MSPIFF: Reviews of the rest

Il Divo glitters among duller bulbs like The Girl From Monaco, Just Another Love Story

St. Anthony Main, April 18 at 2:30 p.m. and April 30 at 5:45 p.m.

The horrors of the Rwandan genocide are impossible to comprehend or explain, and some 15 years later it remains clear that the experience still haunts the people of this central African nation. In this 2007 film by writer-director Lee Isaac Chung, revenge motivates Munyurangabo (Jeff Rutagengwa) and his friend Sangwa (Eric Ndorunkundiye) to set out from Kigali to find the man who killed Munyurangabo's father. Along the way the two young men stop at Sangwa's parents' modest farm—a place he left three years earlier—expecting to stay for only a short visit. Sangwa's father (Jean Marie Vianney Nkurikiyinka) is bitterly angry with his son for abandoning the family, but there is hope for reconciliation. Tensions arise because Munyurangabo is Tutsi, and Sangwa's father, a Hutu, can barely contain his hatred. The problems of the past soon manifest in the present as betrayal, violence, and exile, proving that peaceful coexistence, even between friends and family members, remains a fragile concept. Although the film unfolds very deliberately, the slow pace is well suited to the rural atmosphere and the accumulating emotional battles that mount between father and son as well as father and guest. The ending is both painful and powerful, and ultimately offers hope and redemption for a new generation of Rwandans. —Caroline Palmer

THE NECESSITIES OF LIFE

St. Anthony Main, April 18 at noon and April 25 at 4 p.m.

Rumba
Rumba

Details

MSPIFF Info

April 16-30, 2009

SCREENING LOCATIONS
St. Anthony Main: 115 Main St. SE, Mpls.; 612.331.4723
Oak Street Cinema: 309 Oak St. SE, Mpls.; 612.331.3134

ADMISSION
$10 ($9 online; discounts at box office for students and seniors). Visit mspfilmfest.org for prices for opening- or closing-night films, 5- and 10-movie packages, and all-access Gold Passes.

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It's difficult to describe The Necessities of Life without making it sound like either a relentless downer or a mawkish tearjerker, but Benoit Pilon's soft-spoken feature avoids those pitfalls with a matter-of-fact approach and a trio of wonderfully restrained performances. Natar Ungalaaq (Atanarjuat—The Fast Runner) is remarkable as Tiivii, an Inuk hunter and family man diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent from his Far North home to a sanitarium in early-'50s Quebec. Separated from his wife and daughters and only partially grasping the reasons for his internment, Tiivii struggles to connect with the French-speaking "Whites" who surround him. Ungalaaq's expressive face is tasked with conveying everything from fascination at seeing x-rays of his own chest to bafflement at eating a plate of spaghetti to despair at facing another day of isolation. Ungalaaq carries much of the film, but he's well-assisted by Eveline Gelinas as his empathetic nurse and Paul-Andre Brasseur as a taciturn Inuit orphan whose arrival in the ward gives Tiivii a new lease on life. The film's exploration of cultural barriers and human connections may be familiar, but Pilon's documentarian approach elevates a potentially sentimental storyline to something much more affecting. —Ira Brooker

PEER GYNT FROM THE STREETS

St. Anthony Main, April 18 at 1:15 p.m.

The original Norwegian title, Gatas Gynt, suggests the depressing, overcast mood of this piece better than the American one. Hallvard Braein's quasi-documentary follows a group of homeless alcoholics and drug addicts as they pick up the pieces of their lives while putting on a production of Ibsen's Peer Gynt. The documentary quality comes through in the faces of the actors, who look like they've been so through the wringer that they're clearly actual transients. Peer Gynt, embodied by an ex-sailor (Egil Schonhardt) who looks like a drug-ravaged Chuck Norris, is the film's lightning rod as he wanders the most horrible sections of Oslo reciting monologues and encountering vagrant variations on the original play's characters. Little humor emanates from this crowd, except perhaps when one of them muses that Ibsen must have been stoned when he wrote his work. Definitely not a date movie, and, even at an hour, it feels long. But patient viewers will be rewarded with a powerful lead performance and fascinating true life stories from those haggard faces. —John Ervin

THE PHOTOGRAPH

St. Anthony Main, April 18 at 4:30 p.m. and April 20 at 9:30

As compact as the studio at the center of most of the action, director Nan Achnas's film is sad, funny, and thoroughly moving. Sita (Shanty), a prostitute and karaoke singer at a club in a small Indonesian city, rents a room from an elderly, ailing photographer, Mr. Johan (Lim Kay Tong). Johan divides his time between shooting portraits for customers and praying at a makeshift altar on the railroad tracks where his wife and son were killed. Sita, meanwhile, raises money for her daughter and mother, who live far away, while avoiding her bullying pimp. Johan's search for an apprentice brings the two together—but not to the usual point of their becoming surrogate father and daughter. Tong's stoic performance contrasts nicely with the sprightly but tough Shanty, who brings a magnetism that goes beyond her stunning looks. The story is somewhat repetitious (Mr. Johan seems to draw his last breath every 10 minutes) and the subtitles are abysmal. But it's easy to follow and full of great supporting characters—including a fabulous transgender job applicant and a Yul Brynner look-alike who's prone to crying jags. —John Ervin

RUMBA

St. Anthony Main, April 18 at 6:45 p.m. and April 20 at 9 p.m.

The legacies of Charlie Chaplin and Jacques Tati, joined with the modern-day high jinks of Mr. Bean, are celebrated in this candy-colored film. Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon are schoolteachers who dance the rumba with wild abandon and have a house full of competition trophies. After a car crash they have to abandon their terpsichorean dreams because Fiona has lost her leg and Dom has lost his memory. They try to make the best of their misfortunes, but soon everything starts to fall apart. It may sound sad, but the more troubles come up the more opportunities Fiona and Dom have to play up their clowning routines. Fiona's prosthetic leg catches on fire? Well, of course the whole house burns down. Dom can't remember his gym class routine? Soon he's got the kids lined up for a beer at the bar. This is one of those quirky films that might compel a person to exclaim "That's so French" (after all, Dom gets beaten up over a chocolate croissant), but there's something innocent about its Gallic silliness. At the same time, the gags made at the expense of Dom and Fiona's new disabilities aren't mean-spirited, but they are sometimes so cartoonish as to seem callous. —Caroline Palmer

TEDDY BEAR (MEDVIDEK)

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