Movie Blog MSPIFF Spotlights: ‘Journey,’ ‘Useful Life’

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Tibet rock in "Journey of a Dream." (credit: Facebook)

Tibet rock in “Journey of a Dream.” (credit: Facebook)

Journey Of A Dream
By Stephen Swanson, WCCO

Journey of a Dream is a fantastic exploration of the Tibetan diaspora and the movement to free Tibet from Chinese occupation, all through the eyes of a globetrotting Tibetan heavy metal rocker.

Shenpenn Khymsar, who also helms this documentary, returns to his home of Darjeeling, India after a decade of pursuing his musical ambitions in North America. He discovers a passionate community of rock musicians that fuse both native Indian and exiled Tibetan sensibilities.

Khymsar parallels the yearning of the Darjeeling rockers to gain international recognition, with the push for mass awareness of the plight of his motherland.

The result is dynamic yet intimate glimpse into both the chronically misunderstood culture of heavy metal, and the tireless and inspiring Tibetan youth movement, which fights for a land and a culture that has been hijacked for generations. You’ll be seduced by the majestic Himalayas, moved and enlightened by the passion for cultural perseverance, and like it or not, you’ll even do a little headbanging.

Now that’s a night at the movies! (4:45 p.m.)

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A Useful Life
By Jonathon Sharp, WCCO

Droning. Relentless. Somewhat boring. A Useful Life is a film with a static, stoic and vaguely pathetic atmosphere. In the mist of its black and white, light-freckled display, there is poetry, irony and a slight smile of humor. However, even with these merits, the film doesn’t quite have enough life to justify its length.

A Useful Life is about a man named Jorge and how he reacts to his world falling out from under him.

After working everyday for 25 years in an art-house movie theater in Uruguay, Jorge has no clue what to do after his projectors fall apart, his patrons stop showing up and his business partners pull the plug on the theater’s life support. Faced with the reality of life beyond the theater, Jorge preoccupies himself trying to get a date with a woman he’s crushed on for a while. He gets a haircut. He goes to the woman’s workplace. But (spoilers!) not much else happens.

Nevertheless, the film is sometimes stirring. It does a wonderful job of communicating feeling without being sentimental, redundant or obvious. The film looks, at times, like a documentary, like life. Emotion wells up from a scene not because of what is happening in the story but from how Jorge holds himself –- how he doesn’t ever smile, how he paces the halls of the theater, how he looks like a marble statue of Pathetic personified. In this way, the movie’s story is told with the meaning on the outside, enveloping the tale and bringing forth feeling, as Conrad wrote, “as a glow brings out a haze.”

It’s shot beautifully and not without style. It just runs a bit too long and lacks the variety of tone to keep it engaging.

A Useful Life is directed by Federico Veiroj. (5:30 p.m.)

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Other Highlights: Thursday, April 21

2011 msp film festival logo Movie Blog MSPIFF Spotlights: Journey, Useful Life

(credit: The Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul)

13 Assassins, from Japanese cult director Takashi Miike, who was once prolific enough to direct something like eight movies in one year, and who now opens up the canvas (and running time) with this epic samurai thriller. (6:45 p.m.)

Windfall, which asks probing questions about the seeming no-brainer that is wind-generated power. (7 p.m.)

Applause, a very John Cassavetes-style set-up involving an actress whose life off stage is falling apart more gloriously than is her character on-stage is also the vehicle for maybe THE female performance of the year. Full review next week. (7:15 p.m.)

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All shows are playing at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. For the complete festival schedule, click here. An alphabetical listing of all the movies being shown can be found here. Ticket information is here.

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