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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. As a member...
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If you were hoping to get into this week’s Sound Unseen showings of The Punk Singer at the Trylon, you’re out of luck. All of the shows are now sold out, proving once again you have to be quick to get into some of those ever-popular S.U. screenings. As of right now, the Trylon still has seats left for this week’s “Underrated Kubrick” screenings of Fear and Desire and Killer’s Kiss (with the former technically being underrated by Kubrick himself, given he tried to suppress it for decades after his star rose). Otherwise, here are the five best bets for local-and-limited screenings this week:

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Monday, Dec. 9 & Tuesday, Dec. 10: Camille Claudel 1915 (Trylon Microcinema)

Take-Up Productions is doing blessed work this month with their “Trylon Premieres” December series. Out of the four movies they’ve slated, three of them are among my favorites of the year. (The fourth one, which I’ll talk about when we get there, is a whole ‘nother story.) This week’s entry pairs Juliette Binoche with the punishing art-house director Bruno Dumont (whose Twentynine Palms made me about as angry as any movie I’d ever seen at the time). Binoche plays Camille Claudel, the noted French sculptor whose family committed her to a psychiatric hospital following her stormy dalliance with Auguste Rodin. Binoche’s performance is simultaneously fierce and fragile, no more so than in the scene when she drops in on a pair of inmates as they rehearse Don Juan and at first snorts derisively through her nose, but eventually unravels into paroxysms of deferred horror at her new, involuntary constituency. John Waters nailed it on the head when he wrote: “Not since Freaks has there been such a harrowing pairing of a star (the sensational Juliette Binoche) with a cast of genuinely handicapped actors. Once again, the great Dumont proves he is the ultimate master of cinematic misery.”

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Thursday, Dec. 12: Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Theatres at Mall of America)

If last week’s Sint was the appetizer, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale at the Mall of America offers the full seven-course meal of dark, messed-up season’s greetings from Scandinavia. I wrote about the movie when it first arrived in the Twin Cities some years back, and it still seems like just about the ideal bit of yuletide counterprogramming this side of Black Christmas (that genius, genius proto-slasher flick). “With a sensibility that’s far more Brothers Grimm than Frank Capra, director Jalmari Helander returns the Santa mythology back to its early pagan strains, and ramps up his role as an enforcer for both the naughty (who he presumably kills) and the nice. … Helander’s scenario is dark, but not in the same jaded manner as Bad Santa or the cynical Silent Night, Deadly Night series. It’s more like a bemused fable from the Land of the Midnight Sun, one which plays by a different set of rules and feels all the more exhilarating for it. It may not inspire visions of sugar plums to dance in your head, but it will almost certainly emerge as a cult classic among those of you who curdle every time they hear Andy Williams insist ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’ while you’re standing twelve-deep in a department story checkout line.”

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Monday, Dec. 9 through Thursday, Dec. 12: The Sound of Music (Parkway Theater)

Whenever The Sound of Music comes on, typically I leave and heave, and I’m not talking about “a sigh.” I’m biased, though, having played Friedrich von Trapp for seven months when I was on the cusp of going through troublesome vocal changes. So where the rest of the world sees beloved evidence of a kinder, gentler era, I see a testament to my own kid actor purgatory. Still, you can’t say it doesn’t chug along like the efficient little toy train of family entertainment it is. The Parkway Theater brings it back just as last week’s live NBC broadcast starring Carrie Underwood reminded everyone how much they loved the original. And hey, if raindrops on roses aren’t your thing, you can always just wait until Friday, when the Parkway starts up an engagement of Vertigo, the best film ever made.

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Friday, Dec. 13 through TBD: Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? (St. Anthony Main Theater)
Noam Chomsky. Michel Gondry. Philosophy. Animated noodling. Is there really anything more I need to tell you? Aside from perhaps The Wind Rises and An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, this is undoubtedly the animated feature of the year.

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Sunday, Dec. 15: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (Heights Theatre)

In which an eggnog-logged Chevy Chase gets handed the baton of scary self-righteous anger Steve Martin hysterically carried in the Thanksgiving classic Planes, Trains & Automobiles. While at the time, the film’s slapstick cacophony seemed more crass than class, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation now seems more agreeable than obnoxious with each passing year, especially thanks to Aunt Bethany (absent-mindedly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in place of saying Grace, who passed away 30 years ago), the class warfare being enacted between the Griswold’s next-door neighbors, and Clark’s own four-alarm torrents of profanity when every little detail doesn’t fall into place for his perfect extended family Christmas. The Heights Theatre’s screening benefits the Columbia Heights Public Library Foundation. Advance tickets are available at Northeast Bank, Columbia Heights City Hall, Johnson’s Bacon and Egg Café and at the Heights itself.

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