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Movie Blog: This Week’s Best Bets

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Eric Henderson Eric Henderson
Eric Henderson joined the WCCO.COM web team in June 2006 and currently...
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Memo to those who haven’t seen Blue is the Warmest Color yet: the Cannes Palme d’Or-winning French drama’s engagement in the Twin Cities has been extended, and it’s now showing at the St. Anthony Main Theater. As critics’ awards start rolling in over the next few weeks, my hunch is that you’re going to be glad you took the time to catch it … and the time to learn exactly how it is you’re supposed to pronounced the names of its stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux. The film has so much more going for it than the graphic lesbian content that’s been netting all the headlines, but if that’s the only thing about the film that’s got your curiosity piqued, you’ll probably want to also know that the Mall of America is hosting a special VIP screening of the new documentary Bettie Page Reveals All. (Just sayin’.) Otherwise, here are the five best bets for local-and-limited screenings this week:

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Monday, Dec. 2 & Tuesday, Dec. 3: A Touch of Sin (Trylon Microcinema)

Jia Zhang-ke has up to now been known primarily for his philosophically direct portraits of China in flux, as it glides ever further from isolationism to a globalized powerhouse. From Platform and Unknown Pleasures through The World and 24 City, his movies have been comparatively austere, formally centered and politically rigorous. A Touch of Sin, from its very first scene, is none of those things. Well, OK, it’s still a heavily political work of art, but couched deep inside a four-pronged anthology of contemporary violence and the conditions that spawn it. Jia’s film drew its inspiration from the seemingly disparate sources of actual news items (many supposedly suppressed by Chinese media gatekeeperse) and the pulpy wuxia tradition — the movie’s title itself is a reference to King Hu’s chop-socky A Touch of Zen. Those who have followed Jia up to now will be sidelined by this hard left turn in his career; all others will likely still be knocked out by its dazzling violence.

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Monday, Dec. 2 through Thursday, Dec. 5: The Girls in the Band (St. Anthony Main Theater)
Whether or not you’re invested in this documentary’s coverage of the many -isms that female jazz performers faced in the swinging heyday for American big band music, there’s no doubting that The Girls in the Band boasts one of the best soundtracks of the moment.

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Thursday, Dec. 5: Sint (Theatres at Mall of America)

Among holiday entertainments, there are nearly as many Scandinavian horror flicks out there hearkening to the season’s dark roots in paganism as there are Christmas albums by Josh Groban and Charlotte Church. The Dutch shocker Sint may not be as well-known as Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (more about that next week), but it’s certainly every bit as bloody. In it, the ghost of Sinterklaas returns to a village to murder everyone in sight when St. Nicholas’ Eve coincides with a full moon. Directed by Dick Maas (The Lift), the film is screening on the day it actually takes place, so pack a mirror to watch your back.

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Friday, Dec. 6 through Sunday, Dec. 8: Paths of Glory (Trylon Microcinema)

The Trylon Microcinema is pulling out all stops this winter, and their series of underrated masterpieces from Stanley Kubrick is one of the crown jewels. They kick off with a doozy: his 1957 war epic Paths of Glory, which is perhaps the incontestable masterpiece from the batch of films he made prior to becoming a brand name (most would argue that period began with either 1962’s Lolita — which will screen later this month — or 1964’s Dr. Strangelove — which won’t). Many of the trademarks are all still there, though, including the perversity of institutions, the abundance of one-point, frontal perspective shots, and occasionally less-than-naturalistic acting styles. For the final scene alone, it’s a stunner.

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Saturday, Dec. 7 & Sunday, Dec. 8: White Christmas (Heights Theatre)

Confession, I think this movie is boring as all get out, but one just doesn’t argue against nostalgia, especially during the holidays. For everyone who counts this Bing Crosby-Rosemary Clooney-Danny Kaye-U.S. Military bon-bon among their most beloved Christmas traditions, the Heights is bringing back the song-and-dance extravaganza White Christmas for its 14th annual holiday screening. And there must be a lot of fans, because three of the four screenings are already sold out.

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