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April 20, 2007 Edition

Russian Dolls


Five years after “The Spanish Apartment,” Xavier’s beginning to think about settling down with a steady career and a good woman, but he hasn’t found either yet. Not for lack of trying, though: he’s juggling a wide variety of writing jobs, and an even wider variety of girlfriends and one-night-stands, but nothing is quite right. When he and the rest of his roommates from the first movie gather in Russia for roommate William’s wedding, Xavier’s suddenly met with the right job and the right woman. Old habits die hard, though, and if he doesn’t grow up quickly, he may lose both opportunities. (French and English, with English and Spanish subtitles)

La Moustache


When Marc Thiriez shaves his mustache on a whim, neither his wife (who has never known him without it), nor his co-workers notice: in fact, they all deny that he ever had one at all. Funny at first, this spins out into a psychological mystery of self that sends Marc into a frenzied search for proof that his mustache existed. In the end, though, viewers remain as perplexed as Marc, as he shaves off his moustache yet again. (French, with English subtitles)

Mongolian Ping Pong


Reminiscent of “The Gods Must be Crazy,” this delightful film takes place on the Mongolian steppes, where seven year-old Bilike finds a ping pong ball floating down the river. No one he knows has ever seen anything like it before, and guesses about it range from an egg to a magic pearl, until someone discovers (via the area’s only television) that it is the National Ball of China. Bilike and his friends set off to return the treasure, but find in the end that their imaginations are far better than reality. Shot on location in Mongolia, this features Mongolian actors and long, loving panoramas of the steppes, giving it the almost documentary-like feel of a window into another world. (Mongolian, with English subtitles)

The Holiday


This cheery Christmas comedy features Iris and Amanda who swap houses for the holidays in an attempt to escape their romantic woes. Amanda finds herself sharing a traditional English Christmas with Iris’ toothsome brother Graham in the countryside, while Iris has the time of her life in sunny L.A. with a film composer named Miles. Predictable? Yes. Chick-flick? Unabashedly so: it’s just right for those times when what you need is a bowl of popcorn, fuzzy slippers, and a feel-good movie to make the world right.

The Return


When their long-absent father suddenly reappears, brothers Ivan and Andrei find it hard to welcome him back, and are suspicious of the long fishing trip that he immediately proposes. As the car pulls away from home, the man who claims to be their father begins to test the boys in unexpected ways. Rather than being simply an idyllic backdrop, the beautiful scenes of the lake and forest play a silent and ominous role, adding to the tension and making it clear that the boys’ father has his own agenda for the outing. (Russian, with English subtitles)

Kontroll


Part romance, part black-comedy, and part mystery, this eerie film follows Bulscu, who sleeps on unused platforms and eats from vending machines, on his rounds as a ticket checker for the Budapest metro. Someone is pushing people under trains, and when Bulscu finds fingers pointing his direction, he goes in search of the hooded figure he’s sure is the real culprit. Along the way, he cements his friendship with a young woman in a teddy bear costume, has an encounter with a rival ticket-taker gang, and brushes up against other members of this surreal subculture. (Hungarian, with English subtitles)

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