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4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
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Beneath the Rooftops of Paris
Before Tomorrow
Paraiso Travel
Necessities of Life
For a Moment of Freedom
Blood River
By the Will of Genghis Kahn
The Concert
Weaving Girl



Listing + Ratings of films from festivals, art houses, indie



2.5 or more for a noteworthy film
3.5 for an exceptional film
4 for a classic.

1.9 -- EAT PRAY LOVE, Ryan Murphy
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Liz (Julia Roberts) leaves her husband. She has it all, a nice house, a great job as a writer and pretty clothes, but she isn't happy. She travels to Bali and there an old guru tells her she needs to love, let go and then come back to Bali. Liz embarks on a journey of self-discovery by traveling. First she goes to Italy to enjoy the epicurean delights of food. The she goes to India where she learns to forgive herself and the fact that she left her boyfriend after she left her husband. In India at the ashram, she meets an American rough-around-the-edges man whose life was shattered by booze (Richard Jenkins). He helps Liz learn how to pray and forgive herself. She is also learning to chant and meditate. She eventually returns to Bali to the guru and she is happy -- happier still because she meets a man (Javier Bardem). They fall in love, but she is afraid of love and rejects him. Finally, a friend tells her that balance in life is not incompatible with taking risks in love. Liz and her man end up happily ever after living in Bali for a while, one imagines. The book was probably much better than the movie; it left out huge hunks of her growth. I think had this been made by a Europena director, the result would have been far more moving. Jenkins was excellent in his role. Roberts is just not my cup of tea in any movie -- even when she cries on cue and lets out her famous laugh that seems to take over the entire screen. (This film was viewed compliments of le Superclub Videotron, 5000 Wellington in Verdun, Quebec).

3.3 -- A DANGEROUS METHOD, David Cronenberg
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] David Cronenberg’s latest film will strike many as uncharacteristically classic. The master of weird (“Videodrome,”“Dead Ringers,” “Crash," “eXistenZ”) adapts the successful London play that focuses on the complex relationships between Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Sabina Spielrein (unfortunately over-interpreted by Keira Knightley). Weaving together fine conceptual points regarding the budding field of psychoanalysis with biographical elements, Cronenberg skilfully crafts elegant dialogues between the three protagonists, with a result that never feels like a filmed play. Though intensely cerebral, the film remains sensual in true Cronenberg fashion, with both Michael Fassbender (Jung) and Viggo Mortensen (Freud) as equally sexy as they stand as opposites. The sexual tensions run so high, behind the Victorian accoutrement, that one expects any given moment to explode into a full-fledged orgy.

3.7 -- TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, Tomas Alfredson
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Based on John le Carré’s 1974 spy novel, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” takes us back to the hottest days of the cold war inside the British Secret Intelligence Service. Although it has been done many times (“The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” “The Russia House,” “The Constant Gardener” and the upcoming “A Most Wanted Man,” to name only a few) this is by far the best adaptation of le Carré’s work. This time, the filmmakers got the pacing, aesthetic and ambiance right, matching the always uncertain world in which spies evolve. With great attention to detail, the filmmakers re-create the early 1970s universe with incredible authenticity. It’s a world that is also remarkably compelling and sexy in the most cerebral sort of way. This somewhat romantic view of the good old days at the circus has always pervaded le Carré’s work, and director Alfredson beautifully translates this nostalgic feeling as well. Some filmic adaptations make you want to go read the book again. With superb acting by John Hurt (Control), Gary Oldman (Smiley), Ciaran Hinds (Esterhase), Kathy Burke (Connie Sachs) and Colin Firth (Bill Haydon), this one makes you want to go see the film again.

2.9 -- MARGIN CALL, J.C. Chandor
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Inspired by the 2008 financial debacle, “Margin Call” is a fictional account of what might very well have happened in several Wall Street investment banks: the sudden realization that the upcoming financial crisis has in fact already happened and that the only way to get out of it alive (or, rather, filthy rich, which in this universe seems to mean the same thing) is to screw as many people as fast as market will allow. There are many flaws with this film: its portrayal of the financial villains seems, at times, too facile (it’s easy to hate crooks in ties nowadays, and Chandor is sure having a field trip), its overall fatalistic tone is rather perverse, and its preference for the under-said and heavy jargon will make much of the plot incomprehensible to most. Most importantly, when all is said and done, we are asked to empathize with the obscenely overpaid perpetrators of the crash rather than with our own. That being said, it is hard to believe that “Margin Call” is J.C. Chandor’s first feature, as the director could be giving master classes in actor direction and pacing to the most seasoned of Hollywood directors. Superb performances make this film worth watching: Kevin Spacey’s transformations through emotional qualms and ethical dilemmas are incredibly moving, and Zachary Quinto steals the show. As a boardroom drama, the film is closer to “Glengarry Glenn Ross” than “Wall Street.”

2.8 -- CARNAGE, Roman Polanski
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] One fine afternoon, the Cowans (Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz) visit the Longstreets (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly). The two couples have never met : An altercation between their two respective sons has prompted the meeting, an attempt at peacefully diffusing a volatile situation. During the course of about an hour, all four will bicker, take turns insulting each other, get cockeyed and destroy various valuable objects. "Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf" must have been on television the night before. Like “Who’s Afraid," “Carnage” is based on a play, and Polanski never lets us forget it. While Mike Nichols at least had the decency of letting us out of the house once in a while, “Carnage” makes you feel like the fifth suffocating wheel, hoping to make a dash for the elevator. As they deliver their razor-sharp lines with great gusto, the actors -- who never transcend their status as actors -- plunge head on in a sea of clichés that are as predictable as they are improbable.

2.8 -- MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, Simon Curtis
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] In 1956, Marilyn Monroe flew to England at the top of her fame to shoot\ "The Prince and the Showgirl" with Laurence Olivier. The result of this collaboration has now famously gone down in history for the lack and chemistry between the two stars; the reflection of an acrimonious off-screen relationship. Olivier -- hailed greatest stage-actor alive -- was fundamentally incapable of dealing with Monroe’s notorious insecurity; his fits of rage at her tardiness only upsetting an already delicate environment. The story of this infamous shoot is told as it was lived by then 3rd assistant-director Colin Clark, whose luck had Marilyn take a liking in him. "My Week" is a light yet terribly entertaining film, which forecasts superb performances by Kenneth Branagh (as Olivier), Judie Dench and Michelle Williams (Monroe). It is an absolute delight to watch Branagh simmer and boil over. And while Williams brilliantly captures Monroe’s disarming vulnerability, the actress can’t quite convey Marilyn’s unique sensuality. But then again, maybe that was precisely the point : no one could ever possibly out-Marilyn Marilyn.

3.5 -- SHAME, Steve McQueen
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] By now, “Shame” has already gathered plenty of awards and made many 'best of 2011' lists. Nevertheless, many will stay away from the film because of its uncomfortable subject matter: sexual addiction. Indeed, throughout the film, we see Brandon (Michael Fassbender, in full form) 'pleasuring' himself repeatedly, and yet the movie makes clear that he derives no pleasure from it, that he is rather acting on a morbid and self-destructive compulsion. The film could have gone wrong in so many ways that it’s a miracle it got done at all, let alone turned out so well. Refusing easy avenues at every juncture, director Steve McQueen plunges head on into subjects that are as delicate as they are taboo. “Shame” is not an easy or 'entertaining' film, much less pornographic or voyeuristic fare, which doesn’t mean it won’t provide less pleasurable rewards. It presents its subject without judgment or sentimentality, and takes its time developing characters without relying too heavily on narrative. When Brandon is watching porn, it is with complete disinterest and the boredom of watching the most repetitious of film genres is palpable. Tellingly, he flirts with his eyes, for he has nothing to say. Besides, why carry on conversations when he’ll never see the girls again? As a study in male sexuality and existential void, “Shame” is reminiscent of both "Midnight Cowboy" and "American Psycho."

2.0 -- SHAME, Steve McQueen
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Shamefully pornographic in content, this sexually turgid film takes every possible plot hook and screws it up. The director completely copped out of creating a plot. I doubt he did any research on the subject of sex addiction. In the film, Brandon is a sex addict. At his work, porno garbage is discovered by his boss. That scene goes nowhere. His sister Sissy is a nympho who has a disturbing attraction towards him. Brandon can't seem to shake her off. That intriguing piece of incest history is never revealed properly -- except that they are Irish. Yes, incest is far more widespread among the Irish than one cares to investigate; however, several academic papers have dared to address this topic, revealing statistics and reasons for its rampant occurrence. Back to the movie: Brandon likes a lady at work, and he goes nowhere with her. In fact, that is the only hope of plot advancement; but neither their relationship nor follow-up of episodes involving the two -- not even their sexual encounter goes anywhere. Ironic indeed. The only real dialogue takes place when they go for dinner, but who cares anyway? In fact, this movie is a series of sex scenes that overwhelm any possibility of making an interesting film about a sex addict. Why couldn't the director examine that aspect -- the psychological making and unraveling of a sex addict rather than focus so repeatedly on the physical aspect of things? Michael Fassbinder as Brandon played his role with taut introversion, and Carey Mulligan was believable as the lost lady without a home or a head -- for that matter. McQueen needs to dig deeper into plot for any future film he may dare to make, but right now, all I can say to him about this film is: "Shame on you."

3.8 -- ORA, Philippe Baylaucq
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Presented as an opening act, Philippe Baylaucq’s short,“ORA,” puts Wim Wenders’ “Pina”-- about the recently deceased choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch -– to shame. Not that Wenders’ film is terrible -- it’s actually quite good. “ORA,” however, and contrary to Wenders’ film, which could just as well have been filmed in 2D, really exploits the possibilities of 3D technology. Created during a two-year residency with the NFB French program, “ORA” uses infrared 3D cameras to render thermal images of dancing bodies as choreographed by José Navas. Thermal cinematography might be, at this point, one of the most compelling ways of using 3D technology and Baylaucq triumphs in selecting his subject matter for the medium and thereby truly creating a film for 3D. One could say that the present situation very much resembles the awkward years of cinema’s transition to sound in the late 1920s: everyone can see 3D’s possibilities, but very few know how to work with the new medium to release its full potential while avoiding distracting elements (and until we can have prescription 3D glasses, that day may never come for half the population). Beyond the technological aspects, the dancers are beautifully choreographed and the camera captures them as if its gaze were omnipresent, never emanating from any specific point in space. The result is an innovative and mesmerizing symphony of bodies -- this decade’s version of a Busby Berkeley sequence.

1.3 -- MELANCHOLIA, Lars Von Trier
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] What a bunch of rubbish! Yes, the costumes, estate setting and the background music -- Tristan Isolde symphony playing to impending planetary plot doom -- a planet called Melancholia is about to hit earth and end it for everyone - were beautiful. Nonetheless, this 'art' film was a pretentious piece of spineless drivel without character credibility or plot probability for that matter. Although attempts were made to examine the relationship between two sisters, the manic depressive Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and her restrained far more proper, stable sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), realism, emotion and tension were non-existent -- a failure in itself for this is a film foraging into a family and its disconnectedness. Justine abandons her husband at their wedding which could rival any Hollywood superstar mega-rich one. Hosted in the film by Claire and her husband, John (Kiefer Sutherland), he realizes he has wasted his money on the bride that bummed out in her own wedding. By the way, Sutherland was the only real deal in the film. Anyway, when the planet melancholia finally ends it for the characters in the film, it could come not too soon, as far as I'm concerned. We are all waiting for that big bang moment, and it was so anti-climatic. Please compare this film with the Jody Foster film whose title I shamefully forget, and you will tell the difference in all manner of film greatness. 'Melancholia" was a total bore. I was yawning when the planet finally pulverized it for the rich folk. Ironically, this film is doomed, and you know it from the get-go. No story, no character credibility, and spunk. Any groom that placidly accepts losing the love of his life -- a beauty without so much as a tear or a tantrum shows you in a single moment how flaky this film is.

3.5 -- THE SALESMAN (LE VENDEUR), Sébastien Pilote
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Sébastien Pilote’s first feature, “Le vendeur,” is about everything and nothing. It is first and foremost the story of Marcel Lévesque (the extraordinary Gilbert Sicotte), a car salesman in a little town covered in snow. Every day echanically repeats the inherited and well-known routines: Marcel clears the snow off cars, attends the town’s various social events, and is nice to everyone because they’re all friends -- even more so, because Marcel is trying to sell them a car. It’s not that Marcel’s a bad guy. Marcel simply is a car salesman: his livelihood revolves around selling cars to those around him, whether they can afford it or not. Through this relatively banal and uneventful story emerges an economic system that proves most cruel when failing. Behind the dealership’s bright colours and boisterous new models is a town whose mono-economy is slowly decaying. “Le vendeur” was recently hailed by TIFF as one of the ten best Canadian films of the year, and it will surely earn Sicotte’s incredibly subtle acting serious recognition.

3.1 -- INSIDE LARA ROXX, Mia Donovan
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Mia Donovan’s first documentary introduces us to the young Lara Roxx, who contracted HIV at 21 while performing sex on camera. Freshly arrived in LA, and determined to make fast money, Lara was quickly told that in order to gain employment, she would need to agree to perform anal sex and forego condoms— something she was originally reluctant to do. Throughout the film, we follow Lara as she tries to regain control over her life. The journey takes us to LA, where she confronts various players in the adult film business and Montreal, where she struggles with health issues, abusive boyfriends and addiction. “Inside Lara Roxx” dispels any illusions one might still have about porn being just another industry. Donovan demonstrates great restraint and respect towards her delicate subject matter.

2.4 -- CARNETS D'UN GRAND DETOUR, Catherine Hebert
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Following the footstep of Marc Roger who was born in Barnako, Africa, but spent his time in France, Hebert documents this white griot's on-foot trip to Mali. Along the way, he meets up with various characters and kids to whom he reads a story book full of pictures. I found the man most uninteresting -- more interested in himself than the people he meets up with. Hebert, on the other hand provides a soft-spoken narrative that is poetic and philosophical. She interviews people, but we never see her. The film shows the terrible weather, plight and poverty of many Africans -- most who wish to leave for America. Yet, it was light in spirit. This film did not move me in any way, and although it garnered the award for the best Canadian documentary feature, I was not impressed. It lacked grittiness and intensity. This film played at the Montreal International Documentary Film Festival.

3.7 -- TAHIR, PLACE DE AL LIBERATION, Stefano Savona
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] January 2011, a date no one in the Middle East shall ever forget -- a date that gave Egypt her crowing revolutionary glory. For 18 days, young, old, Muslim and Christian discussed, supported one another and fueled each others' spirits as they occupied Tahir Square in Cairo. Despite police violence, hunger and deprivation of basics, a sea of determined Egyptians stood their ground, forcing the loathed President Mubarak to resign. This is a great documentary that at the very moment so much happens it is being filmed. The director records speeches, conversations between two women who are plotting how to proceed after Mubarak's overthrow while actively standing at the front lines of freedom, and he also gives us a palpable sense of being there with them all, hoping that they will win. What bravery these students showed! This documentary is historically important. This film played at the Montreal International Documentary Film Festival.

2.4 -- LA BMO DU SEIGNEUR, Jean-Charles Hue
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Camper life in the backwoods of L’ile de France brings us the nomad life of a poor abusive clan who fight each other, make up, rob and drink. Two brot Joe despises such stuff. Everyone is quick-tempered and ready to start a fight. A stray white dog befriends hi, left at night by his owner. The owner whom we never meet had a miraculous effect on Fred. He was not violent when Fred attacked him for trespassing at his camper site. In fact, he was docile, an this made Fred a believer in the divine. At the crux of the matter is a white BMW stolen by Fred, but his guilt gets the better of him. Joe ends up shooting the dog because Fred put bullets into the hole of the car so that no one could use it. After all, a hot car is does not fall under the good eye of God. White trash is what this film is all about, and I suspect these were Quebecois as they did not have accents from France. It plays out more like a fiction than a documentary, so for this one must applaud the director. This film played at the Montreal International Documentary Film Festival.

4.0 -- HITLER, STALIN AND I, Helena Treštíková
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The life of the Czech Jew, Heda Margolius Kovaly, is revealed as she speaks to the camera about the rise of Hitler and how she lost her entire family in the camps, including her husband and mother. After the war, she remarried but had to endure Communism. Her new husband was given a position at the Ministry and within months was accused of being a traitor. His fate was sealed. She recounts her last goodbye with him minutes before he is carted off to the firing squad. Utterly devastating, and moving! This astounding woman lived through unbelievable conditions with constant loss. Still, as she so aptly says at the end of the filming: "Hitler and Stalin are gone, but I am here. I won." Kovaly's sparkle and determination to go on even after "you stumble" kept her alive. Her father taught her about the importance of never giving up. This woman's life was a miracle in itself. She wrote books, moved to America, taught at Harvard and lived to see her grandchildren grow into youngsters. What makes this poignant documentary so moving is the detailed personal revelations she gives us. They evoke vivid images because of her gift of expression along with the archival footage of the camps, her first husband and other events that leave us speechless. She was an inspiration. This film played at the Montreal International Documentary Film Festival.

2.8 -- YATASTO, Argyris Hermes Paralluelo
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] In the suburbs of Cordoba, Argentina, are slums whose streets hold garbage, and kids who with their parents learn how to survive in the dirt and dust. As cartoneres, they hitch a wagon attached to a horse that they direct with a whip -- holding the reins to steer their horse right over to big empty boxes and beer bottles and all kinds of a stuff that can be sold for some pesos. The three kids in this film live in the most primitive of dwellings, yet their dreams never die. They are funny and resilient. The school of hard knocks fills their spirit with hope and humour. The funniest scene is that between rebellious Ricardo whose mom is trying to teach him how to steer the horse. She's a tough determined cartero who has her hands full. Ricardo is as obstinate as the horse. They load up boxes and they all come tumbling down. We laugh at the sad, absurdity of poverty. Yet they all seem happy in their 'boxed in' lives. This film played at the Montreal International Documentary Film Festival.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] From the 1950s to the 90s Egyptian actress Soad Hosni owned the screen appearing in over 50 movies. She began starring in film at the age of 13 -- pig tails and all. As she matured her roles were relegated to one dimensional and stereotypical portrayals of women without a future or a present, for that matter. Using archival clips rapidly sequenced on the same theme, we witness shots of her running several times, laughing, sobbing several times, being slapped several times, being raped several times, being rejected by a lover several times and being seduced several times. This was a terribly facile approach to adopt to reveal her supposedly complicated life. In fact, nothing about her life was ever shown nor discussed. The documentary was really a series of montages. Evidently, she felt everything to the extreme too many times and ended up committing suicide in London. How many times did she or do we want to see repeated pain expressed in a face of an Egyptian Sophia Loren look-alike? Ironically, her life ended tragically, yet had she lived on to tackle subtle roles with intriguing plots, I imagine she could have gained greater recognition abroad and felt at peace with her expressive talent. There was no commentary ever made about her by her peers in this documentary. The director ought to have selected footage from personal interviews spliced with some clips of her roles. I had no feeling about her after I sat through the 70 minutes, other than her ability to run, cry and laugh. This film played at the Montreal International Documentary Film Festival.

2.8 -- CRAZY HORSE, Frederick Wiseman
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Enter those lovely ladies who perform at Crazy Horse, Paris's most famous striptease, erotically charged nightclub. The women -- most who hail from Russia -- are superb ballet dancers. They move in the most tasteful and tantalizing ways. Frankly, it is beautiful to behold, and as the camera shows, couples of all ages and backgrounds come to witness corporal poetry in motion. The choreography, lighting, decor and costumes really bring the art of nightclub naughtiness to a whole new elegant level. Wiseman basically filmed all the different art departments manned by visionary devotees of the Parisian pleasure house. Conversations between them were funny and enlightening. They are true artists who believe in raising the bar to the most elegant levels. High standards are impeccably adhered to for the entire spectacle. The film captured many of the numbers in Crazy Horse's show, Désir. Started in 1951, Crazy Horse has continued to mesmerize audiences with wholly inventive acts. I was disappointed though that not one of the ladies was 'exposed' in another way. Too bad not one was followed or interviewed to find out how and why she came to this place. It would have been interesting if Wiseman somehow had found a way to get them to talk about their backgrounds and goals while still using the same non-intervention interviewing technique that marks this film. But that didn't happen. Still, the merging of beautiful movement with the age-old art of enticing strip tease voyeurism (though many numbers did not have any woman stripping; their costumes were revealing enough) makes one realize that perfect women's bodies in balletic undulation is spellbinding. The film took 11 weeks of shooting, and despite 13 months of editing, it went on far too long (134 minutes) and the allure wore off. This film played at the Montreal International Documentary Film Festival.

2.5 -- MELANCHOLIA, Lars Von Trier
[ reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Cannes festival-goers must have had an eerie feeling of déjà-vu as they saw Lars Von Trier’s "Melancholia" following Terence Malick’s "Tree of Life." It is indeed as if both directors had met and agreed to each make a grandiose film expressing their respective overview of life. Much less verbose than Mallick’s, Von Trier’s latest effort shares with the American director a passion for intellectual flamboyance and tediousness that might irritate the most forgiving. Von Trier takes us to the last days as planet earth is about to collide with a mysterious planet, Melancholia. John (Kiefer Sutherland) and his son, carefully measure the planet’s orbit to conclude that the planet will only pass earth by. Meanwhile, the women are unanimously affected by the astronomical movements: Justine (Kristen Dunst, who won a Palme D’or), knowing there isn’t much time left, is incapacitated by deep depression. Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), incapable of dealing with her imminent death, madly surfs the web for conspiracy theories. While the men can study the planets with cold detachment, the women seem to connect viscerally with them. Von Trier’s usual heavy-handed style and gender binaries are obviously still very much at work here. His obsession with utterly helpless and dependent women as well. Having said all that, I much preferred "Melancholia" to his previous work.

3.8 -- THIS IS NOT A FILM, Jafar Panahi
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] Purgatory has a plain face and so does Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director who waits in house arrest for an appeals court to uphold or overturn his sentence of six years in prison and a twenty year ban on filmmaking and travel. Helped by friend and fellow filmmaker Motjaba Mirtahmas, Panahi records himself around the apartment, eating, working, phoning his lawyer, ruminating on his other films and reading from and blocking scenes of an unshot script on the living room carpet. What makes a film a film is the ostensible question, but the appeals court’s recent decision to uphold his sentence (as well as Mirtahmas’s) stresses what is also clear: that this is a brave, humane record of resistance by someone who would’ve been safer if he hadn’t bothered. But things aren't so heavy. Take the final minutes, when someone who might be Panahi takes up the camera and follows a young garbage collector in Dante-esque fashion down the levels of apartment hell, ending in the dark bowels of the parking garage and emerging out of doors with the fiery streets in sight. It’s a dire closing image that is counterbalanced minutes before, when the camera latches onto the young Virgil and, in that exhilarating moment of discovery, transcends house arrest before it steps outside.

3.3 -- REAL STEEL, Shawn Levy
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] A failed boxer and his estranged son rescue a sparring bot named Atom from the trash heap and take it to the robot boxing finals. Blocking the way are custody laws, a violent mustached hick whom the boxer owes money and a robot bruiser designed by a chic Japanese super-geek. A female gym-owning love interest enters occasionally to admire the boxer's physique. But unlike most post-Rocky underdog tales, "Steel" has little interest in admiring, building or brutalizing the human body, or the violence it condemns in the hick character and condones in robots bashing each other to bits. Instead it's the robot body whose battering redeems, whose metal is tested, who can take a hit and keep on chugging, whose body anchors the metaphysical suffering and unreal character of the film as a whole. Like Stallone, it is a spectacle we can trust, invest in, gawk at, and relish in the bashing of, as real as the muscular body which, despite being so unreal in so many ways, was actually, defiantly there. "Can you understand me?" asks the boy, staring into Atom's "Iron Giant" eyes. It's something "Real Steel" lets us do, stare long and hard at still digital bodies that spring to life and settle down, to flex our capacity for belief that "Transformers" does not even bother to acknowledge. It's a demand that popular cinema's digital characters continue to make, from Gollum to Caesar to "Tree of Life" dinosaur, that we should wonder what's real for us after all.

3.5 -- CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, Werner Herzog
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] Werner Herzog’s latest film reclaims the promise of exploratory documentary to show people the unseeable and engender awe and wonder in the world around them. A crew of filmmakers and scientists explores Southern France’s Chauvet caves, ruminating on paintings unearthed after tens of thousands of years in darkness. Proximity alternates as the path runs closer to and farther from the paintings, the film at times regarding them up close, others ceding to the filmmaker or scientists to engage them in a roundabout away. Moving inside and outside the caves, between paintings and the people who study them, "Cave" replaces the ethnographic exoticism of those early documentaries, tales of culture gaps and physical distance, with the exoticism of time, the incomprehensible gulf that separates peoples and which the paintings both reinforce and obliterate. That the paintings look as if they were made yesterday accentuates the familiarity and strangeness of the people who made them, making those people seem at once very close and very far away, connected and irreparably strange. "Cave" approaches the unknowable past by spending time with the scientists who study it, and whose creative reverence for their subjects joins them to the artists who painted horses thirty thousand years before. Herzog gives equal time to the work of both groups, using the 3D to help the paintings and their creators “speak” alongside the scientists. The contours of rock, the aesthetic difficulties the painters faced and the impossible desire to extract from flat images a depth of meaning are some practical and metaphorical benefits that justify Herzog’s technological choice. But it’s his willingness to acknowledge, even with three dimensions, the capacity of images to withhold meaning that situates his own work alongside the others’ in celebrating the inextricable link between the mysteries of existence, of one’s place within a broader spectrum of life, and creative expression. The human impulse to know carries him (painter, scientist and filmmaker) outside the caves to the mutated alligators of a nearby polluted lake, as he asks what the creatures are and who we are who made them. From cave walls to digital tape, the artist turns a bemused eye on animals, on life as mystery, capturing the tender displacement of alienation and recognition, life ever a mystery outside and in.

2.6 -- DRIVE, Nicolas Winding Refn
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Based on James Sallis’s 2005 novel, this neo-noir film presents an unnamed stoic driver-for-hire (Ryan Gosling) who unwillingly gets into trouble with the wrong people. Director Refn and cinematographer N.T. Sigel capture LA’s dark and seedy underbelly beautifully. Set to cool electronic beats, the opening scene -- Gosling calmly chauffeuring two armed robbers trying to avoid the police -- is by far the strongest. Throughout the rest of the film, however, the images’ lingering power is created through shock, irrationality and by sacrificing character psychology. Carey Mulligan’s beautiful face radiates with so much force because she says so little. Ryan Gosling’s image will linger on for days, mostly on account of the white and gold dragon imprinted jacket he sports in every scene. Why would a guy whose prime objective in life is to remain inconspicuous wear such a tacky eyesore? The jacket is wrong on so many levels that when Gosling keeps wearing it, covered with the blood of a recent killing, the audience barely reacts. Similarly, extremely graphic violence erupts to punctuate an otherwise restrained and low-key film. Like eyeballs floating in a glass of milk, the end result is similar to that of a Halloween joke: it all seems so gimmicky.

2.5 -- THE IDES OF MARCH, George Clooney
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] In its first minutes, “The Ides of March” gives the impression of re-creating for the big screen an extended episode of “The West Wing.” Paul Giamatti looks and talks like Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff), and Max Minghella is a dead ringer for Otto (Ramon De Ocampo). Soon enough though, one realizes that Clooney’s universe stands as polar opposite to Aaron Sorkin’s. For one thing, the dialogues aren’t as fast, crisp and witty. More importantly though, there’s a sense of hollowness that emerges where Sorkin would find substance and aspiration. Where “The West Wing” produced intense cerebral pleasure through well-written and delivered complex debates over ideas, values and principles, “The Ides of March offers a simple and concise message: politics is shit, only naïve fools believe in it. Instead of inspiring trust in the human potential for growth, in their power to improve their lives, the film devotes its energy to crushing every last hope for betterment. In The Comedians, Graham Greene wrote that “cynicism is cheap – you can buy it at any monoprix store – it’s built into all poor-quality goods.” In these times of political unrest and financial crisis, “The Ides of March”’s message does indeed sound like a cheap and facile cop out.

3.3 -- 50/50, Will Reiser
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] The far less reprehensible of two recent films about young people with cancer, "Restless" being the other, "50/50" avoids that film's violent denial of human experience but falls short of answering Susan Sontag's call to rid the supposedly "intractable and capricious" disease of myth and fantasy. Diagnosed with a cancer he cannot pronounce and abandoned by his girlfriend, a mid-twenties public radio employee struggles through declining health and morale and divides his time between therapy, hospital treatments and hanging with his best friend. What follows refuses to acknowledge the daily realities of disease or descend into cheap sob-mongering, and the much publicized image of the protagonist shaving his own head both admits the film is only pretending and digs at over-sentimentalized, exploitative images of bald-headed sickness. Medicinal marijuana, midnight vomiting, much head-hanging and a few trips to the hospital encapsulate "50's" interest in what constitutes a large part of what it means to 'fight' a disease, those daily redundancies so exhaustive to the body and spirit. "50" prefers the fresh healthy face of its pretty therapist and the handsome bald head of its star, who retains his handsomeness even as his condition ostensibly declines. But the interdependency of protagonist, friends and family is far less fantastical, and somewhat forgives the denial of reality it develops alongside. "50" is unable to really look at disease, to see cancer instead of Cancer, but the honest way it observes people relying on one another in a stressful time is perhaps one way it can begin to approach that reality from the outside in.

2.6 -- KILLER ELITE, Gary McKendry
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] A trained killer forsakes civilization for the earthy and artisanal pleasures of backwoods living, only to take one last job for a sheik oil magnate who kidnaps his friend and mentor. The British agents he targets target him in turn, and a general disregard for human life prevails that joins the opening intertitle – it is a time of recession, corruption, global disorder . . . it is the mid 1980s! – to target any illusion of Reagan-era utopianism. But chipping away at myth is just pretence for embracing cliché, as the film begins to resemble the Reagan-era he-man tales of old, where redemption is bought for a few corpses and women are mostly absent from the spectacle of men desiring and mutilating each other’s bodies. Like this year’s “Fast Five,” “Killer” holds apart its desiring bodies like two shivering magnets -- in this case, Jason Statham and Clive Owen -- and rams them into each other periodically to cap the sexual hysteria that the throwaway presence of a female love interest only superficially offsets. Bald, bearded and bomber-jacketed Statham moves unchanged through a superstructure of clichés that collapse as he passes, leaving one to sift for evidence of idiosyncratic cracks. Such eye-catchers here include: Clive Owen’s moustache; a sun-baked sheik ripped straight from Edward Said’s nightmares; and a white-haired version of Robert De Niro’s “Ronin” operative, that casual mix of loyalty and deadliness that both films mistake for nobility as they ride him into the retirement sunset. In “Meet the Parents” this sunset burns hot enough to calcify the insanity at his heart, but “Killer's" casual cynicism is vague enough to critique the past while letting its characters escape it.

2.5 -- I AM SLAVE,Gabriel Range
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Based on the real-life experiences of Mende Nazer, a young Sudanese girl, daughter of BAH, a champion wrestler, the film recreates her abduction from her village in the Nubar Mountains by pro Arab government militia. They lay waste to her village and sell her to a wicked lady in Khartoum. Eventually, she ends up living for several years as a slave to a family in London. She escapes and father and daughter are reunited. The father has been searching for her all this time. There are approximately 5,000 slave workers currently living in Britain. The director fell short of moving us in this film, and unfortunately, many scenes were melodramatically played; overkill was the result. Or events that required further details were whitewashed. There was a general unbalance, in that key events fell into unexplained resolutions or were skimmed over. Nonetheless, the film exposes a tragic and insidious reality that resonates all the way from Africa to England. The consequences are unconscionable. This film was part the Montreal International Black Film Festival.

  2.4 -- THE DREAMS OF ELIBIDI, Kamau Wu Ndung'u & Nick Reding
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This film is inventive in that the story unfolds as a play performed in the slums of Nairobi by a group of traveling actors on an outdoor stage whose cardboard 'set' has the words 'Ghetto Safe' written on it. The play is sending a message about AIDS and HIV. Hundred of kids and adults stand to watch events unfold. They are totally engaged in what they see. The film cleverly shifts back forth from the stage to the real setting where events take place. We see the real story on and off stage. It's about a family whose two daughters are HIV positive. One has been raped by her boyfriend's brother. The myth is that AIDS victims can be cured if they rape a virgin. The father abandons his own family, but eventually returns to the fold. Each of his four daughters find success in their lives, and the play ends happily. This film vividly proves that a low budget production can be rich in delivery and message. This film was part the Montreal International Black Film Festival.

2.4 -- GOLDEN SCARS, Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] There's a rapper, a resistance fighter, friends and family -- all involved in making music in Santiago de Cuba. It was here where communist Cuba was first fueled by leftists and the revolution that changed the face of Cuba forever. But this documentary isn't about the growth of Cuban music and politics. It's about bonds between friends who dream of a better life. The rapper does end up singing in a classical music choir, and so his chances of leaving Cuba to do off-island performances is a strong possibility. I liked this film because sweetness and resilience spill splendidly off the screen into our hearts. The rapper, also a poet, suffers from sickle cell anemia. His wife brings tears to your eyes becasue of her caring and loving nature. Their devotion to one another keeps them strong and full of hope. One is amazed by these musicians and their stories, their spirited joy and energy. We are all the more inspired for they live in impoverished surroundings; yet these beautiful people live for their music -- wonderful music that the world will never hear. These gallant young men are prisoners experiencing meagre moments of freedom, but only when playing the notes they compose for others to hear, though their lyrics and cries for a freer Cuba fall on deaf ears. This film was part the Montreal International Black Film Festival.

2.9 -- COLOUR ME, Sherien Barsoum
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Motivational speaker and rapper, Anthony Barson invites students into a mentorship program to share and self-assess their own feeelings about being black and living in Brampton, Canada. What is their stance? Is there a black identity and what does it mean? Is it about the swagger, the bling, the rap music and hairstyles? Or is it about being the best person you can be regardless of peer pressure and skin colour? Adopted by white parents, Anthony McLean does some serious reflecting on his own feelings and ambiguous attitude towards both communities: black and white. He discovers his true calling. He is the ultimate entertainer who solidifies his own identity in the black community. He is an energetic talent on stage and in a room with teens, he inspires trust, which encourages them to reveal their true feelings about identity. Most inspiring is his pairing of black professionals in various fields with each student. Also interesting is the life inside the home of these students. We become engaged in their unique family situations. Stereotypical behaviour and our own prejudices if any of black teens is subverted in this film, thanks to McLean wanting to dig beneath the colour of one's skin, including his own. This film was part the Montreal International Black Film Festival.

4.0 -- MAMA AFRICA, Mika Kaurismaki
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Simply the best film one can see on South Africa's most amazing woman, Miriam Makeba. What a life! What a beautiful creature -- a songbird whose flight allowed the world to hear and behold her breathtaking voice. She said she didn't sing politics, just the truth. So mesmerizing was her talent, all leaders in Africa embraced her, except the fascist prime minister of South Africa, whose forces killed so many during Makeba's ascension to stardom. Only when Nelson Mandela was freed was she allowed to return from Guinea -- when not in Europe -- to her beloved South African soil. Her voice was so magical, so hypnotic that when not singing people yearned to hear her speak and that she did -- at the UN when she pleaded for all countries to help her people fight racism in Africa. She dreamed of a united Africa, and by marrying Stokley Carmichael, she was further emboldened by his support and powerful political elan. Known as a generous crusader, whatever country she traveled in, she gave her concert earnings to students, who were always welcome in her home where she cooked and sang and enchanted the world. Her daughter, Bongi, was an astounding talent as well. She also lost a baby son. She was never allowed to visit her mother in South Africa and could not be with her when she died. This documentary was rich in so many ways: enlivened by interviews with her relatives, children, her band members and other gifted singers from her time. This film was part the Montreal International Black Film Festival.

2.0 -- RESTLESS, Gus Van Sant
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Beautiful young people dying is all the rage these days. Opening this week are two films about young adults fighting cancer: "50/50" and Gus Van Sant’s much postponed "Restless." "Restless"'s original release date (January) would have meant an overlap with another film with which it actually has even more in common: "Love and Other Drugs." "Restless” tells the story of a blooming yet ill-fated first love. Annabel Cotton (Mia Wasilowska) has only three months left to live when she meets Enoch Brae (Henry Hopper) at her friend’s funeral. Enoch did not know the deceased: he is there because he crashes funerals when not playing Battleship with his WWII kamikaze imaginary friend Hiroshi (Ryo Kase). Shared fascination with all things morbid ignites Annabel and Enoch’s fire, which Van Sant films with palpably forced romanticism. The director treats his actress with as much care and gentleness as one would a porcelain doll, admiring her innocent smile, playing dress up and revelling in her cute idiosyncrasies. Hair always perfectly messed-up, Annabel and Enoch – who no doubt have not only the same hairdresser but also the same personal stylist – float through their last moments with the swagger of runway models. This little charade of stylistic perfection achieves ridiculous proportion in an elliptical montage that could double as a Banana Republic advertising campaign. Couched on a weak script by newcomer Jason Lew, “Restless” never quite comes together. Its contrived aesthetic makes everything seem fake, which in turn makes it very hard to believe or care about Annabel’s death. It might, however, make you want to go shopping.

2.4 -- ABDUCTION, John Singleton
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Taylor Lautner as Nathan Price stars in this thriller which is rather unique in plot. Price lives with his parents, but he's always had the uneasy feeling of not belonging. Indeed, he was taken from his CIA agent dad when he was just a kid and hidden away from danger. Under the protection of these two other agents who have treated him as their son from the get-go, Price witnesses their murder and spends the rest of the movie trying to escape these murderous bad guys who want somethings he has. No fly on the wall, Price is highly visible and that does not work in his favour. Hiding everywhere with his girlfriend neighbour, he begins to piece together that the good guys who are pursuing him along with the bad guys also want the same thing he is carrying around. In the end, his real dad saves the day, and is in fact a very savvy fly on the wall. It's a fun thriller, and performances are pretty good, save for the untalented baby-faced Lautner whose physique is the real attraction.

3.4 -- FAST FIVE , Justin Lin
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] The merry band of babes and beefcakes moves “halfway around the world” to a Rio more cartoonish than Rio’s, where the countryside is desert criss-crossed by train tracks and Brazilians speak Portuguese with Mexican accents. “Ocean’s Eleven” meets “The Italian Job” as the crack team plans the impossible heist of an impenetrable fortress, and the crew's sheepish smiles are siphoned into the orgasmic jolt of men (and women) pumping their gear shifts at high speeds. Diesel, Walker and company are chased by cops; Diesel, Walker and company are chased by criminals; but the "Fast" franchise’s fine fifth installment distinguishes itself by finally materializing the desire that has been fueling it all along. That clamouring you hear is a team of oil executives climbing over one another to erect a derrick around The Rock, whose coked-up Robocop has only Diesel on his mind and excretes something just a bit lighter onto his shimmering, slick skin. He is less man than engine, a composite of the human and mechanical muscle that the series has split previously between its humanoid and motorized attractions. But his greatest function is realized only in the screen time he shares with Diesel, in which steely glances, monosyllabic exchanges and a glorious, bare-sleeved wrestling interlude channel and finally cap the homoerotic hysteria that has pervaded the films since day one. "Fast" detours into the favellas to exorcise its pent-up aggression and ducks out before it has the chance to look around, all the while revving the Diesel-Rock tension until the point of collision. Then, like a particle accelerator, it smashes them at high speeds into one combustible, improbable element.

3.3 -- FACE TO FACE, Michael Rymer
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] A conflict resolution session yields secrets and diffuses guilt in Michael Rymer’s “Face to Face,” a dramatization of loose-limbed, progressive justice that proceeds with the well-timed, clicking exactitude of a wristwatch. A professional mediator and nine civilians remand themselves to an out-of-court room to settle an assault dispute between the owner of an Australian scaffolding company and a brutish, man-child employee. A clear-cut case of hotheadedness becomes less clear, and assuredly the hands of guilt and understanding circle the room, implicating co-worker, secretary, foreman and friend. The conceit is obvious, but the thrill of revelation achieves a narcotic effect as disclosures pile up and each actor has his or her chance to strut. At times the clockwork admissions and reconciliations promise to lift “Face” from melodrama to farce, yet the script is at once too serious and too self-regarding to allow it, twice opining “No more hugs!” through its most vocal character and repeatedly turning to its bearded mediator to register the proper emotional cues and anchor the film’s political earnestness. A face whose physical shading suggests layers of tenderness and receptivity and mixes parts of Russell Crowe and James McAvoy, it is the mediator’s warm rationality that most strongly recalls “Twelve Angry Men.” As with Fonda’s white-suited juror, the mediator's de facto lucidity casts an ironical pall over the film’s democratic posturing and allows him to orchestrate the emotional maelstrom without getting blown around himself. “Face” excuses this strong-arming by making the mediator a professional and his hard-edged nobility an image of the whole process. Yet the limitations of his characterization at least allow for an unspoken inner life, while the other characters are exactly as deep as the dialogue takes them. “Face” is unwilling to disturb the virtue or challenge the pride of its ethical guidepost and all-too-willing to air the faces of its other subjects. Happily, its democratic spirit cannot remain sensitive to the complexities of all characters but one.

2.5 -- ON DAY, Lone Scherfig
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] In many ways, “One Day” revisits “When Harry Met Sally:” two university students meet on July 15, 1988, their graduation night. She (Anne Hathaway) is straight-laced and determined, he (Jim Sturgess), immature on too many levels for a relationship. The film follows their frienship as it evolves over two decades, showing us the two, chronologically, every July 15. Much like the relationship it portrays, “One Day” has its highs and lows. Anne Hathaway is endearing as always, and she, along with Patricia Clarkson and Ken Stott, offers a strong performance. David Nicholl’s sharp and witty dialogues, based on his own bestselling book, are a real pleasure for adult ears. But a series of 20 snapshots is an idea that works better in writing than on film -- identification and involvement with the story being compromised by the constant disjunctions.

2.4 -- THE HELP, Tate Taylor
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] It is hard to convey the enthusiasm with which the audience greeted “The Help”’s release. The predominantly white audience, of which I was part, cheered, laughed heartily, and even shed a few tears before bursting into spontaneous applause at the film’s closing, a reaction seldom seen nowadays outside of the festival circuit. To be fair, Tate Taylor’s film, based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling book, contains brilliant dialogues and is expertly paced. The star-studded cast (among them, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Emma Stone, Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek, to name only a few) delivers strong and convincing performances. The film’s only fault, which is by no means minor, is in granting equal weight to how segregation affected blacks and whites, putting a little too much emphasis on the tragic ways in which wealthy white folks were peer-pressured into treating their black maids as little more than glorified slaves. By doing so, the film courts the risk of leaving us thinking that there were in fact no real racists in 1960 Mississippi, just a bunch of weak followers of social conventions.

1.2 -- SUR LE RYTHME, Charles-Olivier Michaud
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] A film about a 20-year-old girl’s (Mylène St-Sauveur) struggle to escape her family’s firm grip to become a dancer, “Sur le rythme” surfs the wave of these last few years’ infatuation with dance on screen. Recent films such as “Save the Last Dance” and “Step Up” have shown the power that dancing numbers still hold over audiences, a fascination that is no more evident than in the various spin-offs of So You Think You Can Dance. Incidentally, Nico Archambault, SYTYCD Canada’s first season winner, was a major component of the film’s production, choreographing some of the film’s dance numbers, recruiting fellow dancers as extras, and playing the main character’s love interest and dancing partner. Given the extent of his involvement with the most important aspect of the project -- dancing -- and given the fact that he, contrary to St-Sauveur, is a dancer (and a very talented one), one cannot help but wonder why St-Sauveur was chosen as the main vehicle of the film. Critics will justifiably lament that the movie fails in showing the dancing, the numbers being both too few and too short. More importantly, the film’s editing and camera angles do not let us see the dancers’ entire body as they move, choosing, instead, to segment the body, showing faces and close-shots of body parts. All of this due to the need of using a double in lieu of St-Sauveur while not having “Black Swan”’s post-production budget -- a non-issue when the main character is also a dancer. The movie’s technical problems are far too numerous to list here, and they pale in comparison to the inanely weak script -- the writers clearly having no ear for dialogue and serving us a myriad subplots, as forced as they are unlikely. Aiming at a younger audience should never be an excuse for serving such simplistic, clichéd and didactic storylines. France Castel and Marina Orsini (respectively benevolent grand-mother and evil mother) are by far the pillars of this crumbling production. However, it is Archambault whose telenovela lines are thankfully kept to a minimum, who will be the film’s main draw, proving to be surprisingly comfortable and charming in front of the camera.

1.0 -- SERVITUDE, Warren P. Sonoda
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Have you ever had paralyzing qualms of conscience over leaving a minimum-wage job or agonized for weeks unable to quit waitressing for a career in law? Yeah, I didn’t think so either. That, however, is the silly premise behind “Servitude,” a movie about a waiter’s last day at work at a kitschy ranch-themed family steakhouse. Dismally unfunny, the movie plays like a low-budget 1980s sitcom whose canned-laughter has been replaced with atrocious music. Given that the audience remained dead silent as they watched the actors overact through the most inane clichés, the canned-laughter would have been a wise addition. Ironically enough, this movie is part of the Just for Laughs Festival.

2.4 -- ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF EVIL, Erik Eger and Magnus Oliv
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Let’s assume for a second that Adolf Hitler did not die in his bunker in 1945 and that he in fact managed to escape the Allied Forces. What would have become of him? Where does one go after leading the entire world to the brink of total destruction? What does one do after retiring from dictatorship? “One Hundred Years of Evil” explores these questions as it follows criminal psychologist Skule Antonsen in his quest to prove his crazy theory that Hitler moved to Connecticut and became a very diligent, charismatic and organized, waiter. Reminiscent of Woody Allen’s “Zelig,” this ludic, independent production judiciously does not take itself too seriously. This film was part of Montreal's 2011 Fantasia Festival.

3.5 -- PHASE 7, Nicolas Goldbart
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Ever wondered what would happen if a world pandemic broke out killing everyone around you? The filmmakers behind “Phase 7” have, and their answer is: Not much. Chances are people would keep going about their day-to-day business, rationing their food and entertaining themselves as well as they can until quarantine is lifted. We would still quarrel over the last bowl of Froot Loops and who forgot to turn off the lights. In other words, people’s personalities and behavioural patterns would not change significantly only because the end of the world is upon us. “Phase 7” is deliriously funny precisely because it chooses to look at humankind’s last breath with sobriety and level-headedness. This film was part of Montreal's 2011 Fantasia Festival.

3.2 -- TOUS LES MATINS, Philippe Claudel
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] In 1953, André Bazin wrote that, with the exception of Jacques Tati, the French lacked any genius or talent for making humorous films. Only one country showed the originality and wit required for comedy: the United States. If 2011 has proven one thing, it is that Bazin now stands corrected and that France excels at producing light yet witty comedies that can be touching without being sappy. “Tous les soleils” follows Alessandro (Stephano Accorsi), an Italian-born young widower who teaches the history of baroque music at the University of Strasbourg. Resolutely determined to remain single, he now lives with his wife’s ghost, his 15-year-old daughter and his brother Luigi. This deceptively simple plotline serves as a very good excuse to assemble a collection of fascinating and multi-facetted characters. Luigi, for instance, is a fierce socialist who has launched a formal complaint with the International Criminal Court against Silvio Berlusconi for intellectual genocide and who is now seeking political asylum in France. Director Philippe Claudel, who teaches literature at the University of Lyon and who is mostly known, in francophile circles, for his novels, shows the same optimism towards life and faith in human nature that he exhibited in “Il y a longtemps que je t’aime,” his previous film.

2.7 -- THE TREE OF LIFE, Terrence Malick
[ reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Terrence Malick has been nothing if not consistent in pursuing a highly meditative cinema, one that makes the audience step down from life’s conveyer-belt and sit down to ponder on its ultimate significance. Much like a tree planted in the backyard, “The Tree of Life” emerges and slowly grows into a penultimate logical development in the director’s career. Malick invites us to share the life journey of a typical 1950s family, mostly told from the eldest son’s point of view (Hunter McCracken plays the young Jack, Sean Penn has a small role as the adult Jack). The audience is made privy to Jack’s difficult relationship with a caring but authoritative father (Brad Pitt), and a submissive but eternally young, loving and beautiful mother (Jessica Chastain). Voiced over this story are the characters' ruminations as they go trough various crises and question the meaning of their existence and their faith. What failed for me was not so much the form and technique Malick displayed. He should certainly be commended for attempting to develop a cinema that blends together both the narrative and the experimental traditions. What annoyed and unnerved me was rather the condescension with which it delivers its vacuous cogitations. Bluntly put, I couldn’t shake the feeling that “The Tree of Life” was an indulgent, solipsistic Oedipal wet-dream masquerading as high philosophy.

3.1 -- THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE, Lee Tamahori
[ reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Kiwi director Lee Tamahori’s latest film is a slick tale inspired by Latif Yahia’s life story as Saddam Hussein’s son’s body double. Wars in backdrop, the movie offers a glimpse into a seducing world of extreme power, wealth, and privilege. “The Devil’s Double,” however, is action flic through and through. Conscious of his target audience, Director Tamahori judiciously adapted the dictator’s world to appeal to Western palates and fantasies. Hence, the movie follows the narrative conventions of the genre. At its best, the movie offers stunning action sequences. At its worse, it serves us a pale version of “Lost Highway” in a superfluous forbidden-love story which, oddly enough, becomes the central focus of the film. Writing a compelling female character, however, proved too challenging for this testosterone-fuelled universe. Ludivine Sagnier (Sarrab) is unusually flat as she moves from whore-with-a-heart-of-gold to text-book femme fatale. “The Devil’s Double” is really a one-man show, Dominic Cooper oozing magnetism and charisma as he plays both Uday Hussein and his double Latif. Although his Uday sometimes verges on caricature, his Latif is remarkable in its subtle, quiet intensity.

1.5 -- RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE, Jalmari Helander
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] In the wintery land Lapland, strange events are occurring. Reindeer have been massacred, an American company has made a rare discovery: a monstrous looking gaunt figure is buried within their mine, children are disappearing and wolves are afoot. Little Pietari believes in Santa Claus but his books reveal he is a wicked one who kidnaps and punishes children in unspeakable ways. It turns out that Santa has sent tall old men to kidnap kids. Pietari finds a way to get them back while staving off further invasions of old men wishing to take away children. The film is a spoof on the origins of Santa Claus, and a weird one at that. It shows that there is such a thing as a school to train old men who are sent all over the world to do their job. A quirky film that has no purpose other than to disappoint us with an absurd climax and equally silly resolution. This film was part of Montreal's 2011 Fantasia Festival.

3.6 -- OCEAN HEAVEN, Xue Xiaolu
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Wang Xingchang is devoted to teaching his autistic 21-year-old son, Dafu, how to accomplish simple daily tasks such as getting dressed, cracking an egg open, counting money to buy groceries and getting off the bus at the right stop. Wang works in the local aquarium as a janitor. There is a girl there that dresses as a clown for children's entertainment whom Dafu befriends. Everyone loves Dafu's adorable face, sweet manner and cheery smile. Dafu is a superb swimmer and swims in the big fish aquarium almost every day. Everything seems to be going well for Dafu, but for Wang, his terminal liver cancer is calling him to the pearly gates. Wang teaches Dafu how to mop the aquarium floor. This scene is amusing as are many of the teaching scenes. But knowing he will not be around much longer, Wang tries to find a home or institution that will accept Dafu after he dies. Doors close in his face, and Dafu is far too old to be integrated into an elementary school class. Wang's sister and the former teacher of Dafu voluntarily promise Wang they will to care for his helpless son. The devotion and absolute attachment of father and son is touching in this unusual, low key story. Jet Li as Wang is astonishingly credible and and Wen Zhang is captivating as the autistic, awfully fetching son. This movie is a gem. This film was part of Montreal's 2011 Fantasia Festival.

1.1 -- EXIT, Marek Polgar
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] If you are having trouble falling asleep and need to exit the waking world for a good snooze, simply watch "Exit," and within no time shut-eye happens. A girl is trying to find the door to some city in Australia that will lead to a utopia. Rumour has it, this mysterious door that sits in an ever expanding city will assure goodness and beauty. The wrongs of the present world are manifested in the characters and life situations in the film: a break-up, dull jobs, a manipulative predator, and an unscrupulous millionaire who offers her the location and key to the door if she pays him $10,000. She hooks up with a thug who eventually convinces her to help him rob a convenience store. Money is found, but he robs her of it. This movie is so boring from the get-go that the viewer is looking for the door that leads out of the movie theatre into the real world -- imperfect as it is. This film was part of Montreal's 2011 Fantasia Festival.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] It's 690 AD, and for the first time, a female has come to the throne in China. Viewed as unacceptable, her climb to the top brought down a former policeman, Detective Dee who had protested the event. Jailed for seven years for treason, he is released -- ironically by the Empress herself. She needs him in order to investigate why her sky-high humongous Bhuddha, built for the upcoming coronation celebration, is causing her important right-hand men to spontaneously combust, leaving a trail of vapour. It involves amulets and lethal fire turtle insects. After many journeys that take the detective, an albino Supreme Court super cop and the empress's stunning female personal guard into various dangerous lands and situations, the truth is discovered but not without incurring death to two of the heroes. The martial art in the film is most imaginative, the action pleasing, but the story is implausible though based on some royal historical fact. This film was part of Montreal's 2011 Fantasia Festival.

END OF FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL RATINGS __________________________________________

3.5 -- PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES, Kate Novack & Andre Rossi
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A documentary destined for media maniacs whose favourite form of communication is print news -- specifically The New York Times; the 90-minute film provides a close-up look into the tumultous times that threaten the very existence of the legendary newspaper. Its survival is heralded by David Carr, a former crack addict whose tenacity and totally weird way of expressing himself has made him poster-boy genius of the paper. He is the media columnist on a crusade to keep the Times afloat. We meet key operators of the paper, step inside the boardroom where decisions are made for the front page, and meet a lot of nerds whose life has been singed, sealed and delivered by way of their bylines.Most importantly, we are hit with a cacophony of Internet sites that threaten print media as a whole. This issue is deeply examined in the film and we are left to ponder the future of this globally read paper. When The Tribune filed for bankruptcy, thereby ending such notable papers as The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinal and of course The Chicago Tribune along with its Philadelphia counterpart, Carr decided to interview those who are about to hit pay-pauperhood at The Tribune in Chicago. He discovers a memo that makes sex and The Tribune's CEOs a shameless combination. No wonder it folded. Brilliantly edited as it reveals the precarious state The Times is in: a failing economy, electronic media and media moguls competitively set on sensationalism rather than scholarly reporting -- a written value to which The Times diligently subcribes. This film also debates the ambiguous relationship and dependence of The New York Times on WikiLeaks. Will, social networking via the Internet and the gazillion electronic tools --all able to deliver news instantly -- win out? Only "time" will tell.

2.0 -- BEGINNERS, Mike Mills
[ reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] “Beginners” tries very, very hard to be hip, young and cool. Like this year’s Oscars ceremony, though, the harder it tries, the more awkward and embarrassing it becomes for everyone around. Which is a real shame, because a very interesting premiss lies at the heart of “Beginners.” Following the death of his mother, 38-year-old Oliver (Evan McGregor) discovers that his dad (Christopher Plummer), now 75, is gay. Had the movie decided to explore their relationship in a meaningful way, “Beginners” could have been Ewan McGregor’s big come back. Unfortunately, unwilling or incapable of fully committing to what could have been a poignant story, the director choses to chase an entirely different rabbit: the old, tested and true sappy love story between Oliver and the beautiful Anna (Mélanie Laurent, who is either a famous French actress or a cute little house plant). The treatment of their relationship is as emotionally stifled as the pair is, the director trading character development for snazzy visual effects. Mary Page Keller is excellent as Oliver’s mom Georgia; we just wish Mills had written a full-fledged character for her, not just an anecdote.

2.3 -- MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Woody Allen
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This flop of a film is a tribute to Paris and Allen's infatuation with the City of Lights and all the artists that filled its cafes and boulevards during the Belle Epoque period (1890s) and the roaring twenties. The plot premise holds promise of great things to come, but sadly, Allen gets so caught up in recreating famous characters, such as Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, Dali and his ken, that the plot takes second place to such larger than life visionaries. The entire movie is a costume party without a story. Briefly, Gil Pender, amusingly played by Owen Wilson is suffering from writer's block. He hates his job in LA as a screen writer, and comes with his fiancé and her parents to Paris to seek inspiration. that's where the movie begins. He falls in love with the city's beauty and wants to stay. His fiancé, Ines (miscast with Rachel McAdams in that role) not only is against the idea, she is unsupportive of him, in general, especially of the notion that he ought to quit his job and become a novelist. She puts him down at every turn. Here's where fantasy and reality meet. Walking at night through the city, he takes a giant step backwards in time. Here's where the movie falls apart. It's midnight. Suddenly, he ends up being picked up in a car with Hemmingway in the back seat. He is whisked away to a party and there he meets Fitzgerald and Zelda. Night after night, he waits in the same spot for the car pick-up, and each time he meets more and more artists from the past, including Picasso and his lover Adriana. She and Gil hit it off and before too long, they form a close friendship. The repetition of razzle-dazzle parties, and meeting new characters becomes silly in the film. Paris appears as a cliché of its past glory. There are some funny parts, but they are too few. Allen excels in making movies about characters' relationships and their close interactions which are funny because their neurosis reveals a raw honesty that is very human. There are glimpses of this at the beginning of this movie, but it is overpowered by spectacle -- of the city itself and the famous people Gil meets. And there isn't a speck of wit that ensues thereafter, except in scenes when the family is together. They are real people living in the now, so we are interested. "Midnight in Paris" is glamour without substance. Hopefully, Allen won't let this be his last movie; he can do better, even at the age of 75. After all, he's a genius who belongs right up there with the famous people he has stride across the screen in this far-fetched film.

3.1 -- LE NOM DES GENS, Michel Leclerc
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] It is only with mild interest that I set out to see, once more, the tired story of the odd couple: the straightlaced guy who falls in love with the crazy girl who changes his life. Before I knew it though, “Le nom des gens” had crept up on me. For even though its basic premiss may appear as pedestrian as can be, as it sheds its layers, the comedy reveals unusual depth, tact, and intelligence. The scenario (rewarded with a César in February) ties in together many of the strands that make up the French identity. Its condemnation of national inbreeding in favour of a more vital hybrid identity is effective because heartfelt. A particularly touching scene takes place around the dinner table where both families, who would never otherwise exchange more than a glance, meet for the first time. Sadly, as you read this, you’re probably thinking “Meet the Fockers.” You’ll just have to trust me when I say that the complexities of the Martin and the Benmahmoud family dynamics make for much better humour.

3.5 -- POTICHE, François Ozon
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Part Douglas Sirk, part Comédie-Française, “Potiche” is all François Ozon. Its breezy lightness and meticulous attention to details signal a deep love of both subject matter and actors. And his actors respond equally generously. Set in Northern France in 1977, “Potiche” tells the story of a typical bourgeois family. Robert Pujol (Fabrice Luchini) runs an active extra-marital life as well as an umbrella factory inherited through his wife, Suzanne. Suzanne (Catherine Deneuve) is the eponymous “potiche” -- the trophy-wife. Like the good wife she is, Suzanne accepts her husband’s indiscretions, occupying her time with keeping house now that her two children are grown up. Suzanne’s children are in fact just as complicit as her husband in keeping her submissive and in her place. This family dynamic is bound to change as Robert is taken hostage by the factory workers who demand better working conditions and Suzanne is asked to take over the family business. It is a real pleasure to watch a radiant Deneuve in a role that seems to have been written for her, as she moves from “madame au foyer” to businesswoman. Deneuve and Gérard Depardieu (as the communist elected official and lover) effortlessly keep the audience laughing for two hours, as they reunite, once more, with the same incredible chemistry.

3.5 -- LA PRINCESSE DE MONTPENSIER, Bertrand Tavernier
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Considered by many a pioneer of the French novel, Madame de La Fayette published “La princesse de Montpensier” in 1662. The book, like the rest of her oeuvre, was of course published anonymously, for Madame was, well, a woman. Set during the Catholic-Huguenot religious wars which ripped France apart under Charles IXth’s reign, “La princesse” is historical-romance at its best. Bertrand Tavernier shows much sensibility and understanding of La Fayette’s powerful prose in a refreshingly un-sentimental depiction of a young woman too intelligent and beautiful for her times. The director doesn’t shy away from the historical complexities of the era and fluidly moves from torrid passion and romance to gruesome combat and political strategy of court life. Sceptics (of which I am not one) might argue that Mélanie Thierry lacks the charisma required to make this love-pentagon believable -- after all, four men, no less, fall in love with her. Thierry is surrounded by a horde of beautiful and talented actors and spectacular sceneries, making “La princesse” a feast for the eyes.

3.0 -- THE CONSPIRATOR, Robert Redford
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] In 1865, five days after the end of the American Civil War, seven men were arrested for the assassination of President Lincoln, as well as conspiracy to kill Vice President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State Wlliam H. Seward. A woman — Mary Surratt (Robin Wright) — was also arrested as part of this conspiracy, for she had rented rooms in her home where the young men met and plotted. She was promptly tried by a military tribunal and hung less than three months later. We will never know whether or not she was aware of her lodgers’ plotting. Robert Redford makes this a secondary issue, for his film is mostly concerned with the procedures and legal precedents of expediency justice. “The Conspirator” is an important film, for it poignantly demonstrates the importance of Constitutional rights and impartial justice, even — if not more so — in times of war. Lincoln enthusiasts and history buffs will revel in the film’s careful attention to detail. James McAvoy, on whose shoulders the movie largely rests, is also nothing short of brilliant as Surratt’s young lawyer. But many viewers will lack the patience required to sit through such a linear treatment of the events. It’s not only that we know the outcome, it’s also that the trial was so obviously doomed from the start. And so, watching the movie is as exciting and suspenseful as watching ice melt into water on a hot summer day.

4.0 -- AFRICAN CATS, Keith Scholey & Alastair Fothergill
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The lens used for this spectacular documentary allows for inspiring close up shots to show the personal stories of three formidable feline 'families:' one ruled by the aggressive lion Kali and his four sons who dominate the north side of the Mara's river's winding crocodile-infested waters on the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya; and two other cat families who live on its southern side: Sita and her cheetah cubs, and a pride of loyal lions ruled by ageing Fang. Most of the lions in Fang's family look to Leyla, the pride's matriarch for comfort and help. Layla's sole wish is to ensure her cub Mara will be accepted by her little cub cousins. Layla knows she is about to take her leave forever. She is old and has had far too many fights to last much longer protecting and teaching her Mara how to hunt. Indeed, Mara ends up alone after Kali and his sons take over Fang's pride banishing Fang forever from his family. The end of the film is so cute wherein all the different species roaming the reserve are given film crew assignment names (while the credits role) that match their particular traits. This Disneynature masterpiece offers many touching moments and terrible ones too that show us all that the life and death struggle of African cats is one of near impossible daily endurance and resourcefulness motivated by hunger and an outstanding love for members of their own pride.

3.2 -- HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN, Jason Eisener
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] Four years ago, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s “Grindhouse” made a fetish and marketable product of 70s exploitation aesthetics. Of the two films that comprised “Grindhouse,” “Death Proof” and “Planet Terror,” it was Rodriguez’s “Terror,” with its long dry spells, stagnant visuals and general lack of originality and virtuosity that seemed a truer if inadvertently appropriate homage to what were often very unprofessional, very bad films. Tarantino’s “Death Proof” was the opposite, using the exploitation mandate as a platform from which to launch a hip, streamlined, citation-rich riff on bad films that was, technically and aesthetically, far more accomplished than its acknowledged predecessors. “Hobo” continues this latter approach, deploying exploitation’s visual and thematic tropes with studied reverence and professional polish. A grizzled, middle-aged hobo wanders into a modern-day suburban Sodom, wherein a maniacal crime lord and his two manic sons terrorize and make bloody, pulpy waste of the fearful population. It is not long before the hobo has appointed himself surrogate father to a good-hearted young prostitute and pump-action sheriff to the town’s blood-hungry outlaws. Blood spills and bodies explode, and the actors bite into hammy dialogue like so many bloody pounds of raw beef. Admirably precise in the aural and visual rendering of cartoonish carnage, “Hobo’s” attentiveness to the exploitation aesthetic nearly consumes it whole; despite, or perhaps because of, its technical polish, it captures the look and sound of the films it loves without completely capturing the spirit, which is to say its nostalgia for disreputable cinema leaves it dutifully and reputably reproducing it. Happily its backward gaze is counterbalanced by Rutger Hauer’s gruff immediacy and, among a number of inspired supporting appearances, an iron-clad, soul-sucking assassin team called The Plague, arriving from death in the final third to restore “Hobo” to rotting, malodorous life.

2.9 -- THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU, George Nolfi
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] In terms of narrative efficiency, performances and the dynamic use of space, George Nolfi’s first feature is one of the better adaptations of Philip Dick’s fiction, though it is hard to imagine the master approving of its treatment of political power as an instrument of fate. All-American senatorial candidate David Norris mistakenly uncovers the carefully-secular clandestine organization that programs and monitors the world’s events. He soon discovers that the organization’s plans for his political ascendance conflict with his own desire to pursue the woman he loves, and sets about to confound their mechanisms of control and adjust his fate. "Bureau’s" skillful use of Manhattan locations adds a post-9/11 near-operatic scale to the struggle of the individual against forces beyond his control, yet the degree to which it sequesters this scale to the experiences of a white, upper-class elite feels increasingly fated as the film hurtles toward its conclusion. This is of course not fate but choice, a focus made clear in a scene where Bureau agents orchestrate a traffic collision to adjust the course of Norris’s journey and in the process injure and bloody an Indian cab driver. That the film quickly brushes this off as collateral disturbingly implies that Fate prioritizes some people over others. Fate has always, for select groups of people, justified strength or suffering; but it's surprising to see a film whose star has such a public affinity for the ideas of Howard Zinn join it so earnestly to political power.

4.0 -- BIUTIFUL, Alejandro González Iñárritu
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] "Biutiful" is exquisite in its exposure of Barcelona's exploitation and intolerance of immigrants, of crooked cops taking their share from battered souls while combing the streets -- where deals are done and immigrants are the currency. Specifically, there is dirty laundering by the Chinese - two guys in particular - exploiting their own kind in a freezing warehouse used to churn out moniker-brand handbags that are sold on the street by Senegalese desperados. The operation proves fatal. "Biutiful" juxtaposes the love of a father willing to implicate himself in it all for the sake of his children. Never was there a more passionate but misguided family man than Uxbal. The choices he makes although terribly human create mess after mess as a sequence of disatrous events pile up like toxic garbage in the back streets of Barcelona. Worst of all, Uxbal is dying of cancer. His bi-polar wife and two young children create a family situation that further intensifies his anguish, and ours too as we watch him desperately trying to hang onto life and love. "Biutiful" is a masterpiece where ugliness and sorrow sift out all illusion of hope and happiness. Javier Bardem as Uxbal and Maricel Alvarez as his wife were brilliant in their roles - a match made in heaven, though not made for marriage, as poignantly illustrated in this gut-wrenching film - the result of a confluence of greatness by all involved.

3.6 -- BIUTIFUL, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] On the surface, the Oscar nominated "Biutiful" is anything but. And yet, like order emerging from chaos, light shines through darkness. Inarritu ("Babel", "21 Grams") takes us to Barcelona's dark and dirty underbelly. This underground -- heart of a peripheral economy catering to the upper classes' desire for a good deal and a cheap hand bag -- is here completely demystified. Inarritu's great achievement lies in presenting this state-of-nature-like world through a disarmingly sober and a-moral camera. With stunning performances by Javier Bardem and Maricel Alvarez and impressive cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto, "Biutiful" lingers, and is likely to linger long after the end credits have rolled.

3.5 -- BIUTIFUL, Alejandro González Iñárritu
[reviewed by Robert Lewis@2010FNC]The trials 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?

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] His name was Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944). Founder of Futurism, Marinetti conceived and implemented a prescient movement in 1909 that radically changed literature, painting, sculpture, theatre and music. Marinetti was a genius who no doubt had ADD. He spoke in fast clipping speech that mirrored his obsession with speed (not only was he was in a car accident caused by excessive speeding, but he made friends and enemies faster than a lightning bolt). He believed people must advance with the times. Believing all traditional concepts and forms must be destroyed, he plunged Europe into a new aesthetic based on progress devoid of morality. Machines, skyscrapers, war and subversive societal values fueled his modus operandi. The film "Metropolis" visually depicts his ideal world. He predicted the ipod, the notebook and the blackberry, even jet planes. Exhaustive research involving Marcotti's own family went into this fast-paced finely edited film that included archival material, reenactments and visuals depicting the formidable influences of Futurism in all the arts. This great visionary was surely one of Italy's most memorable revolutionaries. This 2010 film was part of FIFA's 2011 offerings.

3.2 -- JANE EYRE, Cary Fukunaga
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Charlotte Brontë’s novel has been adapted countless times with varying degrees of success. On the big screen, Franco Zeffirelli’s 1996 version was more than just a tad sirupy with all its heavy pathos (oh, poor little Jane!) and ultimately felt like a poor version of its made-for-television counterparts. Orson Welles’ far superior 1943 version, on the other hand, magnificently emphasized the deep-seated passion between Welles and Fontaine but can’t help but feel dated nowadays. Cary Fukunaga’s newest addition to the Jane Eyre legacy opts for a sobriety, directness that suits perfectly both Jane’s character and Brontë’s prose. The film’s visual quality, its rendering of scenery and characters is unobfuscated by heavy make-up and pouffy clothing, a move that is highly uncharacteristic and bold for a “costume drama.” The use of natural light for most scenes further adds to the film’s authentic feel. No doubt, many will comment on Fukunaga’s downplaying of the emotion and physical turmoil of Jane and Rochester’s attraction for each other. I am still not entirely sure of how I feel about it myself. I both admire the restraint yet hoped for more fiery passion. Although I was denied being moved by the torrid love affair, I can’t help but admire the courage of avoiding using cinema’s power to artificially manufacture fireworks at will. Mia Wasikowska (from “The Kids are All Right” and “Alice in Wonderland”) and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, now all grown up) are both unrecognizable in their unconventional unsexiness, which only adds to their peculiar beauty. Wasikowska nails Eyre’s character with her direct, uncompromising yet intelligent stares, and Judi Dench (Mrs. Fairfax) exudes so much maternal love that she practically eclipses Michael Fassbender’s Rochester as Eyre’s object of affection Those already familiar with Brontë’s masterpiece will not be bored as the screenwriter Moira Buffini has played with the novel’s narrative structure in interesting ways.

3.7 -- JANE EYRE, Cary Fukunaga
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] What makes this "Jane Eyre" different from the other 22 or so films that have been made (based on the great novel by Charlotte Bronte) is the simplicity of focus around the two main characters: the stalwart, isolated governess Jane Eyre and the mercurial estate owner, Mr. Rochester. Jane, a teenager comes to live at his huge dark Thornfield estate as tutor to his ward, Adèle. True love will have its way, and although separation, a dead marriage, a fire and loneliness seem to stalk and divide their paths, ironically, it is these very elements that finally unite heroine and hero. The film artfully builds on the unique relationship between the young girl and the master of the domain. Passion (Mr. Rochester) and restraint (Jane Eyre) combine as each character creates a push/pull dynamics within his/her interaction. Each scene carries its own excitement based on character contrast. Their big divide is enhanced by the dark vastness of the estate, Hadden Hall in Derbyshire. It provides the interior and exterior setting for this moody, magnificent movie. This "Jane Eyre" has an immediacy and truth about it. The director has excluded superfluous elements that do not intensify the closeness of the two main characters. Sparse yet sublime, this period film fits into contemporary times despite the fact that love most noble is a passion relegated to the past.

[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] The Paumelles are a typical Parisian liberal family. The patriarch, Lucien (Michel Aumont), a doctor in his 80s, is a hero who spent his life defending the rights of the sans-papiers (illegals). Both of his two children have done very well for themselves; Babette (Karine Viard) practicing medicine, and Arnaud (Fabrice Luchini), business law. On Sundays the family gathers for brunch, where culture and politics are discussed leisurely between the cheese plate and apéro. When Lucien announces that he has finally decided to provide more concrete help to the sans-papiers by lodging a family, everyone commends him for it. It is indeed the next logical thing to do: after all, hard-working African families do not belong in the street. It turns out though, that the sans-papiers in question are a very attractive 28-year-old Moldavian woman and her daughter. Oh, and Lucien has married her in order to avoid possible legal issues. Frank and multifaceted, yet light and fun, Anne Le Ny’s explorations into the discrete charm of the petite-bourgeoisie is thoroughly enjoyable.

2.8 -- THE MAN NEXT DOOR, Mariano Cohn & Gaston Duprat
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This film hits a chord with all of us who have had to contend with an unreasonable neighbour: no matter what tactics you take, the neighbour will not concede, comply or co-operate. In fact, the neighbour nastily clings to an unacceptable agenda which blatantly transgresses all civil codes and boundaries in a variety of unnerving ways. In the case of this unusual, somewhat suspenseful film, kind Leonardo (Rafael Spregelburd) faces off with Victor (Daniel Aráoz), his vulgar neighbour who is expressing his need for more sunlight by doing the unthinkable: without regard to renovation laws or ownership of property, this low-life louse is illegally destroying a wall to build a window that directly looks onto Leonard's heritage habitat -- which happens to be the famous Casa Curutchet, a Buenos Aires landmark built by renowned Swiss architect, le Corbusier. In fact, Leonardo owns the Corbusier, and as a successful industrial designer, he is beside himself with anger and frustration. Pushy Victor initiates several chats which eventually lead to Victor insinuating himself in Leonard's life beyond reason and respect. Leonardo slowly loses ground. It affects his marriage, job and most notably his mental state. What is clever about the film is Victor's constant clatter. Hammering and drilling builds into a percussive crescendo creating a climax that is completely unpredictable. In fact, plot-wise, it falls flat and lands ambiguously in our laps without care. Suspense and humour actually merge in this film where ironic moments are simultaneously disturbing and funny. The actors' performances are second to none (other than the window itself which took over in each shot). It was the scene stealer in every sense of the word!

2.5 -- BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, Jonathan Liebesman
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] Jonathan Liebesman’s two hour commercial for the US military destroys everything it touches, including the line between self-parody and shameless, jingoistic ham. An occupying alien force besieges the world’s major cities and deploys ground and air forces to exterminate the human populations. Among the targeted cities is Los Angeles, which a small group of stock military characters, among them a rookie commander, a pansy, a butch femme and a pure soldier penetrate to rescue civilians before explosives level the area. On the way the group picks up an attractive female veterinarian and a young boy whose Mexican father conveniently dies off and, in a conciliatory scene between the pure soldier, the boy and the veterinarian, sets up the surrogate family standard so common to disaster narratives. That the film suggests this standard without fulfilling it is indicative of its overall approach and source of fascination, which is to nod at as many generic, ideological and narrative conventions as possible without completely submitting to one. A passing jibe at the use of drone warfare quickly vanishes in the face of good old American heroics – “That was some John Wayne shit, Sergeant” – while the stock characters are, even by stock standards, so underwritten that the clichés through which they communicate become our only way to communicate with them. In other words, the ham becomes something like poetry, a blunt, stupid grace the film is proud to call American and by which it defines its leading man. One year after "The Hurt Locker," amid another American offensive, the pure soldier moves from bomb squad to infantry and, as a friend notes, looks more like George W. Bush than John Wayne, close-cropped, furrowed, hand-gunning down an alien foot-soldier. American political life has long abandoned the distinction between parody and jingoism; maybe it’s about time its cinema caught up.

2.5 -- CERTIFIED COPY, Abbas Kiarostami
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] While critics unanimously loved "Certified Copy," non-professional movie-goers have been more polarized. I was expecting to find myself in the fist category, not because I think of myself as having more “discriminate” tastes, but simply because everything about this film tells me I should love it. This Abbas Kiarostami “plotless” exploration of relationships, stars the ever so exquisite Juliette Binoche and William Shimell as they walk through the beautiful Tuscan landscape. Despite all this, I found myself bored, when not down right annoyed by the long, absurd, and improbable dialogues, no doubt inspired by an “Intro to Art” college class. There’s an element of originality in Binoche and Shimell’s never ending game of cat and mouse, as they alternatively change personalities and never quite find happiness at the same time. There might be a philosophical insight there, but the absurd masquerade through which it is revealed can’t help but taint the message.

3.9 -- THE ILLUSIONIST, Neil Burger Furman
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Finally, a suspenseful thriller that is unique, intelligent and unforgettable! Eddie Mora -- impeccably played by Bradley Cooper – is a down-and-out writer with a chronic case of writer’s block. He bumps into his former brother-in-law who offers him NZT, a new not-on-the-market, magic pill that makes the brain work at 100% capacity. People only use 20% of their brain on the best of days. Eddie caves and decides to take the pill handed to him. He loves it. He wants more, lots more, because game too. He pays his brother-in-law a visit to get more pills, but before receiving them, he leaves to buy him food. Eddie returns to a dead brother-in-law and calls the police. He frantically looks for the stash of pills. He finds them. Eureka, his life changes! He now relies heavily on the pills to create an ultra-rich and famous life for himself. He’s writing novels, speaking four languages, playing classical piano and accomplishing death defying feats. Because of his phenomenal ability to predict winning stocks, he gets hired by mega-mogul Carl Van Loon (Robert De Niro) who basically wants to own the world, including Eddie. But being stalked by some stranger, getting his girlfriend involved in danger and nearly getting killed himself is not what he bargained for. Twists never cease in this wonderful film that is totally devoid of Hollywood hocus pocus other than the effect of the pill on those who take it. Indeed, everyone seems to be after this pill. It’s a great movie with a fast pace and a plot to match.

3.5 -- JALOUX, Patrick Demers
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Patrick Demers’ delightfully dark and minimalistic first feature-film “Jaloux” comes very close to perfection. Shot over 16 days, the film establishes a closed-space in which three brilliantly chosen actors improvise around a deceptively common plot (a couple tries to revive their relationship with a weekend away in a cottage, where a dangerous man they mistake for a friendly neighbour accosts them). Though the film’s quality is largely due to the incredible improvisational acting, the tight editing (which must have been a feat, considering the nature of the shoot) and oozing music, reminiscent of Bernard Hermann, add depth and interest.These, coupled with sustained tension and dark humour, remind one of Hitchcock’s long lasting legacy. The weird chemistry between Maxime Dénommée (of the critically acclaimed Radio-Canada series “Aveux”) and Sophie Cadieux (who seems to be everywhere these days) is contagious and lends a rare sense of credibility and realism to their fragile and flawed couple. Cleaning up after a summer night’s excess and heavy drinking takes on a whole new meaning.

2.3 LINCOLN LAWYER, Brad Furman
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper]
Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey), a low-key, clever, cool-as-a-cucumber Los Angeles lawyer operates out of his chauffer-driven car most days. He’s goes for the down and dirty type criminals, because they pay well. A motor cycle gang is his type of folk. He is defending Louis Roulet, yet another murderer -- a playboy type (Ryan Phillippe), but this time, Haller actually believes his baby-faced client who earnestly claims his innocence. He emphatically says he never raped nor attempted to kill the prostitute in question. We are duped by his sincerity as is Haller. The film is somewhat novel in its plot and character twists, but it’s requires a good stretch of credibilty to understand how this good guy is actually the bad guy and how the supposed bad guys are really the good guys. In other words, the script writer preferred to leave out some keys explanations. The acting was good, and some lines were funny in a vulgar way, but all in all, the movie moved along the typical lines of formulaic plot: you could see the predictable curve balls coming your way. It tried to be different, but didn’t really succeed. Matthew McConaughey was refreshing to watch and should take on more of these meaty roles. Still, showing off his physical flexibility by licking his own feet while doing yoga may prove to be his singlemost claim to fame.

2.9 -- LULLY L’INCOMMODE, Olivier Simonnet
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Somewhat contrived this biopic sets the scene of Lully sitting for his portrait in a room at Versailles. No other character is shown in the film as Lully reveals his life to the unseen artist. Conceiving and creating opera under Louis X1V, Lully garnered both adulation and derision. The King idolized Lully and gave him full run of the court as music director. Born in 1632, Lully was able to circumvent political intrigues until the end of his life when the king dismissed him from his position as music director. Evidently, Lully had a thing for the boys, but this time the king’s own page was the object of the great composer’s affection. The page took the fall for it all and Lully was not so happy about it all. Lully’s Baroque music played by ensembles in the film is glorious. Unfortunately, reenacting his life (delivered as a monologue by Lully which albeit was credibly played by Thierry Hancisse) was hokey. This 2009 film fell flat for lack of sparkle, characters and scene reenactments. However, the music made up for the one-dimensional quality inherent in the use of monologue as a mode to mirror this genius’ life. It was in the mix of music films presented by FIFA. 227.

2.7 -- THE SACRED DANCER, Diego D’Innocenzo
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Biswajit, a 15-year-old belongs to a revered group of Indian dancers. He is a Gotipuas – one of the boys trained from a very young age to dance for Shiva at the temple in Dimirisena, a small Indian village in the province of Orissa. Together with other boys they costume themselves as girls. They dance angelically. Long ago, girls called Devadsis initially danced this sacred role. They were spiritually married to the god Jagannath. The film does not clarify why Shiva replaced this god, but it does say that Shiva and the boys become one -- nameless, shapeless as they embody their sacred god. They are pure rhythm and movement. Now no girl is allowed to enter the all-boy group, but little Padma convinces the Gatipuas teacher that she is able to do the dances, having watched these superb students rehearse with him. This unusual documentary follows Biswajit as he does graceful movements to honour Shiva. However, he is now changing into a man and he must bid good-bye to his life as a Gotipuas. A young boy given by his parents to replace Biswajit knows he is in good hands as Biswajit escorts him to the temple. They disappear into the distance, and the film ends. Interesting and worthy of watching, “The Sacred Dancer,” part of FIFA, has lasting merit though it was made in 2009.

1.6 -- THE DEBUSSY FILM, Ken Russell
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] How anyone could take the life of Debussy, one of the world’s greatest lyrical piano composers (one of my favourite to play) and turn his tragic periods into a pseudo-erotic biopic – well only insanity can answer that! This film within a film goes on the premise that Debussy (1862-1918) was a mooch, a gambler and a gad-about with an impoverished mind that was more in love with lust than music. The scenes were almost comic in their attempts to show Louis, the fictitious seedy filmmaker whose reputation for his pornography movies makes him manipulate Oliver Stone to do such silly things. Stone plays himself and Debussy in this highly pretentious piece of rubbish. I need only play Debussy’s pieces from his piano collection called “Children’s Corner,” which was dedicated to his little daughter who died at the age of nine, to remind myself that composers in the face of tragedy are able to summon their genius to create everlasting beauty. The same cannot be said for some filmmakers, particularly the kinky artist who made this far-fetched and highly forgettable film in 1965. Whatever was Russell smoking?

1.3 -- SOURCE CODE, Duncan Jones
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Jake Gyllenhaal’s role choices seem to alternate in a way that is both baffling and eerily consistent: every good role is followed by a more than questionable one. Duncan Jones’ “Source Code” -- sandwiched in between “Love and Other Drugs” and the upcoming “Nailed” -- was therefore bound to disappoint. Pilot Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) awakens one morning on a commuter train en route to Chicago. He doesn’t know what he is doing there, nor why he is inhabiting a stranger’s body. Eight minutes later the train explodes and he finds himself in a box talking to a uniformed officer (Vera Farmiga) who informs him that he must go back into the past, onto the same commuter train in order to discover the bomber’s identity. The first scene then repeats again, again, (and again), “Groundhog Day”-style as he keeps on failing to identify the bomber in time to prevent the tragedy. Half-way through the movie, Stevens, himself fed up -- perhaps taking it upon himself to voice the audience’s frustration -- blurts out: “This makes no sense. What are you talking about? I need to be briefed!” You see, up to that point, none of us knows what’s going on, which makes it difficult to care about what’s happening on screen. Why should we care that a bomb explodes and kills thousands of people if they are, for all we know, mere figments of a programmer’s imagination? Eventually, well past the point of no return, some of the intricacies of the plotline are revealed. Infatuated by its own concept, “Source Code” takes the 'smart movie' idea too far and leaves its audience behind.

2.2 -- YAMLA PAGLA DEEWANA, Samir Karnik
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This Bollywood film is as confusing as its title. Akin to India’s version of a Jackie Chan movie -- full of action, fighting and comedic relief, this long epic involves a son who lives in Vancouver. His name is Paramvir. In order to find Gajodhar, his long lost brother which would bring ultimate happiness to his mother, he travels to Banaras and meets up with him. Long ago, Dharam, his dad, ran off with the now missing brother when he was a toddler. Like father like son: both Dharam and Gajodhar are up to no good, conning people out of money and stealing from stores. But family sticks together, and Paramvir, who reveals to his dad his familial relationship, is determined to stay by his brother’s side. His brother does not know that his new sidekick is his own brother. After many mix-ups, including a major entanglement with a rich family keen on wedding their daughter to Paramvir, everything straightens out: Paramvir is already a husband whose wife and kids travel to India to find him so that marriage will not take place. In the end, Gajodhar gets the girl after the rich family finds out Paramvir is already taken. Best of all, Gajodhar finds out that the man who has been his staunchest ally, aside form his father, is actually his own brother. The two brothers and father return to Vancouver and mom is extremely happy. The dance numbers, and wedding scene are fun entertainment, but the comedic plot is over the top.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Montmartre was the mecca for all the great ones who bandied together in a communal block over a slaughterhouse on Larouche in Paris in 1903. There was Picasso and his poet pal Apollinaire, Chagall, MiroZ genius called Picasso comes to live iThrough a series of archival interviews with his wife, two daughters and son, along with great artists who collaborated with Rubenstein, including conductors Zubin Mehta, and Daniel Barenboim and pianist Mikhail Rudy, we come to know the genius of one of the world’s greatest pianists. Clips from many of his concerto performances in Poland, England, France and Israel, provide a musical landscape to enchant us all with his inimitable interpretations of Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Ravel, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart, his favourite composer. Rubenstein said: “Music lifts you up; you don’t belong anymore to this planet”. Clearly, this family man whose friends included Picasso and his peers along with French writer Jacques Chancel delighted all who knew him with his great sense of humour and gentleness. Rubenstein loved the grand gaiety of life and people of all kinds. He blamed himself for many years for not practicing enough: “I was lazy; I preferred to go to the theatre, opera and read books. But that developed sensitivity that comes out in my music.” He felt that this sensitivity, so beautifully reflected in his playing is what resonates with audiences the world over. Rubenstein revealed insightful comments on the masters of piano composition. He tells us that Chopin only played Bach and Mozart, and that he was really not a romantic. He revealed that he himself, like the great Polish composer, only plays the sentiments expressed in the compositions. His suppleness, fluidity and ease in each phrase shaped by his nimble, strong fingers are rapturous and astonishing. Rubenstein was remarkably happy. His resilience and wonderful acceptance of life comes through this film. Although all his family perished under the Nazis (they were from Poland), nonetheless, nothing seems to have darkened his outlook on life. Buried in Israel with sculpted slabs resembling the keys of the piano, Rubenstein has the last word in this lovely film. From the grave (he died at 95), a voice rippling over these huge stone “piano keys” humbly tells the world: “Without sounding arrogant, I think I am the happiest person I have ever met.” He certainly made everyone joyously happy with his playing, and his marvelous energy and personality simply enhanced it all. FIFA selected a film that immortalizes the greatest pianist of all time.

3.9 -- PUCCINI, Giorgio Capitani
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Your passion for Puccini will reach ecstatic heights every second of this feature film. Rather than being a mere period movie that recreates in pretentious fashion Puccini and his life, the script brilliantly brings us Puccini the man, the husband, the lover, and most of all illustrates the ways his musical genius affected the world – a man capable of making men and women cry during the opening phrases of his magnificent arias, duets, solos and tragic finales. It’s 1924 in Vienna. The film opens introducing us to a 60-year-old sick man unable to finish “Turandot.” He’s coughing, smoking and ripping up music sheets. He has no inspiration. Through the meeting of a lovely female journalist, he lets her know he is spent, but this is not quite true; he does complete “Turandot,” upon which his own finale soon follows. The movie takes us back to his boyhood days in Lucca, Italy, his studies at the Conservatory, his coquettish cabaret lover who years later inspires the creation of the character, Mimi in “La Boheme.” Touchingly and humorously, Puccini develops his relationships with both eccentric and sensible people who play an integral role in making him the world’s most coveted maestro of opera. A large part of the film revolves around his relationship with Ricordi, his lifelong publisher who, through thick and thin, believed in his immeasurable talent despite his first opera’s debut flop in Milan: “Madame Butterfly.” But after that rejection, there was no looking back. The rest of Europe loved him and soon Milan did too. There are so many enchantingly intimate moments in this film, such as when he meets Elvira his wife who leaves her husband for him; his light-hearted librettists whom he wakes up at all hours of the wee morning when music comes to him and he must have the lyric written instantly and hear it or he won’t let them sleep. Then there is Dorio, a young angelic girl hired as the house maid. She is fired by Elvira who fears this delicate little domestique is stealing her husband away. Elvira forces her to leave at night in the rain. It was Dorio who became the maestro’s muse. At 40; he falls under her sweet spell, and he finds he is once again inspired. Puccini never cheated on Elvira. Tragically, Dorio poisons herself soon after she is banished from the Puccini household. A masterful, understated scene at the morgue makes us cry when we see her lifeless body. Overall though, this film offers profoundly light-hearted moments too. One extremely funny scene happens when Toscanini appears at the rehearsal hall to inform Puccini he changed some of tempo, accents, and more in “La Boheme.” Puccini is horrified and rants to his publisher he will not have Toscanini conducting his opera. If he does, he will quit on the spot. As he continues to yell, suddenly, he hears the opening notes of “La Boheme’s” overture as it is being conducted in the rehearsal hall by Toscanini; Puccini is swept away in awe. Both become great friends.” Nessun dorma” ends the movie with Toscanini leaving out the final phrase; he stops conducting on the spot. He announces to the audience that Puccini is dead. Everyone stands up in silence. Before throat cancer completely consumed Puccini, he sought care at a clinic. The movie comes full circle. The journalist reappears. She has her finished article delivered to his room in the clinic. Puccini look at it, then out his window and sees her in the garden on a chair. Their eyes meet and she gives him a little wave and walks away. So much beauty in this film; so much history, such restraint, such rage, and rapture, sadness and sunny days: so many funny moments. Above all, the film’s glorious music and the acting are supremely brilliant. Allessio Boni as Puccini played him as a real person; you were enthralled, delighted, stunned and teary-eyed by his portrayal of this great maestro. Aside from being utterly handsome, he brought us a Puccini of poignant personality whose legacy is immortalized in this Puccini picture.

3.4 -- PALESTRINA, PRINCE OF MUSIC, Georg Brintrup
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper]
This fine docudrama focuses on the almost mystical musical imagination of the remarkable Renaissance composer, Giovanni Perluigi da Palestrina. His quest to make music whose purity imitated the spirit of God led to his analogy between music amd planet rotation and space. He also likened music to the geometry of the crystal, perfect and pure. From simpler homorhythmic two-dimensional song melodies to full-scale polyphonic melodic compositions where each melody seemes to float on its own yet interconnect with other melodic lines, Palestrina revolutionized Church music, freeing it beyond the confines and restraints of the liturgy and sacred word. His music is indeed crystal clear, sublime and transcendental. He was not without despair though -- subject to the changing rules of Pontifical political power. Serving Pope Julius III, he was adored and given a lifelong position as cantore ponteficio. But, during his life, he was also dismissed by Pope Paul IV . Palestrina was married and because of this he was forced to leave the papal chapel. Falling into poverty, losing his wife to influenza and his two sons to the plague, Palestrina eventually married a rich widow. He was once again able to publish his music -- 400 compositions in all at this late stage in his life. In 1571, he regained his position at the Church and remained in great esteem there until his death in 1594. As the most revered composer in Europe during these latter years of his life, Palestrina created music that divinely reflected the eternal soul of God. The film uses actors to recreate the times as they share their thoughts on Palestrina. They assume various roles: his students, a jealous cardinal, Popes and one of his sons who recounts his father's life. In this gem of a film, Palestrina's music is brought to life through the magical singing of the Ensemble Seicentonovecento, led by conductor Flavio Colusso. The inspiring setting of Abruzzi and its monuments including the Blessed Papal Antonia added great beauty to the audio pleasure of this period film.Sadly, shortly thereafter, most of Abruzzi was destroyed in the earthquake that struck the region. Thus the film is an enduring testament to a time and place now gone. This 2009 film was one of 227 films shown at FIFA this year.

3.6 -- DOGTOOTH , Giorgios Lanthimos
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] The reality of Greece’s economic and political corruption hovers over the unreality of Giorgios Lanthimos’s “Dogtooth,” a domestic parable in the traditions of Michael Haneke and Lars von Trier that outperforms either filmmaker’s recent output. A man with a middle-managing industry job and his wife raise three college-age children (one boy, two girls) in a secluded, walled-off piece of suburban property that includes a pool, impeccable greenery and a hyper-modern white-and-glass house. There the father and mother groom the children under a strict routine of social and sexual programming to curb “bad influence” and permanently forestall entry into the corrupt outside world. This corruption breaks the seclusion in the form of a female security guard, whom the father pays to have sex with the son but whose sexual and cultural influence, “licking” and movies specifically, soon spreads to the girls and, tapping the violently repressed aspects of their personalities and sexualities, precipitates their conditioning’s partial breakdown. As social critique that touches on two distinct settings, “Dogtooth” is equally critical of an economic ideal whose bureaucratic structures impinge on professional, political and familial life as well as the utopian isolationism that may arise as a response to that ideal. A sense of corruption pervades both extremes of the spectrum, and ironically it is through the process of borrowing, national deficit notwithstanding, that the film locates some points of resistance. These points take the form of American blockbusters which are also borrowed and implicated in processes of economic and behavioural conditioning and from which the children can, paradoxically, perform –in a Stallone impression that brings down the house - a resistant strain of identity construction. That these performances are also completely scripted is more evidence of the two-sided and ambivalent approach “Dogtooth” takes to all questions of control and resistance, economic and interpersonal, asking how those intent on putting up or breaking down walls can recognize the true barriers that hold and define them.

2.8 -- FRANCIS BACON, David Hinton
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This revealing documentary exposes the man behind the macabre paintings he created. Many comprise contorted figures dripping in blood with mouths agape; they seem to be screaming in anguish. Conversations between this eccentric artist and his interviewer, Melvyn Bragg, take place inside London’s Tate Gallery, the famous Colony Club and Bacon’s horridly messy art studio. Ranked as one of the 20th century’s greatest painters, Bacon enjoys his notoriety. He is brutally honest and sometimes mean; he appears immune to public reproach. Therefore, the viewer is fascinated by his personality, even more than his sparse paintings. His comments prove interesting, and entertaining, shocking and frank. Bacon unabashedly states that he believes in deeply organized chaos. Indeed, his paintings give the viewer few images to lighten the heart. He takes his cue from the Greek playwright Aeschylus who said:” The wreak of human blood smiles up at me," When asked to comment on some paintings -- shown to him on a slide projector -- by great American artists, including Pollack and Rothko, Bacon is remarkably glib and blunt. Simply put, he hates their work. Born in Dublin and living in London, he left home at the age of 16. One gathers he lived the life of hard knocks: “What could I make that competes with the horrors going on in the world?” Bacon died at 83, leaving a visual legacy of the extreme pain he perceived as a plague in the 20th century.

3.1 -- ARTHUR RUBENSTEIN, Marie-Claire Margossian
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Through a series of archival interviews with his wife, two daughters and son, along with great artists who collaborated with Rubenstein, including conductors Zubin Mehta, and Daniel Barenboim and pianist Mikhail Rudy, we come to know the genius of one of the world’s greatest pianists. Clips from many of his concerto performances in Poland, England, France and Israel, provide a musical landscape to enchant us all with his inimitable interpretations of Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Ravel, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart, his favourite composer. Rubenstein said: “Music lifts you up; you don’t belong anymore to this planet”. Clearly, this family man whose friends included Picasso and his peers along with French writer Jacques Chancel delighted all who knew him with his great sense of humour and gentleness. Rubenstein loved the grand gaiety of life and people of all kinds. He blamed himself for many years for not practicing enough: “I was lazy; I preferred to go to the theatre, opera and read books. But that developed sensitivity that comes out in my music.” He felt that this sensitivity, so beautifully reflected in his playing is what resonates with audiences the world over. Rubenstein revealed insightful comments on the masters of piano composition. He tells us that Chopin only played Bach and Mozart, and that he was really not a romantic. He revealed that he himself, like the great Polish composer, only plays the sentiments expressed in the compositions. His suppleness, fluidity and ease in each phrase shaped by his nimble, strong fingers are rapturous and astonishing. Rubenstein was remarkably happy. His resilience and wonderful acceptance of life comes through this film. Although all his family perished under the Nazis (they were from Poland), nonetheless, nothing seems to have darkened his outlook on life. Buried in Israel with sculpted slabs resembling the keys of the piano, Rubenstein has the last word in this lovely film. From the grave (he died at 95), a voice rippling over these huge stone “piano keys” humbly tells the world: “Without sounding arrogant, I think I am the happiest person I have ever met.” He certainly made everyone joyously happy with his playing, and his marvelous energy and personality simply enhanced it all. FIFA selected a film that immortalizes the greatest pianist of all time. here.

3.2 -- CLAUDIO BRAVO, Michael Hegglin
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Bravo comes by his last name honestly. An accomplisher of immense projects, he has devoted his life to the pursuit and creation of beauty and perfection. He is an artist, designer of homes, builder of hospitals and schools, collector of Moroccan pottery and textiles. In fact, one of his most successful New York exhibitions comprised vertical orange-hued drapery framed like paintings. Bravo lives a charmed life surrounded in nature and peace. He would have it no other way. He confesses to being an artist who only creates beauty; he has no interest in anything but forms and objects that inspire awe and tranquility. Born in Chile, he ends up living in Morocco where he designs and builds three different homes. His Marrakesh home is a mansion of moderate size that rises majestically in the Medina. His Tangier home boasts an expansive garden the size of Versailles -- an oasis of lush land that immediately transports the viewer into a Shangri-La world. The retreat in Taroudant is a kind of fantasy house that resembles a fortress intent on holding back the invading world. The interior of each of his homes is adorned in stunning objects that only an absurdly rich person could own. In fact, he actually bought the entire contents of a pottery Moroccan pottery museum. This deeply beautiful film spreads out like a canvas of perfection before the eye. We are entranced by Bravo’s insight and remarkable ability to set out on a dream and accomplish it long before old age. This movie is like a magnificent piece of music made visual. Magic before your eyes! FIFA’s inclusion of this 2009 film is a gift to an audience that appreciates timeless art. It makes us all want to be collectors.

2.0 -- L'APPAT , Yves Simoneau
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This is a comedy that teams up two totally different cops. Together, they must solve a Mafia crime. The cop from Quebec, called Poirier, is adept at bungling everything. Not as funny as Peter Sellers, actor Guy Lepage is still engaging as Poirier; he pulls off a few fun gags. His serious cohort, Mohammed Ventura -- played by Rachid Badouri is in fact a member of the French secret service. He is slick, agile and cunning. Having been sent by his French boss as an undercover underling to Montreal, he is supposed to get to the bottom of the crime without giving away his true identity to anyone. He therefore poses as a student cop attempting to learn the tricks of the trade from Poirier. But Ventura skillfully surpasses his Quebecois sidekick. In the end, both guys discover that their very different cop styles can actually combine effectively to solve the crime. That's refreshing given that they start off on really bad footing; Ventura does not suffer fools in a friendly manner. Poirier finally discovers the true identity of Ventura and together they discover another truth: their respective bosses are the bad guys. This lighthearted film is comedy without cleverness. Still it has some amusing moments.

3.3 -- THE ILLUSIONIST , Sylvain Chomet
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] It is difficult in a short review to do justice to the context of any film. I went into “The Illusionist” having read the open letter Richard McDonald, middle grandson of Jacques Tati, sent to a number of film critics and which was subsequently posted online, in which he accuses the film’s director and producers of obscuring the true and painful history behind Tati’s original script. That history claims the script as a letter of love and apology to the daughter whom Tati had before the Second World War and, along with her mother, subsequently abandoned. One cannot separate the question of Chomet and the producers’ responsibility to this history from any legitimate discussion of the film’s value as cinema or history. However, as ambivalent as some critics have been regarding this question, I am somewhat ambivalent about measuring the film against Tati’s oeuvre, a comparison which might be fruitful but can, if observed too strongly, obscure the film’s limitations as well as its strengths; if nothing else, McDonald’s letter reminds us “The Illusionist” is a Chomet film, the ethics of adaptation notwithstanding. An aging magician carries his failing act to a seaside town in Scotland, where an adolescent girl falls in love with his magic and follows him to Edinburgh, where the two form a surrogate father-daughter living arrangement. Dwindling funds and opportunities force the magician to pursue increasingly humiliating and dehumanizing work; meanwhile, the glamour of urban capitalism, itself responsible for this dehumanization, as well as the excitement of first love, its codes of courtship framed within the capitalist rubric, claim the place of magic in the girl’s attention and steadily pull the two apart. “The Illusionist’s” deft and near-total lack of traditional dialogue diffuses the hyperbolic praise lavished on the first half-hour of “Wall-E,” which consisted of no dialogue besides a metallic exchange of names and which some critics regarded as a sort of miraculous silent film. Elsewhere, and perhaps taking a cue from “Playtime,” albeit to a far lesser degree, Chomet allows for the action to unfold within a single frame or “shot” and on several planes of action, two processes that remain rare in American popular animation. He is also not shy about his debt to Disney’s hand-drawn tradition, though it is perhaps when he is most direct about to whom or what he would like to pay homage – at one point the magician stumbles into a theater playing “Mon Oncle” – that “The Illusionist’s” spell momentarily breaks. Admittedly these moments interrupt an altogether agreeable, sometimes lovely story, but there’s nothing here like grenade-fishing with the Triplets.

3.7 -- ALAMAR , Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] Before leaving with his mother for Rome, a young boy whose parents have separated – his mother is Italian, his father Mexican – accompanies his father to the Caribbean Island of his father and grandfather’s birth to learn about life on, or life and, the sea. That life’s daily routine of diving for fish, selling fish, preparing together and eating fish, provides a backdrop for the natural beauty of the endangered reef and demonstrates how the region’s family and interpersonal dynamics revolve around it. A work of fiction with untrained actors or a scripted documentary in the Flaherty tradition (I’d vote for the former), Rubio’s film is perhaps best categorized as an exciting form of activist cinema that forgoes the demands to reinvent form and of confrontational posturing. For much of its running time, “Alamar” is content to regard the beauty of the reef, of which the human body is one element among many, on its own terms, a position that allows it, when the film finally moves to Rome, to compare the two without demonizing the latter; in fact, the film argues that a love of one can enhance one’s understanding of and appreciation for the other. Rubio extends this generosity to cinematic form, as tenets of classical narrative, observational documentary and self-referentiality wash over one another and, like the birds, crocodiles and roaches that occupy and surround the family’s home, peacefully co-exist. For seventy-three minutes, the coexistences at the heart of the film’s form and setting emerge simultaneously and inextricably from each other. It’s a form of activist cinema so radical that you might be shocked to learn from the postscript that the film has a 'position,' so interwoven are its existence and its argument.

2.7 -- UNKNOWN , Jaume Collet-Serra
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] On a trip to Berlin, an American professor's taxi careens off a bridge and lands him in a coma from which he wakes to find his wife, career and identity stolen by another man. He soon enlists the help of a former Stasi agent and a sexy, street-smart Bosnian immigrant to discover if and why someone would conspire against him. The film's ostensible question is if he is crazy or not, but viewers familiar with Neeson's late-career renaissance know the important question is when and towards what body count the killer inside will shed the good manners that stretch over it like a thin skin. But the film's true attraction is the supporting German talent, the existence of which has not been lost on American producers since Christoph Waltz's celebrated performance in "Inglourious Basterds." Bruno Ganz's former Stasi officer leads the way, a relic of an older and mysterious post- Nazi Germany which American cinema has always been reticent to visit and of an older Berlin that has already disappeared. Though "Unknown" does not change the fact that one must return almost a full century for a definitive cinematic portrait of Germany's capital, it does hint, in a beautiful, understated scene between Ganz and a late-appearing Frank Langella, at a history behind the changing faces of people and city that are in the process of being forgotten. It also nostalgically evokes a kind of cinematic, spy vs. spy intrigue whose tension is propelled by performance and registered in barely-discernable shifts in character and communication, just one element of a disappearing landscape that "Unknown" pauses to salute on its way over the edge.

3.0 -- JOURNAL D'UN COOPÉRANT, Robert Morin
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] When Jean-Marc Phaneuf, an electronic technician, is sent to Burundi to work with Radio du Monde, he decides to keep a video diary. His trip soon exposes the sham of international aid, but he continues to cooperate with his colleagues and their requests to order more equipment. Jean-Marc develops an infatuation with his cook's granddaughter. He invites her to come swimming at his house every day. Something ominous is afoot and soon he is inviting her to model the clothes he buys for her. Jean-Marc is not what he seems to those who befriend him. He is not as good as he appears to be. In fact, the colleagues he disparages in his video diary end up being the good guys. As his scathing look at humanity deepens with each tragedy he witnesses in his host country, his own deep flaws begin to surface. The film exposes the horrid hypocrisy and wickedness that lurk deep within supposedly harmless, helpful people.

2.4 -- MOTS GELÉS (FROZEN WORDS), Isabelle D'Amours
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Filmed in St Hyacinthe and its neighboring area, this compelling film offers graphic landscapes of winter harshness enhanced by the area's lonely mountain rising above a world of white endless snow. Charles lives in a dark depressing house that looks out to the mountain. He often walks towards it without purpose. He is deeply troubled, lonely and alienated. In fact, he is suffering from clinical depression. His mother resides in a nursing home. She is catatonic, and Charles is deeply affected by this. He visits her, yet no words are ever shared. All she does is sit in her rocking chair looking out the window. Charles' only pastime, in between his job as a shop teacher, is cutting hundreds of strips of paper. On them he writes short greeting messages to his mother. He then rolls them up, puts them into ice cube trays and shoves them into the freezer. Charles desperately wishes to make contact with her; he loves her very much. In the end, he reaches the point of no return. His depression seals his fate. But before he takes his final walk towards that mountain -- this time with a purpose in mind -- he visits his mother. It will be his last visit. He takes her hand and tells her he loves her. Pierre-Luc Brilliant, who appears in every scene, puts in a masterful performance as Charles, portraying depression with grace and empathy. Still, the film trudges slowly along, and is more a study in character than a plot pleaser.

3.0 -- LA CITÉ, Kim Nguyen
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] In 1895, French colonial soldiers take over a northern Tunisian outpost. The bubonic plague has killed off most of the sorry inhabitants. But high up on the Aurès mountain range is a little town (city) populated by the Herenite people who have survived on their own for centuries, and presently, they remain free from the plague that is quickly decimating the townspeople below. Dr. Vincent, an army doctor who once spent eight years serving his country in Tunisia, ends up helping these so-called enemies of the soldiers living above the chaos. Typically, the French soldiers tell everyone it is these mountain people who are to blame for the bubonic outbreak. The film features moments of great lyrical beauty, such as when the fine mountain folk drop thousands of leaves onto the quarantined town below manned by soldiers. On these leaves they have written a touching message stating that their gods may differ but all are brothers. Sadly, the heroic doctor, who secretly visits the mountain town to bring food to the people after saving a young boy who has been shot by the soldiers, meets his own doom. He never makes it back to France but takes his final resting place high up among the people he has grown to love as guardian of their 'city.' Poor editing and some stagey scenes weaken this otherwise unique film.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] There is nothing meritorious about this collective of shorts created by technically able directors who may have inadvertently stumbled into a cure for insomnia. That said, Janet Perlman's film, "Sorry Film Not Ready," was refreshing; it stood out among the collective of eight films. Ironically, her film really was not finished and was therefore gratifyingly short and concise. That may have been why it got the most applause, though it did have funny cartoon zippy characters in it. "Le Projet Sapporo" cleverly turned Japanese calligrapher Gazanbou Higich's masterfully made characters into the actual images they represented. Her film employed animation to do thisAlso of note was Innu filmmaker, Real Junior Leblanc's "Tremblement de Terre." It united his poetry of sadness and despair with his life in northern Quebec's forlorn landscapes. Born in Uashat, he is a member of the Wapikoni mobile, a traveling showcase featuring films made by Quebec's First Nations people. The only mature filmmaker in the lot of films shown was Jean Detheux. What a disgrace. His interminably boring film consisted of vivid colours fluidly merging together across the screen without any variation. This travesty of a film was set to Bach's La Chaconne. Entitled "Chaconne," it was the worst of the lot; though it was nice to hear the music as long as your eyes were closed during the film's 15 minutes..

3.0 -- DELTA, Kornél Mundruczo
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This slow-paced film is Hungary's version of Appalachian life gone wrong - ignorance and aberration abound thematically in this film. Even the music and backwoods setting surrounding the Danube delta tell an abnormal way of life. A young man meets up with his mother and a sister he has never met. Together, the siblings escape prejudice and repression by retreating into the backwoods of the delta. This is understandable given that the sister's step father rapes her when she tries to leave. The brother and her build a wooden house on the delta that seems to hold the promise of tranquility and love (ambiguously demonstrated between the siblings). Small-minded folk determine their fate, and it is a sad one indeed. The film captures the beauty and beaucolic life along this unpopulated part of the Danube. But their safety is dashed by Hungarian intent on destroying those who do not follow the norm. here.

2.0 -- ANGLE MORT, Dominic James
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Like a proud card-carrying member of the genre,“Angle mort” ticks off, one by one, all the elements of the soft-horror/thriller film: an ugly villain avenging his girlfriend’s death, a stranded couple in distress, overpowering music to create tension when there would otherwise be none, and a happy ending justifying all of the preceding violence (who cares that a dozen cubans are slaughtered so long as the ordeal strengthens our couple’s commitment towards each other, right?). The filmmakers seem unaware that most viewers have already seen this movie and that suspense and interest can be maintained only if the formula is somehow renewed, not simply repeated. Karine Vanasse (whose character as a globetrotting photo-journalist seriously lacks credibility) and Sébastien Huberdeau (as her beau), who have both demonstrated their talents in “Polytechnique,” have very little to work with here. The dialogues are reminiscent of daytime soap operas, as is their text-book shot/counter-shot filming structure. With all of its numbingly dis-believable narrative elements, the film’s true reward lies in its brevity.

3.5 -- INSIDE JOB, Charles Ferguson
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] The sloganizing of politicians and popular media risks saddling “the worst recession since the Great Depression” with the weight of myth, delegating its causes and effects to some immediate and perpetual past. One of the great achievements of Charles Ferguson’s second feature-length documentary is to thrust the reality of this recession back into the present and expose the players and institutions responsible. Not one responsible party emerges unscathed – from the corporate financial sector’s derivative fiasco, to the banks’ predatory loaning, to the politicians who promise change and academics objectivity, Ferguson’s film situates its critiques of people and institutions within a broader critique of systemic corruption. As with “No End in Sight,” Ferguson forgoes the populist theatrics of Michael Moore and disguises his wide reach and personality by starting small, using Iceland’s economic collapse as a case-study and himself as an unobtrusive commentator. Exposition interchanges with interviews to build the viewer’s knowledge of seemingly complex economic systems alongside his distrust of seemingly trustworthy subjects; finally, an educated viewer and a now-combative Ferguson confront a disingenuous system side-by-side. When, in a later interview, Ferguson’s voice re-introduces Iceland and reveals for public scrutiny the second face of one of his many two-faced subjects, the pang of recognition is the viewer’s to share. But it is through the juxtaposition of the many interviews against one another, and the economic and cultural logistics spelled out between them, that the film avoids mere witch-hunting and achieves, like the best activist cinema, the therapeutic jolt that accompanies the sudden revelation of truth.

1.3 -- FROM PRADA TO NADA, Angel Gracia
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] One hundred thirteen years later, Angel Gracia's riff on "Sense and Sensibility" realizes Mark Twain's famous desire to exhume Jane Austen's corpse and beat it over the head with her own shinbone. Half-white, half-Mexican sisters Nora and Mary Dominguez inherit their father's unmanageable debt and forfeit their West LA mansion for the hot, crowded, ultimately redemptive company of their Mexican relatives in the east. In time Nora will learn to open her heart to wealthy white lawyers and Mary that immigrants are people too. What the film might say about working class or immigrant life, the realities of integration or Los Angeles's cinematically and politically underrepresented majority is consistently downplayed in favour of cheap stereotypes (look out for punks in low-riders!) and the girls' perennial search for love. "Beauty isn't everything," says the beautiful Nora, establishing early on a connection between beauty and hypocrisy that informs the film's approach to the world - for the strange, dark and silent mass's beauty can only be glimpsed in the buried ethnicity of the film's tanned leads, while efforts to create a few "rounded" Mexican characters - chiefly, one worthy of Mary's attention - only highlight the inability of the people outside the film's purview to speak for themselves.

2.3 -- THE GREEN HORNET, Michel Gondry
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] An unlikable hero, insecure villain and surprisingly small doses of analog wizardry distinguish Michel Gondry’s modest contribution to the superhero club. A newspaper magnate dies and bequeaths his empire to his hedonistic son, who joins his father’s brilliant and lethal Chinese mechanic Cato to battle a corrupt district attorney and a violently self-doubting drug lord. Gondry disperses most of his do-it-yourself visuals into an informal tone and lets his budget do the heavy-effects-lifting. Meanwhile, those who would joke about what else Batman and Robin keep in their closets will find plenty in the film’s hero/sidekick tension to keep themselves occupied, including an extended fight sequence whose deft use of stunt doubles, wires and shattering glass is perhaps the film’s finest achievement. An attractive female secretary enters between explosions to momentarily distract from and finally reinforce the film’s dominant relationship. But the buddy-bond is just one facet of the superhero genre Gondry’s slapdash style gleefully lampoons and utterly believes in.

[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Adèle Blanc-Sec -- Indiana Jones' cooler cousin -- is everything I always wanted to see in an action hero: she uses her brains instead of violence, she is strong and determined beyond measure, has no romantic interest and does not need to wear a cat suit to get what she wants. Above all, she smokes, drinks whisky and wears the most outrageous hats. My kind of woman, and, apparently, Besson's as well. Luc Besson has indeed understood the essence of Blanc-Sec's charm: her complete disinterest in appearing charming to anyone.The fiery Louise Bourgoin, who brings Tardi's creation to life, is perfectly cast. Solid CGI recreates faithfully the atmosphere of the comic book's world and is sure to entertain the whole family.

1.5 -- THE MECHANIC, Simon West
[reviewed by Samuel Burd] Jason Statham loses his shirt a record five minutes into Simon West’s fifth feature, and only for a few seconds; sadly, “The Mechanic’s” novelty ends there. A reclusive hit man named Bishop follows questionable intel and assassinates his only friend and mentor, grows a conscience then trains said mentor’s drifter son as a protégé. Along the way are a hooker with a golden heart, a conniving corporate shill and a homeless man who spouts down-home wisdom from his cushioned seat on a boating dock. Two of the three, guess which, end up dead; in fact, most everyone ends up dead, though the film saves its grisliest violence for an African-American and a seven-foot homosexual, while women appear when the narrative needs a hostage or sex scene. “A hitman with a conscience!” observes the corporate shill, implying a self-awareness that the film does its best to fail to exploit. Elsewhere, Statham’s suppressed body suggests a tension in the relationship of the two leads that the film cannot engage; like one of Bishop’s victims, it fires wildly as the genre suffocates it, piling up bodies along the way. This is macho-homoeroticism at its hypocritical best -- hateful, homophobic, violently incapable of coming to terms with itself.

2.2 -- YAMLA PAGLA DEEWANA, Samir Karnik
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This Bollywood film is a confusing as its title. Akin to India's version of a Jackie Chan movie -- full of action, fighting and comedic relief -- this long epic involves a son who lives in Vancouver. His name is Paramvir. In order to find Gajodhar, his long lost brother which would bring ultimate happiness to his mother, he travels to Banaras and meets up with him. Long ago, Dharam his dad, ran off with the now missing brother when he was a toddler. Like father like son: both Dharam and Gajodhar are up to no good, conning people out of money and stealing from stores. But family sticks together, and Paramvir, who reveals to his dad his familial relationship, is determined to stay by his brother's side. His brother does not know that his new sidekick is his own brother. After many mix-ups, including a major entanglement with a rich family keen on wedding their daughter to Paramvir, everything straightens out: Paramvir is already a husband whose wife and kids travel to India to find him, so that marriage will not take place. In the end, Gajodhar gets the girl after the rich family finds out Paramvir is already taken. Best of all, Gajodhar finds out that the man who has been his staunchest ally, aside form his father, is actually his own brother. The two brothers and father return to Vancouver and mom is extremely happy. The dance numbers, and wedding scene are fun entertainment, but the comedic plot is over the top.

1.5 -- GNOMEO & JULIET 3D, Kelly Asbury
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] Some kid's flicks -- some will say, the better ones -- will appeal to the whole family by mixing different levels of humour or by touching the kid in all of us. "Gnomeo and Juliet," an animated garden-gnome version of the classic tale, does not. Its visual aesthetic, characters, plot-line and humour are decidedly meant to appeal strictly to a very young crowd. And that is fine. But there's something odd when a movie addressed to 5-year-olds is essentially selling holy matrignomy and Elton John's greatest hits. The standard gender stereotypes also feature prominently, reminding the adult viewer of just how ahead of his time William Shakespeare really was. With voices from James McAvoy (Gnomeo), Emily Blunt (Juliet), Michael Caine and Patrick Stewart.

3.0 -- FUNKYTOWN, Daniel Roby
[reviewed by Andrée Lafontaine] "Funkytown" convincingly brings us back to Montreal's nightlife of the late 70s, with all its disco balls, sequins and broken dreams. Inspired by real people and events, the movie succeeds in following -- Paul Thomas Anderson style -- the lives of seven characters over a four year period. There's the election of the PQ and a certain referendum in the background, but the music's too loud for them to pay any attention to it. The filmmakers judiciously opt for a good story rather than a history lesson, keeping the overt historical references to a minimum. Opens January 28 in French, English and Franglais.

2.4 -- MADE IN DAGENHAM, Nigel Cole
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This wondrous film, set in 1968, charts with great accuracy the ridiculously unfair and harsh conditions under which British women worked – made all the more appalling when compared with their male counterparts who always received the lion’s share of the salary pie. Our heroine is Rita O’Grady, an unassuming factory worker who along with 187 other sewing machinists works in Dagenham, England. Everyday these women sew pieces of material together for Ford car seats in the local factory. They have one male crusader who spurs them on to change their conditions. He’s called Albert, It’s hot in the dungeons of Dagenham, and so the women work in their bras – a daily occurrence that causes Albert great dismay and embarrassment. Unlike the other men in this film, Albert is their staunch ally and spurs the women on to better their conditions by meeting with the union rep. But he turns out to be a snake-in-the-grass turncoat; he sides with Ford.
As events escalate into strikes and meetings with Ford’s fat cats, Rita refuses to compromise with the enemy. She walks away from the table despite the company’s promise to “look into their demands in due time.” Finding her own political voice rooting for equal pay, she learns to fight and lead. Eventually, she meets with with Barbara Castle, Britain’s Secretary of State and Productivity. Through many slippery situations, Castle convinces Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, that all British women must be granted equality in the work place. In 1970, the Equal pay Act became law. The cast is superb: Sally Hawkins from “Happy Go Lucky” fame; Bob Hoskins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike; and all the wonderful individual actors who colourfully brought to life the collective plight of the machinists of Dagenham.

2.5 -- THE WAY BACK, Peter Weir
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] Peter Weir is not yet all the way back to the cinematic heights he reached with “The Mosquito Coast,” “Dead Poets Society” and “Fearless,” but he’s taken a firm step in the right direction. “The Way Back” begins in the hell of a Soviet Gulag in 1940. In its mesmerizing attention to minute detail, the film’s first 30 minutes are its most horrifically convincing as we learn why average life expectancy in the Gulag is 12 months. Seven prisoners decide they would rather die free than in hell on earth. The film follows their harrowing escape and trek across Siberia in the worst of winter, and then Mongolia (The Gobi) in the scorching heat of summer before arriving safely in India. As such, this film is as much about courage and sacrifice as it is about landscape. To Weir’s credit in exercising restraint, he refuses to romanticize (National Geographicize) the landscape, downplaying its grandeur for its harshness, vastness and austerity as seen through the eyes of the escapees who must negotiate it. “The Way Back” is a bucking-the-odds, man against nature genre film. If you’re a genre enthusiast, you’ll rate it higher than this reviewer.

2.9 -- THE COMPANY MEN, John Wells
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] The corporation, as a concept, came into existence in order to facilitate carrying out strategies and directives that most human beings, left to their own devices, would consider either unthinkable or immoral. John Well's unspectacular but engaging "The Company Men" follows the afterlife of three dedicated corporate soldiers, Bobby (Ben Affleck), Phil (Chris Cooper) and Gene (Tommy Lee Jones), recession casualties who have been put out to pasture consequent to downsizing. But this cumulatively absorbing film is much more than an indictment of the corporate psyche; it's a study on how ex-company men (and women) deal with humiliation and its many faces: losing face with friends and family, wife and kids. The acting is nothing less than what you would expect from seasoned veterans who get paid millions for doing what they do better than well. What this film does best, quite apart from the dead-on script, is to allow for the subtle infusion of a lyricism of disbelief to haunt nearly every frame of Well's first film. It redounds to Well’s focus and purpose that this film feels like a work from a director in his prime, who wants his audience to remain productively engaged long after the credits have rolled by. Which is to say, as much as one sympathizes with these corporate cast-offs who have had to unload their $500,000 dollar homes and sports cars, one cannot help but wonder what happens to the laid off worker who can no longer pay the rent and provide for his family.

2.4 -- BLUE VALENTINE, Derek Cianfrance
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] An average and formulaic portrait of a that-was-then-and-this-is-now of a love that once was and is now no more. Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) met by chance six years ago, fell madly in love and rushed into marriage. Dean has little education and works for a New York City moving company. Cindy is a medical student, caring for her ailing grandmother and living with her unhappy parents. They marry when Cindy discovers she is pregnant from a previous boyfriend. That was then. This is now: their daughter Frankie is now four, Dean paints houses and Cindy is a nurse. To try and rekindle the marriage, Dean drags a reluctant Cindy to a sleazy motel but it doesn't work out; when Dean wakes up the next morning, Cindy is gone. She had been called in the middle of the night to work at the hospital. Dean arrives at the hospital angry and drunk and an altercation ensues. Will their relationship survive it? Superb performances from the leads, the film is compromised by the ineffective time shifting between then and now and the predictability of the story line.

3.4 -- THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, Lee Jeong-Beom
[reviewed by Sylvain Richard] Emotionally riveting crime action thriller that has all of the ingredients necessary to justify its Korean blockbuster status (over six million tickets sold since its release in September 2010 by Korean Film Counsel -- KOFIC). Cha Tae-Sik (Won Bin) resides in a dingy apartment and runs a pawn shop. Except for his upstairs neighbour -- Soo-Mi Jeong (stunningly natural debut performance by Sae-ron Kim) -- Tae-Sik has secluded himself from the world. We later discover that he was a member of the Korean Secret Service until 2006, when as a result of a mission his pregnant wife was killed. Soo-Mi, who feels neglected, visits him whenever her mother, Hyo Jeong ,is either strung out on heroin or has men over. An unspoken friendship develops between them. Hyo foolishly steals a drug shipment from a local dealer and hides it in a camera bag, which she subsequently pawns to Tae-Sik. The dealer tracks down Hyo and takes both her and her daughter as hostage. Tae-Sik is forced to make deliveries for the dealer if he wants to see mother and daughter alive. After one such delivery, intended to humiliate a rival, the dealer kills the mother and takes her organs for sale on the black market. Tae-Sik sets out on a frantic and desperate search to save Soo-Mi before it is too late. Though this thriller is blood-soaked with plenty of well choreographed fight scenes and inherent Korean black humour, the film features a compelling emotional dimension that is enhanced with a rhythmic electro-orchestral score.  


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