February 4, 2010

MFA February Lineup @ St. Anthony Main

I'm happy to report that the dream of Minnesota Film Arts filling the limited release foreign/documentary film gap in the Twin Cities appears is being realized down on the cobblestone riverfront of St. Anthony Main. MFA is now operating from offices near the theater and they have a very promising lineup for the next month (I'm actually behind on this post; La Danse screened for the last week). Not that there was anything wrong with the St. Anthony Main theater prior to this move, but let's just say that now there is a compelling reason to go there outside of MSPIFF (the 28th celebration of which kicks off April 15). Here is the schedule for the next four weeks:

Jan. 29 - Feb. 11
La Danse

“One of the finest dance films ever made. A feast for ballet lovers. Sumptuous in its length and graceful in its rhythm.Transfixes you with the inner workings of an institution." – A.O. Scott, The New York Times

As much as I love documentaries I'm ashamed to admit I've never seen any of Frederick Wiseman's 37 other films, many of them 2 hour-plus documentaries about fascinating subjects. Ballet isn't really up my alley but reviews have been high across the board and trusted friends have raved about it. Check the large soda at the door if you go - this bad boy clocks in at 158 apparently mesmerizing minutes.

Feb. 5-11
That Evening Sun

In this already award-winning film, 84-year-old Hal Holbrook gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the cantankerous Abner Meecham who returns to his Tennessee farm to discover his son’s betrayal and loss of his land to what he considers an unworthy family. Well-paced, richly atmospheric, Holbrook in this revealing star-turn bares a complex character struggling to overcome regrets and disappointment.

I heard positive buzz about this film during the latter half of 2009 and was very excited to see it listed on this schedule. I haven't seen enough of Hal Holbrook's early films, but I loved him in Into the Wild and he was reportedly robbed for an Oscar nomination for this performance. (Read Erik McClanahan's review in this week's Vita.mn.)

Feb. 12-16
The Yes Men Fix the World

With uncompromising intelligence and dry humor, renegades Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno devise elaborate schemes and pranks all in the name of exposing corporate greed and deception in the hilarious The Yes Men Fix the World. Using guerrilla tactics to impersonate corporate spokespersons, Bichlbaum and Bonanno say what these companies should admit to but too often don’t. Their Dow Chemical prank got a spokesperson to apologize for the largest industrial catastrophe in Bhopal, India.

Sounds a little bit like the kind of guerrilla/ambush-style of "documentary" filmmaking that usually annoys me - kind of a hybrid between a Sasha Baron Cohen film and a Michael Moore film, but this has picked up a few small awards on the festival circuit and has earned solid endorsements from top critics. Co-director Mike Bonanno will be at St. Anthony Main wearing the suit shown above when the film opens on February 12. That spectacle alone is probably worth the price of admission, though the trailers suggests there will be plenty of laughs coming from the film as well:

Feb. 17-25

Director Chris Smith (American Movie) Collapse conveys a chilling portrayal of radical thinker Michael C. Ruppert’s apocalyptic prophecy about crises, present and future, in what USA Today describes as “compelling and disturbing.” This former Los Angeles police officer, now independent reporter, paints an eerie and unsettling future. But Smith lets the audience form its own opinions of Ruppert’s paranoid and powerful statements on banks and depletion of fossil fuels.

Only now did it just hit me that Chris Smith also directed my #2 film of 2008, The Pool, a coming-of-age story set in Goa, India. How he went from that to this is baffling, but anyway, after noticing buzz online and after Jim Brunzell listed Collapse as one of his top ten films of 2009, I had to sit down and order it from Comcast On Demand. To be honest I thought Michael Ruppert was simply insane by the halfway point of this film, but maybe only 25 or 50% wrong, leaving a whole lot that could be right about. For our sake let's hope not. Ruppert himself will be live in theater at the February 17 & 18 screenings, and I have to believe it could make for one of the more interesting Q & A sessions of the year.

Feb. 19-25
Waiting for Armageddon

Award-winning filmmakers Franco Sacchi, Kate Davis, and David Heilbroner delve into the Evangelical world numbering 50 million strong revealing a closer look at its belief the Bible foretells the approaching end of the world in the astonishing new film, Waiting for Armageddon. This film manages to paint a provocative and powerful scene of the Evangelical’s and Fundamentalist’s apocalyptic belief that the Rapture will soon come.

Sounds to me like this picks up where the overrated Jesus Camp left off, but these are important films and this has been highly anticipated - it's actually only played in a handful of cities so far, almost all of which are bastions of liberal, anti-Evangelical thought (Boston, Seattle, now Minneapolis). Which begs the question: is this kind of film just preaching to the choir (pun intended)?

Feb. 26 - Mar. 4
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done

Werner Herzog and David Lynch join forces to create the intriguing and complex story of a strange murder in the film My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done. Based on a true story, Michael Shannon portrays the convoluted murderer, Brad McCullum, who slays his mother with a sword. Detective Hank Havenhurst (Willem Dafoe) descends into Herzog’s twilight world, to reveal Brad’s deranged motive revolving around a Greek play concocted by the twisted sensibilities of two cinematic geniuses.

I'm sure there is some brilliant joke to be made about a collaboration between Werner Herzog and David Lynch, but most people wouldn't understand it anyway...get it? Reviews were mixed for this terribly-titled horror drama when it premiered at Venice last September, but the cast is strong and it was filmed in Point Loma (near downtown San Diego), so I'd like to see it if only to pick out the streets and places I recognize.

Feb. 26 - Mar. 4
The Sun

Russian director Aleksandr Sokurov (Russian Ark) presents the masterful final installment of his trilogy depicting controversial war figures, after Moloch and Taurus, exposing the heavily cloaked private life of Japan’s Emperor Hirohito. When General MacArthur comes to Tokyo to meet with him, a relationship develops between the two legendary men that is extraordinary and unexpected. Set in immediate post-World War II and Occupation era Japan, Hirohito gradually begins to shed his historic role as god to his subjects and become human, to lead his country through the crisis constructed in a war-torn state, and to unify himself with the citizens that have weathered the war and their consequent defeat.

This film has played in nearly 20 countries over the last five years, but was released for the first time in the U.S. in November - even after its DVD release. I wouldn't feel right seeing this without first watching Russian Ark, but Manohla Dargis raved that "one of the best movies of 2005 is now also one of the best of 2009". And wouldn't you know it, Kathie Smith reviewed this film just over a month ago; this week-long engagement will prevent her from being the only person in this state likely to have seen it. I can't even find a trailer in English - here's the French version:

St. Anthony Main Theatre is located at:
115 Main St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Tickets for all screenings can be purchased online.
Parking is FREE at the St. Anthony Falls Parking Ramp
Pracna on Main serves up outstanding waffle fries.


  1. I'm sure you probably noticed, but La Danse is being held over. Playing at 4pm daily. I actually might go see it again!

  2. Yeah, I would have left it off had it closed yesterday, but maybe they had a great turnout to keep it on. Between that and That Evening Sun (and Parnassus) I'm not sure where to put my priorities considering I have about two open times to see any of them by next Thursday. Dang these one-week engagements.

  3. Um, so I went to imdb to get this Chris Smith business all straight in my head. Skipping the first movie he directed and a tv series I hadn't heard of, his c.v. goes like this:

    '99 - American Movie Loved it, still quote it regularly.

    '01 - Home Movie Stumbled upon this a million years ago. I don't remember where, when or how, but I remember being engrossed.

    '03 - The Yes Men I remember hearing about this movie but not seeing it, and "yes" it appears to be some kind of precursor to the The Yes Men Fix the World.

    '07 - The Pool One of your most memorable reviews of '08 in my opinion. For some reason it stuck with me, you probably mentioned the director's history. Either way I wanted to see it but couldn't find it on the -ahem- "Netflix" system I use. Excuse me, itchy throat. Now there are no excuses.

    '09 - Collapse Um, you just profiled it so I won't.

    The point is this guy has quietly directed a stellar filmography and is now among my shortlist of directors demanding my immediate and ongoing attention.

  4. I need to revisit American Movie (I seem to remember watching in Matt's basement years ago but that can't be right), need to see Home Movie, have the same vagueness about The Yes Men as you, obviously loved The Pool, and would probably rather listen to Ruppert's Q & A than watch the film again. Not that it's not worth watching - just that I don't know what I would get from a second viewing, it's a pretty cut and dry interview and a fair amount of what he says could be found from his blog archives online. He'd probably be a firecracker at a Q & A, though.

    Anyway, yeah, Chris Smith - pretty scattered last decade.


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