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Rapping with Al Milgrom

Posted at 5:40 PM on April 12, 2007 by Euan Kerr

I can't think of Al Milgrom without worrying about moving.

I've known Al Milgrom for years, from his days at the U Film Society, and now at Minnesota Film Arts. During that time he's had to move at least twice. Knowing he's a pack rat, it's just painful to think of moving all that stuff.

Visiting the Mn Film Arts offices yesterday did little to ease the pain. There he sat amidst a tsunami of boxes, paper, posters and filing cabinets, risking life and limb as he wandered around barking orders to the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival staff. They are all beavering away, working the phones and doing all those pre-film festival things that film staffs always have to do in too little time.

Al himself was a little lower key than in years past. The Festival has no money, and his proposal to do a shorter placeholder festival now with a blow-out 25th anniversary celebration in the fall was a non-starter.

He grumbled a lot about un-named naysayers, and how he has a lot of projects on hold because the festival has to get done.

Yet when you can get him to talk about the films his eyes blaze. Al is an old-time film guy. He does this because he loves to watch movies. He's pulled together some 87 films for the Festival: features, docs, and animation, comedies and horror, philosophy and romance. There's a little bit of everything.

He took me through the entire schedule, laid out on a large yellow-green sheet of paper. circling the films he thinks are particularly worth seeing.

There were a lot of circles.

He was about to give me the sheet when he turned it over and began peering at the long list of notes scribbled on the back. He began muttering to himself, then sighed. It turned out they were important scribbles.

Over my protestations he grabbed another schedule and began a new set of circling.

Al says some people have complained MSPIFF's smaller than last year. He's also convinced before it's over someone will complain that at 87 movies he's seven over the advertised 80.

"You can't win," he says.

I reminded him that more than 10 years ago, in another film detritus-crammed office he'd hinted to me he was thinking about retiring. How about now?

He smiled and said he needs a job, and he doesn't know who would hire a septuagenarian like him.

Next door the staff helped me paw through a pile of film preview screeners, and produced a copy of the new Slavoj Zizek film "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema," (which is fascinating if you have ever wanted to hear a Marxist psychoanalysis of modern movies.)

Al came through and gave me the finished schedule. He then tried to give me a poster for "Rhythm is it" currently running at the Oak Street. "Best film about music in years," he says. "More people should come see it."

Then he went back into his den. He's got a film festival to run.

We'll run our story about the festival next week.

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