AFTER THE LIFE (Unrated, 124 minutes) and AN AMAZING COUPLE (Unrated, 100 minutes)
These two films complete Lucas Belvaux's "Trilogy," a collection of three narratively overlapping films seen from different points of view. (The first film, "On the Run," opened last week at the E Street Cinema, too.) All three films feature the same characters, but the perspective (as well as the genre) each time is radically altered. "On the Run," a political thriller of sorts, is about a radical (Belvaux) named Bruno le Roux, who escapes from jail after 15 years and tries to pick up his old life of death and destruction. "An Amazing Couple" is a romantic farce in which Alain (Francois Morel), a hypochondriac who believes he's dying of some mysterious ailment, and his teacher-wife, Cecile (Ornella Muti), are led to believe the worst things about each other, until the truth emerges. And "After the Life" is a stark, almost Fassbinderlike melodrama, in which Pascal (Gilbert Melki), a cop, procures the finest heroin from the street to keep his addicted wife, Agnes (Dominique Blanc), in a state of bliss. As in Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon" or novelist Lawrence Durrell's "The Alexandria Quartet," each story is part of an ever-expanding tapestry. For instance, when Cecile hires Pascal to trail her husband, we think the cop is a goofball. But when we watch "After the Life," we realize he's a tragic figure in an intense domestic situation. And when Agnes is forced to hit the streets for her habit, she bumps into . . . Bruno from the first movie. In the throes of trying to kill the same gangster who supplies Agnes' heroin, he befriends Agnes. You can watch these films in any order. The joy is in watching the narrative intersections and changing your perceptions of the characters. Each movie casts light on the others. And after watching all three, a profound blending of the stories percolates in your head. All three films contain sexual situations, obscenity, violence and drug use. In French with subtitles. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.
-- Desson Thomson
HARD GOODBYES: MY FATHER (Unrated, 113 minutes)
While press material for this beautiful and sad little Greek film warns reviewers to be sensitive about giving away a critical plot spoiler, the film's title contains enough clues to figure it out yourself. No matter. Whether or not you know exactly what it's about in advance -- and the plot turn in question occurs less than a half-hour in -- it's worth watching for the accomplished performance of 10-year-old Giorgos Karayannis, who took the best actor prize at the Locarno International Film Festival for his portrayal of Elias, a young Athenian boy whose hopes of watching the 1969 moon landing with his traveling salesman father (Stelios Mainas) are irrevocably altered by the intervention of fate. As he works through his eccentric version of grieving, from almost comical denial to ultimate acceptance, Elias's quirky responses to a world he cannot control feel both utterly his own, and universal. As Elias's shell-shocked mother and his sullen older brother, Ioanna Tsirigouli and Christos Bougiotas give equally nuanced performances, as do Despo Diamantidou and Christos Stergioglou as the boy's elderly grandmother and favorite uncle. There are no heroes and villains in this drama, just flawed but decent people doing the best they can to cope with heartache. Taking her inspiration from her own pain over "all those things we lose as we grow up," writer-director Penny Panayotopoulou has fashioned, rather than a Father's Day downer, a complex charmer that shows us, in images and in behavior as poetic as they are plausible, a bittersweet parable about human adaptability. Its message: In life and love, for everything we lose, we gain an equal amount in wisdom. Contains a brief sex scene and some mature thematic material. In Greek with English subtitles. At Visions Bar Noir.
-- Michael O'Sullivan