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Stray Dogs

Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.

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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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Stray Dogs

Tsai Ming-Liang's first feature in five years is a mysterious and alienating series of tableaus about the fragility of flesh and the smallness of humanity.

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Breaking The Rules

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"Breaking the Rules" is a movie about a guy who finds out he has a month to live, and decides to spend it in the worst buddy movie ever made.

The movie has to be seen to be believed. It is a long, painful lapse of taste, tone, and ordinary human feeling. Perhaps it was made by beings from another planet, who were able to watch our television in order to absorb key concepts such as cars, sex, leukemia and casinos, but formed an imperfect view of how to fit them together.

This is the kind of movie where a scene is intended to make you cry, but you're not crying, you're wondering just how bad the dialogue can possibly be, and whether the filmmakers are indeed lacking in all instincts about what is believable or acceptable behavior.

The movie opens with three childhood chums whose idea of a good time is to ride inside the dryers at the laundromat. One throws up inside a dryer, and they get in trouble. One wonders if the filmmakers know how dangerous it is for kids to play inside laundry dryers? If they think it's funny to show such a practice? If they couldn't think of any other prank? The payoff comes when the kids are confronted by angry adults, and all three simultaneously point at the other two guys while chiming, "He did it." This establishes the ground rules: These characters know they are in a movie reading dialogue, not performing ordinary human speech.

Flash-forward 10 years. One of the kids stages a reunion between the other two, who are no longer on speaking terms. Reason: He has leukemia, and a month to live. All three men decide to get a van and set off cross-country to California, where it is the dying lad's final wish to appear on "Jeopardy." Along the way, they meet a waitress who instantly marries the dying kid and asks him to sleep with her because she wants his baby. Nope, says the doomed one; it's my buddy who wants to sleep with you. Ever the good sport, the waitress sleeps with the buddy on her wedding night - on a couch in the same room where the other two friends are sleeping. How do they react? They pull the sheets over their heads, and giggle.

One appalling scene follows another.

The illness, the death, the funeral, the videotape. Was there no one to cry out, "Stop this madness?" No one to read the script and see that it was without sense or sensibility? No one to listen to the dialogue and observe that nobody in the world ever talked like this?

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