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Sept. 13, 8:30 p.m., AMC 7; Sept. 14, 9 p.m., Varsity 2; Sept. 18 3.30 p.m., AMC 7

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My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

Werner Herzog (USA/Germany)


An aspiring actor, fired from a production of a Greek tragedy, continues the part off stage - yep, he kills his mother. The theme is hardly new to Werner Herzog, who has devoted much of his directorial career to exploring that dark point where the creative imagination topples off into full barking madness. Here, though, the bark seems more loud than illuminating, and, at times, more annoying than anything else. As the cops close in on the killer, the film keeps flashing back to the spreading roots of his insanity, a series of sequences that have a weird yet vibrant visual intensity, elusive in meaning but definitely poetic in power. There's a Lynchian feel to these scenes, although that's no coincidence - Herzog is working under the imprimatur of David Lynch the executive producer. If you doubt that, look no further than the sight, posed against a frigid winter landscape, of a dwarf in a tuxedo. Alas, like many a dwarf in many a movie, this one doesn't add up to much. R.G.

Sept. 16, 9 p.m., Elgin; Sept. 17, 5:30 p.m., Varsity 8; Sept. 19, 10 a.m., Jackman

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Partir (Leaving)

Catherine Corsini (France)


Kristin Scott Thomas in another acting tour de force, following last year's I've Loved You So Long. Here, she's Suzanne, a mother of two teenagers, living a comfortable life as the wife of a French doctor when she's suddenly hit by an emotional tidal wave: She falls madly in love with Ivan, a Spanish construction worker (Sergi Lopez). The relationship defies all logic, but that's precisely the point of Corsini's script - the force of the passion is utterly irresistible, and Suzanne will surrender everything to answer its call, whatever the consequences. Compelling cinema. M.P.

Sept. 14, 8:30 p.m., Winter Garden; Sept. 16, 9:45 a.m., Scotiabank 2; Sept. 18, 1:45 p.m., Varsity 8

Passenger Side

Matt Bissonnette (Canada)


Small but smart, Matt Bissonnette's script follows two brothers, techno-phobic writer Michael and recovering addict, Tobey (Adam Scott and the director's brother, Joel Bissonette) as they drive around Los Angeles for a day. Initially, we think they are in search of drugs but it soon emerges that their quest is of a different nature. In spite of the apparent aimlessness, the movie is never dull. Acting is solid and Bissonnette's sharply written dialogue swings between arch sarcasm and introspection as we learn more about the brothers' family secrets. En route, they encounter several eccentric Angelenos, from a transvestite prostitute to a Mexican worker who has accidentally removed his fingers, but there are no gunfights or chases, and the tone remains Canadian and ironic. By nightfall, we discover the pattern to all this meandering, and while the wrap-up feels a bit hokey, the ride has been a good one. L.L.

Sept. 11, 9 p.m., AMC 7; Sept. 12, 11:45 a.m., AMC 10; Sept. 17, 5:15 p.m., AMC 2

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Phantom Pain

Matthias Emcke (Germany)


For diehard cyclists, any film with a beautiful barmaid mentioning the late Italian racing legend Marco Pantani in conversation in the first few minutes is enticing. And watching the brooding lead (played by Til Schweiger) bed a new woman every other day, while still managing to spend much of his days training on his bike, is wish fulfilment writ large. Yet while the filmmakers genuinely appreciate the nuances of the sport, the troubled, muscular protagonist has nothing like a cyclist's physique. So when he gets into a terrible accident, the element of believability just isn't there. The film is instead all about cool urban melodrama. It's richly photographed and effectively captures how one pursuit (like cycling) can mask life's other rewards. The film gets its second wind with a beautifully shot conclusion that will make even the fittest cyclist's heart flutter. The trouble is that up until that point, this guy's challenges aren't all that convincing. G.D.

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