By Jonathon Sharp

A lot of power in a relatively small package, Tangerines is an anti-war chamber drama with the emotional thrust of a knife to the gut. The setting is Georgia, 1992. War has broken out over the independence of Abkhazia, a western chunk of land that hugs the Black Sea. Caught in the middle of the struggle is an old Estonian man named Ivo (Lembit Ulfsak), who’s a crate maker and something of a sage. The crates he makes are to carry tangerines, as it is both the time of harvest and of war. The battle inevitably comes to Ivo’s doorstep, where a skirmish leaves several dead, save for a Chechen mercenary, Ahmed (Giorgi Nakashidze), and a Georgian fighter, Niko (Misha Meskhi). Both suffer serious injuries, and the old man, with a hand from his tangerine-grower buddy, take the two into his tiny but well-stocked house to heal them.

Of course, the soldiers vow to kill each other once their broken bodies mend. But as they recover, Ivo makes them swear not to spill blood in his house. Over time, as one might expect, the hard edge of anger softens between the two fighters as they eat together, converse and throw cups of tea at each another’s heads. The fondness Ivo has for the two — one is a jokester, the other a quiet loner — shines through, and it’s totally obvious that the old saint has a dark, painful past. Why, after all, does he stick around this warzone, especially when his homeland is 2,000 miles away? Just for tangerines? No. Not really. The classical mechanics of the film, which make it worthy of the Oscar nod it got last year for Best Foreign Language Film, lead up to a climax that’s as startling and upsetting as a bullet through the bedroom window. Even so, filmmaker Zaza Urushadze’s anti-war message rings clear: One’s home and one’s people aren’t defined by borders, and bloodshed over such trivialities is pointless.

READ MORE: Minnesota Weather: Heat Advisory In Effect Friday Afternoon, Evening Severe Storms Possible

Tangerines is playing at Edina Cinema.

—–

When Belgian designer Raf Simons got tapped to be the creative director of the iconic Paris fashion house Dior, he had eight weeks to create his first haute couture collection, and filmmaker Frédéric Tcheng was there to capture pretty much the whole frantic process. With Project Runway-like intensity, Tcheng shows Simons working with hawk-eyed vigilance as his army of seamstresses intricately cut and sew his visions to life. Tensions sometimes flare between the general and his troops, but far more attention is given to the craft of dressmaking as well as Simons’ relationship to Dior as an institution. His vision, after all, is to dig up the house’s old-school Romanticism and prune it to flower in the modern fashion landscape.

To say Simons is successful isn’t really a surprise. The film never sheds much doubt on the Belgian’s abilities. If anything, Tcheng makes him out to be almost spookily like Christian Dior, especially when flowery bits of the visionary’s autobiography are read over sequences of the designer working. It suggests that two men are of the same mind, even though Simons is visually uncomfortable comparing himself to the Christian Dior. Yet, the fruits of Simons’ labor are abundant. The film’s runway finale is an aesthetic punch to the face so vibrant and beautiful it leaves little doubt that fashion, at this level of craftsmanship, is art. And just as Simons comes off as a superstar, his seamstresses are equally exulted. Their hands appear angelic, their efforts integral.

Dior And I is playing at the Uptown Theater.

READ MORE: Woodbury Man Charged With 8 Felony Counts Of Child Pornography

—–

 

From Eric Henderson’s MSPIFF review

There are longueurs that occur throughout French director Céline Sciamma’s new drama Girlhood almost as if on a schedule. These moments feature the central character Marieme (Karidja Toure) seemingly soaking in a privileged moment in isolation from her environment, from her social life, from her responsibilities. These moments, accompanied by a very Tangerine Dream-esque musical score by Jean-Baptiste de Laubier, seem to stand in stark contrast with the accepted wisdom that coming-of-age stories are typically presented via a whirlwind of forward momentum. That may be the case for a number of people, but Marieme’s options are limited right from the beginning. With an absent mother, lorded over by an abusive brother, and informed by her guidance counselor that her grades ensure she will not be allowed into high school and should, instead, pursue tech school and menial job prospects, she doesn’t seem to have any other alternative than to acquiesce to the recruitment of a girl gang. They quickly take her under her wing.

Normally, this is where a movie would emphasize the loss of innocence of its protagonist, or her increasingly skewed moral compass. Not Girlhood. Sciamma instead carefully and patiently charts Marieme’s experiences with Lady and the gang as an awakening and an opportunity for growth. Yes, and courtyard brawls and petty theft and, eventually, other shady dealings. But Sciamma’s eye doesn’t judge, and Marieme, to paraphrase the theme from The Facts of Life, takes the good, takes the bad, takes them both. It’s a character study, not a screed.And it’s a fairly gorgeous one at that, with luxuriant cinematography by Christel Baras underpinning the adolescent longing of these girls, and then externalizing their lifeforce with deep, sparkling compositions. And Toure’s performance as Marieme and, quite especially, Assa Sylla’s as her mentor/rival Lady form some of the most compelling two-handers in recent memory.

Girlhood is playing at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. 

MORE NEWS: Family Identifies Menards Employee Killed In Forklift Accident As 19-Year-Old James Stanback

—–

Jonathon Sharp