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Global Cinema in Montpelier

A still from “Flee.” Courtesy image.
In his acceptance speech for the 2020 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Motion Picture, Korean director Bong Joon-ho quipped, “When you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” His film “Parasite” would go on to win not only the Academy Award for Best International Feature but for Best Picture as well, the first time a film in a language other than English has won the award.

Moviegoers at the Savoy Theater are no strangers to hurdling those bite-sized obstacles of font in order to wade into the cinematic wonder beyond. This past month has given viewers ample opportunity to experience the best current cinema from around the globe, no matter the language. Japan’s submission to the Academy Awards for Best International Feature, “Drive My Car,” recently parked itself in downtown Montpelier to take audiences on a three-hour tour of loss, perseverance, and Chekhovian invention. Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar also delivered his newest Penelope Cruz vehicle, the twisty melodrama “Parallel Mothers.”

February continues the helpings of international fare. Two releases from NEON, the Dutch animated documentary “Flee” and the Norwegian romantic comedy “The Worst Person in the World” — both strong awards race contenders — are gracing the Savoy’s screens.

“Flee”, directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen, is a documentary veiled in anonymity. “Amin’’ is an Afghani refugee who arrived in Denmark over 20 years ago as an unaccompanied minor seeking asylum. Even now as a successful academic, he has to hide the true story of his life and family in order to maintain his immigration status. To protect his identity, “Flee” is told mostly through animation. Amin relays the harrowing events that forced him and his family to desert their home and the dangerous obstacles they faced in seeking a new one. Some of the more dramatic events are spliced with real-life news footage, bringing the weight of historical trauma to bear on Amin’s story of personal tragedy. This absorbing documentary is inventively told and sheds needed light on the lives of those forced to keep in the shadows.

“The Worst Person in the World” is the third installment in Joachim Trier’s loosely connected “Oslo Trilogy,” but it more than ably justifies itself as a standalone film. This delightful romantic comedy from Norway isn’t afraid to take risks with the form. Divided into 12 chapters, plus a prologue and epilogue, “The Worst Person in the World” explores the process of falling in and out of love, and maybe in again, and maybe out again, with all the joy, heartache, spontaneity, and resentment the experience can bring. Renate Reinsve won the Best Actress award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival for her deeply felt work as the impulsive and charming Julie, a young woman prone to trying on identities and relationships as she searches for the ones that fit just right. While the synopsis may sound like a minefield of familiar tropes, the execution is brimming with surprise and conviction.

“Flee” is playing now, and “The Worst Person in the World” will open Friday, Feb. 18.

Travis Weedon is a programmer at the Savoy Theater and the festival director for White River Indie Films.