Time of the Comet and The Revenant: Bonus MSPIFF reviews

Time of the Comet

Saturday, April 17, at 4:15 p.m.; Monday, April 19, at 4:15 p.m.

"We have been looking for the war but haven't been able to find it." That line from midway through Time of the Comet perfectly describes the absurdist tone of this Fatmir Koci film. Throughout, our heroes find plenty of signs of the conflict but only get brief, frightening flashes of it. Based on Nobel Prize-winner Ismail Kadare's novel, Time of the Comet takes the viewer to Albania in the days leading up to World War I. The story follows Shestan, a young Muslim who—along with four friends from his village—sets off to fight for his country after a German is installed as the ruler of the country. Along the way, the group encounters Agnes, who is being taken to a convent by her father, who is worried about the coming battles. Director Koci juggles several tones at once: absurdist comedy (World War I is good for that), a cross-cultural romance, and the tragedy of men fighting for reasons that always seem to be shifting. Blerim Bestani smolders as Shestan, whose desire to do right is stopped or misdirected at every turn. As Agnes, Masiela Lusha (probably best known for playing Carmen on George Lopez's long-running show) plays it close and tight, except for the moments when she is able to shake off the expectations of culture or religion and just be a young woman. —Ed Huyck

The Revenant

Saturday, April 24, at 11:15 p.m.; Monday, April 26, at 9:45 p.m.

In case you don't know, a revenant is a walking corpse, not of the brain-eating zombie variety but one who comes to back to haunt the living or finish work that's undone. Or hang out with his friends, taking out gangbangers and drinking their blood. It's all in a night's work in Kerry Prior's gruesome comedy, in which a recently deceased army officer, Bart (Dave Anders), finds himself back among the living, even though he's been embalmed and buried six feet under. Once above, Bart enlists best friend Joey (Chris Wylde) to try to work out the rules for his new existence. Sadly, there isn't a book for this, just the internet and a lot of guess work. It comes down to this—Bart needs to drink blood to survive, and since no one answers Joey's Craigslist ad, they cruise the streets of L.A. looking for "dregs" to use as food. Funny horror is nothing new—years of Buffy and its kin explored lots of this before—but Prior (also the writer) takes it all into some pretty extreme territory. Sometimes the film falls flat, especially when centered on Bart's relationship with his girlfriend. The Revenant is at its best while pushing those boundaries, be it when Joey and Bart become vigilantes drinking the blood of the guilty or a bit of revenge involving a chainsaw. —Ed Huyck

Child of the Dead End

Sunday, April 18, at 7:15 p.m.; Tuesday, April 20, at 3 p.m.

Patrick MacGill is considered one of Ireland's most famous writers, but his career was cut short by poor health. In this 2009 film, director Desmond Bell delves into MacGill's history using actors Stephen Rea and Cian Bell as vehicles for the author's perspective. Born into extreme poverty in Donegal in the late 19th century, at a young age MacGill was sent to work the fields; he eventually made his way to Scotland, where his years of hard labor inspired him to write about poverty. The London newspapers eagerly published his stories and eventually, despite his embrace of socialism, MacGill wound up in Windsor Court providing research to the king. He then shipped off to the horrific trenches of World War I, and his life was forever broken. Bell depicts MacGill's unusual journey by intertwining facts with the lives of the writer's fictional characters—and then adds historical footage (plus the occasional clip from a Charlie Chaplin film) to inject both gravitas and humor into the extremes of MacGill's experience. This is a disconcerting approach initially, but it soon makes perfect sense—the life of a writer is as varied as the people and situations he encounters (or makes-believe he encounters). That only lends to the poignancy of the poetic tragedy that defines MacGill in his later years. —Caroline Palmer

Saint Louis Blues (Un Transport en Commun)

Tuesday, April 27, at 3:15 p.m.; Wednesday, April 28, at 6:55 p.m.

This 2009 film from Dyana Gaye draws on the French cinematic musicals of the mid-20th century (à la Jacques Demy) to inspire this lively short film about a taxi ride from Dakar to Saint Louis in Senegal. No experience is too pedestrian for a song-and-dance scene: waiting for a seventh passenger to arrive so the trip can commence, a traffic jam, the daily grind of working in a hair salon, the spark of romance between a French tourist and a young woman, the pit stop after an accident with a watermelon truck, and the joyful anticipation of arrival at journey's end. There's nothing particularly big-budget or glamorous about the production—in fact it seems deliberately homespun. The performers are not standout singers, and the lyrics seem downright corny at times, but there's still a certain "let's-put-on-a-show" wholesome energy to the entire endeavor that renders this road film altogether endearing. —Caroline Palmer

The Good Heart

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