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Friday Flicks: Art Thieves & Bride Thieves & Dance, Oh My!

Written by M.V. Moorhead Category: Visual Arts Issue: March 2019
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Three foreign indie films hit the silver screen.

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Ruben Brandt, Collector—The title character collects art, in self-defense. He's a swanky psychotherapist who, thanks to subliminal childhood conditioning, is haunted by nightmarish visions of being attacked by artistic masterpieces; the tentacled Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid comes after him from the waters of Botticelli's Birth of Venus, for instance. Among Ruben's patients are the makings of a crack team of thieves, who set about stealing the paintings, by the likes of Van Gogh to Velasquez to Edward Hopper to Andy Warhol, from the Louvre, the Uffizi, the Art Institute of Chicago, etc. Riveting set pieces and chase scenes ensue.

This fascinating (not-for-kids) animated feature from Hungary takes place in an alternative reality itself influenced by modern art; the characters have faces out of Picasso or Malevich, with flattened perspectives and additional eyes or Janus-like extra visages. One of the heist team members is two-dimensional, giving him an advantage at sliding under doors. The team is led by Mimi, whose athletic body is topped with a long, cashew-shaped head, cat eyes and green lips, one of the more deliriously chic action-movie heroines in quite some time.

Directed by Milorad Krstic from a script he wrote with Radmila Roczkov, Ruben Brandt, Collector is weird and cool and witty and seductive; I can't remember when an animated feature had this level of visual appeal for me. Whether it's really any deeper, stripped of its graphic charms, than, say, a Fast and the Furious movie, I'm not so sure. But I'd rather watch this movie any day.

At Harkins Camelview at Fashion Square.

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The Wedding Guest—A Brit-accented Muslim guy travels from the West to provincial Pakistan, supposedly to attend a wedding. As soon as he gets there he arms himself, however, and we soon see that his actual purpose is to kidnap the bride, on behalf of an old boyfriend. The woman turns out to be a willing abductee, and the two flee to India to reunite with the boyfriend, but it need hardly be said that all does not go smoothly.

Dev Patel, no longer the skinny kid from Slumdog Millionaire, plays the title character in this low-key, brooding, elliptical thriller written and directed by Brit Michael Winterbottom, while Radhika Apte plays the purloined bride. The atmosphere is tense, and the dialogue is murmured, often in accented English, but it's not hard to follow the story by context, and the settings are intriguing, somehow simultaneously exotic and familiar in their low-rent milieu.

The story feels realistic in a way that this sort of noir material doesn't, always; Patel's character is quietly bad-ass, but he isn't absurdly competent and knowing, and the bride manages to have a shady side without being a stereotypical femme fatale. They're human, and I rooted for them.

Also at Harkins Camelview.

 

 

Impulso—Last year La Chana, a documentary about the famed Spanish flamenco dancer, played here in the Valley. La Chana also appears in the later part of this chronicle, from director Emilio Belmonte, of a younger master of theimpulsoposter dance genre, Rocio Molina. The 32-year-old brings rock and blues into the flamenco idiom, not to mention modern performance art; her charged, theatrically inventive performances are highly dependent on "impulso," or improvisation. Along with jaw-dropping percussive footwork and poetic arm movements, she uses freaky costumes that make her look, sometimes, like an insect or a lizard.

We follow her tour of Spain, as she prepares for a major performance in Paris. Late in Rocio’s tour, La Chana, still dancing from a chair because of a bum knee, joins her for a performance, and Belmonte captures their wonderful diva-like exchange of rapturously extravagant mutual adoration beforehand.

Impulso is highly enjoyable in its own right, but it's also a remarkable companion piece to the earlier film, in which La Chana's daughter described her fear, as a child, that her mother's ecstatic possession by her dances would destroy her. Here Molina's mother tearfully describes much of the same pain at watching her daughter's intensity, and it's not hard to see why; she seems like a pleasant, ordinary young woman until she gets onstage, and then she transforms into what her mother describes as a "monster."

Impulso is slated for a "salon screening" at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at Walter Station Brewery, 4056 E. Washington Street, as part of Truly Independent Films, a new monthly program curated by Steve Weiss of the venerable "No Festival Required" series. The early notice here is because 35 advance tickets must be sold for the screening to happen. Tickets are $14; go to nofestivalrequired.wordpress.com for details (click on "Upcoming Screenings").