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Sunday, September 26, 2021

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Arts + CultureScreen Grabs: Three new films of note

Screen Grabs: Three new films of note

Quick looks at a mermaid comedy horror musical, and animated "zucchini," and Gael Garcia Bernal's latest.

Our critic Dennis Harvey checks out three new films: 

Those who found La La Land too generic a mashup of movie-musical cliches will certainly find more originality in Agnieszka Smoczynska’s Polish feature, in which a family of strip club/burlesque musicians “rescue” from open water a pair of young mermaids—angelic blonde Silver (Marta Mazurek) and witchy brunette Golden (Michalina Olszanska). They may soon need rescuing themselves, however, as these “mermaids” actually appear to be sirens, a considerably more murderous mythological breed. They may lack genitalia, but they do have a healthy appetite for flesh. Nonetheless, they enjoy the perks of disco-novelty-act cub stardom for a while… before the gory stuff kicks in. And yes, there are songs. Lots of songs. Full of visual ideas, this rock-operatic oddity is a an foreign-arthouse Hedvig for heterosexuals.
Now playing, Roxie Theater, SF, $8-12. www.roxie.com

Though it was not much apparent from the roles that initially made him a star, Gael Garcia Bernal has turned out to have a real talent for comedy in movies like Rudo y Cursi and the recent Neruda. Here, he’s a woefully immature Mexico City actor shaken by his wife’s (Veronica Echegui) abrupt walkout. He follows her to a writer’s conference in a heartland American college town, where culture shock, a romantic rival, snowstorms and other elements factor into whether he’ll win her back or (once again) drive her away. Roberto Sneider’s movie and his delightful star do a great job exploring terminal-manchild behavior. It’s a pity, however, that Susana herself remains a two-dimensional cipher.
Opens Fri/24, Roxie Theater, SF, $8-12. www.roxie.com


If you thought Peanuts was depressive, brace yourself for the adorable downer of this Swiss-French stop-motion animation. Orphaned by the alcoholic mother he kinda-accidentally kills—immediately we’re well out of Disney territory—blue-haired 9-year-old Icare aka Zucchini is taken to a group home. There, he begins to flower in the company of other, variably castoff kids, particularly newcomer Camille. Based on Gilles Paris’ book, Claude Barrras’ feature may well be too realistically bleak as children’s entertainment (perhaps it could be useful in settling down over-ebullient tots), but it ultimately arrives at a deep poignance unusual for the ‘toon form. 
Opens Friday, April 3, Opera Plaza Cinema, SF and Shattuck Cinemas, Berk. www.landmarktheatres.com

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