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Diane Carson

The artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken has crafted a fascinating and most unusual film in "Station to Station." Comprised of 62 one-minute films, it interrogates creativity through musicians and a diverse range of "artistic happenings," as Aitken labels them. Opening titles announce that a train traveled from the Atlantic to the Pacific, 4,000 miles, over 24 days, staging ten happenings.

Between 1972 and 1974 documentarian Les Blank joined with Leon Russell to make "A Poem Is a Naked Person." An episodic, rambling work, it cobbles together concert and recording footage with unguarded moments with local residents. This is what Blank has always done well: profile the artists at the heart of his films and the culture in which they thrive.

Introductory black-and-white archival footage from the 1920s and early '30s establishes context for "Jimmy's Hall." On screen titles provide background: the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence, the Anglo-Irish Treaty fueling continuing conflict, and, 10 years later, a government promising a better future. Cut to 1932, Jimmy Gralton returns home to County Leitrum after a decade of exile in New York.

Fifteen-year-old Minnie Goetze introduces "The Diary of a Teenage Girl" in 1976 San Francisco speaking into an audiotape microphone. With a mixture of delight and astonishment, Minnie announces, "I had sex today" and wonders if she looks different. She adds, "This makes me officially an adult," an assertion the following scenes prove strikingly inaccurate through Minnie's revealing interior monologue.

In "The Third Man," Vienna, post-WWII, is divided into four sectors: the American, the Russian, the British and the French zones. When American pulp westerns writer Holly Martins arrives at the Vienna train station, he expects to meet long-time friend Harry Lime, but soon learns that Harry has died in a hit-and-run automobile accident. Holly attends his funeral instead.

Friday, 07 August 2015 00:00

'Phoenix' soars on strong performances

In the symbolically titled film "Phoenix," a disfigured Nelly Lenz survives Auschwitz and returns, after some reconstructive surgery, to a rebuilding 1945 Berlin. Her companion, Lene, affiliated with the Jewish Agency for Palestine, wants to relocate to Haifa, but Nelly feels compelled to find her Christian husband Johnny, possibly the person who betrayed her to the Nazis. She has to know the truth.

Friday, 17 July 2015 00:00

'Trainwreck' lurches off the rails

Amy Schumer has nurtured a reputation for irreverently tackling explicit sexual topics. Revealing persistent, pervasive double standards of blatant sexism, Schumer turns the tables on her male partners, rejecting emotional involvement and long-term commitment, confronting sexist insults. How surprising then that her dramatic film "Trainwreck" has a soft romantic core while promoting a traditional endorsement of love triumphant.

Based on the real-life story of writer/director Maya Forbes, "Infinitely Polar Bear" immerses the viewer in the difficult and exasperating world of manic-depressive Cameron "Cam" Stuart. His wife Maggie and two daughters, Amelia and Faith, ten and eight, accept him but alarming dysfunctional behavior gets Cam a month's long commitment to a mental ward and thereafter a halfway house stop.

In the testosterone-driven world of director Antoine Fuqua, light heavyweight boxing champion Billy Hope finds the brutality of the ring doesn't compare to the emotional trauma of losing his wife Maureen and fighting to regain custody of his alienated six-year-old daughter Leila. An amateur boxer himself, Fuqua energizes the melodramatic boxing genre by including a wealth of details.

In 1971 Stanford psychology professor Dr. Philip Zimbardo recruited 18 male Stanford students (and six alternates) for a two-week experiment. After interviews by Zimbardo and his graduate staff, a flip of a coin determined if the participant would be a prisoner or a guard in the mock-up prison constructed in the basement of a Stanford University classroom building.

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