Reel Two

The Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival spins into its second week

Are you dizzy yet?

The second week of the spinning globe otherwise known as the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival unspools before us an L.A. gay-porn swordsman (Erotic Tales IV), a Dane with a low sperm count (The One and Only), some Norwegian lumbermen in a castrating frenzy (Misery Harbor), the disenfranchised younglings of a Filipino farming village (Yesterday Children), an Iranian mine sweeper in love with a farmer (Red Ribbon), an Aussie thriller à la Kafka (The Interview), a Turkish Josef K. (Journey to the Sun), a Black River Falls schoolteacher with an urge to smash windows (Wisconsin Death Trip), a former bass player in an Argentine band (Crane World), David Bowie as a grandfatherly Canuck (Mr. Rice's Secret), Rachael Leigh Cook as an unemployed Montanan (The Hi-Line), and a German heifer named Hannah (The Wedding Cow).

All of these, along with a dozen-and-a-half other films screening in week two of the MSPIFF, are reviewed below. (Note: We'll deal with the fest's final days in the Film Clips section of next week's issue.) Still, as one of the rare pleasures of a film festival is the possibility of discovering an unreviewed masterpiece with one's own eyes, who knows what treasures you may unearth without our help?

--Rob Nelson

Misery Harbor

Bell Auditorium, Wednesday at 7:15 p.m.; and Heights Theater, Friday at 7:00 p.m.

With explicit references to Jack London and August Strindberg, this Norwegian film defines its ambition to work as both a sweeping adventure (i.e., the story of a boy becoming a man) and a psychosexual drama (i.e., the story of a boy becoming a man). In 1932 Oslo, a struggling writer named Espen (Nikolaj Coster Waldous)--a writer, dammit!--types an account of his youthful travels, escaping from the grim factory town of Jante into the grim hold of a schooner, then to a grim Newfoundland fishing town, and then to a grim forest camp. Each new environment produces glimpses (and voiceover declarations) of freedom and fulfillment, but Espen is plagued by the nefarious machinations of a secret sharer. John Wakefield (Stuart Graham), who wears black clothes and a cape, woos the boy into wrongdoing aboard the ship, seduces his sweet, fish-gutting girlfriend, and works a whole company of lumbermen into a castrating frenzy. Some other clichéd plot twists thoroughly deflate the film's epic aspirations, and the whole thing is filmed with an unerring eye for the obvious--more Cabin Boy than Conrad. Mike Reynolds

 

Erotic Tales IV

Heights Theater, Wednesday at 9:00 p.m.; and Bell Auditorium, Thursday at 8:45 p.m.

This latest collection of shorts in the international Erotic Tales series tweaks familiar tropes of lust and longing, with varying results. The "surprise" ending of the Greek "Dream a Little Dream of Me," a whimsical anecdote about male wedding jitters, will be obvious after three minutes, but the characters' very human reactions to their predicament somewhat redeem the narrative. "Georgian Grapes," whose outcome is equally clear, is an unpretentious, charmingly earthy little pastoral about appreciating what's under your nose. Although the Austrian "Red Garter" tosses some spry gastronomic foreplay into its his-and-hers revenge tableau (man abducts woman at knifepoint, and then teases/terrorizes her sexually, until the tables are turned), the vignette itself never transcends the staleness of its premise. But Rosa von Praunheim's "Can I Be Your Bratwurst, Please?" has the best conceit: A legendary gay-porn swordsman (Jeff Stryker) hits L.A. and moves into a run-down motel, where he incites fantasy in everyone he meets, from burly leathermen to little girls. At this stage of his career, Stryker resembles a slightly dissolute Ken doll, and he delivers his lines like someone who learned English last week. But, combined with some unexpected shock effects, Stryker's hard-bodied blankness puts the director's point forcefully across: What more hospitable medium to depict the ways in which desire turns us into supporting players in our own drama? Jesse Berrett

 

Kumar Talkies

Bell Auditorium, Thursday at 7:15 p.m.

In a recent book of photographs aimed at making the everyday feel strange, David Byrne fixates on the film posters of India's Bollywood industry. Vulgar yet childishly "innocent," baroque almost to the point of being hallucinatory, yet somehow as sickly sweet as Mom's Rice Krispie squares, these posters suggest a push-pull of opposites that must make for some fiery and phantasmic cinema. To my sorrow and shame, I have not seen even one Bollywood potboiler, but I don't feel any closer to the experience for having watched this, a sort-of-documentary of a jerkwater Indian town and its Last Picture Show. Kumar Talkies doesn't have the tobacco-spitting regrets of Bogdanovich's movie or the feel-good gel-capsule effect of Cinema Paradiso. Rather, it sort of rambles all over the place in the style of Chris Marker's Tokyo-as-nightmare-scape doc Sans Soleil--only, uh, not as well. The glimpses we get of the cinema's surrounding village--caught half in the world of Disney/Nike modernity and half out--are titillating, appalling, inward-drawing. Whereas the material relating to the movies is half-assed, shapeless, and interminable beyond words. Matthew Wilder

 

The One and Only

Oak Street Cinema, Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; and Heights Theater, Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

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