The Big Animal
It's a simple yet lesser known law of comedy: Camels are always funny. There are the jaws that drool and chew side to side, the front legs that move like a human's, the humps—but mostly it's the eyes: There's something of Buddha in a camel's eyes. Fondly remembered from SIFF '00, The Big Animal has gotten attention for its script penned by the late Krzysztof Kieslowski, and it's full of deft comic performances. But it's Rubio the camel that carries the film. After being left in a Polish village by a circus, he's adopted by a man (Jerzy Stuhl, who also directs) who loves him. It would be wrong to call this a Jesus parable, but it is about how people muck up the miracles handed them, as the other villagers scheme and fume about their neighbor's new pet. It's a short film (71 minutes), and that's a good thing—there's really not much here. But man oh man, that camel. Get Rubio an agent. Jordan Harper
The Fall of Fujimori
Ellen Perry's doc analyzes the reign and downfall of Peruvian plundercrat Alberto Fujimori, whose instructively Bush-like dictatorship raped the nation of resources and funds and decimated the populace's civil rights in the name of security, antiterrorism, and fear. Interestingly, the mandatory privatization (at the hands of the IMF) and the resulting acceleration of poverty rates incited the supposedly grateful population to protest by the tens of thousands, but Perry's film is more concerned with the personal experience of amoral power, trailing the affable Fujimori during his exile in Japan (he's since been arrested in Chile) and hearing the tale from his gently, modestly expressed point of view. It's an astonishing story we heard precious little of in American media, including (in addition to the assassinations, disappearances, and arbitrary imprisonments) the revolt of Fujimori's own wife, who accused him of the minor scandal that precipitated Fujimori's 1992 "self-coup." (She also ran against him, while they were co-habitating, in 1995.) The spun facts are naturally slippery, and one should follow them up with reading. MICHAEL ATKINSON
Supposedly, this is the final chapter in South Korean director Park Chan-wook's revenge trilogy (started by Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, followed by Oldboy), but it feels like he could riff like this forever. Gorgeous, violent, and sometimes very funny, Lady Vengeance is simply one hell of a movie. It starts as the story of a woman, released after serving her prison term for brutally murdering a young boy, who gets a job at a bakery. From there it leaps back and forth in time, twisting the plot and the knife until you're forced to set up camp at the edge of your seat. One scene in particular, in which a group of bereaved debate whether to take brutal revenge on the person in the next room, could carry a film all on its own. Park may feel the need to explore other ideas, but he's welcome to roll out another trilogy's worth of revenge. JORDAN HARPER
Unknown White Male
Amnesia, per the Psychiatric Dictionary, is the most often faked mental anomaly—the plot device that powered countless films noir and soap operas, as well as recent American foreign policy and Rupert Murray's haunting if sketchy doc Unknown White Male. Processed by cops, brought to a terrifying hospital ER, and identified by the luck of a stray phone number in his pocket, a mysterious subway passenger turns out to be one Doug Bruce, a British-born stockbroker with a Noho loft. The movie wonders, What is personality? Is it a factor of essence or experience? Free to redefine himself through his actions, Bruce seems a new person—much nicer, to judge from old home videos of his earlier lads-abroad vacation trips. No convincing medical or psychological explanation is ever given; Bruce is a walking metaphor, even a miracle. This "unknown white male" has been granted a second chance, born again into a state of grace. "Blessed are the forgetful," as the receptionist quoted Nietzsche in Eternal Sunshine, "for they get the better even of their blunders. . . . Found it in my Bartlett's." J. HOBERMAN
For fans of Gerard Butler, there's Beowulf & Grendel; for kids, Curious George. Seasons one and two of the old Daniel Boone TV show may bring buckskin and raccoon hats back into fashion. The Lake House offers attractive leads Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves plus not much more. Universal has a 75th anniversary edition of Frankenstein, while A Nightmare on Elm Street is only 22 years old. Edward Norton pretends Travis Bickle was a cowboy in Down in the Valley. Gretchen Mol bares all in The Notorious Bettie Page. Russian Dolls returns the same charmingly polyglot European cast (including Audrey Tautou) from L'Auberge Espagnole. As for The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Paul Walker's absence is actually felt. Ten titles, including The Lady in Question Is Charles Busch, are included in the Docurama Film Festival II. If you can't get enough of Hou Hsiao-hsien, his Three Times is also new to DVD. For the partisan Robert Greenwald crowd, you can stoke your outrage with Iraq for Sale. For fans of the former talk show host, guests on a collection from The Tom Snyder show include Tom Wolfe, Ken Kesey, and Timothy Leary.