It's not really fair to plunge your audience into a such a deep chasm of conundrums on the first full day of the fest. Friday is a day of big films, foreign thrillers and nostalgic salutes and timely documentaries.
With so much going on, I have some tough choices to make.
The Ambassador To Bern
The 1956 Hungarian Uprising was bloody and brutal. For a short time those opposing the totalitarian regime held a brief glimmer of hope that they would be free from Soviet oppression. All of that changed however when Russian backed troops and tanks wasted no time in quelching the rebellion.
In 1958 two rebels take things into their own hands and storm the Hungarian embassy in Bern, taking a valuable hostage. Things become even more dire when demonstrators show up, adding the the already percolating tension.
This political thriller was screened at the Toronto Film Festival and won several awards at the Montreal Film Festival. The ensemble cast is outstanding. János Kulka is amazing as Ambassador Koroknai. Supprting him is Tamás Szabó Kimmel as Abel, the movie's fiery and passionate revolutionary.
Director Szaz Attila's gritty depiction of historic events is a relentless and intense depiction of this turbulent time. The film was written by Norbert Kobli who penned another great Hungarian film, The Exam (which also starred János Kulka).
If you miss seeing this one today you can catch it at 2 p.m. on Monday, November 17t, at Plaza Frontenac.
This Moroccan film is a riot girl thriller that stars Chamae Ben Acha as Malika, a take no prisoners woman who just happens to sing in a punk band. Desperate for money to help both her family and her band she agrees to a bit of drug smuggling. But Malika doesn't play by any set of rules and when she changes the plan things go horribly wrong.
Written and directed by Sean Gullette, Traitors rages against the machine and everythign else. The strength of the film lies in it's ornery protagonist who uses her own girl power to get what she wants in this empowering and energetic movie.
Well written and skillfully crafted, the film is captivating. Gullette is just one member of a cadre of hot up and coming directors in Morocco's burgeoning film scene. Acha is a raucous tour de force who carries the film.
Also screening at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, November 20 at Plaza Frontenac.
The evening brings two big hitters that are sure to be talked about by critics as the Academy Awards season approaches. Both films will probably sell out so it is recommended that you get your tickets early.
Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee taps some fine work from Reese Witherspoon in this adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's award winning memoir about a woman who hikes the length of the Pacific Crest Trail in an effort to overcome a myriad of personal issues. The script was adapted for the screen by British novelist Nick Hornby who gives Witherspoon's Cheryl a deep gravitas as she sets of on her voyage of self discovery.
If you have read Strayed's columns then you are undoubtedly aware of her keen ability to condense deeply powerful experiences into tight packages. Cinematically Wild retains the aura of the passion and intensity of her writing and adeptly transfers it to the big screen.
This movie is a pretty big deal. There is already some serious Oscar buzz for Steve Carrell (yes that guy) who transforms his appearance while completely reinventing himself as an actor. Co-starring is Channning Tatum, who manages to break free from the boundaires of his previous work with a great turn here. Mark Ruffalo anchors the film by acting his ass off.
Shown on two screens at Plaza Frontenac, Foxcatcher is a disturbing affair about the relationship between the very rich John Dupont (Carrell), a silver spoon eager to make his mark in Olympic wrestling, and grappler on the rise Mark Schultz (Tatum). Foxcatcher sees director Bennett Miller channel the obsessive suburban creepiness of American Beauty and season it with tragedy, melancholy, greed and uninhibited obsession.
Based on a true tale of social status, manipulation and inequality, Foxcatcher pushes all of the right buttons.
KING BAGGOT TRIBUTE
For those who like to kick it seriously old school I recommend seeing the double dose of King Baggot screening at Webster University. Before Hollywood had a 'Golden Age' King Baggot was a bonafide movie star. This native St. Louisan was the biggest artist of his time and his clout was unparralleledl in the film industry.
Tom Stockman, the man behind the Vincentennial, has spent the last few months singlehandedly willing Baggot back in the consciousness of popular culture. He achieves this through two films, one which he starred in and one which he directed.
Baggot stars in the title role of this silent film from 1913. Here our hero displays why in his era, he was a bad dude. With plenty of swashbuickling, romance and swordplay, Ivanhoe afforded Baggot the chance to solidfy himself as the leading man of his era.
Sadly, over a century later this King remains relatively obscure to the common movie lover. However, thanks to Stockman this King of the Movies is being given some long overdue recognition.
In many ways Ivanhoe was ahead of its time. Everything abut it is bold and epic. When you see it you instantaneouly notice that Baggot is an acvtion hero in every sense of the word. Dashing, gusty and debonair, Baggot chews up the scenery without a care in the world, giving a preformance that puts Douglas Fairbanks and Errol Flynn to shame.
The Rats and People Orchestra provide a live musical accompaniment for the film which has been wrestled away from the collection of the MOMA for this special screening.
Before actors like Mel Gibson and Ben Affleck dabbled in both acting and directing there was King Baggot. His films entertained millions of people while pushing the technology of fimmaking to new places. Baggot's editing style underscored the suspense and action of the film.
Tumbleweeds also resurrected the career of cowboy film legend William S. Hart, who like Baggot was the real deal in pre-talkies cinema.
Rats and People pianist Matt Pace provides a live music accomopaniment for the film.
As the weekned settles in, these are just a few of the tasty treats served up hot by Cinema St. Louis. A full scheudle and descriptions can be foudn right yonder: http://www.cinemastlouis.org
As we get deeper into the Festival movies will gain momentum by word of mouth and critical acclaim so get your tix early and go see some flicks!