By Jesse Marx
By Chris Parker
By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
The Girl of
Oak Street Cinema, Saturday at 9:30 p.m.; and Heights Theater, Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.
After the bawdy, Oscar-winning Belle Epoque and the ill-fated Antonio Banderas/Melanie Griffith vehicle Two Much, director Fernando Trueba returns to Spain for another sprawling melodrama set against world-shaping events. It's 1938, the Spanish Civil War is at its apex, and the Nazi war machine is gearing up for its notorious blitz through Europe. Hitler and Franco have made a reciprocal agreement, which allows for a troupe of actors to travel to Berlin to film the cheesy musical of the title. Once there, a famous Spanish star (the red-hot Penelope Cruz) becomes involved with the movie's director, and tries to protect a Jewish companion from persecution--while a strapping Teutonic actor (a dead ringer for Dolph Lundgren) comes out of the closet in the most menacing manner. Sweeping and handsomely filmed, The Girl of Your Dreams is an intelligent and wholly original rendering of a Holocaust story. It's no Life Is Beautiful, and yet its microcosmic treatment of a much larger evil is similarly arresting. Tom Meek
Oak Street Cinema, Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
Talk about time out of joint: This 1999 silent film by Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki (The Match Factory Girl) takes a 1911 story by Juhani Aho, previously filmed in 1920, 1937, and 1950, and sets it...when? In one scene, the movie's lame-legged farmer, Juha (Sakari Kuosmanen), and his younger, orphaned wife Marja (Kati Outinen), are living out a bucolic marriage, picking cabbage by hand--"happy as children," as the intertitle puts it. Next, a vulpine city slicker named Shmeikka (Andre Wilms) shows up in a broken Sixties roadster, trying to seduce Marja away to the city. For a spell she stays at the farm, but she soon grows surly and restless--smoking, reading magazines, and microwaving meals. Then the lecher returns, cuckolds Juha, and installs Marja in his sister's brothel. To call any part of this endeavor an anachronism would be to miss the point, as an early modernist fable here receives a truly quirky, expressionist treatment. Visually compelling and wonderfully scored, Kaurismäki's silent movie proves as unreliable as seedy Shmeikka--tricking the viewer into an age that never was. Michael Tortorello
The Dream Catcher
Oak Street Cinema, Sunday at 9:30 p.m., Monday at 7:30 p.m.
Despite some awkward and obvious passages, this scruffy tale of two teenage drifters is the kind of sharply observed regional feature that makes the festival circuit a necessity. Freddy (Maurice Compte, a young actor with a hint of Vincent Gallo's crazed stare and gonzo volatility) is a juvenile parolee who has walked out on his pregnant girlfriend in Philadelphia. Hopping trains and hitchhiking toward Oklahoma City, where he hopes to reunite with his just-released ex-con dad, he crosses paths with Albert (Paddy Connor), a scrawny, motor-mouthed delinquent who's bound for his estranged mom's diner outside Reno. Their journey by thumb, truck, and stolen car cuts through Middle America like a needle skipping across a record, and, as eloquently directed by Ohio filmmaker Edward Rathke, the movie becomes a blur of bummed cigarettes, hitched rides, and indistinguishable roadside shrubbery. Alas, the script has a tendency to plant details on its characters instead of allowing them to emerge, but the movie's portrait of damaged kids attempting to forge a makeshift family unit remains unexpectedly affecting. Director Rathke and co-screenwriter Marc Nieson will be present at both screenings of The Dream Catcher, which has won the fest's "Emerging Filmmaker" prize for Best Narrative Feature. Jim Ridley
Bell Auditorium, Monday at 9:30 p.m.
Following a tenacious 17-year-old girl (Emilie Dequenne) through the endless struggles of her life in Belgium, the Dardenne brothers (Luc and Jean-Pierre, whose equally tough La Promesse graced U Film in 1998) bring their 15 years of documentary experience to bear on a narrative feature that possesses all the aching force of the best nonfiction films about labor. The heroine of the title fights to fend off poverty in the film's every frame, yearning for a job that will keep her and her alcoholic mother (Anne Yernaux) living uncomfortably in their trailer-park home. The Dardennes train their roving camera on Rosetta's hands as she baits the hook on a bottle fish trap, mixes waffle batter, peels a hard-boiled egg, or carries a heavy canister of propane back to her house: Every action is an effort. Recalling the great tradition of neorealist world-cinema classics about poor children, from Los Olvidados to Pixote, this controversial Palme d'Or winner at Cannes displays an astute class consciousness that's never reducible to platitudes about the courage of the impoverished. In her debut, the young Dequenne holds the screen all the way to the end of the film, at which point the Dardennes pull off a brilliant transference of energy that puts her fate in another's hands, and perhaps the viewer's as well. I'd be thrilled if the MSPIFF contained a stronger feature than this--and thoroughly surprised. Rob Nelson
The World Is Not Enough
Al Milgrom's quest for an audience takes him to Armenian churches, Hungarian grocery stores--and anywhere else a ticket buyer might be hiding