Roof of the World
Courageous nonactors create a stirring adventure story.
By Lois Wadsworth

HIMALAYA: Directed by Eric Valli. Producers, Jacques Perrin, Christophe Barratier. Executive producer, Jean de Trégomain. Written by Olivier Dazat, Eric Valli; also Jean-Claude Guillebaud, Louis Gardel, Nathalie Azoulai, Jacques Perrin. Cinematography, Eric Guichard, Jean-Paul Meurisse. Editor, Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte. Original music, Bruno Coulais. Set design, Jérôme Krowicki. Costumes, Karma Tundung Gurung, Michel Debats. Special effects, Jean-Marc Mouligné. Frescoes, Tenzing Norbu Lama. Starring Thinlen Lhondup, Karma Wangiel, Lhakpa Tsamchoe, Karma Tenszing Nyhima Lama and Gurgon Kyap. Kino International Release, 2000. Not rated. 104 minutes.

Despite his age, Tinle (Thinlen Lhondup) leads a caravan across the great mountain passes.
Photographer and writer Eric Valli has lived in Nepal since 1983, and he speaks the language of the people of the Dolpo, the northwest region of Nepal. "It is a unique place," Valli said in March, when he was in Portland for the Oregon premiere of his first feature-length film, Himalaya, an Academy Award foreign film nominee. "It is untouched by the West," he said, adding that it's also untouched by the Chinese who invaded Tibet in 1952. "Tibetan culture is preserved in Nepal," Valli said. "Like Native American culture, it's built on respect for nature and delight in the natural world."

Yak caravans bring down salt from the high plateaus of northern Tibet to be taken to market and traded for grain in the temperate lowlands. The villagers' survival depends on this ancient annual practice of harvesting the salt and taking it to market across the high mountain passes. Because such undertakings are dangerous, specific religious ceremonies are traditionally part of preparing the caravan for the trek. The people are warm yet reserved, and modern life hasn't taken hold here.

But this year when the salt caravan arrives in the village, the old chieftain Tinle (Thinlen Lhondup) faces a personal tragedy and a collective crisis. His son, the tribal leader, is dead. And Karma (Gurgon Kyap), his son's friend, wants to lead the caravan in his place. Tinle irrationally blames Karma for his son's death and won't give his permission. Tinle is trying to protect the future of his young grandson, Tsering (Karma Wangiel). Tribal and caravan leadership should pass to the boy, Tinle insists, so Karma should lead the caravan only until Tsering, later called Passang (Karma Wangiel), grows up. Karma refuses.

Norbou (Karma Tenzing Nyima Lama) and Passang (Karma Wangiel).
Generational conflict divides the village, but winter is coming, and the caravan must leave. Karma rouses the younger men to take their yaks and follow him, even inviting the comely widow, Pema (Lhakpa Tsamchoe), to come along with her son. But Pema won't abandon her father-in-law. Ages-old tradition is shattered when the young men's caravan leaves without religious blessings. After Tinle fails to persuade his second son, Norbou (Karma Tenzing Nyima Lama), a monk, to help him, he returns to the village determined to lead the caravan himself.

Valli said that in this Tibetan-influenced region of Nepal, a family "automatically" gives a son to the monastery. "Tibetan life is like European life 500 years ago," he said. "Solitude breeds both friendship and aggressivity."

All of the complications of family and tribe come to bear on these two expeditions, and Valli's exquisite, detailed knowledge of the people and the land bring them to vivid life. Unimaginable hardships in the midst of mind-boggling beauty characterize the journey. Valli said the highest trail was between 13,000 and 16,000 feet, and the people walked more than 1,000 miles in the making of the film. The cinematography is stunningly realistic. The film's only special effect is that a yak that plummets off a crumbling trail to a lake thousands of feet below was actually made of fiberglass. Otherwise, what you see is authentic.

Valli, whose work is regularly published in National Geographic, Géo, The New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian and Life, has written several books about Nepal and made two award-winning documentaries. Most of the film's players are nonactors. Many had never seen a film; and only one, Lhakpa Tsamchoe, had "experience of the camera," he said, appearing in Seven Years in Tibet.

Valli said for him the film is about the universality of generational power struggles, courage, human dignity, tolerance and love. It is also a Western, an adventure film and an initiation. Exposure to a life so unlike our own in a setting more magnificent and more deadly makes for a stirring film experience.

Himalaya starts Friday, June 29 at the Bijou. Highly recommended.


Cult of a Killer
Australian sociopath's self-serving tale.
By Lois Wadsworth

CHOPPER (Australia): Written and directed by Andrew Dominik. Producer, Michele Bennett. Based on Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read's Chopper: From the Inside. Cinematography, Kevin Hayward, Geoffrey Hall. Editor, Ken Sallows. Music, Mick Harvey. Production design, Paddy Reardon. Costumes, Terry Ryan. Starring Eric Bana. With Kenny Graham, Simon Lyndon, David Field, Dan Wyllie, Bill Young, Vince Colsimo and Kate Beahan. First Look Pictures, 2001. Not rated. 94 minutes.

"Chopper" Read (Eric Baker) defies society and wins a cult following.

Chopper is a real-life sociopathic murderer, played here by Australian stand-up comic Eric Bana in a brilliant, mood-switching performance destined to make him a star. Andrew Dominik's film portrait of Mark Brandon Read in his notorious criminal manifestation, Chopper, should have been subtitled Perverse, Homicidal Thug or Charismatic, Violent Murderer to better give potential viewers a real handle on what awaits them onscreen. Read, the author of nine best-selling novels that, like Dominik's film, are self-serving explanations for various murders he committed, has a huge cult following in Australia.

As the film opens, Chopper (Bana) watches from the maximum-security section of Melbourne's Pentridge Prison as a perky bimbo interviews him on television. Serving time for the bungled kidnapping of a judge, Chopper is reunited with his best mate, Jimmy Loughnan (Simon Lyndon), and another pal in prison. Soon he malevolently persuades them to off the leader of a rival group, Keithy George (David Field). As soon as the deed is done, Chopper goes all long-faced and concerned, talking to the bloodied inmate as he lies dying on the dirty floor, expressing regret that his multiple head wounds actually hurt.

This is the pattern for all his murders. First, get someone else to do it if at all possible. Next, go from friendly to ruthless killer to friend again in a flash, switching roles as if they were shirts. Finally, deny everything, blame the victim and claim self-defense. Chopper lies the way he kills -- easily and without hesitation.

When Jimmy turns against him and actually stabs him repeatedly, Chopper forgives him for trying to kill him while refusing to die. Chopper finally gets released from prison on a ruse (of course!), which means the civilian population of Melbourne is at risk of sudden violence from this madman. He especially targets drug dealers, but he will viciously attack anyone who doesn't immediately do whatever outrageous thing he asks of them. This even goes for Tanya (Kate Beahan), who makes the mistake of laughing at his proposal of marriage while explaining that she's a prostitute who works in a brothel, not his girlfriend.

Chopper is a super-violent movie about a super-violent maniac who has no control over his homicidal impulses. So why should you or anyone want to watch him strut around for an hour and a half, creating mayhem and murder just because he can? Beats me. The film's popularity lies in Chopper's unpredictability, I think. Like other film and real-life killers, Chopper exerts an unfeeling dedication to killing that fascinates some people. That he's witty and even modest in his own perverse manner is also attractive to some. And he becomes a particularly modern hero for others because he gets away with feeding the authorities certifiable bullshit and persuading them he's telling the truth.

I can't tell if Dominik, who comes to film from music video and advertising, has any unique talent as a director or not. Chopper has its original moments but it also panders to the most anarchic elements in society and suggests that it's admirable for criminals to manipulate the media, law enforcement and justice systems for their own twisted reasons. My problem with Dominik is that there's no ethical center in his movie that stands up to Chopper's demented propositions.

Chopper opens at the Bijou on June 29.

Films open the Friday following date of EW publication unless otherwise noted.

A.I.: Steven Spielberg directs this film, based loosely on a project of the late Stanley Kubrick and a story by sci-fi writer Brian Aldiss. In a future filled with environmental catastrophes, Haley Joel Osment plays an 11-year old android aware of his own existence who wants to become a boy. Sexy star Jude Law plays a sex toy. Also stars Frances O'Connor and William Hurt. PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Angel Eyes: Luis Mandoki's romance between a cop (Jennifer Lopez) and a mysterious man (Jim Caviezel) also stars Sonia Braga. LA Weekly calls it a "sappy love story," and blames scriptwriter Gerald DiPego who "plots himself into a dead end where the only way out is to have the lovers each deliver life-changing, soul-purging monologues." R. Movies 12.

Chopper: Andrew Dominik's fictionalized tale of a real-life, notorious Australian murderer with a cult following is based on Mark Read's autobiographical best-selling novels. Dominik's neutrality is misleading; if he'd called it "Homicidal Thug," then everybody would get it. Ultra-violent film with no ethical center. Not rated. Bijou. See review.

crazy/beautiful: John Stockwell directs this high school drama starring Kirsten Dunst as the sexy, rich daughter of a California congressman and Jay Hernandez as the poor Hispanic boy she loves. PG-13. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Himalaya: Beautiful adventure film shot in the high mountains of Nepal stars courageous, talented nonactors from the Dopol region of the country. Directed by Edward Valli, a documentary filmmaker, writer and National Geographic photographer, it's a glimpse into a culture and people with universal values we recognize. Highly recommended. Review includes interview with director. Not rated. Bijou. See review.

Tailor of Panama, The: John Boorman's film, based on a John le Carré novel, stars Pierce Brosnan as a bored British agent who puts the moves on Catherine McCormack while tying his fate to a British ex-con (Geoffrey Rush) married to Jamie Lee Curtis. Surprisingly well-done, it's highly recommended. R. Movies 12. See review.

Trumpet of the Swan: In its Eugene premiere, this animated film based on E.B. White's classic tale stars voices of Jason Alexander, Dee Baker, Mary Steenburgen, Reese Witherspoon and Carol Burnett. G. Movies 12.

Wizard of Oz, The: This original Judy Garland musical picture features some high-tech improvements such as a remastered soundtrack and a digitally restored picture. Directed by Victor Fleming, the film is based on the children's classic novel by L. Frank Baum. G. 10 am 7/4 only. Movies 12.

Animal: Wimp Marvin (Rob Schneider) becomes a super cop after surgery following an accident leaves him with animal organs. Now, his instincts are taking over, and it isn't a nice picture. Luke Greenfield makes his directorial debut; also stars Coleen Haskell. PG-13. Cinemark.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire: Disney animated tale directed by Beauty and Beast team, Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale. A museum cartographer named Milo finds a map to Atlantis and heads an expedition to the lost land. Voices include Michael J. Fox, James Garner and Leonard Nimoy. PG. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Baby Boy: John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood ) goes back to the same inner-city L.A. neighborhood for this drama about a misguided 20-year-old (Tyrese Gibson) resistant to the commitments of real life. With Omar Gooding and Ving Rhames. Cinemark.

Blow: Ted Demme directs Johnny Depp as George Jung, now in prison, but in the 1970s the first American to import cocaine from Carlos Escobar's Colombian cartel to the U.S. Based on book by Bruce Porter, movie also stars Penelope Cruz, Ray Liotta, Rachel Griffiths and Paul Reubens. R. Movies 12.

Cast Away: Tom Hanks learns to survive when his plane crashes and he washes up on a remote tropical island. Helen Hunt is the girlfriend he left behind. Intimate direction by Robert Zemeckis, a lean script by William Broyles Jr., and an edgy performance by Hanks. Highly recommended. PG-13. Movies 12. See review.

Chocolat: Lasse Hallström's 2000 film stars Juliette Binoche (best actress nom), Johnny Depp and Judi Dench (supporting actress nom). A sexy, free spirited woman causes a scandal in a small church-going town when she opens a chocolate shop. PG-13. Movies 12. See review.

Crocodile Dundee in L.A.: Simon Wencer directs the return of the old Aussie fave played by Paul Hogan, with Linda Kozlowski as the love interest. PG. Movies 12.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Ang Lee's cinematic masterpiece and Academy Award-winning foreign film 2000, this romantic fantasy set in ancient China involves intrigue, poison darts, a pirate of the dunes, a witch, a magic sword, fabulous women fighters and beautiful, ballet-like martial arts that transcend gravity. Stars Michelle Yeoh, Chow Yun Fat, Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. Superlative! PG-13. Movies 12. See review.

Dish, The: Australian technicians manning the Southern Hemisphere's largest radio telescope save the day on June 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong walks on the moon. Stars Sam Neill, Kevin Harrington, Tom Long and Patrick Warburton. Highly rated docudrama is highly recommended. PG-13. Bijou. See review.

Dr. Dolittle 2: Eddie Murphy is back as the good doctor, but the animals have changed. They've become activists who plan to go on strike to save their forest in Steve Carr's new film. And they're hungry for sex advice. PG. Cinema World. Cinemark.

Driven: Sylvester Stallone in a racetrack action picture directed by Renny Harlin. PG-13. Movies 12.

Enemy at the Gates: During the siege of Stalingrad during WWII, a Soviet sniper (Jude Law) is pursued by a Nazi assassin (Ed Harris). Also stars Joe Fiennes, Bob Hoskins and Rachel Weisz. Flawed, but well worth seeing for Harris' performance. R. Movies 12. See review.

Evolution: David Duchovny and Julianne Moore star in an Ivan Reitman summer comedy about pterodactyls and meteors. PG-13. Cinema World.

Fast and The Furious, The: Undercover cop (Paul Walker) infiltrates gang-like LA street racing teams in Rob Cohen's action-adventure that also stars Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight). PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Joe Dirt, The Adventures of: Comedy directed by Dennie Gordon stars David Spader as a dunce who's on a quest to find the parents who dumped him at the Grand Canyon when he was 8 years old. PG-13. Cinemark.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider: Angelina Jolie plays the video game action heroine, and Simon West directs. Also stars Jon Voight and Iain Glen. PG-13. Cinemark. Cinema World.

Memento: Written, directed by Christopher Nolan, based on his brother Jonathan's story. Stars Guy Pearce as a man whose memory loss following a crime in which his wife was raped and killed propels him toward vengeance. With Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano. Question the film's skewed reality at every opportunity. R. Bijou. See review.

Mexican, The: Comic road movie stars Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts and James Gandolfini in a mobbed-up escapade south of the border. Has its moment, but murder isn't really all that funny. R. Movies 12. See review.

Moulin Rouge: Director Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet) sets this fabulous dramatic musical extravaganza in the summer of love, Paris, 1899. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor make a great romantic pair, and John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh are excellent players. Everybody wants to work at the all-singing, all-dancing Moulin Rouge shows. Very highly recommended. PG-13. Cinemark. See review.

Pearl Harbor: Director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer's $135 million WWII epic stars Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale, with Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Voight, Dan Aykroyd and Alec Baldwin. Spectacle, yes. Romance, no. Tediously unoriginal, overstuffed turkey. Cinemark 17. See review.

Recess: School's Out: Animated Disney film's about a plot to create permanent winter, thus doing away with summer vacation! G. Movies 12.

Save the Last Dance for Me: Talented white girl from small town (Julia Stiles) enrolls in an inner city high school in New York where she falls for a popularAfrican American boy (Sean Patrick Thomas) who also loves to dance. PG-13. Movies 12.

Shrek: Computer-animated fairy tale (by DreamWorks' Pacific Data Images, makers of Antz) stars Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow. Entertaining and funny for kids and grown-ups. PG. Cinema World. Cinemark. See review.

Swordfish: John Travolta plays a C.I.A. spook who persuades a sexy colleague (Halle Berry) and a hacker (Hugh Jackman) to help him steal $9 billion. AP reviewer says after the first 10 minutes, this fish begins to smell. Directed by Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds). R. Cinemark.

Use the links provided below for specific show times.

Bijou Art Cinemas
Bijou Theater 686-2458 | 492 E. 13th

Regal Cinemas
Cinema World 342-6536 | Valley River Center
Springfield Quad 726-9073 |

Cinemark Theaters
Movies 12 741-1231 | Gateway Mall
Movies before 12:30 are Sat. Sun. only. $1.50 all shows all days.
Cinemark 17 741-1231 | Gateway Mall

Releases subject to change. Available the Tuesday following date of EW publication, sometimes sooner:

Body, The: Elvis Mitchell's review in The New York Times is undoubtedly funnier than this feeble adventure film itself. A Jerusalem shopkeeper digging a basement discovers a body that may be that of Jesus, and all sorts of folks come out of the woodwork. John Wood plays a cardinal, Antonio Banderas is an archaeologist and former military spy working with archaeologist Olivia Williams. Directed by Jonas McCord, the film also stars Derek Jacobi. Mitchell's best line: "'God has no place in politics,' Matt says, in a touching display of naïveté; perhaps his time in military intelligence left him unaware of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquistion." PG-13.

Dracula 2000: Wes Craven's modernization of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel stars Gerard Butler, Johnny Lee Miller, Christopher Plummer and Jennifer Esposito. R.

Head Over Heels: Single woman who lives with four models gets a makeover and a new boyfriend. All's well 'til the girls discover him committing a crime. Stars Monica Potter and Freddie Prinze Jr. PG-13.

Malena: Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, this WWII tale set in an Italian village centers around a beautiful woman, Malena (Monica Bellucci), whose husband is off fighting for Mussolini. School boys fantasize about her, and jealous wives of the men of the village hate her. After her husband dies, Malena is vulnerable to their gossip, and worse matters yet. Critics say film is saved by thoughtful ending. R. 94 minutes.

Snatch: Writer, director Guy Ritchie's (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels) comedy features an ensemble cast in the wild tale of a diamond heist gone sideways. It's a rollicking ride through London's gangster world starring Benicio Del Toro (Traffic), Brad Pitt, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham and Stephen Graham. R. See review.

Wedding Planner, The: San Francisco wedding planner (Jennifer Lopez) meets the man of her dreams -- a handsome pediatrician (Matthew McConaughey) who saves her from a near-fatal collision. PG-13.

Next week: Beyond Suspicion, Double Take, Down to Earth, Monkeybone, The Reduced Shakespeare Company, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her, and Thirteen Days.

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