A ‘Mambo’ and more with Hou Hsiao-Hsien, ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ less than magical ‘Flute’
Film Ahead is a weekly column highlighting special events and repertory programming for the discerning Camberville filmgoer. It also includes capsule reviews of films that are not feature reviewed.
Following Hollywood’s big night, which hopefully goes off without a slap, The Brattle Theatre turns its attention toward “Time Traveling with Hou Hsiao-Hsien,” beginning with “Flowers of Shanghai” (1998), tales that weave in an out of four late-1800s “flower houses” (brothels) in the city of the film’s title. The film stars Tony Leung (“Infernal Affairs,” “In the Mood for Love”) and plays Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s “Millennium Mambo” (2001) starring Shu Qi as a Taipei bartender who drifts away from her boyfriend and becomes involved with a gangster. The neo-noirish film is driven by a techno score and the neon-drenched nightlife of Taipei. Re-teaming with Hou, Shu plays a lethally trained 19th century dealer of death in “The Assassin” (2015), Hou’s venture into the wuxia genre popularized by Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and Zhang Yimou (“House of Flying Daggers” and “Hero”). The retrospective’s tackling of time and Asian culture is somewhat reflective of the deconstructive Chinese immigrant tale “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which is likely to rake in good share of Oscar gold.
The Brattle begins an extended run Friday of Albert Serra’s gorgeously shot “Pacifiction,” a psychological spy thriller about a French diplomat (Benoît Magimel) who discovers subterfuge and shifting political agendas while stationed in Tahiti. It’s an area premiere.
The Tuesday Retro Replay at the Landmark Kendall Square Theatre in its “Seeing Double: Welles and Lean” series marks one of David Lean’s two directorial Oscar wins: “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), about a British officer (Peter O’Toole) who lead Arabian forces against the Ottomans during the First World War in Syria and Jordan. Lean earlier won for another war epic, the World War II tale of resilience “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957) that also starred Obi-Wan Kenobi performer Alec Guinness, here playing opposite O’Toole and Lean collaborator Omar Sharif (“Doctor Zhivago,” coming later in the program). Renowned director Nicolas Roeg (“Walkabout” and “Performance”) began his career as Lean’s second unit director on “Arabia” and took on cinematography duties for “Zhivago.” (Tom Meek)
In theaters and streaming
‘The Magic Flute’ (2022)
Six weeks after the academic term starts, Londoner Tim (Jack Wolfe) fulfills his dying father’s wish to attend his alma mater, a fictional mountaintop boarding school. On Tim’s first night, giggling balls of light beckon Tim to a portal that leads from the library to the land that inspired Mozart’s last opera, “Die Zauberflöte,” promising that if Tim pretends to be Prince Tamino, the opera’s hero, and saves that world from eternal darkness, Tim’s greatest wish will be granted. Opera lovers and teens will both leave dissatisfied from seeing the titular English-translated opera adaptation within a trite coming-of-age high school mashup of “Glee” and “Harry Potter.” The high school segments ruin the opera’s momentum, even by stunt casting the stern headmaster with F. Murray Abraham, best known for his Oscar-winning turn as Mozart’s envious nemesis in “Amadeus” (1984). Having high school students who could sing would help. The only showstopper is the Queen of the Night (genuine operatic soprano Sabine Devieilhe), whose regal robes flow as if she is in a martial arts film. Asha Banks, who plays the Queen’s daughter, is reminiscent of a young Jennifer Connolly in “Labyrinth” (1986). Iwan Rheon (“Misfits,” “Game of Thrones”) as Papageno, the queen’s bird catcher and Tim’s traveling companion, delights with innocent, wide-eyed joy upon meeting his soulmate Papagena (Stéfi Celma). Otherwise even with Roland Emmerich (“Independence Day”) as producer, this feature debut of commercial director Florian Sigl feels dated, with a giant serpent that would belong in “Clash of the Titans” (1981). (Sarah Vincent) Apple Cinemas Cambridge, 168 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge Highlands near Alewife and Fresh Pond.
Cambridge writer Tom Meek’s reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.