Hello, Chlotrudis Members!
Gil and Amanda have chosen an outstanding selection of next week's Chlotrudis Monday Night at the Movies. Please take this opportunity to join them in screening Claire Denis' masterful 35 SHOTS OF RUM, at the Kendall Square Cinema, 7:25pm on Monday, November 2. This one's got lots of rave reviews on the Chlotrudis page, so check it out! Watch of an announcement about dinner before the movie at The Friendly Toast on Monday.
Set among a small circle of friends and neighbors in a Parisian suburb, 35 SHOTS OF RUM is a gloriously delicate and sublime new film from the great French filmmaker Claire Denis (BEAU TRAVAIL, CHOCOLAT). Lionel (Alex Descas), a metro conductor, lives with his daughter Josephine (Mati Diop), a beautiful university student, in a bustling apartment complex. They have been sharing the same space for many years and have grown accustomed to one another's company. Josephine has begun spending time with Noé (Grégoire Colin), a handsome young neighbor, while Lionel is being drawn into a romance with a longtime friend, taxi driver Gabrielle (Nicole Dogué). As their lives are pulled in different directions, father and daughter realize they must confront a painful aspect of their past in order to embrace what lies ahead. Sumptuously shot by frequent Denis collaborator Agnès Godard, this warm, funny and enchanting film casts a lovely spell unlike any other movie this year. Original music by Tindersticks (Denis's TROUBLE EVERY DAY and NENETTE AND BONI). (Fully subtitled)
Director: Claire Denis
Cast: Alex Descas, Mati Diop, Nicole Dogué, Grégoire Colin, Jean-Christophe Folly, Djédjé Apali, Eriq Ebouaney
Check out the trailer:
Has a year gone by already? The 21st Annual Boston Jewish Film Festival kicks off next week on Wednesday, November 4 with the Massachusetts premiere of ELI & BEN, 7pm at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. As usual, the BJFF serves up an incredible line-up of films playing at 9 different venues in Greater Boston. I'm also please to announce that Chlotrudis is a community partner once again, this time working with the BJFF on the film THE WOLBERG FAMILY.
THE WOLBERG FAMILY (LA FAMILLE WOLBERG)
Thursday, November 5, 7:45 pm, Institute of Contemporary Art
Thursday, November 12, 9:00 pm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
East Coast Premiere
Director: Axelle Ropert, France, 2009, 80 min., Narrative, 35mm
A highlight of this year’s Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, The Wolberg Family is actress and screenwriter Axelle Ropert’s first feature film. She labels it a “family melodrama.” Simon Wolberg is mayor of a French provincial town, crazy in love with his wife, a nosy father to his lovely young daughter and dorky son and a bit of an annoyance to his own father. Will his obsession with family cause him to unravel? When is it time to let go – or to leave? French with subtitles
I also want to mention a couple more films playing the festival that you should make note of. Playing on Saturday, November 7, 9:30pm at the Coolidge Corner Theatre is JAFFA, directed by Keren Yedaya, who was responsible for one of my favorite films of 2005, OR (MY TREASURE). JAFFA again stars the magnificent Dana Ivgy and the multiple Chlotrudis-nominee Ronit Elkabetz, this time in an Israeli/Palestinian Romeo & Juliet. I caught this film in Toronto, and it's pretty powerful stuff. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN is the latest film by André Téchiné (WILD REEDS; STRAYED; CHANGING TIMES) who returns with a family drama starring Catherine Deneuve and Emilie Duquenne. Ronit Elkabetz is also featured in this film that's sure to be a thought-provoking work. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN plays Sunday, November 8 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, and Thursday, November 12 at the Kendall Square Cinema. Finally, you should check out the animated Australia film MARY AND MAX, featuring the voices of Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's a comical claymation feature film that spans 20 years and 2 continents. Look for MARY AND MAX on Thursday, November 12 at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. It's a great line-up... do yourself a favor and check it out!
See you at the Movies!
Playing this week, October 30 - November 5, 2009.
Brattle Theatre, Cambridge
Special Engagement! Theatrical Premiere!
Trick R Treat (Fri. & Sat.)
Special Family Event! Brattle Trick or Treat!
It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (Sat.)
Evil Dead 2 (Sat.)
Special Live Music Event! World Music/CRASHarts Presents!
The Hidden Cameras w/ Gentleman Reg! (Sun.)
Special Engagement! Area Premiere!
American Casino (Wed. & Thu.)
Classic TV on the Big Screen! 50th Anniversary!
The Twilight Zone (Wed. & Thu.)
Coolidge Corner Theatre, Brookline
A Serious Man
The Yes Men Fix the World
The Beaches of Agnes
No Impact Man
The Darkness Within (Thu.)
The Thing (Fri.)
9th Annual Halloween Marathon: The Blob, Night of the Creeps and four others! (Sat.)
Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Sat.)
Europe's Grand Operas!
Maria Stuarda (Sun.)
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Film Series
Hear and Now (Tue.)
Boston Jewish Film Festival
Opening Night Film: Eli & Ben (Wed.)
Hello, Goodbye (Thu.)
He's My Girl (Thu.)
Somerville Theatre, Somerville
Harvard Film Archive, Cambridge
Debonair: The Films of Stanley Donen
Movie Movie (Fri.)
Damn Yankees (Sat.)
John Marshall’s Explorations in Ethnography
Selection of short films of the !Kung Bushmen - Introduction by Cynthia Close, Documentary Educational Resources (Sun.)
Selection of Short Films from the Pittsburg Police - Introduction by Brittany Gravely, Documentary Educational Resources (Mon.)
Embassy Cinema, Waltham
The Damned United
Capitalism: A Love Story
More than a Game
Loew's Harvard Square, Cambridge
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
American Movie (Fri. & Sat.)
Hagstone Demon (Fri. - Sun.)
Jon Springer Shorts (Sat.)
Boston Palestine Film Festival
Laila's Birthday (Sun.)
Women in Film
She is the Matador (Thu.)
Boston Jewish Film Festival
Room and a Half (Thu.)
The Newburyport Screening Room, Newburyport
Michael R. Colford
Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film, President
TIFF 2009 was slightly smaller than it has been in past years but there were still 335 films to choose from, an absolutely impossible task. This year seemed generally higher in quality than past years but that could be simply the luck of the draw. At the end of the festival I had four clearcut 5 cat favorites:
DOGTOOTH - this Greek film makes one painfully aware that many interesting films rarely see the light of day in English speaking countries. This dark comedy is the story of parents who have succeeded in raising three children in a fortresslike compound. The three teenagers, a boy and two girls, have never seen another person other than their parents. When the father hires a sex worker to satisfy the biological urges of the son, things begin to unravel.
THE GOOD HEART - reunites Brian Cox and Paul Dano, this time in a black comedy from Iceland directed by Dagur Kári. No, Cox and Dano do not speak Icelandic as the film is in English and is set in New York City. Cox, a curmudgeonly bar owner, rescues homeless man (Dano) after the two end up as roommates in hospital. Each changes the other profoundly and things go swimmingly until a woman (Isild Le Besco) enters the picture.
LES HERBES FOLLES - this French absurdist comedy is the latest from master Alain Resnais (LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, PRIVATE FEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES). A stolen handbag leads a middle aged man into an adulterous affair with an emotionally unstable avaitrix. I totally agree with a critic who said the cinematic agility of this film seems more likely the work of a 27 year old than an 87 year old. The film won the Palme d'Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.
VISION - veteran director Margarethe von Trotta succeeds in making the 12th century fascinating,with her tale of nun Hildegard von Bingen: the mother of herbal medicine; a composer,poet and the person most responsible for resuscitating dramatic arts which had laid dormant for one thousand years since the time of the ancient Greeks. Hildegard wrote liturgical musicals which the nuns in her convent performed and her music is very much alive today. Barbara Sukova is magnificent as the nun who had visions, a fatal attraction to one of the nuns in her order and a wily tactical ability to manipulate the chauvinistic leaders of the Catholic Church who held great power over the people. She even convinced the Archbishop and Pope that science and religion were compatible.
Other excellent films include: AN EDUCATION, LESLIE MY NAME IS EVIL, CHLOE, J'AI TUÉ MA MÈRE, POLICE ADJECTIVE, LIKE YOU KNOW IT ALL, CAIRO TIME, I AM LOVE and WHITE MATERIAL.
I scheduled less films than usual this year to make time for some of Toronto’s more notable attractions (CN Tower, Casa Loma, and the Bata Shoe Museum, among others), but I did manage to see ten of the former.
In a London suburb in 1962, Jenny, (Carey Mulligan) a teenager preparing to apply to Oxford University meets and falls in love with a worldly, seductive man (Peter Sarsgaard) more than twice her age. With director Lone Scherfig (ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS), an adapted screenplay from novelist Nick Hornby (HIGH FIDELITY) and an excellent cast including Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams and a tart cameo from Emma Thompson, it’s no surprise that this film received a glowing reception at Sundance earlier this year. Although a little clichéd at times (especially when it cues the Serious Music) and verging-on-implausible at others (Jenny’s parents are wildly inconsistent in their behavior), this is still an enjoyable, bittersweet coming of age story and a likely indie hit to boot. Most exciting is how it recreates and examines a particular place and time—Britain just before the Beatles ushered in the swinging Sixties. Expect Mulligan’s whip-smart Jenny to be this year’s buzzed-about breakthrough performance. 4 cats
The latest from Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-Liang (WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?) plays like a greatest hits album. It’s brimming with all of his favorite obsessions: the prevalence of water (culminating in his most hilarious Buster Keaton homage to date), manipulation of time and space, delightfully absurd musical numbers and preferred actor Lee Kang-sheng in the lead. However, he also includes a few worthy new tracks to the playlist: most of the film is set in France, with such celebrated actors as Jean-Pierre Leaud, Fanny Ardant and Jeanne Moreau playing more or less versions of themselves (and don't miss Mathieu Almaric's cameo); additionally, the plot hinges on the making of a film within this one, encouraging viewers to question what’s real or a façade. Stunningly gorgeous (the mirror-filled forest sequences will take your breath away) but challenging, it may prove too obtuse for some viewers, but it was my favorite film of the festival. After seeing it, you will never look at crushed tomatoes the same way again. 5 cats
The arrival of an aristocratic Spaniard student upsets the delicate hierarchy of an elite, remote, all-female 1930s British boarding school. Eva Green stars as a flamboyant, idealistic, controlling teacher. A slightly overcooked directorial debut from Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley), all this has to recommend it is lovely cinematography (packed with foreboding, nighttime lake shots) and the continuously shifting alliances among the characters in the film’s first two acts. A genuinely shocking twist then arrives, but it doesn’t prevent CRACKS from lapsing into a lesser version of HEAVENLY CREATURES; nor does it dissuade Green from ravenously chewing up the scenery. At least it was the only truly mediocre film I saw at TIFF this year. 2.5 cats
Director Andrea Arnold’s follow-up to RED ROAD is decidedly less ambitious but no less captivating, suggesting she could prove a female heir to Mike Leigh and his working class, actor-focused domestic dramas. Its tough teenage protagonist, Mia (impressive newcomer Katie Jarvis) uses her love of hip-hop dancing as a means of escape from her rough housing project home and also her young, immature, uninvolved mother and exceptionally foul-mouthed little sister. Tension mounts as Mia and her mother’s charming boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender) develop a mutual attraction. Arnold redeems this not entirely original plot with strong performances, a poetic pace and an inspired, dense visual composition (shot in TV-like 1.33 aspect ratio, which gives the film its immediacy). The penultimate scene is exquisite in its simplicity, resonating with movements rather than words. 4.5 cats
YEAR OF THE CARNIVORE
This comedy from Canadian media personality Sook-Yin Lee (best known in the States as the lead actress in SHORTBUS) lays bare its quirkiness from the opening shot of a clucking chicken alarm clock. Sammy (Cristen Milioti), a tomboyish grocery store detective in charge of exposing shoplifters is attracted to Eugene (Mark Rendall), a musician who busks in front of the florist next door. When inexperienced Sammy finds herself sexually incompatible with Eugene, she aims for carnal fluency with a variety of partners. If this all sounds insufferably precious, it’s not. Lee proves herself an adept writer/director, while Milioti is a real find, resembling a more likable, approachable Sarah Silverman. It’s also a treat to see Canadian comedic legends Kevin MacDonald and Sheila McCarthy show up as Sammy’s parents. Although not as novel, soulful or graphic as SHORTBUS, this is a better acted and at times, much funnier film. 4 cats
SHE, A CHINESE
Gau Xiaolu’s film (a Golden Leopard winner at the Locarno International Film Festival) defies categorization. Markedly dissimilar from most contemporary Chinese cinema, it alternates between stylistic allusions to the French New Wave and a naturalistic, documentary like feel, with passages that conjure up states of mind rather than narrative momentum. It charts the journey of Mei (Huang Lu), a young provincial woman who moves to a large Chinese city and eventually ends up in London. She meets a series of men, all of whom add varying sorts of conflict into her life. Presented as a series of titled chapters, the film’s pace fluctuates, often deliberately jumping past a major plot point while occasionally stretching out time to an impressionistic degree. An intellectual and at times inscrutable work, but also an original, lyrical character study with a surging and wonderfully loud rock and roll soundtrack. 4 cats
The terrific Danish actress Paprika Steen (THE CELEBRATION) is absolutely harrowing and brilliant as Thea, an alcoholic actress in this intense drama from director Martin Pieter Zandvliet. Although John Cassavetes already covered this territory decades ago in his films which starred his wife, Gena Rowlands (particularly OPENING NIGHT), Steen is so riveting and her character’s persona so all encompassing that whether the story is second hand soon seems irrelevant. As the film follows Thea’s attempts at sobriety, it folds in scenes of her onstage (and backstage as well) as raucous, boozy Martha in a production of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. Martha and Thea’s similarities are obvious, but Steen’s grasp on both roles lends depth to the connection. Throughout, Thea emerges as an intriguing (if deeply troubled) blend of personality tics, constantly speaking her mind only to immediately rescind. At one point, she nonchalantly blurts out, “I hate ordinary people,” and then quickly apologizes; it’s to Steen’s credit that you could spend an hour debating whether Thea is sincere or just merely defensive. 4.5 cats
For Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, this is certainly not an obvious follow-up to masterful familial drama STILL WALKING. After all, the main character here is an inflatable sex toy that one morning magically comes to life. It sounds incredibly silly on paper (and I dread any potential American remake), but Kore-eda is a serious filmmaker, and this foray into pure fantasy is affectionate and rather poignant. A lot of the credit goes to Korean actress Doona Bae (THE HOST), who is perfectly cast as the titular character. Cute as a button in her tentative movements and little maid’s uniform, she plays the role as an innocent discovering a strange new world, learning by mimicking everything around her. Kore-eda stretches the premise by introducing additional characters to symbolize the philosophical implications of what it’s like to be an air doll: isolated and expected to serve a function. As a result, for me, the film loses some of its mojo along the way; I would have almost preferred two hours of Bae just bouncing around Tokyo—in those moments, AIR DOLL is as light and graceful as a feather but compelling enough to hold your attention. 4 cats
Sometimes, an actor’s presence alone convinces me to check out a film and Patricia Clarkson is the main reason to see this one. She plays Juliette, an American magazine editor who arrives in Egypt hoping to meet up with her husband, a Canadian diplomat. Unfortunately, he’s held up in the Gaza Strip due to an escalating conflict, leaving her to wonder the streets by herself, where she’s seen as an oddity by the country’s Muslim men (and women). Tareq, a local man and an old friend of her husband reaches out to her, and they find themselves attracted to each other. Although not a towering performance by any means, Clarkson is charming and provides a good surrogate for the audience. To her credit, director Ruba Nedda is not afraid to build momentum with subtlety and silence, and the growing affection between Juliette and Tareq exudes class and restraint—perhaps almost too much, as CAIRO TIME is a perfectly affable film that could benefit from a bit more tension. 3.5 cats
LESLIE, MY NAME IS EVIL The Manson Family trial re-imagined as a farce? That’s the gist of Reg Harkema’s follow-up to his anarchic comedy MONKEY WARFARE. Here, he gives us the twin tales of Leslie, a runaway who falls under the wild influence of Charles Manson, and Perry, a young, sheltered chemist who becomes obsessed with her while serving on the jury for her trial. At the premiere, Harkema introduced the film as “anti-realist” and he wasn’t kidding: LESLIE plays like the love child of late John Waters and Charles Busch (minus the drag), gleefully sending up late-1960s America. While often crude and always over the top (don’t miss the ultra-groovy virgin sacrifice sequence!), the film is also a hoot in how it comically inverts a tragedy without managing to entirely trivialize it. Mostly avoiding garishness and almost approaching wit, Harkema’s palette is nonetheless an acquired taste, and this one could use more of the previous film’s discipline. Still, it’s hard for me to hate on a farce that’s actually quite sincere in how it secretly holds up a funhouse mirror to the real, modern day world. 4.5 cats
Sunday continued the trend of bright sunshine and balmy weather. After catching a program of short films in the late morning, Scot and I met Bruce to walk west on Queen St. to the Robert Bulger Gallery to attend the Opening Reception for Don McKellar’s art installation, IMAGINARY LOVERS. As we strolled down Queen Street, we serendipitously ran into Gil and Amanda who had arrived the evening before and invited them to come along. After a lengthy and surprisingly warm walk, we arrived at the Gallery (formerly Atom Egoyan’s Camera) and joined the party. Tracy introduced us to her good friend Caroline Gillis, with whom she has worked on stage (most notably the Off Broadway run of Daniel MacIvor’s play, ‘A Beautiful View’). Caroline would be recognizable to fans of ‘Twitch City,’ ‘Slings & Arrows,’ or MONKEY WARFARE. Don’s installation was comprised of a series of short films shot on cell phone featuring women all over the world sending message telling their boyfriends they missed them. Some Chlotrudis members might remember a pair of Don’t films, PHONE CALL FROM AN IMAGINARY GIRLFRIEND: INSTANBUL and PHONE CALL FROM AN IMAGINARY GIRLFRIEND: ANKARRA bookending one of our short film festivals. After complete the two initial films, Don continued to make these shorts during his travels, including stops in Wellington, New Zealand, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Regina and Montreal. The films are strangely touching and haunting, and utilize Don’s trademark humor to good effect. They are visually arresting, despite the limitations of shooting on cell phone. It was great to be able to see them as part of this installation.
The other non-film highlight of the day was my chance to finally meet the delightful Paprika Steen (who as you may recall was scheduled, but unable to attend our Chlotrudis Awards Ceremony earlier this year). I introduced myself after the screening, and she said she’d recognized me in the audience. (She gives a great Q&A!) We spoke for a few moments before she was rushed off, and she invited us to the APPLAUS party (which, if you can believe it, we were too exhausted to attend!) My hope is we are able to bring Paprika to Boston for Chlotrudis sometime in the future. She would be a terrific guest. Congratulations on your outstanding performance Paprika!
And now, on to the reviews!
Short Cuts Canada Programme 2
75 EL CAMINO
director: Sami Khan
director: Sonya Di Rienzo
OUT IN THAT DEEP BLUE SEA
director: Kazik Radwanski (pictured right with Guy Maddin)
director: Guy Maddin
director: Ryan Mullins
director: Richard Kerr
SNOW HIDES THE SHADE OF FIG TREES
director: Samer Najari
Contrary to what you might think, I didn’t elect to see this program of short films because the new Guy Maddin short was featured (although that certainly was an added bonus). I really wanted to see the third film by Kazik Radwanski, Chlotrudis Short Film Festival alum. His debut short film, ASSAULT was a Chlotrudis selection in 2008. I’m always a little wary of the short film programs, because there are usually a couple of gems, and a couple of bombs, with some mediocrity filling out the rest. I am pleased to report that this year’s batch was the best selection of short films that I have seen in Toronto! Sami Khan’s 75 EL CAMINO is a moving film about getting older and the nostalgia of an old car and what it represents. In THE TRANSLATOR, Sonya De Rienzo subtitles the thoughts of various people on a subway ride, including a young couple who find themselves drifting apart. Kazik Radwanski completes his trilogy begun by ASSAULT and followed by PRINCESS MARGARET BLVD. with OUT IN THAT DEEP BLUE SEA, a poignant examination of middle age and the conflict between doing what you need to do and what you want to do. Guy Maddin is wacky and I just love him. In NIGHT MAYOR Guy invents an imaginative history for a real life friend, weaving humor, social commentary and Canadian history into a seamless fantasia. VOLTA by Ryan Mullins, explores the disappearance of the movie theatre, and what that means for a social life in this documentary about a little village in Africa. Richard Kerr’s DE MOUVEMENT is a visual collage of images plucked from historic trailers. The program ended powerfully with Samer Najari’s fantastic portrait of the immigrant experience in the snowy streets of Montreal in the film SNOW HIDES THE SHADE OF FIG TREES.
In a tour de force performance, Danish actress, and Chlotrudis honoree Paprika Steen unleashes a powerful and fiery performance as an actress recovering from alcoholism. Thea’s addiction led to her divorce and loss of custody of her two young sons. Now on the road to recovery, Thea takes hesitant steps toward being a part of her children’s lives again. Her ex-husband is trying to help, but Thea’s impatience causes her to lash out in frustration, needing things to move more quickly because as she notes, she doesn’t drink anymore. As she feels her life spinning increasingly more out of control, she relies heavily on her caustic wit and biting intelligence. She lashes out in one moment, and then submits to logic and calm the next. It’s exhausting to watch, giving the viewer an idea of what it must be like to live it. The narrative is intercut with scenes of Thea playing Martha in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ on stage – scenes of Paprika actually performing the role in Denmark. The juxtaposition allows for insight into Thea’s character, and provides us with a nice twist at the film’s end.
While first time solo director Martin Pieter Zandvliet does a good job keeping things tightly focused on Thea, shooting her in unflattering lighting and in tight close-up as an unforgiving witness, he and his collaborator Anders Frithiof August fare less well with the screenplay, which doesn’t allow for much of a dramatic arc. That said, this film is all about Paprika Steen and her unflinching, exhilarating performance. Awarded the best actress award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, this is a sure contender for a Chlotrudis award if it gets released in the U.S. While I would give Paprika’s performance 5 cats, the film as a whole gets 3 ½ cats.
director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
cast: Du-na Bae; Arata; Itsuji Itao
One day an inflatable air doll, a substitute for sexual pleasure, wakes up to find she has a heart. She is self-animated, self-aware, and filled with wonder as she discovers the world around her. On a meandering sojourn around the neighborhood she wanders into a video rental store and gets herself a job, carefully concealing the fact that she, in fact, made of plastic and filled with air. She returns home each night before her owner arrives from work, but soon grows tired of the sexual acts he performs with her and becomes more fascinated by the parade of humanity that she encounters each day; most particularly the young man with whom she works at the video store. Of course, as we all know, along with wonder and delight, life brings sadness, pain and heartbreak. After she accidentally tears a hole in her arm and her true nature is revealed to her co-worker, he hastily tapes her up and re-inflates her with his own breath. It is at this point that she truly learns what it means to be human, as she falls in love with her benefactor. Her further adventures lead her to an elderly man in the park on a respirator, a woman struggling against aging, a little girl and her harried father, and the man who created her.
Kore-eda is a master filmmaker, weaving elements of loneliness and alienation into this charming story about the creation of a new life. In parallel to the air doll’s inflatable nature, we see a series of humans who are empty inside, desperately seeking something to fill the void in their hearts. Duna Bae is magnificent as the innocent experiencing life for the first time. Her large eyes grow wider with each miraculous sight she sees, and she capably conveys the joy, confusion and pain of living with each move she makes. Despite the wacky and somewhat salacious premise, Kore-eda is such a life-affirming personality that you know you’re in for something special. 5 cats.
Hey everyone - check out the trailer from APPLAUSE, a new Danish drama starring the fabulous Paprika Steen. This year's Chlotrudis honoree won the Best Actress Award at the recent Karlovy Vary Film Festival earlier this year. I'm very excited that APPLAUSE is screening in a few weeks at the Toronto International Film Festival, and hope to catch it there, AND meet that talented and delightful actor, Paprika Steen!
The past week saw a whole passel of Gala and Special Presentation screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival, including new films from the Coen Brothers, Fatih Akin, last year's Best Movie Chltorudis winner's director, Werner Herzog, and Drew Barrymore's directorial debut starring Ellen Page.
The Damned United Tom Hooper, United Kingdom
North American Premiere
Set in 1960's and 1970's England, this is the confrontational and darkly humorous story of Brian Clough's doomed 44 day tenure as manager of the reigning champions of English football Leeds United. Previously managed by his bitter rival Don Revie, and on the back of their most successful period ever as a football club, Leeds was perceived by many to represent a new aggressive and cynical style of football. Taking the Leeds job without his trusted lieutenant, Peter Taylor, by his side, Clough encounters a changing-room full of players who - in his mind - were still Don's boys. An examination of Clough's belligerence and brilliance, The Damned United stars Michael Sheen, is written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) and directed by Tom Hooper (John Adams, Longford).
Dil Bole Hadippa Anurag Singh, India
In a village where girls don't play cricket, Veera (Rani Mukherjee) has to put on a turban and beard and become a man to fulfill her dreams. Her brilliance on the field earns her a place in Rohan's (Shahid Kapoor) team and Veera Kaur becomes Veer Pratap Singh. And then begins a roller-coaster journey of Veera, Rohan and Veer filled with music, romance and comedy through Punjab and beyond.
Dorian Gray Oliver Parker, United Kingdom
In Victorian London, the handsome Dorian Gray (Ben Barnes) is swept into a social whirlwind by the charismatic and cunning Lord Wotton (Colin Firth). Immersed in the hedonistic pleasures of the city, Dorian vows he would give anything to keep his youth and beauty - even his soul. Based on the Oscar Wilde novel, Dorian Gray examines the destructive power of beauty, the blind pursuit of pleasure and the darkness that can result from both.
Micmacs Jean-Pierre Jeunet, France
Is it better to live with a bullet lodged in your brain, even if it means you might drop dead any time or would you rather have the bullet taken out and live the rest of your life as a vegetable? Are zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes? Is scrap metal worth more than landmines? Can you get drunk from eating waffles? Can a woman fit inside a refrigerator? What is the human cannonball world record? Micmacs, a fantastical comedy from the world class director of Amélie and Delicatessen, answers these questions and way more.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee Rebecca Miller, USA
North American Premiere
From all outward appearances, Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn) leads a charmed existence. An anchor of feminine serenity, she is the devoted wife of an accomplished publisher (Alan Arkin) 30 years her senior, the proud mother of two grown children, a trusted friend and confidant. But as Pippa dutifully follows her husband to a new life in a staid Connecticut retirement community, her idyllic world and the persona she has built over the course of her marriage will be put to the ultimate test. Adapted from writer-director Rebecca Miller's novel of the same name, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee presents the complex portrait of the many lives behind a single name.
What's Your Raashee? Ashutosh Gowariker, India
What's Your Raashee? is a romantic comedy about a young man who has always wanted to marry for love. When he suddenly is told that he must find his dream girl within ten days in order to save his family from utter ruin, he discovers that finding her is even hard when it has to happen in a hurry. The film is based on the Gujarati novel, Kimball Ravenswood, by Madhu Rye and stars Harman Baweja and Priyanka Chopra.
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans Werner Herzog, USA
North American Premiere
Terence McDonagh (Nicolas Cage), a homicide detective with the New Orleans Police Department, is promoted to Lieutenant after he saves a prisoner from drowning in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. However, during his heroic act, he severely injures his back and is put on prescription pain medication. A year later, Terence - struggling with his addictions to sex, Vicodin and cocaine - finds himself in the battle to bring down drug dealer Big Fate, who is suspected of massacring an entire family of African immigrants.
Capitalism: A Love Story Michael Moore, USA
North American Premiere
On the 20-year anniversary of his groundbreaking masterpiece Roger & Me, Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story comes home to the issue he's been examining throughout his career: the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans (and by default, the rest of the world). But this time the culprit is much bigger than General Motors, and the crime scene far wider than Flint, Michigan. From Middle America, to the halls of power in Washington, to the global financial epicenter in Manhattan, Michael Moore will once again take film-goers into uncharted territory.
The Good Heart Dagur Kári, Iceland
A homeless boy Lucas (Paul Dano), meets Jacques (Brian Cox), a grumpy bar-owner, whose unhealthy lifestyle has brought him five heart attacks. Jacques takes Lucas under his wing with the intention of having him continue his legacy. Everything is going according to plan until a drunken stewardess named April enters the bar.
Harry Brown Daniel Barber, United Kingdom
Harry Brown is a provocative and thought-provoking modern urban western featuring a tour-de-force lead performance from two-time Academy Award®-winner Michael Caine. Harry Brown has lived to see his community descend into crime and violence, and ruled over by a gang of teenage thugs. After his best friend is brutally murdered and the gang leader responsible walks free, Harry reaches a breaking point and revenge becomes his only aim.
The Hole Joe Dante, USA
North American Premiere
After moving into a new town, brothers Dane and Lucas and their neighbour Julie discover a bottomless hole in their basement that brings their nightmares to life. With shadows lurking around every corner, they must face their darkest fears in order to put an end to the mystery of the hole.
Perrier's Bounty Ian Fitzgibbon, Ireland/United Kingdom
When Michael's (Cillian Murphy) debt to Dublin kingpin Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson) is called in and one of Perrier's goons accidentally ends up dead, Michael escapes to the mountains with his father Jim (Jim Broadbent) and best friend, Brenda. Flat broke, on the run and with only 24 hours to pay up, Michael is forced to confront his true feelings for Brenda and make amends with his father. However, with Perrier and his gang in hot pursuit, time is running out for Michael and only fate, a bit of luck and possibly a gang of savage dogs will save him, in this cracking gangster comedy.
A Serious Man Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, USA
Imaginatively exploring questions of faith, familial responsibility, delinquent behaviour, dental phenomena, academia, mortality and Judaism - and intersections thereof - A Serious Man is the new film from Academy Award®-winning writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen.
Soul Kitchen Fatih Akin, Germany
North American Premiere
From the director of HEAD-ON comes the story of a young restaurant owner Zinos is down on his luck. His girlfriend Nadine has moved to Shanghai, his Soul Kitchen customers are boycotting the new gourmet chef, and he's having back trouble. Things start looking up when the hip crowd embraces his revamped culinary concept, but that doesn't mend Zinos' broken heart. He decides to fly to China for Nadine, leaving the restaurant in the hands of his unreliable ex-con brother Illias.
Triage Danis Tanovic, Ireland/Spain
Mark (Colin Farrell), a war photographer, returns home from Kurdistan without his friend and colleague David (Jamie Sives). As time goes on, it becomes clear that Mark holds the key to the truth of David's disappearance.
Up in the Air Jason Reitman, USA
From Jason Reitman, the Oscar®-nominated director of JUNO, comes a comedy starring George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizing expert whose cherished life on the road is threatened just as he is on the cusp of reaching ten million frequent flyer miles and just after he's met the frequent-traveller woman of his dreams.
Whip It Drew Barrymore, USA
Drew Barrymore's directorial debut stars Ellen Page (Juno) as Bliss, a rebellious Texas teen who throws in her small-town beauty pageant crown for the rowdy world of roller-derby. Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, Pollock) plays Bliss's disapproving mother, while Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig (Saturday Night Live) and Juliette Lewis (Old School) play roller-derby stars. Whip It also stars Eve, Jimmy Fallon, Daniel Stern, Alia Shawkat, Ari Graynor, Andrew Wilson, Zoe Bell and singer-songwriter Landon Pigg.
Women Without Men Shirin Neshat, Germany/France/Austria
North American Premiere
Shirin Neshat's first feature-length film is based on a magic-realist novel written by Iranian author Sharnush Parsipur. The narrative interweaves the lives of four Iranian women during the summer of 1953, a pivotal moment in Iranian history when an American led coup d'état brought down the democratically elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh and reinstalled the Shah to power. The film chronicles each woman's quest for change and their mysterious encounter in a magical orchard.
Bolstered by what Variety calls a "fearless, tour-de-force performance" Paprika Steen's has taken the Best Actress Award at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for her new film APPLAUSE. The role was written especially for Paprika, who plays an arrogant aging diva struggling with addiction so she can regain custody of her two sons.
The film is set for limited release in Denmark at the end of September. I'm hoping that the film plays Toronto and that I might actually get to meet Paprika in person at last. This is one we'll definitely keep an eye out for!
Check out this great scene from the film:
Just spent my first full day in Toronto after arriving in time to see only one film last night. Tickets seem harder to get this year and we REALLY miss Michael and Scot's morning trek to the box office which made things ever so easy for the rest of us. A computer glitch caused many people to get tickets for overlapping times and I talked to many who were frantically trying to reschedule their films in wholesale fashion. Sadly the Cumberland is gone. Work was supposed to have begun turning the wonderful art house into luxury condos but I hear some glitch has stopped all that, alas too late to save the cinema. The Varsity is almost exclusively used now for press/industry screenings. This year there is a new venue - AMC - at Dundas and Yonge, diagonally across from the northern most part of the Eaton Centre. The College Park Box Office has been moved there. All lines for the Festival Box Office and films are formed outside which is messy and uncomfortable considering AMC is on the third floor and the Box Office is on the second.
Thursday night I began with a less than so-so Italian film THE REST OF THE NIGHT (2.5 cats) which belongs on TV, not in a major film festival. The acting was decent but the film was decidedly uncinematic. Furthermore it was filmed in winter giving it a bleak feeling that I suspect was unintentional. Friday started off with a bang. Brent Hamer's O'HORTEN (5 cats) was over-the-top fabulous. It is a bittersweet tale of a man coming to grips with his retirement and his past concurrently. O'HORTEN is a wonderful companion piece to his earlier KITCHEN STORIES. Hamer is definitely maturing as an artist. Later today I saw PANDORA'S BOX (4 cats) a Turkish film about three adult children who are forced to face their personal demons when their aged mother disappears, a victim of Alzheimer's. The mother is played beautifully by French actress Tsilla Chelton who some may remember in the delicious title role of TATIE DANIELLE. Finally I saw FEAR ME NOT a film from Danish director Kristian Levring. FEAR ME NOT (3.5 cats) is a pharmaceutical horror story inspired by none other than the venerable Jean Renoir's version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Ulrich Thomsen (FESTEN, ADAM'S APPLES) is a knock-out as the average man who innocently signs up for testing a new drug. The strong supporting cast includes the wonderful duo of Paprika Steen and Lars Brygmann. So far on Saturday I have seen SERBIS (4.5 cats) from the Philippine director Brillante Mendoza and a documentary on Senegalese Grammy-winning musician Youssou Ndour, YOUSSOU NDOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE (4.5 Cats).
Bruce Kingsley (posted by M Colford)
Over on the Spout Blog, Karina Longworth covers Snip Snip: Are Cutbacks in Film Distribution and Criticism Affecting Quality Filmmaking?, a panel at the Telluride Film Festival featuring Annette Insdorf (Columbia University), Michael Barker (Sony Classics), Danny Boyle (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE), Scott Foundas (LA Weekly), Jonathan Sehring (IFC Films), Paul Schrader (ADAM RESURRECTED) and Anne Thompson (Variety). What do you think?
Despite the late nights, I got up early on Friday morning in order to make it to my first (and ultimately only) "Breakfast with..." PIFF has this great series of breakfasts which feature different categories of filmmakers discussing their craft over a fine meal in a local restaurant. Friday morning's breakfast featured documentary filmmakers and a lovely breakfast as Bayside Betsy's. On the panel were Randy Barbato, director of THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE and INSIDE DEEP THROAT who was attending the festival with WHEN I KNEW; Lucia Small, director of MY FATHER, THE GENIUS, who was screening THE AXE IN THE ATTIC this year, and John Walter, director of HOW TO DRAW A BUNNY, this year attending with his film THEATER OF WAR. Moderating the panel was Boston Phoenix film critic Gerry Peary. The panelists talked about their very different documentary styles, the profitability of the documentary today, and how their careers evolved. (at right: Peary, Small, Barbato, Walker).
This Danish science fiction/comedy/suspense film hits all the right notes, especially with the casting of the divine Paprika Steen in the title role. What's a willful and rowdy class of students to do when they discover that the substitute teacher is an alien from outer space? They try to do the right thing and go to their parents, but Ulla is no dummy and she's already spoken to them about their kids' overactive imaginations.
The success or failure of THE SUBSTITUTE relies completely on Steen's performance, and the actress/director's outstanding performance doesn't miss a note. She alternates between cruetly and kindness with her students, she is sweet then monstrous wihotut missing a beat. She is all kinds of fun, and this performance, added to her many others has catapulted her into the upper echelon of my favorite actresses. I wonder if I can get her to come to Chlotrudis next year? This one's tons of fun, and I hope you get a chance to see it. 4 cats.
Based on the short film FAIRIES (which was entered into the Chlotrudis Short Film Festival a few years ago) WERE THE WORLD MINE focuses on Timothy a young gay high school student who, after winning the role of Puck in the drama classes' production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," develops a potion to make people fall in love with the first person they see. It sure sounds fun and also like a dream come true for this put upon student in an all-boys' private school. Not only must he endure the taunts and jeers of his classmates and phys. ed. teacher, the conservative little town he lives in is pretty darn homophobic as well, as his single-mother knows and endures herself.
I'm getting tired of films where the protagonist continues to make bad choices that hurt others until they finally learn the lesson of the film. I'm also really tired of seeing films with endless beautiful people. Ironically I was chatting with a young film student at the festival, and he only likes films with beautiful people in it (we were talking about AMERICAN TEEN) so perhas it's a generational thing... and WERE THE WORLD MINE is about high school kids, so maybe that audience needs everyone to be beautiful. Wendy Robie (one-eyed Nadine from David Lynch's "Twin Peaks") is pretty awesome as the Titania-like drama teacher, Ms. Tebbt, and the young men are good singers for the most part... oh did I mention that it's a musical? I usually love a good musical, and the actors are certainly talented, but unfortunately this one just didn't work for me. 2 cats
After the day's films we headed over to the Schoolhouse for the Filmmaker reception. This is one of our favorite parties and I did have the honor of being rubbed against by Gael Garcia Bernal as he left with his fiancee while we arrived. Also saw the ubiquitous John Waters (and got to thank him for his help with the Q&A at last year's AMERICAN CRIME screening) Gregg Araki, Tom Kalin and Christine Vachon. We also hung out with WERE THE WORLD MINE director Tom Gustafson and co-screenwriter Cory James Krueckeberg. Very nice guys and fun to hang out with at a party. I'm sorry I didn't enjoy their movie more.