The Sneak vs. the St. Louis International Film Festival, Round Two (Saturday)

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SCREENSHOT: WWW.CINEMASTLOUIS.ORG
  • Screenshot: www.cinemastlouis.org
The Sneak makes a rare second appearance this week to continue her adventures at the St. Louis International Film Festival. See Tuesday's column for the first half of Round Two.

Shows: Stolen Lives, the much-hyped feature film starring local boy made mad, Jon Hamm, and Terribly Happy, the Danish Fargo.

Food: Some mysteriously bad beef jerky.

Difficulty: Surprisingly hard. Lines were long and in the open area of Plaza Frontenac in front of the theater, and a sold-out showing of Stolen Lives meant sitting in the very bright, very exposed front row.

I can tell you practically nothing about Stolen Lives without spoiling some part of the plot other than these two things: a) the description in the SLIFF program erroneously says it's about the discovery of the remains of a boy found buried alive; b) the last five minutes of the movie needs to fall into a bog.

OK, first about this buried-alive bit. I point this out to you only because it's not spoiling anything and it seriously changed my perception of the movie going in when I still thought it was accurate. Jon Hamm plays the tortured father of a long-kidnapped son; Hamm also happens to be a police officer. He has no idea what happened to his son, just that he vanished without a trace. He's prepared to do anything to find him when he gets a fragile clue connecting his current case, a boy found buried in a box 50 years earlier, to his son's disappearance.

This is basically Spoorloos with more James Van Der Beek.

Stolen Lives is no Spoorloos. For one thing, the kid wasn't buried alive, a fact which caused a hard reset of what I was expecting out of the movie about half an hour into it. The movie itself is a police procedural with all the police procedure cut out and only the moments of emotion that have little to nothing to do with investigating the case left in -- fitting because it's not really about a kidnapping but about a double-helix of deteriorating relationships, those that lead to one boy being buried (dead!) in a box in 1958 and those that result from another disappearing in 2000.

This movie's almost certainly going to get a wider release and become available on DVD. Rent it. It was good. Just watch out for the last five minutes, which make such an incredible, unbelievable mess out of what until then had been a tense and interestingly uncertain plot that it taints the rest of what was very good about the movie.

The Doctor, my mysterious long-time gentleman caller, had a similar experience in the theater, though with his snuck snack, not the movie.

Among his many generally fine qualities, the man has a required daily intake of sodium that would stun a bull moose. Frequently, beef jerky somehow finds its way into my bag when we see movies together, especially double features. This time, he ate some of the jerky, made a pained face and put it back in my bag.

After the show, he confessed that it tasted all right but that it wasn't in typical jerky strips but rather in cubes that were...disturbingly familiar. We are both now somewhat afraid that he may not be able to tell the difference between beef jerky and dog treats at the store.

The best film I've seen at the festival so far is Terribly Happy, a darkly comic Danish modern noir where all sorts of things have a tendency to fall into the bog surrounding a supposedly sleepy rural town that hides the dark heart of evil itself. This film succeeded in being the tight, atmospheric thriller that Ligeia was aspiring to be (see the previous column) and has the great ending that Stolen Lives was missing. The script is witty (via excellent subtitles) and unpredictable, following the twists and turns of a sympathetic police officer with something to hide getting involved with a woman who very credibly claims she's being physically abused by her husband.

There were more films showing on Sunday, but even God rested on Sunday and I'm not half as sneaky as the guy who invented marsupials. Yet.

Dara Strickland is a leading expert on sneaking food and drink into the movies. She reports on her exploits (from an undisclosed location) every Monday.

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