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A Frenetic Fest

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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.

The force that combines all this surprisingly well is filmmaker Mark Richardson, a Martin Scorsese protégé who not only wrote, produced, directed, and edited the picture but is also the male lead. Richardson has rugged good looks and a considerable screen presence that occasionally verges on menacing, and he hits his stride in the acerbic exchanges between the bitter playwright and his ice queen of a mother -- played, in an inspired bit of casting, by Richardson's own mom, Margaret.

At his best Richardson the writer summons up Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee, two of his acknowledged influences. He falters in the scenes that bookend the film, involving the playwright's estranged wife and their son, but he compensates with a solid center that includes a real hurricane: He shot the storm footage during Hurricane Floyd's 1999 brush with the Florida coast near Vero Beach. (Wednesday, October 31, 7:15 p.m., Las Olas Riverfront, Fort Lauderdale; Saturday, November 3, 3 p.m., Las Olas Riverfront; 105 minutes)

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Michael Mills

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