MSPIFF 2012: Reviews

Headshot, Unforgivable, Natural Selection, and more

Friday, April 27, at 9:30 p.m.
Monday, April 30, at 9:40 p.m.

All is not what it seems in actor-director Alex Karpovsky's complex and unsettling Rubberneck. Paul is a quiet, withdrawn scientist who wants a weekend-long fling with a co-worker to evolve into something else. Unfortunately, the beautiful woman is not interested and soon becomes involved with another member of their lab. Karpovsky vividly illustrates multiple aspects of Paul's puzzling personality. As events hurtle toward the inevitable fallout, we come to understand every reason for Paul's distant nature and his unsettling obsession with his co-worker. The film benefits from great performances all around, particularly Amanda Good Hennessey as Paul's sister, perhaps the only person who suspects the depths of her brother's psyche. —Andrew Newman

To Make a Farm

Sunday, April 22, at 1:15 p.m.
Monday, April 23, at 4:30 p.m.

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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Five young environmentalists put their money, and their lives, where their mouths are in Steve Suderman's charming documentary. He spotlights three emerging farms, all created by farmers who strive to make a living based on sustainability. The film chronicles the day-to-day activities on each farm, from planting seeds to feeding animals. And with that come the struggles: the constant threat of heavy rains, animal diseases, and in the case of one man living in complete solitude, the possibility of complete failure. While Suderman focuses on the positive rather than the negative, the harsh reality of these farmers' lives is not lost, which only makes these people more endearing. Their sheer determination is truly inspiring, and their successes feel like well-earned triumphs. —Andrew Newman

Attenberg

Saturday, April 14, at 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m.

Athina Rachel Tsangari's disarming second feature — Greece's unsuccessful submission for a Best Foreign Oscar nomination one year after Yorgos Lanthimos's Dogtooth surprisingly made the final five — is a cracked coming-of-age tale set in a fading Greek seaside town. Ariane Labed stars as Marina, a 23-year-old virgin who tiptoes into sexual initiation, largely via a visitor played by Lanthimos, while nursing her single father and close confidant through his battle with cancer. Taking its title from a lost-in-translation mangling of Sir Richard Attenborough's name (Marina's obsession with his nature documentaries dovetails with her growing awareness of animal instinct in her own life), the film is an episodic sketch of a young woman's awakening to the agony, ecstasy, and awkwardness of the human body: so much potential for pleasure, plus the inevitability of decay and death. The film swings from dry comedy to allegorical musical numbers to unabashed sentimentality, soundtracked to French chanteuse pop and Suicide, while long, stunning wide shots describe the environment's uneasy mixture of serene natural beauty and industrial intrusion. Tsangari, who produced Dogtooth, revisits tropes from that sensational provocation — including belated sexual awakening, wordplay, and dancing as a loaded social ritual — but she's after something different here. Where Dogtooth was entirely hypothetical, Attenberg, for all of its playfulness in tone and form, takes place in a decidedly recognizable world of organic human feelings, percolating under the real cloud of a nation's decline. Karina Longworth

Asma'a

Sunday, April 29, at 7:20 p.m.
Tuesday, May 1, at 4:45 p.m.

The phrase "AIDS in Africa" brings to mind images of extreme poverty and humanitarian crises. While those identifiers are sadly accurate, they don't tell the entire story. That's the underlying point of Asma'a, a film that looks at AIDS from a number of seldom-seen angles. Hend Sabry gives a strong, stoic performance as a working-class Egyptian mother hiding her HIV-positive status from a community that largely regards AIDS as a judgment on sinners. When fate thrusts her into the national spotlight, she's torn between her desire for privacy and her duty to take a stand against a stigma. As is often the case with social-issue films, Asma'a sometimes creaks under the weight of its own message. The narrative occasionally veers into familiar melodrama, particularly in its final third. Still, strong acting, a refreshingly hopeful tone, and director Amr Salama's unmistakable commitment to telling the story of the unseen AIDS patient next door make it worth a look. —Ira Brooker

Rent-A-Cat

Friday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 29, at 9:20 p.m.

A disarming story and charming lead performance give new meaning to the term "cat lady." An eccentric young Japanese woman has always had an unusual connection with cats, and now her apartment is crawling with them. So she decides to do some good: She starts a rental service lending cats to lonely people who need a little friendship. And so she begins to change lives, all the while hoping to find a life-changing event of her own. Thanks to an endearing performance from Mikako Ichikawa, the film largely avoids being overtly saccharine or too cutesy for its own good. A woman with a wagonful of cats advertising rentals over a loudspeaker is definitely quirky, but the gently earnest depictions of loneliness keep this story grounded in reality. —Andrew Newman

Must Come Down

Tuesday, May 1, at 7:15 p.m.
Thursday, May 3, at 5 p.m.

Two lost souls find each other at a bus stop — one trying to look forward in life, the other trying to look back. Ashley returns to his childhood home and promptly parks himself at the bus stop across the street from the old house. There he meets Holly, a young woman pulling herself out from the wreckage of a painful break-up. As their friendship grows, they try to unravel the mysteries of being twentysomethings. While Must Come Down tends to lean heavily on the isn't-ennui-funny side, the lead performers are amiable and keep the film from becoming too indie-cutesy. Ashley and Holly are free spirits for sure, but they are imbued with a sense of melancholy that makes their brief union all the more affecting. —Andrew Newman

Keyhole

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