Minnesota’s cinematic legacy mostly stresses quality over quantity, as I think seems clear from the list of the best Minnesota-set movies I posted awhile back. In the sense that there aren’t too many other Minnesota movies to choose from once you get past the 10 in that list.
But the ones that are there are mostly great. And the Walker Art Center must agree with me, or they wouldn’t have brought so many of them back to the screen for their “Location: MN — Celebrating Films Made in Minnesota” mini-fest.
The distinction between movies filmed in Minnesota and those set in Minnesota is worth noting if only because it points up to the fact that so many movies that were filmed in Minnesota are also set in Minnesota. It’s as if the landscape couldn’t possibly be mistaken for anything else; it’s another character entirely, especially in movies like Fargo and Sweet Land.
To that end, one of the biggest Minnesota movies ever — Purple Rain — almost sticks out in the company of all the other movies presented by the Walker over the weekend, thanks to all those nasty pick-up shots that couldn’t have more clearly been filmed in Los Angeles. (The waters of Lake Minnetonka, sure, but those sure ain’t the skyscrapers of Minneapolis.)
The best thing about “Location: MN” is that it doesn’t shy away from including films that don’t exactly portray Minnesota as a location to write home about if “home” isn’t literally here. Take Mallrats, which was filmed almost entirely within Eden Prairie Center. It’s not like it’s so much worse than any other given mall, but Kevin Smith’s incredibly flat cinematography does the consumer landscape no favors.
There’s also Dario Argento’s Trauma, which seems as cold and antiseptic as Germany seemed red and fecund in Argento’s masterpiece Suspiria. Shot in and around Minneapolis, the 1993 thriller was the Italian horror maestro’s first American production, and his seeming unease with the environment provides the otherwise by-the-numbers flick with some of its most potent elements. (The Walker is smartly screening this one inside its parking garage.)
Beyond the usual roll call of Fargo, Purple Rain, Mallrats and A Simple Plan, “Location: MN” also digs deep to come up with a few rarely-screened or -seen gems, like the 1982 Rain-predating Purple Haze, which turns the West Bank into a mini-Left Bank, and the 1998 indie Snow, sort of a frozen Before Sunrise. (Yes, I just compared Minneapolis to Paris twice. Je t’aime, Miniapple.)
All screenings are $8 (or $6 for Walker members). A full schedule can be found here.