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Indie Theater Roundup: 7 Movies to See This Week

Edgar Ramirez plays international terrorist Carlos the Jackal in French director Olivier Assayas' arresting character study, playing this weekend at the Roxie.

The San Francisco Film Society's annual celebration of New Italian Cinema, which closes Sunday with Paolo Virzi's touching drama The First Beautiful Thing, takes center stage at the Embarcadero this weekend, while Harry Potter and his magical minions take the fight to the murderous Lord Voldemort in the first installment of David Yates' Deathly Hallows. Elsewhere:

1. Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

Where: Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., 415-771-0183
When: All Week

Why: Was Eliot Spitzer, the so-called "Sheriff of Wall Street" whose attention-grabbing crusade against big-business corruption catapulted him to New York's governorship, sabotaged by his own hubris or the victim of an unprecedented political hit? Client 9, the latest from Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side documentarian Alex Gibney, makes a compelling case for both, chronicling in fascinating detail Spitzer's too-rapid ascent to the top ranks of the Democratic party, the salacious scandal that felled him, and the well-orchestrated campaign of humiliation that followed.

2. Raging Bull

Where: Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., 415-621-6120
When: Nov. 24
Why: Robert De Niro delivers one of the most bruising performances of his lately underwhelming career, literally and figuratively, in Martin Scorsese's classic 1980 biography of former middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta. (A sequel, inspired by LaMotta's early years and starring William Forsythe, is reportedly in the works.) Bull, for which De Niro earned his second Oscar – winning his first with a supporting turn in 1974's The Godfather: Part II – will be playing as the first half of a double feature with Paul Schrader's Mishima.

3. Carlos

Where: Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., 415-863-1087
When: Nov. 20-21
Why: Olivier Assayas (Boarding Gate) follows international terrorist Carlos the Jackal (Edgar Ramirez, of The Bourne Ultimatum) through two decades of diabolical schemes, narrow escapes and sexually charged affairs. The French director's smartly paced five-and-a-half-hour epic, originally made for TV, considers the amorality of political alliances, as well as the disintegration of ideological conviction, embodied here by a brash, headline-hungry mercenary.

4. 127 Hours
Where: Embarcadero Center Cinema, 1 Embarcadero Ctr., 415-352-0835; Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, 1881 Post St., 415-929-4650
When: All Week
Why: In 2003, a boulder pinned mountain climber Aron Ralston to the wall of Utah's Blue John Canyon for nearly five days, forcing him to amputate his right arm in a desperate bid to survive. In adapting his bestselling 2004 memoir to the screen, Slumdog Millionaire's Danny Boyle deftly navigates the obvious stumbling blocks, transforming a mostly one-man show with a well-publicized conclusion into arresting, often transcendent drama that speaks not only to Ralston's will but also to the durability of the human spirit.

5. Inception

Where: Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St., 415-668-3994
When: Nov. 19-22
Why: Rarely is a story this ambitious brought to the screen. Inspired at times by movie classics, modern and otherwise – Dark City and Minority Report, but also Metropolis and Citizen KaneChristopher Nolan's latest earns its place in the same conversation. Those anticipating a thriller as relentless as his The Dark Knight (2008) won’t be disappointed, but even Stephen Hawking might need a second viewing to figure out a labyrinth this cleverly constructed.

6. Four Lions
Where: Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St., 415-885-3201
When: All Week
Why:
It sounds like an invitation for righteous outrage – an unflinching comedy about suicide bombers determined to strike a blow for Islam but too dim to settle on a plan. Incredibly, first-time feature director Christopher Morris, who co-wrote Four Lions with Sam Bain (BBC’s Peep Show) and In the Loop screenwriters Jesse Armstrong and Simon Blackwell, pulls it off, with a hilariously biting satire that turns unexpectedly poignant when his terrorist wannabes stumble into the final phase of their half-baked operation.

7. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Where: Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore St., 415-346-1124
When: All Week
Why: The final installment of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy finds Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) once again suffering at the hands of her countless male oppressors, languishing first in a hospital and later in jail. Hornet's Nest stays true to the formula of its predecessors – the icy cyberpunk gets her revenge, with timely assists from ace investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) – and efficiently ties together the thrilling saga's loose ends.