So it’s been a pretty packed weekend for me but thankfully the weather is practically Summer-like, which definitely adds an extra spring in my step. It’s the opening weekend of MSPIFF too, so I’ve watched a couple of films includingClouds of Sils Mariawhich was nominated for a Cannes’ Palme d’Or and a Best Supporting Actress win for Kristen Stewart. My review of it will be up tomorrow, but today we have two film fest reviews from Josh. But before we get to that, I just want to give my brief thoughts on Netflix Original Series Daredevilthat premiered this weekend: I actually never saw the Ben Affleck version, but even from the trailer/clips I could surmise that it’s awful indeed. I have to admit that initially I was skeptical of Charlie Cox casting, as he’s such a cute face, and that isn’t exactly a glowing recommendation when you want to play a bad-ass vigilante. But y’know what, right from the get go, my doubts were erased. The British actor is quite convincing both as the blind lawyer + the vigilante.
My hubby & I have only seen 4/13 episodes so far but boy, this is definitely NOT a PG-rated Marvel adaptation. The words ‘dark & gritty’ have been used to describe a lot of stuff but it’s definitely no hyperbole when it comes to this show. In fact, it’s hyper-violent and bloody, I had to avert my eyes during the last 5 minutes of episode 4! But I like the meticulous & slo-burn pacing, the benefit of releasing all the episodes at once is that each episode doesn’t have to be ‘all-action-all-the-time’ and we actually get some character development by showing flashbacks of Matt Murdoch’s past, as well as more time with the secondary characters such as Matt’s BFF & partner in law Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson). They also have two strong female characters, Karen & Claire (Deborah Ann Woll & Rosario Dawson, respectively). I like both of them in the role, especially Dawson who’s always effortlessly appealing. But one thing for sure, people who love R-rated action and fantastically-choreographed fight scenes would NOT be disappointed.
So in short, I’ll definitely keep watching! I might do a review once we get through all 13 episodes. How about you? Did you see it?
Secrets of War (Oorlogsgeheimen)
Fusing two well-known stories and thereby hitting dual-genre notes, Secrets of War is a quality picture. The first, and more successful, of the film’s two stories: the ways a friendship between two newly-adolescent Dutch boys, Tuur (Maas Bronkhuyzen) and Lambert (Joes Brauers), is tested, first by a girl, Maartje (Pippa Allen), they both like, and then by World War Two, something neither child initially understands. The second story, an anti-war treatise, is slightly less successful than the first, but it still relates the ways war tears apart uninvolved lives.
All three young actors are very good, especially Allen who convincingly shows us her secrets long before the screenplay has her tell them to us. But Secrets of War’s scene stealer is Loek Peters, who plays Tuur’s father. Peters (and the other grown-ups in Tuur’s family) is the vehicle through which director Dennis Bots and writer Karin van Holst Pellekaan show the tragedies of World War Two, but they never let him speak all that much, which means he has to communicate the gravity of the situation non-verbally. Thankfully, he does just that.
Pellekaan’s screenplay and Bots’ direction is excellent for the first three-fourths of film, but it slips a little in the final act, when events are rushed, perhaps in an effort to speed to conclusion. A slower, more character-driven approach to the finale would have cemented the picture’s emotion and thereby helped deliver its themes.
The missteps near the end of Secrets of War do not ruin the film, however. It is still well worth viewing.
The Dinkytown Uprising
A documentary about a lengthy 1970’s neighborhood protest against a Red Barn fast-food restaurant entering a beloved Minneapolis community, The Dinkytown Uprising is interesting and entertaining. Interspersing modern interviews of former protestors with on-the-scene 1970 video showing the actual rallies, the film effectively informs the viewer about the protests, the protestors, and their links to the Vietnam War. It makes us care about each of the protestors, as well, ensuring that we remain interested throughout.
The Dinkytown Uprising is, in other words, a good film.
But it isn’t perfect, mostly because director Al Milgrom’s secondary goal is to connect the 1970 Dinkytown protests with modern efforts to preserve the historic neighborhood. More than that, it seems Milgrom wants us to agree that the neighborhood should be protected. Here he stumbles, mostly because he never draws a direct link between the picture’s informative intent and its persuasive efforts. The directormight have benefited from a closer look at larger corporations’ modern efforts to enter the neighborhood. Given that he doesn’t do so, the few times he intimates concern for the community, it feels out of place with the rest of the film’s content.
Still, while this flaw is significant, it is not debilitating. The skill with which Milgrom combines interviews, narration, and found footage is impressive. And overall, his picture succeeds.
So what did you watch this weekend? Thoughts on Daredevil or any of these films?
The Film Society kicked off the 2015 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival last Thursday with the Opening Presentation, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (actor Cory Peterson attending). This hilarious Swedish comedy, the highest grossing film in the country’s history, launches 17 days of more than 250 remarkable films, visiting filmmakers, exciting parties, and enlightening panel discussions.
I’ve said this before but really, I’m fortunate to live in a city that has TWO film festivals, one in Spring and the other (TCFF) in Autumn, two of my favorite seasons! Founded in 1962, The Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul is Minnesota’s foremost film exhibition organization, and a 501(c)(3) non-profit. We bring the best of international and independent film to Minnesota audiences through the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, numerous niche film festivals and series, and nightly programming 365-days a year.
Check out the awesome MSPIFF official trailer:
One of the exciting 2015 programs of MSPIFF is that the Women and Film program, featuring 40+ films under that category/genre.
The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is dedicated to representing the work of women filmmakers as a critical part of its programming. Look for the Women and Film tag as you decide what to see at the 2015 Festival. It identifies the outstanding films by women directors and related events that are part of the Festival’s program this year.
Last year’s opening night film, Amma Asante‘s period drama Belle, ended up being one of my top 10 films of 2014, and it’ll likely be one of my fave films of all time! I wonder which other films I’ll be seeing this year will also make my top 10 of the year. Unfortunately, this year I won’t have time to see as many films as I did last year, but I have Josh from JJames Reviews to help me out again like last year. So hopefully between the two of us, we’ll get to about a couple dozen films.
Here are a sampling of films we hope to catch in the next three weeks:
Clouds of Sils Maria At the peak of her international career, Maria Enders is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years ago, only this time she will take the role of the older woman. Seeking refuge in Sils Maria, a remote region of the Alps, to rehearse the play, she takes stock in her career and her unknown future with her young assistant. Director Olivier Assayas takes pleasure in being coy by with his two stars—Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart—as he knowingly layers references to their own lives and roller coaster careers.
USA | 124 min | English
Directed by: Olivier Assayas
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloë Grace Moretz
The Center Produced by Jonathan Demme and shot locally in St Paul, Charlie Griak’s atmospheric debut focuses on a vulnerable young man who falls into the trap of a cult-like group. Ryan is a recent college grad searching not only for a job but also for a meaning in life. When he comes across a self-help organization, simply known as The Center, with a charismatic leader, Ryan seems to have found what he has been looking for.
USA | 72 min | English
Directed by: Céline Sciamma
Starring: Matt Cici, Judd Einan, Ramon Pabon
The Connection Inspired by true events, The Connection tells the story of real-life Marseilles magistrate Pierre Michel (played by Jean Dujardin from The Artist) and his relentless crusade to dismantle the most notorious drug smuggling operation in history: the French Connection. In his crosshairs is charismatic and wealthy kingpin, Gatean “Tany” Zampa (aka La French), who runs the largest underground heroin trade into the States. Shot entirely on 35mm, Cédric Jimenez’s The Connection is a throwback to a time when 70s Italian and American crime dramas reigned supreme.
France | 135 min | French
Directed by: Cédric Jimenez
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lellouche, Ce´line Sallette
Girlhood (Bande de filles) Oppressed by her family setting, dead-end school prospects and the boys law in the neighborhood, Marieme starts a new life after meeting a group of 3 free-spirited girls. She changes her name, her dress code, and quits school to be accepted in the gang, hoping that this will be a way to a new life. Director Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies,Tomboy) cements her cinematic expertise in exploring the many facets of young female identity with her most powerful film yet.
France | 112 min | French
Directed by: Charlie Griak
Starring: Karidja Touré, Assa Sylla, Lindsay Karamouh
El Critico A playful yet heartfelt take on the rom-com genre, El Critico follows Victor Tellez, a world-weary Buenos Aires film critic who prefers to think in French and eschews romantic clichés…until he finds himself living one. Tellez drifts from screening to screening in search of cinematic perfection, casting judgment on filmmakers and their films with scathing incisiveness. But when a chance meeting throws him into the jarring world of gorgeous thrill-seeker Sofia, he starts to question his meticulous, intellectual routine and realizes there’s more to his story than he ever dreamed.
Argentina| 98 min | Spanish/French
Directed by: Hernán Guerschuny
Starring: Rafael Spregelburd, Dolores, Blanca Lewin
Marshland True Detective, Spainsh-style! A series of brutal murders of adolescent girls in a remote and forgotten town bring together two disparate characters—both detectives in the homicide division—to investigate the cases. With deep divisions in their ideology, detectives Juan and Pedro must put aside their differences if they are to successfully hunt down a killer who for years has terrorized a community in the shadow of a general disregard for women rooted in a misogynistic past. Alberto Rodríguez paints a gritty noir portrait of rural Spain circa 1980, rich with style, ambience and character.
Spain | 105 min | Spanish
Directed by: Alberto Rodríguez
Starring: José Antonio Félez, Mercedes Gamero, Ricardo García Arrojo
Labyrinthus Discovering a backpack containing a USB key and a strange old camera, 14 year-old Frikke unknowingly starts a computer game that uploads real children, animals, and objects from his world into a gigantic labyrinth in the gaming world. Ordinarily, Frikke is expert at computer games; but this one is real! Frikke’s avatar must help his friends, Nora and Marco, through the labyrinth, escape from the game’s evil creator, and break the code that will release them. At least one third of the action takes place in a CGI animated alternate reality; the rest in Ghent, Belgium. Frikke must find the connection between these two worlds, before its too late!
Netherlands | 95 min | Dutch
Directed by: Douglas Boswell
Starring: Spencer Bogaert, Emma Verlinden, Felix Maesschalck
Chagall-Mallevich A story of love and passion, hatred and egotism, and the clash of huge creative personalities, Chagall – Malevich is based on real events that occurred during the time of Marc Chagall’s short-lived Vitebsk period (1917-18), a time in which he created an Academy of Modern Art inspired by dreams of a bright and beautiful future. More than 140 copies of paintings by Chagall and his brilliant colleague Kazimir Malevich were made for the film. Here, too, is the story of Chagall’s wife Bella and her selfless love for her husband. It’s a story further complicated by her former childhood friend and one-time suitor Naum, a bitter man who is now a Soviet Commissar.
Russia | 120 min | Russian
Directed by: Aleksandr Mitta
Starring: Leonid Bichevin, Anatoliy Belyy
The Golden Era Hong Kong master Ann Hui vividly brings the life of pioneering 20th century female novelist and poet Xiao Hong to the screen. Hui’s lavishly shot period piece shifts perspective, narrators, and time periods freely as it chronicles Xiao Hong’s struggles—an oppressive family, an arranged marriage, a fiery affair with fellow writer Xiao Jun, and her passion, compulsion and talent for writing—until her death at age 30 in 1942.
China/Hong Kong | 178min | Chinese (Mandarin)
Directed by: Ann Hui
Starring: Tang Wei, Feng Shao Feng
To Life! (Auf Das Leben!) Fate has taken its toll on the aging cabaret singer Ruth and the young but terminally-ill Jonas. Yet despite their great age difference and their entirely opposite experiences in life, they form an intense bond and give each other a reason and purpose to live.
Germany | 90 min | German
Directed by: Uwe Janson
Starring: Hannelore Elsner, Max Riemelt, Sharon Brauner
Riveting, fast paced, compelling and filled with humor, Gods is the story of the rebel cardiac surgeon, Zbigniew Religa, who performed the first successful heart transplant in Soviet controlled Poland in 1984. With the support of his renegade medical team, he battled everyone including fellow doctors, the communist bureaucracy and a shocked religious community, Religa, to make history and become a national hero.
Poland | 120 min | Polish
Directed by: Lukasz Palkowski
Secrets of War In a Nazi-occupied Dutch village that’s slowly changing, 12 year-olds Tuur and Lambert initially incorporate the war into their childhood games. Until the boys begin to question what they see: a toy appearing out of a passing train; traces of people’s belongings in the underground caves; secretive parents. Befriending Maartje, a new girl in town, the boys’ friendship is tested when they learn a powerful secret of their own and the reality of war changes their childhoods forever.
Netherlands | 95 min | Dutch
Directed by: Dennis Bots
Starring: Maas Bronkhuyzen, Joes Brauers, Pippa Allen
The Dinkytown Uprising The year is 1970 and the disastrous Vietnam War keeps escalating. Protests are erupting all over U.S. campuses. But in Minneapolis, word that the national Red Barn Restaurant chain wants to erect a new fast-food franchise in old, venerable Dinkytown, the “war at home” takes a different turn. This stunning documentary chronicles the unprecedented 40-day, 40-night continuous Dinkytown “Occupation” to prevent construction of an unwanted hamburger joint.
Joshua Oppenheimer’s powerful companion piece to The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence focuses on a family of survivors who discovers how their son was murdered in the 1965 Indonesian genocide, as well as the identities of the killers. The youngest son, an optometrist named Adi, decides to break the suffocating silence by confronting the men who killed his brother and, while testing their eyesight, asks them to accept responsibility for their actions.
Directed by: Joshua Oppenheimer
Every Face Has a Name
In Every Face Has A Name, a sequel of sorts to Harbor of Hope (MSPIFF 2012), director Magnus Gertten tracks down and interviews survivors from German concentration camps seen in a 35mm archival film reel showing their arrival at the harbour of Malmo, Sweden on April 28, 1945.
The group includes Jews from all over Europe, Norwegian prisoners of war, Polish mothers and children, members of the French resistance, British spies, as well as a young Italian-American accused of being a spy—with personal reactions that are both powerful and moving.
Directed by: Magnus Gertten
All the Time in the World
Concerned with the fundamental disconnect of living in the city, a family of five leaves the comforts of home behind for a remote cabin in the Yukon wilderness camera in tow. Without running water, electricity, phone or even direct road access, Suzanne Crocker, her husband and three children (ages 10, 8 and 4) embark on a nine month experiment. Making do with no crew and limited equipment, Crocker skillfully chronicles her family’s unique personal discovers and turns them into a universal story on life, family, and everyday struggles.
Directed by: Suzanne Crocker
Get your tickets and MSPIFF passes before they sell out!
Regular Screenings General Admission: $12.00 Film Society Members: $10.00 Students w/ID: $6.00
NEW! Beginning this year, tickets can be purchased online at mspfilm.org.