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Show and Telluride


Published September 18, 2002 at 4:00 a.m.

Anni-Kristina Juuso in Cuckoo
  • Anni-Kristina Juuso in Cuckoo

You can find Spain, Italy, Russia, Brazil and Scotland in western New Hampshire this week during “Telluride at Dartmouth,” the Hopkins Center’s annual showcase of unreleased independent and foreign film fare. The programmed six films are diverse selections from the famed Colorado festival, which took place earlier this month. The Hanover event allows serious cineastes to preview acclaimed work that may or may not eventually open at Mont-pelier’s Savoy Theater or the Nickelodeon in Burlington.

On Friday the international movie bazaar actually begins with a domestic documentary, the Cannes-award-winning Bowling for Columbine. Controversial director Michael Moore of Roger and Me fame and author of the current bestseller Stupid White Men — explores America’s pervasive gun culture in the customary ambush style of journalism he once used to great effect on NBC’s “TV Nation.” The subjects of his provocative interviews range from National Rifle Association spokesmodel Charlton Heston to Goth rocker Marilyn Manson.

Pedro Almodovar’s up to his old off-beat tricks in Talk to Her, a comedy-drama screening Saturday, about two men in love with women who each happen to wind up in a coma. In 1999 the Spanish auteur’s Oscar-winning All About My Mother showed that his typically wacky, gender-bending sex farces can also be sentimental. Geraldine Chaplin and choreographer Pina Bausch star in the latest venture.

Both Respiro and Cuckoo — on the Dartmouth schedule for Sunday and Monday, respectively — fell through the cracks at the recent Toronto International Film Festival, where the Hollywood publicity juggernaut sometimes obscures smaller pictures. Even wonderful creative endeavors can have difficulty capturing any strong “buzz” when dozens of celebrities are in town to hawk their high-profile projects.

Respiro is set on the Italian island of Lampedusa — the kind of place that probably hasn’t changed much over the centuries. A fisherman’s wife and mother of three, Grazia (Valeria Golino, best known in the U.S. for Rain Man), experiences devastating mood swings. Townsfolk determine she should be sent to Milan for treatment. One of her sons, the pre-pubescent Pasquale (Francesco Casisa), decides to protect her from this fate by staging an apparent suicide.

Writer-director Emanuele Crialese has crafted a modern-day fable that is, in fact, based on a Lampedusa legend. It’s got the grit of a neo-realist classic, despite a surprisingly positive outlook. Golino delivers a magnificent performance without resorting to clichéd depictions of mental illness.

Cuckoo, a World War II saga by Alexander Rogozhkin, features another unusual female lead. Anni (Anni-Kristina Juuso) is a widowed reindeer farmer in Lapland — not exactly a common character on the big screen — who takes in two forlorn soldiers. Veiko (Ville Haapasalo) is a young Finnish man who has been forced to fight for the Nazis but is left to die when they discover he’s a pacifist. Ivan (Victor Bychkov), a captain in the Russian army, is wounded when a Soviet plane accidentally bombs his Jeep.

The trio speaks three different languages, but that doesn’t stop these characters from chattering away — as if by sheer insistence their monologues will somehow help the others comprehend. Much of the film’s humor is derived from the misunderstandings that arise in this situation. The ideological Ivan persists in calling the sweet-natured Veiko a fascist. Jealousy also becomes a factor. After four years without a husband, the earthy Anni, an herbalist and something of a shaman, wouldn’t mind a little canoodling.

Fernando Meirelles’ City of God, which chronicles survival in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, focuses on an aspiring photographer trying to escape the gang warfare and drug trade that dominate his neighborhood from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Even the youngest children are doomed in this Brazilian tragedy — showing Tuesday — about life and death on the violent city streets.

Leaving behind the desperation of South American poverty, on Wednesday Morvern Callar offers an intense glimpse of Scottish working-class angst. The title role belongs to brilliant thespian Samantha Morton, who played a waterlogged “precog” in Minority Report. Here she’s a grocery clerk on a reckless European holiday — after taking credit for the manuscript for a novel left behind when her boyfriend kills himself. With a certain cachet beyond its Celtic credentials, Lynne Ramsay’s dark road movie might make a drive down I-89 worthwhile.

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