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This article was published January 25, 2013 at 2:57 a.m.


Filmmaker Erik (Thure Lindhardt) and lawyer Paul Lucy (Zachary Booth) embark on a committed relationship in Ira Sach’s Keep the Lights On.

— Keep the Lights On (unrated, 101 minutes). If you want to make a film that feels real, it helps to explore a subject you know. That’s what director Ira Sachs does with his heartbreaking Keep the Lights On, an official selection at last year’s Sundance and Tribeca film festivals that’s based on his up-and down relationship with literary agent Bill Clegg, author of Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man.

The film, set in 1997 New York, concerns a complex, passionate, dangerous and lengthy romance between Erik (artfully portrayed by Thure Lindhardt), a Danish filmmaker living in New York City and working on a documentary about artist Avery Willard, and remote Paul (Zachary Booth), a closeted lawyer in the publishing industry who is plagued by addictions to sex and crack cocaine.

Erik, who often suffers from self-doubt, endures much in this difficult and often destructive union, but always holds out hope that Paul will come to care for him as much as he cares for crack and other forms of self-abuse, and that Paul’s numerous efforts at recovery will eventually be successful.

“An intimate, honest and uncompromising study of the need for love and the addictions to drugs, sex and intense emotion that may accompany - and sabotage - love’s pursuit,” says critic John Beifuss in The Commercial Appeal of Memphis. More critical raves: “Exquisitely, even thrillingly authentic,” says critic A.O. Scott in The New York Times. And there’s this from Colin Covert in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: “The cast, uniformly excellent, draws us into a vibrant, energetic Manhattan where commitments are forged and broken through sheer chance and those seeking permanence must continually resist temptation and ennui.” OK, one more: “A brutally honest, at times embarrassingly raw, attempt to capture a modern-day urban relationship … bittersweet and filled with memorable details, a huge leap forward for Sachs,” says Richard Knight, who writes Knight at the Movies for Windy City Times.

In English and Danish with subtitles. Bonus features on the Blu-ray include audio commentary by Sachs, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, the trailer and cast audition tapes.

Sachs, a native of Memphis, is best known for writing and directing 2005’s Forty Shades of Blue, in which a Russian woman living in Memphis with an aging rock ’n’ roll legend undergoes an intense personal awaking when her husband’s estranged son shows up.

Other recent releases:

End of Watch (R, 109 minutes) If you, like me, get queasy when watching too much hand-held camera work (remember 1999’s The Blair Witch Project?), you might not be a good candidate to view End of Watch, which features a Los Angeles cop (Jake Gyllenhaal) who, with help from his partner (Michael Pena), is chronicling his violent, dangerous and challenging work with a barrage of video devices so he can make a film for his college class. It’s a well-crafted, exciting thriller for those who can sit through the jittery images presented on screen. “The found-footage technique gives everything a you-are-there immediacy that sometimes stretches the bounds of what’s honorable for a filmmaker to show,” says critic Stephanie Zacharek on National Public Radio’s website. “At times [director David] Ayer rubs our noses, almost literally, in the devastating horribleness of it all.”

Nobody Walks (R, 82 minutes) Fans of Lena Dunham (Girls, Tiny Furniture) might have missed the limited release of this comedic drama she wrote with director Ry Russo-Young about a 23-year old New York artist (Olivia Thirlby) who moves in with a hipster family in Silver Lake so the dad (John Krasinski) can help her work on sound design for her art film. Culture shock ensues.

“Nobody Walks pays specific attention to sensuality, with a certain rise of sexuality viewed through acts of flirtation, food preparation, and sound recording,” says critic Brian Orndorf on the website “A few scenes hint at the potential of the piece, while the rest of the effort seems more interested in curling up for a nap.”

Searching for Sugar Man (PG-13, 86 minutes) This documentary concerns two South African fans who are determined to find out what happened to Rodriguez , whose soulful melodies first heard in a Detroit bar got him an album deal that the producers believed would secure his reputation as the greatest recording artist of his generation. The album bombed, Rodriguez disappeared, and a bootleg recording of his album became a huge hit in apartheid South Africa. “To this day in South Africa, Rodriguez is - without exaggeration - bigger than Elvis,” says critic Mike Scott in The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. “Part of his popularity there came from the way his music spoke to a population in the throes of its fight against apartheid and the resulting national self-analysis.Part of it also was in the fact that the South African government banned some of his songs from radio airplay -making it that much more delicious to the country’s naturally rebellious youth.” Karen Martin is a Little Rock based writer and critic. E-mail her at

MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 01/25/2013

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