Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 10, No. 5, 2012
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Daniel Charchuk
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Film Reviews
  Bowling for Columbine
Shanghai Ghetto
Talk to Her
City of God
Magdalene Sisters
Dirty Pretty Things
Barbarian Invasions
Fog of War
Blind Shaft
The Corporation
Station Agent
The Agronomist
Maria Full of Grace
Man Without a Past
In This World
Buffalo Boy
Shake Hands with the Devil
Born into Brothels
The Edukators
Big Sugar
A Long Walk
An Inconvenient Truth
Sisters In Law
Send a Bullet
Banking on Heaven
Chinese Botanist's Daugher
Ben X
La Zona
The Legacy
Irina Palm
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Poor Boys Game
Finn's Girl
Leaving the Fold
The Mourning Forest
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
Into Eternity
When We Leave
Le Havre
Presumed Guilty
A Sekparation



So far, A & O film critics Robert J. Lewis, Nancy Snipper and Daniel Charchuk have seen the following films. Here are their ratings and comments, always out of 4, reserving 2.5 or more for a noteworthy film, 3.5 for an exceptional film, 4 for a classic.


 3.0 -- LE GRAND SOIR, Benoit Delépine & Gustave Kervern
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Two brothers who are completely insane capture our hearts and imagination. One is the oldest punk in Europe who begs along with his sidekick canine companion; the other is a seller of mattresses who gets fired. That infuriates him. This pair is a Laurel and Hardy modern duo. When the older brother (the salesman) loses it and starts destroying everything in sight while shouting insults at the world, the parents who own a Pataterie tell them they do not share the same father. In fact, mom doesn't know who the father is of either. This is a totally absurd film that puts two brilliant comedians (Benoit Poelvoorde and Albert Dupontel) in front of the lens to act out their hilarious antics in a setting of modern mediocrity: small-town Belgian life that is big on big brand-name stores. These brothers are rebelling against it all. The actors' flare, impeccable comedic timing and expressions in talk and walk are totally entertaining. At the same, time each of these boys makes a great statement about the meaninglessness and boredom that inflict us all caught up in keeping up with the status quo. The brothers' rebellion is raucous and wonderful.

3.1 -- MUSEUM HOURS, Jem Cohen
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The real scene stealer in this captivating movie is the Kunsthistoriches Art Museum in Vienna. Like Anne, the leading lady in this film, I would go every day to soak up the stunning monumental art displays of eternal beauty in this great museum's labyrinthine wings and floors and halls. The work of great artists from antiquity to the present illustriously hangs there, inspiring all who see it. This film is an obvious tribute to this art, in particular the work of painters Brueghel and Rembrandt -- as much as it is to the guards who spend their entire lives there reflecting on the intentions of the artists while surmising the thoughts of the onlooker. Anne is poor and comes to Vienna to sit by the side of her cousin who is in a coma in a hospital in Vienna. (By the way, if you ever have to get sick, do it in this city. Their latest supremely slick huge hospital that I happened to visit is the most effectively run place for treatment and attention in the Western World). Back to Anne: with not much to do or money to spend, she heads for the famous museum and while there, befriends Johann, a dedicated guard and lover of art. He really understands what he sees. He introduces Anne to several painters, and they spend time together, getting to know one another and sharing their observations about the wintery grey days marking the cityscape of Vienna, and their comments about art are stimulating to us all. The camera brings us close ups of these two characters in a way that is wholly natural and gentle. The performances of Montrealer Mary Margaret O'Hara and Bobby Sommer were remarkably authentic. They were well cast and worked most comfortably together. This movie was relaxing and informative. It also gave us a rare glimpse into the mind of some artists as it took us on a tour of the paintings that adorn the walls inside Vienna's most prestigious museum. I liked the fact this award-winning film (2012 Art Cinema Award in Locarno) was devoid of conflict of pretension. Ah Vienna . . . it looks wonderful from every perspective -- no matter the angle you view it from in any season.

3.1 -- PARADISE: LOVE, Ulrich Seidl
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Teresa and a herd of fifty-something Austrian women go on an all-inclusive package to Kenya. These are the 'sugar mamas' -- lonely fat women looking for a good time in the sack with handsome young men who are only to eager to oblige -- provided the woord woman forks out money for his sister, mother, uncle, cousin and anyone else he can conjure up. Most are married. but they keep that a secret. Such is the case for trusting Teresa, who is shy to follow her friends' example of picking up a boy toy. But she decides to give it a try with one man named Mingu who never lays a hand on her until she prompts him to in a dingy room he has led her to where she shows him how to caress her. Soon however, she wakes up to his true intention as he leads her to his sister (AKA his wife), the hospital director and a school all the while insisting rather aggressively that she give money, It's never enough. Unfortunately, Teresa sees him on the beach holding hands with his sister (AKA his wife), and she goes after him, hitting him in the water with her big baggy purse. She seems to have fallen for him. Teresa doesn't give up easily; she gets hooked on these paramours, and one by one she tries to find something special in each: tender sex with love. But the same scenario keeps popping up; they give her a tease and then bring up money. Teresa is a slow learner. A woman teetering on a final shred of hope, she has nowhere to turn to look for long lasting satisfaction. So she turns to her daughter, calling and leaving phone messages for her. But she never calls back. Lonely and despairing, Teresa's joy of life is always ready for a party. She celebrates her birthday with a surprise given to her by her women friends in her hotel room. They have hired a young stripper placing bets on his sexual prowess. These women are greedy, desperate and finally pathetic. This film was funny, disturbing and rather insulting to the older women of Austria and their treatment of the young African male. Their search for fun and maybe even love leads down a nowhere path on a severely guarded beach where bad intentions darken white sands that once were pristine and pure. Inge Maux was marvelous as lovely-hearted, free-spirited Teresa. She bared it all -- soul and body together. I think women of a certain age ought to see this movie. Pride, dignity and self-esteem are a woman's greatest allies at every age. Such virtues should never be sacrificed no matter how intensely seductive the sun, sea and sensuality prove to be. Formidable fantasies are imaginative mirages that almost always disappoint -- disappearing as fast as the Kenyan sun sets over shark infested waters.

3.0 -- A RESPECTABLE FAMILY, Massoud Bakhshi
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] Since the film is Iranian, we know from the outset that "A Respectable Family" is anything but. What begs our curiosity is in what way, and if the ways and means translate into a credible narrative. Arash, after a 22 year absence, returns to Iran to deliver lectures at the university. But when it comes time to leave, the authorities delay the return of his passport. Stepping up to the plate is his overweening nephew Hamed, who advises Arash that his father is dying. But Arash, for reasons which only become clear later on in the film, wants nothing to do with his father. Another nephew has just been buried in the Martyrs Cemetery: the hysterical mother blames her husband -- one of Arash's brothers -- for the young boy's death. When Arash's father dies, his mother wants nothing to do with the huge fortune and won't sign the transfer papers. The fault lines are as extended as the family is divided by greed and conflicting views on the Iran of Khomeini and Ahmadinejad. Within the family are the devout and those for whom devotion is an expediency, a means to advance. With a nod to Kafka, Arash finds himself ensnared in a web of family intrigue and a corrupt system. With papers waiting to be signed, he is mysteriously kidnapped and then released. Out of the blue his passport is returned. Will he leave the country for good or follow the dictates of his conscience to join the street protest? Bakhshi has confected a tightly woven, suspenseful, complex film that shows how corruption and the abuse of power are able to flourish under the banner of religion and divine rule. If "A Respectable Family" falls a bit short of the excellence of Farhadi's "A Separation," it makes for compelling viewing and is a natural companion piece to the latter.

2.5 -- THE LAND OF HOPE, Sion Sono
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] In fictionalized O'Hara, a small town near Nagashima (substitute Fukushima), a terrible earthquake strikes, causing a tsunami and the nearby nuclear plant to melt down. The government enforces an evacuation within a 20 mile radius. Families and community are divided, those outside the radius can remain. Does radiation recognize arbitrary borders? Yoichi and his wife Izumi are forced to leave the family home by Yoichi's father, a dairy farmer who says he is too old to be concerned about the effects of radiation, but he fears for his children and Izumi's yet to be born child. "The Land of Hope" shines a confrontational light on disaster management, the lies and deceits and bogus information disseminated by the authorities, and the psychological devastation caused by the invisible enemy: radiation (cesium). The Geiger counter is ever present, always beeping. Is the broccoli safe to eat, do you buy a mask, a body suit, how far away is safe? Nothing is ever the same ever again. The film suffers from a dreary middle section, lapses into melodrama, and blatant disregard for subtlety regarding the film's message, but it effectively tells the story of the hopes and fears of everyday people with nowhere to hide and skeptical of discredited authority. The film excels when the camera lays bare the extent of the damage caused by the tsunami: no sets required for those eerie, real-irreal shots which remind us that it's one thing to read about a disaster and altogether something else to have to live it . And finally, the film asks the much larger question about the utility versus the risks of nuclear power. In 1986 there was Chernobyl, in 2011 Fukushima, where next?

2.4 -- THE END, Hicham Lasri
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] The film is presumably about the violent and corrupt legacy left by Morocco's King Hassan, who, in 1999, is on his deathbed. But the plot is dwarfed, massacred, can't compete with the style. Arrestingly shot in inky-wet, black and white (the camera is both gymnast and acrobat), we are introduced to the tall and gangly Mikhi-the-mute whose job is to denverboot overparked cars. Chained in one of the cars is Rita, the demurring disheveled bride. From close-ups that turn the skin's pores into open craters, we see that Mikhi and Rita have fallen in love. But her brothers, the local goon squad, steal her away. Joining the freak show is Daoud, a police chief who likes to slap everybody in the face, but he gets his comeuppance and in turn avenges his humiliation. And then there's his wheelchair bound wife Naima, whom the good cop injects with heroin to help her get through the day. The scenes are whacked together like an unruly collage -- a rocky marriage of the gross and carnivalesque -- while the syntax owes its pacing and interval to whiplash and electric shock. Some of the scenes and sets are exquisite, but the overall effect, perhaps by design, is totally disjointed. First time director Hicham Lasri is trying too hard to be original, weird, off-beat, bizarre and avant-garde; sometimes he gets it right, sometimes he doesn't. Heads you win, boken neck you lose sums up a film of disparate parts that confirm that hell is people with power, human nature is ugly and squalid and that the laws of entropy are alive and well. "The End" couldn't come soon enough.

3.1 -- RHINO SEASON, Bhaman Ghobadi
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] There is no shortage of Iranian films, most of them of high merit, that take issue with the injustices and systematic repression in Iran since the fall of the Shah and the Islamic Revolution (1979). They are typically low-budget, realistic or symbolic films, shot under difficult circumstances or outside of the country. Many of the directors have had to go into exile, fearing both censorship and incarceration. Bhaman Ghobadi's "Rhino Season" makes a complete break with Iranian realism thanks to a big budget and the backing of Martin Scorsese. Based on a real life story, the poet Sahel is sentenced to 30 years in prison for his political views; his wife Mina is sentenced to 10 years. They are allowed one conjugal visit during their incarceration, but they have to remain hooded. Akbar, Mina's former chauffeur, fiercely jealous and in love with her, interrupts the love-making and rapes her. She later gives birth to twins. In order to win over Mina, Akbar tells her that Sahel is dead, which is a lie. When Sahel is released, he goes to Turkey (where the film was shot) to find her. But the story is only half the movie. Its lush cinematography, its dreamlike sequences, its haunting landscapes and brilliant colour dissolves are what make the viewing nothing less than hypnotic: the last scene by itself deserves an award. Throughout the film the colours are so thick and saturated we can almost touch (à la synesthesia) what we see: the stony cold, damp, lightless place that is the prison. Without ever speaking of it, the specific gravity and inky drip of the greys and blacks tell us to what degree the protagonists are held captive to their pasts and respective guilts. The unspoken recriminations and regrets are so heavy they take on the weight of water, as in watery grave or an instrument of torture. And then there is the magic realism: turtles fall out of the sky; Akbar takes a run at a herd of rhinos with his car. The facial expressions of Monica Bellucci, in the role of Mina, and Yilmaz Erdogan, as Akbar are worth the price of admission, as each in her/his own brooding fashion tries to make sense of the accidents of life that have left them both life-weary and disconsolate. "Rhino Season" is a film for all seasons.

2.7 -- INORI, Pedro González-Rubio
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] For the first time in human history, 50% of us live in cities. In Third no less than First World countries, hamlets and villages are disappearing "not with a bang but a whimper." Pedro González-Rubio wants to make sure that when no one is around to even remember Kannogawa (Japan), it will have an after-life, the kind which substantiates the notion that only art is immortal. As such, the film "Inori" (which means prayer) is an attempt to save the village of Kannogawa from oblivion. It is at once a poetic rendering and meditation on the interconnectedness between man and nature. Working closely with producer Naomi Kawase ("The Mourning Forest," "Hanezu"), we expect nothing less than a reverential relationship between lens and landscape. Kannogawa, surrounded by pristine mountains, is set in a valley along a winding river. Almost daily, mist pours into the valley, all but obscuring the village, auguring its fate. Wistful, resigned, but uncomplaining, the old villagers continue to go about their way of life very much in step with their ancestors. In stark contrast to the landscape shots, the camera assumes a low-profile for the interviews and conversations. The young have left, the old are dying off, and one by one the ghosts are coming through, to join the broken-hearted few. One broken heart into inner resolve best describes the art and purpose of González-Rubio. "Inori" is a triumph of the human spirit and homage to the dying institution of the village and the precious relationship between man and nature it nourishes.

2.4 -- CLIP, Maja Miloš
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] One of the questions (and there aren't many) "Clip" asks is it clip-worthy? The coltish and sex-obsessed Jasna and her high-school mates (the wild bunch), for whom excess is de rigueur, indulge their rebellion and vices more for the camera than their pleasure. Kinky bod and sad eyes notwithstanding, we don't like Jasna who has a huge attitude problem. She's pathologically self-absorbed, doesn't listen to her mother, or speak to, much less care for her gravely ill father, and likes to party and sniff cocaine. Since she's too young to have experienced or witnessed the horrors of the Bosnian genocide, how do we account this untamed youth? Are we to believe she embodies the digital age, Sarajevo style, gone terribly wrong? She comes from a stable albeit poor family -- even the grandparents are around -- she has a room of her own, so what ails her? The film attempts to unravel the enigma that is Jasna but the thin plot (to find money for the father's cancer treatment) is constantly disrupted by one mostly degrading (misogynist), passionless X-rated sex scene after another: story interruptus. Jasna is attracted to Djole, who delivers his lines like a medicated zombie (we never learn why). She'll do anything sexual to please him: one scene has her crawling naked on the floor wearing a dog harness. That Jasna, throughout the film, is asked to assume a multiplicity of sexual positions, which of course the camera licks up, forces the conclusion that Maja Miloš, in her first film, isn't sure what she wants to say or lacks the confidence to say what she wants, so she defaults to explicit sex -- which is a shame. She's creative behind the camera, and does a lot of things right. To great effect she collates iPhone video into the footage of film, and at the end of the day there is no denying the crazy, raw, propulsive energy she puts out, but the film is simply too long on sex and too short on story, which made it difficult to find reasons to clap for "Clip."

2.5 -- SISTER ( L'ENFANT D'EN HAUT), Ursula Meier
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] High up in the pie-filled sky it's a winter paradise for those who can pay, but for 12-year-old Simon, already an accomplished thief, the posh ski resort represents a steady supply of ski equipment which he sells down below. However "Sister" is more than the Swiss variation on the economic fault lines that produce the haves and have-nots. Simon's parents were killed in an automobile accident; he spends his days planning, plotting and stealing in order to help his flighty, unemployed, very attractive sister Louise pay for the flat they share down in the valley. He wants her love and affection while she gets her loving from her dead-beat boyfriends, so it's an unequal relationship in every sense: he needs her love which isn't returned, she needs his francs which he generously supplies. With the camera effectively panning back and forth between the mountains and the valley, the viewer eagerly accompanies Simon and Louise as they go about negotiating two of life's basic needs: love and the means to survive. Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) is in every scene and is the star of the film; he fully inhabits his character as only a child actor can, with an innocence and candour that is as real as real life. He is so good we can already jump ahead 15 years and imagine him selling junk bonds designed to fail in Wall Street. But Meier does not romanticize Simon, our sympathy is provisional because he is a treacherous, conniving thief who doesn't care a whit for his victims. Meier also reminds us that there is no shortage of 'respectable' people who are all too willing to purchase stolen goods at a discount. "Sister" does not pack a punch; it's a story that has been told on countless occasions but it works because it touches on universals that remind us if we don't concern ourselves with the plight of the Simons of the world they will become our problem.

2.4 -- HERE AND THERE (AQUI Y ALLA), Antonio Méndez Esparza
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] After a long absence working in New York, Pedro returns to his home and family in Mexico. His two teen daughters hardly remember him, but Pedro is a good man and good father and his dedication to his family quickly wins the day: family outings are fun and a new child is on its way. Pedro is a musician and forms a local band, but doesn't get enough gigs so he has to work part time in the fields and in construction to make ends meet. After the difficult birth of his daughter who had to be incubated, whatever little money he had disappears into the health system which the average Mexican cannot afford. By this time in the film, there's no doubt why Pedro left for New York in the first place, and why he is very seriously thinking about returning again, despite the hardship the decision will impose on the family. In the telling of Pedro's story, "Aquí y Allá" wants to shine a sympathetic light on the impoverished Mexican for whom El Norte is the only credible option on the block. Despite credibly drawn characters, there were too many scenes that were only peripherally related to the story. The pacing was deliberately slow, lyrical if you like, but at two hours it seemed to drag. The situations brought up in the film predicted more than the flat (civilized) speaking voices that stayed the course throughout the entire film. Where was the anger, the outrage? Still, there is much the director Antonio Méndez Esparza can take home from his debut, just as there is much he can leave in the cutting room.

2.6 -- THE WILD ONES (LOS SALVAJES), Alejandro Fadel
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] Gaucho, Simón, Grace, Monzón, and Demián were turned savage during their formative years, and then treated savagely in an Argentine detention center before escaping into the wild where they have to fend for themselves: savages in a savage land. Their behaviour resembles that of a pack of animals, but they don't bond or form a cohesive unit in the face of adversity -- the lingering effects of broke down families, They are overly fond of the abundant coca leaf which doesn't help. One by one they die, or vanish. None of the five is particularly likeable, their decisions are mostly bad, but the director, Alexandro Fadel, with a nod to Terrence Malick, makes sure the viewer experiences up close the primordial world as it once was and still is -- human conceit notwithstanding. Natural sound plays a huge role in this unnecessarily long film that requires no diegetic props. Mixed in with the human breath that is sometimes so close you can smell it are the menacing rhythms of the jungle, the crackle of fire, the ominous chorus of the evening feeding frenzy, and the grunt of wild boar, the ever-present enemy and source of food. They meet up with outcasts like themselves, there's a clash, someone is killed, they move on, in search of what -- the missing tribe, a founding myth? This is a haunting film, in part because the large faces of the youths are so uncomprehending before the vastness of the challenges that await. Are these orphans our doing?

3.0 -- STARLET, Sean Baker
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] If the billions of dollars generated by the porn industry are an indication, we would much rather watch actresses X-rate themselves than go about their daily lives -- unless you can cut to the quick like director Sean Baker, who from the get-go gets us to take an interest in Jane. However, this is not a "porn starlets are just like you and me" film. Jane, who is all legs and sunshine and seems to come from the right side of the tracks, has just moved in with her best friend the volatile Melissa and her boyfriend, all of whom in varying degrees enjoy video games and smoking crack cocaine. To brighten up her new room, Jane goes garage sailing and picks up a thermos which she wants to convert into a vase. While cleaning it, she finds ten thousand dollars at the bottom and decides to return it to its owner, Sadie, a sourpussed octogenarian, who slams the door in her face. However Jane is persistent, and despite dubious plot devices their lives eventually intertwine, but we aren't sure why Jane is going out of her way to connect with Sadie, since the former has friends, is likeable, is socially well-adjusted and takes her work in stride. With the viewer supplying the syntax to the mundane activities of daily life (Bingo, dog-sitting, yard cleaning) we gradually come to understand that the non-negotiables of family operate through us in ways we least suspect, but cannot refuse. Dree Hemingway (Jane) and Besedka Johnson (Sadie) nailed their parts. Sadie's face, a sagging mess of splotches and wrinkles, illuminates the screen. Her pauses and silences are portraits, testaments to the costs exacted by a long life winding down. To Baker's credit, he doesn't get caught up in the maudlin. "Starlet" is a not a tear-jerker but a feel-good film because it shines a light on the hope it offers to the many for whom the heart is a lonely hunter. And we don't particularly care that Baker neatly sidesteps the moral issue which could have taken over the film: Jane in fact does not return the money but uses most of it to purchase for Sadie and herself two tickets to Paris. If and when Sadie ever finds out, will the lady protest? In 1943, Bertolt Brecht gave us "The Good Woman of Szechwan." Baker makes a strong case that Jane is her rightful heir.

3.0 -- RENGAINE, Rachid Djaïdani
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] Sabrina and Dorcy want to get married, but she's Muslim and he's an African Christian. The film is about the fault lines their love throws into relief. The action unfolds both in the streets of Paris and in the mindset of second generation Muslims who speak perfect French, and, in theory, should be perfectly assimilated. But traditions linger, and Sabrina's brothers will not bless the marriage. The tension in the film is generated by a series of secret, furtive meetings between Sabrina's brothers. The edgy camera joins them like an accomplice. As Sabrina and Dorcy discover the depths of their resolve, we fear for their safety. Though not without missteps, this small budget film with a huge agenda packs a wallop and a half. It tackles problems that most immigrants, best intentions notwithstanding, are unable to handle as it concerns the conflict between their hopes, humanity and loyalties. Sabrina in blue jeans is a question every Muslim male has to answer to. Without taking sides or imposing his view, the director Rachid Djaïdani offers, like an illuminated manuscript, a group portrait that is as hopeful as it is disquieting. The ending is riveting, cathartic, as was the scene of two hands, black and white, floating over the piano keys. Thus far, my pick for the People's Choice Prize.

[reviewed by Robert Lewis] During the Bosnian genocide (1992-95), at least 10,000 people were killed in Sarajevo. The government was accused of shelling its own people. Most of the survivors are damaged goods, some have been permanently traumatized. It is in the bullet ridden facades of the buildings and dark spaces in the hearts and minds where Aida Begic finds the material for her films. Rahima and her much younger brother Nedim are war orphans. She works in a restaurant and can barely make ends meet, while trying to keep an eye on Nedim who is in trouble at school, always getting into fights. Though her days are long and thankless, she retains her dignity and will not yield to temptation. She believes her strength and purpose derive from wearing the Muslim headdress. Despite the persistent gloom in her day to day existence, and an expression that seems cut off from any chance for happiness, she perservers and even breaks out in a smile from time to time. The film's cumulative despair, the result of one carefully crafted scene after another, is offset by the joyous music of Beethoven and the understated strength and character of Rahima who leaves no doubt that if there isn't a promised land at the end of the rainbow, there's a better place that has already been found, which is in her person as other people come to know her and what she represents. She is the message Aida Begic wants to share with the world.

1.4 -- BOY EATING THE BIRD'S FOOD, Ectoras Lygizos
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] We observe Yorgos, a sensitive young man with an angelic voice, faint during a tenor tryout, nibble on his canary's bird seed, ingest his own ejaculate (warning: graphic sex), clean a filthy toilet, follow a young girl and then run away. Throughout the film, an unstable, hand-held camera clings to him like a sweaty garment, as if the enforced closeness is all that is required to induce us to sympathize with him. For most of the scenes, the head and upper torso occupy ¾ of the screen. We're never told what ails the man but we don't doubt that he is ailing. He meets the girl again who makes him a real meal but he is too distraught to consummate. With his beloved bird and few belongings which he tries to pawn, he takes to the streets to join the homeless. In the final scene, he and his bird hole up in an abandoned niche in a building where broken ancient statues are strewn. Please -- we get the connection: Greece is in ruins. If the rookie director wanted us to conclude that the disturbed and sometimes disgusting person that is Yorgos is the result of the austerity measures implemented by the Greek government and international community, the monies would have been better spent on the needy instead of this needless film. This is an either/or film. If you don't care about what happens to the protagonist, it's beside the point that the director has mastered his material. Nonetheless, "Bird's Food" has credible cult potential and could become the emblem or rallying point for a nation that is hurting badly.

2.9 -- NEIGHBOURING SOUNDS, Kelber Mendonça Filho
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] Brazilians love their tall buildings - by the jungleful. If the recent new wave of local cinema is a reliable indicator, Recife now ranks with the big boys on the block (Sao P., Rio, Belo H., Forteleza, Bahia), meaning there is no circumventing the security issues that insinuate themselves in the claustrophobic spaces between the tower and the favela. The film plays out from the point of view of the haves. João, the grandson of Don Francisco, who owns most of the properties on the block, has just hooked up with Sofia, a mysterious, taciturn woman with no apparent background. João's attractive neighbour Bia is a bored, pot-smoking housewife who is obsessed with silencing a barking dog. Dinho, the cousin, has unwittingly vandalized João's new girlfriend's car during their first tryst. Into this mix, a security team suspiciously offers its services, and with it, a sense of dread and foreboding develops; and it is here where the film excels. Clodoaldo, the team leader, is ominously polite and soft-spoken. Bia's daughter awakens to a bad dream; we hear a stampede of kids jumping over a high security fence; Don Francisco has summoned an impromptu meeting with the new security team. We're not sure if the haves are hostage to real fears or their imaginations, which is why the extraneous revenge plot introduced toward the end of the film was totally unnecessary, since the film had already superbly captured the mood and dread that feed and feed upon the anxieties and concerns of city people. That said, Fihlo, in his debut film, has masterfully created a sense of an impending horror out of seemingly incongruous situations that the sum of all fears cannot account for. I can't wait for his next.

2.2 -- THE MILLENNIAL RAPTURE, Koji Wakamatsu
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] In Roji, Japan, a small seaside village, The Old One, who certainly doesn't look her age, on her deathbed, recounts the effects of a curse on the Nakamoto family, its dashing and debonair young men who use their good looks and charm not to better the community but to seduce married women, rob and steal. As predicted by the curse, they all get killed or commit suicide or go blind or a combination thereof. For the unraptured viewer, there is no escaping the excessive melodrama and theatricality of a movie that suffers from redundancy (derelict editing) and an endlessly repeating pentatonic (black keys of the piano) sound track. If you don't believe in curses, the only plausible explanation of events is genetic, which the film, keeping to the myth, doesn't explore. But we are attracted to the exquisitely sculpted faces of the young men and elegance and beauty of the unhappy women who surrender to them. At 76-years-old, one wonders if this is director Koji Wakamatsu's last hurrah, and if "Rapture" is his "Death in Venice" confession, for the Old One not only likes all of the Nakamoto boys, she ends up in the arms of one them.

3.4 -- STARLET, Sean Baker
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Twenty-one-year-old Jane, a laid-back blond beauty with an honest, kind disposition lives with her antithesis -- a narcissistic dark-haired horribly conceited gal. Both make porno movies. But Jane, known in the porno world as Tess, is really a plain Jane in real life with a heart of gold. She stops at a yard sale and purchases a thermos that she uses as a vase when she brings it home. The flowers she buys won't stay down in it. What's going on? She finds ten rolls of hundred-dollar bills at the bottom of this vase. Bingo! They really belong to the woman who sold her the thermos. Feeling guilty she drives back to tell the crotchety old dame her discovery, but when Sadie (the old lady) answers the door, she immediately shoves it in Jane's dumbstruck face. Thus begins Jane's mission to befriend Sadie. And the best way to do this is offer her lifts to the grocery store and insinuate herself in her life in different ways. She even joins her at the weekly bingo games. The average age there is 72, but Jane in her tight really short pants and thigh high socks is oblivious to the embarrassment she is causing Sadie who really wants Jane out of her life. She even pepper sprays her at one point. The movie ends when their friendship really takes off. This is a gem of a movie that confidently paces itself in showing the development of friendship -- in this case between an old lonely lady and a young lonely lady. The acting of Dree Hemingway (Muriel Hemingway's daughter as Jane, and the magnificent performance of Besedka Johnson (Sadie) -- well -- you couldn't cast a better pair. The Chihuahua dog Starlet, observes it all; he adds ironic humour to it all. He goes everywhere with Jane. The ending is touching and understated as is the entire movie. I loved it.

3.8 -- MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN, Deepa Mehta
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] An epic film of momentous events that includes, magic, mayhem, munificence and misery. This amazing work follows the life of one misfortunate boy caught in the constant upheavals of India's history -- starting with the yanking off of the British yoke over India in 1947 to the partitioning of India into Bangladesh and Pakistan -- through to civil war. The story features two boys switched purposefully at birth (a revolutionary act by the nurse) so that the poor-born baby grows up in a wealthy privileged family, and the boy born to the rich couple ends up groveling for money with his organ-playing dad begging beside him. Eventually, both boys -- now men meet. They collide on opposite sides of the political spectrum. One is valiant, born with a huge nose (this is important) -- the other full of vengeance. Their upbringing has consequences that are devastating to both. The movie contains lots of Indian mysticism and absurdist scenes. The boy with the big nose (our valiant hero) and other children come together. He has a telepathic gift: he merely has to focus on his nose and these children of midnight appear to him in his secret moments. All were born at midnight the very moment India gained its autonomy. The movie must be seen in order to witness and empathize with all the various episodes that close in on the lives of these two boys, and other main characters in this remarkable film. Salman Rushdie narrates the film (he wrote the book thirty years ago). An incredibly ambitious undertaking told with eloquent narration. You can't get much better than Rushdie's wit, depth and irony that weave in an out of the movie like a brilliantly coloured Indian tapestry that is far too big to hang on the wall.

2.2 -- UN MOIS EN THAILANDE, Paul Negoescu
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] From an elevation, a fixed, wide-angle lens throws a net over Bucarest's dreary cityscape. It's December 31st. Wouldn't it be nice to ship out to Thailand with your one and only, which in Radu's case is Adine, or so he believes until he catches a glimpse of his ex, Nadia. What follows is rather self-conscious, uninspiring meditation on love that from time to time threatens to get interesting: think Woody Allen at his worst (seven out of his last 10 films). Radu, a magnet for women, and Adina are a settled couple: but he is vaguely unsatisfied and she's a bit possessive so he impulsively decides to end the relationship. After a lengthy search, he eventually catches up with Nadia whom he dumped, begs her to forgive him which she does, only to discover there is no new magical beginning on the horizon. If prior to the viewing you were wonderings what's happening in Romania among the upwardly mobile 30s crowd, "Un Mois"provides enough answers and a nifty soundtrack to make the film worth the price of admission. That no love or passion is exempt from the mundane details and duties of daily life is a lesson everyone must learn. The director seems to think that women are better adjusted to the hard facts of love than men which predict the film's colour schematic that ranges from the subdued to the cheerless.

2.5 -- OUR LITTLE DIFFERENCES, Sylvie Michel
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] The film takes place in a single day in the life of Sebastian, a prestigious doctor who works as an embryologist in a fertility clinic in Berlin, whose plate, we learn, is more than full. He's under pressure at work to produce embryos for sterile couples, he's divorced and in a new relationship, and has returned home to check on Vera, who is housecleaning, and his irresponsible, impertinent 16-year-old son who likes to toque and sleep with his girlfriend. Vera is the 20 something daughter of Jana, a Bulgarian, who looks after the cleaning at the clinic. When the kids don't return after a night on the town, Jana panics and takes issue with Sebastian's conceits on parenting, but both, as it turns out, are equidistant in their estrangement from their disaffected children. To her credit, the director Sylvie Michel has gone to great pains to subtely introduce that notion that while Sebastian and Jana are worlds apart socially and economically -- the latter lives in a one room apartment -- they are on the same side of the generational divide. This is a small, admirably paced film that is helped by a disciplined script and smart performances. If we are not any wiser at the end of the day, we are happy to have made the acquaintance of Sebastian and Jana, two fully developed characters with whom we can fully empathize as well as criticize.

2.5 -- IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, Hong Sang-Soo
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] We're not sure if she's simply bored and imagining the scenarios, or if a screenwriter is playing them out in her mind. Each episode, each take features Anne, a famous film director played by Isabelle Huppert, who has come to a quiet beach town (Mohang) to tryst with her lover, a Korean film director. Issues of infidelity with the exuberant lifeguard Yu are played out with different results in each version, as well as the give and take with her hosts, and conflicts and jealousies that arise with her possessive Korean lover, and, in a humourous vein, the problems posed when different languages and cultures share the same intimate spaces. "In Another Country" recalls the much better film, "Run Lola Run," which expertly showed how a single change in a sequence of events results in a different ending. But Sang-Soo's film is too light to even suggest the philosophical implications of choice and consequences. Reality is turned into a plaything to the effect that the film ends up as another, but rather original it must be said, serving of escapist fare, which in fairness was probably the director's intent. We happily participate in the airy dance like quality of the film, the thoroughly charming dialogue, and performances that could have easily overwhelmed, overinterpreted the straight-no-chaser script.

2.4 -- THE ANGEL'S SHARE, Ken Loach
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] Ken Loach has made a career of telling the stories and giving a voice to the less fortunate. Without ever being didactic, he makes us less judgmental about behaviour that would otherwise be frowned upon -- by revealing the cause and effects that produce it. "The Angel's Share," shot in Glasgow, Scotland, continues Loach's life long work. A judge has ordered a group of delinquents/criminals to perform community service. One of the lads, Robbie, whose girl-friend is bursting pregnant, is especially violent. With his first child on its way, he wants to change his life but circumstance won't let him: a family feud that began with his father dogs him and he's afraid he won't be able to restrain himself from retaliating, which would result in an automatic jail sentence. Despite hilarious dialogue among the offenders, up to this point in the film, we're expecting a gritty social tale to unfold as it concerns the uncertain fate of Robbie, his new-born child, and the past that won't let him go. But the plot changes dramatically. After a visit to a whisky distillery, Robbie discovers that he has an exceptional nose for evaluating rare whisky, and shortly thereafter he concocts a plan to steal a precious keg, the huge monies to be divided among his gang of thieves. The remainder of the film is a feel-good, suspense-heist with an all-too predictable ending. As to the message, that crime pays, or among the have-nots is justifiable, is surely not what Loach intended, which begs the question and point of the film, besides its entertainment value. Note: without subtitles (which were in French), I would not have understood this film.

2.2 -- ROOM 514, Sharon Bar-Ziv
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Anna, a military investigator with the Israeli Defense Forces, is fearless about finding out about what happened when an elite army group attacked innocent Palestinian civilians in occupied territory. The entire action takes place in this room, including scenes she has with one of the soldiers. One wonders if she does this in the attempt to glean more information about this attack. None one want to snitch. I found this movie to be claustrophobic; it all took place in a single room and the shouting and excessive dialogue left no room for subtle entrapment to get to the truth. Intimidation and sex were the only tools used to uncover the truth. This low budget film -- the director's first feature -- did not merit a special jury award at the Tribeca Film Festival. Tackling the code of silence which is insidious in the Israeli army is indeed courageous, and a daunting task in art and reality; only a veteran director or a spy will have a slim chance at success.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This terrific documentary is hilarious. At the age of 60, Steven is totally obsessed with Asian women, and for the past two years -- he's already gone through two divorces from two Caucasian wives -- he has become intent on marrying a Chinese woman. Evidently, there are oodles of sites that draw the attention of American men in search of marrying an Asian girl. Steven is a hoarder which adds to the humour of his funny personality and child-like manner and merry take on life. He oversimplifies and stereotypes Asian women. He does meet one named Molly, but nothing really comes of it after he visits her (we never meet her). Molly can't commit to marriage. Finally, he hits it off with 30-year-old Sandy who is poor, tough and very smart. They actually love one another. Steven and her finally marry, but he is in debt, is caught in an emotional crisis when Sandy finds Molly's pictures still sitting pretty in Steven's email. She discovers he may still have a thing for her. Off goes her marriage ring. She says she wants to go home but can't, as she will lose face. She also plans to divorce him after she gets a Green card and can work. Clearly, the marriage is in crisis. Debbie Lum -- a Chinese American herself -- soon becomes the translator and marriage counselor to both. She wonders if she is in fact sabotaging the affair and that she must step back. Sandy moves out, but in the end, she misses Steven who by now has shaped up -- having deleted all remnants of Molly, and dumping away apartment clutter and bad habits. He is now committing to being a more mature husband and man. He always loved Sandy, and Lum's ability to get both to reveal adds plot intensity. Lum actually stops filming after the crisis, but she returns three months later to find out they are separated and then, to our relief, return to one another. We leave feeling they are going to stay together. Sandy begins to take control of the reigns and Steven adjusts accordingly. He realizes, there is a real woman behind the slanted eyes; he acknowledges how infantile his ideas are. What is so cute about this engaging comedic documentary is the filmmaker becomes an integral part to the story as it advances. Her role is unique and double-sided. A great film that all-Asian-obsessed men ought to see before taking the plunge.

2.2 -- IT LOOKS PRETTY FROM A DISTANCE, Anka Sasnal & Wilhelm Sasnal
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Nothing looks pretty from a distance in this post-war depressing film layered in a never-ending series of degrading scenes, including the poisoning of dogs, the burning of a neigbour's house, the scavenging of possessions that have seen better days, the carting off of a mother with dementia who gets holed up in some dilapidated dwelling to meet her fate of further neglect. But she did piss alongside of the bed where her son was sleeping, and became a nuisance when she wandered off in the field. Everyone is expendable in this particular setting where village life is rotting from within; denigration and disgust for most living things is the ethos here. Hypocrites to the hilt, they all gather at the church on Sundays. Pawel, a scrap metal dealer, has a girlfriend who wears a cross around her neck, but she's the one who poisoned the dogs. Pavel disappears, and maybe that's a good thing in the end. I couldn't tell which family was wreaking vengeance to whom, and I have a sneaky suspicion it doesn't matter. It is an understatement to say this is not a feel-good film, but it is realistic and somehow weirdly captivating. I believe the filmmakers felt passionate about this shameful vague- post-war period in Poland, and wanted to expose it all. The frightening thing is, it was so believable.  

1.3 -- IT LOOKS PRETTY FROM A DISTANCE, Anka & Wilhem Sasnal
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] Set in rural Poland, "It Looks Pretty from a Distance" is a relentlessly bleak house of an affair that takes place after the war, but we're not sure when. In fact we're not sure of anything in this film, whose protagonists are thoroughly dislikable, self-destructive, and downright mean to themselves and each other. A broke down family runs a scrap metal business, there's an affair that really doesn't happen, nobody cares for anybody, but we don't know why, we don't know what happened to their humanity. Despite the attractive landscape, the film plays out like a paean to decrepitude and decay: one brutish, ugly scene follows another. An addled mother approaches her sleeping adult son, drops her drawers and urinates on the spot. Had she been endowed with an appendage, the son would have awoken to a sun shower. The family gets rid of her, reminding itself that if she returns it will be in a coffin: tough love ad extremis. A young woman frustrated in a relationship decides to poison a couple of dogs. Based on an obscure custom, a family takes to destroying and torching a house. Pork bellied male adults sit around all day long chain smoking, slurping back beer and chomping on sausage. The film ends as it begins, suffocating in its own elliptical web of nihilism. Slant and other reviewing media have sung the praises of this film. By my reckoning, the danger in leaving too much unsaid is that nothing gets said, which in this case is unfortunate because the film stayed the course according to its internal logic; it was cohesive, and I don't doubt for an instant that the writer and director had something, perhaps even profound, to say. But I didn't hear it.

2.0 -- MOLD, Ali Aydin
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] Set in Turkey, Basri is a morose, vaguely depressed, slow moving train track inspector. He is called in for another interrogation, which unfolds at a snail's pace. We eventually learn that in the 1990s his son, an activist university student in Istanbul, disappeared, and that Basri's grief-stricken wife died shortly thereafter. For the past 18 years, Basri has been writing letters to the government, asking what happened to his son, but to no avail and to the displeasure of the authorities. Since we know the cause of Basri's stoic unhappiness, "Mold" ends up being an unsatisfying character study of a dignified, honourable man who has lost the will to live, who goes about his day on automatic pilot. He has convinced himself that he wants closure, that his life will change when he finally finds out what happened to his son, but when he does, nothing changes. The film suffers from affected silences, a plot thinner than rice paper, and a sub plot that is only peripherally related to the main inaction. When the remains of Basri's son are handed over, we expect to learn more about the mass grave that was uncovered, but we don't. In short, this film was short on substance and long in minutes.

1.1 -- MOLD, Ali Aydin
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This movie moves like a slow funerary dirge, bereft of any emotional colour. Painfully bleak is the tempo and tenor of the story that surely should have been dramatically conveyed with many emotional ups and downs. Basri, a 55-year-old railroad track inspector lives in a mold- infested hovel of an apartment. He is prone to seizures which he claims has nothing to do with epilepsy. Maybe it is the mold that causes his seizures. He is obsessed with locating his son who disappeared18 years ago. Evidently, he was taken in for anti-government activities. What happened to him, only chief inspector Murot knows -- perhaps. Cemil, a drunk who works with Basri is hit by a train in the yard, and Basri sees the accident as it is about to happen, but he does not warn Cemil to get out of the way. Cemi had what was coming to him; he insulted the memory of Bosri's son in the most vile manner and he raped a woman, and during the act, Basri beat him off her. You would think a film that has a rape scene, a man hit by a train, a father despairing over his missing son with frequent visits to the authorities who most probably knew the fate of his son, would prompt the lead actor -- Tansu Bicer to show more emotion than that of a mute timid man. No anger here, no climatic breakdown. When news reaches Basri that his son is dead, all that remains for Basri to cling onto is a box with his son's belongings inside. Violence, secrets and lies infuse this film, yet we are not affected by any of it. Somehow the film got derailed from the get-go. I fell asleep in some parts.

3.4 -- ANTIVIRAL, Brandon Cronenberg
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] The son of the famed Canadian filmmaker finally comes into his own with this, his debut feature, and, unsurprisingly, it is chock full of many of the same thematic elements that Cronenberg Sr. made his name on: perverse sexuality, the infusion of technology into biology, and the horrors of the human body. But Cronenberg Jr.’s aesthetic style seems to be much more showy and obvious than his father’s, utilizing a clinical, antiseptic approach that is both in line with recent ‘art film’ trends and bizarrely befitting of this film’s concern with disease and sickness. It is also much less subtle when it comes to the issue of social commentary, as the film makes all-too-clear its position on celebrity worship and fan culture. Still, it’s an impressive debut for a second-generation director, even if the filmmaker is somewhat too reliant on his father’s name and reputation.

3.6 -- SINISTER, Scott Derrickson
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] At once both a criticism of the recent wave of found-footage horror films and a commentary on the very nature of filmmaking itself, this latest Halloween spook-fest imbues its jump-scares and modest thrills with a grander sense of purpose and meaning. Though lacking a third act (perhaps intentionally, to increase terror and unease), and relying too heavily on sharp musical cues and sudden visuals to effect the aforementioned jump-scares, director Derrickson nonetheless shows a skilled hand in building tension and crafting a prevailing sense of dread throughout. And via its narrative involving a true-crime novelist (Ethan Hawke) investigating Super 8 footage of grisly serial murders, the film shows it has something to say on the nature of horror movies and, indeed, cinema itself. “Why would somebody film this?” Hawke’s character asks himself, and perhaps we, the audience, are asking ourselves the same question.

2.8 -- TABOU, Miguel Gomes
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] On the surface, "Tabou" is a languid, nostalgic, sometimes despondent film that contrasts life in modern, post-colonial Lisbon with (presumably) Mozambique 50 years earlier. It is entirely and expertly shot in black and white: 35mm for Lisbon, and the more grainy (pointillist) 16mm for Africa: the former to convey state of mind, the latter, which allows for more air and light, to capture the glory and privilege enjoyed by Portuguese colonizers. But beneath the film's lethargic pace simmers memories of events and relationships that will disturb the surface. In the opening sequences we meet three elderly women who are without men. They are vaguely disappointed in life but have their small projects and occupations to keep them going. Aurora is the least stable of the three: she gambles too much, complains that her daughter never calls, has visions, and during her deathbed ramblings, she tells of the mysterious Gian Luca Ventura, a man with whom she had a torrid affair 50 years earlier - while she was carrying her husband's child. With Ventura narrating, the film flashes back to the earlier period. The effects of the affair on her subsequent life and its parallels with the growing independence movement are what give the film its heft and depth. Gomes uses black and white to great advantage. Scenes of the magnificent tea-fields bathed in mist, being worked by black slaves are so beautiful as to be accepted as part of the natural order. The illicit affair, its joys, the cost that it exacts, are wonderfully and often wordlessly conveyed. When silent film is handled correctly, the face and eyes can speak more eloquently and transparently than even the best script. However tempting, it would be facile to conclude that "Tabou" is simply another 'infidelity doesn't pay' film. Gomes has stitched together at times a mesmerizing conjunction of events, both large and small, showing how ineffectual we are in managing the events that shape our lives. One way to correct this universal shortcoming is to revisit remembrances of times past in order to creatively reconstruct the most fugitive aspects of the meaning of our lives.

2.0 -- GOOD LUCK SWEETHEART, Daniel Aragao
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Obviously, the director was in love with the face of lead actress Christiana Ubach. This black and white film noir seems to mimic a Clint Eastwood western with "Casablanca" close-ups and sultry dialogue. Maria, a marginalized music student who comes from the Brazilian countryside somewhere near Recife meets her lover who falls madly in love with her. He also comes from the countryside, but he's a step ahead of her into the game of love, city partying and fun. The film is disjointed and it's full of affectation. Maria disappears, so her lover boy goes looking for her. He ends up eating dinner with her impoverished inhospitable family. In a subsequent scene, the father more or less tells him to get lost while revealing that Maria has gone abroad. I have no idea what this film is really about other than the usual alienation, destruction of country family life and cities that have nothing to offer except a strong desire to escape into the arms of a lover or at the keys of a piano.

2.7-- GOOD LUCK SWEETHEART, Daniel Aragão
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] As South America becomes a major player in the global economy, it is discovering that it is not exempt from the dislocations and disaffections spawned by modernity. This raw material easily lends itself to a new wave of cinema that is taking hold south of the Panama Canal. "Sidewall (Medianeras 2011)" which takes place in Argentina, meticulously examined the ravages of urbanization and connectivity on personal, depersonalized relationships. And now, from Brazil, we have Daniel Aragão's "Good Luck Sweetheart" who uses his native city Recife as the backdrop to a film that is ostensibly about disambiguating the relationship between Dirceu and Maria and their contrasting attitudes to their back country origins. Maria, thoroughly citified, doesn't believe in love, and like most young Recifians, she is non-committal in her many relationships, until she meets Dirceu, who, despite his care-free ways, finds himself deeply in love with a woman he cannot possess. But the plot is secondary to Aragão's daring and inventive film making. He is not afraid to take chances and there are missteps we gladly suffer because the whole is engaging from the very first frame. Symbolism plays a major role in the film: the congested Recife skyline takes on the aspect of a virus that has run roughshod over the city while the very in-your-ear but apropos soundtrack reinforces the harsh realities and contrasts that are the inevitable side-effects of rampant, unplanned urbanization. The film is shot in black and white and it works for the most part, but when the action shifts to the verdant countryside, we want to see it in colour. If the storyline is sometimes overwhelmed by style and effect considerations, it is offset by the director's vision and exceptionally original take on a theme that renders our essential city-pampered aloneness more bearable.

2.6 -- AFTER LUCIA, Michel Franco
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] An agitated, unstable camera follows a middle-aged man, Roberto, who has just settled into a completely refurbished car. On his way home, he suddenly stops and abandons the car. We soon learn that it was the same car his wife was driving when she was killed in an automobile accident. The film examines how both Roberto and his 15-year-old daughter, Alejandra (Ale), attempt to deal with life after Lucia, the title of Michel Franco's gritty film. We are initially introduced to Roberto, a chef, who has troubles at work, is depressed and can't sleep, but gradually the plight of his daughter takes over the film. Having left Puerto V. for Mexico City, she's anxious to fit into her new school. One night she gets drunk and has sex with José, who has turned on his camphone for the occasion. The video goes viral, Alejandra gets branded as a slut, which is the excuse for her new friends to turn on her, harass her and finally bully her. During a school excursion to Vera Cruz, her 'friends' lock her in the bathroom where, in the middle of a wild party, she gets raped. Post bacchanalia, the hung over students decide to enter rough waters for a cleanup, but Ale disappears, and is presumed dead. Roberto, who has already lost his wife, unhappy with the pace of local justice, decides to take matters in his own hands with tragic consequences. The ending will leave many unsatisfied, since the bullying theme, deftly handled by Franco, is left dangling, unresolved. That said, the film's stark realism, its spot on dialogue, its depiction of teens trying to find their elusive selves is wholly convincing.

1.0 -- YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET, Alain Resnais Uribe
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Nothing but senility can explain the machinations behind this ridiculous film where an aging director fakes his death, and has his butler calls up all old actor friends to watch a film of a reenactment of a modern troupe put on Eurydice -- they all once acted in. They have been told that their once beloved director is now dead, and he wishes them to assemble to watch the film. As the film begins, the actors watching it begin to replay their parts while sitting down, standing up and moving into different sterile, dark rooms. It is utter nonsense. Then the director magically appear to greet his old time friends to tell them he just wanted to see if they would show up upon his death. So he never really died after all. But at the end of the film, he jumps into a lake and dies. Is Alain Resnais insecure about whether he was loved or not, or is he simply the worst filmmaker to hit 90 years of age?  

1.0-- POST TENEBRAS LUX, Carlos Reygadas
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] To think this travesty of a film actually received Best Director Award at this year's Cannes Festival! Do not ask me what this film was about. I only registered a never-ending totally unrelated sequence of uninteresting events. I did see farm animals in the dark, a cartoon of a devil wandering at night through the home of a family with two children who were on camera far too much (that's because they are the director's), a makeshift 12-step program meeting held in some forest of some country that is never mentioned, the wife of the husband has sex with two men in some bath orgy place in France, and then the husband gets sick and seems to die. Really, "Post Tenebras Lux" should stay in the darkroom forever. I could hardly wait until the light came on at the end of the film as we could all leave. A total bomb imploding with boredom and banality.

2.5 -- LA DEMORA (THE DELAY), Rodrigo Pla
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] A more subdued affair than his ambitious 2007 film, "La Zona," which deservedly won the People's Choice Prize at the 2007 FNC festival, "La Demore,' (The Delay) sides with Uruguay's have-nots, but from the more static and sedate point of view of a single mother -- a non-unionized seamstress -- who is trying to raise three children while looking after her aging father whose memory is more porous than a sieve. Shot mostly in grey in one of Montevideo's non-descript suburbs, the late November colour sets the tone for a film that is relentlessly bleak and despairing. Maria, the mother, goes about her dreary day trying to instill calm by speaking in a calm voice while all around her is pending chaos. She pleads with her sister to take her father in for a while but the latter selfishly declines. A few days later, after the father doesn't qualify to live in a nursing home, Maria snaps, and she abandons her progenitor, but later that night, in the wee hours of the morning, her conscience bids her to hit the streets and save him from either freezing to death or the humiliation of being sent to a homeless shelter. During his abandonment, Agustin, the addled father, is comforted by the kindness of strangers when it is least expected. The film benefits from steady helmanship but some of the plot devices were a bit thin and we wish we knew more about Maria and how she got into her predicament.

2.8 -- DEADMAN'S BURDEN, Jared Moshe
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] We commonly think of the whiteman's burden as the shame he experienced regarding his unconscionable enslavement/treatment of blacks. Deadman's burden, an out-of-time western of the same title, refers to a father who, during the Civl War, has been shamed by his turncoat son and later shot by his patricidal daughter. Combing elements of Shakespeare and Greek melodrama at their unsubtlest, the film, shot in the gorgeous badlands of New Mexico, roughly deals with family dysfunctionality (ad extremis) and good and evil. Redemption was quietly and appropriately left out of the equation. At the end of the Civil War, Wade McCury, presumed dead, returns home only to discover that his father Joe, who disowned him, is dead. His smart-looking sister Martha, a shotgun wielding Lady Macbeth, is desperate to sell the homestead and has invited Lane, a slick investor, to visit and finalize the sale. But Wade isn't convinced that his father's death was an accident and he doesn't like Martha's husband: rouge-necked Heck. The more deeply he probes, the more he discovers that everyone is well acquainted with evil, which guarantees a satisfying body count well before the film's final bullet. The last family member standing is Martha. With a patricide and fratricide under her garter belt and a saddle bag full of someone else's money, she's about to ride like a cowgirl into the dawn when Three Penny Hank, who is so lonely he talks to himself, decides to intervene. If the director didn't intend it, I'll say it: we are irrevocably the sons and daughters of Martha and Wade. Despite a woody script and depthless acting, every frame of the film is glazed in style. Like the hypnotic, sun-drenched, sienna-burnt landscape, the faces glow and we can't take our eyes off them. There are moments when the film suggests a secret debt to a off beat play that was never staged, which perhaps explains its peculiar charm and irksome staying power.

3.0 -- LA MISE À L’AVEUGLE (SMALL BLIND), Simon Gallero
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] The opening film of this year’s Festival du Nouveau Cinéma is an intimate Québécois drama detailing the life of recent retiree Denise (Micheline Bernard), living a life of quiet isolation and organized boredom. Detached from those around her, she finds solace in her neighbours’ nightly game of poker -- a game she quickly takes to. Denise’s life soon enters another stage, as new relationships are fostered and past ones left by the wayside. Though the story is small in scope and short on drama, director Gallero’s assured hand, combined with Bernard’s fearless performance, craft a mature portrait of a middle-aged woman forced to start her life over again -- and the people she encounters as she does so.

3.1 -- KLIP (CLIP), Maja Miloš
[reviewed by Daniel Charchuk] In many ways a companion piece to the controversial and infamous "A Serbian Film," echoing that film’s explicit sexuality and apparent political edge. But whilst the earlier work is brutal, disturbing, and without a shred of redeemable content, this one at least maintains its sense of humanity, even amongst the degrading sex scenes and graphic blowjobs. Following the life of teenager Jasna as she deals with her father’s terminal illness, her family’s resigned poverty, and her boyfriend’s carefree misogyny, it is both a criticism of post-communist Serbia and an optimistic look forwards. Though some might find this film far too troubling and misogynistic to be of any value, the fact that it is, in fact, directed by a woman goes a long way in allaying such concerns. Serbia may be screwed right now, but at least there’s hope for the future.

2.0 -- MARS & APRIL, Martin Villeneuve
[reviewed by Robert Lewis] Seven years in the making, Martin Villeneuve's debut film"Mars & April," boldly translated as March & April, played out like a dreary day in November: the gargantuan effort failed to generate excitement over the large questions the film, it must be said, bravely tackles. A work of science fiction, aging musician/composer Jacob Obus (Jacques Languirand) believes he can forestall death through art and music. He is helped along by an infatuation with the young and lovely Avril (Caroline Dhavernas), his confessor, who, after their first sexual consummation, gets transported to the planet Mars. Jacob, whose lungs, unlike those of asthmatic Avril, are still very much up to the task for the brass instruments he plays, is desperate to find her. Eugene Spaak, played by Robert Lepage (“Impossible Worlds”), whose haloed head is a hologram, is a wise cosmologist who convinces Jacob that his desires can be attained through mind projection. If the film is arguing that art and only art is immortal, I’m not sure if the science fiction props helped or obscured the message. Scenes of a spacecraft soaring through space were as superfluous as the reference to Kepler and the harmony of the spheres. Except for the eerily haunting opening number, the sound track by Benoit Charest (“Les Triplettes de Belleville”) was as lackluster as the film. In overspending his limited capital on special effects, Villeneuve forgot about making an affecting film.

Ratings for 2011 Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.

Ratings for 2010 Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.

Ratings for 2009 Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.

Ratings for 2008 Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.

Ratings for 2007 Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.



LOUVE D’OR – BEST FEATURE FILM in the International Selection:
ICI ET LÀ-BAS (AQUI Y ALLA), Antonio Méndez Esparza (États-Unis/Espagne/Mexique, 2012)

BEST ACTOR OR ACTRESS in a feature film in the International Selection
ALICE DE LENCQUESAING pour LA TÊTE LA PREMIÈRE de Amelie van Elmbt (Belgique/France, 2012)

BLANCANIEVES, Pablo Berger (Espagne/France, 2011)

(1) BOY EATING THE BIRD'S FOOD, Ektoras Lygizos (Grèce, 2012)
(2) SUDOESTE, Eduardo Nunes (Brésil, 2011)

STORIES WE TELL, Sarah Polley (Québec/Canada, 2012)

WOLF CHILDREN (LES ENFANTS LOUPS), Mamoru Hosoda (Japon, 2012)

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