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Wednesday, June 19, 2002

the women's films

These films, found in the ever-evolving category known as "women's films," show women stepping beyond the boundaries of what have been deemed "women's concerns" to connect themselves with a wider, broader audience. A few more of such works and perhaps this category will become obsolete and be replaced in turn by . . . "men's films"? Can't wait.

Monster's Ball

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"Monster's Ball"

Tracing the sudden love that emerges between the widow of a death-row inmate and the corrections officer who led him to the electric chair, "Monster's Ball" is a love story that gives the term a complete and thorough overhaul. Halle Berry's Academy Award-winning performance as the widow is at once ferocious and ephemeral, and the chemistry between her and co-star Billy Bob Thornton is the kind that's rarely seen, on-screen or in real life.

Plus: Obliterates any fluffy, wimpy fantasies about love relationships with one stroke
Minus: Not a great date-movie, since it might endanger your own relationship
Opens in late July

Y tu mamá también

Many women's films deal with how a woman should live, but this is a work that shows how she chooses to die. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, "Y tu mama tambien" treats life and death with humor, tolerance and sensuality. The story unfolds against the dusty, feverish backdrop of a Mexican summer and suitably, the three main characters don't want to talk or think about anything except sex and love. Stunning performance by Spanish beauty Maribel Verdu as Luisa: the wife of a boring novelist who discovers she is terminally ill, then decides to go on a road trip with two teenage boys.

Plus: The summer movie to end all summer movies
Minus: Reminds you of how tiresomely pheromonal teenage boys are
Opens in mid-July

Sous le sable

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"Sous le sable"

Love isn't necessarily about sharing life with a loved one, says "Sous le sable," directed by Francois Ozon and starring Charlotte Rampling in a long-awaited comeback. She plays Marie, who's been happily married to her husband, Jean, for 25 years. But one summer day, Jean goes for a swim and never returns. Was it an accident, or did he disappear intentionally? Marie's initial devastation and grief turn to acceptance and a strong belief in her own, unchanging life force.

Plus: Rampling is gorgeous precisely because she and the director make no attempts to cover up her age.
Minus: Overly praising women while disdaining men
Opens in late August

Ten Tiny Love Stories

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"Ten Tiny Love Stories"

In this work, directed by Rodrigo Garcia ("Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her"), 10 actresses each tell a "tiny love story," but the way they tell it makes it difficult to know how much is ad-lib (based on their experiences) and how much is fiction (written by Garcia). From Alicia Witt talking about her first sexual experience to Rhada Mitchell describing a kiss to Kathy Baker blinking back tears as she remembers her husband's accidental death, their stories are honest, spare and ultimately fulfilling.

Plus: Such an undertaking would just not work with male actors, so there.
Minus: Why do women always have to talk about their relationships?

The Circle

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"The Circle"

Directed by Iran's Jafar Panahi, "The Circle" is a series of stories about women prisoners released from a correctional institution in Tehran. The style is noticeably more modern and stylized than Panahi's award-winning debut, "The White Balloon." For "The Circle," this Abbas Kiarostami disciple concentrates on Iranian women whose lives are portrayed as every bit as awful as we have been taught to believe. And still they struggle to liberate themselves, refusing to be sucked into a system that offers little personal happiness or hope.

Plus: Trite as it sounds, the inner strength of the characters is truly inspirational.
Minus: Doesn't add anything new to the portrayal of Iranian women in film
Opens in mid-August

Opens in mid-August

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