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Donnie Darko and In July


This weekend, Madstone Theater in Cary is bringing back two underseen gems from recent years, both generously reviewed by the Indy in the past. However, one is a lighter-than-air celebration of love-as-destiny, while the other is a stunning, haunting celebration of death-as-destiny.

Not surprisingly, Donnie Darko is the death movie. Now, we're still waiting to see what the 29 year old Richard Kelly will do for a follow-up to his so-far one-shot masterpiece, so we'll have to content ourselves with repeat viewings of his debut. After appearing in 2001 to very little notice, this Drew Barrymore-produced sci-fi flick slowing began accruing word-of-mouth acclaim, and now the hype risks being more than this sometimes clunky film can bear. At any rate, the action is set in the 1980s (amusingly, just prior to the Dukakis-Bush I election in 1988) and Jake Gyllenhaal plays the title character, a sullen, mysterious high school kid who, we're ominously warned, has just gone off his meds. Not everything in this movie makes sense, but there's a Lynchian perversity in the details and the performances of Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone's sweet new girl and Patrick Swayze's sleazy motivational speaker are by turns riveting, heartbreaking and hilarious. And then there's the bravura ending, made all the more remarkable because of the callowness of the then-26 year-old director.

Elsewhere on Madstone's six screens is a film that celebrates love in the European summer. Evocatively titled In July, this German crowd-pleaser gets a revival after a brief run last year. Moritz Bleibtreu (Run Lola Run and Das Experiment) and Christiane Paul star as mismatched, but predestined lovers who careen across Europe in a series of picaresque adventures en route to the embrace that fate has designed for them. We may not believe this shamelessly romantic film for a minute, but the two leads are irresistible and the episodic plot contrivances are a genial pleasure.

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