Xavier Dolan‘s Les Amours Imaginaires, or Heartbeats is about Francis (Dolan) and Maria Callas lookalike Marie. While writing the previous sentence, I just realized why Dolan named his character ‘Francis.’ Marie, however, is the kind of girl who asks ‘Do you think of movie stars when you make love.’ [ETA: Nobody thinks about movie stars during 90 seconds of lovemaking, stop asking. If you find someone who does think of movie stars while making love, shank them. Sex is like a conversation, you think about yourself and the person in front of you. Nobody’s ADD is that bad. Just because movie stars arouse you and sex arouses you doesn’t mean. Worst syllogism ever. And you know what, Angelina Jolie thinks about movie stars while lovemaking because she’s in a civil union with one. I call a fatwa on this question.] Anyway, these socially awkward young adults find a hot Adonis-like guy in their social circle. The latter’s name is Nicolas, seducer yet seemingly wholesome. By including him in Francis and Marie’s friendship, he should be the third wheel, but he manages to make them feel like said third wheel. Francis changes his description of his ideal to fit Nicolas, and tells this in front of another lover. That this is Francis’s first ‘is he gay’ guy makes me wonder how he never went through this in high school. Or buys Nicolas a plain-looking $500 ‘tangerine’ sweater for a birthday present after knowing him for two months, which oh brother. [ETA: I’ll punch my child in the mouth if he ever makes an expensive mistake like this, which tells a lot about how I was raised.]
Nicolas talks about holding a 91 hours a week seismograph job that he looks too twinky to handle, kisses both Francis and Marie in the cheek, kisses a girl’s hand the first time he meets her. Everyone’s nerdy best friend will tell you that this guy’s bad news, but no such character exists in the film. The nerdy best friend within us keeps thinking of the other times when we got rejected and hoping we weren’t this shattered at 20 or 21. Marie does notice something fishy about him in his drunken birthday party but does nothing about it.
An hour or so after watching the film I realize that Nicolas as a character is deliberately posited with a mysterious, impressionistic sheen in trying to make him more complex and less villainous. He’s the ‘other’ compared to the needy kids that dominate the film. He charms and runs. This cycle might say more about his character than anything Francis thankfully didn’t narrate about him. Making him mysterious, however, doesn’t make him any more sympathetic.
There are also interviews of three Montreal hipsters. Girl 1 will live a life of rejection because her patrician nose and glasses come with a perma-scowl. Boy talks about Kinsey. Girl 2 thinks it’s cute that her beau is 39 minutes late for everything. We come back to these people two more times into the film.
So that’s a total of four bitter girls and boy out of six characters keeping a torch for an undeserved love. The film shows both broken hearts and trying to hide the broken hearts underneath a ‘cool’ exterior – the latter done way awkwardly, by the way. There is interestingly more focus on the former, the interior these characters, than the latter. It’s also mean to negate characters’ hurt feelings. But that Dolan’s worldview suggest that 67% of us are sensitive puppy dogs inside, or that if this state of mind is more accurate than we’d like to admit, or that these people aren’t shown doing other things to distract themselves and have little or no intention to move on. They look like they have had lives before this guy has come along. And where are their parents?
- Quebec filmmaker is ready for his close up (thestar.com)
Two themes support Attenberg, the first is its portrayal of awkward human interactions. We see protagonist Marina, a 23 year-old girl with an extremely low sex drive, learning how to French kiss from her sexually experienced Charlotte Gainsbourg lookalike of a best friend, Bella. She can talk to her architect father about taboo sexual issues in their native Greek, French and animal. She’s a chauffeur for a little company, driving around a visitor who she’s going sleep with. She describes every little thing she does to try to arouse him. I’m serious.
All of this happens in decay, in a small Greek city with ample infrastructure – hospitals and tennis courts. Yet there only seems to be a handful of people enjoying these things. The movie spends most of its time capturing Marina and Bella’s walks together, showing that boredom is quirky’s workshop. It’s only until their third or fourth walk together that the film shows people other than the main characters. They sing a Brigitte Bardot song ironically, the sidewalk near the tennis court isn’t ripe with the men or women of their sexual fantasies.
Attenberg doesn’t have a good start pacing-wise but it has a lot of good ideas. It keeps the audience laughing and thinking and has a different approach in human behaviour in an isolated and limited world. Labed perfectly captures the boredom, confusion and pain so subtly in a role that won a best actress award in Venice. And a good indie rock soundtrack always helps.
Ken Loach‘s film Route Irish seems meditative for its 110 minute run. Every detail of Fergus’ own investigation of his best friend and coworker Frank’s so-called accidental death in Iraq is treated as a cold fact. There’s minimal non-diagetic music in the film, and Fergus’ eyes don’t light up when he sees a video or hears a statement that helps him piece the events together. He doesn’t ponder over any paper clippings posted on his minimal apartment walls. And scenes that accelerate his knowledge of the Frankie’s death is carefully paired with other scenes that show that he has a life outside of it. He goes to pubs, has interactions with Frankie’s widow, Rachel and takes his blind friend out to his ‘football’ games.
Fergus’ reactions in the days after Frank’s death is interesting as well. Generally, however, he’s more wrathful – one little thing can tap back into his raw emotions and he snaps at someone. The film tries to be an examination of someone getting personally affected with a friend’s death. There could be different reason and enemies for someone to have a fate like Frankie’s. Fergus tends to yell, an interesting knee-jerk reaction that I can’t get used to. He eventually stops listening to other people’s explanations of the events when someone misguides him to a different version of the truth. There’s a sensitive scene where he tortures his suspect and forces his to admit crimes, making one of the memorable frames within this mediocre film. 3/5.
- Today at TIFF: James Franco, James Caan and much more (theglobeandmail.com)
The Marcoses have supported the arts including, shockingly, subversive B-films that put his dictatorship in question. One of the first voices we hear in Mark Hartley’s documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed! is director John Landis, poking light fun at the taglines that got people in the drive-ins screening those B films. The film is the story of American B film-making in the Philippines. B directors, American and Filipino ones mostly under Roger Corman reminisce about the golden age of the B film, talking about large breasts as selling points for these films. Touchy, off-putting conversation, but hang in there.
The film also paints Corman as someone who goes through phases of genres lasting a year. It’s hard to find differences between genres because the cast looks the same, but there are war films to horror to jungle prison films where the Stanislavsky trained Pam Grier got her start.The female leads feel ambivalent towards their work, from Grier’s humourous take on it to others shocked at how DVD’s will put their past into permanence to one who points out how these films gave more decent work to black actresses in the 70’s.
I also wanna point out how little interference Hartley has with the tone, keeping it groovy even if the subject is exploitation or violent conditions in the Philippines. He doesn’t force a bleeding heart over the death of a stuntman. The ones interviewed have honest reactions of maturity about the films’ accident prone shooting conditions. I call it refreshingly educational. 4/5.
- Fantastic Fest 2010 Honors ROGER And JULIE CORMAN! (geektyrant.com)
Confessions starts like a ‘taut,’ elegiac film about the eventual loss of innocence, with images of milk cartons and Japanese school children being rambunctious while their teacher meekly prattles on. She announces her resignation for being an ineffective teacher, writes on the chalkboard a huge calligraphic symbol denoting ‘life.’ She eventually gets their attention on a sad, dreadful, unforgettable lesson.
Director Tetsuya Nakashima sometimes uses traffic reflector mirrors to show the kids walking and meeting, or slows down to watch a softball hitting someone’s head. Muted colours dominate the film, only giving breaks of warm red and yellows when characters flashback into happy moments. The music balances out the children’s chaos and eventually is in tune with the teacher’s dread-filled lesson.
Confessions can be also read as a genre film, a revenge horror, comparable to the Noh-inspired examples within the Japanese canon. By revealing that her child’s murderers are two of her students, her calm demeanour turns her into a ghostly figure. She’s a woman both victimized by men and out for revenge, her little victims eventually depicted as incorporating abject elements into their lives.
In revealing that genre spin we can talk about the performances, any of the leads can arguably be best in show, whether it’s the teacher’s slow burning vindication or the students’ evil facades and psychological pain. The transformation and genre-crossing of the film isn’t a smooth transition and the film’s long scenes makes it drag and tonally imperfect, but Confessions is both artistic and engaging. 5/5.
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.
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.
- The Christening (Chrzest) (variety.com)
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.
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.
- AUDIO: Modra’s family ties (cbc.ca)
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.
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.
A friend warned me against Bruce La Bruce and therefore warned me against the latter’s new movie at TIFF, L.A. Zombie, that he has no desire to watch because it would end up being like ‘pretentious hack poverty porn.’ But of course, I’m not a good friend.
An alien zombie emerges (Francois Sagat) in the form that whoever Supreme being created him, from the Pacific Ocean and walks his way to the beaches of L.A. There’s three versions of this monster. There’s the alien zombie version of him who penetrates dead men with the former’s whatever it is in the latter’s man-made orifices – I hope I’m understood. The homeless version of him, cured after intercourse with the dead men – he regresses into the first version although he eventually controls his transformation between these two stages. The third version looks like the first, but the latter watches the former have sex with dead sadomasochistic muscle heads (including Francesco D’Macho, Erik Rhodes, Matthew Rush) and this third version has bigger fangs. Portions of the film accompanied by Chopin’s violin concertos.
The two coexisting versions of the alien zombie are, according to him, open to interpretation. Every text is open to interpretation. There are many intentionally disappointing things about the film. That he can’t fully commitment to any message is my biggest disappointment. The film has its fashion connections, from Bernard Wilhelm’s deconstruction designs to a cameo by Santino Rice as a homeless drunk. I gave this movie a 1/5, and I felt good doing it.
- Australians won’t see zombies having sex (theglobeandmail.com)
Set in 1845 and based on a real man who helped people cross the Oregon trail, the images of Kelly Reichardt‘s new effort Meek’s Cutoff leaves its audiences breathless. Meek (Bruce Greenwood) and three families cross a river, where the blues and yellows of this riverside scene contrast so beautifully, the first of many visual contrasts within the film like as the bright costumes and the night and day scenes. Each actress, actor and prop is meticulously placed within the film’s full screen format. The 1.35:1 aspect ratio, an interesting choice for Reichardt, emphasize the vertical lines and shapes lost in most wide-screen films today, the latter only emphasizing the landscape and horizontal divisions within the picture plane.
We also have, in this first sequence, Thomas (Paul Dano) carving the word ‘lost’ on a rock, outlining the uncertainties of the frontier, the families becoming withered, pessimistic and doubtful of their guide. Then Emily Tetherow (Michelle Williams) finds an ‘Indian’ – she’s at first tries to shoot him but eventually becomes his ally and advocate in the group, thinking that the elegiac figure can help the group better than Meek can.
The movie sometimes doesn’t engage its audience, with its commitment to show the arid silences between wagon treks. However, the images and the subtle performances from a cast that includes Zoe Kazan, Will Patton and a firm Christian played by Shirley Henderson make watching this a memorable experience. 5/5, but I was balancing out the 2’s and 3’s I was seeing.
The narrator (Lewis Black) talks about a large family sitting on a table to celebrate their paterfamilias’ (Ron Rifkin) seventieth birthday, describing every one of the father’s children as a series of mistakes. The civility and silence break when the unemployed singer/actress/dancer Cheri (Sarah Silverman) bellows at her younger, successful brother Nathan for writing a novel, also named Peep World, too accurate for her taste. This is best scene of the film, although the scene isn’t finished.
The body of the film is a flashback eighteen hours before this dinner, unsurprisingly revealing this fictional book’s secrets and more. Jack (Michael C. Hall) has a wife (Judy Greer) who faintly swears at him during her sleep, Joel’s (Rainn Wilson)’s big SUV breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Peep World the film is filming in front of Cheri’s home and Nathan is very condescending to his PR agent (Kate Mara). Every sibling has a sexual Achilles’ heel, all used for effective comic relief.
This film also has sincere moments, like the falling out when Jack’s wife finds out he frequents an adult theatre, a scene both well-shot and well blocked. The film eventually heads to the restaurant where cruelty, revelations of decades of hurt feelings and comic reliefs are the main dishes. The cast elevates this funny film, also including Taraji P. Henson who delivers the film’s best line and Geoffrey Arend, the luckiest man on earth. This is lowbrow entertainment at its classiest and best. Rating – 3/5.
Before Iraq and the other countries before it, the Philippines was one of the first countries under the hand of the American colonial project, and John Sayles‘s new film Amigo tells a part of that story within the fictional, small Tagalog village of San Isidro.
As expected in good films, moral lessons aren’t traceable within the film, and it’s especially hard to find stable morality within wartime. The handful of American soldiers march into San Isidro with little incident. Col. Hardacre (Chris Cooper) follows in and tells his lieutenant (Garret Dillahunt) to work on ‘winning the natives’ hearts,’ eventually introducing them to puppet democracy that reelects the village’s jailed capitan, Rafael ‘Amigo’ Dacanay (Joel Torre). Asked about living with his brother-in-law Nenong, Rafael answers that ‘people have to tolerate living together with one eye always open.’ We can say the same about both Filipinos and American within the village’s new population, helping each other for the village’s infrastructure. We see a lot of little scenes among the villagers, indicating that most people in occupation pretend to set up order as a way of putting off battles between both sides.
There were a few ‘parallel’ scenes, the quasi-tribal music accompanying shots of guerillas is a bit insulting. With those flaws, we also get beautiful natural cinematography of the rain scenes and a villager’s great metaphor about the new telegram wires. Guest starring DJ Qualls, Dane DeHaan and Filipino screen veterans Rio Locsin and Bembol Roco, all parts of an impeccable cast. 4/5.
- John Sayles’ Next Film: ‘Amigo’ & Its Off-the-Radar Website (cinematical.com)
A remake of an obscure Israeli film, John Madden‘s new film, The Debt, starts in 1965 with Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain), David (Sam Worthington) and Stefan (Marton Csokas) being congratulated for killing a Dr. Vogel, the Surgeon of Birkenau, a composite of three real Nazi leaders. These perfect-looking Mossad agents carry their celebrity spy status thirty years later. Rachel’s daughter writes a book about them, unfortunately only Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) survive, and elder Rachel comfortably makes the people think the story ends there.
What proceeds and dominates the film are both a flashback and a solid balancing act. Rachel’s the new girl in the field, David welcomes her as his wife, the three learn martial arts and live and eat with each other, cabin fever included. Chastain is the heart of her section of the film. Worthington portrays a multi-faceted David, loving fake husband, butt kicker, wounded soul. Csokas is a believable group leader without trying to mug for the camera. We also see great glimpses of Vogel (Jasper Christensen), who conveys empathy despite being an irredeemable monster.
We forward to the older, bitter versions of Rachel and Stefan, and both learn that they must correct their big mistakes in the mission in different ways. The willing suspension of disbelief is slightly lifted since the elder and younger versions of the characters are never perfectly in sync. Comparisons with Boys of Brazil will be inevitable. I gave it a 4/5, but yes, I was being too nice.
In John Cameron Mitchell‘s adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaire Pulitzer winning Rabbit Hole, Nicole Kidman plays perfect modern wife Becca Corbett, and the film can serve as a primer for what Kidman can do. In describing Becca, the people in her life – her husband Howie (Aaron Eckhart – not a good yeller) her mother Nat (Dianne Wiest), her sister Izzie, Jason, the people in her God-fearing support group – would give different answers. The audience can watch Becca pretend to be normal as she does her chores. You can also watch her giddily hopping down the streets of Manhattan in high heels as she goes back to her old turf at Sotheby’s. And almost get turned on by Al Green. And make drug jokes. And cry while watching teenager Jason be driven off to prom.
Abaire re-imagines the characters in his play. Becca, Howie and Nat are intact, he waters down Izzie’s confrontational trashiness while Auggie and Howie’s SPOILER alleged mistress (Sandra Oh) END SPOILER appears in the film. Like Becca and the principal characters in her life, the film never reuses the same emotion or depicts every scene in the same way. Sometimes the cloud hanging above Becca and Howie, perceived by others, lifts and humour finds its way into their natural conversations. Rabbit Hole, shot colourfully without being too artificial, is not one of those movies that try to change your life. However, it can change the way one thinks of emotion and the permanence of one’s loss. 4.5/5.
- TIFF: A Glimpse of Rabbit Hole Enthusiasm To Come? (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
Black Swan fits director Darren Aronofksy’s other work, with an obsession with the body and performance, close-ups of Nina’s (Natalie Portman) feet and ballet flats being warmed up. There’s CGI, grainy digital photography, and uncompromising close-ups of her face. Like other Aronofsky’s protagonists, she embraces quick success without anticipating her antagonists, like rival Lily (Mila Kunis), choreographer Thomas (Vincent Cassel) Nina’s mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), and all the voices in her head.
The actresses also do great work here. Portman interestingly interprets her character as a virginal girl without confidence, panting at every step, obeying Aronofsky’s pendulum swing vision of her character. It’s probably the first time I’ve seen Portman attack cruelty in its basic form, scratching and clawing away at herself, as if a demon is possessing her. Kunis is smooth and elastic as she dances and seduces everyone, deserving the Marcello Mastroianni award she got this past week.
The inconsistent characters, are my big complaint. I don’t mean the other dancers’ double pronged admiration and bitchitude, from what I heard normally directed to women from women. I’m talking about malleable Nina, mentally unready to become Swan Queen, despite having a ‘flash’ of it in her. Or how the ‘prick’ Thomas still has his job. We are perceiving them through Nina’s warped state of mind, but I’m not sure if that’s justifiable enough. The film’s ending feels invigorating, but still, 3/5.
p.s. Just realized that the douche-y blonde guy from Hot Tub Time Machine is one of Nina’s dancing partners.
- Black Swans’ difficult takeoff (theglobeandmail.com)
The Whistleblower doesn’t start with our lead, police officer Kathryn (Rachel Weisz), but with Luba and Raya, two local girls in the Ukraine partying it up. Luba tells Raya that she can get out of the latter’s job at her mom’s photocopying place and join her to a hotel job in Central Europe. And you already know where this movie is going.
Based on a true story, in trying to earn money in a short time, Kathryn’s doing peacekeeping in Bosnia for a British contract company called Democra, her family’s in the States. Kathryn thus has a strained relationship with her children, the eldest of whom is as old as the girls being trafficked. She has to be reminded of how ‘not motherly’ she is. Apparently saving young girls from pimps isn’t motherly. The tribulations in Kathy’s Bosnia occupies her mind so much, she and the audience sometimes forget about home.
I’ll stop yelling at my iPod now, where I’m writing this section of the review. Yelling not because of the movie but because of the jerks stopping Kathryn from helping these girls. The peacekeeping forces are a man’s world, most of them are demons but it would seem fictional if they show a vulnerable side. Besides, she only has one female ally (Vanessa Redgrave) out of the handful of female characters in the film. Yes, we still are unaware of ever so prevalent human trafficking. The film tackles the material with impact-filled storytelling – that’s all we ask for. 4/5.
Kazuo Ishiguro‘s novel Never Let Me Go, about young adult clones slightly obsessed about their Cytherean childhoods, is now a feature film. Director Mark Romanek uses a linear approach to the story instead of the impressionistic one in the novel, and like any adaptation, it could go either way.
And sure Romanek mixes up a few things from the source material, a small grievance. And there’s many holes in the script that makes all interactions feel set-up and less organic, a bigger grievance. There’s also a lot of details, beautifully shot, that enhances the object-obsessed part of the story Romanek wants to tell.
But who can resist watching Keira Knightley as Ruth transforming from a histrionic, control freak of a girl into a worn down defeatist, needing a walker, giving a performance that’s the best in her career so far? Or Andrew Garfield as Tommy D., the awkward, gentle, brave boy we can’t help but reach out to?
Charlotte Rampling plays an icy Miss Emily. The script could have also given better justice to Miss Lucy (Sally Hawkins) and to Kathy (Carey Mulligan). The film unfortunately turns Kathy from the sane one into the less than pretty virgin. Though Mulligan could have been better, I like her better here than in An Education. I also like the girl who plays the younger Ruth, being able to change emotions so subtly. Despite of its flaws, the film does pull on your heartstrings, and in Cythera, that should suffice. My rating – 3/5.
Last Saturday afternoon, I treated myself with a short called Legend of the Beaver Dam, a horror comedy musical. It’s nice to see national treasure Sean Cullen play the worst, most potty mouthed camp counselor to a nerdy kid with amazing vocal pipes, bullying twins, a few Asian girls and the nerd’s blond love interest with braces. There’s also post-production work so seamless I had to learn they used CGI in the credits.
Now on to our feature Fubar II, the sequel to the mostly improvised mockumentary of eight years ago or something. As director, Michael Dowse said on the Q&A, the willing suspension of disbelief is somehow broken by the first film, which means this time we get a film with a more fictional glaze and with one or two fantasy scenes.
Nonetheless, Dean, Terry, Tron and Trish aren’t people I wanna be stuck in a house with, as we clearly see in the first few minutes of the film. The gang celebrates Dean’s health with a party where Terry and Tron demolish the house while Dean, high on acid, accidentally sets his room on fire. This party foreshadows the tests both on Terry and Dean’s friendship as well as Dean’s health.
Like men, they have to get jobs. The gang then heads to Fort McMurray to work on the pipelines. Antics ensue. Did anyone expect a documentary about the Harper era worker exploitation? The movie does touch on those issues, but its Terry and Dean’s oblivious resilience despite their circumstances that has made the audience laugh with them and not at them.
Despite of their redeeming qualities and how immersed the cast is with their work, the Catholic boy within me just can’t love these guys. I’m thinking about exceptions to my ‘I hate crass male characters’ rule, and I came out dry. I gave this a 3/5, but there’s a little part of me that thinks I should have given it a 4.
Late Autumn puts Anna (Tang Wei), a Chinese-American, and Hoon, a Korean male escort, on a bus from Fresno to Seattle to find each other. What we see are adequately paced, two-headed character studies. We watch Anna mumble to herself, wear hooker earrings for the first time in seven years, investigate her motel room and relearn normal human interaction. We also watch Hoon and his permagrin fix his hair, talk on his phone, a man trying to exude confidence while running from his client’s husband. We watch them interact although he does all the talking.
The digital photography starts out in faded colours that remind us of foggy Seattle, making Anna’s face look pale and unflattering. Then she meets Hoon again, they walk through streets with potted plants, go to a tiny version of an amusement park and the colour punches its way in. Colour smoothly introduces itself, and brightens up Anna’s face too, the same way that other films about women temporarily out of prison remember how to live again. That’s not a spoiler. And we see a Seattle awake at night.
And it all comes crashing down. Subtlety’s good as a rule, and the characters never talk about the source of pain but instead of plainly hiding it they make excuses and talk about other things. As Anna’s lover tells Hoon, ‘I think you don’t know what you’re talking about’ and accuses him of playing games. Hoon doesn’t evolve and doesn’t help Anna in doing so neither. Rating: 2/5.
Danis Tanovic’s new film Cirkus Columbia has angry, betrayed characters with troubled pasts. Divko comes home to Bosnia from Germany and brings with him an angry redhead of a trophy girlfriend, Azra, and kicks out his first wife, Lucija, from his house. His son, Martin, loves his ham radio, runs like Pee-Wee Herman, and has a lot of growing up to do.
I know I have to nitpick because that’s better than fooning and fawning over this film. Watching the petty squabbles of a broken family in the eve of the Bosnian war isn’t for everyone. The conflicts within said family has adequate verbal punch but that action being on the forefront just means that we have to wait and wait for the film denouement. And this isn’t much of a critique but a question whether these characters would have matured if the war didn’t happen. Yet it’s the economy of the script, the loyalties and deep love within each character that makes each minute of this film better than the last.
After the film, Tanovic held a ten minute question and answer period with an engaged audience. The director and his sense of humour asked said audience if his film has a happy ending and was a bit shocked that we said yes. The estranged couple Divko and Lucija settle their scores before the storm has come. Call me a sentimentalist, but that is a happy ending and it’s enough for me to give this movie a 5/5.
Andrew Lau‘s Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen opens with a battle scene where Chinese labourers are being ordered around by French troops. Our hero Chen Zhen (Donnie Yen), gives an ‘inspirational’ speech to his comrades, then he goes out to the battlefields and beats down the German snipers who shot said comrade or two, kung fu style. The last part sounds ridiculous, but there are many elements within the mise-en-scene. Yen makes it through sniper fire, the first of many complex, well-choreographed fight scenes where his enemies surround him.
The movie flashes forward to the main plot. Chen Zhen becomes Qi, a charismatic patron of a Shanghai dance hall There’s also a thrush named Kiki who can sing and entertain in both Chinese and Japanese. The dance hall, named Casablanca, a reference to that film. Chen Zhen takes on a third identity as a movie hero called ‘The Masked Warrior.’ Shanghai’s a mixed crowd, the main characters are hiding something and is suspicious of each other, there’s cliché free dialogue, boiling down into one showdown bigger than the one before, revealing more about the story of Chen Zhen and the country he represents. Lau is also responsible for the slightly grainy digital photography of the film perfectly showing, among many things, how worn down our hero can be.
I saw this movie last night in the festival’s opening night. There are two more showtimes, at noon today at Ryerson and at the morning of the 18th at the Varsity. My grade for the movie: 3/5.