MSPIFF: The Interrupters, Louder Than a Bomb, and more

Reviews from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival

Monday, April 25, at 9:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 30, at 5:30pm

Youthful offender, two years in juvenile detention and only a week from release, gets a visit from his dysfunctional family and flips out big-time in this memorable first feature from fertile Romania. For most of its 94 minutes, Florin Serban's If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle is straightforward and observational, using a largely nonprofessional cast to dramatize the prison routine and its sometimes mysterious hierarchy, as well as the pressures building inside the close-cropped skull of its handsome antihero Silviu (neophyte actor George Pistereanu). Understatement only heightens the sense of smoldering resentment. Self-contained Silviu, often shown in Dardenne-style back-of-the-head close-ups plowing through his confined world, is fatally unable to articulate his situation—a plight emphasized by the pretty young sociology student (Ada Condeescu) who arrives on a mission to interview the inmates. If I Want to Whistle is slack yet taut—tension builds whenever Serban hits the narrative pause button. Even once all hell finally breaks loose, the suspense is enhanced by lengthy stand-offs, real-time delays, and pervasive confusion on how to best handle a situation gone wildly out of control. The viewer is prompted to ponder the crisis's possible (and unpredictable) resolution as well as the degree to which Silviu's freak-out was premeditated. It's a measure of the movie's success that one oscillates between two despairs—noting the abject failure of the system and the utter futility of revolt. —J. Hoberman

L'Autre Dumas

Tuesday, April 19, at 6:45 p.m.
Saturday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 27, at 4:30 p.m.

Le Quattro Volte
Le Quattro Volte


Festival Facts

Dates: April 14-May 5

Location: St. Anthony Main Theatre, 115 Main St. SE, Minneapolis

Admission: $11 ($10 for seniors, $9 for students) Visit the MSPIFF website for prices on opening- or closing-night films and multiple-show packages.

More info:

This 2010 film from director Safy Nebbou delves into a controversy from French literary history: Whether revered writer Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo) actually authored all of his work. The Other Dumas is a fictionalized account of the real-life relationship between hedonist Dumas (Gérard Depardieu) and his uptight co-writer Auguste Maquet (Benoît Poelvoorde). The story plays with the topic of appropriated identity when Maquet, acting as Dumas, attempts to seduce a beautiful revolutionary (Mélanie Thierry). The outcome of this well-acted and scenically beautiful film surprises in that neither of the main characters remains true to the selves we imagine for them. And while debate continues about who was the true master of the pen, Nebbou gives us plenty to ponder about individual desire to break free of a prescribed role. —Caroline Palmer


Friday, April 22, at 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 3, at 7:15pm

In modern-day Albania and Serbia, two very different couples attempt to leave their homelands for a better life in the EU, but their countries' violent histories catch up with them along the way in this film from Goran Paskaljevic. In one storyline, a young man and the fiancé of his missing brother make plans to escape to Italy. In the other, a cellist and his wife make plans to travel to Vienna for an audition. Their plans are stopped by an attack in Kosovo, where two Italian soldiers are killed. As each storyline develops, the modern-day Balkans are revealed through Paskaljevi's crystal clear direction and strong attention to detail. The richly detailed wedding scenes–not of the main characters, but of relatives–showcase a collision between cultures, both within the lands (essentially, city vs. country) and when they emerge from their Eastern European homes in search of a better life. It's part of the story's wry irony that these essentially apolitical characters find their dreams derailed by a decidedly political act. The film's odd structure, taking us deep into one storyline before ever introducing the second and then eventually settling into a cross-cutting approach, may make for an initial disconnect, but the overall quality of the film, from design to acting to direction, works through any of those issues. —Ed Huyck

Nostalgia for the Light

Saturday, April 16, at 12:30 p.m.
Monday, April 18, at 8:45 p.m.

Chile's self-appointed, one-man Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Patricio Guzmán, has devoted the past four decades to chronicling the short-lived Allende administration and the Pinochet dark ages that followed, long after his countrymen wanted him to stop. At first blush, though, his new documentary detours toward astronomy, landing rather Herzog-ishly in the Atacama Desert, the elevation and absolute dryness of which make it one of the globe's optimal observatory locations. Guzmán uses the stars' distance to ruminate on the nature of time—as in, everything, even light, even this, is in the past. He eventually winds his way around to how time has treated the ghost-town-turned-concentration-camp of Chacabuco, its ex-prisoners, the dumped bones of disappeared Pinochet victims, and the tough, striking old women who still scour the desert plateau on foot hunting for remains. Guzmán fugue-weaves all over the place, montage-cutting from the lunar surface to giant close-ups of calcified bone, and the film's philosophical musings slowly funnel down into a silent yowl of rage and a desperate plea for remembrance. (If Guzmán is to be believed, Chileans have an even stronger urge to forget than Americans do.) Often stark and ravishing, Nostalgia for the Light is most moving as a manifestation of the filmmaker's stubborn righteousness. —Michael Atkinson


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