A Frenetic Fest

This year's Fort Lauderdale International Film Fest offers everything from terrorists to overamped adolescents

The story is structured as a series of encounters with people who befriend Daisuké in various ways -- they become, in effect, mentors -- and fortunately the life lessons they impart to him are simple and understated. His brief stay with a female truck driver and her withdrawn son is especially effective.

But the movie veers off course near the end with an overly long sequence in which Daisuké becomes a sort of surrogate son for an ailing elderly man whose eccentricities are downright bizarre. Until then Jugosai glides by on its modest charms. (Friday, October 26, 5:30 p.m., Shadowood, Boca Raton; Saturday, October 27, 1:30 p.m., Westfork, Pembroke Pines; Sunday, November 4, 3:45 p.m., Las Olas Riverfront, Fort Lauderdale; 120 minutes; in Japanese with English subtitles)

The Perfect Son

Inugami
Inugami
Jugosai
Jugosai

Don't be put off by this film's confusing opening shot. It's really the closing shot as well, and it doesn't make sense without the context of the rest of the story.

That caveat aside, The Perfect Son is a downbeat but deeply affecting drama featuring two of the festival's strongest performances. It's the story of two long-estranged brothers -- Theo, played by David Cubitt, and Ryan, portrayed by Colm Feore -- who finally overcome their differences after one learns that the other is not only gay but also losing his ten-year struggle with AIDS.

The twist is that the ailing brother, Ryan, is a conservative lawyer, while Theo is the hedonistic black sheep of the family. That contrast would be a bit too tidy if it weren't for the delicately shaded work of both Cubitt and Feore (a dead ringer for Michael Gross of Family Ties), whose interplay strengthens as the story progresses.

A subplot involving the rocky on-again, off-again relationship between Theo and a nurse (nicely played by Chandra West) is a little shaky, and at times the increasingly melancholy tone becomes almost unbearable. But Cubitt and Feore make this emotional journey worth the trip. (Friday, October 26, 7:30 p.m., Westfork, Pembroke Pines; Saturday, November 3, 1:30 p.m., Las Olas Riverfront, Fort Lauderdale; Saturday, November 10, 9 p.m., Las Olas Riverfront; 93 minutes)

MaryAm

Given the current state of world affairs, a movie set during the Iranian hostage crisis of the late 1970s is a little unnerving to see. Even more unsettling, one of the main characters is a young Iranian zealot who, in one sequence, sets out to infiltrate the Manhattan hospital where the ailing Shah is housed in order to assassinate the deposed leader.

In other circumstances it might be tempting to write off this sequence as ludicrous. But the fervor of the would-be assassin, Ali, is chillingly similar to what we've seen in the terrorists now wreaking havoc across the world. His extremism is something with which we've become all too familiar.

Ali is a college-aged cousin of the title character, a teenager born in Iran but raised in America, and when he reluctantly comes to live with her family in New Jersey, the differences between the two cultures are etched in sharp relief. Unfortunately the culture-clash material is heavy-handed, and most of the secondary characters are broad and cartoonish. (Saturday, October 27, 3:30 p.m., Westfork, Pembroke Pines; Saturday, November 3, 3:45 p.m., Las Olas Riverfront, Fort Lauderdale; Sunday, November 11, 3:30 p.m., Las Olas Riverfront; 87 minutes)

Inugami

You'd need a comprehensive family tree to make sense of the tangle of relationships in this lush Japanese melodrama -- which is exactly the point. It's a seething saga that includes not one but two incidences of incest; a ghost or two; an ancient curse; various rivalries, rituals, and romances; and angry household gods. In other words it's a sort of deranged cross between Shakespearean drama and prime-time soap opera, and I mean that in a good way.

The Bonomiya family is the focus, and what a family it is. Miki is a hauntingly beautiful paper maker whose dark past includes a teenage pregnancy; Takanao is the adulterous (and ultimately murderous) family head, and Sonoko, his angry, miserable wife. Tomie, Miki's long-dead mother, returns to counsel her daughter. And the spark that ignites this volatile clan is Akira, a handsome young schoolteacher who arrives in the village.

To reveal more would spoil the film's richly intricate maze of subplots, which unfold slowly and elliptically. Director Masato Harada clearly realizes he's dealing with over-the-top material, and he punches it up even further with a visual style that can be described only as painterly. (Sunday, October 28, 3:30 p.m., Westfork, Pembroke Pines; 105 minutes; in Japanese with English subtitles)

In the Eye of the Storm

Movies about people trying to make movies are often -- I'm tempted to use the word usually -- risky business, and the festival has a shaky track record when it comes to such fare. (Last year's State and Main, from David Mamet, was a notable exception.) This stark drama is a variation on the genre, with a story that focuses on a playwright trying to get his play produced.

The movie's setting makes the material seem even more precarious: a Florida beach house in the path of a major hurricane. The playwright is summoned there by his wealthy mother, with whom he has long had an antagonistic relationship, and the two end up literally trapped together, forced to hash out a lifetime of differences as the storm rages outside. It doesn't help that the son is also pushing the mother to finance his play.

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