Thursday, September 30, 2010

soul food digest | film comment | july/august 2010

Gleanings from the summer Film Comment, mostly of Soul Food or VIFF interest...

Brace yourself. Two radical innovations are in store for those who follow the Dardenne Brothers: an actor with a resume, and a child protagonist. The as-yet-untitled feature, scheduled to shoot in August, tells the hard-luck story of Cyrus, and 11-year-old boy abandoned at a shelter by his father. He escapes his caretakers, tries to return home, and winds up in the dubious care of a young woman (Cecile de France). France has worked with Cedric Klapisch and Claude Miller, and will soon be seen in Clint Eastwood's Hereafter. (6)

Variety is gaga about its 'pre-buy,' not to mention the 'provisional advance subsidy at screenplay stage,' but FC's more excited about the totally twisted Judeo-Christian miracle taking place in the woods of Northern France. It all comes together under the umbrella of L'Empire, the new film from Bruno Dumont, he of such deeply religious films as The Life Of Jesus and Hadewijch. (8)

critics choice (total stars / # critics = avg stars)
Winter's Bone                27 / 7 = 3.86
The Kids Are All Right 30 / 8 = 3.75
Animal Kingdom           14 / 4 = 3.5
Sex & The City 2             5 / 6 = 0.83

Triumph and Disaster: Dennis Hopper reveals the most important things in life
by Michael Almereyda
It was still early, during our first day of shooting, when he took me aside for a kind of Polonius moment.
"The most important thing in movies," he confided, "is timing."
A pause, then: "Timing and lighting, actually."
Another pause, then he corrected himself: "The most important things in life are timing and lighting."
Without examining it too closely, I still believe this statement to be unmistakably true.

No Beast So Fierce: David Michod leads a new pack of Australian filmmakers with Animal Kingdom
by Laura Kern
For the entire duration the sense of unease is relentless, the nerve-wracking sound design and use of slow motion impeccable. Seldom is a debut feature handled with such assurance and intelligence. It's no wonder the film walked away with the World Cinema Jury Prize at Sundance this year. . . . a founding member of Bulue-Tongue Films, a collective of young, primarily Aussie talent who work in music videos, shorts, and features. Not since Peter Weir broke through in the late seventies(along with his contemporaries in the so-called Australian New Wave) has the country produced a filmmaker with as much promise as Michod. The Blue-Tonguers could now be appropriately labeled the Next New Wave. . . . They share with him a dark outlook and a penchant for relatively innocent lead characters who find themselves in way over their heads.
Within most everything Michod writes, a pessimistic view of family pervades, always from the perspective of young protagonists from broken homes whose parents are numbe, sadistic, useless (the stunning 2007 short Crossbow, stylistically the closest to Animal Kingdom), or zombies. It's surprising to learn then that Michod actually had a perfectly agreeable upbringing.
In terms of sheer potential, Michod is currently unrivaled.

Jonathan Romney on Valhalla Rising
Graphic violence notwithstanding, the film is an unrelentingly downbeat mystical odyssey, like a Dark Ages variation on Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, with desolate echoes of the moods and landscapes of Andrei Rublev, Aguirre Wrath Of God, and The New World.
Set around 1000 A.D., the film begins in a windlblown mountain landscape, where a mute muscleman...kills his Viking captors and wanders away, a mouse-faced young boy tagging along as his protege and interpreter. The pair join up with a group of Christian warriors on a crusade to the Holy Land - but their fog-shrouded sea voyage takes them to a different New World altogether.

The Living and the Dead
A great article by Paul Brunick debunking the print journalism vs movie blogger feud.  "For many of us, the practice of film criticism is more exciting today than it has been in decades.  Yes, really...."

See VIFF notes for Cannes Festival observations by Scott Foundas, Gavin Smith, Kent Jones;
Of Gods And Men
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami)
Another Year (Mike Leigh)
Princess of Montpensier (Bertrand Tavernier)
Carlos (Olivier Assayas)
Biutiful (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
Dear Prudence (Rebecca Zlotowski)

Gavin Smith mentions a "digitally revitalized" version of Visconti's The Leopard (1963) which was screened at Cannes. One to watch for.  He also references Gust Van den Berghe's Little Baby Jesus of Flanders, "starring a trio with Down syndrome," which he dismisses as a "dead-end stunt."

Dave Kehr reviews The Law (1959, Jules Dassin, France/Italy), "a sweeping social allegory set in a fishing village on the coast of Publia - a version of the primordial, elemental Italy familiar to filmgoers from Luchino Visconti's La terra trema and Roberto Rossellini's Stromboli. . . .  The novel was a bitter fable about the impossibility of real social change... Instead, the film becomes a sort of Mediterranean Peyton Place, full of campy star turns, melodramatic confrontations, and relentless moralism. ("If Billy Graham were a filmmaker," wrote Jean-Luc Godard in his withering review in Cahiers du cinema, "he would doubtless be called Jules Dassin."). . . "

And the Home Movies section's Asian Pick is the Kim Dong Won Collection. "This new four-disc set collects 14 documentary works of varying quality, from a rare early short about baptism that telegraphs the place of Catholicism in his compassionate engagement, to his wrenching visitation with World War II "comfort women," 63 Years On (2008)."

Most fascinating, Paul Schrader reviews filmmaker Paul Verhoeven's book "Jesus Of Nazareth." It begins
In 1985 I was on a panel at the Ghent Film Festival with Paul Verhoeven and Paul Cox. The idea was to put three Pauls of Dutch descent from different continents together and see what they had in common. At the time, it seemed that we had nothing in common. / As it turned out, Verhoeven and I had more in common than we knew. I had completed the script for The Last Temptation of Christ - and was researching a script on Saint Paul. That same year, Verhoeven moved to Los Angeles and began research on a film about the life of Jesus...
I hope to transcribe more of Schrader's review in a separate post.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

tear the curtain | craig erickson, david adams

Pacific Theatre regular Craig Erickson and David Adams ("Jesus My Boy") are in the cast of this loving tribute to the movie ghosts that must surely haunt the Stanley Theatre. Created by Electric Company, who've been... well, Brilliant... since their very first production, which was rehearsed in our space, Anthony F. Ingram in the cast. Closes Oct 10.

Tear the Curtain! has been custom built for the Arts Club Stanley Stage and reflects the Stanley's dual identity as both historic cinema and playhouse. Written as a screenplay, this live production slips seamlessly between play and feature film. It's a stylish thriller inspired by the “reel” history of the theatre. It uses and abuses Hollywood film noir archetypes like the mob boss, the femme fatale, the hardboiled detective, and the girl friday. It is an attempt at authentic originality in a world of imitations and stereotypes. It is a story of ultimate compromise. Can the truth be revealed somewhere between the stage and the screen?

Written by Electric Company's Jonathon Young and Kevin Kerr
Directed by and created with Kim Collier

viff 2010 | other films of interest

And here's a handful of other films in the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival that caught my eye for one reason or another...

A couple years back, I played a juror in Pacific Theatre's staged reading of 12 Angry Men, a film I've loved since I was young. This treatment intrigues, and reminds me of what was probably the most powerful episode of my favourite radio program, This American Life.

12 Angry Lebanese: The Documentary
Winner of both the top prize for documentary film and the People's Choice Award at the Dubai Film Festival, Zeina Daccache's inspired project actually transformed the lives of many men. In Lebanon's infamous Roumieh Prison, inmates stage a version of 12 Angry Men. Revealing the tremendous dignity and despair of the prisoners, the process catalyzes hope and offers an extraordinary experience for the audience.
Fri, Oct 1st 7:00pm | G7
Sun, Oct 3rd 4:00pm | G7
Wed, Oct 6th 11:00am | G7

Actress friend Shannon Braithwaite recommends this one; "don't forget to check out a great Canadian film killing it on the festival circuit, Snow & Ashes, at VIFF. It won at Slamdance and has won one award or another at most every other festival it's screened at. I HIGHLY recommend it. I saw it and it blew me away. I was just so proud to be Canadian when it cleaned up down in Park City!
Snow and Ashes
Winner of the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Film at the 2010 Slamdance Film Festival, Charles-Olivier Michaud's exceptionally strong first feature is a gripping tale about the extraordinary lengths that war correspondents go to for a story, and the bonds that are formed when their lives are constantly at risk. Foreign war correspondent Blais Dumas awakens from a coma to find himself in a hospital room in Quebec City. His best friend and collaborator David has not come back with him and David's girlfriend Sophie is waiting for an explanation. The story unfolds in a series of flashbacks that slowly shed light on the relationships between the three main characters and the events that led to David's disappearance.
Fri, Oct 8th 9:30pm | G7
Sun, Oct 10th 10:45am | Cinematheque

Any cinephile older than 25 remembers rep cinemas - The Ridge, the VanEast in their glory days - with nostalgia, and regret at their passing. (Video killed the rep cinema star.) 
My Film and My Story
Made by a team of seven students at Konkuk University, this highly entertaining feature is both a love-letter to the vanishing concept of repertory cinema and a comic riff on student dating. Each of the eight chapters is obliquely inspired by a favourite film: from Jarmusch to Wong Kar Wai via Fassbinder, Truffaut and Lang.
Sat, Oct 2nd 9:15pm | Cinematheque
Sun, Oct 3rd 1:30pm | Cinematheque

Ramin Bahrani's Chop Shop is a fine no-frills quasi-documentary about a boy and his sister scrabbling to build a life in the chaos of Willet's Point. Here's a full-on doc shot on that same turf.
Foreign Parts
(USA, 2010, 82 min)
A minority world of recycled refuse, the sprawling industrial zone of junkyards and auto salvage shops in Willet's Point, Queens, NY, is slated for demolition. Shot over three years, Verena Paravel and J. P. Sniadecki's remarkable observational doc presents this bustling community as it struggles to survive. Winner, Best First Film, Locarno 2010.
Mon, Oct 4th 10:45am | Pacific Cinematheque
Wed, Oct 13th 6:30pm | G7
Thu, Oct 14th 3:45pm | G7

Nothing to say about these three except the write-ups grab me....

Cold Weather
(U.S.A., Aaron Katz, 96 min)
One of the most critically acclaimed American films of the year, the irresistible Portland-set Cold Weather will knock your socks off. Aaron Katz's adventurous and entertaining leap forward is a shape-shifting feature that's a delicious amalgam of family-bonding drama, mumblecore riff and genuinely involving genre exercise.
Sat, Oct 9th 6:45pm | G7
Mon, Oct 11th 1:30pm | G7

Down Terrace
(UK, 2009, 93 min)
"Ben Wheatley's zingy, caustic first feature was co-written by Robin Hill, who stars opposite his real-life father, Robert, as pathetic dad-son kingpins of a two-bit syndicate in Brighton... Further autobiographical touches... heighten the sense in this kitchen-sink comedy that the greater psychopathological unit is the nuclear, not the crime, family..." Village Voice
Sun, Oct 3rd 11:00am | G7
Thu, Oct 7th 9:15pm | G7

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
(Romania, Andrei Ujica, 187 min)
Completely compiled from official Romanian state propaganda, Andrei Ujica's masterful third film in a loose trilogy is a galloping, globetrotting reinvention of found-footage filmmaking, showing Nicolae Ceausescu as the Great Dictator wanted himself to be presented. The parades in North Korea alone are worth the price of admission.
Wed, Oct 6th 2:15pm | G7
Mon, Oct 11th 8:30pm | G7

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

viff 2010 | auteurs

Quite a few new works by some of the world's most interesting directors at the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival. In another post I've mentioned several that premiered at Cannes, including films by Abbas Kiarostami, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Apictatpong Weerasethakul and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Here are some non-Cannes pictures by noteworthy helmsmen...

Another Year
(UK, Mike Leigh, 129 min)
"Mike Leigh's latest contemporary, North London-set drama about an interconnected set of family and friends is almost about nothing at all, and yet it gently juxtaposes the big issues of everyday life: loneliness and love, selfishness and kindness, birth and death. Arguably Leigh's tautest, most likable effort since Secrets and Lies..." Variety
"Widely admired. Charts four seasons in the lives of a married couple and their fraught interactions with an emotionally unstable spinster colleague. . . There are scenes here, staged in long master takes, that consist exclusively of people talking in simple rooms yet are as cinematic as anything I've seen on screen this year." Scott Foundas, Film Comment
Sun, Oct 10th 10:30am | G7
Mon, Oct 11th 6:45pm | G7
Wed, Oct 13th 3:45pm | G7

The Princess of Montpensier
Bertrand Tavernier: Coup de Torchon, Round Midnight, It All Starts Today, The Judge and the Assassin
A young noblewoman is torn between passion, duty, companionship and ambition, each quality personified by a different man, in this compelling period drama. Like its heroine [newcomer Mélanie Thierry], Tavernier's visitation to 16th-century France has both beauty and brains. Variety
"A complex saga of unrequited love and illicit double-crosses, set against the French religious wars of the late 16th century." Film Comment
Sat, Oct 2nd 6:30pm | Park
Tue, Oct 5th 12:30pm | G7

Around a Small Mountain
(France, Italy, Jacques Rivette, 84 min)
An ineffable charmer from a French master about a small, itinerant circus. Jane Birkin and Sergio Castellitto star. A... late minor gem from [Jacques Rivette]... as transporting and graceful as a ride in a balloon. It flows effortlessly from scene to scene, the story floating on Mr. Rivette’s gentle camera movement. - The New York Times
Thu, Sep 30th 9:15pm | G7
Thu, Oct 7th 11:00am | Vancity
Sun, Oct 10th 1:00pm | Park Theatre

Get Out Of The Car
(Thom Anderson, 34 min)
Thom Andersen (Los Angeles Plays Itself) fashions a city symphony (pointedly and politically shot in 16mm) comprised of advertising signs, building facades, wall-to-wall fragments of popular music and conversation and unmarked sites of vanished cultural landmarks.
Sat, Oct 2nd 7:00pm | Vancity Theatre
Sun, Oct 3rd 4:30pm | Vancity Theatre

Monday, September 27, 2010

viff 2010 | cannes

I don't know if there are more Cannes-feted films at the 2010 Vancouver International Film Festival than other years, or if more of them have caught my interest than usual. But for those of us who didn't manage to make the spring pilgrimage to the south of France this time around... 

Certified Copy
France, Italy, Belgium, 106 min, Abbas Kiarostami (Close-Up, Ten, etc)
Juliette Binoche (Best Actress, Cannes) is an antique-shop owner in romantic Tuscany who strikes up a relationship - or is it just a "copy" of a relationship - with an English author (opera singer William Shimell) in Abbas Kiarostami's first feature made outside of Iran. A playful "art-film" drama anchored by the joint mastery of Kiarostami and Binoche.
"Following a somewhat halting first act, Kiarostami's marital close-up becomes a surprisingly effective return to the Pirandellian shuffling of reality and cinematic illusion that gave shape to the director's signature works of the Nineties. Best Actress winner Binoche is splendid in an emotionally naked performance that morphs into a deconstruction of itself." Scott Foundas, Film Comment
Sat, Oct 9th 9:30pm | G7
Mon, Oct 11th 4:00pm | G7
Thu, Oct 14th 10:30am | G7

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
2010, 113 min, Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Syndromes & A Century)
The most unexpected (and rapturously received) Palme d'Or winner ever, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's magical vision of love and loss centres on a man preparing for his own death. Uncle Boonmee is visited by his late wife and his long-lost son (the latter in non-human guise) and the presence of these loved ones triggers vivid memories of his past lives.
"There may have been no more heartening a sound during the 63rd Cannes Film Festival than the chorus of enthusiastic applause that erupted at the end of the first press screening of Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. It was a marked about-face from the cacophony of titters, hisses, and abruptly emptied seats thwacking shut that accompanied the 2004 premiere of the young Thai filmmaker's Tropical Malady. The applause may have been necessary to break the hypnotic spell cast by Apichatpong's new, lush, melancholid fabl, which for the two previous hours had seemingly transformed Cannes' Salle Debussy into an enveloping jungle of whispering flora, talking fauna, transmigrated souls, and commonplace magic. . . . It is the landscape (and soundscape) of the dense Thai rain forest that is the true otherworldly phenomenon here, and which has by now become as integral a part of Apichatpong's artistry as Monument Valley was for John Ford and a certain pocket of industrial Belgium is for the Dardenne Brothers. . . . As one seasoned Cannes colleague put it: "I've never seen this many people react so enthusiastically to a movie I'm sure most of them didn't understand." . . . One of the chief pleasures of Apichatpong's cinema is the sense of being carried along by a generous tide of implication and allusion, the point of which is something we feel but we may not be able to precisely articulate." Scott Foundas, Film Comment
Wed, Oct 6th 9:00pm | Vancity Theatre
Tue, Oct 12th 4:15pm | Vancity Theatre

France/Germany, 330 min, Olivier Assayas: Summer Hours,
"Arguably the central event of this year's [Cannes] festival. Deft, exhilarating, Carlos moves at the speed of light and seems o cover enough ground for ten films. Assayas pulls off a miracle, creating a high point in the narrative strain initiated 20 years ago with GoodFellas, in which the energy never once dissipates, even during the normally hazardous 'fall' section." Film Comment.
Edgar Ramirez channels Brando via Che in Olivier Assayas' celebrated five-hour-plus globetrotting biopic of the notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal - it's a historically essential and wholly entertaining big-screen spectacle that never stops moving. Special event: Priced as two tickets.
Sat, Oct 9th 1:00pm | Park Theatre
Mon, Oct 11th 5:30pm | Park Theatre

Spain, Mexico, 147 min, Alejandro González Iñárritu: Amores perros, 21 Grams, Babel
"Built around a magnificent performance by Javier Bardem [Best Actor co-winner at Cannes] as a Barcelona low-life coming face to face with his own mortality... Another of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's grandiose meditations on life and death, parents and children, the supernatural [and] the interconnectedness of the universe..."
"Javier Bardem plays a Barcelona black marketeer who is both dying and able to see dead people. Tricked out with lots of fashionable squalor, jagged handheld cinematography, and Bardem in various states of physical and spiritual agony, Biutiful is a custom fit for audiences who prefer to be pummeled at the cinema rather than enlightened." Scott Foundas, Film Comment
Sat, Oct 2nd 9:30pm | G7
Mon, Oct 4th 4:00pm | G7

Dear Prudence
France, 76 min, Rebecca Zlotowski
After the death of her mother, lonely young Prudence (the gifted Léa Seydoux) discovers the underground culture of street-bike racing in the Parisian suburb of Rungis, with unforeseen consequences. A bona fide Cannes Critics' Week discovery... a subtly impressionistic exploration of adolescence on the brink. Film Comment
Thu, Oct 7th 1:45pm | Pacific Cinematheque
Sun, Oct 10th 6:20pm | G7
Fri, Oct 15th 11:40am | G7

Denmark, 91 min, Janus Metz
Janus Metz's gripping documentation of reality at the frontlines of battle in Afghanistan started a firestorm in Denmark and resulted in a government inquiry into whether Danish soldiers broke the rules of engagement by their all-too-human actions. A vital counterpoint to Restrepo, and an important part of a growing re-evaluation of political goals. Winner, Grand Prix, Cannes Critics' Week 2010
"One of the best finds (at Cannes 2010). . .
Sat, Oct 2nd 2:50pm | G7
Sun, Oct 10th 3:20pm | G7
Wed, Oct 13th 9:15pm | G7

Sunday, September 26, 2010

what's in my queue? | jason goode

New Soul Food series! A spin on Film Comment's feature "The Last 10 Films I've Seen," Soul Food - being more forward-looking in general - is collecting lists from SF cinephiles, film-makers and movie writers. Lists you might think of as "The Next 10 Films I'm Going To See."

We launch the series with Jason Goode, director of short films
The Hitchhiker and Pop Switch, as well as a pair of shorts currently in post-production that he shot this summer, The Planting and Late. Jason also directed Danny & The Deep Blue Sea on the Pacific Theatre stage this summer, and has just launched a new course on Film, Faith & Culture at Columbia Bible College.

The Queue
1. Blue Velvet (1986)
2. Sergeant York (1941)
3. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
4. Wagon Master (1950)
5. Paris, Texas (1984)
6. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
7. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)
8. The Killing (1956)
9. Funny Girl (1968)
10. Le Samourai (1967)
en route: Oldboy
on the shelf:  Wings of Desire, M, l'Aventura, The Seventh Seal

viff 2010 | soul food?

The standout Soul Food pick at this year's Vancouver International Film Festival is clearly Of Gods And Men, which won the Grand Prix at the 2010 Cannes Festival, which has a post all its own

The other title that's an obvious fit for this blog is Rejoice And Shout, a history of gospel music - The Soul Stirrers, Dixie Hummingbirds - and it too has been blogged already

Here are a handful of other titles with little hints of Soul Food, though it's always a "your guess is as good as mine" proposition: for example, one gets the idea that the "passion" of the priest in the Márquez story may well be more temporal than eternal. Still, you never know...

Mysteries of Lisbon
(Portugal, France, 2010, 272 min)
A picaresque masterpiece in the best tradition of Victor Hugo and Balzac, Raúl Ruiz's sprawling, gorgeous adaptation of Camilo Castelo Branco's famous novel perambulates from the exquisite estates of the aristocracy to the rotting cities of 19th century Europe. Determined to discover the truth of his parentage, a boy sets out on a journey of discovery, accompanied by a helpful priest.
Sat, Oct 2nd 1:00pm | Park Theatre
Tue, Oct 5th 7:00pm | Park Theatre

Family Affair
When Chico Colvard was ten years old, he shot his older sister Paula in the leg. Convinced that she was about to die, she confessed that her father had been abusing both her and her two sisters for years. The complexities of race, sex and family are explored in Colvard's remarkable documentary that seeks to understand whether it is possible to forgive the unforgivable.
Wed, Oct 6th 12:20pm | G7
Mon, Oct 11th 9:30pm | Vancity

A Film Unfinished
The 1942 Nazi propaganda film Ghetto purported to depict the inhumanity of the Jewish community to its own. With no soundtrack, the footage was little more than a horrifying relic of the Third Reich's madness, until the discovery of rare outtakes, as well as interviews with an SS cameraman, led Yael Hersonki to reveal that the truth was even stranger than Nazi fiction
Sun, Oct 10th 11:40am | G7
Wed, Oct 13th 7:00pm | G7

This one catches my eye because previous Hrebejk/Jarchosky collaborations have dealt directly with Jewish/Christian themes, or attracted the "deeply humanist" label - often an indicator of high Soul Food content...
Kawasaki's Rose
(2009, 100 min)
The prolific filmmaking team of director Jan Hrebejk and screenwriter Petr Jarchosky (Divided We Fall, Up and Down) return with this resonant drama about a respected university professor, known for his youthful anti-communist stance, whose past is not what it seems. Winner, CICAE Award for Art Cinema, Berlin 2010.
Fri, Oct 1st 9:30pm | Park
Sun, Oct 3rd 1:20pm | G7
Mon, Oct 4th 7:15pm | G7

Family Tree
(France, 95 min)
When an elderly man (Guy Marchand) refuses to attend the funeral of his son, his decision confounds his remaining children. But the motivation behind his actions proves more astounding... Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau's (Jeanne and the Perfect Guy) drama picks apart the intricacies of one family's mysterious past with intelligence and deep compassion.
Fri, Oct 1st 4:00pm | G7
Sat, Oct 2nd 6:15pm | G7
Tue, Oct 5th 10:15am | G7

Of Love and Other Demons
(2010, 97 min)
When an exquisitely beautiful teenage girl is bitten by a rabid dog and becomes the victim of (supposed) demonic possession, her body and soul are placed into the care of a passionate priest. Forbidden love and all that it entails soon erupts. Hilda Hidalgo's lushly beautiful film is based on the novel by Gabriel García Márquez.
Fri, Oct 1st 9:15pm | G7
Sat, Oct 2nd 10:30am | G7
Sun, Oct 3rd 12:15pm | G7

Pink Saris
(UK, 2010, 96 min)
The Gulabi Gang, known by their distinctive pink saris, are a renegade sisterhood who defend the most abused and oppressed female untouchables in Uttar Pradesh's Banda District. Kim Longinotto (Rough Aunties) examines not only the group and their complex leader Sampat Pal Devi, but also the means by which they seek justice
Thu, Sep 30th 11:00am | G7
Tue, Oct 12th 12:20pm | G7
Thu, Oct 14th 6:45pm | G7

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

lobby hero | kenneth lonergan play in vancouver

Kenneth Lonergan wrote three significant screenplays: YOU CAN COUNT ON ME, which is perfection, and if you haven't seen it you must; GANGS OF NEW YORK, a Martin Scorsese picture which I thought was almost a return to late seventies form but whichmany criticized; and ANALYZE THIS, which was comic genius until it ran out of gas somewhere along the way and I never could quite figure out why. He's also a playwright, and LOBBY HERO opens in Vancouver September 30. No idea if it'll be a good production or not, but I'm sure curious.

Dirty Manhattan Equity Co-op presents
Lobby Hero
directed by Kelly-Ruth Mercier
Sep 30 - Oct 16
Havana Theatre, 1212 Commercial Drive

Tight, intense, and a roller coaster of power-struggles, Lobby Hero is set in a foyer of a middle-income Manhattan apartment building in the middle of the night, and follows a doorman who’s just trying to get by (Jeff), his by-the-book supervisor (William), and an overbearing cop (Bill) and his rookie female partner (Dawn). Jeff gets drawn into a local murder investigation, and his loyalties to his work and to his family are pushed to the breaking point. As Jeff’s tightly-wound supervisor is called to bear witness against his troubled brother, and a rookie cop finds she must stand up to her seasoned partner, truth becomes elusive and justice proves costly.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

get low | ct interview / ny review

Get Low (Aaron Schneider, 2009, Chris Provenzano / C. Gaby Mitchell screenplay) might be considered the third in the Robert Duvall Faith Trilogy, following Tender Mercies (Bruce Beresford, 1983, Horton Foote screenplay) and The Apostle (Robert Duvall, 1997, Robert Duvall screenplay). It pales somewhat in comparison with its predecessors, but is nevertheless well worth seeing, with fine performances and important things on its mind: last things - taking account of one's life, consequence and forgiveness, our awkward making of amends, our yearning for release, our stubborn resistance.

In July, Christianity Today published an interview with a delightfully crusty Robert Duvall. Here are a few excerpts;
Some people thought The Apostle was mocking Southern holiness or Pentecostal preachers. .

Who said that?

Oh, some Christians wished it had been a more positive portrayal of a preacher rather than a man with all these. . .

Let me straighten these people out. And you can put it in print. My guy [Rev. "Sonny" Dewey] killed a guy out of anger, right? But he wasn't one half as bad as King David in the Psalms, who sent a man off to be killed so he could be with his wife. Every time I read the Psalms I think of that. But on the other hand, I heard that Billy Graham liked the movie, and many, many preachers did. Rev. James Robison of Fort Worth said I could use anything from any of his services to put in the film. So I'm not mocking.
If Hollywood had done this, they would have mocked these people. No, I did not mock these people. I didn't patronize these people. I've been in many, many churches, Pentecostal churches. I could have made these people look bad if I wanted to. So you can tell these people I did not mock these people or condescend at all. Had I done it in a Hollywood movie, we would have patronized these people. That's why I had to do the movie myself.

Why do you think Hollywood has a tendency to mock Christians and preachers?

Well, it's not just Christians. I mean, I'm a Christian. But they mock the interior of the United States of America, the heartland. They don't go out of their way to understand what's really there.

I hear the script reminded you of the great script writer—and your good friend—Horton Foote.

Yes. The writing and the movie is somewhat like Horton, the great playwright. I did several of his films — Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962) and several others [The Chase (Arthur Penn, 1966), Tomorrow (Joseph Anthony, 1972), and Convicts (Peter Masterson, 1991) in film, and "The Midnight Caller" on stage]. Horton died last year at the age of 93, and still had wonderful plays off Broadway in recent years. He was one of our great playwrights who was great until his final years. I told him I was going do this movie, and I wish he could've seen it. But he passed away—and there's a story there. As I was giving the final speech to the whole crowd [in the film's penultimate scene], my wife's cell phone rings off camera—and it's a message from Horton's son-in-law that he had just died.

What's the best thing you learned from Horton Foote?

We had a good working relationship. I always said if I only had done his films, and the films of Francis Ford Coppola, I would have had a wonderful career. But I learned from Horton how to have friendship and still be able to work together, through thick and thin and still stay friends. How many friends do you have after 50 years? Not many.

Any last words about Get Low?

Yeah. Get Low is one of my favorite films in a long time and a wonderful character. "Get low"—I don't even know what that means. I guess it means to get low for Jesus before it's time. Keep above the ground before you go below the ground."

You tell your readers there is no way that I wanted to make fun of the Pentecostal people! If I had wanted to make them look like bad people, I could have, believe me.

Anthony Lane's response (The New Yorker) is akin to mine - we both felt the film was a bit lush, and went a bit soft - though I liked it better than he. Lane's dead right about the three central performances;
The task of Get Low is to draw the scowling Felix [Duvall] from his lair. He visits a funeral parlor, run by Frank Quinn. “I’m after a funeral,” Felix says. “Boy, are you in luck,” Quinn replies. We are in the nineteen-thirties, and times are no less hard in the funeral trade than in any other. “One thing about Chicago: people knew how to die,” Quinn says of happier days. When I tell you that Quinn is played by Bill Murray, you will gather—you will instantly hear, in your head—just how much spin, at once glum and energetic, these lines can bear. The great discovery that Murray has donated to cinema is that the drug of deadpan need not be a downer; bewilderingly, it can be an upper, even when you clearly have a heap of things to be down about, plus a face that looks like yesterday’s cinnamon Danish. It’s a treat to see that doughiness set off against Duvall’s severity. Add Sissy Spacek, effortlessly natural as a former flame of Felix’s, now widowed and flickering with regret, and we get a rich spread of dramatic styles. Those three actors have a combined age of almost two hundred. There must be youngbloods in Hollywood who can match them, but none spring to mind.
GET LOW has been running a while in Vancouver, so it may move on soon: it's here at least through Thursday at Tinseltown.

Monday, September 20, 2010

the american

A quick heads up. Filmmaker Jason Goode writes...
Soul Food. Masterpiece. The real deal.

Loved it.

When it was done I felt "finally... cinema..." It was a reminder what it can be. A reminder of some of the classics from the 70s.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

sep 26 | casablanca | cineplex classic film series

Casablanca (1943)
"They had a date with fate in Casablanca!"
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid
Plot: Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II. An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications. See Ingrid Bergman in her most famous and enduring role!

Wednesday, September 8, 7:00pm
Sunday, September 26, 1:00pm

Presented in HD. All tickets five dollars. SilverCity Riverport, SilverCity Coquitlam, Colossus Langley, Scotiabank Theatre. The Classic Film Series presents one great title each month on the big screen from September 2010 to August 2011: details here.

classic film series | cineplex

Look what I saw in the lobby at SilverCity Riverport yesterday...

A little sleuthing led me to more about the Classic Film Series being offered by Cineplex in 2010-2011.

"This is a great opportunity for classic film fans to see their favourites in digital on the big screen! A series of classic film titles will be screened in a digital format from September 2010 – August 2011. The intent is to showcase classic films that, in most cases, have not been seen on the big screen in this format before."

How great is that! The chance see Doctor Zhivago, The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music or Spartacus on a great big screen. I can't wait to see It's A Wonderful Life with a crowd of people. And what a timely release of Psycho - this is the film's fiftieth birthday, and all the cinema rags have been running pieces on it.

And can you believe? Five bucks a ticket. Yowza.

You know, when multi-screen theatres first started opening, this sort of thing was talked about. Show current releases on most of your screens, but reserve a screen or two for foreign and independent cinema, another for classic films. Perhaps it was the proliferation of home video that killed that particular star (along with rep theatres like The Ridge or VanEast in their heyday), or perhaps it was simple greed... er, economics. Whatever the case, it's fantastic to see a commercial chain like Cineplex launch this wonderful experiment. Let's hope they sell enough popcorn to make it worth their while!

In the lower mainland the series is showing at SilverCity Riverport, SilverCity Coquitlam, Colossus Langley and Scotiabank Theatre downtown.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

viff 2010 | of gods and men

France, Xavier Beauvois, 120 min.
A French brotherhood stationed in a deseret mountain monastery in Algeria holds off Islamic fundamentalists with the strength of its faith. Based on a true story, Xavier Beauvois’ classical drama stars Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale, and is close to perfection. Winner, Grand Prix, Cannes 2010.

The thematic area of international terrorism, while deeply mined, is given close and thoughtful attention in Xavier Beavois gravely beautiful drama. Of Gods and Men is based on the 1996 Tibhirine attack, in which an order of Cicstercian monks confront Islamic fundamentalists with only the strength of their faith. Against the majesty of Algeria's Atlas Mountains, the quotidian activity of the monks (gardening, dispensing medical help to the locals, and religious observances) proceed with humble grace. Even as the mounting threat of terrorist violence looms, the brotherhood maintain their mission.

"In this year's winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, director Xavier Beauvois recounts the harrowing true story of a brotherhood of French monks in the highlands of North Africa who find themselves threatened by Islamic extremists during the Algerian Civil War of the 1990s. Starring a gifted ensemble cast led by the empathetic Lambert Wilson (as resident religious scholar Brother Christian), the film begins as a bucolic chronicle of these simple men of God and their gentle relationship with their Muslim neighbors, to whom they provide much-needed medical care and other services. When the insurgents arrive, they find themselves faced with an impossible decision: to flee, or to stand their ground and fulfill their spiritual mission. Magnificently photographed by cinematographer Caroline Champetier in compositions that suggest Renaissance paintings, Of Gods and Men is a poetic, austerely beautiful triumph." - Film Comment

"It is the most intensely passionate film at Cannes so far this year, and the fact that the passion is religious makes it no less moving. The early-morning audience wept yesterday in Of Gods and Men, Xavier Beauvois’s picture of the monks of the Atlas Mountains in Algeria, a beautifully told story of bravery and extraordinary understanding." Kate Muir, The Times

Sun, Oct 10th 9:15pm | Granville 7
Tue, Oct 12th 4:00pm | Granville 7
Wed, Oct 13th 3:30pm | Park

VIFF page

viff 2010 | rejoice and shout

USA, Don McGlynn, 115 min.
Don McGlynn has made films about musicians as diverse as Glenn Miller and Howlin' Wolf, and in this, his most ambitious film to date, he uncovers the progression in gospel music over the course of two centuries. A rousing combination of rare vintage clips, probing interviews and fantastic music will, indeed, make you want to rejoice and shout.

As The Soul Stirrers belt out “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord,” you may just find yourself wondering, “Where can I enlist?” Such is the sway of Don McGlynn’s rousing testament to American gospel music. The veteran music documentarian strikes all the right chords here, offering both a history lesson on African-American Christianity and a jubilant ode to religious anthems. Connecting the dots, McGlynn makes a convincing argument that the plantation music of two centuries ago is the root of all American music. Likewise, he submits that The Dixie Hummingbirds begat The Temptations and Claude Jeter’s trademark falsetto set the stage for Al Green's lilting vocals.

Should such seminal artists’ names not register with you, fear not. McGlynn unearths rare audio recordings (including the first known gospel record) and live footage in order to offer up a sinful serving of devotional music in all of its strains. A Memphis Holiness Church sermon exhibits the ferocity of an underground rock show while Mahalia Jackson’s soulful Ed Sullivan Show performance would have you believe that angels walk among us. We’re also treated to a historical showdown between the Alabama and Mississippi factions of The Blind Boys in which the weapons of choice are pipes (as in vocal chords). “The winner was always going to be the audience,” recalls gospel music historian Bill Carpenter. “They knew they were going to get a great show.” That still holds true today.

Fri, Oct 1st 2:30pm | Granville 7
Wed, Oct 6th 6:40pm | Granville 7
Mon, Oct 11th 12:20pm | Granville 7

VIFF page

Thursday, September 09, 2010

viff 2010 | preview guide

It's grey, damp and chilly out, so one's thoughts naturally turn to... The Vancouver International Film Festival! Sneak Preview Guide is available today! as a download.

Not sure if the print version is out there yet: the website says Saturday September 9, so who knows if that's September 9, or if we have to wait until Saturday? Whatever the big day, they'll be pick-up-able at Videomatica, Rogers and various other video emporia; public libraries, Oscar's, Book Warehouse, Chapters/Indigo; and other locations around town.

Apparently the full on-line program will be available Sunday September 12, though the printed program guide doesn't arrive until Thursday September 23 - at the above outlets, as well as VIFF venues: Vancity Theatre, Granville 7 Cinemas, Pacific Cinematheque, Park Theatre.