Arts &
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Vol. 14, No. 4, 2015
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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




A & O film critic Nancy Snipper has seen the following films. Here are her 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.



2.6 -- COTTON, Marty Madden
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Cotton, a sensitive 20-something fellow from the South, ends up living on a farm to help the owner -- a widower and his young daughter -- tend to the horses. Cotton has many gifts; he is a horse whisperer and a hands-on faith healer. But he's run away from it all. His horrid preacher mother hunts him down and tries to get him back into the revivalist scene -- a community whose folk turned to him for healing. But his crazy fundamentalist mom's obsession leads to tragedy, and no one in the end gets healed. The acting was good, but Lusia Strus as the mother overplayed it. Marty Madden wrote the compelling script. Her directing was excellent.

3.8 -- THE GIRL KIING, Mika Kaurismäki
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] In the 17th-century, the daringly brazen Queen Kristina took power in Sweden. From the age of six, she found herself in the role, but unlike other queens, she was brought up to be manly and courageous; she quests for liberty in all things. Her lesbianism comes to the fore as she takes up with her lady in waiting. Eventually she appoints her first cousin -- one of her suitors to succeed her, calling him her son. She leaves Sweden to accept the invitation to join the Pope and become a Catholic where she is able to rule over poets, musicians and all artists as the Virgin Queen of Rome. Incredibly curious, this queen defied all manner of acceptable behaviour, yet excelled in trying to gain peace and freedom for her country without much success. Brilliant beyond words, the performance of Malin Buska in the role of Queen Kristina was completely captivating. A tour de force film of great historical importance with unforgettable acting.

1.0 -- GREY AND BLACK, Luis Rocha                
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] An utterly boring, badly put-together film about a man on the run who hides out in Pico in the Azores, but ends up being killed by the woman he abandoned a long time ago when he left with a bag of money given to him by a professor. He consented to help the infirm professor and put a bullet in his head. Some films aren’t meant to be made, and this is one of them.

3.7 -- FELVILAG (DEMIMONDE), Attila Szàsz                
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Superbly acted and based on a true tragic story that happened in Budapest in 1914, the world of courtesan Elza Magnas comes to life. Her housekeeper/former lover and mentor who introduced her into a high class club that changed Elsa’s position in life and made her the apple of a rich man’s eye who once had eyes for the housekeeper now finds herself being upstaged by a younger housekeeper who becomes Elsa’s darling. The knots of jealousy and betrayal tighten, and it is Elsa who will feel it around her neck, and the housekeeper will pay the ultimate price. The script is brilliant; the tone grippingly real and the theme of feminine ambition agonizing. A great drama.

3.4 -- BOREALIS, Sean Garrity
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] Jonah joins a poker game and proceeds within minutes to wrack up a debt of almost $100,000. To make matters worse, he’s got about one day to pay it back to his loan shark Tubby Finkelman (Kevin Pollack) – an old time friend and who overnight becomes his worst enemy. Set on taking his 15-year-old daughter Aurora, who is going blind, to see the Northern Lights in Churchill, Manitoba, Jonah meets opposition all the way, including Finkleman who has been in hot pursuit to claim the dough owed by the irresponsible Jonah. This road trip film pits Aurora against her father, and as his lies surface, his daughter wants to abandon him and does so on several occasions during their trip. Ironically, it is Aurora who saves her dad from certain death and debt. This is a great Canadian film stunningly acted by Joey King in the role of Aurora and Jonas Chernick as her father. He also wrote the script.

3.4 -- MISSION QUANDRY, Wei Jiang
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Based on a true incident that happened in Iraq, this nine-minute film packs in an intense load of suspense. One soldier in the field has stepped on a land mine and he -- being the superior of the two -- commands the other to continue on the mission, to move forward on the terrain to complete their mission while time is running out. But his loyal officer mate wants to try to defuse the land mine. An Iraqi woman appears and tells them she just wishes to cross over to the other side. The soldier wants to search her, but his superior yells that this is forbidden. Disobeying orders, the heroic soldier goes over to her and wrestles her to the ground. She pulls out something from her robe. He shoots her; it was a photograph, she was holding, but he also discovers a bomb attached to her. Here's the clincher: as the free soldier makes his way back to try to diffuse the mine, she is still alive and shoots him several times. Barely able to breathe, he struggles to approach the landmine and his superior still standing on top of it. He is able to push all his weight down on the deadly landmine as his superior steps off it. The badly wounded soldier is dripping blood now from his mouth, but he is determined to keep that mine from going off as he watches the other soldier run ahead to complete the mission. Then an airplane fires on the site, and all is blown up. We are left to believe that the superior completed his mission but his compatriot was killed.

2.5 -- THE MIDNIGHT ORCHESTRA, Jérôme Cohen Olivar
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Michael Abitbol is the son of Morocco's most famous musician, but left with his father when he was so small. He never knew why he was uprooted. This film gathers together the former musician's of his father's band -- all of whom sorrowfully miss their leader and resent the fact that he left so abruptly. It turns out Jews living in Casablanca made a wise decision to leave during the Yom Kippur war, and little Michael's dad made that decision under threat of his manager who said he would hurt the boy if he did not leave; he wanted to take over the cabaret that at that time was owned by the father. Now Michael is back in Casablanca -- called there to meet his father, but no sooner does he arrive than the legendary musician dies. Michael sets out to find out the mystery behind the leaving of his father to the USA and to find the musicians of his band. In so doing, he forms an incredibly heart-warming relationship with an Arab taxi driver who is funnier than any Jewish comedian on any movie screen. Also humorous were the two funeral directors who sycophantically show false sympathy for the loss of Michael's father in order to get money from him and win him as their client. There was a side of pretension in the film that diminished the touching moments in the father-son theme. The two lead actors were excellent: Avishay Benazra as Michael and Mamoudi M'barek as the taxi driver exuded formidable chemistry to seize our interest; we never tired of seeing them; they appeared in almost every scene. Some scenes were overdone and unrealistic, but on the whole I would ask this 'Midnight Orchestra' for an encore.

2.2 -- ZIPREY HOL (FIREBIRD), Amir Wolf
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] An 80-year-old man's body has been found in theYarkon River, Israel with three stab wounds in his chest. He has a Holocaust number on his arm. As we find out this man has been courting old women whose husbands have just died and talks them into giving him lots of money. He poses as a survivor -- going to a tattoo parlor to have the number inked into his arm. However, the detective on the case is able to figure out that this gigolo was too eager to be accepted into the rather plum Holocaust Club in the city, and that he was willing to do anything to gain access to the wealthy widows who were compensated after the war. His plan is uncovered. The body in the river is the man himself as we find out in the flashback and this segment was not clear at all; it was not clearly defined, so the movie was confusing. The puzzle is pieced together in an entertaining manner, but what should have been a good tale was subverted by poor editing and montage.

1.9 -- AMALUK, Mimmo Mancini
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] In Mariotto, a multi-cultural town in the province of Bari, Italy, a crisis is happening. Muslim, Jews, Christians and Catholics are having their disputes as to what to do to find someone to play Jesus as he makes his way along the Way to Sorrow. The original Jesus, a vain hairdresser, accidently sat on the crown of thorns made for the procession, now he can't walk -- just before he was supposed to take on the role. But the show must go on. Ameluk, a kind man married to a terrible Italian nag, takes on the role, only to abandon it during the procession. The village if full of bigots and boisterousbullies. No one is happy with the new Jesus .This comedy offers a messy mix of stereotypic characters. After the first few laughs, I wanted to leave the theatre to join the throngs of those who did.

3.9 -- RIDER JACK, This Lüscher
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Jack Theiler is a 45-year-old unemployed recovering alcoholic whose life in a small-town Swiss enclave is going nowhere. Things get worse when he learns he must take care of his father Paul who is in the first stages of Alzheimer's. When he finds out hid lonely father actually owns a place in the country, he sets out with his girl friend to find it. Rider Jack is so angry at his father for causing a terrible car accident when he was a kid which left his entire stomach full of burned scars. Who would think that a father and son road trip movie could be so rich in humour, anger and scary moments that finally end in reconciliation and mutual love.The acting of the father, Wolfram Berger, and the son, masterfully played by Roeland Wiesnekker, is a tour de force. The emotional twists in this gem of a film were so unexpected and palpably moving. Ironically, during the shooting of the film, the director's own mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

1.0 -- EINSTEIN IN GUANAJUATO, Peter Greenaway
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Stunning sets, but who needs to see just how this great filmmaker loses his virginity to his Mexican guide in 1931 in the charming city of Guanajuato? Pornographic, ridiculous and too much talking going nowhere except in the backend of the filmmaker. Of all the things the director could have shown about his fascinating life, focusing 105 minutes on his sexual identity was simply distasteful and totally without merit. People were walking out. Einstein deserved better and so did we. 

4.0 --  WOLF TOTEM, Jean-Jacques Annoud
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] In 1969 two young students come to work alongside a Berber nomadic tribe in Mongolia. One of the students, Chen, becomes fascinated in the relationship between the marauding wolves and the tribe with whom he is living. These nomads revere wolves and respect their need to hunt and kill. But their sheep are also threatened by the co-existence of man and wolf. Chen captures a small wolf cub, but soon discovers that no one else feels the same way as he does about it. He loves it. The horrific Communist leader who visits the tribe finds ways to eliminate the wolves and the very rich grassland that the tribe is dependent on. This absolutely stunning story with reversals of fortune, tragic events and heart-warming scenes are framed within the breathtaking cinematography. The balance between nature and man is corrupted by greed and insensitivity towards land and animal.

2.7 --  SIN & ILLY STILL ALIVE, Maria Henegge
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] Sin is trying to get herself off heroine, and believes if she can just get to a Greek island with Illy -- her other drug addict friend -- they both will be cured. Sin gets the money by stealing blank prescriptions from her father’s office -– a doctor with whom she has no contact, nor with her mother. Looking for Illy’s passport, both girls end up in a run-down place where Illy’s mother, an alcoholic, lives. Neither makes it to Greece, but Sin does take a different route for recovery. A dark, highly realistic film, magnificently acted by Ceci Chuh (Sin). The streets of Frankfurt never looked greyer.

1.3 -- COME AWAY WITH ME, Ellen Gerstein
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A woman (Ellen Gerstein) sits beside a black man at a park. He has Alzheimer's; but she reveals that they were high schools sweethearts. He only repeats things about trains to her but enjoys her company. Not sure how this woman suddenly appears out of nowhere and how often she comes to visit him, but one thinks she does come and sit with him every day, but he doesn't remember. A short that just doesn't quite linger long enough in your heart to make it memorable.

3.3 -- A WALK IN THE WOODS, Ken Kwapis
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Famous travel writer Bill Bryson whose incredible sense of humour comes through in this true-story film teams two of the world's best actors, Robert Redford (Bill Bryson) and Nick Nolte (Katz), who is fleeing warrants for his arrest and carrying around a bottle of booze. Bryson decides he wants to hike the 2,200 mile-Appalachian Trail. The only problem is he has no one to go with him. The only willing companion is his long lost former friend Katz who is about as fit as a 500-pound man, and as tough as a recovering alcoholic.. Bryon agrees to go with him, but what they encounter, along with stunning forest, is their endurance to stick it out, fight the inclination not to resurrect a difficult past friendship and finally, to know when to call it quits when treading the terrain of a trail that few can finish -- especially at their age. This is a gem of a film whose superb actors and chemistry is as breathtaking as the stars and the natural world inhabit and view. Bryon has set out to do this with no book deal in mind. He simply wishes to test himself and stay curious. However, he does end up writing a book under the same title as this film. I suspect the book is even more hilarious than the film; Bryson is a great humorist.

0.0 -- THE SOUL OF A SPY, Vladimir Bortko
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper Lafontaine] How anyone can make a film about a spy that is persistntly boring, flat and so annoying with repetitive music played under clips and scenes that make no sense -- is beyond understanding. Alexander Fedorov is a double agent who ought to get shot early on, and along with him the director of this totally confusing attempt at making a movie. The only thing I can think of is that the Russian director allowed too many vodkas to slip down his gullet at the time he conceived such a bomb of a story that actually had no story. And to think this film is in the world competition category.

3.2 --  FOU D’AMOUR, Philippe Ramos
[reviewed  by Nancy Snipper] A young handsome priest moves into a cozy little mountain village and begins to seduce the women there. Rose, one of the young girls, is blind, and he gets her pregnant. Her fate is sealed, and so is his. He commits an unspeakable act, is found out and guillotined. This is a delightful French comedy that turns intensely dark. An unusual film whose light-hearted humour takes an unexpected turn, transforming the plot into a horrific event. The scenery is lush and the simplicity of life infectious.

[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] For four days, legendary conductor Maestro Harnoncourt, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the sensuous Chinese genius pianist record two of Mozart's piano concertos inside the stunning Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein. Fantastic editing links the playing with the two geniuses discussing segments of the two works and how to interpret several phrases. Mozart is revealed. The stunning and subtle understanding of the composer's feelings is grasped by both artists. Mozart's feelings are expressed through his music by these two artists. Unique humour, excellent communication and their utmost passion for Mozart make this film a treasure. I will never approach my Mozart piano playing in quite the same way. If only though I could play like Lang Lang.



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