Ongoing film series highlight Asghar Farhadi, Polish films, and great comedy teams

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For the past two years, I have been writing this column and it has been a great opportunity to write freely on different films, theaters, organizations, festivals, people, and, occasionally, television programs. The local Twin Cities film community, however, has been what I have tried to focus on every week. Looking at the Twin Cities’ upcoming film events is always exciting and often surprises, disturbs, stimulates, and leaves me wanting more. Since I first became a journalist, five years ago, I’ve been living my dream as I travel across North America bringing Twin Cities Daily Planet the latest interviews, news, and updates from some of the leading film festivals in the U.S. and the world (Toronto, Sundance, Chicago, Seattle, and Tribeca)—not to mention our own local film festivals, including the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival and the Twin Cities Film Festival. For next week’s column, I’ll be previewing the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival.

Starting this Friday, August 10, the Film Society of Minneapolis/St. Paul at St. Anthony Main Theater will be presenting the Twin Cities Polish Film Fest, in conjunction with the Twin Cities Polish Festival celebrating Polish culture and heritage. The Polish Film Fest was the subject my first entry this week two years ago and I have not seen any of the films screening at this year’s fest, aside from Roman Polanski’s 1967 goofy horror classic, The Fearless Vampires Killers, which is a hoot and laugh-out-loud hilarious—especially Polanski himself, playing Alfred, the bumbling assistant to Professor Abronsius as the two men are brought to Transylvania to help a women in trouble only to be hunted by vampires. 

Sometimes at “The Optimistic Pessimist”, I often miss other film happenings or I am a few days behind as this blog is usually published every Wednesday on TCDP. There is a great series on Iranian director Asghar Farhadi opening Monday, August 6, at the Trylon Microcinema and a different film screens every Monday and Tuesday throughout the rest of August. Farhardi’s name might have been unknown to most Americans until last year’s Oscar-winning foreign film, A Separation, but Farhadi has been making films for over the past decade and some of the films in the series—including the first week’s entry, 2003’s Dancing in the Dust and the following week’s selection, 2004’s Beautiful City—to my knowledge have never screened in the Twin Cities unless they premiered at the Walker Art Center or at MSPIFF. A Separation will be the last of the four films in the series to screen; I recommend you see Farhadi’s 2006 gem Fireworks Wednesday, which has a similar blueprint to A Sepration, but ventures off on a completely unexpected path that is both enlightening and harrowing. As an added bonus, all four of Farhadi’s films will be screened on 35mm prints, which should be reason enough to catch up on Farhadi’s extraordinary storytelling and vision. 

Last week, the Heights Theater and Take-Up Productions began another month-long series, taking place every Thursday at the Heights, called Two’s Funny, Three’s a Riot: Great Comedy Teams, and kicked off the series with the Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy buddy picture Way Out West. The rest of the series features the likes of Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, Hepburn & Tracy, and Day & Hudson. This Thursday, August 9, the Heights screens perhaps the funniest in Groucho Marx’s career (some would argue Duck Soup is his funniest film): 1935’s A Night at the Opera may be his zaniest effort and is one that will leave you gasping for to breathe as the laughs keep piling on throughout its entirety. The Bud Abbott and Lou Costello comedy duo have always been a favorite of mine and it should be a great evening to revisit the first of the duo’s “horror” comedy in 1941’s Hold That Ghost, as the two investigate a haunted house and other ghouls. The series final two films are bona fide comedy classics with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn in 1949’s Adam’s Rib as lawyers in love who spar against in other in court on opposite sides of the law. Even some 60 years later, the dialogue is still as sharp as it was when it was originally released. Closing out the series is the Rock Hudson and Doris Day romantic comedy Pillow Talk, which earned Day her only Oscar nomination and was also the first of three pairings of Hudson and Day. The others were 1961’s Lover Come Back and 1964’s Send Me No Flowers, but neither of those came close to the chemistry between Hudson and Day in Pillow Talk, with both of them sharing a phone line, which annoys Day until she discovers that she starts falling for Hudson’s womanizer when he changes his voice to woo Day’s Jan Morrow. 

The Twin Cities film community never lacks exciting film series, screenings or events each week or every month, and it reminds me as I sit down to write this blog that we don’t have the chance to see every film released in New York City or Los Angeles, but there are plenty of chances to catch different series that perhaps never play anywhere else in the country and I still look forward to trying to cover every single one in the upcoming weeks, months, and, hopefully, years.