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Weekend!Movies: seven more years, Joseph Conrad and teenage angst - again
by: COURTESY OF WHITEWATER FILMS, “Nearing Grace”

'49 Up' (NR)

Since 1964, the landmark documentary series that began with '7 Up' has followed a handful of British subjects, checking in with them every seven years to see where they are, how they've changed, and how their views of life, love, family and the future have changed as they've grown.

The entire series is as much a great sociological experiment as it is terrific filmmaking.

Those of us who have followed the series have come to know and care about these people - like Neil, who spent his 20s homeless and fearing for his sanity but who, at 49, is a member of his local City Council board, and Lynn, who has ongoing medical problems and now works with handicapped children.

Director Michael Apted interacts with his subjects more here than in the previous films, adding a new level of self-awareness to the process, and setting the stage for yet more of these fascinating documents in the future.

- Dawn Taylor

Cinema 21

'Gabrielle' (NR)

After receiving a Dear Jean letter from his missing wife, a self-absorbed aristocrat (Pascal Greggory) breaks a glass and throws a carefully controlled hissy fit. Then his wife (Isabelle Huppert) comes back, having decided that she didn't really want to leave after all.

Based on Joseph Conrad's story 'The Return,' director Patrice Chéreau's film is a claustrophobic, Bergmanesque examination of how an empty marriage crumbles after the first small crack.

As the pair engage in a chilly, self-conscious dialogue that slowly peels away the layers of their relationship, Chéreau heightens the tension by engaging in a number of cinematic tricks, including interlacing black-and-white scenes, and choppy, repetitive editing.

It's a beautiful, difficult film that explores marital pain in an unusually honest way, punctuated by an occasionally discordant - but always appropriate - score by Italian composer Fabio Vacchi. For viewers who think that all current cinema is just more of the same, here's a chance to check out something unique.

- DT

Hollywood

'Nearing Grace' (R)

Yet another movie about a teenager (Gregory Smith) with a dead mom and a father who hasn't dealt with his loss (David Morse).

Written by 'Mean Creek' director and writer, Jacob Aaron Estes (and directed by Rick Rosenthal), 'Nearing Grace' lacks pretty much all of the freshness, honesty and grit that made that earlier film so good.

Instead, we get the kid from TV's 'Everwood' playing the same character here, down to the awkward relationship with dad and his pining for some girl - although here, he's torn between two different girls, played by Jordana Brewster (as the requisite vamp) and Ashley Johnson (as the requisite girl-pal we know he should like instead).

Despite some good work from Smith and Morse, whose character goes off the deep end by growing his hair long and - gasp! - buying a motorcycle, 'Nearing Grace' (which was filmed in Portland) never rises above the level of a mediocre TV movie, suffering from cardboard characters and an awful soundtrack of 70s pop tunes.

- DT

Lloyd Mall, Division Street

Also new this week:

The Laugh Out Loud film series of rarely screened, French comedies continues at the Northwest Film Center with 'Freedom Oléron' about a father of four young boys who invests all his savings in a sailboat even though he's never sailed (see www.nwfilm.org).

Hugely popular in Japan, 'Train Man' is a romantic comedy about a geeky young man who becomes a hero when he defends women from a harassing drunk on a train (Clinton Street Theater).

The series 'Human Rights on Film,' presented by the Northwest Film Center, continues through Nov. 9 (Whitsell Auditorium).