The French collection: Jacques Audiard's The Beat That My Heart Skipped, a dishevelled remake of Fingers, improves on James Toback's all-thumbs rendition. Not hard to do. The unglittering star, Romain Duris, is ugly-handsome in the Belmondo mold, his teeth barely fitting into his mouth; and he manages to make the protagonist -- a man torn between a life of petty crime and a life of classical piano, between the influences of his father and mother, between the masculine and the feminine -- seem as sympathetic as he is ridiculous. Not easy to do. Benoit Jacquot's À Tout de Suite, at the Ken for the following week, is a lethargic on-the-lam thriller revolving around a blond nineteen-year-old Parisienne who, smitten by the dark lean chiselled Arabic good looks of a secretive stranger, stands by him after he takes part in a fatal bank robbery. Or rather, runs alongside him. To Spain, to Morocco, to Greece. Set in 1975 (for true-story reasons), it is shot in murky, gray, grainy black-and-white, with archival inserts even grayer and grainier. You see so few films in black-and-white anymore, you hate to see a bad advertisement for it. Yet you must give thanks for whatever you get in that vein, even if you must mumble them. François Ozon's 5x2, finishing up a week at the Ken this Thursday, charts the course of a relationship from finish to start -- from final divorce to first ignition -- in five stages. The reverse-chronology narrative has been tried a few times before, in such dissimilar forms as Betrayal, Memento, and Irreversible, and no one has a patent on it. Ozon makes use of it to tell a common story, a universal story, even more so than that of Betrayal, the closest antecedent. He doesn't get bogged down in the details of what went wrong, or why, but he is, as our Buddhist friends might say, very present in the moment -- fully alert to the people, the place, the event. And the lovely, long-faced, in both the horsey sense and the pensive sense, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi is an actress of dizzying depth.
The remake of The Bad News Bears, without the definite article, plugs in Billy Bob Thornton in the Walter Matthau part, a former professional baseball player and current full-time drunk, enlisted to coach a team of Little League rejects (now sponsored not by Chico's Bail Bonds, though that establishment gets a passing glance, but by Bo-Peep's Gentlemen's Club, also supplying cheerleaders). This substitution serves the experimental purpose of measuring how well the comedy will hold up when all charm and charisma are removed from the lead role, leaving the kids in the care of Bad Santa: "You guys look like the last shit I took." The results would be of no interest whatsoever were it not for the shock value of having Richard Linklater, the "Rohmer-esque" director of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, at the helm. (Did he willingly consent to the re-use of themes from Bizet's Carmen -- straight from the 1976 original -- for "humorous" counterpoint?) Of course some of the shock will have been absorbed beforehand by his middle-of-the-road School of Rock. But only some.