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Don't miss foreign-language Oscar nominee 'Broken Circle Breakdown'

One of the benefits of living in Los Angeles come Oscar season is the return theatrical engagement for some of the more specialized contenders — especially documentaries and foreign-language films. Belgium's "The Broken Circle Breakdown," something of an under-the-radar surprise in making the academy's foreign language cut, gets a full weekend run at the Laemmle Theaters starting Friday. It is a chance to see for yourself why this dark horse sneaked in and why it just might win. The film has been quietly picking up festival awards for a while, and earlier this month "Circle" nabbed the Palm Springs International Film Festival's FIPRESCI prize for foreign-language film. Director Felix Van Groeningen intermingles elements in intriguing ways as the film delves into the romance of music and the romance of love. The plot swirls around a banjo picker in a band that plays some of the finest Appalachian bluegrass you are likely to hear. It is also a love story between that banjo man, Didier, played by Johan Heldenbergh, who co-wrote the play on which the film is based, and an edgy tattoo artist named Elise (Veerle Baetens). From her rockabilly tattoos to his cowboy hat, the film also is a love letter to a free-spirited '60s Americana sensibility, a homage to the bluegrass tradition. Baetens and Heldenbergh are wonderful to watch in their intense coming together and their sad breaking apart in the face of an unbearable tragedy, a relationship going in a full but heartbreaking circle with no better accompaniment than a haunting bluegrass band.

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