Saturday, March 29, 2008

Movie: Jar City (U.S. 2008)

IFC Festival Direct showcases foreign and independent films that will see limited theatrical release in the United States. For less than the price of a ticket, you can watch first run fare on demand. In other words Jar City, one of the best movies I’ve seen in months, may already be on your cable box waiting for you to press play.

An intense Reykjavik detective (Ingvar Sigurdson, whose superficial resemblance to Eliot Spitzer give things an additional contemporary charge) investigates what looks like “a typical Icelandic murder, messy and pointless.” But the crime is the gateway to a larger mystery dating back decades and touching on police corruption and scientific research, with a solution unique to the country where it’s set.

Baltasar Korm├íkur’s script, based on an acclaimed novel by Arnaldur Indridason, is a marvel of engineering, deftly weaving in a subplot about the detective’s pregnant junkie daughter and deploying an intricate structure that sneaks up on you. There are extraordinary shots of the Icelandic landscape and a haunting soundtrack of male choral music. Watching this movie is a reminder that there are countless American mystery novels crying out to be adapted in such a bracingly effective way. Act fast: Jar City is available on demand through the end of March.