Kung Fu Master! | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Kung Fu Master! 

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Not a martial arts movie (the title refers to a video game) but a provocative French feature starring and based on a story by the talented English/French actress Jane Birkin, written and directed by Agnes Varda (Vagabond). Birkin plays a 40-year-old divorcee with two daughters who befriends, falls in love with, and eventually has a fleeting affair with a 14-year-old boy (Mathieu Demy, Varda's son) who is also in love with her. The very matter-of-fact treatment that this taboo subject receives ties it in persuasively with the film's comfortably domestic middle-class milieu and the surrounding cultural climate of France and England (in particular, the impact of AIDS). And to compound the personal (if not autobiographical) nature of the project, Birkin's two daughters are played by her actual daughters (including The Little Thief's Charlotte Gainsbourg). Neither salacious nor flippant, the film is the serious working-through of a fantasy of Birkin's that shirks neither its implications nor its consequences. Varda's serene and unrhetorical handling of such a loaded subject underlined with sympathy and understanding for all of the characters, and full of both wit and tenderness--is what gives this picture its charge (1988). (Fine Arts)

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