Ulrich Seidl's Import Export, however, is a frustrating, labored (so to speak) exercise in misery. For all its prolonged exposure to two guest-worker characters, they remain inarticulate and static victims. Humiliation and degradation are rubbed into every overlong scene, to the point of disgust. We get that Austria and Ukraine are increasingly coming to resemble each other and that neither provides a decent living for its young working-class citizens -- a realization that doesn't need to have indignity after indignity piled onto it.
Finally, Christian Petzold's stunning Yella, which sold out at October's Mill Valley Film Festival, is an increasingly bizarre account of a young woman running away from her old life in the former East Germany to new prospects in West Germany. What at first seems like a domestic thriller (she's being stalked by a volatile ex) goes deeper when, seemingly free of him and blossoming in a new high-powered career, she starts being harassed by sounds and premonitions signaling a second ruin. Nina Hoss, who won the best actress award at Berlin for her performance, has the deliberate, disheveled intensity of a Jeanne Moreau. Her journey across the Elbe becomes something much bigger than escape from a failed marriage -- it's a primal mystery with baggage past the weight limit.
Today's screenings start at 1 p.m. with Half of Life.
Jan. 10-16, 2008