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Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

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Annie

The new version of "Annie" is fashionably artificial and not very well directed, but its unabashed good cheer is very welcome.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Best films stand out at festival

TORONTOWaiting in the lobby of the Elgin theater Friday night, I talked to a guy who had seen 45 films in this year's Toronto Film Festival: "Yesterday I saw a $60 million movie I can hardly remember, and a $40,000 film I'll never forget."

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Indian actor straddles East, West

TORONTO -- Om Puri is in the peculiar position of being famous in the West for films that have never played in India, and being famous in India for films that have never played in the West. The actor makes one film a year in England, and several films a year in India, and he's on a shuttle between two lives.

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Robin Williams prepares new punch lines

TORONTO -- There was a nasty article recently in Salon, the online magazine, complaining that Robin Williams has given up on making people laugh and is building a new image as a noble everyman. After such elevating projects as "What Dreams May Come," "Patch Adams" and the new "Jakob The Liar," the article wondered what ever happened to the jolly side of Williams' persona?

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Brand new film heavies

TORONTO You hurry between theaters, barely enough time between curtains, and one gift after another comes from the screen. Your only regret is that for every good film you see, the people next to you are describing three you missed. This is the payoff after a slow summer at the movies, when it sometimes seemed directors were no longer swinging for the fences, but just happy to get on base.

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Toronto festival fit for film fans

The 1999 Toronto Film Festival, 11 days and 319 films long, opens today with a quarter of a million moviegoers looking for next year's top Oscar winners - or maybe trying to avoid them. The films come from 52 countries, and 171 of them will be world or North American premieres. People plan their vacations around this festival; at a screening last year of a Vietnamese musical, I sat next to Barbara Strange, who planned to see 45 movies and "exist on bottled water, dried apricots and mixed nuts."

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It's the end of the 'ride

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- There are times when I wonder why I even go to the new movies at Telluride, since the special programs and retrospectives are so valuable. On Sunday I saw a surprise screening of the latest Werner Herzog documentary and then attended his birthday party on the lawn of the Mason's Hall. And an hour later I was watching a beautifully restored print of the 1931 Bela Lugosi "Dracula," with a new score composed by Philip Glass, who conducted a live performance of it with the Kronos Quintet.

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Drawing success

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- The day began with one of the most wondrous films I ever hope to see. "Princess Mononoke," by the Japanese master of animation Hayao Miyazaki, is a symphony of action and images, a thrilling epic of warriors and monsters, forest creatures and magical spells, with an underlying allegory about the relationship of man and nature. Not a children's film, it is a film for all ages that demonstrates why, for some stories, the special effects wizards are only spinning their wheels, because some images cannot be visualized unless they are drawn.

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Telluride gets high marks

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- It's a combination of a film festival and a ski weekend, greatly improved by the absence of snow. Moviegoers at this year's 26th Telluride Film Festival can take the ski lift to the top of the mountain, but what they find there is a little unexpected: the Chuck Jones Cinema, named for the animator who brought Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote to life.

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