Power to the Dreamer

Berkeley in 1968 seems more nostalgia than grit

Aaltra This is the kind of movie that film festivals were made for. Filmed in black and white in French (with English subtitles), with slow-paced, ponderous stares from the camera, it's a cineaste's dream come true. Aaltra is not cinema vérité, but it's done in that tradition, filmed on location with little director intervention. The film is about the tenuous relationship between the non-handicapped and the handicapped. It begins with a confrontation between two rural neighbors who have little in common — one operates a harvester; the other telecommutes to nearby Paris. A silly dispute leads them to come to blows, and in the confusion of their foolish brawl, a piece of farm equipment collapses on them, paralyzing both from the waist down. After leaving the hospital, they meet again while traveling, and this time, having very much in common, they set out together rolling their wheelchairs toward their destination. What ensues is a refreshing, funny take on a road movie. Mostly, we see the pair solicit help from strangers and then exploit the strangers' sympathies. One of the funniest scenes involves a sympathetic motocross star lending one of the pair his special bike that can be ridden without the use of one's legs for a three-minute ride. Hours later, after a frantic, enraged search for the stolen motorbike, the owner finds his precious machine and the rider in a ditch. A screaming tirade ends with, "It's people like you that give fucking people in wheelchairs a bad fucking name." It's this dichotomy that Aaltra explores so keenly and where its documentary style thoroughly delivers. We never find out the names of the two men. The only difference between us and the strangers they encounter is that we saw their lives before the accident. But like most movies interested in the truth, Aaltra doesn't start with the answer in mind. And like most good road movies, Aaltra finishes with a few revelations and a trunk full of more interesting questions. (Saturday, November 12, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, November 13, at 1 p.m. at AMC Coral Ridge.) — CottrellLost Dogs — Films from the U.K. seem to come in two speeds: slow, as in careful dramas and character studies (Howard's End, Secrets & Lies), and fast, as in the recent wave of highly stylized, plot-driven flicks, with loads of eccentric characters and fast-action cuts (Trainspotting). Falling into the latter category is Lost Dogs, a film yearning to channel the mojo of a director like Guy Ritchie. The action opens with the exploits of ne'er-do-well Spook (Martin Trenaman), who teams up with his hippie girlfriend, Nora (Karen Graham), and slightly mad anarchist Dennis (Tom Watt) to nab and hold ransom a set of prized bulldogs from a wealthy antiques dealer and his wife. But the dog-owning couple are having money troubles of their own, with wise-guy loan sharks coming around to collect on unpaid debts. When the couples' son, a tightly wound police detective, steps in, the dognappers get more than they bargained for. With its bungling criminals and darkly comic plot twists, Lost Dogs has set itself up for obvious comparisons to other Brit-flick capers like Ritchie's Snatch, which is both good and bad. The film manages to maintain a certain amount of suspense and surprise, which is good. But with characters that are either annoying or unsympathetic, you may not care. It has a made-for-TV feel, with pacing not as consistent as a Ritchie film and plot turns not as clever. But you can still manage to have a little low-rent fun along the way. (Friday, November 11, at 9:30 p.m. at AMC Coral Ridge.) John Anderson

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