Shadow cinema

A roundup of recent noteworthy films that did not make it to local theaters



An impressive “shadow cinema”—first-run movies that reach local screens on video only—is again very much with us in 2011. Even with the moderately steady stream of noteworthy films that have come to Chico theaters, local film buffs can easily double their pleasure with the remarkable array of first-run foreign and indie films currently available via Netflix, Comcast On Demand and in local video stores.

Some of the best films of the year—a pair of artful action epics, a quartet of offbeat romantic comedies, several very quirky crime stories and some eccentric puzzle films from idiosyncratic auteurs—are included in the current batch of shadow cinema offerings.


Danish bad-boy auteur Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves, Antichrist, etc.) mixes satiric farce (a wedding gone wrong) and cosmic catastrophe (via a blue planet named Melancholia) in the story of two conflicted sisters. The siblings (Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, in contrasting edgy performances) draw us into the strangely oblique story, and von Trier’s bizarre poetic imagery keeps us fascinated amidst the resulting chaos. In English.

Romantics Anonymous

Two pathologically shy charmers, the bachelor owner of a candy factory (goofy Benoît Poelvoorde) and a gifted chocolate-maker (sprightly Isabelle Carré), fall in love in an amusingly elaborate and indirect fashion. The title refers to the 12-step group that plays a crucial comic role for both. French, with English subtitles.

The Names of Love

Baya Benmahmoud (Sara Forestier) is a young political activist who dares to sleep with her enemies as a way of converting them. Middle-aged Arthur Martin (Jacques Gamblin) is a risk-averse biologist whom she sees as a “fascist” and therefore begins to pursue. A very smart kind of screwball romantic comedy ensues. French, with English subtitles.

Ten Winters

Silverio (Michele Riondino) and Camilla (Isabella Ragonese) meet, again and again over 10 years, in Venice in the wintertime. Their on-going relationship is intimate, accidental and erratic, but it endures even as it changes. Bittersweet, funny, smart. Italian, with subtitles.

The Robber

Johann Rettenberger (poker-faced Andreas Lust) is a serial bank-robber who is also a top-flight marathon runner. A string of increasingly daring and desperate escapes produce a riveting and perplexing study in noirish mystery. German, with subtitles.

The Future

A young couple, dance instructor Sophie (Miranda July) and support-tech Jason (Hamish Linklater), decide to adopt a cat, and strange things begin to happen at their jobs and in their relationships. A radical combination of semi-surreal visions and absurdist domestic comedy ensues. English.

Le Quatro Volte

Michelangelo Frammartino’s stunningly rich vision of “The Four Realms” (or “Stages”) of all existence (as charted by Pythagoras: animal, vegetable, mineral, and intellectual/spiritual) is a poetic revery in a rural Italian setting. Superb cinematography and earthy lyricism put it in the best visionary company. In Italian, but the aged peasant at the center of it almost never speaks.

The Way Back

A motley crew of escapees from a Siberian prison camp in World War II must cross the Himalayas to avoid recapture. Filmed in rugged wintry locations throughout, Peter Weir’s fiercely realistic adventure epic gets full benefit of a very good international cast and a robust sense of ethnic diversity. English.

Essential Killing

Jerzy Skolimowski’s starkly intense tale of a fugitive Taliban fighter (a wordless Vincent Gallo) battling to avoid recapture and death in the mountainous wilds of Afghanistan. English.

Road to Nowhere

Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop) returns to form with an enigmatic account of a murder mystery amidst a movie crew on location making a movie that is also a murder mystery. English.