KRWG

Mark Jenkins

The way the Andes divide Patagonia, Argentina gets most of the land and Chile most of the water. As shown in Patagonia Rising, a new documentary, the landscape on Chile's side of the border is similar to coastal British Columbia or the Alaska panhandle: chilly, forested, mountainous and very wet.

Provocative yet far from definitive, Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a critique of "breast-cancer culture." It could even be called a blitz on pink-ribbon charities and their corporate partners — though to use that term would be to emulate the war and sports metaphors the documentary rejects.

As one woman observes, describing the treatment of cancer as a "fight" or a "battle" suggests that the disease is always beatable if patients make a heroic effort. The implication is that people who die "weren't trying very hard."

During The Intouchables' opening sequence, a black driver takes a white passenger on a wild ride through contemporary Paris at speeds that attract the police. When pulled over, the motorist claims he's hurrying to the hospital, and his charge — who turns out to be quadriplegic — pretends to be having a seizure. After the cops depart, the two men share a laugh and a cigarette; then they roar off, blasting 1970s funk.

Driving Miss Daisy this ain't.

Joachim Trier's first film, Reprise, was a giddy, hyperstylized account of the delights and despairs of Norway's young literary set. His follow-up, Oslo, August 31st, features some of the same themes and one of the previous movie's stars. But the writer-director's mood has downshifted dramatically.

As humane as it is disturbing, Polisse rifles the files of Paris' Child Protection Unit in search of successes, failures and all the shades of ambiguity in between. If the movie's jumpy edits and raw emotions jangle the nerves, that's intentional: This documentary-mimicking drama is designed to evoke the experience of working a beat that can never become routine.

Playing a Marilyn Monroe avatar in Nobody Else But You, Sophie Quinton endows her impersonation with less vitality than Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn. But that's appropriate: Quinton's character is already dead when this smart if outlandish movie opens.

Women's hard-won pragmatism contends with men's impulsive belligerence in Where Do We Go Now?, the second feature directed by Lebanese actress Nadine Labaki. It's the sort of well-meaning fable that's ultimately more admirable than persuasive.

Filmed in three small Lebanese villages, the movie never locates itself in a particular country. But, as in last year's similarly cautious Incendies, the place must be Lebanon; there are few places in the Middle East where Christians and Muslims mingle the way they do in this story.

Eco-aware filmgoers won't learn much from Last Call at the Oasis, which follows the paths of such well-known water activists as Erin Brockovich. But writer-director Jessica Yu's documentary may be slick enough to reach people who aren't already familiar with such substances as "new water," atrazine and hexavalent chromium.

In Elles, a Paris journalist has an eye-opening experience when she interviews two university students who moonlight as prostitutes. So do the movie's viewers, presented with beaucoup de nudite. No genitalia are on display, but there are a few kinky moments that justify the NC-17 rating.

"Crime doesn't pay" is one of the hopeful cliches Margaret Atwood invokes in her essay collection Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth.

Of course it does, filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal shows in Payback, a documentary that riffs on Atwood's themes. But crime doesn't always pay, and perhaps it will pay less well in the future. At least that's the suggestion made by the on-screen commentators who expand on Atwood's original theme.

The world's oldest profession is one of cinema's oldest subjects, sometimes employed for pathos or political metaphor, but often glamorized. Austrian documentarian Michael Glawogger's Whores' Glory is no Pretty Woman. But neither does it qualify as an expose.

The movie, which shifts from Thailand to Bangladesh to Mexico, aspires to a cinema-verite style. Yet it's unusually well-lighted and -composed for on-the-fly footage, and includes scenes that appear to be staged.

It's a classic scenario in sentimental fiction: An adorable orphan humanizes a crusty old codger. "Humanize" might not seem the obvious verb for what happens in Chimpanzee, Disneynature's latest kiddie documentary. But it's dead on; this escape to the planet of the apes is anthropomorphic to a fault.

Not every human advance is a snare, according to Ronald Wright, author of A Short History of Progress. But some new techniques can lead to something the Canadian author calls a "progress trap" — a development that's ultimately more harmful than helpful.

"God sees abilities in me I don't have," laments the protagonist of Italian writer-director Nanni Moretti's new movie. Such self-doubt is hardly novel, but Melville (Michel Piccoli) has a special stake in God's opinion of him — he's just been elected pope.

Some people are just meant to be together — even after they're dead. That's the premise of writer-director Benedek Fliegauf's Womb, a movie whose slender narrative is little more than that premise, yet whose themes prove bigger than the story.

Love between the living and the undead is all the rage in Hollywood movies, but Womb is no Twilight. Shot in Germany by a Hungarian with an English-speaking cast, the movie is more akin to 2004's Birth.

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