FFF 2012 straggler reviews: Where Do We Go Now? (3 stars)

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Co-written, directed by and starring the stunning Nadine Labaki, Where Do We Go Now? (5 p.m. Sunday, April 22 at Regal Winter Park) taps into so many zeitgeist-y, late-night high-deas of how to fix the world – drugs, sex and soap operas? – and zigs and zags in tone so frantically, that part of its thrill and its charm lies in guessing which way it will go next. [youtube 7x-Bs_u1H6E] Set in a remote Lebanese village plagued by land mines and sectarian violence, the film opens with a funereal musical chant (one of the movie's handful of ill-fitting yet innocuous numbers) in which the village's women, dressed in black, bemoan their divided people. It's a sentiment immediately undercut once we get a feel for the place: The local imam and priest seem to be working together to bring about peace, and a makeshift TV signal is the centerpiece of nightly gatherings where the busty women of Western television briefly distracts the villagers from their solemn lifestyles. [youtube AcIjWhCSNfw] Religious strife continues unabated, however, so the women – Christian and Muslim alike – hire a busload of city strippers as a kind of permanent distraction fixture. Suddenly, a Lysistrata narrative begins to take shape, and the timing couldn't be better. (Our own Arts & Culture editor, Jessica Bryce Young, recently called for a return to Aristophanes' strategy to combat the GOP's War on Women.) When a young boy is caught in sectarian crossfire, the film turns grave while a contradictorily lively new plan is put into place, combining the strippers' unique talents with the power of mind-altering drugs, drink and, finally, a village-wide mind-fuck reversal that is never fully rationalized. At times, it's as if Labaki drew inspiration from countless comedians who've suggested similar routes. Where Do We Go Now? is well-made, affecting and thought-provoking, but it's also wildly scattered and slightly schizophrenic. Like Four Lions before it, which attempted a similar comic-tragic take on the Middle East problems, it never fully gels. [youtube QBGuk2lfZdc]

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