Another week of the Milwaukee Film Festival yielded a wealth of quality cinema. More so than in previous years, I can say that the MFF’s batting average this year is stellar (Youth is the only movie I’ve outright disliked). Onto the recap:
My marathon of disturbing docs continued with Welcome to Leith. A gut-churning look at an attempted white supremacist takeover of a tiny North Dakotan city and the townspeople banding together to prevent it from happening, Leith loses its way a little in the back half (an opportunity to interview Craig Cobb, the white supremacist who is spearheading the attempted takeover, must’ve proved irresistible despite paying no dividends narratively) but maintains its queasy hold regardless.
Call Me Lucky is on first glance another member of the emotionally devastating documentary family, but there’s a strength and hopefulness to this portrait of comedian Barry Crimmins (a political standup who was raped as a child and fights for victims of abuse to this day) that puts it a step ahead of the misery some of the other docs left you steeping in. One arrow in its quiver is how funny it is, with Crimmins’ ongoing disrespect for the US Government and Catholic Church providing genuine belly laughs before the film segues into more sobering territory. Crimmins led a Q&A following the screening that was the highlight of the festival for me so far, showing strength and sensitivity in talking about a subject we far too often ignore despite it taking place right in our midst.
John Boyega is going to be a big deal; of this I have no doubt. One of the leads of the upcoming Star Wars movie, Boyega proves his worth in Imperial Dreams, a movie that works only insofar as you believe the central relationship between father and son. Trying desperately to provide for his child after being released from prison, Boyega does yeoman’s work in bringing out both the sensitivity and simmering anger behind his character. The film is visually nondescript and a bit ungainly story wise, but Boyega’s charisma carries it through (and he, like so many British actors before him, nails an American accent). A Hard Day is a delightful Korean thriller filled with set pieces that feel like the lovechild of Hitchcock and Buster Keaton. As funny as it is exciting, this story of a dirty cop whose day starts with his mother’s funeral and gets worse provides a rollicking lesson in escalation.
At first, I couldn’t tell if My Love, Don’t Cross that River was a put-on. This chronicle of the twilight years of a couple married for nearly eight decades felt too good to be true at first, with their loving play (throwing snow and leaves at one another) – but the film slowly shows pain commensurate with their joy as one watches the other slowly slip away from them. Heartbreaking and beautiful, it lived up to my pre-festival expectations. Visually astonishing yet narratively opaque, Embrace of the Serpent is well worth seeing despite my minor misgivings. Read more in my review. (Plays Thursday, 10/8 @ 7 p.m., Landmark Downer).
Nina Forever is a tremendous bit of genre filmmaking, nimbly talking about emotional baggage through the guise of a dead ex-girlfriend bloodily emerging from her ex’s bedside. Read more in my review.
This being my first time seeing it, I feel safe in saying The Seventh Seal has earned its classic status, and am pleased as punch I saved my first time for the big screen. Eden is an epic stroll through the electronic music scene in France over the course of a nearly two decades, the cumulative effect of which leaves you feeling like the last person at a dance party, looking up only to see that everyone has been gone. The whole movie feels cinematically alive, as we move from house parties to throbbing night clubs and back again without ever feeling like we’re stuck in a dry biopic-style lecture.
Gueros might be my very favorite movie of the festival, a throwback to the French New Wave and the endless possibility that felt inherent in their filmmaking (this is in black and white and features the wonderfully boxy 4:3 aspect ratio), crackling with youthful energy and a buoyant spirit. There are stylistic choices here I don’t entirely agree with in this story of a young man sent to live with his college-aged brother and the subsequent journey to find an obscure musician of their childhood who is living in their midst, but the craft and performances are so tenderly realized those concerns simply washed away in the warm glow one gets from being in the presence of great cinema.
On The Marquee
Tuesday, October 6: Chaza Show Choir
7 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema (FREE!)
Wednesday, October 7: Berlin is in Germany
6:30 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema ($5 gen ad/FREE for students & members)
Wednesday, October 7: Magic Mike XXL
7 p.m. @ Select local Marcus Theatres (Click here for tickets)
Wednesday, October 7: The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition
7:30 p.m. @ Select local Marcus Theatres (Click here for tickets)
Wednesday, October 7: The Ghost Goes West
7:30 p.m. @ Charles Allis Art Museum ($7/$5/free for seniors/students/museum members)
Thursday, October 8: Consuming Spirits
7 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema ($5 gen ad/FREE for students & members)
Friday, October 9: Coming Home, He Named Me Malala, 99 Homes and Pan all open locally
Check local listings for showtimes/pricing
Friday, October 9: Peace Officer in an exclusive one week engagement at The Times Cinema
Friday, October 9 through Sunday, October 11: Queen of Earth & Faces (35mm print!)
10/9: 7 p.m. & 9 p.m., 10/10: 9:30 p.m. & 7 p.m. and 10/11: 5 p.m. & 7 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema ($5 gen ad/FREE for students & members)
Friday, October 9 through Sunday, October 11: The Little Mermaid
10:00 a.m., 12:30 & 3:00 p.m. @ Select local Marcus Theatres (Click here for tickets)
Saturday, October 10: Chimes at Midnight
7:30 p.m. @ The Church in the City, 2648 N. Hackett Ave. ($3)