Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 12, No. 5, 2013
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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 Separation
Take This Waltz
Beyond The Walls
The Place Beyond the Pines



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


3.0 -- LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (TEL PÈRE, TEL FILS), Hirokazu Kore-Eda
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] At birth two baby boys are switched and the families must work out whether they wish to keep the six-year-old boy each has come to know as their son. One of the fathers is rich and cold and he decides it's best to go with his true biological son, and so the other family agrees; they are poor and rough around the collar but warm and attentive. The switch doesn't bode well for the boys, and in the end each returns with love in their hearts to the parents they know as their mama and papa. This film is well done but it fails to move in ways it should. It illustrates however the cold heart of the young successful Japanese business man who is consumed with work rather than family love. It shows true wealth resides in the heart whose love must be given to one's family.

3.0 -- LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (TEL PÈRE, TEL FILS), Hirokazu Kore-Eda
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] Six year after the fact, two sets of Japanese parents discover that their children were switched at birth by a troubled nurse. They now have to consider the emotionally tasking prospect of exchanging children in whom they have invested their love and hopes, while recognizing that children unconditionally love and trust their parents. Without ever lapsing into preachiness or sentimentality, this graceful, tender and heartrending film asks the question of blood. How thick is blood? Is blood a fact or a feeling? Whose love comes first: a child's or parents'? For the children, nurture is everything, just as the parents are convinced that in the long run it's best to let nature take its course, that over time the children will adapt to their new parents. As the families get to know each other, their respective class differences come to the fore: the Nonomiya family is professional and very straight laced; the Saikis run an electrical store and are informal in their relations with their children. Nonomiya is concerned that his flesh and blood child has been poorly raised and he even proposes to pay off the poorer family. The film benefits from a sympathetic script, wonderful exchanges between the parents and children, and wholly believable characters, all of whom are trying to do the right thing, which is quite impossible given the novel circumstance. One of the small satisfactions in this film of many is the manner in which the mothers deal with the exchange versus the fathers' approach. "Like Father, Like Son" is a fully absorbing, humane drama that illuminates the nature of love and bonding between parent and child.

2.5 -- OUR SUNHI, Hong Sangsoo
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] Sunhi, a graduate film student in Seoul, has just emerged from a year of self-imposed exile. She's high-strung, confused, self-absorbed and extremely attractive. Three men are seriously wooing her: Choi, a professor from whom she needs a letter of recommendation; Munsu, her heart broken ex; and Jaehak, another filmmaker who is divorced. In a series of highly entertaining meetings that are enlivened with the help of the local Korean brew, each is convinced they will win Sunhi's favour by telling her what she wants to hear. The dialogue sparkles, the cat and mouse games delight, and declarations of love abound in this engaging variation of "A Lover's Discourse" (Roland Barthes). When it comes to romance and courtship, there are no rules, and in the able hands of Hong's buoyant script the clichés never change nor do they age. At once cute, quirky and often funny, this whimsical film, by not taking itself too seriously, offers up another worthwhile take on the inexhaustible subject of this crazy little thing called love.

2.5 -- STRAY DOGS, Ming Liang Tsai
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] During the past 25 years, the working poor as a social class has come into its own. "Stray Dogs" explores the phenomenon of the working homeless in Taipei. It's an experimental art house film that features meticulously composed, austere sets and a camera that refuses to move: some of the shots are five minutes long. This tightly knit, well-crafted film works because it stays true to its despairing dynamic. A separated and now homeless couple, both employed, share in the care of their children. Since they both work, they can feed and clothe themselves and their young son and daughter, but have to perform their ablutions in public toilets or outside. The father lives in a one room, sinkless hovel; the mother in an abandoned building. Their constant companion is the cold and heavy rain whose cumulative effects take their toll on especially the father's self-esteem. It would be but a small step for him to decide to murder his children and then himself and finally put an end to everyone's misery. In one unforgettable scene, the father smothers and then cannibalizes his daughter's pet cabbage. At the end of the film, the camera is trained on the faces of the parents who are staring at a picture of a landscape comprised of smashed rocks and boulders. Not even in fantasy is there hope. Stray dogs, stray humans, it's one and the same in a film that takes direct aim at capitalism and its growing list of horrors.

3.8 -- CHENNAI EXPRESS, Rohit Shetty
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] In charge with putting his grandfather's ashes in southern India's ocean, far from his home town, Rahul has other plans in mind. In fact, he'll board the train ensuring his grandmother see that he is carrying out the task, but his real intention is to travel to another city where he and his two friends are set to sign a business deal to open a club. Upon boarding the train, a beautiful young woman named Meena is stretching out her hand to him while running to jump on the train. Rahul helps her. That same scene immediately plays out but with five different men running -- one after the other -- to catch the train (and Meena); Rahul also successively offers his hand to them. But they are Meena's father's goons. Meena has run away in order to avoid marrying a big huge man her father has selected for her to wed in order to expand his power over the lands he already rules. These goons have been sent to bring her back home, and they do. Rahul is a great coward -- at least at the beginning of this story which not only captures a train journey, but one setting him on his own inner journey to 'manhood' and his potential for greatness. The rest of the movie tracks the ways Rahul and Meena escape their clutches. With every ingeniously clever and very funny episode, these two escapees manage to find shelter, but Meena is falling hard for Rahul; still, he's not interested in any romantic liaison until he realizes how much she means to him. She's the one who always retrieves the urn holding the ashes whenever the two of them are being pursued or making their getaway from some village or forest. Only when Rahul realizes how much she means to him, does he take her back to her father to face and fight the unwanted suitor, after which he hopes to win the approval of her father to marry his daughter. Rahul is a poor seller of sweets, and he proves that despite the gap in class, his courage and might surpass his opponent. The music, singing and vocal sound effects simultaneously timed to the actors' facial expressions and actions are highly entertaining. A great Bollywood film that has topped box office records in India.

2.7 -- (SWIRL) GIRIMUNHO, Clarissa Campolina & Helvécio Marins Jr.
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] One is neither old nor young but alive, remarks the octogenarian Bastú, who is both illiterate and wise. A docudrama without any drama, "Girimunho" unfolds in a small town in the province of Minas Gerais (Brazil) that seems a throwback to an earlier era. Nothing much happens. Bastú's husband has just died, but she continues to talk to him. She gets together with her old friend Maria: they chat, they laugh, they revisit the past - as they do in real life. And like the camera, we can't tear our eyes away from their wonderfully old and weathered faces? Bastú lives with her granddaughter Branca who cares very much for her. Branca will soon be leaving to further her studies but has arranged for a friend to make sure her grandmother takes her medicine. Bastú enjoys relaxing in the hammock, slow cooking, walking along the river. This gracious and languidly paced lyrical film is an homage to a way of life that is rapidly disappearing. As we are introduced to the enviable relationships between family members and friends, the play of light on the river, the earthy streets, the simple homes, the young enjoying an evening of music, the film asks what is important in life. Bastú's thereness for what is there is not so much a meditation but a mood that moves us to examine our own lives.

[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] Austrian director Daniel Hoesl disjointedly tracks the story of middle-aged Fanni, a wealthy bourgeois who has fallen on hard times but who is living in total denial -- until her home is seized. She then bizarrely burns up her huge trust fund monies after which she loses her way in the forest. Shortly thereafter, she's living and working on a farm where she discovers that she wasn't so happy with money and isn't at all unhappy without it. There, she meets the young and attractive Christine who engages in emotionless sex with her boss. Fanni, a free spirit for whom the rules of the game are meant to be broken, helps Christine escape. End of story, which is only half the story because the film's over-the-top aesthetics are what sustains our interest. From beginning to end, every scene has been exquisitely composed and framed such that the simple and mundane are made to reveal their inherent beauty. No less a pleasure for the eye is the affecting and wonderfully complementary sound track, whose knife-edged and very apropos lyrics help to fill in the large plot gaps. Despite Hoesl's lack of rigour and discipline, his film is strangely satisfying as it follows its own internal logic and impulses. The viewer readily accepts scenes which apparently have nothing to do with the storyline. There's a bloody butchering and evisceration of a cow that is sure to leave a rancid tartar taste in the mouth of even the most avid meat eater. The purpose of the scene is almost beside the point since it so authoritatively speaks to Hoesl's talent and keen eye as well as the distinctness of Austrian cinema. Hoesl's best work is ahead of him. How far ahead remains to be scene.

1.9 -- CLOSED CURTAIN, Panahi & Partovi
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] Since truth has no friends in high office, Iranian cinema has had to resort to all manner of subterfuge and obscurantism to keep the message alive for ordinary citizens for whom freedom is as illusory as a hookah high on hope. Co-directors Panahi and Partovi take up that critically acclaimed tradition while failing to live up to its high standards. A Muslim man, a writer, smuggling a dog in a duffle bag, hides away in a friend's villa. Islam has issued a fatwa on dogs. Is the dog real or proxy for innocence and freedom? Even though the villa is locked, a young woman and her brother enter. Are they real or projections of the writer's confusion and paranoia? He accuses her of reporting his writing to the authorities. The brother leaves and is arrested by the police and then the writer disappears and someone else takes his place: his spirit lives on in another? The film -- all darkness at noon -- suffers from lack of conventional narrative flow. Nothing is at it seems and sinister forces lurk everywhere. Objects assume improbable importance: the grandiose villa gate may in fact be a prison, and what are we to make of the hermetically sealed curtains? We don't identify with the characters because they aren't flesh and blood but merely ideas or devices enlisted to expose -- with a nod to Becket and Koestler -- life in Iran under Khomeini. "Closed Curtain" is an either/or proposition: you will either relate to it on its own terms (it won Berlin's Silver Bear for best script), or suffer through an interminably long and boring 106 minutes. Apparently lacking the sophistication to appreciate art-house film, I quickly fell into the latter camp and couldn't wait to decamp.

2.7 -- BAD HAIR (PELO MALO), Mariana Rondón
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] While he never makes an appearance, Hugo Chavez is the event maker in Mariana Rondón's persistently bleak story of a single mother, Marta, trying to raise her two children in (presumably) Caracas. She's constantly bickering with her 9-year-old son Junior, who is obsessed with straightening out his kinky hair. From billboards and television, he equates success with straight hair, and dreams of becoming a pop singer. But Marta, who never smiles in the film, knows that the dream is a lie. In order to get back her job as a security guard, she gives herself away to her employer. For hard cash, she is tempted to give away Junior to his paternal grandmother. When Marta becomes convinced that Junior's constant fiddling with his hair is a sign of homosexuality, she whisks him off to the doctor. The huge fuss and contest over Junior's hair is proxy for the deep divisions, prejudices and poverty that afflict Venezuela. Rondón effectively writes into her sharply clipped and edgy script the snarling traffic, the ear-scarring noise, the endless repetition of miserable look-alike high rises, and the long and winding unemployment lines. If Marta has her way, Junior will cut his hair. The film is a post-mortem on the Chavez revolution just as Caracas now competes with Lima as the anus of South America.

2.2 -- DIE WELT, Alex Pitstra
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] A film with a documentary feel to it, "Die Welt" explores the politics of the uneasy relationship between Tunisia and Europe. Abdallah, who works at a video store, is unhappy with his salary and life. His father, an ex-playboy, invites two attractive European women to their home for some local cuisine and culture. But of course a lot more is on the menu. In reverse order, European women flock to Tunisia for sand, sun and sex. The Tunisians are only too happy to oblige, willing that the pleasures of the flesh open doors to the European equivalent of the American dream. But for most, it's either a life of continuing despair at home or a risky boat trip over troubled waters and an uncertain reception in Lampedusa. Lately, there have been a spate of films on the same subject and this one adds nothing cinematically or dramatically to what we already know. Far too early in the film, this prelude to the Arab Spring (Jasmine Revolution) springs a leak from which it never recovers, on top of which the ending begs, borrows and steals heavily from another films on the same subject.

3.2 -- ALI BLUE EYES, Claudio Giovannesi
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] Since 9/11, much has been written about the great clash of civilizations that pitbulls Islam against the West. That the clash may in fact be an inner conflict that has been outed onto the world is the question Claudio Giovannisi's extraordinary film asks. He begins with an empirical observation: that most immigrants, given the chance, will do almost anything to blend in, to be accepted by the host nation.

Sixteen-year-old, Italian-born Nader, whom the camera follows for a week in the life of, has gone to great lengths to shed the Arab in him: he even wears blue contact lenses. He and his best friend from childhood Stefano, whom he calls bro,' do everything together, including sharing the proceeds from their petty criminal life. Nader, whose father pumps gas, is chronically insolvent. Nader's Italian allegiance is tested when he announces to his family that he has an Italian girlfriend with whom he is sleeping. His mother tells him that such relations are not permitted by Islam and that he must either drop his girlfriend or leave home. The affronted and principled Nader instead declares he wants nothing to do with his family until they accept his girlfriend, and stomps out of the house. A few days later, he's sleeping on the street along with the homeless. However, the authority of Islam runs deep, especially as it concerns doctrinal attitudes towards women and the segregation of the sexes. When his girlfriend arrives by scooter wearing a mini skirt, Nader doesn't like the idea of her flashing leg. When he learns that his best friend Stefano has taken a romantic interest in his sister, the volatile Nader blows a fuse. Now packing a loaded gun, he will discover where his loyalties lie (with Islam or Italy), and that the middle ground or moderate Arab may be nothing more than a grand fiction slouching on the near horizon.

Without a trace of didacticism, "Ali Blue Eyes" fulfills the function of art through the telling of a simple story that implicates the much larger and complex issues of immigration policy, and the divided loyalties that family and friendship invariably stir up. The director selected his actors from real life, allowed them to use their real names, and gave them considerable latitude with the script, resulting in a cinema verité that sheds both a sober and luminous light on the non-negotiables of the immigrant experience from the point of view of the Arab in a foreign land. Since it's highly unlikely that this thought-provoking, at times spellbinding, low-budget tour de force will break out of the film festival circuit, catch it while you can. Final showing Wednesday, Oct. 16th, 5.20 pm, Cineplex Odeon (Quartier Latin).

3.8 -- RAMÓN AYALA, Marcos López
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A legend in his own time, Ayala turned his poetry spilling over in rich images into songs that vividly describe his beloved Argentina -- particularly Misiones Province. His songs of love, the forest, the rivers and red earth reverberate across the country in the older generation so much so, that wherever he goes, he mingles with the daily scene to sing one of his famous creations. He is recognized, but not by the young generation. A master at guitar to which he added several bass strings (it's now a 10-string guitar) and a great painter, this gifted artist is a man of nature as he nurtures his people with his songs. He was the first to create a special rhythm and to create a song about the Manu (workers in the field who struggle for their paltry pay). One very heavy man who can barely walk is so dedicated to his songs, he sits in his little studio and takes vinyls either thrown away or gifted to him and digitalizes them. He cuts all the art work by hand and then pack up the CDs in his bag and travels everywhere to sell them. These long-playing CDs carry all the songs of Ayala and many more from other great Argentine artists. The film also introduces great musicians who have brought to life the inspiring work of Ayala. Sadly, many of these incredible artists remain in obscurity, so this documentary is most illuminating and highly entertaining. The music is glorious. I would have liked to have learned more about Ayala's childhood; this film focused on his present life. He is old -- still a consummate musician who despite his fame remains rooted to the land and the people who work it.

3.9 -- THE BIG GUNDOWN, Sergio Sollima
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] What a classic Western! Lee Van Cleef is a bounty hunter who is trying to catch a knife throwing kill master who has been accused of raping and killing a young teenage girl. There are many clever cat and mouse tactics used by both. The song, "Run Man Run" performed by Cristy is a knock-out. The gags and surly characters in the film play with plot-pleasing entertainment by comic-book characters, but in the end, hero and supposed villain become friends. There are clever twists with unique strategies that go into trapping the real culprit of the dastardly crime. The best I've seen in the Western genre. It was made in Italy in 1966. The language is Italian.

2.0 -- IN THE NAME OF THE SON (AU NOM DU FILS), Vincent Lannoo
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] Vincent Lannoo's "In the Name of the Son" suffers from lack of direction and vision: it doesn't know if it wants to be a satire/lampoon, drama, fantasy or revenge film. The subject is the epidemic of pedophilia in the Catholic church - not exactly the stuff of guffaws and chuckles. The sometimes illuminating, provocative script, as well as the astonishing performance of Astril Whettnall, get lost in Lannoo's self-indulgence and tired focus -- which is a shame. Portraying the wife of a husband who commits suicide, the mother of a 13-year-old pedophiled son who takes his own life, an informed and sympathetic radio talk-show host, and finally a revenge killer against pedophile priests and the establishment that shields them, Whettnall delivers a complex performance that should make her a leading candidate for a Jutra (Quebec Film Industry Award). Any film that doesn't take itself seriously runs the risk of viewers not taking it seriously. Despite the forbidden nature of the predilection and inevitable trivialization satire engenders, pedophilia is a legitimate subject for satire. The film didn't work because the mixing of genres didn't work; the sum of the sometimes interesting parts failed to achieve any sense of wholeness or purpose.

2.5 -- A TOUCH OF SIN, Jia Zhang-ke
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] As director Zhang-ke would have it, in modern China the gap between the haves and have-nots and exploited and exploiter has reached a point of incommensurability, and the second best way to address the rot, the systemic iniquity, is with a movie camera and a competent cutting room team. In separate stories that despair and misfortune combine into a meaningful whole, Zhang-ke tracks the lives of young men and women who are being pushed around and abused by their employers. As each in turn is denied his basic rights and humanity, he or she discovers there remains but one of two dignified responses: suicide or remove the oppressor. "A Touch of Sin" is a feel good revenge film that shines an incriminating light on the dark side of China where the privileged have convinced themselves that maintaining their privilege is the only game in town. Despite the film's perhaps unconscious debt to "Pulp Fiction," it is to the director's credit that the characters do not slip into caricature, and events that culminate in graphic executions remain thoroughly grounded in the depressing reality that is China's uncritical embrace of unbridled capitalism.

3.0 -- THE GOLDEN CAGE (LA JAULA D'ORO), Diego Quemada-Diez
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] In the mind's eye, huge snow flakes are falling to a feathery landing in the land of plenty. For Guatemala's legions of impoverished, the American dream is still an easy sell. The camera follows 16-year-old Sara as she makes her way along a filthy, narrow barrio alley to a public privy. There she cuts off most of her hair, flattens her young breasts with tape, slips into a loose T-shirt and jeans, puts on a baseball cap and emerges looking like a guy. She hooks up with Juan and Samuel, who along with hundreds of others, are scrabbling for scraps in the nearby mountain-sized garbage dump. They are fed up and have decided that the city of angels (L.A.) is where they want to be. Thus begins a journey fraught with perils and betrayals and chance encounters with the good, the bad and the ugly of humanity. From crowded freight train they've hopped, they slowly make their way through lush, pristine jungle and eye-dazzling panoramic landscape. Early in this deadly enterprise, Samuel drops out and is replaced by Chauk, a native Indian who doesn't speak Spanish. No less than the hardships of the journey, the film deftly explores Juan's uneasy relationship with Chauk and their competitive relationship with Sara. Written and directed by Quemada-Diez, the laconic script is spot-on natural and the cinematography perfectly matched to the hopes and despairs of the intrepid trio. The characters are as fully developed as their 16 years allow, in a film that speaks to the human condition when conditions are inhumane, and reminds us at the end of the day, when the last border has been crossed, the long and winding road behind is littered with casualties, and that in the promised land snow flakes melt when they touch ground. "La Jaula d'Oro," winner of the Golden Eye for best film at the Zurich International Film Festival, does the El Norte genre proud.

3.0 -- BLUEBIRD, Lance Edmands
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] In a thoughtfully paced and wonderfully cast film that takes place in the north country (Maine), small town life unfolds in a manner typical of small towns everywhere: the quiet and calm often belie tensions which may or may not ripple the surface. To help her husband, a heavy equipment operator at the local pulp and paper mill, make ends meet, Leslie drives a school bus. One winter morning her life is changed forever when she discovers at the back of the bus a small boy, Owen, frozen in a coma from which he doesn't recover. She didn't notice him before shutting down her bus for the night. The boy's mother, who was 17 when she had him and likes to get high, was supposed to meet him at his stop, but she forgot. Gathering around the fate of the boy like projections of himself in would-be afterlife, self-recrimination and accusation play out in a manner which implicate not only the guilty paties but the extended families and the town at large: cracks appear, resentments surface, betrayals are hinted at. Under the very capable first time directorship of Lance Edmands, the viewer finds himself wholly caught up in a drama that is without ostensible dramatic highlights. To great effect, the protagonists are unable to explicitly share their emotional turbulence which heightens the film's dramatic tension. Like life itself, there are no quick and easy solutions, and like the fate of the pulp and paper mill, whose equally voracious and spellbinding operations are exposed in a series of unforgettable shots, the fate of the boy and his designated protectors remains a work in progress, and the bluebird of happiness as fugitive as ever.

2.5 -- L'ESCALE (STOPOVER), Kaveh Bakhtiari
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] It doesn't take long to figure out that the title, which means "stopover" in English, is drenched in irony. With camera in hand, Kevah Bakhtiari follows the claustrophobic lives of seven Iranian exiles who have been stuck in Athens for years trying to get their hands on fake or withheld passports, looking for reliable middle men (human traffickers) to get them into northern Europe. Most of the film takes place in a small flat where they eat and work out together, and sleep four to a room on thin mattresses laid out on the floor. Oblivious of the intruding camera, the exiles openly discuss their hopes and fears and misgivings: whether or not to take a chance at the airport where getting caught means jail. While always respectful of the dignity of his subjects, the director and his invasive camera reveal each's flaws as well as his essential humanity. Whatever it is that they are or hope to become, they are not simply names on a waiting list, or worse, not on anyone's official list. For every happy ending there is a tragic one: the director's cousin Mohsen returns to Iran and is murdered during a robbery; one of the exiles doesn't survive a hunger strike. It's both a crap shoot and nothing less than an act of will and courage that seven adult men can keep the peace year in and year out, waiting for something to happen, watching themselves getting older. At a 100 minutes the film was 20 minutes too long, but a poignant reminder on how lucky we are to be free.

3.0 -- SALVO, Fabbio Grassadonia & Antonia Piazza
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] A nervy, hand-held camera follows Salvo, a Mafia gang member, down a narrow Palermo street. There is a gunfight and a pursuit, but when Salvo discovers his dead rival's sister Rita is blind, he can't pull the trigger, and instead whisks her away to an abandoned warehouse outside of town. It is there, each of them discovers within the power to repent and forgive. In a film where hardly any words are spoken, the interior worlds of both Salvo and Rita are exquisitely rendered through light in all its shadings and the palpitating human breath. Their first moments together are riveting ; in the presence of Rita's innocence, Salvo discovers his own. Against the odds, an otherworldly bond develops as the directors trade in the conventional Mafia props for metaphysical ones. We gladly suspend belief as Rita regains her sight as a consequence of Salvo coming to see the evil of his ways as a gang member. In perhaps the only small misstep step in the film, Rita, upon seeing that Salvo is prepared to sacrifice his life for her, abruptly (implicitly) forgives her capturer for murdering her brother. Is Rita a projection of Salvo's conscience, an alter ego? Or is she flesh and blood? This haunting debut from Grassadonia & Piazza is as original as it is uncompromising in its view of crime and punishment and redemption and fully deserving of the Grand Prize Award it picked up at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

2.3 -- MISS VIOLENCE, Alexandros Avranas
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] Subtlety was not this film's most conspicuous virtue. For the normally happy occasion of a birthday, 11-year-old Angeliki jumps off the balcony to her death. The rest of the movie, in a creepily mannered manner, attempts to unpack the somewhat dubious cause and effect. We quickly learn that the surviving family members -- consisting of the parents, their surviving two daughters, one of whom who has two children but doesn't know their fathers -- are almost laughably dysfunctional. But this film is no laughing matter. The father is a dictator/control freak ad extremis such that rather early in the film the viewer naturally concludes that the daughter did away with herself to escape physical and psychological abuse, until new revelations implicate the forbidden world of sadism on a scale which beggars credibility. Not only is the father prepared to sell his virgin granddaughter to his pedophile friend, he has no qualms about participating in the gang-bang of his surviving 2nd oldest daughter -- hardly the stuff of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Since money is involved in both transactions, we're supposed to conclude that there is a plausible link between Greece's economic crisis and outright depravity. This facile Cartesian formulation didn't work for me: I lost my job, therefore I'm an incestuous pedophiliac. The only thing that is tragic in this Greek film is the director's wholesale misunderstanding and trivialization of the cause and effects of incest and pedophilia. But of course the Greeks come from a long line of philosophers and Freud, it seems, is still waiting to be translated into Greek.

In "Bird's Food," which played at last year's FNC, the protagonist masturbates and then ingests it, presumably addressing a critical protein shortfall, presumably consequent to Greece's economic woes. This year, in "Miss Violence," a grandfather pimps his virgin grandaughter to a pedophile and then arranges and participates in the gang-bang of his daughter, presumably consequent to the on-going economic crisis. Perhaps it's time for Greece to seriously reconsider resuscitating the drachma.

3.5 -- DIEGO STAR, Jan Verheyen
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Traoré, an Ivory Coast sailor, is the assistant engineer of a crew that mans the Deigo Star cargo ship. A mechanical breadown necessitates the ship be towed to a shipyard in Lévis, Quebec. The men haven't been paid, and no one wants to spill the beans on why the ship broke down because they fear their pay will be withheld. Only Traoré tells the Quebec investigator that truth -- that he had warned the captain many times the pistons were so rusty the ship would break down. During the stay, Traoré is billeted in a small house run by Fanny, a single mother. He is really good with her little baby boy. But when Traoré gets fired by the captain -- he is the whistle blower -- he doesn't get paid, and he does not tell Fanny who actually works in a cafeteria where the crew eats. She forces her tenant to leave somce no more money is coming form the ship company to pay for billeting him. Poor Traoré is locked out of her house, and he is left freezing in the night air. He wants to return to 'his' ship, but he is arrested. This is a sad story about injustice and how some people make decisions for monetary reasons only while others follow moral principles. The personal versus the political enter into a wicked scenario for everyone. This ensuing rupture produces disastrous results. Isaka Sowadago as Traoré was stunning.

2.4 -- DIEGO STAR, Frédérick Pelletier
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] The interminably bleak Canadian winter in the port city of Lévis, Quebec is the setting for an uneven, somewhat formulaic drama about a man who pays a terrible price for telling the truth. The Diego Star, a freighter suffering from long-term systemic engine neglect, finally breaks down in Canada. While waiting for parts, the sailors are billeted with the local residents. The 2nd engineer, the very polite and dignified Abidjan-born Traoré, finds himself sharing a small flat with Fanny and her baby, a single mother who needs the extra rent money. Over time, an unacknowledged bond develops, but when she learns Traoré has lost his job on the ship, she throws him out. She doesn't realize that the sleazy ship captain threatened to withhold two months of wages if the sailors didn't go along with his cover up: only Traoré dares to tell the truth, and is subsequently betrayed by both his shipmates and the investigating authorities. Out on the streets and in the cold, Traoré's situation quickly worsens; he becomes homeless, goes on a near rampage and eventually ends up in jail in Montreal. This well intended film suffered from too many static scenes that didn't advance the storyline and some of the emotional outbursts didn't quite ring true. That said, the harsh winter landscape was effectively matched to the plight of both Traoré and Fanny, the former a victim of his code of honour, and Fanny, a working class, single mother, left out in the cold.  

2.6 -- GARD DU NORD, Claire Simon
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] In Paris's legendary Gare du Nord, Mathilde, in her 50s and looking her age, meets Ismael, a young Ph.D. student, who is conducting interviews of passengers for his thesis. Meeting at the Gare everyday, they quickly, desperately discover they can help each other, and in-fits-and-starts, a thinly explained romance develops; their story must compete with the many other stories that are happening in the Gare: relationship breakdowns, harassment of a young boutique manager, a working mother separated from her young children. As a first effect of being introduced to an endless parade of misfits, psychotics, hustlers, runaways and delinquents, a sense of pending chaos develops; no one seems to belong anywhere anymore. The Gare, shot from a variety of angles that shows off its sinew and muscle, is in fact hollow at its core. With the viewer supplying the metaphysical syntax, a train has jumped the track and crashed and the family unit has completely broken down. Unsuspected by the passengers who come and go, a mysterious social malaise has them all in its vice-tight grip: a beleaguered father is looking for his missing daughter, a young security woman, only 20, hasn't seen her family in ten years, 2nd generation black and Arab kids hang out, unable to find work, purpose. Their paths crisscross but the meetings are random, like the randomness of life itself - devoid of meaning and direction. France is on the ropes and Gare du Nord has become a magnet for the helpless and hurting, the hunted and haunted. This decidedly unsettling, quasi documentary film is occasionally helped (with a reverential nod to Funkadelic and "Maggot Brain"), by the time-warped guitar work of Marc Ribot. When the Gare closes its doors in the wee hours of the morning, the graveyard shift takes over, and, like ghosts in the wind, the remains of the day are swept away while the click-clack of the last train disappears into the anonymous night.

1.1 -- GARD DU NORD, Claire Simon
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A chaotic film that has an older woman falling for a young student when they both meet at the Gare du Nord in Paris. He is working on his Ph.D. on this place with the intent of showing it is a global village. We see him interviewing people who own shops, passengers coming out of the train, and loiterers. Mathilde, the woman dies in the end, and some guy has lost his daughter and he finds her. There are too many stupid supernatural scenes that make this whole movie a bunch of nonsense. If you've ever been on an interminable train ride, and you just wish you had reached your destination a lot sooner, this is how I felt. (2013).

2.3 -- TRIPTYQUE, Robert Lepage & Pedro Pires
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A story that follows three people all connected because of serious brain problems. Marie is sister to Michelle. The former has a brain tumour and is a great singer. Her tumour is making her lose parts of her speech and childhood memories. Michelle suffers from schizophrenia. She is an avid reader and brilliant librarian. Tomas drinks; his hand has tremors; it is not steady, and this is tragic, as he is a brain surgeon. He eventually operates on Marie, and falls in love with her. In the end they all seem to find their own happiness. Michelle writes poetry. Marie finds a way to remember her father's voice by having dubbed over the old family films once shot when she was a child. The technician is able to recuperate his voice through her, using his equipment. Tomas marries Marie. The film is highly artistic and a metaphor for Michelangelo's painting of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. In fact, the entire famous scene of God touching Man shows that the curves and shapes form the different regions of the brain. A compelling film but rather odd.

3.1 -- HELI, Amat Escalante
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A brutal Mexican film that shows the complete disintegration of a family caught in a drug robbery. Twelve-year-old Estella is in love with 17-year-old Beto. He is cruelly treated during his military training, and one day steals packages of cocaine from his unit. which, with Estella, he hides inside the tenaco (rooftop water tank); her brother Heli finds them. He locks her in her room and then throws the coca into a hole filled with murky water and a cow. This place is a stroll away from their house. Things become very violent when all three are kidnapped by men disguised as police. They want those packages, so Heli leads them to the hole, but they are gone. Beto is tortured for stealing and then carted away to be hung over a bridge rail. Heli's little sister disappears, but when she returns she is pregnant -- having been raped by the monster thugs. Heli survives the beatings. This horrific story tragically and realistically shows Mexico's underbelly which sadly has become mainstream life for so many in this lawless land. There should have been a warning of extreme violence at the opening of the movie.

3.1 -- GERONTOPHILIA, Bruce La Bruce
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Lake is a beautiful looking twenty-something-year old who has a girlfriend who loves feminist revolutionaries. She keeps a list of her heroines, and although Lake is a guy, he ends up getting on her list. Why? He falls in love with Melvin, a black 80-year-old gay patient he takes care of in an old folks home. Desiree concludes that Lake has gone against nature and because of this, since he is a revolutionary, Lake and his ex-girlfriend arrange the old Melvin's escape at night. They roll him out in a wheel chair and Lake takes over. He wants to fulfill Melvin's wishes: to see the Pacific Ocean. But they never make it. Destiny has a way of ending things. This is a touching film and it is funny. It is compelling yet unsettling. The film belongs in Montreal's internationally acclaimed gay festival, "Image + Nation."

2.8 -- ILO ILO, Anthony Chen
[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] It's as if every frame of the film has been ever so slightly drained of colour, and Singapore is under the influence of a mysterious form of anemia. Like weather systems, these two elements merge to form the very understated but apropos backdrop for a small story that tells of the large concerns of Singapore's burgeoning middle-class who are either one bad decision or one bad break from losing what little they have when economic uncertainty is in the long term forecast. Tech and her bumbling, investment unsavvy husband Hwee work long hours to make ends meet. They are a stable couple but not emotionally present for their 10-year-old son Jiale, a rambunctious kid without a cause, who oscillates between withdrawal and tantrum throwing. Tech, who is late in her pregnancy, convinces her husband to hire a nanny, Terry, who comes from Ilo Ilo, an island in the Philippines. Jiale immediately takes advantage of her servile position and abuses her kindness, but over time, she supplies the deficit of Jiale's emotional needs, just as the latter becomes a surrogate child to Terry who, in order to better her life, has left a young daughter behind in Ilo Ilo. After a series of financial disasters which force the couple to seriously consider selling their one and only sure asset - their apartment - they reluctantly inform Terry that they can no longer afford her services, and that she must return home. In a heartbreaking scene that steers clear of the maudlin, the uncomprehending Jiale, clutching a snippet of Terry's hair, watches his nanny disappears forever into the terminal building of Singapore's international airport - and life goes on. There are millions of similar stories taking place everywhere in the world, and this, without distinction and pretention, is one of them, well told, well acted, and well received wherever it has played. 

[reviewed by Robert J. Lewis] The unsettling crunch of leather, a kaleidoscope of violent images, the cool blade of a knife against a taut nipple, an eyeball fills the screen: the senses have already been put on alert, the frontal assault has begun and stays the course for the entire, often tiring (both over and underwhelming) second film from Cattet and Forzani. The directors, for whom conventional story telling has been downgraded to an afterthought, welded to the irresistably chic and post-modern primacy of the image, exuberantly combine what is suspect and aleatoric in "El Topo," "Eraserhead" and the "Saw" series, resulting in a plot line that is thinner than rice paper on a hot tin roof. A man's wife has gone missing? Or did she leave him (for another man, another woman)? To escape abuse? And how does Laura fit into the bloodied picture? Throughout, sharp objects are plunged into the crowns of defenseless craniums, huge quantities of blood are regurgitated in ear-bending decibels, flesh is ripped open and turned inside out, the human breath hot and panting. Perhaps the endlessly disjointed sequence of images is meant to cryptically depict a recurring nightmare: the protagonist's guilt in either his treatment of his beloved or her demise. This experimental film will appeal to jaded viewers for whom the bizarre and outer limits are the only games in town.


Ratings for 2012 Festival du Nouveau Cinéma.

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.


(1) Best feature film in the Focus section

GERONTOPHILIA, Bruce LaBruce (Québec/Canada

(2) Special Jury Prize (Focus Québec/Canada) /

DIEGO STAR, Frédérick Pelletier (Québec/Canada)

(3) Best Actor or Actress Award (Focus Québec/Canada) /

Isaka Sawadogo dans DIEGO STAR de Frédérick Pelletier (Québec/Canada)

(4) People’s Choice Award - Presented by TFO




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