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Ty's movie picks: Friday, February 1

Posted by Ty Burr  February 1, 2008 08:47 AM

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Re Mark Feeney's blog entry on Arthur Penn: What he said. But also allow me to urge you, if you're anywhere in the vicinity of the Harvard Film Archive tomorrow (Saturday) at 3 p.m., to go see "Little Big Man," Penn's epic anti-Western and one of the great forgotten films of its era. When it came out in 1970, star Dustin Hoffman (above, being laved by Faye Dunaway) was between "Midnight Cowboy" and "Straw Dogs" (okay, also between "John and Mary" and "Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?"), and he plugs right into Penn's arch wavelength as Jack Crabbe, the 121-year-old survivor of Custer's Last Stand who narrates his life in flashback. In some ways the film has dated, and in some ways it has come through the other side and become un-dated: the Washita River massacre scene that Penn visually ties to the Vietnam War and My Lai may have felt a New Hollywood stretch ten years ago but it stings today.

It's a curious work, pirouetting between picaresque and tragedy, parody and polemic. It goofs on Native Americans even as it reveres them as the authentic flower children. (Chief Dan George's wonderful, Oscar-nominated performance encapsulates both extremes.) In "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," John Ford famously pondered the difference between the legend and the facts in the Old West. "Little Big Man" just howls with laughter and rage at any attempt to distinguish between the two. Overall, it's a damn sight more complex and troubling -- more entertaining, too -- than "Dances with Wolves." Worth seeing, and worth seeing on a big screen. (Thomas Berger's original novel is well worth reading as well.)

The quietly blistering Romanian drama "4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days" finally opens in the Boston area, at the Kendall to be precise. See why a lot of critics put it on their Best-of-2007 lists or see it for Anamaria Marinca's performance as the kind of friend we all want but rarely deserve.

The African Film Festival kicks off at the MFA today. I was at Sundance and couldn't pre-screen the offerings, but Wesley did and has this to say. That Cameroonian sci-fi sex mystery sounds kind of amazing.

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Movie news, reviews, and more.

Contributors

Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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