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Movie Natters: April 20, 2008 Archive

MSPIFF: Katyn

Posted at 10:43 AM on April 20, 2008 by Euan Kerr

Polish director Andrzej Wayda has unflinchingly explored aspects of the recent history of his homeland. His films best known outside Poland were his dramas set against the rise of the Solidarity movement "Men of Iron," and "Men of Marble." They showed a harsh world tinged with a fierce optimism for the future.

His latest film "Katyn" has no such happy ending. Early in World War II some 15,000 Polish officers captured after the Nazis and Russians invaded their country were murdered in the Katyn Forest. When the atrocities were revealed to the nation later in the war the Polish government blamed the Nazis, pointing to how each man had been shot in the back of the head, which was described as a Nazi technique. However rumors began to circulate that is was the Russians who committed the murders.

Wajda's bleakly beautiful film lays out how the Polish officers, who had little inkling of their fate, felt bound by their code of military honor to follow orders and do as they were told. He also shows the impact on the families, also bound by a code of honor, and then fear, as it becomes clear what happens to people who question the official line.

It's a tough story, told remarkably. The film was nominated for best foreign language Oscar this year. (Katyn screens tonight at 7.15 and then next Sunday at 9.20)

MSPIFF: Sunday update

Posted at 11:16 AM on April 20, 2008 by Euan Kerr

"Son of Rambow" sold out last night, but the overflow seemed to be able to find something else of interest.

I took in "Travelling with Pets," a Russian film about Natalia, a young woman living with her brutish husband in the middle of nowhere where they work maintainging the rail tracks. When he drops dead one day, her life changes radically. Ksenia Kutepova plays Natalia with a quiet intensity which reminds you of a young Vanessa Redgrave.

I also caught "Sextet," the new film from Dutch director Eddy Terstall. His movie "Simon" was a great little piece about an unlikely friendship between a nationalistic soccer hooligan and a gay man.

"Sextet" also casts a skeptical eye on Dutch society, this time examining the way sexual mores have changed in recent years through a series of scenes being analyzed in a film class. As always happens with films like this, some parts work better than others. The scene where a group of actors shooting a low budget biblical video repeatedly show their complete lack of scriptural knowledge is hilarious. (One thinks it's a remarkable co-incidence that the man who betrays Chris is called Judas, given how he hears the name used nowadays.) However the rest of the film didn't quite seem to gel for me.

MSPIFF: "Mr Positive"

Posted at 11:23 AM on April 20, 2008 by Euan Kerr


Some of Minnesota's documentarians will strut their stuff tonight at the Minnesota short doc screening.

One of them "Mr Positive" introduces us to a man many St Paulites have seen, at least in the distance. Carl Bentson rides a three wheeler bike festooned with lights and reflectors all over the east metro.

While a developmental disability limits Benston's speech, he has a photographic memory and an indefatigable work ethic. Local film maker Mike Hazard dropped in on Carl over the years and tells his story through Bentson's own words and those of his many friends.

"Mr Positive" is on the program with Jesse Roesler and Jen Larson's "Finding Flight," 9-year old Diego Luke's "Diego's trip to Guatemala" Paul Benhardt's "Bronze" and Matt Ehling's "Coming Home."

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