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[whitespace] Reviews by Richard von Busack

Gadjo Dilo
The Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.; Sept. 4-17

The title means "Crazy Outsider" in Romany, the language of the Rom, better known as the Gypsies. This new film by Tony Gatlif is the story of Stéphane, a French fan (Romain Duris) of Gypsy music who voyages to Romania in hopes of tracking down a singer named Nora Luca. Gatlif, having made two movies about the Rom (Latcho Drom and Mondo), is probably the best-known filmmaker on the subject of the landless nation, although the lack of narrative and the inadequate translations of the lyrics robbed this music of meaning beneath the exotic surface. (Naturally, Latcho Drom was a cult hit from an audience not much interested in what's underneath a surface--namely, weed smokers.) With luck, Gatlif's newest will provide not just the music but some of the stories of these people.

Safe Men
Selected theaters

Sweet but consistently offbeat story about failed Providence, R.I., musicians Sam (Sam Rockwell) and Eddie (Steve Zahn, the Jughead figure in SubUrbia). The two are recruited as safecrackers by the famous local Jewish gangster Big Fat Bernie Gayle (Michael Lerner, in full bray) and set out on some botched assignments. Rockwell, previously cast for his moist wistfulness, is far more interesting in this atypical role. Writer/director John Hamburg can't structure a plot for beans, but he makes up for it by creating enjoyably peculiar comic dialogue. Harvey Fierstein has an especially funny apropos-of-almost-nothing monologue about flammable polyester pants. Best of all, Hamburg doesn't suffer from the fake-gangsta attitude that's so endemic in recent film-school grads. The shock effect of '70s style delights him, and there isn't a serious act of violence in the entire picture.

Touch Of Evil (1958)
Limited engagement starts Sept. 11

Why revisit this film? The major reason is to see famed sound editor Walter Murch's reedit of the king of the film noirs. The justly famous opening tracking shot is now scored to ambient sound and unobscured by title credits. The minor reason to see Touch of Evil is to end the myth that Welles was finished after Citizen Kane. Touch of Evil takes place during 24 hours in the trashiest Mexican border town ever filmed. Here, a lowlife criminal family tries to shake down antidrug agent Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston). The monkey wrench in the simple payback plot is an elephantine cop (Welles) who turns out to be both more and less corrupt than he looks. The techniques are still avant-garde, and so is the subject matter; the same racism and the same inconclusive drug war still haunt American imaginations 40 years later.

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From the August 24-September 6, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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