Arts &
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Vol. 14, No. 5, 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
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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



2015 cinemania program


So far, A & O film critics Nancy Snipper, Andrew Hlavacek and Jordan Adler have seen the following films. Here are there 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.




3.4 -- DEEPHAN, Jacques Audiard
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Deephan, a Tamil freedom fighter, flees the war in Sri Lanka with a woman he does not know; thos woman has in fact taken a homeless girl from a refugee camp, and calls her her daughter -- so that she can get on the boat to France. All are strangers to one another, yet they pose as a family. It's the only way for them to flee. Dheepan, an ex-child soldier, gets a job as a caretaker at rundown projects building across from where all three live. The woman he moves in with begins working for a drug dealer's paralyzed father across the way -- at the very place where her fake husband cleans. Gang violence eventually erupts and she is caught in the middle. Deephan saves her from the terror that has just erupted in the apartments where she works. Things have not gone smoothly for any of the three as they continued their charade. In the end, the family becomes just that -- a family, and life completely takes a turn for the better. This highly realistic film is intensely moving and suspenseful.

2.4 -- THE WHITE KNIGHTS Joachim Lafosse
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Based on a true controversial event that happened in 2007, the film is a loose reenactment of what happened in Chad, where Jacques Arnaud had rescued orphans. He created a little infirmary and dormitory as an NGO, called Move the Kids, but in fact he had no intention to school the kids. He had set a date at night when he was going to sneak them back to France on a jet he paid for. These children were destined for childless families who had paid a lot to adopt a child. Things do not work out for Arnaud at all. The plane he is to use breaks down before it even gets off the ground. The village leader who is supposed to deliver the orphans is in fact taking Arnaud's money, and giving him kids who actually have parents. All the villagers believe in Arnaud and beg him to take their children because they know nothing about them leaving Africa; they think they will receive an education on the premises of the NGO. In the end, the translator betrays them, and the film ends with Arnaud and his little band of do-gooders heading no where but in jail. There are many ambiguous plot turns in the film. Is Arnaud doing this for the kids or for the money? Is the journalist video taping his outfit there to accuse him or to get her own child? Everything goes wrong; that is what happens when crazy plans are built on a lie. Playing Jacques, charismatic Vincent Lindon throws his energy into the role. I came out believing Arnaud sincerely believed it was a win-win situation. He was willing to risk all to achieve his goal, and money did not seem to matter to him.

2.3 -- THE ART DEALER, François Morgolin
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A true story about Sophie Seligmann, and her granddaughter Ester. Sophie was the wife of a Parisian art dealer whose collection of paintings disappeared during WWII. Ester is intent on finding out why her father inherited nothing from his father. The story takes a twist that involves betrayal from a close family member and seduction of her own mother by a turn-coat Jew who was in league with the Nazis and that evil member of her family. Together, they colluded to create a masterful plan. A period where France didn't do much to stop such confiscations by the Nazis.

2.5 -- UN PLUS UNE, Claude Lelouch
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] Following French cinema’s seemingly never-ending fascination with various strata of the bourgeoisie is Claude Lelouch’s latest film Un Plus Une. Superstar composer Antoine Abeilard (Jean Dujardin) -- freshly involved in a romance with rising piano star Alice Hanel (Alice Pol) -- is on his way to India to finish scoring a film for Indian New Wave legend Rahul Vohra (Rahul Abhi). Being a world famous composer, he must suffer through an embassy dinner organized in his honour by the French Ambassador despite being plagued by a terrible headache. Seated beside the ambassador’s charming wife Anna (Elsa Zylberstein) he endures her enthused chatter about Indian cosmology. In spite of himself, pragmatic Antoine is drawn to spiritual Anna and their close orbit flirtation brings them together on a voyage to the spiritual heart of India. Despite the dizzying social stratus in which his film moves, Claude Lelouch distills great comedy from his unencumbered characters whose easy candour is only truly available to the spectacularly privileged. Against the backdrop of India’s desperate modern paradoxes, this French melodrama casts its characters’ bumbling efforts to deny their desires in a harshly comic glare. Though Un Plus Une seems a superficially charming, nicely acted film, it succeeds in echoing universal themes despite -- or perhaps because of -- its cocoon of bourgeois privilege. As such it also challenges the viewer to do just a little bit of thinking, not only about its preoccupation with true love but about the privilege that is so garishly displayed.

2.4 -- UN PLUS UNE, Claude Lelouch
[reviewed by Jordan Adler] In the opening minutes of Claude Lelouch's new film, a young man robs a jewelry store, a motorcycle helmet obscuring his face. Driving away from the store in bustling Mumbai, he runs over a young woman, a dancer. Instead of fleeing the scene just with his loot, he drives the injured girl to the hospital, getting her to safety seconds before police apprehend him. This situation plays like a scene out of a movie. As it turns out, it is a scene from Juliet et Romeo, inspired by both Shakespeare and that random act of romance, and starring the two real-life figures from that initial incident. This fascinating story of fiction imitating life is, strangely, not the focus of Un Plus Une. Instead, the romantic partnership Lelouch follows is between Antoine (Jean Dujardin), the composer of that India-set adaptation, and Anna (Elsa Zylberstein), the wife of the country's French ambassador. He's a self-centered creative with commitment issues, while she is fascinated with Eastern philosophy and self-improvement. (Also, she is having trouble conceiving a child.) Dujardin, plastered with his signature cheek-to-cheek grin, and Zylberstein give a spark to these familiar foils. Several of their conversations zip along wittily without feeling long-winded, turning in unpredictable directions as the characters begin to test each other. Unfortunately, once Antoine and Anna journey off to see a spiritual leader, the rest of Lelouch's drama moves toward a conclusion that feels inevitable, robbing the story of romantic tension. Meanwhile, as mobs of colour and country folk swirl behind the wealthy protagonists, we're often reminded that the lives in the background, and their torrid love affairs, should be the focus. Also starring Christopher Lambert, in an understated turn as the French ambassador.

3.1 -- DISORDER, Alice Winocour
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Vincent suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome -- having served in Afghanistan. He is hired to protect a wealthy family living in Côte d'Azur. The husband is away on business, but Vincent finds out he's an arms dealer. The wife and her little boy become his main concern, and he's jumpy at anything that moves. The irony here is we think he's imagining things, but in the end, we are wrong. Suffice it to say, that every woman needs a Vincent. Matthias Schoenaerts as Vincent is masterful in the role.

3.2 -- A DECENT MAN, Emanuel Finkiel
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Eddie is a recovering alcoholic, separated from Karin, his wife, and trying to win her back. Bitter, angry and completely marginal in his views with a brooding temperament that turns violent, Eddie is bad news. But he and Karine have a lovely son and together all three of them begin living together once again. Karine gets him a job at the same big department store where she works. Eddie gets beaten up, and falsely accuses an Arab of being the culprit. Jealousy and fury take hold of him, and the ending is disastrous. This film stunningly depicts the lethal ending of a loser. Nicolas Duvauchelle as Eddie gives a performance beyond description. He is marvelous -- as is this film.

3.2 -- THE WAKHAN FRONT, Clement Cogitore
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] In Afghanistan, the French NATO forces are doing reconnaissance operations against terrorists just at the Pakistan border in the mountainous barren terrain of Wakan. Holed up in a shack with ammunitions, and nothing more, the soldiers under Captain Antares are committed to keeping enemies at bay. The Taliban who live over the mountain side keep visiting them, and one day they tell the soldiers their men are disappearing. Surely these French militia men are taking them. But the very same mysterious disappearance is also happening to the Captain's men. He's lost four already -- vanished in mid-air. Where are they? The ironic ending is great as is the tempo and suspense and excellent camera field work that has you believing you are there with these soldiers during the day and at night. A rare plot with excellent acting.

2.0 -- ALL ABOUT THEM (À TROIS ON Y VA), Jérôme Bonnell
[reviewed by Andrew Hlavacek] Jérôme Bonnell sets up huge expectations with his modern love triangle only to bring the narrative to a conveniently ideological resolution that undermines its own point. Trading on comedy of errors tropes, All About Them follows three young adults as they come to terms with their orientation and theorize alternative views to heterosexual, nuclear partnerships. Mélodie (Anaïs Demoustier), a young public defender is in a passionate affair with Charlotte (Sophie Verbeeck). Mélodie’s passing friendship with Charlotte’s boyfriend Micha (Félix Moati) becomes complicated and romantic. Naturally, the viewers’ knowledge begs advice for the trio as audience is treated to a series of moments of possible discovery and/or resolution. While darker themes and motives are merely hinted at, the fundamental void at the core of the film’s central relationships give an impression of a narrative not fully developed. Most disappointing, however, is the film’s shocking abortion of it’s own daring polyamorous vision in favour a reactionary ending that negates all of the possibilities its characters had come to realize.

1.4 -- PARIS-WILLOUBY, Arthut Delaire & Quentin Reynaud Mayer
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] The film falters with its silly superficial humour played for effect. It presents a blended family whose antics are about as believable as an elephant riding on an ant. Pure fluff that flies all over the place within a plot about going to the grandfather's funeral. During the long road trip, one hoped the dysfunctional family would get their comeuppance -- a flat tire to punish them all, directors included. I found it to be extremely dated.

2.9 -- JOURNEY THROUGH CHINA, Zoltan Mayer
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Liliane is an older woman whose son has been killed in an accident in China. She goes to different offices in her town trying to get the right papers to bring her son back home. But she' given the red tape run-around. She therefore decides to go to China to get the papers in person for him. While traveling through the country to reach the remote destination of where her son's body is being kept in a makeshift morgue, she learns so much more about him and begins to fall in love with Chinese culture and the people she meets who help her in her journey to discover what really happened to her son. A moving film that is a bit slow, but nevertheless, beautifully acted with intensity and calm. Yolande Moreau is perfect in the role of the grief-stricken mother. The ending is sweet indeed.

2.4 -- I AM A SOLDIER, Laurent Larivière
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Thirty-year-old Sandrine moves back to provincial Rouboux to live with her mother. She needs a job, and takes one at her uncle's dog selling business. In fact he traffics dogs, but gets Sandrine to do the dirty work for him: cleaning the cages, carting the dogs over to the buyers, and making her collect the phony vaccination certificates. Sandrine finally wants to quit after she is sent out in the dark to buy dogs from a van, and the police come. Sandrine escapes, When she tells her uncle she is quitting, he attacks her. The poor girl finally has plan fo escape, but she nearly gets killed. The last five minutes of the film are totally sentimental in action and feel.

1.4 --THE SWEET ESCAPE, Bruno Podalydès
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Computer graphics designer has his eye on everything except his job. He's over fifty and is clearly suffering from fantasy dementia. He loves planes, but orders a put-together kayak and decides to set out along the narrow area of the Loire River -- only to find out he's not good in the country or kayaking. A series of encounters with over-the-top characters turn this manipulative comedy into a silly bore.

3.4 -- THE ASSISTANT, Cristophe Ali & Nicolas Bonilauri
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Thomas accidently kills a young man on his way to the hospital. His wife is about to give birth, and he takes his eye off the wheel for a moment and thus his fate is sealed. The mother of the dead son has a complete breakdown, but hatches a Machiavellian plot to insinuate herself into Thomas's life. She gets a job as his secretary and before you know it he iss babysitting Léo, his son with whom she develops a sick attachment. A gold necklace reveals who Marie-France really is. Her dastardly deeds fit well into the horror genre; Hitchcock would have been proud to have made this film. Nathalie Baye plays evil as well as Betty Davis did.

2.4 -- THE CLEARSTREAM AFFAIR, Vincent Garanq
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Journalists Denis Roberts and Charles Berling take on France's biggest corruption scandal in the finance world that shows just how rotten Sarkozy is. Robert uncovers a massive scheme involving Clearstream, a banking clearing house in Luxembourg that launders money from banks and corporations all over the word and then erases the accounts to hide kickbacks and illegal investments. Based on true events that rocked the French government in 2007, Robert was sued all over the place as he tried to take on Clearhouse. Still his bravery brought worldwide attention to corruption that basically involved every level of government and beyond. Justice is just a word in a dictionary as this film proves. The plot was complex and difficult to follow, but the message of greed and clandestine multi-billion- dollar cover-ups involving politicians will always manage to shut up the truth-seeker. Gilles Lellouche held the movie together with his fine acting.  

3.0 -- MY KING, Maïween
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Tony has a ski accident and has seriously damaged her knee. She must go into full-time rehab clinic. The past and the present merge in this film as we see an exhilarating relationship between her and Georgio, played as flashbacks. He is funny, manic and makes her feel like a princess, heaping all kinds of gifts on her. He wants her to get pregnant, and she does, but his attachment to his former lover begins to completely destroy the marriage; he's never home. We find out that in fact he is drinker and in debt. Much as she tried to make it work on his terms (they live apart) she finally realizes she is with a loser; she wants a divorce. He refuses until he realizes he can no longer control her life. Visiting rights are bestowed on him for his son, Simbad, but he does not accept the fact he has lost her. Ten years later, we see them at Simbad's school in a teacher parent meeting. The boy is doing very well. It ends with the Simbad not acknowledging his ex-wife at all, as the two sit in the classroom. The acting of Vincent Cassel and Emmanuelle Bercot was phenomenal. There was real chemistry between them. The fight scenes are gritty/ Both actors went full throttle into the boxing ring. A riveting film that profoundly shows how love can turn so rotten. We never know who we are marry. Beware prince Charming, throngs of those.

2.3 -- ALL ABOUT THEM, Anaïs Demoustier
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] A light-hearted comedy portraying a serious dilemma. Mélodie and Charlotte are best friends -- lovers in fact, but Charlotte lives with boyish Micha who senses all is not right with the woman he adores; Charlotte is distant, yet obviously at amorous crossroads. She lusts after Mélodie, but tells her she will never leave Micha. Not able to hold back his feelings, Micha makes a pass at Mélodie, and before you know it, they are an item. Things reach a head when Mélodie has a particularly trying day as a defense lawyer, and falls into the arms of both Micha and Charlotte. Alas, this ménage a trios has two days of glorious love, but one of them has to go. The one that leaves is revealed… sort-of… at the end. Not a credible film with some much needed background missing between the lovers -- but some funny parts were created to show what people do when they wish to hide affairs.

2.0 -- TWILGHT OF SHADOWS, Mohammed Lakhdar-hamina
[reviewed by Nancy Snipper] Commandant Saintenac carries out unspeakable deeds in operations to keep Algerians under the yoke of France during the war. Khaled leads a small band of resistant fighters against this psychopathic French leader. A young soldier named Lambert -- new recruit -- watches in horror as Saintenac tortures Khaled who has been caught; his men were shot in the back while sent to supposedly fetch wood. The tables turn and Lambert cleverly frees Khaled and hand cuffs Saintenac while the former is driving them both in a jeep to a barren place to get Lambert to kill Khaled. But now, Saintenac is the disadvantaged on; he has been kidnapped by Lambert. Together the three of them traipse through the Sahara Desert. Verbal conflicts occur as past atrocities on both sides are brought up. The desert seemed to be used as a stage for enlightening the viewer as to the history between the two fighting sides, while the men argued. Sadly, the film fell flat. It became sentimental and unrealistic. I have to ask why in the sweltering sun, the two French soldiers did not take off their metal ID tags around their neck? Metal against the skin gets very hot, but it would seem the trio were able deal with this, despite the lack of food and water popping up along the way. The beginning of the film was too hastily put together, as were the throw-in flashbacks to the fighting. It was confusing.



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