More SIFF Picks

The Puffy Chair, Shanghai Dreams, and Tony Kushner.

The Puffy Chair

Josh (Mark Duplass) is a confused fuck-up whose indie-rock career is dead. But despite his aura of shaggy-dog doofusness, Josh's girlfriend Emily (Kathryn Aselton) remains attracted to him and wants to join him on a road trip to deliver a La-Z-Boy recliner to his father. But their relationship may be on the skids. Enter Rhett (Rhett Wilkins), Josh's sanctimonious nature-boy brother, who joins them in the van for a fraught journey from innocence to experience. It may not seem like much, but Puffy works. Duplass and his brother, Jay, have written a script that's bold in its simplicity. Like Funny Ha Ha, a casually raw 2002 faux-cin魡-v鲩t頩ndie about a bunch of shiftless twentysomethings, Puffy uses simple, unadorned dialogue and intimate, off-the-cuff performances to get at the underlying issues. It's three people trying to figure out themselves and their lives, trying to get what they want without knowing what they want, or what they have. The ingenious ending wakes us from a dream in which we had unknowingly become complicit. (R) MELISSA LEVINE Broadway Performance Hall: 2 p.m. Sun. June 4.

Shanghai Dreams

Engaged with the post-Mao era, Wang Xiaoshuai's Shanghai Dreams focuses on a teenage girl trying to come of age despite her oppressive father, who bitterly resents the decade his family has spent in the country after being relocated. Bursting with cultural-transition details and seductive deep-shadow cinematography (Wu Di), Dreams raps out a generational combat overfamiliar to us since the Eisenhower years, and does it repetitively, but expertly summoned sadness waits in the wings. At least it's not "minimalist," a demanding mode I'm beginning to think only masters like Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang can handle. (NR) MICHAEL ATKINSON Egyptian: 6:30 p.m. Fri. June 2. Harvard Exit: 1:15 p.m. Sun. June 4.

Wrestling With Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner is an uncompromising political artist with a proudly progressive viewpoint. Thankfully, this documentary about his oeuvre of plays, books, and musicals, including Pulitzer, Tony, and Emmy award winner Angels in America, stays on firmly neutral ground. Director Freida Lee Mock (previously an Oscar winner for profiling Maya Lin) presents Kushner as a rebel only in the sense that the rest of society is so politically blas鮠Her film is in love with the painstaking process of creation, rather than the accolades that come later. Mock forgoes the typical boring documentary conceit of interviews with famous people discussing Kushner's importance. Instead, she shows us Kushner, the working artist, out in the field with all kinds of people. One quibble, however: too many key plot points are discussed from Kushner's plays, and the film also shows many of their final scenes. For the uninitiated, this may spoil the effect of later seeing them on stage. Kushner's fans will only find further reinforcement for their admiration. (NR) FRANK PAIVA Broadway Performance Hall: 3:45 p.m. Sat. June 3; 6:30 p.m. Mon. June 5.

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