By Jonathon Sharp

One of the best films to screen at the latest Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, Slow West blends a Coen brothers-like sense of humor with Tarantino-smacking violence to create a frontier story that’s hard to pin down and also forget.

Kodi Smit-McPhee carries much of the film on his distinctively boyish face. He plays the lovelorn Jay, a young Scottish aristocrat who’s searching the wilds of Colorado to find his crush, a peasant girl who fled his family’s estate after a deadly accident. Yet while the land of purple mountain majesties is often romantically breathtaking, it’s also full of desperate outlaws, hostile natives and abusive authorities.

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In one early scene, a bloodthirsty, native-hunting cop nearly pops a bullet into Jay’s skull before a taciturn bounty hunter named Silas (Michael Fassbender) diffuses the situation with a few well-placed revolver shots. Silas and Jay then become something of a team, and a mentor-student relationship ensues. However, Silas has hidden plans. There’s a bounty on the head of Jay’s sweetheart, and Silas thinks the lost romeo can lead him to her. Yet, Silas isn’t the only bounty hunter on Jay’s trail.

Gunfights explode out of nowhere, as do expertly-placed visual gags. Director John Mclean seems just as interested in making his film funny as he does making it beautiful. The film’s final third, a massive gunfight over the girl, is incredible and full of surprises. One of these surprises isn’t too good for Jay’s sense of romance: His crush isn’t in need of saving. Meanwhile, the young romantic is.

Slow West is playing at the St. Anthony Main Theatre.


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The secret to a long and fulfilling life, according to a new Swedish film with a very long title, is not to dwell on regrets but follow passions wherever they might lead. For the main character here, a 100-year-old renegade named Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson), life was all about blowing things up. He destroyed bridges in the Spanish Civil War, helped Oppenheimer figure out the atom bomb and even dynamited the fox that killed his beloved cat.

That last episode landed Allan in a nursing home. But on his 100th birthday, before they could bring the many-candled cake to his room, Allan jumps out the window and disappears. Hence the title. With the few coins in his pocket, he buys a train ticket to nowhere and promptly steals a suitcase entrusted to him by some skinhead trying to use the world’s tiniest bathroom. Inside that piece of luggage are stacks and stacks of cash, and Allan soon finds himself being chased by both police concerned for his welfare and gangsters who want him dead.

But the chase, which involves the old guy hiding corpses, making loads of new friends and riding an elephant, is only half the story. The other half highlights episodes in his life, detailing how his love of blowing things up got him shaking hands with future President Harry S. Truman, Franco and Stalin. Writer/director Felix Herngren adapted this tale from a best-selling book of the same name, written by Jonas Jonasson. The film has gone on to reportedly be the highest grossing movie ever in Sweden, home of the death-obsessed cinematic titan Ingmar Bergman.

It’s not hard to see why the movie did so well. Like its protagonist, the comedy plods along in a casually funny way. There are policemen who wonder if cadaver-sniffing dogs can tell the difference between a corpse and a 100-year-old man. Images of men urinating are common, and so are the slapstick gags of people being blown to bits or killed in cartoony ways. In short, the film is fun. It’s also refreshing to see a geezer set out on an adventure. Today’s youth-obsessed culture so often confines the elderly to another, out-of-sight dimension, but here, the 100-year-old man is a hero of sorts. He’s not drunk on his own nostalgia, he’s out causing mischief, making friends, forging another link in a long chain of incredible stories.

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The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared is playing at the Uptown Theater.

Jonathon Sharp