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Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

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Annie

The new version of "Annie" is fashionably artificial and not very well directed, but its unabashed good cheer is very welcome.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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Sundance: "Laggies" and "Blind"

The morning of day three here at Park City brought about two wildly different films tangentially connected by a common theme: both "Laggies" and "Blind" offers a pair of female protagonists actively attempting to hold onto an element of their respective pasts.

In Lynn Shelton's "Laggies," Keira Knightley steps out of her period piece comfort zone with Maggie, a colossally unmotivated and perplexed 28-year-old who decides to take a week-long hiatus from her fiancé. She does so to spend time with a precocious high school student named Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz).

Despite the 12-year age gap between the two, Shelton's Seattle-set trifle operates within the confines of reality. Maggie finds solace vicariously regaining her youth through Annika. The two weave in and out of alcohol fueled house parties, staying out pass curfew and acting with the type of reckless abandon normally associated with teenagers. These seven days serve as a respite for Maggie who is constantly judged and condemned by her maturing friends who have seemingly left her behind in the dust.

Of course, Maggie fully understands that she can't live in the past forever. It takes the appearance of a charming Sam Rockwell as Annika's father to snap her out of her juvenile funk. A predictable turn of events follows, but Shelton continues to subvert our expectations by imbuing "Laggies" with a humanistic spirit. It's nice to see Knightley wax witty and Moretz not viciously murder people as she does with gusto in the "Kick-Ass" franchise. We'll have more on Shelton's latest in the coming days.

Following in the trend of vigorously retaining portions of one's past is the character of Ingrid in Eskil Vogt's "Blind". The aforementioned character has recently lost her sight, invariably affecting every facet of her life (chiefly her marriage). Trying to navigate a world without vision, Ellen spends her days attempting to reconstruct an Oslo she once new. To preserve some sort connection to reality, Ingrid begins drafting a sexually charged story of fictional characters she can speak through. Played by Ellen Dorrit Pettersen, Ellen claims autonomy through her imaginative storytelling.

Considering Vogt's hand in the blisteringly bleak "Oslo, August 31st" (he wrote that film), it's amazing to discover just how comical "Blind" manages to be. Vogt's first feature film seamlessly oscillates from bruising drama to uproarious Norwegian comedy with tact.

Two films down, two to go for Saturday. Next up on tap is "Infinite Polar Bear" and "Ivory Tower."

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