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SLIFF Redux

Highlights from the second week of the St. Louis International Film Festival.

From Subway with Love (Filip Renc). If that plucky seeker of bliss Bridget Jones lived in the Czech Republic, she might be something like Laura (Zuzana Kanoczova), the 23-year-old heroine of Filip Renc's spirited comedy. When Laura discovers that the billboards on her train to work have been replaced by overheated love letters to an unnamed woman from someone called Oliver, Laura reveals to friends that she and she alone is the object of the mystery man's affections. Enter some vivid complications and some revealing flashbacks: 40-year-old Oliver (Marek Vasut) has not only conducted an affair with Laura; he was also the one true love of her difficult mother more than 20 years ago. Satirical and sharply observant, Renc's work represents another indication that filmmakers in Central and Eastern Europe continue to expand their horizons in the post-Soviet era. Screens at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, November 19, at the Plaza Frontenac.
Bill Gallo

Man Push Cart (Ramin Bahrani). Shaped like a relentless blues chant, Ramin Bahrani's hand-size film casts a watchful eye on an overlooked New York ubiquity: the street-corner coffee-and-bagel vendor. Whatever else happens in the life of Bahrani's Pakistani hero Ahmad (Ahmad Razvi), the rhythmic routine of stocking, pulling and tending the massive snack cart dominates his foreground. Shooting in a tiny unit on 35mm, Bahrani scans the treadmill so carefully we could do the job ourselves. Occurring largely during the underslept, four-to-eight urban graveyard shift, Ahmad's situation is dished out in small, teasing servings: He was once a budding pop star in Lahore, he has a son currently kept with his bitter in-laws, he's a widower. More vitally to him, he's $500 away from owning his cart, and the Bicycle Thieves schema of fragile subsistence economics hovers over his days. Coming armed with a small battery of festival awards, Man Push Cart is a diminutive film, finally — vying for a neorealist vibe, it lacks the Italian history makers' narrative urgency. Screens at 5 p.m. Friday, November 17, at the Plaza Frontenac.
(MA)

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