Monday, September 26, 2011

new to dvd | better world, morin, cunningham, murder songs

Various soul food movies are new to dvd the past month or so, and well worth renting - if you can figure out how to do that. In Canada right now, we find ourselves in a sad no man's land between the decline of video stores and second-run movie cinemas and the rise of anything to replace them. 

Streaming? The selection Netflix offers Canadians is a joke: indeed, not one of the titles I'm recommending for appears to be on offer.  As far as I can tell, they don't offer a DVD by mail service to Canadians. is apparently the largest dvd-by-mail service in Canada - but they also bat .000 when I lob these titles over the plate. (You can, however, rent Battle: Los Angeles or Disney's Prom. So all is not lost.)

The sort-of-good news, soon to be the really bad news, is that Vancouver's beloved Videomatica is still in business, and stocks three of the four titles - only Bill Cunningham New York is unavailable. The spring rumours of its August death were greatly exaggerated. Well, slightly exaggerated: they're still advertising October acquisitions under their "Coming Soon" listings, but after that... Nothing. Nada. The void. This weekend I re-signed with (after letting my subscription lapse in the spring) in a desperate bid to see at least a few of the films that just don't seem to be anywhere else in our film-free land. Looks like October is Movie Month: not just VIFF, but cramming in as many Videomatica-only titles as I can on my home screen. Police Adjective, Ostrov, The Bang Bang Club, My Father My Lord, Vision, Noise, The Idiot (Kurosawa), Dante's Inferno, The Trap (Klopka)< Mary and Max, Sweetgrass, Choking Man... I'm only forgoing In A Better World, Leon Morin Priest, Bill Cunningham New York and Small Town Murder Songs because I either saw them in the theatre or own my own copy. 

So have I got this right? That apparently the Canadian government is using its stricter copyright laws (as well as the barrier to US mailing created by our celebrated postal service) to protect the artists and craftspersons who make movies. And the best way to guard their interests is to ensure that no one can actually watch what they create. Have the federal Conservatives figured out that film is a form of art, and therefore feel obliged to shut it down? Or have they figured out some way to tax torrenting? 

Enough. I hadn't intended to start off my week in so discouraging a fashion. I just wanted to tell people about these exciting new Soul Food movies now available on video. Only to realize that the "now available" part of that announcement is barely true - and apparently by the end of October or so, will be completely true. On with our originally scheduled post. For our American readers, stalwart Videomatica subscribers, and those of you willing to torrent...

In A Better World was directed by Susanne Bier and scripted by Anders Thomas Jensen, whose collaboration on After The Wedding was also brilliant. She's a Danish director, which accounts for the artistic sensibility, who studied arts at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which may account for the Soul Food flavour.

Leon Morin, Priest was a Criterion release this summer, set in Occupied France, in which the widow of a French Jew, herself a Communist, struggles to keep her small children out of the concentration camps with the help of a "handsome, brave, vigorous and intellectual priest" (played by French New Wave star Jean-Paul Belmondo).

Small Town Murder Songs concerns a rage-filled cop in an Ontario Mennonite community struggling to leave behind his violent past. Crank up the volume - an overpowering score makes this movie.

Unfortunately, even the hawk-eyed movie predators in the Videomatica acquisitions department missed Bill Cunningham New York, a small, soft-spoken, but utterly beguiling study of the frugal, self-reliant street photographer whose weekly fashion collages are a fixture at the New York Times. Roger Ebert: "It doesn't matter if you care nothing at all about clothing, fashion or photography. Here is a good and joyous man who leads a life that is perfect for him, and how many people do we meet like that? This movie made me happy every moment I was watching it." Looks like I'll have to buy me a copy...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

higher ground

Opened Sep 23. Sounds intriguing.

International Village
through Thu Oct 6 2:10, 4:55, 7:45, 10:30
by Rick Groen
excerpted from Globe & Mail, Sep 23 2011

In the media and pop culture, the typical portrayal of Christian fundamentalists tends to err at the extremes, treating them and their beliefs with either an excess of reverence or too much mockery. Higher Ground is refreshing precisely because it finds a middle ground – in this spiritual community, there are no saints and there are no demons, no absolute wisdom and no complete idiocy. Of course, in such a vacuum, drama is harder to generate, and the film’s quiet realism demands from us our own act of faith: We’re asked to watch closely and to listen intently in the promise of a greater reward to come. ...

Essentially, it’s the story of a woman whose life is changed by two embraced discoveries. First, she acquires religion and then, painfully, she gains something that speaks to her far more profoundly – doubt. The script doesn’t quote Tennyson, but his famous dictum – “There lives more faith in honest doubt/ Believe me, than in half the creeds” – lies at the conflicted heart of the tale. That’s the faith Corinne, an evolving skeptic among true believers, labours toward.

. . . Corinne visits a Christian therapist, a guy who in less sensitive hands would just be a lampooned figure of fun. Instead, here, his dead-on diagnosis simultaneously reflects the strength and the weakness of his beliefs. He says to her: “You are worshipping at the altar of yourself.” Of course she is, but that’s exactly the point. Corinne has ascended to that higher ground where the bigger questions are asked. And none is bigger than this: Is religion a denial of her true self, or an antidote to the curse of narcissism? Her trial continues.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

viff | soul food picks

CORPO CELESTE | Fri 30 5:30 G7 | Sat 1 9pm G7 | Mon 3 1:00 G7

FOOTNOTE | Tue Oct 4 7:00 Vogue/Visa | Tue 11 4:15 Vogue/Visa

JESUS WAS A COMMIE in WHERE THERE’S HOPE | Sat 8 6:30 G7 | Sun 9 1:15 G7

THE MILL AND THE CROSS | Sat 1 10:30am G7 | Thu 13 6:20 G7

THE PLANTING in FIRE | Tue 11 9:15pm G7 | Wed 12 3:45 Cinematheque

WAIT FOR RAIN in WATER | Sun 9 9:30pm G7 | Mon 10 4:00 Cinematheque

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

the planting + wait for rain | viff | oct 9-12

Kyle Rideout directed a memorable production of THE GREAT DIVORCE at Pacific Theatre this past spring, and Jason Goode's DANNY & THE DEEP BLUE SEA (summer 2010) was so strong we invited him to place it in our upcoming season. Now both have placed short films in VIFF 2011! Most exciting.


Wait for Rain
plays in Water
(Canada, 2011, 14 mins, HDCam)
Directed By: Kyle Rideout
In a future where water is scarce--making healthy plants the newest form of bling--James tries to get a girl's attention.

Sun, Oct 9th 9:30pm
Empire Granville 7 Th 2

Mon, Oct 10th 4:00pm
Pacific Cinematheque

The Planting
plays in Fire
(Canada, 2011, 5 mins, HDCAM)
Directed By: Jason Goode

A man reflects on a wasted life of digging holes and filling them back in.

Tue, Oct 11th 9:15pm
Empire Granville 7 Th 2

Wed, Oct 12th 3:45pm
Pacific Cinematheque

sep 14-18 | stalker | cinematheque

It's placed on all five Arts & Faith 100 lists. It's Tarkovsky. Love it or hate it - and most folks are pretty much one or the other - it's Tarkovsky. Four showings only, some nights double-featured with BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN. Russi-o-rama.

dir. Andrei Tarkovsky

Pacific Cinematheque
Wed Sep 14, Fri 16 | 7pm
Sat 17, Sun 18 | 8pm

IMPORTED 35mm PRINT! Tarkovsky’s brilliantly dense, breathtakingly textured Stalker suggests a fantastical confluence of in-the-Gulag Solzhenitsyn and post-apocalyptic science fiction, and could be an elaborate, allegorical, otherworldly illustration of that old maxim, “Be careful what you wish for ...” Guardian critic Philip French likens it to “The Wizard of Oz adapted by a disciple of Dostoevsky and Kafka” and calls it “possibly Tarkovsky’s finest work.” In a devastated post-industrial police state, two men, a writer and a scientist, engage the special mystic skills of a Stalker to guide them through the forbidden Zone, a damp, fecund, overgrown wasteland where the rules of nature no longer apply. At the centre of the Zone, it is reputed, is the Room, a place where the deepest desires of one’s heart are said to come true. The amazing journey there will test the limits and adequacy of the way each of the three protagonists makes sense of the world: through art, through science, and through faith. Distinguished by a remarkable sense of tactility, composed of stunning sepia images, and offering layer upon layer of meaning, Stalker is a haunting and unforgettable work from a visionary director whose too-few films are quite unlike anything else in world cinema. “A masterpiece ... Not an easy film, but most certainly a great one” (Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader). B&W and colour, 35mm, in Russian with English subtitles. 163 mins.


"Tarkovsky conjures images like you've never seen before; and as a journey to the heart of darkness, it's a good deal more persuasive than Coppola's."
Time Out

"Visually unforgettable and possibly Tarkovsky's finest work."

"A vast prose-poem on celluloid whose forms and ideas were to be borrowed by moviemakers like Lynch and Spielberg."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

fog of war / re:union / sep 11 / videomatica

Watched FOG OF WAR last night, having just heard Sean Devine's new play RE:UNION Wednesday. Wow - the two are like companion pieces. Not that you have to see one to appreciate the other, not one bit. But experiencing the two in proximity like that is a remarkable thing, the way Sean's play explores the things in McNamara and Morrison that are glanced at but not expanded. It's not like Errol Morris raises questions that RE"UNION answers: Sean's play is just as full of mystery. But the two mysteries combine to make something much, much richer.

If you can see FOG OF WAR before RE:UNION opens (Oct 21) at Pacific Theatre, definitely do it. I can't help but wonder if Sean's play was triggered by the documentary, that the whole piece is his deeper exploration of some of its hints and feints and teases. Who was this Quaker man who sacrificed himself in protest of the Vietnam war? And he had a daughter who almost died with him? Why does McNamara come back to that - it sounds like it shook him. And what was behind that Medal of Freedom speech? And if his heart changed - as it seems clear it did, to see the man's raw, unexplained emotion - what did he think when the plane hit the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, and he saw a nation gearing up for another Vietnam?

And here's a bit of surprising good news: the DVD I watched last night I rented from VIDEOMATICA!!! We'd all believed their doors would be shut by August 31. But they're still very much in business - not permanently, but for a while. So that means there's still someplace to rent FOG OF WAR! Which is good news all round.

Monday, September 05, 2011


No dates and times yet - the full schedule hits the streets Sep 17 - but here's a Soul Food highlight gleaned from the Sneak Preview guide, available in print around town and as a download from the VIFF site.

Israel | Dir: Joseph Cedar

Winner, Best Screenplay, Cannes 2011

Academic egos clash to witty effect in director Joseph Cedar's (Oscar nominee for Beaufort) tale of two Talmudic scholars at each other's throats. That they are father and son adds a certain frisson to the plangent goings-on.
"A sprightly, shrewd and ingenious black comedy of middle age and disappointed ambition…" Guardian.
"Probably the Cannes Film Festival's biggest breakout, and the closest thing to a tour de force. It had the Festival's most unlikely log line by far (the uneasy relationship between father and son Talmudic scholars reaches crisis point due to a clerical mixup over prestigious lifetime achievement award), which hardly prepares you for the at times stylistically dazzling and dramatically gripping end result." Film Comment

The story of a great rivalry between a father and son, both eccentric professors in the Talmud department of Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The son has an addictive dependency on the embrace and accolades that the establishment provides, while his father is a stubborn purist with a fear and profound revulsion for what the establishment stands for, yet beneath his contempt lies a desperate thirst for some kind of recognition. The Israel Prize, Israel's most prestigious national award, is the jewel that brings these two to a final, bitter confrontation.

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs Sep 29 - Oct 14. Full program guides available Sep 17. Sneak Preview guide available now online.

viff | corpo celeste

Looks more like Church Bash than Soul Food, but you never know....

Italy/Switzerland/France | Dir: Alice Rohrwacher | View Trailer

Gritty, authentic, graced by superb naturalistic performances and often truly funny, Alice Rohrwacher's debut dramatic comedy focusses on 13-year-old Marta as she copes with her new life in Calabria after a decade in Switzerland. Catholic traditions are strong in her new village, but as Marta prepares to be confirmed, her growing sense of self causes her to question everything.

The Vancouver International Film Festival runs Sep 29 - Oct 14. Full program guides available Sep 17. Sneak Preview guide available now online.