The wait for these movies is over.

Import Nights 

The wait for these movies is over.

Tivoli Cinemas goes around the world in 708 minutes from January 25 through January 31, when the theater screens the seven movies reviewed below, which come from different countries (Thailand and Mali are on the bill) and disciplines (documentaries are well-represented) and haven't played in KC before. See for details about discount passes (four movies for $20).


Drawing equally from declamatory African traditions and European modernist procedures, Bamako stages a kind of Third World epic theater. Set in a quiet corner of Bamako, the capital of Mali, the movie does nothing less than put economic injustice on trial, arguing the guilt of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the entire apparatus of First World economic domination for the crime of African oppression. Witnesses for the prosecution (a writer, a professor, a farmer) take the stand and eloquently testify to the injustice of debt, the consequences of privatization, the crippling effect of structural adjustment policies. It sounds like a chore, but it plays out with charm, the didacticism enlivened by persuasive detail, the anger leavened by empathy. Bamako brings relief from the latest round of Africa chic in the media and colors the Africa problem from the inside out. (2 p.m. Satur­day and 7:15 p.m. Sunday)

— Nathan Lee

Dans Paris

Christophe Honoré's Dans Paris is an inspired retelling of Franny and Zooey. Franny has become a young French guy named Paul (an awesomely hairy Romain Duris), and her existential crisis is now a failed love affair (hey, c'est Paris). But in many other particulars — the benefits of constant prayer, the absence of a beloved elder sibling, the endless phone conversations — the story is the same. Paul has moved back in with his father after breaking up with his girlfriend. An intense, disjointed prologue relays the disintegration of Paul's relationship with an Eternal Sunshine-y stream of flashbacks. Perhaps they are also meant to show us that Paul was a player, because once he gets home and the film starts in earnest, the man is so depressed, he can hardly move. His dad (Guy Marchand) is ill-equipped to deal with such darkness; the best he can do is cook up a sole and beg his son to eat. His brother, Jonathan (Louis Garrel), the Grand High Goofball of the family, also tries to help without really knowing how. Digging deeper into the source material than recent Salinger-inspired movies — The Royal Tenenbaums, Igby Goes Down — Honoré's film turns out to be about the transcendence of sibling relationships. Paul and Jonathan look nothing alike. They fight, sometimes viciously. But they have read all the same children's books, they have mourned their dead sister together and they conduct themselves as if they shared a soul. (2:30 p.m. Wednesday and 5:15 p.m. Thursday, January 31)

 Julia Wallace


A philosophical study of the relationship between the dead artists of Paris' Père-Lachaise cemetery and their visitors and keepers, veteran documentarian Heddy Honigmann's Forever contemplates both buried celebrities and the relatively obscure in its musings on eternity. Forever achieves something sublime and unexpected, thanks to Honigmann's instinct and sensitivity as an interviewer. She patiently extracts tragic-poetic stories from the cemetery's living denizens, using gently penetrating close-ups that, matched with their subjects' self-revelations, draw the beauty of each speaker to the surface. A Japanese pianist discusses the connection she finds to her deceased father through playing Chopin, a Korean tourist ruminates on Proust in his untranslated native tongue, and an Iranian cabdriver sings tribute over the grave of Persian author Sadegh Hedayat. (5:15 p.m. Tuesday and 7:45 p.m. Thursday, January 31)

 Nick Pinkerton

Great World of Sound

Unemployed and living with his artist girlfriend, Pam (Rebecca Mader), in Charlotte, North Carolina, rudderless Martin (Pat Healy) takes a job at a fly-by-night record company that bilks aspiring local musicians out of a few thousand dollars in exchange for some empty promises about a label deal, which will never materialize. Though in the tradition of classic salesman-as-national-economic-indicator works of the past, such as Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, director and co-writer Craig Zobel's moody feature debut is most striking for its absence of indignant rage at the difficulties facing working-class Americans. Instead, a weary inevitability pervades as Martin and his partner (a subtly devastating Kene Holliday) embody an existence in which everyone, no matter how high on the totem pole, is stranded on the same depressed economic plateau. (7:15 p.m. Friday and 4:45 p.m. Saturday)

— Tim Grierson

Half Moon

After the fall of Saddam Hussein, graying paterfamilias and respected Kurdish musician Mamo (Ismail Ghaffari) commandeers a school bus and travels — along with his literal band of sons and a cockfighting driver — from Iranian to Iraqi Kurdistan to lawfully perform for the first time in 35 years. Commissioned by the New Crowned Hope festival in honor of Mozart's 250th birthday, writer-director Bahman Ghobadi's picturesque road trip is less about preserving a musical heritage than accepting one's fate. It's a mythic trek that's heart-rending, boisterous and hauntingly absurdist. (2 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Sunday)

 — Aaron Hillis

King Corn

Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis can trace their roots back to a couple of patches of Iowa soil that their respective great-grandpappies used to own. One day, both guys figured they'd retrace their relatives' muddy footsteps in the cornfields. What Cheney and Ellis found wasn't the family tree but its corn stalk — which reaches into everything most Americans eat and drink, for better or worse (worse, usually). Directed by Aaron Wolf, this is a twofold journey: the story of how two college buddies learned about their agricultural heritage and the tale of how kernels of corn have worked their way into America's diet — through cows that are literally overdosing on the stuff (and that is one nasty sequence) and the soft drinks sweetened with a syrup that the men find impossible to manufacture in a kitchen without almost blowing up the house. A worthy companion piece to Super Size Me and Fast Food Nation (the book more than the movie), King Corn will put you off corn for a long time. That can of Coke will start looking like a hand grenade. But this is as much a thoughtful meditation on the plight of the American farmer as it is a rant against our expanding waistlines. (4:45 p.m. Sunday and 7:45 p.m. Tuesday)  Robert Wilonsky

Syndromes and a Century

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand's leading experimental filmmaker, isn't exactly a master of suspense. Still, the 37-year-old director's enigmas are anything but predictable. As impervious to an easy read as its title, Syndromes and a Century begins on the grounds of a rural hospital where the girlish Dr. Toey is interviewing a young army medic for a job. Clinics are a favorite Weerasethakul location, and this one seems unusually idyllic, with sunlit corridors and group exercises outside on the grass. Midway through, Weerasethakul begins the movie again, repeating the first interview with slight differences in tone and camera placement, and this time the hospital is urban. Are these parallel tales a consideration of repetitive human activity over the course of a lifetime? You might as well ask why the breeze is rustling the leaves. (4:45 p.m. Friday and 7:15 p.m. Saturday)

 J. Hoberman


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