DU NOUVEAU CINÉMA
far, A & O film critics Robert J. Lewis, Sylvain Richard
and Nancy Snipper have seen the following films. Here
are their ratings and comments, always out of 4, reserving
2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional
film, 4 for a classic.
Robert J. Lewis' best ever films = (Io Non Ho Pauro (I'm Not
Afraid), Life Is Beautiful, Death In Venice, Babel, Midnight
Clear, Talk to Her, Days of Heaven, A
Long Walk, Amadeus, Secrets and Lies, Monsignor Quixote,
Babette's Feast, Fitzcarraldo).
YOU DON'T LIKE THE TRUTH (VOUS N'AIMEZ PAS LA VÉRITÉ),
Documentary. When the son swore, Diogenes (Greek philosopher)
slapped the father. Does it matter what 15-year-old, child
soldier Omar Khadr may or may not have done when, in 2002,
his Afghan training camp was surrounded and attacked by
American troops? "4 Days Inside Guantanamo" is based
on recently declassified interrogation tapes. It includes
riveting commentary from fellow prisoners and interrogators.
Is Omar Khadr, who was radicalized before he could walk,
Canada's shame? His father's shame? Our take on Khadr
defines who we are as a people -- just as Khadr is still
'sitting on the dock of Guantanamo Bay.' This is a must-see.
Nikolay Renard, Yelena Renard
Endlessly dreary docu-drama about an obscenely overweight young
man and the mother who provides (washes, cooks, bathes) for
him. Over reliance on artsy (ineffectual), static shots (some
of them 5 min.) and zero sum dialogue are affectations that
squash any possibility of viewing this film as a symbolic take
on modern Russia.
(and to great effect) inspired by Ethan Hawke's "Before Sunset,"
the entire film takes place on the terrace of a high rise
in Mexico City where a young man and woman, both recovering
from failed relationships, stumble into an excuse to begin
a getting-to-know-you conversation. Despite the calm the protagonists
would like to project, the film holds up a mirror to the self-consciousness
and anxiety that often overwhelm first encounters. Each wants
to know more about the other but fears revealing too much
of him or herself. In the awkward ballet that ensues, the
hand-held edgy camera expertly catches the curious eyes briefly
locking then looking away, the nervous swallowing and blinking,
and the shyness that wishes it could be bold. What is universal
in these palpitating encounters is exquisitely rendered thanks
to excellent performances from both leads who fully inhabit
characters that will productively linger in mind long after
the final credits have passed. This small gem of a film is
not to be missed.
A gritty, hard-scrabble film about an out-of-control,
tantrum throwing kid-going-on-sociopath who is sent
to reform school. There, he rebels against the very
things he's been denied his entire life: love and
affection. Is it too late to save him? This film is
as much an homage to the indefatigable social workers
who are there for these broke-down, unwanted kids
as it is an indictment of the pathetic parents and
milieu that produces them. Cinema verité that
doesn't miss a last detail. Warning:
5 seconds of graphic sex
at the very beginning.
2.6 -- HUIT
FOIS DEBOUT (EIGHT TIMES UP), Xabi
a category of well-intentioned, decent people who, through no
fault of their own, simply can't get it together. As a consequence,
they lose their jobs, their partners, their kids, their flats;
most end up falling hard -- into despair and isolation. The
lucky ones find (and find strength in) each other. This film
sympathetically follows the sometimes intersecting lives of
Elsa and Mathieu as they attempt to avoid being peripheralized
and/or crushed beneath the wheel of a largely indifferent society.
Credits to the understated but affecting performances from the
leads, and to director Xabi Molia for refusing the junk food
of cliché and sentimentality.
2.9 -- BALADA
TRISTA (THE LAST CIRCUS), Alex
de la Iglesia
phantasmagoric-symbolic dissection of the blood-soaked, Franco-informed
psyche of Spain. A film whose content is under constant siege
from style, spectacular sets and hypnotically arresting scenes.
Think Jodorworsky mixed with Fellini and a ladleful of Lynch
inside a love story of King Kong proportions. Nietzsche asks
what's beyond good and evil? In Spain, since Franco, good
and evil memorably captured in a damn good, damning film.
2.6 -- SUSA,
A drab film that unfolds in the country of Georgia.
Susa, a young boy, sells contraband Vodka to help
his mother make dead-ends meet. But the real story
of the film is the dreary, thankless day to day existence
where hope for even the smallest improvement in life
has been systematically drained of purchase. The roads
are made of dirt; everything is broken or broken down;
there's almost no light at night; winter coats are
worn both inside and outside. The poverty and despair
are as oppressive as they are palpable, throwing into
stark relief all that which we take for granted.
2.4 -- INSIDE
A social drama that takes place in Brownsville Texas,
following mostly young, perfectly bilingual Mexicans
as they endeavour to negotiate the American dream
through education, beauty contests, guns and drugs.
Film show cases several very good natural performances
somewhat undermined by a script that doesn't quite
catch the natural lingo.
2.0 -- WEBSIDESTORY,
Bucharest. A family secret is revealed, a sexually
compromising video is uploaded onto the Internet,
a girl is found dead, and Laura, young and beautiful
and in a hurry to become a woman, decides to take
revenge. The scenes are stitched together like a youtube
view of the world but the predictable story line fails
to engage because the characters don't come to life
(the interaction rings hollow). Warning: the white
subtitles come fast and furious and are sometimes
almost impossible to read against white backgrounds.
2.9 -- LITTLE
Japanese guy and his sister get stuck in small town, cactus country
(near LA) America. Atsuko (the sister), who doesn't speak a world
of English, falls in with a group who hold down low-end jobs and
like to get high, and decides to stay since everything has come
to her so easily. Is it because she's young and beautiful or are
Americans exceptionally friendly and generous, and how will her
eventual visit to the internment camp where American Japanese
were imprisoned during WW II affect her outlook? In the spirit
of "Bagdad Cafe" and the novels of John Steinbeck, the
heart and soul of America get another considered telling. Absorbing
small film featuring natural performances, a lyrical script and
catchy home-grown sound track.
2.0 -- THE
BELGRADE PHANTOM, Jovan
told and reported as documentary, in Tito's communist Yugoslavia,
about 'The Phantom,' who stole a Porsche and, through his
daring and superior horse-power, remarkably avoided police
capture for ten days. The film explores the conditions propitious
to the genesis of myth: the hard facts on the ground that
compel a people to transmute events into fictions larger than
life. At 82 minutes, the film was 30 too long.
GOLIATH, Nicolas Pereda
amateur film that examines the effects of poverty in rural mountainous
Mexico (near Cuernavaca). An obese woman is dumped by her husband,
there's a murder, a young soldier's romantic advances are spurned.
Far too many scenes were unproductively dragged out; dialogue
and image were often out of sync. Not to be missed is the totally
contrived non-ending of a film that shouldn't have been begun.
"Summer of Goliath" unfolded like endless winter in
in her early forties, and quietly losing her good looks and
figure, wakes up to a world that is no longer interested in
her: she can't find work, her kid calls her as a loser, she
likes her schnaaps. Who is to blame? The system that rewards
especially young and attractive women or Greta, who was too
self-absorbed to realize that one day her winning streak would
come to an end. Despite the occasionally contrived scene, the
film is effectively shot in bleached grays that tell of the
hard road ahead for far too many post-forty women.
211, Daniel Monzón
variation on the Stockholm
syndrome. A rookie prison guard gets caught in a prison riot.
To save himself, he impersonates a prisoner. Despite prison life
and prisoner abuse getting its predictable lashing, a solid script
and excellent casting make for compelling viewing: Human nature
will have its way both on the inside and the outside, just as
there is no circumventing contingency in life. The director, to
great effect, has studied his Eastwood, resulting in a film that
is a definite candidate to break out of the festival circuit.
Frears ("My Beautiful Laundrette,"" Dirty, Pretty
Things"), has lost his edge. And if he no longer has anything
to say, he nonetheless says it rather well, if feather-light
British romantic-sexual comedy is your thing. The dialogue is
hip and fearlessly four-lettered, Tamara, ex-ugly duckling,
post nose job, is every man's wet dream, all of it taking place
in the gorgeous English countryside that recalls the lush landscapes
of John Constable.
MATERIAL, Claire Denis
It's the camera,
like a snake we don't see but hear slithering in the grass, that
insinuates itself into the savagery that takes hold in (presumed
or analogous to) Rwanda, as seen through the eyes of a family
of white plantation owners who refuse to see (are in denial) what
is about to happen to their 'beloved' country. Sparse dialogue,
haunting soundtrack prefigure the horrors that will turn their
heaven on earth into another of the world's killing fields. Without
condescension, Maria Vial (aced by Isabelle Huppert) embodies
the sense of entitlement, love and attachment to place, and yes,
colourblindness, that characterizes the lover of Africa. The film
asks how DNA-determined is our propensity for savagery.
AND SONS, Carl
mix of interview and story that follows four families of fathers
and sons. It's one thing to combine humour with the seriousness
of life (Woody Allen), but it's another to use the serious as
a set up for the humour. Bessai, far from his best, reverts
to the latter, resulting in a wildly uneven and mostly forgettable
90 minutes. That said, there are segments that definitely strike
a nerve, a laugh is a laugh, and the dialogue is sometimes dead-on.
To the tough question, "would you like to be like your
father?" attending the film might be your answer.
and tribulations of illegal immigrants and the locals purporting
to help them eke out a living is anything but 'biutiful.' "Never
trust anyone who's hungry," someone says. The backdrop
is Barcelona (Spain), but it feels more like Mexico City, with
its teeming multitudes and the multitudinous poor for whom the
better life is a 'not in your lifetime' near certainty. Uxbal
(Javier Bardem), gravely ill, caring for two small children
(his footloose wife is bi-polar), is forced to make decisions
that stretch his conscience to the breaking point. Like in "Babel,"
we are made to inhabit decisions, both wise and unwise, that
have far-reaching consequences. The emotional intensity of this
exquisitely heartbreaking film derives from the understated
camera work, the cumulative effects of wonderfully crafted scenes
and ear-perfect dialogue, and the manner in which all the characters
have to negotiate the calling of conscience. In its quiet grandeur
and luminosity, "Biutiful" rises to the occasion of
Greek tragedy. If Iñárritu isn't the very best
in the business, who is?
3.1 -- WHEN
WE LEAVE, Feo
An abused Turkish woman with small child deserts
her husband and returns to her family in Germany,
only to meet with more abuse from the male members
of the household. She is told to leave, but her
ties to family are strong and she can't let go.
What is a Turkish man to do when his fists fail
to restore 'honour' to the shamed family? Should
the men or tradition be held accountable for women's
negative status? Spellbinding performance from
Sibel Kekilli more than compensates for the occasional
plot bump and a contrived wedding scene that briefly
disturb the flow of this heart-wrenching film
that doesn't flinch from showing both sides and
taking sides. For the many women caught between
tradition and a hard place, the road is long and
hard but no longer not taken.
2.9 -- SHAHADA,
young, devout Muslims struggle with the temptations of infidelity,
pre-marital sex, homosexuality and the expediency of abortion.
They look to Islam, the Quran and the neighbourhood Imam for
strength and guidance. The first fatality in this sympathetic
and challenging film is the stereotype most Westerners have
of Muslims. Even though the film is comprised of separate narratives
that stay separate, the near black and white film speaks as
a whole thanks to considerately drawn, complex and well meaning
characters that supply the vital connective tissue. Samual Huntington
coined the phrase "the clash of civilizations." This
small film illuminates the epithet with grace and insight.
SANS PIANO, Javier Rebollo
woman, married to a taxi driver, is no longer able to abide
by her totally predictable, mundane existence. When her husband
is asleep, she packs a suitcase, puts on wig and leaves, and
begins to live her fantasy where everything is exciting and
new and bizarre -- especially the people who thrive between
midnight and dawn. She learns an unexpected lesson about life.
Good performance by the lead (Carmen Machi) on a subject that
has been more than adequately resprised for me to recommend
this particular take.
shoulder-mounted camera has one mandate: expose viewers to
the hard truths of life in Manila (pop. 20 million) where
the living is never easy. The camera walks the unpaved, monsoon
muddied crowded streets, it enters the simple clapboard shacks
that house parents, grandparents and children, the stilted
hovels that line the filthy Pasig river that sluices through
the city. We hear the constant din of industry and traffic,
we're brought face to face with faces that have been ravaged
by poverty, dirt and despair -- and there is no respite. There
is only perseverance and resiliency, embodied by two of the
most unlikely protagonists you'll ever see on the screen:
a grandmother (a lola) whose grandson has been murdered, and
the grandmother to the murderer. The court has asked them
to attempt to privately resolve the matter. What unfolds is
a fascinating and sublime exposition of the concept of 'natural
law' -- the way differences were settled before the existence
of written laws and jurisprudence. In this most unsentimental
of films, we learn about human dignity when it is least likely
to prevail and the value of family under constant siege. With
"Kintay" and now "Lola,"director Brillante
Mendoza is to Filipino cinema what Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf
are to Iranian.
body is a river that carries away grief, says the man Aist,
who has just buried his wife and then consoled himself with
a sex worker, in a film whose every colour-drained frame is
saturated with loss and longing. In point of fact, he is joined
by the other man his wife loved, and they are burying the last
vestiges of Merjan (Finnish) culture that is being assimilated
into modern Russia. This is an engrossing, morose, haunting
film that pays tribute to the incredible range of cultural differences
and diversity we find everywhere in the world and for which
there is no 'rational' accounting. In its wonderfully weighted
sound track -- in particular, a deeply moving, inventive acapella
chant -- the film recalls the fascinating strangeness of "Atanarjuat."
gets bogged down on a business trip to his former city and
tries to make amends for the many loose ends he left untied:
relationships with his father and best friend and duties owed
to a drunk he accidentally runs over. A moody, lyrical film
that speak to what is universal in our regrets and restitutions.
L'ÉPÉE ET LA ROSE
(THE SWORD AND THE ROSE), Joao Nicolau Rosa
tortuously long, anti-plot, non-sequential film that is
bereft of reason and purpose. The non-story decenters on
boat that in true Dadaist fashion is going nowhere; it features
non-sequitorial dialogue amongst a crew played by negatively
talented amateur actors whose overall performance ironically
enhances the film's negative indices. If
it weren't for 15 minutes of excellent music and 30 seconds
of nudity at the 2 hour mark, this flimsy excuse for a film
would make a strong case for the introduction of double-digit,
negative integer ratings.
FOIS UNE FEMME, François
abuse is as ugly and reprehensible as it has been often treated
in literature and film. So the result depends on style, the
director's personal take on what he decides to leave in or
out, what will be said and left unsaid. As it concerns the
latter, not enough was said in a laconic script that struck
me as somewhat contrived, leaving too much space for the credibility
gaps to overwhelm what was compelling in the film, such as
the effective use of gut-wrenching close-ups. That neither
the horribly abused woman nor her 15-year-old son considered
reporting the assault(s) to the authorities just didn't ring
true. Thanks to the film, we learn that there exists a means
for abused women to legally change their identity and disappear.
Katherine becomes Sophie becomes Katherine is a tough story
that needs to be told and told better.
2.4 -- JUST
BETWEEN US, Rajko
comedy and consequences offering about a self-absorbed middle-aged
man, his ex, his wife, his kids and of course his ravishing,
sex-life enhancing mistress. The location is Zagreb and the
independent variable is the protagonist's brother's sperm.
The other ingredients are effectively integrated into a story
line that is nicely paced with a predictable ending.
3.2 -- SUBMARINO,
and Martin are kids, their weeks old baby brother dies on
their watch because their alcoholic mother is out (and totally
out of it) getting drunk. Years later, we meet Nick and Martin,
who have bad genes, badder habits and are living in the baddest
of environments. What chance does Martin's kid have of breaking
out of this vicious circle? Shot during the bleakest days
of Danish winter, and without a trace of didacticism, the
film cuts to the quick in making the ugly particulars implicate
the entire system. The film asks: should we blame the victims
(the effects) or indict the cause? What kind of intervention
is required to give kids a chance who don't have chance? Under
the disciplined and purposeful directorship of Vinterberg
and strong performances from entire cast, this film ranks
among the best in the genre.
2.5 -- CURLING,
find anything wrong with this film: flawlessly directed,
dead-on, engaging script, excellent acting. Yes, it was
slow, but lyrically (intentionally) slow, as slow as life
slows down in winter in rural Quebec. But to what end, I
found myself asking? Beware of the psychopaths among us?
From the outset we're teased with events that are never
explained: an overly protective, soft-spoken maintenance
man doesn't allow his 12-year old daughter to go to school;
she finds three frozen corpses in the forest but doesn't
tell her father; the father finds a dead boy on the road
but doesn't turn the body over the police; the girls mother
is in prison, there's a bloodied motel room -- THE END.
I left the theatre wondering when Denis Côté
will find a subject equal to his unmistakable talent.
3.4 -- ANOTHER
YEAR, Mike Leigh
and Gerri are a happily married, late middle age couple
who are enjoying the cumulative effects of making good decisions
throughout their lives. We take an interest in these otherwise
uninteresting people because they are decent and sympathetic,
and loyal to family and friends who haven't fared so well,
in particular, Mary, who despite her good looks and looking
preternaturally young for her age, is alone in life, and
is in denial about the reasons why. Mike Leigh, who gave
us "Naked," "Secrets & Lies," "Vera
Drake" and "Life is Sweet," delivers, as
usual, a pitch perfect script that fleshes out characters
that are at least as real as the people we know. We emerge
from his latest film exalted by the suspicion that we have
come in precious contact with what really matters in life
-- those bedrock communitarian values that vouchsafe our
2.8 -- ANNÉE
BISSEXTILE (AÑO BISIESTO), Michael
one thing to sensationally, voyeuristically depict S &
M (sadomasochism); it's altogether something else to intelligently
contextualize it. "Annee Bissextile" won the Louve
d'Or as best film at Montreal's 2010 Festival de Nouveau
Cinema. The entire film takes place in a small apartment.
Laura Lopez lives alone and is very much alone in Mexico
City, population 25 million. She sleeps with a lot of men
who never stay, which on the surface suits her just fine,
until she meets Arturo, who likes to slap his women around
while making love. She quickly discovers that she not only
enjoys the pain and attention, she convinces Arturo to up
the ante, and eventually makes an offer that most men would
refuse. And yet Laura, intelligent and professional, seems
not that much different than you and I. So what makes her
tick tic tick? We're not sure if she was sexually violated
by her father at the age of 12, but we know that she is
socially isolated and unhappy (she pretends to have friends),
which begs the question: Is being alone in life (the cause)
any more bizarre and unnatural than engaging in S &
M (the effect)? Aren't getting high (the obliteration of
feeling) and S & M (the intensification of feeling)
of the same order of magnitude in response to loneliness?
Michael Rowe argues that what we behaviourally designate
as weird and bizarre is the mega-city's confession that
its natural limits have been violated -- and there is no
escaping the consequences. Warning.
Sylvain Richard's best ever films = (Babij Jar, Man Who Wipes
Mirrors, Napola, Les Choristes, The Headsman, My Nikifor, Hell
in Tangier, Camaron, Who Are You, King of the World).
-- ENTER THE VOID,
An experimental film that is hallucinatory, the intent of which is to explore the link between drugs (mainly DMT or dimethyltryptamine) and death; loosely based on “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.” The film centers on Oscar and Linda, siblings living in Tokyo, who made a promise to each other to always be with the other. Oscar is a junkie drug dealer and Linda is a stripper who does tricks. One night, Oscar is gunned down by police during a raid. In keeping with his promise to his younger sister Linda, his spirit leaves his body and begins to roam around Tokyo. Along with visions of the Tokyo skyline, the past present and future blend as if on a nightmarish LSD induced journey. The result is a mish-mash of confusion going nowhere; the director’s intent failing to give any insight at all. A cinematic opera in the same vein as Stanley Kubrick’s far superior “2001: Space Odyssey.”
-- UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES ,
Slow-paced subtle film that explores the notion of the transmigration of souls. Boonmee is dying of kidney failure. He is visited by the souls of loved ones who have long ago passed away. First his wife, then his son followed by memories of his former lives. The weaving of nature with elements of the spiritual is tantalizing. A well-crafted film that is Weerasethakul’s most personal and engaged. Due to its complex nature and being steeped in Thai culture, the film is somewhat difficult to understand as are most of the films by this director.
-- TAMARA DREWE,
Tamara Drew returns to her village in Dorset, where she was born. She has a glamorous job as a journalist; long legs and a recent nose job. The purpose for her return is to fix up and sell here recently deceased mother’s estate, Winnard’s Farm. Handyman, Andy Cobb, is responsible for fixing the place up. She is also there to interview Ben Sergent, the drummer for the group Swipe. Stonefield estate is owned by pulp novelist Nicholas Hardiment and his wife Beth. It is also a retreat for other authors. Among the guest is Glen McCreavy, who is writing a treatise on Thomas Hardy. Tamara’s return creates havoc among them as all of the men are attracted to her. Overall this is an average British comedy in a beautiful pastoral setting. The performance is basically sub-par. The exception is that of newcomers, Charlotte Christie and Jessica Barden as love-struck and rebellious teens Casey and Jody, who took the limelight and gave the film a strong comedic element.
-- THE LIGHT THIEF,
Aktan Karim Kubat
is a remote mountain village in the Central Asian Republic
of Kyrgyzstan. This slow-paced slice-of-life drama is set
during the overthrow of president Askar Akayev in February/March
2005 -- often referred to as the Tulip
Revolution. The central character in this low-budget
is known as Mr Light. He is an inventor and dreams that one
day he will be able to supply electricity to the entire valley
utilizing wind energy. This father of four daughters desperately
wants a son. Because of his abilities the powers-that-be seek
to exploit him. As Mr Light is a man of integrity, he resists
them. The conclusion to the film is too abrupt.
Emotional tug-of-war between two ‘lolas’ (Tagalog for grandmothers)
found on opposing sides of the law. Lola Sepa’s grandson is
stabbed to death during a robbery. She needs money to pay
for his funeral. Lola Puring grandson is awaiting trial for
the murder. She needs money for his legal fees and is trying
to get him acquitted. This social drama is set during the
typhoon season and strongly shows how family ties are often
strengthened when poverty and hardships can be excruciating.
Clearly shows that a grandmother’s love will often disregard
the actual circumstances.
TANT QU’ON AURA LA SANTÉ,
A series of short vignettes divided into four parts (each
separated by title cards) that clearly inspired Rowan Atkinson’s
“Mr Bean.” This is the restored ‘director’s cut’ that opens
and closes with theatrical curtains. This was done as homage
to the films of George Méliés (1861–1938).
-- JUST BETWEEN US,
Social drama about a dysfunctional family. The story unfolds from the points of views of the five main characters: two brothers, their wives and the mistress of the older brother. Character development is weak thus the film fails to engage. The emphasis on sex is a bit heavy.
-- THE ILLUSIONIST,
A delightful animated feature done with the same style of hand drawn images and watercolours as his previous and superior “The Triplet’s of Belleville.” We follow the antics of Tatischeff, a magician, as he performs in cabarets of France, England and Scotland. As he always follows a Beatle-esque rock and roll band (it is the 50s) the audience of mostly adolescent girls dwindles down to a few elderly couples. The film felt a bit long and repetitious.
-- HITLER IN HOLLYWOOD,
Acclaimed and legendary actress, Micheline Presle ("The
Last Days of Pompeii") is being interviewed by fellow
actress Maria de Medeiros (Pulp Fiction). This was to be the
basis for a documentary on Presle. During the interview, Presle
reveals that her most memorable role was in a 1939 film titled
“Je Ne Vous Aime Pas” by unknown director Luis Aramchec and
that she would love to see it one last time before she dies.
The film was completed but never released. Medeiros and her
film crew embark upon a search for this ‘lost’ film and upon
doing so; they uncover the existence of another film by Aramchec,
“Hitler in Hollywood.” A deeply widening mystery begins to
unravel in this delightfully entertaining Mockumentary with
a who’s who of French cinema in cameo roles commenting on
the impact of Hollywood on the French Film industry.
-- THE HEADLESS FAMILY,
Campy and twisted Thai comedy about a family of three suburbanites. The mother is neurotic and she throws fried eggs at her husband and son for their lunches at work/school. The husband is an executive who enjoys playing lame jokes on his co-workers. The son has been voted the most handsome boy in school. For their vacation in Kanchanaburi, they take the train. To get a better view they sit on top of the passenger car ... upon returning home they realize that they have been decapitated. At first they try and keep this hidden but due to circumstances and nosy neighbours they gain notoriety and fame. This is a hilariously entertaining film in an absurd way.
Twelve-year-old Julyvonne lives with her father (played by
Philomene & Emmanuel Bilodeau respectively) in an isolated
home deep in the woods. He works at a bowling alley and a
local motel and basically keeps to himself. Julyvonne doesn`t
go to school, so during the day she wanders off into the woods
and discovers strange things. The performance of the two leads
is great but the direction and script is loose. The film was
replete with disconnected and unexplainable imagery.
Set in the early 60s in the Pigalle,
this is the story of George (wonderfully played by Lou
Doillon), who being haunted by the suicide of her first lover,
dons the look of a tomboy. She becomes known as Gigola. Keeping
the `girls` who work for her in line and fending off the threats
of the Mafia, she resists falling in love again and maintaining
her tough exterior. The set design, costumes and cabaret style
songs exquisitely capture the night life era in Pigalle, Paris.
-- MUSIC FROM THE BIG HOUSE,
Chiarelli has been dubbed the Canadian Goddess of
the Blues by CBC’s Shelagh Rogers. This gritty soulful documentary
chronicles her encounter with inmates of the notorious Louisiana
maximum security penitentiary of Angola Prison. What conceptually
began as an exploration of the birth of the blues, this project
evolved into preparing of a concert featuring three groups
of musicians who are all serving life. The result is an insightful
examination of the power of music in bringing hope and salvation
even to those who find themselves in extremely harsh conditions.
The example of Leadbelly was mentioned.
-- LIGNES DE VIE,
Set in the lush Thai jungle this is an atypical film. The
central character is a Eurasian palm reader who aspires to
become a Shaman. One day he encounters Nok, a young woman
possessed with supernatural powers. She is battling a powerful
wizard. He learns that a bloodsucking serial killer named
Pol is stalking the countryside. He decides to pursue him.
In conclusion, this is a strange and uneventful film that
only suggests shamanistic mysticism.
German Gutierrez, Carmen Garcia
Portrait of Quebec film maker Pierre Falardeau (Octobre, Elvis
Gratton), who passed away September 25th 2009. This documentary
combines clips from his works, interviews with Falardeau and
commentaries from his friends and associates. His political
views regarding Quebec separation are evident throughout his
films. Being a strong advocate for separation and desire to
be free of all constraints, Falardeau faced strong resistance
from censorship committees.
-- LES MAINS EN L’AIR (HANDS UP),
An original take on a common social problem, this film opens
in the year 2067, with a woman named Milana, who is reminiscing
about her life as a child circa 2008. She was part of a gang
of unruly kids who trafficked in pirated DVDs. When French
immigration authorities begin to crack down on those without
valid papers and one of her friends is deported, Milana fears
that she is next. She and her family are originally from Chechnya.
To protect her, Blaise, her best friend claims her as his
sister and his mother takes Milana under her care. The performances
by the child actors made this a delightful, light-hearted
film dealing with a universal and difficult subject. Many
children around the world live without valid papers, facing
deportation and or separation from their family and friends.
-- DEUX FOIS UNE FEMME (TWICE A WOMAN),
The harrowing story of one woman’s, Catherine ( Évelyne Rompré),
journey from darkness into light as she flees from her abusive
husband (Marc Béland). The film opens upon Catherine suffering
a particularly brutal assault that lands her in a hospital
bed. A nurse (Marie Brassard), perceiving that she is a battered
woman, gives her a phone number. Though she lives in fear
of what her husband would do, Catherine calls the number and
is told that if she follows what is instructed she can escape
her husband and start a new life for both her and her teenage
son. As in a witness protection program, she and her son take
on a new identity and move to a remote community near the
Ontario border. The principal roles were played with an impressive
range and sensitivity.
-- HOMME AU BAIN (MAN AT BATH),
An utterly pointless soft gay porn that has an excessive fetish focus on the male body, especially that of François Sagat who plays Emmanuel. Emmanuel and Omar are cohabiting lovers. They live in Gennevilliers, a commune in the north-western suburbs of Paris. Omar goes to New York to film a documentary. Emmanuel remains behind. To ease his loneliness, he goes from one encounter to the next.
-- LOVE ON THE BEAT,
Bertrand Bonello, Frank Beauvais ,Louis Garrel
Three short films about love as seen by the French. In Bonello’s
“Where the Boys Are,” four young women dream about their ideal
man as a mosque is being constructed in front of their apartment
block. The song of the same name serves as a backdrop. Beauvais’
“Guitare de Diamants,” set in an isolated French village,
is about an American folk singer passing through who connects
with a local singer. Garrel’s “Petit Tailleur” centers on
Arthur, an apprentice for a tailor, who arrives at a crossroad
when he meets an actress.
-- UN GARCON FRAGILE – LE PROJET FRANKENSTEIN (TENDER SON – THE FRANKENSTEIN PROJECT),
Rudolph was abandoned by his parents and placed in an orphanage. Now a young man, he wanders into a casting session. The director, who turns out to be his father, is drawn to his expressionless features and instructs Rudolph to shoot his own screen test. This leads to a series of disastrous results, the first being that Rudolph strangles his own co-star. A slow-moving psycho-social thriller that pays homage to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and explores the concept that the paths we follow in life have been set in our childhood.
-- NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT,
The Atacama Desert in Northern Chile is the one place on Earth where the past is most easily accessible. This fascinating and educational film documents three distinct groups who converge in this desert to explore the past in order to answer questions of and to better understand the present. Astronomers search the heavens to find clues as to our cosmic origins and the answer to this age-old question ‘Why are we here?’ that both scientists and theologians have been debating about throughout all of human history. Archaeologists dig the surface to find the origins of life. Finally, loved ones of those who disappeared during the Pinochet regime search the sands for fragments of bones -- a foot, a hand, part of the skull etc -- to give them the peace of mind of closure. Combining beautiful celestial cinematography with interviews this documentary is a profound study of the nature of man and his place in the universe.
-- JO POUR JONATHAN,
Living in the shadow of his older brother Thomas, Jonathan (Jo) secretly envies him. Thomas has everything his younger brother doesn’t: a car, girlfriend and respect. To prove himself, Jo takes his brother`s car for an illegal race. The ensuing result is disastrous. A well acted and scripted film about youth trying to find their place in society.
A fascinating and intimate portrait of individuals from First Nation who refuse to succumb to the stereotyped image of a peoples who have been victimized. They have taken the position to educate themselves and take personal responsibility for their own well being.
-- SOLUTIONS LOCALES POUR UN DÉSORDRE GLOBALE,
Talking-heads documentary whereby various experts, specialists and visionaries discuss the impending global disaster that would be due to the so-called `Green Revolution.` The solutions presented are those of a local nature but their scope is international. Alternative solutions developed in Ukraine, Brazil, India and France are examined. I would have rated this 3.6 due to the urgency of the subject matter but the use of voice-overs in certain passages rather than subtitles the impact of the message weakened the impact of the message
-- VOUS ÊTES TOUS DES CAPITAINES,
The director himself plays the role of a director/instructor who arrives at a Tangier social center to craft a film that portrays the day to day concerns of Moroccan life as seen through the eyes of the street kids who reside there. By filming in black and white and letting the kids film, the director has effectively blends the line between fiction and real life. The children are really residents of the center and this is their first experience in film making and for this young director a promising debut.
-- HUIT FOIS DEBOUT (EIGHT TIMES UP),
Bitter-sweet social comedy that centers upon two individuals looking for jobs and facing eviction from their apartments. They are next door neighbours. Elsa (Julie Gayet) is a single mom, whose ten-year-old son in living with her mother and Mathieu (Denis Podalydès; performed with exquisite subtlety giving the film its comedic content) has bizarre concepts that result in his job interviews failing. A strong poetic element permeates the film throughout. The director’s intent was to create a sympathetic and deeply personal ode to losers taking vengeance upon society. The film fails to live up to this due a loosely edited and weak script.
-- 10 1/2,
This second film by Daniel Grou (aka Podz) is a marked improvement over his first “7 Jours de Talion”. Centers on a ten-and-a-half-year-old boy named Tommy. After an incident with a younger boy, he is sent to a juvenile correction center. Having been abandoned by his parents and frequently neglected, Tommy is prone to frequent fits of extreme anger and violence. All of his teachers except Gilles, consider him a lost cause. Gilles sees in Tommy a glimmer of hope and thus with a sense of religious determination and devotion attempts to try and break through Tommy’s rebellious spirit. Will Gilles succeed in doing so and bringing Tommy back to society or is Tommy truly a lost cause, elusive and untameable? Robert Naylor as Tommy and Claude Legault as Gilles, both give outstanding performances and exhibit a natural bond between them. This is Robert Naylor’s first leading role and shows a strong potential to become one of Quebec’s leading actors in the years to come. The film could have been improved with tighter direction and editing.
Credible portrait of international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez,
a contemporary revolutionary figure, a mercenary and a veritable
myth. This film is a dramatization of his ‘career’ based on
historic documentation and news releases. Film begins with the
assassination of Mohammed Boudia, the representative of the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Paris,
on June 28th, 1973. It pivots with the December 1975 hostage
takings of the OPEC ministers at a conference in Vienna. The
mission is led by Carlos, whose notoriety is gaining him mythic
status. The film ends on August 14th while Carlos is in the
hospital in Khartoum, Sudan. Agents of the DST (Directorate
of Territorial Security, in France) take him and put on a plane
bound for Paris. He is later incarcerated for the murder of
two of its agents. The role of Carlos is brilliantly and credibly
portrayed by Edgar Ramirez. The original version was a TV miniseries
of three parts that totaled 319 min. For the big screen the
film has been pared down to 160 min and the resulting gaps in
the flow of the narration are apparent, even if one had not
viewed the series. The use of 120 native actors speaking seven
languages effectively captures the political intrigue of the
cold war era.
YOU DON’T LIKE THE TRUTH (VOUS N’AIMEZ PAS LA VÉRITÉ),
Patricio Henriquez, Luc Côté
presentation of the recently de-classified video-taping of the
four day interrogation of Omar Ahmed Khadr by the Canadian Security
Intelligence Service (CSIS) in 2003. In July of 2002, Omar was
arrested and accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan.
He was convicted and subsequently incarcerated in Guantanamo.
He is a Canadian citizen. This documentary clearly shows the insensitivity
of the CSIS agents, who conducted the interrogation, towards the
emotional, psychological and physical pain that this young man
was subjected to. Omar Khadr has been classified as a child soldier.
Nikolai Renard, Yelena Renard
lives with her grossly over-weight son in a humble little flat.
She takes care of all of his daily needs: feeding, washing and
dressing him. Basically the son is helpless and has never learned
to take care of himself. Apart from a brief radio news flash
of a fatal plane crash, the film has no dialogue, making the
synopsis and purpose difficult to determine. Even though the
film’s length is short (71 min), due to the lack of action,
and, most importantly, its emotional vacuum, I was desperate
for this endless drag of a film to end.
Nancy Snipper's all-time favourite films are:The Island (Paul
Cox); Dog Star (Akira Kurosawa); Ceux qui m’aiment prendront
le train (Patrice Chéreau); El Hijo de la Novia (Juan
José Campanella); Cleopatra (Juan José Campanella);
Les Choristes (Cristophe Barratier); The Seventh Sign (Carl
Schultz); Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg); Wallace
and Gromit series (Nick Park); Avatar (James Cameron).
NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT ,
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Over Chile's vast Atacama Desert the universe spreads out its glorious bounty of unbelievably stunning constellations. They are peaceful beacons that sparkle brilliantly in the jet black sky. These celestial bodies exude exquisite mysteries, as the lenses of huge telescopes capture their magic as astronomers study them. These telescopes are housed in tranquil observatories. Their white domes seem to smile as they strike a comical pose against the desert's burnt orange sands during the day. But their elegance is overshadowed by something so ominous, so monstrous. This desert also holds another mystery, and it rests within the dark recesses buried deep in the sands of time. Here lies bodies; they do not shine celestial. They are the remains that tell of torture under the Pinochet junta. Now, decades later, mothers tread onto the desert, trowel in hand, digging in desperation and despair, as they sift through the silent sand, hoping to find a piece of bone, a sock, a pendant that tells an aged mother, "This is my son, I have found him." But what some find, a foot or a hand becomes treasured keepsakes that remind them of their beloved. Yes, this is what they come for, to try to piece together a child and a past with their child in it, free and in the flesh. The desert has united astronomer and grieving mother. One such astronomer working in the observatory is a young woman whose parents were killed by Pinochet, painfully sacrificed by her own grandparents in order to save her -- their granddaughter. But this young woman tells us that stars have the same calcium found in humans, and so she believes that her parents are up there, immortal -- their presence felt. Somehow, she senses them when studying the stars. They also give her a feeling of peace. At the end of this poetic film, one astronomer invites three mothers into the observatory to look up into the sky. The stars will never give them back their children, their brothers, sisters or cousins. But they do manage to smile when their heads turn upwards -- beyond the horror that stalks their memories and moves them to sift through the sand-hidden sadism yet another day, when the sun burns as bright as the stars above. This film transcends time. It is a masterpiece that moves beyond words. The beautiful and the horrid merge profoundly into cinematographic magnificence.
2.4 -- THE ILLUSIONIST,
An endearing story about a washed-up magician from France
who travels to various clubs there and in Britain to earn
his keep. But times are tough, and in the late 1950s, rock
and roll was stealing the stage. Modeled after Jacques Tati,
the main character called Tattischeff is as tall as he is
lonely. During a gig in Scotland, he meets Alice, a chambermaid who follows him to London. It turns out though; she
is more in awe of the things he buys her than the man himself.
Alas, not even Alice finds reasons
to last with him. She takes off with a younger fellow. Chomet
has taken the features of M. Hulot (a classic character played by Tati) to create this loveable
failed illusionist. Line drawing and watercolour deftly bring
to life this enchanting film. Unfortunately, it goes on far
too long and the ending falls flat. It pays tribute to Tati,
but not plot. Chomet's "The Triplets of Belleville" is a far
2.4 -- THE LIGHT THIEF,
Aktan Arym Kubat
The film invites us into a village in Kyrgyzstan where
electricity only happens because of Mr. Light. He ingeniously
finds a way to spread the light to his friends' modest homes.
He is a fine man whose desire to help people leads him into
the wrong hands. He gets involved with trying to help greedy,
devious businessmen intent on using his skill so they can
bring 'progress' to the village. The ending is unsatisfying,
but this low-budget film is a little gem because of its natural
flow and simplicity.
3.0 -- HANDS UP,
This charming film offers an endearing strategy to save
a family from being deported back to Chechnya. A group of
young children fully devoted to one another scheme to escape
the ever watchful eyes of roaming police by hiding out in
a street side cellar. That family's daughter (Milana) is part
of that group. There is a love connection among the little
girl and the boy (Blaise) whose family had taken her in to
protect her. But they have other ideas. They do eventually
get discovered in that cellar, so all ends happily. She gets
to stay in France. Fast forward to 2067; that little girl
is now 60 years old. Neither she nor her childhood sweetheart
who rescued her by taking her in as a step-sister ever sees
one another again after they come out of hiding. Children
rule in this film. Moreover, the children's acting performances
are brilliant. You forget it's a film.
3.4 -- LOLA, Brilliant
Manila's monstrous poverty and destitution are vividly
illustrated in this gritty film where houses half-sunken in
typhoon flood waters totter alongside the boats that bring
their unlucky owners into the shambled capital. But nothing
can deter the two Filipino Lolas (grandmothers) who face blustering
winds, abject poverty and police pursuing them for all kinds
of reasons, including the major matter at hand: one grandmother's
son has been killed by a cell phone thief, and she needs money
to give him a proper burial. Then there is the other Lola.
Her grandson is in jail for his murder. Their determination
to achieve their respective goals ironically brings them together.
The two indomitable Lolas meet, face off, and finally find
resolution to their sorrows by aiding one another. Their victory
is all the more impressive considering every public institution
-- from the legal aid office, and the run-down police headquarters
to the stinking jail and the suffocating little room of the
court house -- represent the oppressive, cluttering conditions
that few overcome. But these grannies do. The director makes
a poignant statement when one grandmother enters one of Manila's
churches. She shamelessly strides over the lives of worshippers
with seeming indifference. Still, it is the hope, prayers
and a cupful of cunning that bring a fortunate ending to these
lonely Lolas. This film is intense. Raw, superb performances
of the actors make the whole murderous mess uncannily real.
2.0 -- LE
GRAND AMOUR, Pierre Étaix
partnered with Jacques Tati, and taking his comedic brilliance
from Buster Keaton, Etaix could very well have influenced
Mr. Bean. In this adorable feature, he plays a man hooked
into a marriage that becomes humdrum. But this actor's comedic
talents turn the nuptial alliance into a hilarious mismatch.
He develops an infatuation for his very young secretary, but
eventually discovers his amorous fantasies are ill placed.
He finally gets an evening to dine with the little lady, and
ends up talking about the company's problems. He realizes
he does indeed love his wife, and it all ends happily -- but
with a twist that in typical Etaix fashion makes everyone
laugh. Jealousy was never humorously played out in a street
beside a French cafe. This film, restored with digital precision,
is a treasure sparkling with originality, innocence and a
time when "love and marriage go together like a horse
DEL DESARROLLO, Miguel
is a Cuban living in New York. He cuts and pastes pictures
from his past in Cuba. Through his character, the director
builds an amazing collage from magazines, digital imaging
and archival materials that flash before our eyes pivotal
moments in various world revolutions. This technique effectively
illustrates the goings-on in Sergio’s' mind while showing
us the violence and superficial rhetoric of leaders and
concomitant revolutionary violence. Torture, devastation
and wasted lives flash before our eyes. Still, Sergio sought
refuge in America to have the opportunity to speak for freedom.
He makes his living talking about the Cuban revolution on
the tour circuit. His disenchantment with America leads
to total disenfranchisement and his descent into solitary
retreat. His reclusive nature is interrupted by the women
in his life. Intensity is all that matters for him, not
actions, but paradoxically, he ends up feeling nothing.
Melancholy and sadness are his consolation, along with the
flood of memories that bring him hallucinations and ironically,
intellectual clarity. He also understands his own place
in the cacophony of human existence: "The best thing I can
do for humanity is to stay as far away from it as possible."
Is it any wonder he ends up living near the Badlands of
Nevada alone? This film is astounding on several levels
as it graphically delivers and sums up both the sham of
capitalism and the time warp that the Cuban Revolution has
created in that island -- cut off from the world, much like
Sergio is. As the lonely anti-hero ages and declines into
depression, we relate to the tragedy of existence where
in this film, moments of happiness are really sensory illusions
marketed for mass consumerism. Joy is meant for fools which,
as this film seems to indicate, includes most of us. Ron
Blair's remarkable performance as Sergio is so believable;
the film feels like a gutsy documentary. So powerful is
this movie, it can turn your world upside down, or depending
on your perspective, may confirm that your take on the world
is right side up.
-- MUNDO ALAS,
Leon Gieco, Sebastian
Schindel, Fernando Molinar
Exhilarating, touching, life-affirming. These are the
words that come to mind when you see how mountains can be
moved when music takes hold of everyone's being. In this
film -- a documentary that feels like a magical mystery
ride -- famous Argentinean musician, Leon Gieco, groups
together several young handicapped talents he has befriended
over many years. Between 2007 and 2008, these wonderful
musicians and tango dancers toured, enchanting audiences
all over Argentina, trumpeting their final victory in a
landmark concert held in majestic Luna Park. We follow their
lives in the bus they travel on. There is a blind singer,
a limbless harmonic player, a wheelchair-bound dancer, a
singer suffering from cerebral palsy. They all go on to
cut their own records. At the heart of the fold Gieco himself
-- totally inspired by these wonderful resilient musicians
to whom he gives the stage, joining them more as a fan than
a famous musician. His dedication to them is heart-warming.
Neither pity nor pandering here -- only gratitude for making
us realize beauty, humility and love can come together in
a movie of music called "Mundo Alas."
-- TAMARA DREWE,
This joy of a film spreads out an assortment of deliciously
funny characters and plot twists in typical Brit fashion.
Beth and her successful writer/husband Nicholas offer a writers'
retreat in Dorset England. It attracts a coterie of eccentrics
within their own right. Enter tantalizing Tamara Drewe (Gemma
Arteron) who has returned to the house where she grew up to
repair it with the help of her long-time childhood friend
Andy. It turns out, she becomes the focus of amorous attention
for Nicholas, who for years has been lying and cheating on
Beth whose devotion to him is beyond compare. He ends up in
a way that is well deserving and utterly unique in plot device.
Tamara ends up almost marrying Ben, the drummer for a famous
band named Swipe (there is a hint of film plot in the band
name itself) but two village girls intent on chasing their
own dreams plot away to screw up everyone's intentions. Scene
stealers throughout the entire film, these two birds fly into
everyone' life leaving traces of their landings in everyone's
once cozy nest. Their acting is hilariously appealing. Alas,
all's well that ends well, and in "Tamara Drewe," the ending
is perfect. Everyone ends up with the right partner, and cozy
Dorset is no longer labelled a dozy village with a one-dimensional
road leading to a single predictable destination.
LIGNES DE VIE,
What in heaven's name was the director thinking of? This film
could become a cult comedy if not for its obvious intention
of being taken seriously. A zombie-like girl, garbed in
black, has lost her father. She tries to feel his soul by
burying herself in banana leaves. He was a shaman, but he
died at the hands of Rak, an evil soul who was jealous of
his powers to heal and resuscitate the dead. His daughter
is discovered by a palm reader, an old man, who after several
experiences with her, graduates into the realm of shaman-hood
himself. However, evil is afoot in the form of a monstrous
man named Pol. He sucks blood from people after he kills
them. His victims are tourists and all bear the mark of
a golden triangle in their palm. The trance-like lady in
black also meets her maker through Rak (like father -- daughter).
The old man loses his own healing powers -- so sick in sadness
is he for losing his female friend who had taught him about
the supernatural and how to confront mystery, evil and invisible
spirits. He loses all his powers except that of killing
the sick as he tries to heal them. By the time the film
had ended, over half the audience had left. Thailand was
the setting for this travesty of a film. The jungle was
enticing, but that was the only appeal here. Narration was
used to tell the story. It was embarrassingly sparse in
dialogue, so this film became a collage of broken pictures
to tell the story. Film was not the right medium to convey
the director's intention -- whatever that was. Mazars might
want to contemplate finding his own shaman to guide him
into another realm rather than filmmaking.
2.6 -- RAAVANAN,
It’s a violent film of epic proportions with stunning scenery and
tons of close up shots which make for over-the-top melodrama.
Oodles of extras fill up the screen in fight and dance scenes.
The plot provides some unusual events -- a departure from
standard Bollywood fare. Veera, a wild renegade kidnaps
Raagini, Dev's beautiful wife. Dev is chief cop commandeering
a force as big as an army. Why Veera kidnaps Raagini is
left for us to know only mid-way through the plot. Vengeance
is involved big time. Veera who lead hoards of men in the
mountains of southern India seems like the villain in the
story, but in typical Indian-flick fashion, there is a reversal
that slowly reveals itself; it's Dev who is the real devil.
Although Veera makes Raagini endure hardship during her
14 days of captivity, she grows to respect him, and ends
up returning to him and his merry band of many men. It turns
out her hubby is not whom she thinks he is; his cruelty
is poignantly revealed to her at the end of the film and
during a scene which shows how horrid Dev's police force
can be. Indeed, all the warring between these two men and
their followers is the result of Dev and his thugs interrupting
the wedding of Veera's sister some time ago, (played in
the film as a flashback). They haul her down to the police
station and defile her. She drowns herself in a well. Is
that not fuel enough to set Veera on his own course of vengeance?
In the end, Raagini and Veera meet a fate that borders on
tragedy, but remember this is a larger than life melodramatic
movie. Totally action packed and entertaining with good
and evil intertwining, "Ravenna" keeps us on our toes. Still,
its clichéd characters are just that. Still, charasimatic
Veera does have more depth and humour in his personality
than the other one-dimensional people populating this ambitious
film. If you love the genre, "Raavanan," the Tamil version,
delivers the goods.