Mia Madre (2016; Nanni Moretti)
By Daniel Barnes
The 39th annual Mill Valley Film Festival kicks off in about a month, and I plan to cover it here in a fashion similar to my 2014 and 2015 coverage. A full schedule comes out in a couple of weeks, but I’m already salivating over confirmed films from Paul Verhoeven, Park Chan-Wook, Ken Loach, Jim Jarmusch, Asghar Farhadi, Kenneth Lonergan, Maren Ade, Mia Hansen Løve, Terence Davies, Jeff Nichols and more. Meanwhile, some of the less glorified flotsam and jetsam from last year’s festival slate are finally slinking into SF-area theaters, following last week’s Ixcanul.
MVFF38 veteran Mia Madre is the latest soggy offering from Italian director Nanni Moretti, a former Cannes Palme d’Or winner (which is crazy) who puts out a new non-event every five years or so. Margherita Buy plays a harried film director named Margherita, a woman beset with challenges on her latest production, including the impending death of her ailing mother.
Most of the movie plays like a wet-noodle version of 8 1/2, with reality, memory and dream colliding in a way that only Moretti could make so pedestrian. All of the best moments go to John Turturro in a glorified cameo as the unbearably vain American movie star Barry Huggins. Turturro is in full Jesus mode here (he’s the rare actor who gets better the further over-the-top he goes), hijacking Mia Madre just like the stampeding Huggins takes over Margherita’s set. However, the film suffers when he’s not onscreen, which is almost all of the time.
In Order of Disappearance (2016; Hans Petter Moland)
By Daniel Barnes
Another MVFF38 veteran, the cheeky revenge movie In Order of Disappearance stars Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgård as Nils, a mild-mannered Norwegian snowplow operator pushed over the edge when his son dies of an apparent drug overdose.
Confident that his son wasn’t an addict, Nils pursues a lead to the real killers, and he murders them in cold blood for their crimes. Still not satisfied, Nils starts slowly climbing the ladder of the syndicate that ordered the hit, piling up corpses en route to a sleazy crime lord, and inadvertently starting a gang war in the process.
It’s a grizzly story told with a typically dry, dark Nordic humor (a death notice appears onscreen after every murder), but it’s also incredibly meager and surprisingly dull. Skarsgård gamely goes through the motions, but the script gives him little of substance to work with, as Nils changes from stoic family man to superhuman vengeance machine at the flip of a switch. The film shoots for Fargo and winds up with Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead. Shoulda made that left turn at Truth or Consequences, N.M..