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St. Louis Film Festival - Migoo, Jerichow, Guy & Madeline

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 17, 2009 - Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench, Directed by Damien Chazelle, 82 minutes | U.S.

An off-beat, often engaging mix of John Cassavetes and Vincente Minelli, "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench" is the story of a sweet but footloose jazz musician (talented trumpeter Jason Palmer), a Good Girl named Madeline (Desiree Garcia) and a Bad Girl -- or at least the Wrong Girl -- named Elena (Sandra Khin).

The musical was shot handheld, in black and white, on the streets of New York and Boston. Guy and Madeline meet and connect, then he drifts away after an erotically charged meeting on the subway with Elena (a terrific scene, by the way). Songs are sung, heels and toes are tapped and jazz is jammed, generally in funky if non-threatening urban surroundings.

The musical numbers are well executed, although the occasional bursting forth of a full symphony orchestra to accompany simple street scenes can be disconcerting. At times, as director Damien Chazelle cuts between Madeline and Elena, the story can be confusing. Just remember: Madeline is the young woman with the gap in her front teeth. -- Reviewed by Harper Barnes | Special to the Beacon


Directed by Christian Petzold
88 minutes |  Germany

In "Jerichow," director Christian Petzold explores the same flat, empty landscape -- and economic desperation -- of eastern Germany as his earlier film "Yella" and to equally stunning effect.

Thomas (Benno Fuermann), a penniless dishonorably discharged vet, helps a rich Turkish businessman, Ali (Hilmi Sozer), avoid a drunk driving arrest. Ali eventually hires Thomas as a driver, to chauffer Ali on his daily rounds of the 40-plus snackbars he owns. No surprise, Thomas becomes entangled with Ali's wife Laura (Yella's Nina Hoss), who is economically indentured to Ali, and who sees a kindred soul -- or perhaps an accomplice -- in Thomas.

By turns gregarious, violent, generous and jealous, Ali is no one-sided villain. A Turk, he realizes his anomalous position in Germany: "I am in a country where nobody wants me, with a wife I bought." He's easily the film's most intriguing character.

The recipe is familiar -- volatile husband, enamored lover and downtrodden wife. You may think you know where all this heading. You don't. -- Reviewed by Susan Hegger | Beacon staff

Mia and the Migoo

Direct by Jacques-Remy Girerd
82 minutes | France

An ecological adventure about a young girl who takes on environmental hostile construction crews and their baron-like employers, "Mia and the Migoo" (Mia et le Migou) is an occasionally disarming and always well-intentioned animated movie whose most striking features are those that distinguish it from American examples of late, especially in their current CGI/3-D phase. Its muted colors and attention to detail are far removed from the fast, slick and bold look of most recent animation; Whether they make up for the deficiencies of "Mia's" story is a matter of taste and age. I suspect that young children may find it completely charming, though its ideal audience is probably too young to read the subtitles. -- Reviewed by Robert Hunt | Special to the Beacon