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Thai Cowboys With Rockets

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McGregor (Ewan, not Farmer) is insipidly sincere (Why are there so few parts in which he looks at home?), but the movie picks up when his lumbering sister (Emily Watson) arrives in a jacket and tie and denounces all marriage as “domestic enslavement.” Will she and Beatrix find a warren of their own? Alas, there is no Sapphic sisterhood: She confesses to Beatrix that it’s just an act and that she longs for wedded bliss as much as everyone else. The movie substitutes conventional hetero terminal illness. I’ve long held that in biopics there’s no such thing as an insignificant cough; here, the sight of someone in the rain without an overcoat plays like a warrant for execution.

Miss Potter hardly deserves ridicule. It’s sweet with lovely Lake District vistas and a heartfelt endorsement of land conservation. It will certainly play well with older audiences and the kind of adolescent girls who draw faces in their O’s. And I’m happy that Zellweger got to traipse around the verdant English hills and dales hugging a sketchbook to her breast—it’s a nice change from wringing the necks of roosters.

The Verdict on Auschwitz doesn’t sound like much of a cliffhanger. (“Guilty.”) But this three-part German television documentary of the Frankfurt trial that lasted from 1963 to 1965 uses unheard audiotapes of camp survivors and SS men to construct a portrait that transcends even these momentous particulars: of a vast, self-sustaining ecosystem of sadism and greed. The directors, Rolf Bickel and Dietrich Wagner, lead us through the early investigations, the roundup of commandants and guards and medical orderlies, the inducement of victims to return to Germany. The recordings play as the camera roams the modern, empty courtroom: You hear the note of disbelief in the trembling voices of survivors, and the absence of emotion in the tones of the accused—men locked in a denial that seems as much pathological as self-serving. This is what every human with the potential to wield unchecked power should know: that we are capable of anything.

Tears of the Black Tiger
Directed by Wisit Sasanatieng. Magnolia Pictures. Not rated.

Miss Potter
Directed by Chris Noonan. MGM. PG.

The Verdict on Auschwitz
Directed by Rolf Bickel and Dietrich Wagner. First Run Features. Not rated.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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