This Week at the Movies
Warring clowns and a fight for freedom: What to watch this week
As genre film geeks from around the country prepare to converge in Austin for Fantastic Fest starting next week (take a look at our peek at some of this year's content), theater screens all across the city are bright with a slew of new releases. As more and more indie, art house, and foreign fare is released each week in this crowded post-summer period, making sense of what to watch becomes harder and harder. Our recommendations this week include a Spanish Civil War allegory about warring circus clowns, an '80s pop infused crime story from a celebrated Danish filmmaker, and a powerful documentary about an abused woman's fight for her freedom.
This Weekend at the Drafthouse
On the eve of Fantastic Fest 2011, a favorite from last year opens Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse's South Lamar location. The Last Circus, a twisted allegory on the Spanish Civil War, finds two circus clowns, Javier and Sergio, battling over a beautiful woman, often with violent consequences. Javier is doomed to a life of being the sad clown, his childhood robbed when his father's circus was raided and the performers, still in their costumes, were forced to fight in the war. Now an adult, he finds himself bullied by his new boss Sergio, a powerful and compassionless clown who imposes himself at will upon his girlfriend Natalia. Director Álex de la Iglesia (The Day of the Beast) has never been one to shy away from graphic violence and pitch black humor and The Last Circus continues his tradition of wicked wit. The Last Circus is a stunning feat, a particularly on-the-nose parable that also works at a surface level as an especially entertaining visual treat. It comes with our highest recommendation.
Over at the Ritz location, check out Drive, the latest from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. Consistently delivering a quality product, Refn broke out into the international spotlight with his Pusher trilogy and has since delivered genre films like Bronson and Valhalla Rising, making the director's films easy must-sees. In Drive, Ryan Gosling is a Hollywood stunt driver by day and a getaway driver by night. After a heist in which he is involved doesn't go as planned, he finds himself with a contract out on him. Featuring the talents of Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks, and Albert Brooks as the villain, Drive is poised to be an indie smash success.
This Weekend at Violet Crown
The documentary Crime After Crime makes a plea for more states to consider abuse a mitigating circumstance in violent crimes by profiling the story of Deborah Peagler. In 1983 she was sentenced to 25-to-life for her involvement in a plot to kill her boyfriend Oliver Wilson. What was not taken into account, though, was the years of abuse Peagler suffered at the hands of Wilson. A drug-dealer and pimp, Wilson forced Peagler into prostitution when she was still in high school and resorted to violent acts such as beating her with a whip when she would not cooperate. Crime After Crime chronicles the six year journey of two pro bono lawyers, Joshua Safran and Nadia Costa, who work tirelessly to have California grant Peagler habeas corpus based on a new penal code that takes into account abuse when prosecuting. It looks to be a moving and important story.
Beyond the Weekend
A few weeks ago, we encouraged you to make your way to a screening of 3-D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (we hope you did, it was an incredibly fun time at the movies), an increased-dimensions continuation of the famed Hong Kong Category III erotic film series. Now, on Sunday (9/18) at the Drafthouse Ritz, you can see the original Sex and Zen as part of the Asian Invasion series. In the film, a man unhappy with his endowment arranges to have his replaced with that of a horse. Things take an even wilder turn when sex acts of all sorts play out in all manners of locales in impossible numbers of positions. Sex and Zen is a soft-core classic and it's a real treat to be able to see it in 35mm on the big screen.