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OPENING THIS WEEK
3100: RUN AND BECOME The Self- Transcendence 3100 Mile Race is the world’s longest foot race, and likely the strangest,
too. 3100: Run and Become, Sanjay Rawal’s documentary about its summer 2016 iteration (its 20th), is a curious, thoroughly reported, handsomely shot, ultimately frustrating portrait of the event. Featured is one participant — 45-year-old Finnish paperboy and meditation devotee Ashprihanal Pekka Aalto — who com- pleted it for a 14th time. Rawal devotes his run- time to the why of this bloody-footed equation. ”The goal is to transform myself, to become a better person,” Aalto says. “The running itself is the meditation.” This leaves unsolved a more prosaic mystery: Why is the race confined to one block of Jamaica, Queens, amounting to just over half a mile? Competitors must average 60 daily miles to stay in the game, and they have 52 days to complete their 5,649 laps. The race’s founder, Indian meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy, was a runner and weightlifter who believed fit- ness was key to finding enlightenment. But the tedium of covering the same plot of sidewalk at least 120 times per day for seven weeks must be as grueling as the heat. (The race is held between June and August.) Side trips to more cinematic destinations in Botswana, Japan and Arizona introduce us to other endurance ath- letes, who elucidate the spiritual quests behind their bodily privations. After less than an hour on that sun-baked concrete square in Queens, these interstitial passages come as sweet relief, making you pity the runners who choose to spend 18 hours a day on their cracked and swollen feet there. (Chris Klimek)
THE ANGEL (EL ANGEL) The most striking moment in Luis Ortega’s El Angel comes early, during what most movies would make into a tense clockwork heist. “I look like my mom when she was young,” declares Carlos (Lorenzo Ferro), the criminal protagonist of Ortega’s vivid, upsetting, Argentine ripped-from-history crime drama. The young man states this while regarding himself in a mirror — wearing a pair
of dazzling earrings — in a Buenos Aires jewelry shop he has broken into in 1971. His mom, you’ll likely conclude, must have been a true beauty: Teen Carlos may be a thief and a killer, but he has the face and curls of a Botticelli cherub, his pouty eyes and plump lips touched with sublim- ity. Criminal partner Ramon (Chino Darin), who often sputters out performative homophobic slurs, is briefly as struck as Carlos — or viewers. Slowly, teasingly, like a lover revealing himself, he pulls out his gun, staring into the mirror
with Carlos. Carlos does the same. El Angel is a crime spree as improvised reverie, one with a subject who is as quick to give away his loot as the director is to make the subtext explicit. It’s not the rise-and-fall narrative we so often get in films about famous crooks; Carlos Robledo Puch, instead, merely dicks around — stealing, occasionally killing — till he’s caught for good. Ortega and Ferro portray this gorgeous socio- path as utterly disaffected, a young man turned on mostly by desires he can’t quite articulate, even to other criminals. He steals and even kills not out of a lust for material goods but out of something more like a turned-on boredom. (Alan Scherstuhl)
GO THEFRONTRUNNERForthoseofus
who lived through the debacle of the Gary Hart sexscandal,whenthefavoritetobecomethe Democrats’ 1988 presidential nominee imploded after revelations of an extramarital affair, the wildest thing about Jason Reitman’s riveting anatomy-of-a-firestorm drama The Front Runner may well be its reminder of how short the whole thing lasted. “A lot can happen in three weeks,” an opening crawl informs us. But really, the controversy itself unfolded over the course of about one week during the spring of 1987. For those whose memories don’t reach that far: U.S. Sen. Hart (Hugh Jackman) was the charismatic flameout from the 1984 Democratic primaries, an alt-Kennedy from Colorado widely favored
to both clinch the 1988 nomination and win the presidency. But murmurings about adultery and a troubled marriage had dogged him, and as his campaign took off, the candidate, frustrated at questions about infidelity, brazenly invited the press to follow him around. Within days, the Miami Herald printed a story about Hart’s dal- liances with a woman named Donna Rice (Sara Paxton), and all hell broke loose. But this is less a film about Hart — who, as played by Jackman, remains something of an enigma — than one about the operatives and volunteers and jour- nalists swirling around his candidacy. Reitman effectively captures the weird cadences of the scandal as it unfolded: the hectic efforts by the Herald and others to unravel Hart’s misdeeds, as well as the campaign’s efforts to stonewall and then manage the crisis. It makes for an intriguing combination of tones and rhythms
— urgency running up against paralysis — that speaks to the twisted dynamism of our political process, then and now. (Bilge Ebiri)
GO THEPRICEOFFREEDirectorDerek Doneen opens hearts wide with his documen- tary The Price of Free, his tale of enslaved chil- dren working in factories in India. But he’ll also crush many of those hearts with the revelation that viewers are among the villains activist Kailash Satyarthi is fighting. The film benefits mightily from the outsized empathy displayed by Satyarthi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has been battling child slavery for nearly 40 years. And it’s arguably longer than that, con- sidering he questioned child labor on his first day of school in the 1950s, upon discovering that the village cobbler’s son couldn’t go be- cause he had to help support his family. It’s not just Satyarthi’s charisma, though — Doneen is a master storyteller and editors Brian Lazarte and Josh Altman have honed his footage into a tight thriller that entails sleuthing, espionage, danger and rescue. He knows when to interrupt with milestones from Satyarthi’s past or develop- ments in the doc’s mysteries with just enough voice-over to keep things moving. And he slows down to emphasize what these children are up against. Satyarthi’s core belief is “Every kid’s right is bread, play, education and love,” and part of his mission entails making the children, whose desperate families unwittingly sent them into slavery, believe that themselves. But he also knows that if he’s to make headway, Western consumers, particularly Americans, need to realize that the sparkly home goods and trendy apparel they think are cheap are made by starving, beaten, unpaid, illiterate children
— and that’s costing everyone their humanity. (Daphne Howland)
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