vacuously louche) from his neurasthenic torpor, only to find him falling in love with her very young cousin ("Trainspotting"'s perky Kelly Macdonald, here wan and petulant). The wheels of revenge begin to turn, and among the players ground under its twists are the wastrel paterfamilias (Hugh Laurie, boldly foppish), his good friend the richest man in Paris (Bob Hoskins, with the richest turn in the picture), and Elisabeth Shue as an untalented music hall tart who gets to bare her breasts and bottom repeatedly, to the delight of the show's audience. The music hall sets are the most diverting; otherwise, the handsome lighting by Andrzej Sekula resembles his rendering of space and depth in "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," drawing the story away from the characters and into the recesses of a stagey nineteenth-century gloom. 107m. Panavision. (Ray Pride)


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