‘Saul’ an unusual war story with death-camp backdrop
Shorts: Animated (not rated, 100 min.) five previous oscar annointees join this year’s five nominated international “cartoons” for a diverse program of international animation. 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Studio on the Square, and 2 p.m. Thursday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Studio tickets: $10. Brooks tickets: $9, or $5 for students and museum members. The Oscar-nominated Shorts: Live Action (not rated, 103 min.) films from Kosovo, Palestine, Germany, ireland and the u.s. 6:30 p.m. Monday, Studio on the Square, and 11 a.m. Thursday, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Studio tickets: $10. Brooks tickets: $9, or $5 for students and museum members. The Outrageous Sophie Tucker (not rated, 96 min.) this documentary tells the rags-to-riches story of the bold and brassy “last of the Red Hot Mamas” who was a top draw for decades in the worlds of vaudeville, radio and the movies. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Ridgeway Cinema Grill. Tickets: $7, or $5 for MJCC or Indie Memphis members. Visit jccmemphis. org/film. Prehistoric Planet: Walking with Dinosaurs 3D (not rated, 45 min.) experience a year in the life of dinosaurs. Through March 4, CTI 3D Giant Theater, Memphis Pink Palace Museum, 3050 Central Ave. Tickets: $9 adult (13-59), $8 seniors (60+), $7 children (3-12). Call 901-636-2362 for showtimes, tickets and reservations. The Time Traveler’s Wife (PG-13, 107 min.) the new “i Read that Movie at the library” page-to-screen book club begins with a public screening of the 2009 fantasy romance with eric Bana and Rachel Mcadams. a discussion of the differences between the book and the movie will follow. 2 p.m. Saturday, Meeting Room A, Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library, 3030 Poplar Ave. Free. Call 901-415-2726. Touchdown Israel (not rated, 85 min.) an often humorous documentary about the increasing popularity of american football in israel, where Jews, arabs and Christians play alongside ex-american college players and religious settlers from the West Bank. 1 p.m. Sunday, Belz Theater, Memphis Jewish Community Center, 6560 Poplar Ave. Tickets: $7, or $5 for MJCC or Indie Memphis members. Visit jccmemphis. org/film. Airlift (not rated, 130 min.) a Hindi-language film about india’s role in the 1990 iraq War. Hollywood 20 Cinema. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (PG, 86 min.) another “squeakuel.” Bartlett 10. The Boy (PG-13, 105 min.) ★★ ½ fleeing an abusive relationship, a young american woman (lauren Cohan, as of this writing still alive and uneaten on “the Walking Dead”) takes a job as a nanny in a stately english manor, only to discover that her charge is a nightmare figure named for a lullaby: He (it?) is a neatly dressed porcelain doll, called Brahms, which her elderly employers (Jim norton and Diana Hardcastle) treat like a beloved, living son. Creepy if hardly credible, with a derivative plot twist that is unlikely to surprise experienced horror fans, the movie nonetheless is consistently amusing (and a big improvement over
The likely winner of this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film (and the only one of the five nominees to receive a Memphis booking to date), Hungary’s “Son of Saul” is an unusual Holocaust drama with an unusual hero. Highly stylized, it uses extreme artfulness to generate a documentary-like you-are-there intensity, even as the lead character’s unflagging energy distracts us from the transfixing genocidal evil operating at the edges of every frame of film.
Saul (Géza Röhrig) is a member of the Sonderkommando, the work gang of Jewish prisoners forced to dispose of the bodies of death-camp victims. He first appears by entering a shot that is stationary and blurred, as if he were joining a film already in progress; as he moves closer to the camera (to us), he comes into focus, and remains the literal focus of most of the rest of the movie, which is presented in the squarish and confining “Academy” screen-shape that was standard before the widescreen era of the 1950s.
As Saul moves about Auschwitz, the camera remains so close to him that the extreme violence of the Nazis is often visible only in the background or in the corners of the shot, as if it were incidental rather than central to the mission of the camp. Yet it quickly becomes apparent that murder and depravity are as omnipresent and inescapable as air.
Saul’s progress is a tour of a factory of death. As he moves past the familiar (to him) mounds of ashes and piles of bodies, from the basement ovens to the upper autopsy rooms, the movie becomes something like a grim firstperson role-playing video game with no end in sight but with an unlikely goal: Saul is searching for a rabbi, to recite ritual prayers and help him bury the body of a young boy who briefly survived the gas chamber.
Saul’s secret mission is complicated not just by the presence of the Nazis but by the camp’s polyglot society. Hungarian, German, Yiddish, Polish and even English are heard, but not all the talk is translated with subtitles, which makes language in this nightmare scenario just another noise, like the gunshots and the screams.
Directed by László Nemes and written by Nemes and Clara Royer, “Son of Saul” feints in the direction of subplots that suggest other, more conventional, war dramas are taking place elsewhere in the camp, outside of Saul’s obsessed purview (and the audience’s restricted access). These ultimately offer no hope. At the end of the film, the camera moves on, to follow someone else, as if it represented the point of view of a curious supernatural entity with an appetite for pain.
“Son of Saul” is exclusively at the Malco Ridgeway Cinema Grill.
director William Brent Bell’s previous film, “the Devil inside”). Cineplanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Desoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Olive Branch Cinema, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Stage Cinema. The Choice (PG-13, 111 min.) another Nicholas sparks novel comes to the screen. Cineplanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Desoto Cinema 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Olive Branch Cinema, Paradiso, Stage Cinema. Creed performance worthy of a Best supporting actor oscar; this is the first “rocky” film not written by stallone (the script is credited to coogler and aaron covington), and it represents both a worthy bookend to the first film, from 1976, and a passing of the baton to not just a young actor but a black actor — a representative of the race that has dominated prizefighting for decades, in contrast to the casting in almost every previous studio boxing film. Bartlett 10. Daddy’s Home (PG-13, 96 min.) stepdad Will Ferrell is threatened by the reappearance of stud biological father Mark Wahlberg. Desoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8. Deadpool (r, 108 min.) ryan reynolds is the foul-mouthed Marvel hero. Cineplanet 16, Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Desoto Cinema 16, Forest Hill 8, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Olive Branch Cinema, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Stage Cinema, Studio on the Square, Summer Quartet Drive-in. Dirty Grandpa (r, 102 min.) a grandson (Zac efron) and grandfather (robert De Niro) drive to spring break. Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8. The 5th Wave (PG-13, 112 min.) chloe Grace Moretz stars in yet another young adult sci-fi franchise starter. Collierville Towne 16, Cordova Cinema, Desoto Cinema 16, Stage Cinema. Fifty Shades of Black (r, 92 min.) Marlon Wayans spoofs the s&m romance genre. Desoto Cinema 16, Hollywood 20 Cinema, Majestic, Palace Cinema, Paradiso, Summer Quartet Drive-in, Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8. The Finest Hours (PG-13, 117 min.) chris Pine and casey affleck star in a truelife coast Guard adventure.
Géza Röhrig is a concentration camp prisoner charged with disposing of the bodies of the dead in “Son of Saul.”
in “Creed,” adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan, left) turns to an aging Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) for guidance.