From East Germany to Mexico City to Kurismaki

You know it’s film festival time in Santa Barbara when, on a
cold and soggy Sunday, you can map out the
dopest route between several films moviefone has never
heard of
. From late morning to midnight, the dogged
festivalgoer could take in The Lives of
, a newly-Oscar nominated German film about Stasi,
the secret police force; a cool and arty Mexican documentary,
In the
, about a bridge construction in Mexico City (as much a
profile of the working class as the project); the dazzlingly,
mock-doc reconstructed Inuit-meets-Danish explorer tale of
The Journals of
Knud Rasmussen
; and the happy story-crossing atmospheric
French froth of
Avenue Montaigne

Oh, and most impressive of all (for those in tune with the
director’s unique vision), we got a look-see at the latest from
director Aki (Man
without a Past
) Kaurismaki
, Finland’s Jim Jarmusch. Like
Jarmusch, Kaurismaki knows about the imperative of the
well-composed, unhurried shot and the potential expressive power of
gently-broken rules and expectations in cinema. lights%20in%20the%20dusk.jpg His new one, Lights in the Dusk,
about a hapless loner for whom fate has a pocket full of woe in
store, is full of his own brand of neo-Finnish-noir. Color and
lighting are worth the price of admission, as is the hypnotic and
formal pace and texture. Even this glum and tawdry femme
fatale tale in Helsinki
feels like a zestier version of a

Generally, Sunday’s crop represent the kinds of films which the
expanding universe of film festivals (reportedly now up to 1,400
worldwide) is ideally suited. lives%20of%20others.gif Which among them can we expect to find
in regular release over the next year? The Lives of
, an engaging and poignant history lesson about
East Berlin in the last gasping years before the Wall
, stands a strong shot at the arthouse circuit. (A
trailer from that film is below.) Avenue Montaigne is
a feelgoody tapestry, probably headed for an
arthouse near you/us.

Alas, Kaurismaki’s new one — not as strong as Man
Without a Past
, but stunning nonethelees — may not make
that public screening grade. But he’s one of those acquired
tastes and festival icons
well worth seeking out, coming
soon to a DVD outlet or Netflix near you.


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