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Pie Lady Of Pie Town **1/2

by Andres Solar

Is it worth $10? Yes

Central New Mexico isn't much for creative nomenclature. Near the town of Socorro, a very large array of radio astronomy antennae is named the Very Large Array (more technically the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array). Similarly, up Route 60 a piece, a town where a dust-bowl era baker named Clyde Norman set up to make great pies came to be known as "Pie Town." When a city-slick surveyor came around, suggesting a less whimsical official name, Clyde told him "It's Pie Town, or you can go to hell!" Apparently, that fixed slick Willy good--Google up "Pie Town" and you'll see it's official alright. Nowadays, a lady makes the pies in Pie Town. Guess what they call her.

"Pie Lady Of Pie Town" is a straightforward, charming short documentary (30 minutes) that centers on Kathy Knapp's journey from radio advertising in Dallas to pie baking in... well, you know. The relaxed filmmaking style of debut writer/director Jane Rosemont fits well both Knapp's approach to her work and the easy community spirit of Central New Mexico. Rosemont also exhibits a taste for the weird and a knack for making the locals (she's a New Mexican herself) feel comfortable in front of the camera.

Visually, the doc is a bright, tie-dyed assemblage, and Rosemont, an accomplished still photographer, takes full advantage of the beautiful Southwestern panoramas. Sprinkled in are vintage snapshots of Knapp's family, including two prolific pie-baking forebears--her mother and grandmother.

Mother Knapp Munden was, in a way, the true pioneer of the Pie-O-Neer shop where Kathy and her husband are now the chief bakers. Knapp Munden insisted that she be afforded the chance to revitalize a defunct trading post in Pie Town, eventually convincing her daughter to buy the property.

Rosemont, happily, has no trouble capturing the scrumptious appearance of Knapp's stock-in-trade. Along with classics like cherry, apple, and chocolate cream, the Pie-O-Neer offers a staggering variety. Pine nuts, chiles--did someone say sour cream-and-raisins???--all get a chance to shine atop the all-important proprietary crust.

"Pie Lady Of Pie Town," existential in its observation of the townspeople and Kathy's love-life in particular, serves to showcase Rosemont's gently artistic touch. There are some too-sweet moments, and you'd rather they hadn't included the sides of corn. Oh, and WAY too many pie-puns! ("Love at first pie?" No. Don't say that.)

Ultimately, Pie Town itself steals the show despite competition from the array of 27 baseball-diamond-sized telescope dishes only 45 miles away. (Does anyone else think it's suspicious that the National Radio Astronomy Observatory that runs the array chose the exact spot of the 1964 Zamora UFO Incident for their massive system which can see as far as the outer reaches of the universe?) Not to worry. Even the inhabitants of Neptune can understand a 30 minute coffee break to enjoy this rich, satisfying slice of Americana.

Andres Solar reviews new fare with an emphasis on art house and indie for HOH. He would love to see Burt Reynolds in another Paul Thomas Anderson movie but understands that it probably “Ain’t gonna happen.”

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