It's a Wrap

The Mpls/St. Paul International Film Festival swaddles the Cities in cinema

Groove

Oak Street Cinema, Friday at 9:30 p.m.

Every generation deserves its Rock Around the Clock, I suppose. But does the MSPIFF deserve this trendy ode to San Francisco's underground rave culture, snapped up by Sony Classics for $1.5 million at Sundance and therefore foisted upon regional fest coordinators as "this year's Run Lola Run"? Make that this year's Roller Boogie. The cookie-cutter crew of Gen Y specimens here includes David (Hamish Linklater), a native Midwestern geek who takes a hit of Ecstasy at a warehouse rave and instantly falls for a New York hipster (Lola Glaudini); a pair of bitchy gay men who drive around for hours in search of the party's semisecret location (which, per the film's restricted guest list, they'll never find); and David's cooler brother Colin (Denny Kirkwood), who gives an engagement ring to his pigtailed girlfriend (MacKenzie Firgens) before she discovers him in the "chill room" kissing...a boy! (This must be what director Greg Harrison means in the press kit when he describes the rave scene's "ambiguous morality surrounding relationships.") The movie's final few shots cleverly disguise the narcissistic heterosexuality of the milieu, but in any case, it seems unlikely that even Groove's rave reviewers will remember this bad trip in a year. Rob Nelson

 

Idle Running

Oak Street Cinema, Saturday at 1:30 p.m.; and Bell Auditorium, Tuesday at 9:15 p.m.

This Slovenian comedy-drama succeeds in bringing a likable and wholly engaging loser to the screen, but it fails to create a compelling plot around him. Befitting its title, Idle Running muddles along at the pace of our hero, Dizi (Jan Cvitcovic)--that is, at a virtual standstill. In 90 minutes, we watch as he accomplishes little more than smoking cigarettes, getting dumped by his girlfriend, and hoarding shelf space from his newly acquired roommate. Make no mistake: Dizi is entertaining and at times downright witty, as when, during a foosball game, he offers the following soliloquy about his hatred of Greenpeace activists: "I'd make them camp under a huge ozone hole and grill asbestos steaks every day. I guarantee it: In six months, they'd be fixed." As Dizi doesn't see the point in attempting to accomplish even so much as a shower, however, he keeps Idle Running running idle, and the viewer waiting in vain for a shift in gears. Jonathan Kaminsky

The Shoe

Oak Street Cinema, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

In this pointedly ungratifying film set at the height of the Cold War, three red-army soldiers and their dog are sent on a mission to find the owner of a woman's shoe that has been discovered near the "secure" Latvian border. As these men wander around occupied Latvia for most of the film's 83 minutes, the lack of narrative drive quickly threatens to turn maddening. Yet the soldiers' utter lack of influence over the citizens, who ignore these stumbling musketeers on their would-be Cinderella mission, seems central to the film's political commentary. And come to think of it, the frustration felt by the captive audience is perhaps not unlike that of an occupied citizenry made to witness the absurd incompetence of their invaders. On the one hand, The Shoe offers a worthy reminder that art isn't necessarily created to make one feel good; on the other, its intricately gorgeous cinematography has its own rewards. Melissa Christensen

 

The Hymens Parable

Heights Theater, Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

This locally made indie begins as a Catholic confessional and heads from there into a heavy-hitting examination of rape, hereditary alcoholism, and institutional religious morality. The protagonist is Jason (Shane Barach), a 30-year-old seminary student--and yet another disillusioned Catholic. Even though he's on his way to becoming ordained a priest, Jason cannot reconcile his strong dislike for his sister Cassandra (Melissa Lewis), a woman who's epileptic, prone to divine visions, and fixated on the Eucharist to the point of stealing consecrated wine and consuming it in mass quantities. Jason is also disturbed by having witnessed his father rape Cassandra when she was 12, a memory he refuses to accept. This debut feature by St. Paul director Jon Springer boasts all local talent and a number of familiar Twin Cities locations. Although the filmmaker's inexperience is revealed in several scenes that appear rigid and stale, his ambition more than makes up for it. Aside from Kevin Smith's Dogma, few American films these days even attempt to tackle a subject as cumbersome as Catholic morality. Springer and his cast will be present at the screening. Jeremy Swanson

 

Beresina or The Last Days of Switzerland

Bell Auditorium, Saturday at 5:15 p.m.; and Heights Theater, Tuesday, April 25 at 7:00 p.m.

If there is such a thing as Swiss humor, it's either far too cryptic or simply nonexistent in this, Swiss director Daniel Schmid's charmless German-language film posing as a no-holds-barred political farce. Even the general plot is difficult to pin down for the first half-hour. Eventually we discern that a Betty Boop-type Russian call girl (Elena Panova), keen on becoming a citizen of snow-white, Nestlé-nourished, punctual, and prosperous Switzerland, performs kinky sexual favors for all manner of Zurich power brokers. What this woman doesn't realize, however, is that all the kinky sex in the world won't get her a coveted maroon passport, even if she supplements her S&M theatrics with studies of Swiss history on the side. Or rather, she does realize it toward the end of the movie, when she gets mad and glad, as they say. There's a coup d'état, lots of silly assassinations of powerful bankers and government officials, and a general cacophony of dumb comedic clichés. I mustered one chuckle in 108 minutes. Jelena Petrovic

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