Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life
Director Michael Paxton is scheduled to attend.
Sunday, April 19; 4 p.m.

The late best-selling author Ayn Rand--The Bolshevik Revolution survivor turned Hollywood screenwriter turned pop philosopher--was a lot of things, many of them contradictory but none of them boring. To make a watchable documentary about her eclectic life isn't hard; to fully examine the implications of her controversial philosophies of "objectivism" and "individualism" and how they intersected with her devout atheism, rabid anti-communism (she endangered the lives of her own family when she denounced totalitarianism), and fervent pro-capitalism is a more formidable task. At two hours and twenty minutes, Michael Paxton's Oscar-nominated documentary Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, narrated by Sharon Gless, zips right along with a combination of news footage, line animation, and interviews with Rand throughout her life, and with the assistants and disciples who knew her. The film, however enlightening to those who know little about the intellectual underpinnings of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, is a little creepy in the way it accepts--almost promulgates--her slippery attacks on altruism and the ironically fascistic underpinnings of her cults of individuality and masculinity. The unchallenged reverence of the project makes her look more like L. Ron Hubbard than Bertrand Russell, and the movie itself feels like it could double as conditioning propaganda in some future world ruled by macho, hyper-rational, narcissistic CEOs. Come to think of it, maybe Rand's revolution is already under way.(JF)

Disoriented
Director-actor Francisco Aliwalas is scheduled to attend.
Sunday, April 19; 7 p.m.

Filipino-American debut director Francisco Aliwalas plays Filipino-American pre-med student West Cordova, who juggles his domineering mother, drag-queen older brother, and shallow Japanese-transplant girlfriend while he studies for finals. Lighter than air, impressively acted, and often genuinely funny, Disoriented is a powerful testament to what can be shot on 16 mm film in less than a month on a tiny budget. It looks good. It feels good. We care about West's journey to solidify his identity in the midst of affectionate chaos. It has a professional quality young film grads aspire to, but seldom achieve. So it may be more a testament to Aliwalas' talent as a writer, actor, and filmmaker. Look for more from him in the future. (CR)

Between Marx and a Naked Woman
Sunday, April 19; 9:15 p.m.

Well, at the least, you'll get what's advertised in Between Marx and a Naked Woman (Entre Marx y Una Mujer Desnuda). This comedy about young communist revolutionaries in 1960s Ecuador (how's that for a premise?) does indeed begin with the narrator adoring a lovely bare-breasted woman and end with him engaging Karl Marx in a casual bench-side confession. Whether you get anything out of the Between part is another story altogether. The film is dense and often confusing, running the gamut between tedious realism and mesmerizing fantasy. In essence, the film is the narrator, a guy known simply as The Author, describing the book he is writing about his friends and himself, their lives, their loves, and their politics. One of his friends is Galvez, the dynamic leader, a paraplegic man of not only deep thoughts but also decisive actions--as long as there is someone to either push his wheelchair or piggy-back him around. Throw in a few more paradoxes (Galvez's desire for extreme government control versus his desire to satisfy his fiancee's reckless passion despite his damaged, therefore uncontrollable body; his call for revolution versus his party's political bureaucracy), and you have some fairly large billboards pointing out how ironic it is that romantic dreams never live up to the realities of life. But big billboards can be good, especially if you aren't well acquainted with the political climate of 1960s South America and need some sort of marker to assure you the movie is, in fact, funny. Ultimately though, as The Author finally acknowledges in the book he is writing, the story is much more entertaining when set against a backdrop of impossible fantasy than cold reality. (SKJ)

Susan Slade
Connie Stevens is scheduled to attend.
Monday, April 20; 7 p.m.

Connie Stevens, Troy Donahue, and Bert Convy in a "racy" 1961 film about sexual passion, single motherhood, and mountain climbing? Sign us up for this installment of the USAFF's "Bad Movies We Love." But a videotape preview of the film reveals that, despite a sprinkling of hilarious dialogue throughout (doomed mountain-climbing husband to dove-shy Connie Stevens: "Oh, Susan, don't be jealous of a mountain"), Susan Slade isn't bad in the throbbing, compulsive way that leaves viewers aghast as they descend through each cinematic ring of over-ambition and misfire. Rather, the film is bad in a flat, dry, overlong, camp-gets-old-really-quick way. To top it off, a young Connie Stevens is actually rather touching, at least in the first part of the film, as a timid but sexually curious young woman who is propelled among a variety of bad-boy types, but repeatedly collared by her domineering mother (Dorothy McGuire, who's kinda chilling in the way she mixes affection and control). The little flashes of genuine talent that blink through Susan Slade diminish rapidly as the film careens toward its soapy ending, and a full house of trash aficionados might just provide the chemical reaction to turn this film from plodding to truly, beautifully wretched. But after a spin in the ol' VCR, Susan Slade proves it just isn't bad enough to love. (JF)

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