Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 14, No. 3, 2016
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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 Editor
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Chantal Levesque
Denis Beaumont
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
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus




Jordan Adler Nancy Snipper

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


3.4 -- TOWER, Keith Maitland
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] Fifty years to the date of the first mass school shooting in U.S. history, a searing, sensitive documentary on the subject – Keith Maitland’s Tower – screened at Fantasia. (On the same day in 2016, unfortunately and tastelessly, a Texas law allowing the concealed carry of weapons on college campuses went into effect). It was just before noon on August 1, 1966 when a sniper started firing from the clock tower on Austin’s University of Texas campus, killing 14 over a 90-minute period and harming dozens. One of the injured was Claire Wilson, who was pregnant and walking through the campus square with the new love of her life when Charles Whitman fired at her. She laid on the blistering hot concrete, dazed, for many minutes until a courageous young woman named Rita approached her, pretended to be dead, and then talked to Claire to keep her conscious. This is one of the many inspiring stories of everyday citizens – students, university employees, police officers – who were caught in an extraordinary situation. Tower is as notable for the power of its subject as for its approach: the film is a blend of rotoscope animation (with actors assuming the historical roles) and archive footage. Initially, the two styles seem a bit awkward; soon, the transitions between real footage and re-creations become more seamless. The wavy, exaggerated animation style expertly captures the sensation of unreality that the many figures – many of which were interviewed years later for this project – likely felt. With so many strands to this true-crime tale, it is somewhat miraculous that Maitland cuts between the many stories without losing momentum. Best of all, the sniper’s story gets virtually no screen time: this film is all about the witnesses and their coming to terms with trauma and terror.

3.1 -- EMBERS, Claire Carré
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] A man (Jason Ritter) wakes up next to a woman (Iva Gocheva) who he doesn’t remember. She doesn’t know him either; meanwhile, neither can recall their own names or what has happened that brought them to this point. Their love story is one of the most fascinating in recent screen memory. Claire Carré’s thought-provoking sci-fi drama Embers takes place in the near future, wherein an unspecified worldwide epidemic has diminished our ability to form lasting memories. Carré and co-writer Charles Spano are less interested in making these short-term memories crutches for the plot. Rather, they explore how survivors navigate a civilization where time and memory is futile. One intriguing theme is the dissolution of culture: music and photographs (never mind film) seem like ancient artifacts. The ideas here are ambitious, even if not all of the various stories presented here are as compelling or as fleshed-out as they could be. Another tale focuses on Miranda (Greta Fernández), a young woman living in a bunker whose memories are still intact and her mind untarnished, although she yearns for human connection. Meanwhile, a wandering orphan (Silvan Friedman) finds a home with a teacher (Tucker Smallwood) who is trying to keep his memory alive through his own writing. Carré focuses more on the personal human circumstances to this punishing new world, wisely letting backstory fade into ambiguity. Decrepit production design, with many maze-like settings disorienting the characters even further, aptly mirrors how lost these souls are. While the performances are all moving, some characters, like Smallwood’s academic and Karl Glusman’s angry young man, feel too slightly developed.

3.4 -- OPERATION AVALANCHE, Matt Johnson
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] Operation Avalanche is a giant leap for rising Canadian filmmaker Matt Johnson. Just as in his 2013 breakthrough The Dirties, Johnson plays 'Matt Johnson' while co-star Owen Williams plays 'Owen Williams.' Here, the two are technicians for the CIA, circa the late 1960s, hoping to go undercover at NASA as a documentary film crew, thinking they can help spot a KGB mole hiding within that agency. Soon, Owen and Matt find out that the U.S. won’t be able to put a man on the moon by the decade’s end – betraying President Kennedy’s promise. So, they hatch a plan to film a fake moon landing. Borrowing from one of American history’s most intriguing conspiracy theories while earnestly adopting the codes of a previous time, Johnson has fun with thematic ideas about how films manipulate truth. Operation Avalanche’s aesthetic – fuzzy, yellow-tinted Kodachrome stock – is an uncanny replication of the period’s verité style. The attention to these Space Race-era details, such as the editing and camera equipment with which the characters fiddle around, is inspiring in its own retro-chic way. Johnson is not always convincing as an actor and his relationship with the more contemplative Williams could have been more dynamic, but his unabashed enthusiasm throttles the film’s comedic energy. A one-shot car chase near the end exhilarates, while it doesn’t hit you until the film’s end just how much was shot at NASA – and this was done, also incognito, by the filmmakers. (One imagines Kennedy’s quote, seen in archival footage, of doing challenges like going to the moon “not because they are easy, but because they are hard” resonates with the filmmakers). Operation Avalanche is this year’s slyest trick in meta-filmmaking; but even without the self-reflexivity, it’s a blast of a caper thriller.

1.9 --  LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR, Corey Asrat & John Swab  
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] Despite the fact that this drab, bloody thriller stars the remarkable and barely identifiable Marilyn Manson as Drew Glass – the main dude in this sour film – the plot labours and the theme has a limited niche for audience appeal: the characters comprise a collective of depressing degenerates: incest perpetrators, a dope dealing dude and his trailer park buyers, a hit man, a crime boss whose biggest sin is child abuse. And then there’s an innocent girl seized and hidden away from the crowd. Retribution results in a lot of the red stuff being spilled, yet the violence is underscored with a melodramatic love element. Drew Glass is part of this fearless family, but as things strain, he gets even more tangled up in his rotten roots and town folks don’t exactly sympathize. As a first-time film for the co-directors, (Swab also wrote the script), the gritty reality captured by clever camera close-ups mixed with perfect range shots is effective. The tone is fittingly intriguing and dark. The acting is realistic. The film succeeds in creating a heavy present that foreshadows a dark future that even questions the notion of life after death. Oklahoma – where the film is shot – becomes a breeding ground for lost and dangerous souls. If you think you are disturbed, watch this movie; but beware: if you whole-heartedly relate to the goings-on, you may find yourself or your doppelganger in the next Quentin Tarantino film.

1.5 --  BED OF DEAD, Jeff Maher  
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper]  A sex den is visited by two couples. They book the Emperor Room whose bed’s head board sports an ancient wooden medieval cult engraving. As you can guess, the couples end up in a gory mess of facing their past sins. Some die. A dead beat detective comes to the rescue, but not even he can save this film from horror film kitsch whose story surely was conceived in a bed by the writer, Cody Calahan; perhaps he was snoozing – having some cliché nightmare that he decided to pursue as a film. Black Fawn Films responsible for this movie unfortunately makes a lot of low-budget, made-in-Canada horror films. But fans of Black Fawn like this kind of no-brainer let’s get scared flick, Antisocial, The Drownsman and Bite – also made by this company – is cut from the same “Bed-of-the-+ Dead” cloth.

2.3 -- WOMEN WHO KILL, Ingrid Jungermann
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] A low-key comedy with high stakes, Women Who Kill is more remarkable for the slyness of the humor than for striking an able balance between suspense and dry comedy. The debut from writer/director Ingrid Jungermann tells the story of two true crime podcasters, Morgan (Jungermann) and Jean (Ann Carr), whose show is a success even though their relationship fell through. When Morgan meets a new volunteer at the local co-op, Simone (Sheila Vand, from A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), she falls for the mysterious new arrival in Park Slope. However, there are hints that Simone may not be whom she says – and she may potentially be a murderer. With a screenplay that is almost devoid of male characters, Jungermann captures the sharp wit of the neighbourhood’s lesbian community. (One expects a local Brooklyn screening would prompt more engagement and laughter than at Fantasia.) Meanwhile, the film’s ensemble, including Shannon Patricia O’Neill’s deadpan best friend Alex, is good company. But Jungermann’s eye for some trippy nightmare sequences and good ear for the local dialect isn’t enough. Her lead performance is disaffected and sometimes aloof, as if the actor was too busy worrying about the work behind the camera to commit to her character. Meanwhile, the character dynamics are often more interesting than the plotting: when Women Who Kill turns into a more routine mystery in the final third, the results are oddly uninvolving. Featuring Annette O’Toole in a scene-stealing role as a (locked up) serial killer.

3.0 -- DEMON, Marcin Wrona
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] The suicide of Polish filmmaker Marcin Wrona in September 2015 robbed the world of a stellar talent. It occurred just a week after his final film, Demon, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. Considering the film’s subject matter – a modern retelling of the Jewish folk tale of the Dybbuk, a demonic spirit of a dead person that clings to the living – Wrona’s passing adds an uneasy layer to an already macabre thriller. Here, the spirit is of a Holocaust victim from a mostly deserted Polish village, who returns to possess the body of Piotr (Itay Tiran), a British man arriving in the countryside to get married. The possession reaches frightening heights during his wedding day. Most of the guests consider the groom’s weird behaviour the result of too much vodka, but bride Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska) is properly freaked out by her new husband’s unraveling. Wrona lets the dread simmer from early scenes, although Demon later shifts between possession horror and broad comedy, as the film cuts between the groom’s frantic dissolution and the even more frantic antics of a drunken wedding crowd. The comic relief may have been sharper (and relieving) if Piotr’s hallucinations and spasms been more frightening. Regardless, the late filmmaker does paint some memorable images of the arid, foggy countryside, hinting at the ghosts of the past lying in mass graves beneath the ground. Meanwhile, Tiran’s descent into madness is an engrossing feat of acting – especially when one realizes how much of the action accumulates within single takes.

2.8 -- SOME FREAKS, Ian MacAllister McDonald
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] High-school senior Jill (Lily Mae Harrington) should be one of the popular girls. She has a winning personality, a stirring singing voice and a sly sense of humour. However, as a full-figured woman, she is more often the butt of the joke than the person telling one. After graduation, she leaves Rhode Island for sunnier climes and dedicates herself to dieting, yearning to transform her image as she steps into college. This compelling journey of teenage coming-of-age is, sadly, not the focus of the debut from Ian MacAllister McDonald, but the film’s B-plot. Instead, the protagonist is Matt (Thomas Mann, from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl), an introvert who wears an eye patch and is often harassed by classmates. He soon falls for Jill, who he feels is the only other 'freak' at the high school that understands him. Much of the drama hinges on their romantic relationship, but our investment in this pairing is lopsided toward her. That could be due to Harrington’s powerful performance, one that often unflinchingly observes moments of teenage insecurity. Or, it could be because we frequently see stories of somewhat handsome, socially anxious loners, and so rarely witness portraits of plus-sized women on the big screen. Jill cannot help but be the drama’s central drawing power; McDonald’s screenplay loses some of its punch whenever it strays from its female lead. Still, the newcomer has some nice directorial choices up his sleeve, from the intimacy of handheld cameras to using excess off-screen sound in school scenes, which emphasize how characters often pushed toward the margins are the ones now in focus. Ely Henry and Marin Ireland offer potent comic relief and supporting work as Matt’s friend and older sister, respectively.

2.9 --  SHELLEY, Ali Abbasi  
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] Becoming sick during pregnancy is an unpleasant reality for many expectant moms, but when Hungarian visitor Elena consents to be a surrogate mother for the lovely couple she lives with in the country, things begin to turn eerie and abnormally unwell for Elena. In fact, the surrogate event was not the initial reason for her presence at the farm that falls short of her comfort radar. True, there is no electricity on this farm where she had willingly offered her services as a helper. But then, as things develop, she consents to be a surrogate for the woman who has just lost her baby after carrying for 24-weeks. She and Elena become close. The couple is gentle – quietly committed to a life of simplicity, integrity and conscience; they ‘re vegans and work with the earth using their hands. It is a bit odd for Elena, but this is no reason for Elena to lose her hair, incessantly scratch her skin, and loathe bath water on her back. This baby she carries becomes her demon in the womb; she becomes zombie-like. The couple’s relationship begins to falter. Without spoiling what ensues, let’s just say that knitting paraphernalia can be a sad send-off for an unwanted, unborn baby. A take-off perhaps on the film, Rosemary’s Baby, or a statement on mother/child love and the extent a mother will go to protect a much adored baby – this Danish film dares to display a not so rosy glow on motherhood. The director knows how to dodge clichés and create credible, if not slow suspense. The ending is ambiguous and somewhat disappointing. Though the languid lake scenery is lovely, the camera is doggedly dutiful on several scary close-ups.

3.5 -- ALOYS, Tobias Nölle
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] An existential, emotionally textured puzzler from Swiss filmmaker Tobias Nölle, Aloys is a film that begs to be viewed more than once. The title refers to Aloys Adorn (Georg Friedrich, superb), a private investigator mourning the death of his father. Day and night, he roams around an empty urban space, filming and listening into the private lives of ordinary people, which he then watches on a small TV in a beige, run-down apartment. After a night of heavy drinking, Aloys awakens to find several of his tapes stolen, which soon disrupts his adventures in solitude. He ends up chatting over-the-phone with Vera (Tilde von Overbeck), the stranger who stole his tapes and who wants to help remove him from an insular existence. From here, Nölle’s drama erupts with imagination, acquainting us with the fantasy spaces both Aloys and Vera desire. There are various moments in the film’s second half when the barrier between the realms of reality and dream dissolve, yet this blending manages to be both poignant and playful. (One of Vera’s lines, “Everything that moves us is in our head,” speaks to the film’s trippy scene construction and the emotional power of these personal journeys). The filmmaker’s precision of vision is startling: we yearn to explore the expansiveness of the character’s inner world, as we drift from rooms of solitary confinement to the green, limitless woods, and many other places in-between. Imagine the imagination and the introverted precocity of Charlie Kaufman’s mind-benders, although with a warmer, more wondrous outlook. The offbeat pace and formal leaps could challenge some, but Aloys is a fascinating exploration on depression and dreams that is well worth getting lost in.

1.2 -- THE UNSEEN, Geoff Redknap
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] You have to wait until the end to see what becomes unseen in this pseudo-suspense film. A take-off of the classic The Invisible Man -- and a bad poor one at that -- this slow-moving movie has some good acting, but the plot lacks that need-to-cover- your-eyes factor. The protagonist, Bob Langmore, is a depressed mill worker; no wonder: his body is literally being chipped away at. There's a huge cavity in his stomach, and his face has red splotches. He has inherited the same mysterious disease that his father had. His daughter, Eva, is unaware of his affliction, but after years of being deprived of his 'presence' at home -- Bob left when the disease began to carve out his body -- she gets to reunite with him; he is elated to be back with her, but when it's really too late for kisses and hugs. The special Effects are sparse, and laughable. It falls into the spoof genre during the last 20minutes. Still, Aden Young as Bob deserves to be seen; he's a brooding actor with an easy-on-your-eyes body (when it's there).

2.9 -- THE LURE, Agnieszka Smoczynska
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] More compelling as a genre hybrid than a film of narrative cohesion, the debut from Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska is, truly, unlike anything one has ever seen. Two mermaid sisters, Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska), emerge from the murky waters outside of Warsaw and end up as the breakthrough stars at a glitzy Warsaw nightclub. Their entrancing voices (and occasional toplessness) draw in a big crowd while also catching the eye of band member Mietek (Jakub Gierszal). He falls in love with Silver, who quickly finds comfort assuming a more a human form. Golden, on the other hand, cannot quite repress the need to feast on human flesh. Smoczynska’s vision is full of dreamy moments, whether in the aqua-lit club the camera explores from various angles or the fantastical romantic duets between Silver and Mietek. The filmmaker is often up for a challenge, skillfully moving around vast spaces within a single take and finding offbeat spots for song-and-dance. (One hyperactive sequence at a department store is pure fizzy kitsch). The Lure gracefully swims through an absurd number of genres – musical, fairy tale, body horror, sex comedy – although the plot eventually matters less than seeing what kind of surreal set-piece Smoczynska can think of next. Few of the characters resonate too deeply, although the charm of its female protagonists, both capable singers and captivating objects of desire, buoys our interest.

3.5 -- THE THRONE, Lee Jun-ik
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] This Korean masterpiece is a riveting work of superb cinematic grace and accuracy as it brings to the screen a shameful period of royal history between King Yeongjo and his son Sado. The year is 1762, and Sado is not the son Yeongio can control and groom for faultless throne etiquette, including ritual, dress and cruelty. Sado eventually goes mad -- so deprived is he for love from his father and cold-hearted wife. Only his son loves him, but he can't save his misbegotten father. Accused of treason, the king inflicts a horrid cruelty, sealing Sado's fate literally and physically. Winner of so many awards, this unforgettable film vividly and elegantly brings us into a world where father and son acrimony is indelibly embedded during this sorry period that lasted far too long. Song Kang-ho as the King, and Yoo Ah-in are awesome actors whose dedication to their roles must have affected them even after the filming came to its end. This film was also screened at the New York Film Festival.

[reviewed by Jordan Adler] Few onscreen creations this year will perk one up with as much delight as Ricky Baker, the tubby, Haiku-quoting Kiwi foster child from Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Portrayed by Julian Dennison with winning energy, we first see the boy emerge from a police car wearing a jacket that says “All Eyes on Me.” That soon proves to be true. His foil, Hector (a cantankerous Sam Neill), provides a prickly exterior. (He first appears with a giant pig on his back.) Hector is one half of a new foster family for Ricky. However, the sudden death of the matriarch (Rima Te Wiata), which ensures Ricky will soon go back into state custody, forces the boy to retreat into the bush and try to survive on his own. Hector soon joins, giving armed protection and the ability to catch eel without effort, and slowly the two outcasts begin to find solace in each other. The often-uproarious comedy, directed by Taika Waititi of What We Do in the Shadows fame, finds much room for visual humour, such as a montage of Ricky’s misdemeanors and a few panorama shots that show how the characters keep walking in circles. The growing familial bond between Hector and Ricky is a predictable arc, but Waititi’s ping-pong dialogue (adapted from a book by Barry Crump) adds layers to the characters while building toward some big laughs. The adventure soon progresses into a more generic action film, with local police trying (and routinely failing) to capture Hector and Ricky. The invincibility of the two titular 'wilderpeople' becomes increasingly contrived, although Dennison and Neill remain good company throughout. Co-starring scene-stealers Rachel House and Waititi regular Rhys Darby.

3.1 --  AS THE GODS WILL, Takashi Miike
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] Outrageously wild – even sickening, this blood-filled horror film spills the red stuff in ghastly ways in a classroom full of unlucky students. A gut-gory game is in full swing. Called Red Light, Green Light, and led by a nightmarish daruma doll, the ghoulish game puts the doll, which looks like the worst Halloween red-soaked pumpkin head, in control of the class. If it sees someone move, it makes the poor sod’s head explode. Of course, the bloodbath causes panic. No one survives, except Shun – a teen obsessed with bloody video games. His clever skills have him winning the game. But a winner he isn’t, for what ensues involves aberrant nursery rhymes, weird and scary kokeshi dolls and a goon whose psychopathic ways may just end the chaos. The visual effects are so real. If red is your favourite colour, you’ll love Miike’s way of taking nostalgic playthings from childhood and morphing the stuff into scarlet carnage. Based on a manga, with the same title of this death match movie, fantasy and formidable real fears mix in this nail-biting epic of surreal dimensions. A gritty horror flick of classically playthings slick style.

2.2 -- BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN, Irene Taylor Brodsky
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] The true story behind Beware the Slenderman is horrifying and deeply unsettling; the film, less so. In May 2014, two 12-year-old girls, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, were charged with stabbing one of their friends 19 times in the woods of rural Wisconsin. (Fortunately, the victim survived.) The pre-teens’ defense: a folkloric figure called the Slenderman would harm them and their families if they did not commit the brutal crime. The Slenderman, an ominous ghoul with a thin black suit, tentacles protruding from its back and no face, was a popular figure on the Internet. Pre-teens broadcasted possible sightings of the boogeyman on YouTube and fan art postings spread his likeness through the Web. The new documentary from Irene Taylor Brodsky has some chilling implications about the role the Internet plays as a belief system, and its consequences for easily impressionable children. But, most of the frightening material – especially Geyser and Weier’s cold-blooded testimony for police – is covered in the doc’s first third. Once much of the mystery is untangled, there isn’t much of a place to go, except to the courts. There is a good hour worth of material for this shocking true-crime thriller, although Beware the Slenderman lasts for 118 minutes – and then leaves us hanging. There are some moving interviews with the parents of the accused, as they try to recall what may have prompted their daughters’ murderous behaviour. These scenes have an initial devastating power, although these interviews lose their force the longer the film goes.

3.1 -- BEWARE THE SLENDERMAN, Irene Taylor
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] In 2009, the birth of the Slenderman occurred, created by Eric Knudsen (a.k.a Victor Surge). It became Creepy Pasta -- a horror-filled site phenomenon. Slenderman grows tentacles of appendages and convinces children he can both protect and control them. He is their guide and comforter. In 2014, two deranged girls -- Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier -- decide to stab their best friend, Bella. Luckily, she survives her 19 gashes. This scary documentary examines both parents of the killers and the mental and emotional health of the two girls. Slenderman is at fault here -- according to the pair of lonely emotionally-depraved psychotic girls: He instructed them to do it. Interestingly, the parents of both seemed deranged as well. In fact, Morgan's father suffers from schizophrenia -- the illness Morgan is eventually diagnosed with.

3.2 --  PSYCO RAMAN, Anurag Kashyap  
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] The lens puts the viewer smack in the middle of Mumbai’s slums and the deprived dwellers trying to survive off the frequently scummy backs of others. One such diabolically depraved night crawler is the murderous Raman whose psychotic character claims its own philosophical bent; plus his twisted plans prove more clever than Raghav, the crooked cop who’s trying to capture him. It turns out the drug-hooked cop has his own nemesis to deal with, and he meets it in Raman who believes his own alter-ego exists him the cop. It turns out these two guys have more in common than one could conjure up in a Mumbai nightmare. The thriller is highly original. Both actors are so convincing and their characters so devious, it makes you wonder if anyone can serve as a patsy for the perpetrator’s wrong-doing.

2.5 -- FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK, Adam Nimoy
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] Spock, the stoic and repressed intellectual aboard the Starship Enterprise on the original Star Trek, has endured through the generations. Much of that has to do with the calm and quiet courage of the actor who first donned the pointy ears: Leonard Nimoy. Nimoy died in 2015, just a few months into the production of For the Love of Spock, a lovingly rendered piece of fan service that benefits from small, personal touches. The closeness we get to Nimoy comes from the doc’s director, the sci-fi icon’s son Adam. The film attains the deepest insights when chronicling the relationship between father and son. Adam is overjoyed visiting the set of the NBC series that made his dad a household name. Soon, a weekly family activity was sitting around the kitchen table, stuffing envelopes to reply to truckloads of fan mail. Their bond soon became strained, but Adam hesitates to open up about this complicated relationship. One understands the pressure to bring up the bitter past – especially shortly after the death of a man almost universally revered by fan communities – but Adam’s reluctance to touch on these personal matters becomes a missed opportunity. Still, the 112-minute doc glides along gracefully, mostly due to choice clips and the aid of Star Trek stars (from the original series and J.J. Abrams’ newer reboot) that recall their memories of working alongside Nimoy. Adam hunts for the reason why Spock has resonated, and he gets a similar answer each time: fans appreciated the character’s wisdom, calm and outsider status. One wishes the filmmaker had investigated less into why Spock remains an icon, which is established early on, and done more to clarify a side of Nimoy the camera didn’t capture. Now, that would be a place where no man has gone before.

3.8 -- HEART ATTACK, Hawapol Thamrongrattanarit
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Poor Yoon. He's a graphic artist who is a workaholic. He can't turn down freelance work, but he's paying the price, and soon things erupt. He isn't married, but he does fancy his agent, Je who gets a lot of work for him and also guides and pressures him. To meet deadlines, Yoon stays up several nights, depriving himself of sleep. Soon his body revolts; he gets a nasty rash that spreads over his body. Against his inclination to prioritize work over health matters, he relents and goes to a clinic whereupon develops a crush on his dutiful Doctor Imm. She befriends him while advising him to stop working, or at least cut down, go to the beach and get proper sleep. Will he obey her or will he keep on eating shrimp (he's allergic to it), deprive himself of sleep and continue on his own regime of obsessive compulsive love of work? It seems a heart attack can happen when mind, body and heart are being denied their nourishing needs. This film is adorably fetching and original in plot. Despite Yoon's physical and emotional suffering, we can't help but be amused. His inner dialogue -- narrated out loud in voice-over -- covers the gamut of frustrations and feelings about what he should do, what he dare not do, but what he really wants to do, but can't; he's too shy. Excessively humorous and highly human, this comedic gem rightfully won Thailand's National Film Association Awards (Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Editing) and three Official Selection best film nominations at three different Asian film festivals.

2.7 -- CREATURE DESIGNERS: THE FRANKENSTEIN COMPLEX, Gilles Penso and Alexandre Poncet
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] The new documentary from journalists Gilles Penso and Alexandre Poncet seems tailor-made for Fantasia’s opening weekend. An exploration of the heyday of special creature make-up effects and the men who transformed our expectations of what movie monsters could be, Creature Designers: The Frankenstein Complex drew instant applause from a sell-out crowd. (It helped that director Guillermo del Toro, a prominent fixture in the doc, was present to receive the Cheval Noir award). The doc’s biggest gain is its wealth of voices, from Oscar-winning effects supervisor Phil Tippett and makeup artist Rick Baker, to a barrage of craftsmen whose names aren’t always recognizable, even if their creations – in movies like The Abyss, Terminator 2 and Starship Troopers – are. At its most fascinating, Creature Designers foregrounds the creative process, as we watch these artists work in a time-lapse rendering. There is also power to the purists, as the various craftsmen talk about the shift from practical effects toward computer wizardry. It is disheartening that only one woman is interviewed and she receives roughly 30 seconds of screen time. Aside from the gender imbalance, Penso and Poncet’s film may be too comprehensive. A long middle section, a chronology of creature effects magic from the Universal monster movies to the CGI-friendly Jurassic Park, loses momentum. The filmmakers rarely use clips from the titles mentioned; instead, we are left with scene descriptions and glimpses of rotating model sculptures. These dazzling creations deserve more screen time. As one of the interview subject's says, a monster without emotion doesn’t work. The same goes for a talking head-reliant documentary. The sheer enthusiasm and cinematic reverence from the participants trumps the muddled pacing.

3.4 -- CONSPIRACY OF FAITH, Hans Petter Moland
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A message sent in a bottle has been traced back to an eight years. This mysterious occurrence does not go unnoticed; the bottle ends up on the desk of a neglected cold-case investigation unit in a town in Denmark. A pair of determined cops --one a religious Arab, the other a Danish atheist discovers that children went missing some time and two are missing right now -- kidnapped in broad daylight. Once they figure out who wrote the message in the bottle, events turn into a huge nail-biting trip into catching the kidnapper who happens to be a serial killer posing as a gentle Jehovah priest. The gorgeous meadow-filled flowers and quiet landscapes contrast beautifully to the dark events that follow. Terrific actors and uncontrived tension along with two well-painted cop characters create make for great cinema This thriller is the third in a series of films adapted for the screen of the Danish “Department Q” crime novels.

2.4 -- THE PRIESTS, Jang Jae-Hyun
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Johann and Gertrude, a couple in their golden years, take their two grandkids, Lisa and Lukas on their car trip with them from Austria to the North Cape in Norway. It's supposed to be a tourist region. Lisa, the director, happens to be filming this adventure that is devoid of any excitement for the travelers, as such, proves to be amusing for us, because of its mundanity. It reveals more hotels, car parks, bickering and uneventful scenes than one could imagine. And to think this is how they marked their 47th anniversary! We laugh though because the tiny disagreements they have are entirely typical and all too familiar -- no matter the stage and state of your marriage.

2.5 -- A BRIDE FOR RIP VAN WINKLE, Shunji Iwai
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Like the famous character, Rip Van Winkle, shy and lost Nanami has been sleep walking through life. She is a struggling with her own identity and as a part-time high-school teacher about to get fired, she gets engaged to a man she met through social media. With the wedding fast approaching, and with no relatives except for her divorced parents, she needs to find guests to fill out the bride's side of the family. Enter Amuro, a kind of actor/ fix-it man who arranges to hire actors to play her family members at the wedding. Once married, Nanami gives up teaching and settles into the role of a housewife. Her contented life is subverted when she discovers an earring in her apartment that doesn't belong to her. She engages Amuro to get to the truth of things. But it would seem, all is not really as it appears. After a frightening meeting with a man who claims he knows the total story, Nanami finds herself single again, and without money. Once again, Amuro, shows up to come to install her in a mansion to work as a maid -- or so she thinks, but that job is not really why she is there. Never has one witnessed such a bizarre story with ambiguity that leaves one rethinking the plot when the ending is reached. This Japanese film is a deceptively complex and multilayered film. Despite it near three hours, the film's weird characters and plot pull you in as you try to figure out what the game is. The cast is superb.


2015 Fantasia Film Festival Ratings
Fantasia Film Festival Ratings




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