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Friday, Sept. 18, 11:30 a.m., Scotiabank

Bright Star

Jane Campion (Britain/Australia/France)

***

It may be a romance involving the greatest of the romance poets, but John Keats isn't the star of Bright Star. Instead, as that title hints, the real subject is the object of Keats's affection - Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). Their relationship, unconsummated yet immortalized in the surviving letters, was confined on every side not just by the proprieties of the time but also by the poet's failing health, empty wallet and, no doubt, by his own conflicted nature. All this emerges through Fanny's frank and unblinking gaze, which is precisely where Cornish shines. She speaks eloquent volumes with her eyes, seeing much, feeling much, yet pushed by convention and circumstance to the margins of Keat's brief life. Consequently, at times, her emotions appear to grow out of thin dramatic soil. Mainly, though, it's the exquisite restraint - both of Cornish's performance and Campion's direction - that gives the film its power. Here, as in Keats's work, lyrical beauty is wedded to "easeful death," and Fanny had no place in that marriage, fated to be a poignant bridesmaid. R.G.

Sept. 11, 9 p.m., Elgin; Sept. 13, 9:30 a.m., Scotiabank 2



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Cairo Time

Ruba Nadda (Canada)

**

The pyramids at Giza are glorious. The Nile is magnificent. Cairo's streets thrum with life. If only director and writer Ruba Nadda had delivered a compelling script to go with the travelogue and with Niall Byrne's lovely romantic score. Patricia Clarkson plays a UN diplomat's wife coming to visit her husband in Cairo. He's tied up with another disturbance in Gaza, so a handsome Egyptian, Tareq, escorts her hither and yon. She's plainly smitten, but will she succumb? The tension is entirely too bearable. Michael Posner

Sept. 13, 8:30 p.m., Winter Garden; Sept. 14, 12 p.m., Scotiabank 3



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Capitalism: A Love Story
Director: Michael Moore Narrated by Michael Moore USA

***

From the important documentary filmmaker Michael Moore comes a pitchfork-and-popcorn assault on the "evil" system commonly called capitalism. There are entertaining episodes - Moore drives a Brinks truck to various banks, hoping to get back the money the "robbing' institutions received as a bailout from the calamitous situation they helped cause - but the film suggests that an open rebellion is at hand, and goes so far as to encourage the revolt. There often is enlightenment: Who knew corporations such as Bank of America, Wal-Mart and AT&T took out life insurance policies on their worth-more-dead-than-alive employees? And while Moore's bit on political/banking back-scratching uncovers appalling associations, his highly topical film is confusing in the way it offers "democracy" as an alternative to "capitalism," as if the two systems were mutually exclusive. What Moore is really here attacking is greed, which apparently isn't controversial enough a subject for a big-cause hunter like himself. B.W.

Tuesday, Sept. 15, 3:45 p.m. Scotiabank Theatre



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Carcasses

Denis Côté (Canada)

***

Former Montreal film critic turned auteur, Denis Côté's fourth film in as many years is more a cinematic provocation than a traditional narrative, but it's a distinctly original one, gorgeously shot in the bush southwest of Montreal, with an ear-grabbing mixture of punk rock and Mahler on the soundtrack. Part of the film is a straight-up documentary of a genuinely happy man, Jean-Paul Colmor, a 74-year-old eccentric who collects automobiles, studies Spanish on records and goes dancing every night. Then, abruptly, the film turns into a foreboding drama: Four young adults with Down syndrome arrive at his place, apparently on the run, one of them carrying a rifle. The French title literally can mean "wrecks" rather than corpses, and as for the other links between the two parts of the film, the meaning lies in the gaps. L.L.

Sept. 13, 6:15 p.m., Scotiabank 4; Sept. 17, 9 p.m. Varsity 4; Sept. 18, 3 p.m. Varsity 1

Chloe

Atom Egoyan (Canada)

***

Toronto has never looked more glamorous and sexy than it does here, "playing" itself (and not Manhattan or Cleveland or Chicago) in Egoyan's adaptation of the 2004 French hit Nathalie. With a script by Erin Cressida Wilson ( Secretary, Fur), Egoyan torques the action far beyond the Gallic cool that Anne Fontaine brought to the original. Of course, it's a twisty meditation on desire, repression, sexuality, infidelity and commitment in a cold climate - but the look, pacing and tone owe more to Brian De Palma and Adrian Lyne than Bergman, say, or Antonioni. Julianne Moore is fine (and courageous) as the big-buck Yorkville gynecologist who, convinced that her husband (Liam Neeson), a charismatic, much-travelled university music professor, is fiddling about, hires a gorgeous escort (Amanda Seyfried, of Mamma Mia! fame) to test his loyalty. A sleek film of alluring - and dangerous - surfaces (check out all the glass and mirrors), Chloe should restore Egoyan's lustre at the box-office. J.A.

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