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Short Takes
A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT BY TERRY MCMILLAN The Waiting to Exhale author takes a multiperspective view of dysfunctional families with each member of the Price clan giving his or her own version of how screwed up they all are. The telling is led by Viola, the know-it-all matriarch and glue who holds her estranged husband Cecil and four far-flung children together. Their heavy load--incest, substance abuse, poverty, infidelity, death--makes this a soap opera, but it is leavened with a big dollop of sass.

MALENA DIRECTED BY GIUSEPPE TORNATORE In the title role, Monica Bellucci is gorgeous and enigmatic in a way that invites male fantasies. Renato (Giuseppe Sulfaro) is a horny little boy with plenty of time to stalk but never engage her. When her soldier husband is presumed dead (the time is World War II, the place a provincial Sicilian town) Malena's reputation is dangerously sullied by gossip as she begins "dating" German soldiers. The lad remains faithful to his quest, and things finally work out all right--except for audiences, who will find this thin movie bereft of the more richly textured sentiments of Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso.

SUZHOU RIVER DIRECTED BY LOU YE "If I leave you someday," a slim beguiler (Zhou Xun) asks her beau, "would you look for me forever?" This being a film noir, Shanghai-style, she has to drown in the dirty Suzhou River, then re-emerge as someone else. She could be Kim Novak in Vertigo, hijacked into a James M. Cain plot and photographed in the grainy, high-contrast glamour of a Wong Kar-wai romance. Lou Ye lays out a ravishing wasteland of femmes fatales and lovelorn tough guys--all in 79 minutes. So it's in Mandarin? After Crouching Tiger that's no longer an excuse for missing a terrific movie. Whatever city this one is showing in...move there.

SUITE FANTASTIQUE THE WEXNER CENTER, COLUMBUS, OHIO The center has composed a symphony of lively design exhibitions. The series' overture contains film titles from Imaginary Forces, the design group that created the opening credits for the film Seven. Variations on architectural drawings by masters like Rem Koolhaas are also on view. And scattered throughout the galleries and acting as a unifying intermezzo is the sculptural furniture of Scott Burton. The finale is The Predator by architect Greg Lynn and painter Fabian Marcaccio, a massive installation inspired by the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, part alien organism and part architectural set.

LIVE THE PAUL DESMOND QUARTET The composer of Take Five claimed he wanted his alto saxophone to sound like a dry martini. Desmond's wish came true on this 1975 cool-jazz masterpiece, finally available on CD after two decades in limbo. Backed up by Canadian super-guitarist Ed Bickert, Desmond, who died in 1977, spins out long, pungent melodic lines that float through the air with luminous grace. Best of all is a slyly witty version of Things Ain't What They Used to Be that would have made Duke Ellington grin.

PRISON DIARIES NPR, TUESDAYS ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED NPR gave tape recorders to inmates and corrections officers to log six months in North Carolina and Rhode Island prisons. The resulting weekly segments and a one-hour special (on Jan. 30) are subtle but powerful. The most gripping accounts are those of the corrections officers. Do you pull close a crying juvenile or, in fear for your own safety, keep him 3 ft. back, according to regulation? Another officer deals with a more devastating dilemma: learning that the newest inmate is her son. Bitter moments, sweetly told.

100 CENTRE STREET A&E, MONDAYS, 9 P.M. E.T. Turns out Network was just a joke. Sidney Lumet, the director of that scathing satire of TV, has adapted his social-issues subject matter into a talky, intriguing, if spotty, series about New York City courts. The dialogue can be as heavyhanded as, well, a Sidney Lumet picture. But Alan Arkin is powerful yet subtle as a liberal judge under attack for setting free a petty crook who then kills a cop. Worth putting on your docket for a probationary period.

January 29, 2001 Vol. 157 No. 4

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