…and the quest to see everything

Archive for September 18, 2010

TIFF: The Christening


In The Christening, immature army boy Janek bunks with his best friend, burgeoning businessman Michal and the latter’s wife, Magda, coincidentally a week before their son’s baptism. His stay complicates the latter’s marriage and reveal each other’s differences as well as the men’s violent past and the people from it.

There are many close-ups of Janek’s face, who lacks conventional handsomeness with his bug-like blue eyes and a scar in his forehead, but looks able-bodied, sinister, childlike. Watching him smoke, or looking at the cross – many images that are read as Christian symbolism, by the way – feels iconic. There’s also the cold greens, blues and blinding whites used in the film. Magda’s hair gets flushed out into the stark Warsaw this movie depicts.

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And in Magda lies the film’s flaw. Director Marcin Wrona regards her as an innocent angel, Michal’s relief from the underworld he comes from. She’s not completely one-dimensional, with her defiant reaction against Janek’s stay. Yet I feel as if she doesn’t have a life outside her marriage – Michal sometimes makes his demands known to her in terrible ways.

Despite of that flaw, The Christening is a thrilling drama that shows how the underworld can psychologically control those who find themselves belonging to it. The emotions and evolution of Janek and Michal make this a worthwhile discovery. The film has scenes of violence and sexual aggression. If Ben Affleck runs out of material, someone should show him this movie, although Affleck’s women are stronger. 4/5.

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TIFF: Modra


Shot in digital and under natural light, Ingrid Veringer makes her directorial debut with MODRA. Protagonist Lina breaks up with her boyfriend Tyler. Her classmate Laco calls to invite her to a movie and she instead ends up inviting him to Modra, Slovakia, her family’s home town. It’s not the most original film in visual terms – a shot of the Toronto skyline indicating that the film begins in…Toronto, low angle shots looking up a tree indicating an idyllic summer afternoon. Yes, I’m nitpicking. What also distracts me are the portrait close-ups of Lina’s family members with sound from the scene they cut away from, taking away from the scenes’ continuity. I do like the way the film photographs Modra, a clump of red roofs in between a green field, in many scenes in the point of view of the summer couple.

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The impressionistic performances of the characters redeems this film greatly, focusing on the two North American teenagers, nonchalant yet have envy-inducing independence. Lina’s a girl who wears unflattering empire waist dresses yet sings like Feist, Laco’s agile, awkward, not loquacious but a gentle soul. Like teenagers, the couple have unassuming exteriors and hidden anger and sadness that only comes out in economical taps. I also like how Lina is mature enough to deal with family secrets that involves her separation from her home country. Lina and Laco also accept that permanence can’t exist, and whatever happens, they see the trip as the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 3/5.


TIFF: Passion Play


Ex-famous trumpeter Nate Poole’s (Mickey Rourke) the kind of guy who keeps his money with a clip, has a toothpick hanging from his mouth, and deals with an urban underbelly. His tanned-leather stripper blonde friend explains a part of the synopsis. He is almost killed by one of Happy’s (Bill Murray) hitman (Chuck Liddell) for having sex with the latter’s wife, he gets rescued by ninjas, walks into a traveling circus and meets a Bird Woman named Lily (Megan Fox) who rescues him.

There’s something weird continuity-wise that happens in this film. At night, Nate goes into an interior space to have a quick talk with a villain, both defending their stake on Lily. Glass gets broken, Nate escapes, it’s daytime when he comes out.

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This movie also probably took me off the Megan Fox team, or her agent. She’s decent in comedy, a genre where she never gets cast. She’s decent here too, playing someone who thinks not getting fat or growing a beard are flaws. She moves her mouth too much I felt relieved that I wasn’t the only person who noticed it. Rourke infamously said in an interview that she can do so much more acting-wise than he’s seen with his former co-stars. Let me just say she’s not the greatest crier he’s ever worked with. Like the movie, the more it progresses, the more she and it fall apart.

In conclusion, needs more of Happy’s over the top line deliveries. I give this a 1/5.