By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Shot in the far reaches of Mongolia's Gobi desert, this ethnographic documentary began as an attempt to capture the dying traditions of Mongolian camel herders and ended up as a portrait of the bond between a mother camel and her estranged newborn--as well as a bona fide film-fest sensation. We get the money shot--the camel cries--and it's very touching. Whether the film's exploitative techniques can be excused by its wide exposure of a soon-to-be-steamrolled culture is your call.
Macalester College, Saturday at 9:30 p.m.
Named for a swaggering, gravel-voiced promoter of used-car sales events, this marvelously entertaining doc by Hollywood veteran John Landis doesn't pretend to be an exhaustive report on the current economy or even on the life of one Michael "Slasher" Bennett. Instead it captures the anxiety of auto shopping, an enterprise wherein the buyers' skepticism collides with the sellers' cynicism to produce a kind of stalemate that keeps on rolling even though no one is getting what he wants.
Riverview Theater, Saturday at 10:00 p.m.
Billed as the first American entry in the Dogme cycle, this Gen-X Big Chill relies (mostly) on available light and sound while following several Class of '81 grads in the hours before their 20-year reunion. From the town mayor to the class loser and the disillusioned Army man, everyone tries to right old wrongs and start anew--although the ties that bind seem tenuous at best. Co-director and Minneapolis native Mark J. Poggi will be present at the screening along with screenwriter-producer Kimberley Shane O'Hara.
Block E 15, Sunday at 5:00 p.m.; and Oak Street Cinema, Sunday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m.
Pothead nursing-home orderly Todd (Michael Bonsignore) toys with the residents by pretending to be a deceased relative calling from heaven, but sobers up after meeting Mrs. Pearlman (Maggie Riley). Though director Elliot Greenebaum's aesthetic inertia seems appropriate to his portrait of one life going nowhere and another nearing its end, his hero's transformation remains merely contrived.
Heir to an Execution
Macalester College, Sunday at 5:00 p.m.; and Bell Auditorium, Sunday, April 11 at 4:45 p.m.
This first-person doc finds the granddaughter of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg--the "atom spies" executed at the height of the McCarthy era--coming to grips with her ancestors' true beliefs, and with the sense that the case against them was significantly inflated for purposes of political show. Though Ivy Meeropol isn't the most artful of filmmakers, her work is intensely intimate: By the final scene, the Rosenbergs' granddaughter is awakened--and the viewer is hooked.
Since Otar Left
Riverview Theater, Sunday at 7:30 p.m.; and Bell Auditorium, Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.
Like the German Good Bye, Lenin!, this French film pines for the lost ideals of European socialism through the tale of family members conspiring to keep bad news from a fragile matriarch. When the title character dies in a construction accident, his sister (Nino Khomasuridze) and niece (Dinara Drukarova) begin forging his letters in order to keep up the spirits of his doting, dying Georgian mom (Esther Gorintin). Visually flat, the film draws its power from the archetypal story of what happens when people's principles slip away.
Bell Auditorium, Sunday at 9:30 p.m.; and Macalester College, Wednesday, April 14 at 9:00 p.m.
"I'm Hollywood's new hard-on," crows Troy Duffy, the Beantown bartender tapped and then dumped by Miramax in the months after Ben and Matt's Good Will made young and unknown "auteurs" hot. Project Redlight would make an apt name for this alternately hilarious and excruciating doc, the protagonist's arrogance being as colorfully obnoxious as it is utterly unearned. Having buried Duffy's Boontown Saints, Harvey Weinstein was reportedly interested in Overnight--for about 15 minutes. Co-producer Todd Fosse will be present to introduce the second screening.
Oak Street Cinema, Sunday at 9:45 p.m.
This near-sepia-toned Czech mood piece is most effective as an hour-long string of stark images: dirt flowing out of a backhoe, newborns wriggling in their own placental jelly, the massacre of wild dogs. Whatever heady lessons director Harutyan Khachatryan means to draw from nonfiction classics of the silent era, The Documentarist thrives for sharing with those films a preference for human action over cinematic style.
Macalester College, Monday at 5:45 p.m.
The subject of this dry, cunningly subversive documentary is a Finnish men's choir that distinguishes itself by screaming, yelling, bellowing, and shouting its repertoire, which consists of whatever the group's prankster director sees fit to plunder. Though the choir's percussive, exclamatory music is more novelty act than art, there's a wonderful excoriation of nationalism in how the group amplifies the primal bellicosity of the world's national anthems.
Oak Street Cinema, Monday at 7:30 p.m.
With this jaw-dropping collage of denatured celluloid, filmmaker Bill Morrison turns the cosmic joke of decay into a creative boon: a celebration of life's exuberant dance with destruction. The subjects of old film, seen in various stages of volatile decomposition, seem to struggle against encroaching darkness or blinding flares; bulbous burn holes suggest the triumph of organic metastasis over the original geometry of a multi-paned window. Things fall apart--but we continue to rage against the dying of the light. Morrison and composer Michael Gordon will be present at the screening.