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'The Black Waters of Echo's Pond'

Also reviewed: 'Godspeed,' 'La Mission,' 'The Square,' 'Women Without Men.'

April 09, 2010

It is also multi-dimensional, for it reveals not only how the Kleines felt about their marriage but also how their daughters did as well. It also becomes the filmmaker's tribute to the mother who let her housekeeper raise her daughters but who gradually wins Kleine's understanding, respect and affection.

-- Kevin Thomas "Phyllis and Harold." MPAA rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes. Playing at the Music Hall, Beverly Hills and Town Center 5, Encino.

An affair, a crime and the results

It's called "The Square," but it's really a spiral.

Ordinary, middle-aged, married guy Ray (David Roberts) has somehow gotten into an affair with beautiful young neighbor Carla (Claire van der Boom), who has a shady boyfriend, Smithy (Anthony Hayes). She's quite a femme, but is she fatale? If that sounds like a noir setup, it is. When Carla decides to lift Smithy's ill-gotten gains to fund the illicit couple's getaway, the scheme eventually requires Ray's help and just a bit of arson.

The strongest sides of "The Square," nominated for seven Australian Film Institute awards, are its "Tell-Tale Heart"-like twists. In for a penny, in for a pounding, and Ray's mental health is certainly treated roughly as he's drawn in deeper and deeper. But the angles don't quite meet in the key relationship between Ray and Carla. We're not sure what's between them -- love, lust, both or neither. That may be the filmmaker's intent, but it lowers the stakes. As one might expect from stuntman-turned-director Nash Edgerton, the action is well staged.

-- Michael Ordona "The Square." MPAA Rating: R, for violence and language. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes. Playing at the Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles.

Women, power and the Shah

"Women Without Men," directed by Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat (who also co-scripted with Shoja Azari, inspired by the novel by Shahrnush Parsipur), is a hypnotic look at four very different women in 1953 Iran whose lives intersect against the CIA-led, British-backed coup that restored the Shah to power.

The suicide of Munis (Shabnam Tolouei), a politically aware 30-year-old desperate to escape her domineering brother, sets the often-dreamlike story into motion.

Despite being buried in the family backyard, Munis is unearthed by her more traditional friend, Faezeh (Pegah Ferydoni) and, it seems, comes back to life. The "resurrected" Munis brings Faezeh to a bucolic orchard recently purchased by Fakhri (Arita Shahrzad), an attractive, middle-aged woman who has just left her loveless marriage and reconnected with an old flame. Munis then returns to Tehran, where she and a handsome communist protest the coup, while Fakhri and Faezeh, along with Zarin (Orsi Tóth), a troubled prostitute who also finds her way to the orchard, fleetingly form a symbolic family.

Though the narrative could use more depth and detail, the film generally absorbs with its strong performances, stirring emotions and vivid imagery.

-- Gary Goldstein "Women Without Men." MPAA Rating: Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. In Farsi with English subtitles. Playing at Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills; Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino; Regal's Westpark 8, Irvine.

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