Reel Two

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

What a wonderful world romantic comedies inhabit! In this parallel universe--enough like our own to fool the eye--soul mates not only exist, but practically share life experiences. Just as a character, trapped in a moribund relationship or abandoned by a philandering asshole, begins to feel alone and wretched...well, lo and behold, along comes someone else who's going through the same experience and is also a perfect match. In this Danish take on such a scenario, the star-crossed lovers are Niller (Niels Olsen) and Sus (Sidse Babett Knudsen). When they first meet, they are deliriously happy--or as close to it as they've been in years: Sus is pregnant by her Italian husband, Sonny; and Niller and his wife Lizzie have just adopted a five-year-old from Burkina Faso. Soon afterward, their lives summarily disintegrate, and the two flounder for a bit before finding their way to one another; meanwhile, they are surrounded by the usual assortment of friends and family who function in much the same way as bridesmaids' dresses--that is, they're meant to make the main characters look prettier by comparison. Niller comes into his own, emerging as a man of action after years of passivity, and his transformation is both fun and stirring to watch. "Not bad for a man with a low sperm count," he muses at the end. Not bad, indeed. Kirsten Marcum

 

The Interview

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

Alfred Hitchcock and Franz Kafka are uncredited collaborators on this stylish noir thriller, which was a surprise hit two years ago in its native Australia. In fact, The Interview initially seems to be an adaptation of Kafka's The Trial: An apparently innocent man (Hugo Weaving, whom domestic audiences will recognize as the sadistic villain of The Matrix) is beaten by police, dragged into an interrogation room, and grilled by a hardened detective (Tony Martin) regarding a seemingly minor crime. Although director Craig Monahan never leaves the warren of the police precinct, the film gradually twists into truly Kafkaesque territory. The atmosphere becomes one of sustained paranoia, where hidden video cameras capture every nervous twitch, and even the interrogators are not above suspicion. It's a credit to Weaving that his tightly drawn face doesn't give away any of the film's secrets; until The Interview takes its final turn, we have no idea whether he's a brilliant psychopath or an unjustly accused wretch. In Kafkaland, it seems, no one remains innocent for long. Peter Ritter

 

Post Concussion

Heights Theater, Thursday at 7:00 p.m.

Matthew Kang is corporate scum. He has a six-figure salary, a pack of soulless business buds, and a cute, gold-digging girlfriend, and he receives pleasure by consulting Fortune 1,000 companies on how best to carry out a downsizing holocaust. But then he gets rammed by a car and suffers a serious head injury. If writer-director-editor-cinematographer and star Daniel Yoon had ended his movie right there, he could have considered it a mild success. The film would have made for a poignant PSA on how to deal with corporate mercenary types--i.e.: Run over the bastards. Yoon moves on, however, to portray Kang's struggle with postconcussion syndrome, and the rebirth of his identity and values. After Kang loses his job, his girlfriend, and his sanity (you know the story), he embarks down that oh-so-well-beaten path of spiritual recovery. Along the way, he undergoes loopy new-age medical treatments and falls in love with his next-door neighbor, Monica (Jennifer Welch), a German physicist. Considering that this is Yoon's first movie (he edited it entirely on his home computer), we must give him credit for producing a fairly smooth and coherent work. But in attempting to make the jump between comic irreverence and the earnest affirmation of life, the film simply doesn't hold together. Jeremy Swanson

 

The Hi-Line

Oak Street Cinema, Friday at 7:00 p.m.

Although this Amerindie drama premiered at Sundance more than a year ago, it has yet to find an American distributor--even though it gives a prominent role to She's All That star and Twin Cities native Rachel Leigh Cook (see "She's All That," facing page). In theory, this could mean that the film was too adventurous for market-conscious distributors, as was the case with Scott King's experimental feature Treasure Island (which the director is now releasing himself). But in practice, The Hi-Line was most likely turned down for being terminally bland. The con-job plot opens promisingly on Sam (Ryan Alosio), a liquor-store clerk who, arriving in a small Montana town under the guise of being a mall-employment recruiter, approaches Vera (Cook) with the promise of a job--only to inform her later that he was a friend of her late jailbird father. This setup is plenty intriguing, but as The Hi-Line quickly turns into a familiar road movie, only fans of pensive stares and pauses will be apt to find it much of a treat. First-time writer-director Ron Judkins has little sense of drama, and although his film clocks in at a relatively brief 104 minutes, it still feels padded. Steve Erickson

 

Shirley Pimple
(in the John Wayne Temple of Doom)

Oak Street Cinema, Friday at 11:30 p.m.

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