Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cold-blooded fun

You're right, Jimmy, the adults in 'Let the Right One In' are pretty awful. (I was tempted to say that they suck, but then I remembered all the hacks who hurl that word at bad vampire flicks, and I held back.) I'm intrigued by your description of the movie's apartment complex setting as "Polanski-esque". I'm assuming you're referring to the apartment that Catherine Deneuve got trapped in in Polanski's 'Repulsion'? I do see the resemblance, but I've also seen apartments like that in other Swedish movies that have nothing to do with vampires. Maybe that's just how they live in Stockholm and the surrounding areas.

I love the creativity in this movie; director Tomas Alfredson and writer John Ajvide Lindqvist came up with a chilling answer to the question of what happens when a vampire enters one's house without an invitation. Jimmy, you characterize the movie as mean-spirited, but on my second viewing I was struck by the sweetness of that central romance. Then again, I was also struck by how much laughter came from the crowd (which packed the screening room at the AMC Palace and gave the movie a rapturous reception) during the climactic sequence when those school bullies got all manner of comeuppance. Now I'm interested to read Lindqvist's novel, which this movie is based on. Apparently it's available in English translations here in America.

The film did leave me with a few questions: Was Lina Leandersson (who superbly played the vampire girl) really walking around in short sleeves in the middle of a Swedish winter? That idea just amazes me. Also, I'm trying to find out what the two kids said to each other in Morse code at the very end. I don't know Morse, and even if I did, I'd still have to translate the messages from Swedish. Readers?

Before that movie, I caught '12', a Russian-language remake of '12 Angry Men' by the Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov, who created a stir in the mid-1990s with his drama 'Burnt by the Sun.' '12' was nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar this past spring, but it's not being released in America until 2009. (And I'll say it again: The eligibility rules for the Best Foreign Film Oscar are screwed up.) I found this 150-minute film to be very Russian; many of the characters make a point by telling a story as a parable (something you see a lot in Dostoyevsky novels), and many of the characters have a unique comic tic (like the ones you see in Chekhov plays). The film didn't blow me away, but I was impressed by its intelligent writing and sturdy construction.

The showing of '12' was prefaced by remarks by festival director Dennis Bishop, who urged us to support tax incentives to encourage filmmaking in Texas, saying that "the Texas film industry is dying like Pittsburgh's steel business and Detroit's automakers." The comparisons smack of hyperbole, but I wonder if Texas filmmaking is indeed in that much trouble. I have noticed an uptick of recent movies filmed in New Mexico, including 'Swing Vote,' the festival-opening 'Sunshine Cleaning,' and 'Hamlet 2,' which was supposedly set in Arizona. Is Texas losing movie business at such a rate that we should be worrying?

Bishop also paid tribute to J. Mitchell Johnson, who's responsible for bringing so many Russian films to this year's festival. I profiled Johnson a few years ago for the Weekly, and it's good to see that his Russian connections are being put to good use. I still have a few more Russian movies to see, though, so I'll let you know exactly how good those connections have panned out. -- Kristian Lin

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