Skin Flicks

The naked truth about putting together a regional showcase like the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival. And a revealing body of blurbs about the best and the not-best of the fest.


As White as in Snow
Heights Theater, Saturday, April 6 at 9:00 p.m.; and Oak Street Cinema, Monday, April 8 at 9:30 p.m.

Set in late 19th-century Sweden, this latest film from director Jan Troell (The Emigrants, The New Land) follows the headstrong Elsa Andersson (Amanda Ooms) through her life of tepid prospects, and through the sacrifices she makes in order to extend herself beyond them. Courtesy of Troell's delicate visuals, we observe Elsa's childhood relationship with a recently widowed and remarried father, who fully expects her to relinquish her own dreams in favor of becoming a farmer's wife. Yet when her brother Lars (Shanti Roney) leaves the family nest in order to start a life of his own in America, Elsa grows terrified at the prospect of wasting her life: In defiance of her father's wishes, she takes it upon herself to become Sweden's first female aviatrix--and meets with tragedy. The events of this story unfold slowly, but intentionally so, the effect being meditative rather than sedating. And Troell's cast--particularly Ooms, whose portrayal strikes the perfect balance between imperturbable innocence and unwavering independence--is unusually stunning. While the movie might easily have succumbed to snooty, Merchant-Ivory-esque melodrama, As White as in Snow sheds its pretensions without compromising its beauty or its relevance. --Nicole Duclos


A Cab for Three
Bell Auditorium, Saturday, April 6 at 9:15 p.m.; and Oak Street Cinema, Wednesday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m.

This Chilean movie begins as a malodorous gobbet of pulp fiction made more perverse by sun-drenched visuals. The cabbie hero (Alejandro Trejo) is carjacked in broad daylight by two lowlife cretins who stick a little machete to his neck and plan to keep him driving for as long as their crime spree continues--forever, perhaps. The unsightly faces of the giggling hoods, and the camera's insistent stare at the cabbie's head (combined with the endless driving), may remind you of Italian trash classics such as Ruggiero Deodato's The House by the Lake and, especially, Mario Bava's all-in-a-Ferrari film Rabid Dogs: Indeed, the drive-in quality of the first half-hour is impressive. But then the filmmakers don't know what to do--and don't have the guts to take the horror all the way--and so sentimentality leaks in. (When a hoodlum on his sickbed is asked what his daddy did, he simpers, "My papa? He was very good at flying kites.") And the inevitable One Attractive Woman in a World of Very Ugly Men shows up: The low point of the film has the taxi driver and this poor man's Monica Bellucci arguing over which of them is the cause of their motel room's post-coital bad smell. --Matthew Wilder


Oak Street Cinema, Saturday, April 6 at 9:30 p.m.; and Heights Theater, Tuesday, April 9 at 9:15 p.m.

Those nutty Serbs are at it again. Set in the madcap bar of the title, in the present day (but it feels like the Seventies), this screwball comedy is a caustic homage to Balkan wackiness, with a palpable nostalgia for more "innocent" times. In somewhat predictable fashion, the film's plot lines are all intertwined: A sexy chick (Paulina Manov) steals cocaine from some slick-haired pushers and hands it out to toilet attendants and market-stall ladies. (She wants to revolutionize their sense of possibility.) Then she meets a young slacker (Nebojsa Glogovac) who sells his family's heirlooms for cash to the same dealers, and the two weirdoes fall in love and get married in, like, two seconds--but the dealers shoot and kill the bride after the wedding. (Don't worry: It's not fatal.) Everyone's stories connect at Boomerang, which is owned by a gun-obsessed freak (Lazar Ristovski) who sleeps with the dealer's mom. (It's that kind of movie.) Life's grandest events--love, sex, marriage, birth, death--are played out thoughtlessly, breathlessly, as the film spirals toward a dizzying climax of manic folk music, fire, guns, and ridiculous dancing. Despite awkward pacing and some lame physical comedy, Boomerang is as likeable as it is obnoxious. --Kate Sullivan


A House With a View of the Sea
Heights Theater, Sunday, April 7 at 3:00 p.m.; and Bell Auditorium, Tuesday, Aprii 9 at 9:15 p.m.

"That's how God is, son," explains Tomas Alonzo to his boy. "He takes what he wants when he wants it." Weary from the death of his wife, the Argentine peasant Alonzo contents himself with the simple pleasures of liquor, his violin, and the company of his child Santiago. Director Alberto Arvelo's period piece is dominated by the oppression of the natural world--not just the rocky soil Alonzo farms, but the imposing beauty of the Argentine highland. Ironically, Santiago's escapist dreams feature an even more vast sublimity: that of the ocean, which the landlocked lad has never seen. (He wonders if there are oxen and fields among the waves.) The story is little more than a fleshed-out melodrama, bringing the good peasants into conflict with the bullying, paunchy landlord and his weasel of a son. But Arvelo generates an uneasy sense of foreboding that bolsters the flimsy plot. So weighty is this sense of looming tragedy, in fact, that when a character is merely beaten unconscious or sent to jail instead of being killed, the relief is exhilarating--as if all concerned have won a small victory over resigned despair. --Keith Harris

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