Films from around the world at the M.V. Film Center
Starting next Tuesday, Sept. 8, is the 15th annual International Film Festival, taking place at the M.V. Film Center as well as virtually. The 11 events include films from France, Saudi Arabia, U.S., Japan/Singapore, Canada, Finland, Turkey, Korea, Colombia, and Italy, as well as the juried competition of International shorts.
Starting off the festival is a delightful comedy from France, “My Dog Stupid.” It is based on the novel “West of Rome,” by John Fante. This film stars a talented Yvan Attal, who also serves as writer and director. Attal plays Henri Mohen, a miserable, midlife failure of a husband to Cécile (his actual wife Charlotte Gainsbourg). After one wildly successful novel, an unhappy Mohen suffers from writer’s block, and dreams of moving to Rome and leaving behind his elegant French hillside house with an ocean view, his Porsche, and his upper-middle-class lifestyle. Still living with him and his wife are their four annoying, twentysomething children, Pauline (Adèle Wismes), Noé (Pablo Venzal), Gaspard (Panayotis Pascot), and Raph (Ben Attal).
Much to the family’s dismay, a huge, floppy-jowled mastiff hound arrives and moves in with them. Mohen enlists the help of his annoying children and his daughter’s boyfriend Hugo (Oscar Copp) to get rid of the dog, who has parked himself on the sofa. But this goofy, smelly dog will have none of it, and to top it off, he has a habit of mounting the male members of the family and an even a local jogger, Daval (Sébastien Thiery), who happens by several times. Mohen is the only one not subjected to this dog’s advances, and he decides to call the dog Stupid.
What follows is a series of chapters that examine the family’s comic dysfunctions and misadventures with Stupid. In the first, Cécile tries to tempt Stupid with a casserole, but he grabs it from her and proceeds to happily eat it on the sofa. Each of Mohen’s four children depart for greener pastures. Gaspard, who has his mother write his essays, gets expelled and takes up surfing once his professor finds out. Raph moves in with his bimbo girlfriend Marie-Lise, whom he’s gotten pregnant. Pauline goes to live with her boyfriend, and Noé gets arrested and jailed.
After Cécile fails to kiss her neglectful husband, she is invited by Gaspard’s professor, who has romance on his mind, to lecture in Paris. Suspecting an affair, Mohen heads there, too, and Stupid goes with him. So it goes, with one ridiculous misadventure after another. Attal’s skill as an actor keeps this comedy entertaining and engrossing.
‘The Donut King’
The documentary from the U.S., “The Donut King,” formally opens the festival on Thursday, Sept. 10. Directed by Alice Gu, the subject is particularly appropriate considering the controversy that has arisen over President Trump’s anti-immigrant policy. “Uncle Ted” Ngoy, a Cambodian refugee, earns the title of Donut King. A major in the Cambodian army before the fall of Phnom Penh and takeover by the Khmer Rouge in 1975, he escapes eventually to the U.S. After he woos a Chinese-Cambodian and marries her, the film follows Ngoy to his arrival in California. The film describes how the couple adopt American names. He falls in love with doughnuts because they remind him of a Cambodian dessert, nom kong. After working at and then franchising a Winchell’s doughnut store, Ngoy builds a multimillion-dollar doughnut empire, using Cambodian help willing to work as much as 18 hours a day. Ngoy sponsors and aids 100 Cambodian families, earning the honorific of “Uncle Ted.” Despite his success, Ngoy becomes a gambling addict, losing everything and returning to Cambodia.
The family carries on without him, continuing a remarkable success. Their customers’ loyalty helps them fend off competition from Dunkin’ Donuts and Winchell’s.
Director Gu employs archival footage, graphics, and animation to enliven the story and fill in the gaps. “The Donut King” describes the success and contribution to American culture of refugees, in contrast to the current administration’s efforts to prohibit them from entering or becoming citizens.
Information and tickets for the International Film Festival are available at mvfilmsociety.com.