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RiverRun in Review

The 17 th annual RiverRun International Film Festival opens Thursday and continues through April 26. For a complete schedule of screenings and special events, visit the festival’s official website: riverrunfilm. com.

3 HEARTS (3 COEURS)

The foreboding strains of Bruno Coulais’ intense score foreshadows trouble in this romantic drama written by Julien Boivent and director Benoit Jacquot, boasting a high-powered cast headed by top-flight actresses Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chiara Mastroianni and Mastroianni’s real-life mother, the ever-luminous Catherine Deneuve.

At the heart of the film is a romantic triangle between Marc (Benoit Poelvoorde), a middle-aged tax inspector who shares an almost immediate emotional connection with Sylvie (Gainsbourg), whom he meets by chance on a street corner. Some time later, after a planned assignation with Sylvie goes awry, Marc encounters Sophie (Mastroianni) and the two fall in love.

There’s just one problem, and it’s a whopper: Sylvie and Sophie are sisters, a fact learned by Marc only after he and Sophie have gotten engaged. Rather than rock the proverbial boat, Marc decides to remain silent and let fate play its course – a decision that will have severe repercussions for all concerned.

Jacquot manages to keep this powderkeg of pent-up emotions from becoming too mawkish or contrived, helped considerably by the perceptive performances of his actors, all of whom are first-rate. These are not bad people, but they are unable to realize the extent of their emotions – to say nothing of the consequences of those emotions. (In French with English subtitles) Screening: 8 pm Tuesday, Hanesbrands Theatre

ELEPHANT SONG

Director Charles Biname’s awardwinning adaptation of Nicolas Billon’s play (scripted by the author himself) might well be described as “Equus with Elephants,” for those who remember Peter Shaffer’s play or the 1977 film starring Richard Burton as a troubled psychiatrist and Peter Firth an his extremely troubled patient.

Set on Christmas Eve 1966, this moody psycho-drama stars Bruce Greenwood as a psychiatrist attempting to solve the unexplained disappearance of colleague Colm Feore, which leads him into direct confrontation with patient Xavier Dolan, who has an uncanny knack for deciphering and manipulating people’s weaknesses – including those of the good doctor.

A Big Reveal is in store, yet the film becomes bogged down in flashbacks and cryptic dialogue that hinders its overall effect, although the film is acted with conviction by all concerned, including Catherine Keener and Carrie-Anne Moss. Elephant Song never quite escapes or transcends its theatrical origins, but it’s a noble, well-intentioned and sometimes quite interesting attempt. Screenings: 7 pm Friday and 4:30 pm Sunday, UNCSA (main theater)

PROUD CITIZEN

There are echoes of Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne in this droll, dry, cultureclash comedy from editor/producer/director Thom Southerland, who also provided the black-and-white cinematography.

Katerina Stoykova-Klemer makes her big-screen bow as Krasimira, a Bulgarian playwright whose autobiographical work Black Coat has won second prize in a competition in Kentucky. Arriving in the United States for the first time, Krasimira is a stranger in a strange land. She’s flattered to have her work chosen, but she’s also lonely and curious about those she encounters in what could be construed as America’s “heartland.”

The humor is subtle and sometimes bittersweet, and that the writing credits boast several of the film’s actors (including Stoykova-Klemer) leads one to believe that much of the film was improvised, at least to some extent. Running a trim 90 minutes, the film moves along at a lowkey pace that actually works in its overall favor. It’s a little charmer that makes some relevant, sympathetic observations about people – no matter where they come from.

Screenings: 1:30 pm Saturday, 7:30 pm Sunday and 1:30 pm Monday, a/perture cinema

CURIOUS WORLDS: THE ART & IMAGINATION OF DAVID BECK

Director/producer/editor Olympia Stone’s documentary examines, in leisurely fashion, the life and career of David Beck, an artist and sculptor who specializes in dioramas, many distinguished by their intricate miniature work and by the unusual materials he uses to create them.

Beck’s work, which certainly falls into the category of “specialized,” is more renowned among private collectors than the public at large, due in part to the soft-spoken Beck’s reticence regarding self-promotion. He prefers to let the works speak for themselves.

In addition to examining the painstaking work that Beck devotes to his craft, the film revisits his previous works and looks at current projects, while looking ahead to his new ones. Beck essentially tells his own story, which would be fine except that the self-effacing Beck is so low-key and laid-back that the overall film isn’t terribly dynamic or exciting. It’s a nice film, not unlike its subject.

Screenings: 1 pm Tuesday, a/perture cinema and 5 pm Wednesday, SECCA !

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