Saint Louis International Film Festival: Films from Week 2

Saint Louis International Film Festival: Films from Week 2
Andrew Bird: Fever Year.
 The Fairy (La fée)
4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov 18, 6 p.m. Saturday, November 19, at Plaza Frontenac
Fiona is a fairy who offers Dom, the mopey hotel night clerk, three wishes when she purchases a room at his establishment. After two mundane, practical wishes come true, high jinks of all sorts ensue while Dom ponders his third. Fiona's powers, as legit as they might be, are little more than a plot vehicle in this French comedy about a gangly, awkward Belgian couple falling in gangly, awkward Belgian love. At its core, the film is a celebration of the quirk, replete with slapstick chase scenes, witty-ish banter and surrealist dance sequences (one of which may or may not implicate that Dom and Fiona fornicate inside an enormous clam shell). If deadpan humor is not your bag, look elsewhere; The Fairy is as dry as comedies come. But lovers of Amélie or Mr. Bean or, hell, Napoleon Dynamite should dig this artsy take on absurdity.—Ryan Wasoba

Andrew Bird: Fever Year
8:30 p.m. Saturday, November 19, at Moore Auditorium
Andrew Bird employs his three chief weapons — violin, loop pedal and whistling —with visible conviction. He also squints a lot. That's the bulk of what we learn in this fairly standard-issue tour doc. Performance minutes outnumber talking minutes maybe three to one, and the whole thing plays like an hour-and-a-half long one-sheet. You can almost see the bullet points on the wall of the editing room: Andrew likes to improvise onstage. Andrew likes to write music at his childhood farm. Andrew has hustled his way to success. What little narrative there is follows the musician through a year of touring wherein he manages to have a mild fever the entire time. His schedule is presented as a nearly suicidal undertaking, but 150 dates doesn't seem all that Herculean compared with his peers. That tendency to overstatement, of Bird's suffering most of all, takes what might have been an illuminating look at the life of a mid-level musician in the twenty-teens and turns it into a fans-only bonus track.—Kiernan Maletsky

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress
3:30 p.m. Sunday, November 20, at the Tivoli Theatre
You may think you know food —that is, until you see Ferran Adria and his staff examine ingredients with all the fervor of research scientists and explorers. Adria runs el Bulli, a restaurant in Spain often credited as being the most influential in the world. The seaside establishment closes its doors for six months each year in order to conduct intensive molecular gastronomical research and development. The result? An innovative and challenging menu and an intense dining experience (think "culinary spa") that is more easily likened to visiting a contemporary food art gallery than simply filling one's belly. Watch as the team of chefs experiment with various foods and meticulously chart the shortcomings and breakthroughs of their research. Hold your breath in anticipation of Adria's thoughts after each mouthful (his words, culinary scripture). Moan with jealousy after one magnificent dish after another appear on your screen, unattainable. Finally, try to resist the unshakable urge to book that flight to Spain.—Chrissy Wilmes

Film Socialisme
3:30 p.m. Saturday, November 19 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday, November 20, at Plaza Frontenac Cinema
Upon seeing Film Socialisme, you will belong to one of three camps — those who walk out after seventeen minutes in disgust, those who are flummoxed but politely stay till the end, and those who "get it." There is both nothing and everything to "get" in this perfectly discombobulated and nonsensical essay on European imperialism in three movements (or A Supposedly Fun Thing We'll Never Watch Again). Cinema is dead, says director Jean-Luc Godard, and here's proof: English subtitles only illuminate a third of what is said onscreen; the fractured missives tumble across snippets of a banal cruise-ship voyage, a llama at a petrol station, a girl meowing at YouTube, and Patti Smith, all of these interspliced with shots of exquisite bodies of water and glitchy camera-phone video. But there is genius here too: The sparse subtitles offer glimpses into Godard's leftist agenda ("AIDS is a tool for killing Blacks"), and he weaves a living historiography of Europe (4 August 1789, 1839 Palestine) in punchy non sequiturs ("Strange thing, cinema. Jesus invented it"), and wrenching shards such as "discover war once, life several times." Imposing as it is isolationist, you'll be glad you stayed, even if you never know why you did.—Diana Benanti

 
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