The Mexican minimalism of filmmaker Fernando Eimbcke

  • Article by: ROB NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 28, 2014 - 12:53 PM

Nothing — and everything — happens in the films of Fernanco Eimbcke. Get ready for his MSPIFF premiere.

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Juan Carlos Lara and Diego Cataño in Fernando Eimbcke’s “Lake Tahoe.”

One of the standouts of this year’s typically whopping Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival — a 17-day event that includes nearly 200 titles and starts Thursday at the St. Anthony Main Theater — is a movie as small (and sweet) as they come.

With its laid-back vibe akin to that of a sunny day spent lazing around the pool, the Mexican indie “Club Sandwich” (which premieres at the festival at 7:30 p.m. Saturday) gently sketches the effect of a preteen’s budding puberty on his clingy mom.

One could say that nothing much happens in “Club Sandwich,” with the exception of young Hector’s learning to apply sunscreen on his own — but, as any parent knows, such a thing is momentous. This is a minimalist film with maximum pathos, as befits the accumulation of tiny actions that a loving mom is well placed to observe and feel deeply.

Although Fernando Eimbcke was featured as an emerging artist at the prestigious New York Film Festival last fall, “Club Sandwich” is the writer-director’s third movie. Conveniently, his other two — both hugely worthwhile in their own right — are available for streaming on demand.

Eimbcke’s debut, 2004’s “Duck Season” (available via Vudu and Redbox Instant), was presented in the United States by recent Oscar winner Alfonso Cuarón (“Gravity”), who a decade ago admitted to feeling jealous of the younger filmmaker’s achievement.

“I changed envy to admiration,” Cuarón told the entertainment-news website Collider. “I find [‘Duck Season’] very deceptive. It could seem like something very simple, but it is a very complex film. It could look like 90 minutes where not much happens, and, thematically, I think everything happens.”

“Duck Season” follows two bored teens in the Mexico City projects, Flama (Daniel Miranda) and Moko (Diego Cataño), who order a pizza, refuse to pay for it and end up stuck with the annoyed deliveryman (Enrique Arreola), who won’t leave until they do.

As in “Club Sandwich,” Eimbcke proves a master not only of deadpan comedy (his style has been widely compared to that of Jim Jarmusch), but of observing minor incidents until they gather great meaning — in this case, of the existential variety. In “Duck Season,” a pizza somehow leads the film’s young characters to contemplate the very meaning of life.

Eimbcke’s follow-up, 2008’s “Lake Tahoe” (on Hulu Plus and Fandor), looks at first glance to be more of the same as it trails teenage Juan (Cataño again), who accidentally crashes the family car after his father’s death. Wandering around his Yucatán harbor town looking for help, Juan meets an old man, a teen mom and a kung-fu wiz, each of whom, in ways not immediately apparent, offers spiritual guidance more than mechanical know-how.

If “Duck Season” is mainly comic, “Lake Tahoe” cultivates mystery as part of its tremendous appeal. Its ultimate message — that healing energy can come from almost anywhere — is as rare as it is rewarding.

Also notable on VOD

The recent news that Disney’s animated musical megahit “Frozen” sold 3.2 million DVDs and Blu-rays in a single day proves that, despite the mounting popularity of video on demand, the disc isn’t dead yet. Of course, “Frozen” is also burning up the VOD charts, being available on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video and a half-dozen other streaming platforms for rent or purchase.

Watching this high-spirited family entertainment (whose HD transfer is stunningly sharp), one gets the sense that Disney might have finally heeded the call of countless critics and scholars for female characters whose triumph isn’t measured by their landing a man. Here, young heroine Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) is principally distinguished by her ability to thaw out her snow-queen sister, Elsa (Idina Menzel). If only Anna’s powers could be harnessed to evaporate what’s left of winter.

  • TOP 10 MOVIES ON DEMAND

    1 “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”

    2 “Homefront”

    3 “Gravity”

    4 “Dallas Buyers Club”

    5 “Out of the Furnace”

    6 “Thor: The Dark World”

    7 “Captain Phillips”

    8 “Nebraska”

    9 “12 Years a Slave”

    10 “Blue Jasmine”

    Source: Rentrak Corp. (March 10-16)

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