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Sad Can Be Good 

The Broken Circle Breakdown spins around tragedy, oh so tenderly

In The Player, the wonderfully dark 1992 comedy about the movie business, an aspiring screenwriter takes to task Tim Robbins, who plays a fast-talking and stoic Hollywood producer.

"You would probably even give The Bicycle Thief a happy ending," the writer says, scolding Tim Robbins for the tenancy of Hollywood to turn even the most existential and sad storylines into fairytales.

That sentiment is relevant with The Broken Circle Breakdown: This is a foreign film, and a fine one at that, an Oscar finalist for this year's Best Foreign Language Film. And it certainly does not have a Hollywood ending.

It is love at first sight between Elise and Didier, an easy-on-the-eyes beautiful woman and a smiling Flemish bluegrass musician. But the love affair between them is not happy-ever-after, as their young daughter is ravaged by cancer and director Felix Van Groeingen does not let his audience escape the heartbreak. Excellent acting, a wonderful soundtrack and stark cinematography bring to life—or, more aptly, bring a full-on mule-kick punch to the heart.

Director Van Groeingen is from Belgium, and adapted the screenplay from a popular play there. He was struck by the depth and sadness of the characters.

"We only did screenings for a very small number of people," he explained recently. "It was great because they were very intimate screenings for five or six people. Afterwards, we would talk about it. There wasn't that much crying going on during the screenings. I only realized it when the film came out that people were crying all the time."

The play publicly debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival last year, and gained momentum from there, finally playing on more and more screens, especially after a nod from the Academy of Motion Pictures.

It is director Van Groeingen's third film, and the second film in two years from Belgium to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film, all of which hopefully adds up to a rising Belgium film industry. Just don't expect any happy endings soon.

The Broken Circle Breakdown

dir. Felix Van Groeingen

Tin Pan Theater

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