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Champagne Agony

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Fido is set in a retro society reminiscent of the fifties—which is a bit of a drag, since the Fiestaware palette is heavy-handed and the decade’s archetypes have, in terms of satire, been picked clean. But Andrew Currie, the director and co-writer (with Robert Chomiak), loves his characters too much to score easy points. Even the pipe-smoking zombie-war hero and quintessential fifties patriarch is full of surprises—in part because he’s played by Henry Czerny, who understands that satire must never preclude spirit. Who knew Carrie-Anne Moss was so poised a comedienne? Even Julianne Moore would be in awe of the way she balances stylization and sexual longing. Dylan Baker has never been so funny and poignant. K’Sun Ray is a find—as cute as a Culkin but with depths.

Billy Connolly appeared at the screening of Fido I attended—organized by the comic-book/gore store Forbidden Planet—and it deepened my admiration. Watching him extemporize brilliantly, with his long white hair and beard, I couldn’t believe he’d have the guts to play a role in which he’s mute and clean-shaven, let alone that he’d give a performance that conjures up Boris Karloff and Stan Laurel simultaneously. Although his skin is purplish and mottled, his features remain naked, and his eyes convey the sadness of someone caught between two worlds, unable to enter either. The bit of hubba-hubba that creeps in when he’s around Moss gives us hope, though. The flesh is never that weak.

It’s hard to believe anyone could watch the devastating documentary Unborn in the USA without wanting, at some point, to run screaming from the theater. It began as a thesis project by two students at Rice University, Stephen Fell and Will Thompson, who chronicle, without judgment, the activities of anti-abortion activists, from the most sorrowful to the most righteously murderous. Fell and Thompson largely concentrate on the people who stand on street corners and college campuses with blown-up pictures of aborted fetuses. These activists are getting smarter about engaging their foes—they take classes in empathy. They let those photos do most of the talking. At one point, the filmmakers cut between the erection of the billboards and the lifting of the gore-drenched Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Let’s rub their noses in the horror.

Where do Fell and Thompson stand? With the exception of one title card—in which they demolish a woman’s emotional assertion that having an abortion gave her breast cancer—they are rigorously objective. I’m sad to say that through the eyes of the movie’s subjects the pro-choice activists come off as glib, unfeeling, and profane. The most harrowing sequence is saved for the end: A young woman becomes so distraught by the sight of these pictures that she slaps the minister who engages her and is taken away in handcuffs. But whatever your views on abortion (mine are extremely tangled), you need to hear the subjects of this film, if only to be able to fight them more effectively.

La Vie En Rose
Directed by Olivier Dahan. Picturehouse. PG-13.

Fido
Directed by Andrew Currie. Lionsgate Films. PG-13.

Unborn in the USA
Directed by Stephen Fell and Will Thompson. First Run Features.

E-mail: filmcritic@newyorkmag.com.


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