The fairy-tale story of Snow White has been brought to the big screen many times before, but never quite like this silent-film interpretation from Spanish filmmaker Pablo Berger, which is set in Seville during the 1920s. The story chronicles a young woman (Angela Molina) who escapes her life of oppression under her stepmother (Maribel Verdu) with aspirations to become a pioneer among female bullfighters. Berger’s approach, complete with intertitles and a terrific music score, feels less like a gimmick as the story moves along, and his black-and-white visuals are striking. Like the recent Oscar-winner The Artist, its audacity brings a freshness to the oldest cinematic form. (Rated PG-13, 104 minutes).
Elements of quirky comedy and domestic drama are jammed together with mixed results by Australian writer-director P.J. Hogan (Muriel’s Wedding), whose latest effort reunites him with star Toni Collette. She plays Shaz, an outspoken drifter who becomes a nanny to five neurotic girls whose mother (Rebecca Gibney) was driven insane by her absentee husband (Anthony LaPaglia), a philandering politician. It’s up to Shaz to bring the family back together. There are some big laughs and fine performances, yet not enough realistic grounding in the characters or story to sustain its dramatic transition in the second half. The cast includes Liev Schreiber, Caroline Goodall and Kerry Fox. (Not rated, 116 minutes).
Appropriately enough, the lush visuals are the main attraction in this deliberately paced yet insightful biopic about French impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet). The story focuses on his later years, when a sultry muse (Christa Theret) visits his seaside mansion, causing a stir among the artist, his housekeeping staff and his sons, including aspiring filmmaker Jean (Vincent Rottiers), who returns home on leave from World War I. The scenery and the performances help to elevate an otherwise uneven period piece from director Gilles Bourdos (Afterwards) that delves into Renoir’s creative process and the passion for his work that continued even as his health declined. (Rated R, 111 minutes).
Cinephiles, conspiracy theorists and Stanley Kubrick aficionados are among those who will best enjoy this fascinating documentary about various hidden meanings within his 1980 thriller The Shining. Through interviews with various obsessed fans and film historians, rookie director Rodney Ascher breaks down theories about Kubrick’s use of symbolism and subliminal commentary, addressing potential references of everything from the plight of Native Americans to a rumored staging of moon landing footage. The film is careful to note that it’s all speculation, but this geek gossip is made even more captivating by the fact that nobody will likely ever know whether any of it is true. (Not rated, 102 minutes).
French provocateur Quentin Dupieux (Rubber) is back with another low-budget look at surrealism and absurdity, this time focused on Dolph (Jack Plotnick), a lonely suburban bachelor who becomes despondent when he loses his beloved dog, then has encounters with various oddball characters while trying to find it. Plotnick (Down with Love) makes an appealing protagonist as Dupieux toys with notions of reality and perspective. His films are pretty much open to interpretation, but he crafts some amusing exchanges and trippy images even if the whole thing never adds up to much in the end. It’s another loopy experience that fits with the filmmaker’s cult following. (Not rated, 94 minutes).