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Have popcorn, will travel

Seeing the East, one flick at a time

You'll be home by Monday night, and all you'll buy is the snacks. File photo

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According to Priceline, round trip air fare to Mumbai is currently running around $1,300. Happily, the Lakewood Arts Commission is giving away a cinematic tour of five Asian cities free this Labor Day weekend. You'll be home by Monday night, and all you'll buy is the snacks.

First stop: 1938 India, exotic setting of the 2006 love story Water. Director Deepa Mehta introduces us to Chuyia, an 8-year-old widow after a traditional childhood marriage. This production was finished in Sri Lanka, as it was so controversial among Hindu conservatives that its sets were burned and its director threatened. Water, a romance far less grim than it sounds, screens Saturday at 2 p.m.

At 7 p.m. comes The Painted Veil, set in rural China and based on Somerset Maugham's 1925 novel. Edward Norton plays a bacteriologist, Naomi Watts his faithless wife. Liev Schreiber completes this torridly triangular tale of lust in the time of cholera.

Sunday at 2 p.m. brings The Sapphires, an Australian dramedy that follows a charming quartet of aboriginal singers as they compete in a contest and perform for American GIs. It's a romp charged with the best of Sixties soul tunes and style.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, Zhang Yimou, director of Raise the Red Lantern, Hero and House of Flying Daggers, adds historical war drama The Flowers of War to his legendary resumé. It's his most epic film to date - the most expensive in all Chinese film history, and stars Christian Bale as an American mortician who becomes an antihero during the 1937 Nanking Massacre.

Showing Monday at 2 p.m., Departures is a 2008 Japanese drama awarded the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. It stars Masahiro Motoki as a cellist who gets by as a ritual mortician. It's funny! Roger Ebert gave it four out of four stars and praised it in his "Great Movies" column. When he screened it at his film festival, he wrote, the audience rose as one in a "long, loud and passionate" standing ovation.

Welcome, travelers!

Asian Film Fest, Sept. 5-7, Elks Club, 6313 75th St., Lakewood, free, 253.983.7835

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