MSPIFF 2012: Reviews

Headshot, Unforgivable, Natural Selection, and more

Alps

Monday, April 16, at 9:15 p.m.
Thursday, April 19, at 9:20 p.m.

Countless films have examined the fine line between acting and real life, but not many have done it in such unsettling fashion as Alps. Director Giorgios Lanthimos's follow-up to Dogtooth centers on a quartet of average Greek citizens who moonlight as surrogates for the dead. That means just what it sounds like: The bereaved hire them to memorize lines and play the parts of recently deceased loved ones, with all the attendant drama and mundanity that entails. Alps is a truly weird piece of work, sort of like Lars von Trier with a twist of Charlie Kaufman. It's also hugely affecting in its darkly comic explorations of artifice and identity. Beyond its clever central conceit, this is a film about the things we choose to remember. The troupe is called on to reenact tender moments and good times, yes, but arguments and infidelities are on the table too. As fascinating as the film is, the conversations it sparks on the way out of the theater should be equally intriguing. —Ira Brooker

Natural Selection

Natural Selection
Natural Selection
Bert Stern: Original Madman
Bert Stern: Original Madman

Details

Festival Essentials

Dates: April 12-May 3

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

Admission: $11 ($10 for students and seniors; $6 for kids under 12). Visit the MSPIFF website for prices on opening- or closing-night films and multiple-show packages.

More info: www.mspfilmfest.org

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Thursday, April 19, at 9:40 p.m.
Friday, April 27, at 5:30 p.m.

The road movie meets the opposites-attract movie in Natural Selection, but the result is anything but traditional. Linda is a middle-aged Texas wife living a sheltered and extremely religious life. After learning her dying husband has been frequenting sperm banks for over 20 years, Linda becomes determined to find his biological son and unite them. She finds Raymond, a young drug addict on the run from the law. But as they journey together, they expose each other to the things they've missed in life. Rachael Harris anchors the film with a terrific performance. Linda's cloistered nature and eventual maturation is a fascinating and joyful thing to watch. As she connects with Raymond, she emerges into a beautiful and liberated woman — and Harris keeps us spellbound with every moment. Andrew Newman

A Secret World

Friday, April 13, at 4:45 p.m.
Thursday, April 19, at 8:45 p.m.

A lot of things are left unclear in A Secret World, and that includes faces. With a few exceptions, Gabriel Moreño deliberately keeps his supporting cast in shadows, out of frame, or otherwise obscured, while landscapes and objects are captured in intense detail. It's a technique that viewers will probably find either grating or gratifying. For those in the latter camp, there's a quietly affecting film underneath the stylism. Lucia Uribe gives an impressive, understated performance as Maria, an emotionally empty Mexico City teen whose only outlets are journaling (always in the third person) and joyless sex with dimwitted schoolmates. It's not initially clear what she's seeking when she impulsively leaves home and hops a bus for the coast, but it's obvious that she desperately needs to be elsewhere. What follows has some of the earmarks of a standard quirky road movie, but Maria's insular nature requires her — and the film — to keep everyone she meets at arm's length. The result is a distant but oddly engaging movie that's as lovely to look at as it is chilly to watch. —Ira Brooker

Unforgiveable

Saturday, April 21, at 9:40 p.m.
Monday, April 23, at 6:30 p.m.

Francis, an aging, successful French novelist (André Dussollier), rents a villa in Venice, where he plans to set his latest novel. He gets a pretty good deal, as he convinces the beautiful rental agent, Judith (Carole Bouquet, the best of the Roger Moore-era Bond girls), into moving in with and eventually marrying him. Eighteen months into the marriage, and still in Venice, he has yet to start the novel, distracted as he is by the disappearance of his adult daughter, Alice, whose own teenage daughter he must take care of. Francis hires a vodka-swilling detective, Anna Maria, an old friend and former lover of Judith's, to track Alice, who has run off with a drug dealer. He also hires the detective's adult son, recently sprung from prison and in need of work, to follow Judith, who he is convinced is having an affair (though Francis should be more concerned about why his new wife suffers from chronic nose bleeds). Director André Téchiné's adaptation of Philippe Djian's novel is a curious, talky affair, but nonetheless engrossing and believable. The cast is first-rate, and Téchiné's sure-handed direction keeps the complicated story from falling apart and the bizarre characters from being laughable. John Ervin

The British Guide to Showing Off

Friday, April 20, at 9 p.m.
Tuesday, April 24, at 4:50 p.m.

There's spectacle and then there's Andrew Logan's version of spectacle. Since the early 1970s the British sculptor and performance artist has presented "The Alternative Miss World Show," attracting hordes of fabulous folk from the club, drag, fashion, entertainment, and art scenes for a glittery all-night extravaganza. Personalities who have shared the limelight with Logan over the years include artist David Hockney, director Derek Jarman, the legendary Divine, and Richard O'Brien of Rocky Horror fame, to name a few. Jes Benstock's 2011 documentary unfolds as if it sprung directly from Logan's technicolor mind, combining animation with remarkable archival footage into an appropriately cluttered and thoroughly endearing naughty-and-nice celebration of perseverance, pageantry, handcrafted beauty, and a seemingly boundless creative spirit. Perhaps the best aspect of the film is that so much time is spent getting to know the charming Logan, as well as his friends and family, many of whom turn up in "The Alternative Miss World Show" as contestants, all vying for a one-of-a-kind crown. Everyone, it seems, wants to be a part of Logan's marvelous dream come to life. And by the end of The British Guide to Showing Off you'll be pricing airfare for London to join the next party. Caroline Palmer

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