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 2:45 p.m.

The writing-directing team of Petr Jarchovsky and Jan Hrebejk (Divided We Fall) serve up a slice of Czech living and Czech loving with Teddy Bear, a thoroughly charming and often affecting romantic comedy. A group of friends, including three married couples, go through the wild twists and turns that come with love—the good and the bad. Families, children, business, affairs—everything touches these people's lives. And what touches one life affects everyone around them. It's far from groundbreaking material, but the strong writing leads to several fantastic performances from an illustrious cast. Anna Geislerova is a standout as a woman struggling with fertility who discovers there is more to her husband than meets the eye. Jiri Machacek and Tana Vilhelmova keep things breezy as the film's funniest characters—new parents who trade barbs while operating a sparsely attended art gallery and coffee house. Even if it's all a bit typical—breakups and make-ups and the like—these reflections on life and love ring true in any language. —Andrew Newman

TWO LIVES PLUS ONE

Oak St. Cinema, April 18 at 4:45 p.m., and St. Anthony Main, April 28 at 5:15 p.m.

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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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Apparently, I've been going about this writing gig all wrong. All I need to do to get published is meet a famous author, write up my journals, send them off to a publisher and, voila, I'm in. At least, that's what Idit Cebula's dull comedy tries to tell me. The story centers on Elaine, a hard-working teacher, wife, mother, and daughter in Paris. Sometimes she finds her overbearing life to be too much, which is when she turns to her scrapbook-like journals. After meeting an author at a book signing, she decides to give the whole writing thing a try. And as fast as you can say "slightly comedic montage," she has a completed manuscript sent off to a publisher. And as soon as you can say "another slightly comedic montage," she's got an "in" with an impossibly hot 31-year-old book editor, who not only begins to mold Elaine's work but also finds the older writer somewhat...attractive. While there are some nice touches along the way (especially with Elaine's Jewish heritage), the severe lack of drama makes this just a Mary Sue story with French accents. Ed Huyck

Sunday, April 19

THE COUNTRY TEACHER

St. Anthony Main, April 19 at 5:15 p.m. and April 22 at 7:20 p.m.

The solemn new addition to the tiny elementary-school faculty in a rural Czech outpost gets off to a heavily symbolic start by turning his pupils on to the glorious diversity of nature—a measure not just of how badly he needs to leap out of the closet, but what an open book this movie is going to be. Given the baby steps currently being taken into gay-themed cinema in Central and Eastern Europe, one wants to look kindly on any movie that won Best Queer Film at the Reykjavik Film Festival last year. And there's something undeniably fresh about a coming-out story set among animals a-birthing and flowers a-blooming instead of a gay bar with support from wisecracking drag queens. But this sweetly ingenuous film, written and directed by Bohdan Slama, is a lot less sentimental about cows and flowers than it is about its human protagonists, who fall domino-like in love with churls who won't love them back. Zuzana Bydzovska is very good as the mother of a sullen, beautiful boy with whom the teacher falls in love, but Pavel Liska plays the hapless pedagogue with a long-faced saintliness that leads us to hope in vain for situation comedy. Instead, following one truly risky scene, we get more natural rebirth, and the damp discovery that romantic love may be for the birds, but people will always need people. Ella Taylor

DAYS AND CLOUDS

St. Anthony Main, April 19 at 9:45 p.m. and April 29 at 9 p.m.

Elsa (Margherita Buy) and Michele (Antonio Albanese) have a problem: They're a married couple in a middlebrow art-house movie. When Elsa gets her art doctorate, Michele's two-part present is a party and the announcement that he lost his job months ago. A little economic paring-down turns into selling the house and moving to lower-middle-class hell. Michele freaks out in time-honored fashion: yelling too loud in a restaurant at his wife, slapping his daughter, and crying in the fetal position in the shower. Silvio Soldini's Days and Clouds is watery on the economics of it all—Michele was punished for refusing to compromise his principles and outsource boat production, or because his ideas never made any money, or something—and without grounding in specific causes-and-effects, the film is just another dreary wallow in self-pity. Falling down a social class and abandoning your entire lifestyle sucks; still, this particular freelancer has trouble working up too much sympathy for a couple selling a Genoa loft and moving into a solid if blockish apartment. The search for a better recent movie about unemployment and self-effacement than Laurent Cantet's 2001 Time Out continues. Vadim Rizov

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