‘Saul’ an un­usual war story with death-camp back­drop

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MOVIES - By John Bei­fuss

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.

Cour­tesy of Sony Pic­tures CLAS­SICS

Géza Röhrig is a con­cen­tra­tion camp pris­oner charged with dis­pos­ing of the bod­ies of the dead in “Son of Saul.”

BARRY WETCHER/WARNER BROS. Pic­tures via ap

in “Creed,” ado­nis Creed (Michael B. Jor­dan, left) turns to an ag­ing Rocky Bal­boa (Sylvester Stal­lone) for guid­ance.

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