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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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Frozen Assets

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I didn't feel like a viewer during "Frozen Assets." I felt like an eyewitness at a disaster. If I were more of a hero, I would spend the next couple of weeks breaking into theaters where this movie is being shown, and lead the audience to safety. And if I'd been an actor in the film, I would wonder why all of the characters in "Frozen Assets" seem dumber than the average roadkill.

This is a comedy (not the right word) about a business executive (Corbin Bernsen) whose corporation sends him to a small town to run the bank. Only when he gets there does he discover it's a sperm bank. Ho, ho. In the lobby, he meets a customer (Paul Sand), and their conversation goes like this: Sand: "I've been making two deposits a week for the last seven years. I keep a lot on hand in case of an emergency." Bernsen: "That's a smart move for the small depositor." "Well, it's not that small." "A jumbo, huh? My door is open if you need a hand." Ho, ho, ho. Bernsen quickly (well, not that quickly) discovers his error, after meeting Shelley Long, who plays the nurse at the sperm bank. Among other local denizens is a strange young man named Newton (Larry Miller), who seems seriously troubled, and lives at home (in the local castle) with his mother (Dody Goodman). He invites Bernsen over to dinner and Bernsen ends up bunking with him, in the twin bed in Newton's bedroom.

Meanwhile, the sperm count rises. The town's population includes a large number of hookers and the usual assortment of salt-of-the-earth types, who rise, in various ways, to the challenge when the sperm bank gets an emergency order for 10,000 donations. How to inspire the laggard population to such an effort? Bernsen dreams up a big lottery, and the local males line up to take their chances, while we get lots of condom jokes.

And so on. This movie is seriously bad, but what puzzles me is its tone. This is essentially a children's movie with a dirty mind. No adult could possibly enjoy a single frame of the film - it's pitched at the level of a knock-knock joke - and yet what child could enjoy, or understand, all the double entendres about sperm, and what goes into its production? This movie, as nearly as I can tell, was not made with any possible audience in mind.

Movies like "Frozen Assets" are small miracles. You look at them and wonder how, at any stage of the production, anyone could have thought there was a watchable movie here. Did the director find it funny? Did the actors know they were doomed? Here is a movie to watch in appalled silence. To call it one of the year's worst would be a kindness.

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