MSPIFF 2012: Reviews

Headshot, Unforgivable, Natural Selection, and more

Thursday, April 26, at 10 p.m.
Tuesday, May 1, at 10 p.m.

Or how to pursue, beat, and kill people in a nightclub without disturbing the patrons. This French thriller is wall-to-wall action in the best tradition of early Clint Eastwood, whose longtime cinematographer, Tom Stern, is behind the breathtaking camera work. Vincent (Tormer Siseley) is an undercover cop who, while infiltrating a cocaine smuggling operation, apprehends a shipment from two mules on the street. The next day he finds out his teenage son has been kidnapped by the operation's chief slimeball, Jose, and is being held at Jose's enormous multi-level nightclub until Vincent returns his boodle. The bulk of the film takes place in the club, which, despite being the size of a shopping mall, in no time gets suffocatingly crowded. The establishment's revelers and employees occasionally scream in horror at the fist- and gunfights between Vincent and Jose's associates (including a Turk who is a dead ringer for Mick Jagger), but otherwise go about their illicit fun unperturbed. Vincent and his adversaries also demonstrate that amazing capacity of action figures to survive getting shot, stabbed, repeatedly having their heads rammed, and being thrown down stairs without being more than a little groggy. Nonetheless, director Frédéric Jardin's film is never boring and will not disappoint those who love high-voltage, breakneck crime cinema. Others, however, may feel like their skulls have been bashed for two hours against the walls of their favorite night spot. —John Ervin

Bert Stern: Original Madman

Friday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 14, at 7 p.m.

King Curling
King Curling
Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps
Sennentuntschi: Curse of the Alps


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:

Despite the film's masculine subtitle, the defining images of Bert Stern: Original Madman are as feminine as they come. The legendary photographer made his name in the '50s and '60s, taking breathtaking pictures of the world's most beautiful women, from Elizabeth Taylor to Twiggy to his most celebrated subject, Marilyn Monroe. Along the way he helped revolutionize print advertising, documentary filmmaking, and American pop culture. As Stern admits over the course of this bio-doc, his all-consuming passion for women was both his gift and his curse, bringing fame and fortune along with shattered relationships and at least one mental breakdown. This intensely intimate documentary by Stern's longtime companion and frequent subject, Shannah Laumeister, captures the artist as a bristly, weary man who's clearly more comfortable on the other side of the camera. While Laumeister's narrative is filled with frank recollections from Stern and a host of his famous associates, the pictures are the real stars of the show. Filling a film with still photographs could be a risky approach, but these images are anything but static. Stern owns up to plenty of regret and self-doubt regarding his personal life, but never his art. Frame after frame of penetrating, groundbreaking portraiture validates that confidence and then some. —Ira Brooker

In Organic We Trust

Monday, April 23, at 9:15 p.m.
Tuesday, April 24, at 7:15 p.m.

Audiences slaked on the likes of Super Size Me, Food Inc., and other recent Big Food exposés might wonder why they need to see yet another documentary on the nauseating state of the American food business. Kip Pastor's In Organic We Trust sets itself apart by focusing less on the well-established evils of the industry and more on feasible, real-world solutions. The film initially appears to be headed into well-worn Morgan Spurlock territory, using hyperactive editing and man-on-the-street interviews to debunk myths about organic food (spoiler: it's neither as nutritiously superior nor as uniformly regulated as many assume). Fortunately, Pastor soon finds his groove in seeking out people who make organic living look like a reasonable, workable option for average Americans. From the walnut farmer who turns a profit with a clear conscience to the chef who reimagined what school lunch can be, Pastor mines a welcome vein of hope from a cinematic subject that's come to define "dire." —Ira Brooker

Gerhard Richter Painting

Monday, April 16, at 7:15 p.m.
Saturday, April 21, at 2 p.m.

Countless documentaries have feebly attempted to probe and illuminate the creative process (the phrase "dancing about architecture" springs to mind), and even Dresden-born visual artist Gerhard Richter — an 80-year-old master of many brush styles and ideas, from photorealistic portraiture to abstract expressionism — believes his work can't be described with words. "Painting is another form of thinking," the soft-spoken but no-bullshit iconoclast tells director Corinna Belz, whose magnificent and evocative observances of him laboring in his studio come as close as cinema gets to tracking the impulses and paradoxes of a gifted imagination. Alone with his enormous canvases, Richter studies his own vibrant-hued strokes and patterns, disappoints himself in the moment, then destroys and creates anew with a giant squeegee pulled across the would-be work of art, aided by Belz's deeply satisfying attention to the tactile sounds of paint slapped on or scraped away. New and vintage interviews with curators, historians, and collaborators help contextualize Richter's five-decade career, but who even needs talking heads when you have panning shots of exhibition-layout thumbnails — rich, beautiful art on their own at 1:50 scale. Gerhard Richter Painting convincingly immerses us in the world of one of the greatest, painting. —Aaron Hillis


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