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SLIFF: 'Fish' and 'Tiger'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 18, 2008 - The Fish Fall in Love -In my experience, movies built on the importance of making good food are likely to have some serious soul. Think back to Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) and Stanley Tucci's Big Night (1996) and Germany's Bella Martha (2001). You can add this movie to that list.

No surprise, such movies tend to travel in the international festival and art house circuits. (Of course, food movies aren't always at that level, just as fast-food restaurants may merely have food in them.)

The serious desire to make really good food is so close to giving genuine love (not merely falling-in but fiercely taking-care, respecting, etc.) that the significance of such cooking seems to blend into other issues and spread out like the aromas from a kitchen. How could a fierce cook not have a fierce inner life?

In this story, Aziz, an Iranian architect, comes back from Tehran to the old hometown seaport and seems ready to close down the excellent little restaurant run by four women: the chief cook, her daughter, her two old-friend assistants. The man has a claim on the property and he also has a claim on the cook, Atieh -- they were in love more than 20 years ago.

Atieh has done some bitter waiting while running her kitchen like a loving tyrant. Her beautiful and vivacious daughter is searching for her own missing fiance. Meanwhile, she is trying to reignite mom's old flame -- and she's doing a pretty good job. All is going to end as well as can be expected for fish who are willing to swim upstream.

The title refers to a line presented early and quietly in the story, then developed until the viewer understands the struggles of lovers, old and young, male and female, and why they had better be "fearless."

The movie presents endless dishes of beautiful food, most of which I simply didn't understand, but I wanted to try every dish, anyway. - Nick Otten

The Tiger's Tail

The Ireland of "The Tiger's Tail" is far removed from the hardscrabble but lyrical Emerald Isle, where poetry is fashioned out of famine and faith. This is the Ireland of the Celtic Tiger, one of mind-numbing traffic jams, constantly ringing cell phones and rampant development. "James Joyce wouldn't recognize the place," says one character.

But all is not well with hot-shot developer Liam O'Leary (Brendan Gleeson). The beefy businessman's biggest project -- a new stadium -- is going down the tubes and threatening to take the whole company with it; he's estranged from his shopaholic wife (Kim Cattrall, with a weird Irish accent) and his Marxism-spouting son; and he has the nagging sensation that he's being pursued by a threatening doppelganger out to ruin his life.

Spinning out of control, Liam uncovers some long-hidden family secrets. (It is still Ireland, after all.) And he is forced to evaluate his life and his identity. If a double took over his life, would anyone notice the difference? Is one's identity fixed or do we make it up as we go along? Does every success need a victim to go along with it?

Maybe because Ireland's prosperity is relatively new, the question of whether the pursuit of wealth perverts the pursuit of happiness -- for both the haves and have-nots -- may seem more relevant there. But, from this side of the pond, the film often seems more ponderous than insightful, more cliched than enlightening. When you grab a tiger by the tail, you expect a lot more suspenseful struggle. - Susan Hegger

Short takes (from programs):

The Pope's Toilet (El Bano del Papa)

It's 1988, and Melo, Uruguay, awaits the visit of Pope John Paul II. The locals believe that selling food and drink to the gathered multitudes will make them rich. But petty smuggler Beto decides he will build a public toilet in front of his house and charge for its use. His efforts bring unexpected consequences.

Stranded - I've Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains

On Oct. 13, 1972, a young rugby team from Montevideo, Uruguay, boarded a plane and then vanished into thin air. Two days before Christmas, 16 of the 45 passengers resurfaced after surviving for 72 days on a remote Andean glacier. Thirty-five years later, the survivors returned to the crash site to recount their story of defiant endurance and indestructible friendship.

Remarkable Power!

With the plug about to be pulled on his talk show, Jack West (Kevin Nealon) is desperate to restore his fading celebrity. He concocts a wild media stunt, and the elaborate scheme entangles an eclectic collection of colorful characters.

Agile, Mobile, Hostile - A Year With Andre Williams

Known as "Mr. Rhythm," Andre Williams has recorded and written hits and worked with such legends as Berry Gordy, Ike Turner and Stevie Wonder. But throughout his 72 years, Andre has also struggled with addiction, poverty, homelessness and the legal system.

Kept & Dreamless (Las Mantenidas Sin Suenos)

During Argentina's economic crisis of the '90s, 9-year-old Eugenia and her mother live a seemingly colorful life. But Eugenia must deal with her mother's dysfunctional and drug-addled lifestyle.

Bunny Chow

Aspiring comedians Kags, Joey and Dave make clear that life in Johannesburg is not just about hardship and townships. It's also about friends and celebrating life on a raucous road trip to Oppikoppi, South Africa's largest music festival.

Opera Jawa

An all-dancing, all-singing musical epic: Setyo and Siti live a peaceful life as husband and wife, selling earthenware. But when Setyo is called away on business, a flirtatious butcher takes advantage of Siti's loneliness, setting the stage for an epic battle between the two men.

The Heartbeat Detector - (La Question humaine)

A quietly riveting mystery of blackmail and intrigue asks provocative moral questions as it uncovers the long-buried secrets of high-powered corporate executives.


A pair of unwanted misfits - Janko, a curmudgeonly convict fresh from prison, and Zana, a mentally unstable woman - is brought together by Novak, who wants to shed responsibility for his difficult half-brother.

Not by Chance (Nao Por Acaso)

Enio, a traffic-control supervisor, and Pedro, an obsessive pool player, find comfort in their measured, mathematically exact lives. However, the sudden deaths of Enio's ex-wife and Pedo's wife upend the men's stable existences.

At the Edge of the World

The movie follows Paul Watson's controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in its Antarctic campaign against illegal whaling, with an international volunteer crew coming together on two ships to find and stop a Japanese whaling fleet in the Ross Sea.

Say Goodnight

In this locally shot comedy, over a cocktail-fueled evening, the friends comically recount chance meetings, awkward first dates, embarrassing personal idiosyncrasies and problematic intimate encounters.

A Powerful Noise

Three astonishing women overcome seemingly insurmountable gender barriers to rise up and claim a voice in their societies. They empower others and spark unprecedented changes: fighting AIDS, educating girls, rebuilding communities.

The Bet Collector

Amy runs a small convenience store out of her home. But customers are scarce, and without the help of her husband or pregnant daughter, she must supplement the family income and collects bets for a popular but illegal numbers game.

All for Free (Sve Dzaba)

After his friends are killed in a bizarre barroom argument, Goran sells his house, buys a mobile tavern and travels from town to town in Bosnia, giving away free drinks to everyone he meets.

Let the Wind Blow (Hava Aney Dey)

At the height of nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan, Arjun and his best friend, Chabia, weigh their options for the future against the reality of life on the streets of Mumbai.

Strangers (Zarim)

Eyal, an Israeli living in a kibbutz, and Rana, a Palestinian living in Paris, accidentally meet in the Berlin subway during World Cup finals. They are forced to share an apartment and fall in love - a relationship complicated when war breaks out between Israel and Lebanon.

The Custodian (El Custodio)

As a bodyguard for a high-profile politician, Ruben is reduced to a mere shadow of a man: Every action in his life is regulated by a series of mundane routines, and he must trail behind his boss, watching but never speaking.

The Wedding Director (Il Regista di matrimoni)

Dissolute filmmaker Franco Elica flees to Sicily, where he meets a host of colorful characters, including a cultured nobleman. The prince, a devoted fan of Franco's work, commissions the director to shoot the wedding of his tempestuous daughter, with whom Franco falls impulsively and dangerously in love.

Of Parents and Children (O rodicich a detech)

An aging father and his middle-aged son live vastly different lives in this comic drama. The only thing they apparently have in common is their monthly walk, a chance for each to explore his complex and ambivalent feelings toward the other.

Susan Hegger comes to St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon as the politics and issues editor, a position she has held at the Beacon since it started in 2008.

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