A Good Yarn

Sunday, April 22, 2007


It's that time of year again - The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (M-SPIFF). So, this blog will be very film intensive for the next week or so. If you don't enjoy the film reviews, don't worry, knitting will be returning soon. I didn't go to the Thursday opening night this year and I had to miss out on Friday night, because I went to a party held by one of my law school buddies. We had a great night eating and catching up so I'm glad I went to the party, but I do hope one of the documentaries from Friday night is shown again in the "Best of Fest".

Saturday I started out not with M-SPIFF, but with the last Talk Cinema film of this season. I missed the last show because I was on my cruise, so it's been a long time since I've been there and it seemed odd. This film was a great ending to the series and I will definitely be re-subscribing this fall:

"Once" was a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award, and I can see why - it's incredibly charming but not your typical Hollywood romance. The film is sort of a musical, but not in your traditional way of characters bursting into songs to communicate with each other. There's music throughout and the music does communicate a lot about the characters and what's happening, but it's all very organic and natural. The film is set in Dublin, Ireland and is about an Irish guitar player who writes sad songs about the woman who broke his heart and plays for change on the street. One day a Czech woman stops by to admire his music and they strike up a friendship. She's a pianist and when they play music together, it's just magical. The lead is played by Glen Hansard, who is in an Irish band called The Frames. I just loved the music and hope the soundtrack is available - it's sort of folksy rock. The lead actress, Marketa Irglova, is also quite good - her voice reminded me of Aimee Mann. I really wish that I'd been to Dublin before so I could recognize the places these two walk around. If you like good stories and good music, I'd highly recommend this film. It has a 100% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes right now, although there are only 6 reviews posted. There's also knitting in it - the piano player's mother is knitting one night at home. "Once" is also part of the M-SPIFF, so it will be shown on Friday at 7:00 at the Oak Street Cinema. I'm sure it's also going to eventually be shown at the Landmark Theaters.

After Talk Cinema I headed over to Yarnover to meet up with a couple of friends. Even though I didn't take any classes this year I wanted to check out the market. I did pretty well in keeping my purchases modest - just a couple of patterns, a pair of Lorna's Laces sockweight and a couple of skeins of Alchemy yarn that were half off at Coldwater Collaborative - I thought I had bought all they had of the purple Synchronicity when I was there during the Treasure Hunt, but when I saw two more skeins I snapped them up. This is a long post, so I'll show the pictures later.

Last night I finally headed over to M-SPIFF and caught two films. The first was also a big hit at Sundance this year:

This was another charming, wonderful film. It stars Keri Russell as a waitress at a Pie Diner - she makes great pies with funny names like "I don't want Earl's baby pie" and is married to an abusive, controlling jerk, played by Jeremy Sisto. Yep, she finds she's pregnant with Earl's baby and it throws a bit of a wrench in her plans to save up money to enter a pie contest, win the $25,000 grand prize and leave Earl. She's sad and depressed until she meets her new OB-GYN played by Nathan Fillion, who is wonderful as always. Rounding out the cast are her fellow waitresses (played by Cheryl Hines and the director, Adrienne Shelly) and Andy Griffith as Old Joe, the curmudgeonly pie diner owner. These are all really funny, slightly wacky Southern characters (if you read the Crazy Aunt Purl blog, you know what I mean). It's also one of those films that captures the erotic nature of food - the pies look so amazing, especially in the opening sequence. This film has a ton of heart with great performances all around and I also highly recommend this one. It will be coming to one of the Landmark Theaters in early May, but I also wouldn't be surprised if it gets selected for "Best of Fest".

One thing that I wanted to note about Waitress - the director, Adrienne Shelly, was murdered in October in a way that is so bizarre that it spawned a Law & Order episode. She had an argument about the noise that a day laborer was making in the apartment below her while she was trying to work and he punched her and killed her. He covered up the murder by trying to make it look like she hung herself. She died before she found out the film was accepted by Sundance and didn't have a chance to enjoy the success that she's now having. She gives an excellent performance in this film and I'm sure she would have had a pretty successful directorial career as well. It's really so tragic.

The other film I saw last night was:

Lars Von Trier also directed Dogville, Breaking the Waves and Dancer in the Dark. This film is a big departure from those films. It's funny and light, but it does have a layer of commentary about both corporate corruption and film pretentiousness. The film is about a guy, Ravn, who owns a tech company, but when he started it 10 years ago, he told everyone he was just an employee like them. He said "the boss of it all" is in America tending to his other businesses and blamed every unpopular decision on "the boss of it all". Now he wants to sell the business and make a huge profit, but the buyer, an Icelandic blowhard, refuses to deal with anyone but the owner of the company. So, Ravn hires an actor, Kristoffer, to play the part of this mythical person. It's supposed to be just for a short meeting, to show his face, but the meeting doesn't go well and Kristoffer has to stick around for a week and keep playing the part, not only to the Icelandic buyer, but also to the employees of the company. Of course, after 10 years' absence, these employees have a thing or two to take up with the boss, and hilarity ensues. Kristoffer knows nothing about this company or who his character is, but being a method actor, he really needs to dig deep and figure him out. Kristoffer's cluelessness and his interactions with everyone at the company create a lot of laughs and you find yourself cheering on Kristoffer as he starts to actually care about this company and wants to do what's best for them. Von Trier is famous for having conflicted relationships with his actors, so he's definitely commenting on the way directors control their actors and how silly actors can be. It very much has the feel of the old screwball comedies, with the characters behaving sort of outlandishly and the main character bumbling around. I enjoyed it a lot.

One note on the look of the film. The cinematographer is listed in the credits as "Automavision". I'd never heard of this before, but from what I gather, it's some sort of computer program that controls the camera and sets shots in a random way. It was somewhat disconcerting to me, because quite often, shots are framed in an odd way. I remember one scene where a character walks in the door, but his head is out of the frame, so I had no idea exactly who it was at first. Characters are often cut off, partly in and partly out of the shot and framed off to the side or whatever. Either I got used to it or it didn't always happen, because it didn't bother me most of the time. There were also quite a few really jumpy cuts in scenes. I remember the big brouhaha when "Breaking the Waves" came out and people got seasick from how much motion there was with the camera. I guess von Trier just enjoys playing with technology and using different methods to film his work.

I think I'm going to see quite a few films today since I'm going to be gone next weekend, so look for another really long post tomorrow.