Arts &
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Vol. 13, No. 5, 2014
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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
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Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
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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



2014 cinemania program


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



1.1 -- FOOL CIRCLE, Vincent Mariette
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] No amount of comedic acting and irony can save this rough-around the-edges road trip film from floundering into flopsville. Léon and Bruno -- two brothers who do not like one another set out to attend the cremation of their father whom both hate. It turns out there is no turn-out for the ceremony, nor is the body there. In fact, the father is missing. The woman tells them that he is not dead, but alive; she is the only one to appear at the crematorium. She joins the odd brother as they try to find him. She in fact was his ex-lover. The only saving grace is the acting of Vincent Macaigne as the tongue-tied, girl-shy Bruno. Every director has to make his debut film, but in this case, we won't hold our breath waiting for his next attempt at creating a clever road trip movie. I have been disappointed with this year's film selection. This particular film hints with its title that we have been fooled into thinking that what goes up -- in this case, Cinemania will never come.

2.3 -- NICE AND EASY, Benjamin Gued
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A charming film with some silliness that features French star, Baptiste Lecaplain in the role of Sébastien, a young man whose life goal is to do nothing, but read, eat, people watch and sleep. He moves in Bruno (Félix Moatil), a loser, nervous type-guy who can't hold down a job. His is in love with Anna his female roommate, but she falls for Sébastien, The film moves fast and even the scenes that are most unrealistic (an employment officer who begins to emulate Sébastien's laid-back ways) create a delightful audience response. The trio shares a love of dancing and chit chat, but in the end, sleepy Sébastien gets a wake-up call and the right job. He falls in love, marries and becomes a big shot mattress salesman.

2.7 -- PARTY GIRL, Maria Amachoukeli, Claire Burger & Samuel Theis
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] Winner of le Caméra d’Or at Cannes 2014, and Cinémania 2014’s closing film, Party Girl is the portrayal of Angélique (Angélique Litzenburger), a nightclub hostess past her prime who flirts with the possibility of a life-change with Michel (Joseph Bour), who falls in love with her and proposes marriage. Angélique is a real party girl, with a career spent in the world of bars and nightclubs. Her son, Samuel Theis, wrote, co-directed and starred in the film, as did all of her close family and entourage, offering up commendable performances for first-time actors. The lines between fiction and reality blur, creating the monstrously difficult task of reconciling two vastly different cinematic approaches. In their efforts, the filmmakers oscillate between unbridgeable distance and claustrophobic intimacy, between narrative development and seemingly non-narrative documentation, suggesting too much inspiration and not enough direction. Angélique, herself, remains curiously passive while her entourage show much more agency. The life offered by the well-meaning Michel becomes increasingly unlikely as she holds stubbornly on to girlish dreams of perfect love and entrenched notions of independence. Flashes of brilliance aside, the film fails to truly blend the modes of documentary and fictional storytelling. Nevertheless, it does (heartbreakingly) succeed in its depiction of the party girl -- wild, untamed and undaunted by expectations.

2.9 -- ELLE L'ADORE, Jeanne Herry
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] With a light-hearted beginning, Elle l’adore (She Adores Him) is about Muriel Bayen (Sandrine Kiberlain), a divorced mother of two, who is a dedicated fan of pop star Vincent Lacroix (Laurent Lafitte of the Comédie Française). Following Vincent’s career is akin to a hobby for Muriel, and a highlight of an otherwise simple life -- one she also spices up with embellished storytelling to entertain herself and those around her. Vincent’s private life, however, is made toxic by his emotionally troubled girlfriend Julie (Lou Lesage), whose angry and violent behaviour confounds all love and understanding. One fateful evening things take a turn for the worst and present both Vincent and Muriel with means of escape: for one, an escape from misery and pain, and for the other, a way out of a mundane life. A cleverly constructed narrative keeps audiences guessing as to the true motives at work in what seems, at its core, to be an unassuming psychological thriller.

1.0 --  GET WELL SOON, Jean Becker
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] Adapted from a Marie-Sabine Roger novel, this lousy film is so unrealistic: It pretends that it is entertaining to hear about everyone’s life from a hospital bed – these strangers enter and spill the beans about their love life, and broken dreams to a person in the bed they do not know -- in this case, Pierre (Gérard Lavini) who plummeted into the Seine after being hit by a car. It’s a total bore, despite the cast of characters that visits his bedside, including the entire hospital staff and the young fellow who fished him out. Montreal's 2014 Cinemania Film Festival runs until November 16th.

3.8--  THE JEWISH CARDINAL, Itan Duran Cohen
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] Based on true events and characters, this riveting drama reveals the passionate fight of Jean-Marie Lustiger -- a fervent believer, striding two worlds -- trying to reconcile the imminent realities that wished to tear him from the cloth and also renounce his Jewish heritage. His father was heart-broken about his choice to convert. Jean-Marie Lustiger – born into the Jewish faith as Aaron, claimed to remain Jewish but converted to Catholicism at the age of 14. His relationships within the church brought him personal, confessional and professional anguish. As the film masterfully shows, there were several climactic moments in his life -- one being most memorable when he was able to resolve the Carmelite convent crisis when nuns took over part of the site of Auschwitz in the 1980s. The entire theme and actions in this film reflects the inscription on his tomb: “I was born a Jew . . . Having become Christain by Faith and Baptism, I have remained Jewish as did the Apostles.” This remarkable film needs to be seen twice to fully comprehend the controversial scenes that pitted at various times, Jews and Catholics against Cardinal Lustiger, a man of great integrity, who rigorously loved Mankind and God, about whom he said that he was born to be a mixed child. He lived from 1926 to 2007, and he even fought the Pope because he understood that diplomacy was ineffective against hipocrisy. He met all battles head on, especially at the end of his life when he finally felt he could say a Jewish prayer in front of the entire world. A great film about a heroic man.

2.3 --  LES SOUVENIRS, Jean-Paul Rouve
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] A typically charming comedy with intentionally touching overtones in the script that have no emotional effect when transferred to the screen. Romain (Mathieu Spinosil) wishes to be a writer but takes on a night duty job at a hotel. He has just lost his grandfather, and being close to his grandma, things take a sad turn when a fall necessitates that she go into a seniors' home. Romains’ father, (Michel Blanc) is a terrible worry-wart, and retirement has made his nervousness worse. Although the wit is lively and there are funny moments, the diffuse plot leaves us feeling nothing when granny passes away. It seems to be a film that travels in too many directions, trying to turn the novel, by David Foenkinos -- who also co-wrote the screen play -- into a family saga that fails to move the viewer either with bigs laughs or tears.

3.1--  PRICE OF FAME, Xavier Beauvois
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] Superb acting by the duo Benoit Poelvoordel as ex-con Eddy and Roschody Zemi as Osman, Eddy’s struggling poor buddy makes this feature a winner. Osman feels obligated to take in his longtime pal Eddy who baby sits Osman’s precocious daughter while he does odd construction jobs. Osman’s wife is being hospitalized and in need of an operation that will cost 50,000 francs. Both are on the brink of destitution, so when Charlie Chaplin dies, Eddy hatches a far-fetched plan to dig up the great comedian’s coffin, rebury it in a secret place and then ask for ransom. What keeps us giggling in this movie, whose absurd actions are backed by melodramatic music -- a throwback to the era of Chaplin’s films, is the pair comprise two misfit clowns who ought to join the circus; and one of them actually does in this delightful comedy. It’s sweet that Chaplin’s granddaughter, Dolores, is in the cast.

2.9 --  IN THE COURTYARD, Pierre Salvadori
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] Mathilde (Catherine Deneuve) and her husband Serge have hired Antoine (Gustave Kervern), a former rock musician who is kind, loveable old bear to be the concierge of their building. Antoine snorts cocaine and drinks too much. He is a solitary hermit type steeped in depression. He has to deal with a bunch of eccentric tenants who make impossible demands on him. Meanwhile Mathilde has become obsessed with a huge crack in her wall. She spirals downwards at the same time as Antoine does. But this is a black comedy with histrionic music and great humour to soften the dual sided sad/happy ending of this unusual film. Deneuve was marvelous as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Despite her beauty, her despondent vulnerability overtakes all glamour. She truly ranks as a great actress. She has survived beyond the pretty face formula that marked her era in French films. We aren’t sure of why the characters have fallen into hard times, but the plot works, and the acting is immutable..  

3.1 -- DIPLOMATIE (DIPLOMACY), Volker Schlöndorff
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] What are we to make of a Franco-German cinematic rendition of a 2011 French play by Cyril Gély, which fictionalizes a meeting between legendary Swedish diplomat Raoul Nordling and the Nazi governor of Paris, General Dietrich von Choltitz? Diplomatie (Diplomacy) seems to be little more than a chance for actors André Dussolier (Nordling) and Niels Arestrup (von Choltitz), to give an encore performance on the sliver screen. As others have already pointed out, the narrative is a foregone conclusion: von Choltitz was ordered by Hitler to destroy Paris, and he disobeyed his orders. An yet, by the time we arrive to witness the aging von Choltitz dressing in the pre-dawn half-light of his rooms at the Hôtel Meurice, we are utterly transported and captive in the time/space Schlöndorff creates. Clever cinematography succeeds in animating the narrative and external action scenes counterpoint the intense dramatic chess match unfolding in the General’s quarters. While the focus is certainly on the two men inside the hotel, each of the film’s characters seems to matter, with everyone suspended in a tense web of uncertainty. Nothing, and no one, is safe. Dussolier and Arestrup are masterful, with Arestrup’s von Choltitz showing greater depth and, ultimately, greater humanity to Dussolier’s all-too-Machiavellian Nordling. As fun as it is to watch the actors, however, there is the slightest twinge of ennuie in their delivery, giving an impression that the production may have run its course. Beautifully detailed in its mise-en-scène, Diplomatie is a powerful example of cinema’s ability to suspend disbelief for, despite history, nothing is truly certain until the end.

2.8 -- (DIPLOMATIE) DIPLOMACY, Volker Schlöndorff
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Based on true events that took place inside Paris' Hôtel Meurice, this brilliantly acted film, chronicles the clever face to face diplomacy of consul Raoul Nordling (of Swedish descent and neutrally positioned) used on General Dietrich von Choltitz during the days that the former statesman singlehandedly prevented the entire ruination of Paris, its people and its landmarks. Choltitz has been ordered to do the disastrous deed, and all explosives are in place. Fortunately, sabotage by resistance fighters prevented the near disaster, but things get back into place for the explosion. Nordling uses every tactic based on reason and humanity on the General who is committed to the operation. If he doesn't, his family will be killed. Nordling however, promises him he can arrange the successful escape of his family. France actually awards the General one of the highest medals for his bravery in cancelling the order from Hitler. Words, not weapons saved the day. Those two fateful days of August 24th and the 25th in 1944 are surely Paris' pivotal and most peaceful arc du triomphes. Andre Dussollier as Nordling was perfect, as was Niels Arestrup in the role of the stubborn General Choltitz. The dialogue was excellent and, I was not surprised that the film was based on a play, as most of the action happened in one room. The play is Diplomatie, by Cyril Gély.

[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] Perhaps targeted for younger audiences, Thomas Cailley’s Les Combattants (Love at First Sight in the silly English translation), co-written by Claude Le Pape, marks the director’s debut feature film. Madeleine (Adèle Haenel) is a tough nut to crack. Introverted, sullen and obsessed with joining an elite military regiment, she is pitted in an impromptu wrestling match against Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs) during a bizarrely comical Army recruitment drive. There are layers of uncertainty here. Arnaud drifts along – as does the ship of state, evidently – in the depressed provincial backwater, working half-heartedly alongside his older brother Manu (Antoine Laurent) in their deceased father’s carpentry business. Madeleine, on the other hand, obsessively prepares herself for life in a post-apocalyptic reality she believes is nigh. Mischievous Cupid, however, ensnares them both and causes their worlds to collide and intertwine, exploding desire, conceit and pride in a series of events that allow them to redefine themselves and diffuse the tension keeping them apart. Despite being by far the film’s most riveting character, Madeleine is nevertheless somewhat subverted by a masculine narrative. It is, sadly, a boys’ world, underscored by the camera’s relish of Madeleine’s body not to mention the military’s scornfully sexist treatment of the female participants of their summer camp. Yet another Cinémania offering that obviously comments on the French condition of economic depression, popular cynicism and loss of identity while finally subverting its own vision to deliver a gentler, more hopeful possibility.

2.2 -- MARSEILLE , Olivier Panchot
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Alix, son of a former big-time mobster of Algerian origin, is back in Marseille. He had joined the French Legion to escape reprisals of Corsican gangsters. Now he has deserted and has come back to reconnect with Katia,his former love. This film is confusing, and no amount of intensity and fine acting can help us sort out the plot confusions. Still, it is a high quality film that gangster aficionados can dig their teeth into.

2.3 -- LOVE AT FIRST FIGHT, Thomas Cailey
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Madeleine is a pretty tough chick who knows doom awaits the world. She is a guerrilla survivalist who is training alongside young recruits in the Gironde region. Arnaud, who runs his family carpentry/build business becomes infatuated with her when he meets her during a training session on the beach. He enrolls in the two-week training session to be with her. Madeleine has a bad temper, and it fares badly for her; she does not get along with people. When she and Arnault 'desert' to truly test their survival skills, they discover what rescuing each others entails and how the forest is a fire waiting to burn down on the them.

2.9 -- HIPPOCRATE, Thomas Lilti
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] Director Thomas Lilti’s rite-of-passage drama is set in a public hospital complex. There we meet medical student, Benjamin (Vincent Lacoste), who is lost, literally, in its bowels on the first day of his internship. Lilti surely intends to draw an analogy with the decaying social welfare state. The crumbling buildings, the ethically dubious decisions and preventable suffering all seem to be collateral damage of an absurdly reductionist bureaucracy. Be it from discomfort or out of fundamental optimism, Lilti ultimately resuscitates his bleak vision and delivers a more digestible resolution. Very well shot using Steadicam – the hallmark of gritty dramas – with an impressive cast and low-key humour, Hippocrate is, in the end, a feel-good movie with much to admire in the depths of what is less apparent.

2.4 -- GEMMA BOVARY, Anne Fontaine
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A darling comedy for Cinemania’s opening film. A couple moves into a village in Normandy. The stunning woman, Gemma Bovary (Gemma Arterton) captures the hearts of most of the men, including Martin (Fabrice Luchini) her next door neighbour, a baker, but above all -- a literary buff who loves Flaubert’s novel, Madame Bovary. He obsessively likens Gemma’s life to the character in the novel. Gemma even takes on a lover whom Martin calls her ‘Rodolphe’ – just like in the novel. Unfortunately, Gemma’s ending is not a match for the novel’s ending, but both are indeed tragic. The acting is great in the film. French charm wins the day. Th


For the ratings of 2013 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2012 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2011 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2010 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2009 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2008 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.

For the ratings of 2007 Cinemania Film Festival, HERE.



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