All films at the Avalon Mall Cinemas - 2:00 pm showtime
Prices were: Full season pass: $55.00/50.00 students and seniors; 6-film pass: $30.00/25.00 students and seniors; Singles: $6:00/5.50 students and seniors.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
(FR/GER 1964) 92 mins. English subtitles.
Directed by Jacques Demy.
With Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo, Anne Vernon, Ellen Farner, Marc Michel, Mereille Perry, Jean Champion.
The perfect opportunity to keep that New Year's resolution to pay more attention to your French, especially your musical French. This is the sing-along movie that launched a million Chanel ads for Catherine Deneuve, the symbol of France Herself, arguably the most glamorous woman ever to face us from the screen. This is also the classic debut performance in which Deneuve showed the world she could transform the most mundane tale into a delightful form of Gallic entertainment. Rest assured that this current re-issue of Les parapluies de Cherbourg is in glorious 35 mm colour, the reprint itself an homage to one of the most popular movies ever made. She would later go on to play fated seductresses or irresistible women of the suburbs, but here Deneuve acted her premier role as a humble shopgirl in love with an Esso mechanic who leaves her pregnant and barefoot and harassed by a nervous mother. The moral of the film might be that marrying the wrong person gets you a lifetime of unhappiness, but the lush imagery and the acrobatic cinematography of this sixties hymn to life and love transcend the banalities of the obvious.
(US 1996) 88 mins.
Directed by Michael Corrente.
With Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Franz, Sean Nelson.
Based on David Mamet's screenplay, American Buffalo is another fine adaptation of the best in American theatre. A perfect vehicle for the Dustin Hoffman who defined sleazy pitifulness as the Midnight Cowboy's companion Ratso, the play offers a variation on that singularly bravado performance. A transparently opportunistic leader of a trio of ambitious burglars, Hoffman as Teach pushes the other two guys around like spaghetti strings on his shoes. Dennis Franz, who is so brilliant as NYPD's squarely complex Sipowicz, here plays junk-shop dealer Donny, a generally well-meaning guy who accidentally undersells a valuable buffalo-head nickel. Enlisting the help of a younger man (Nelson as Bobby) to help him steal it back, Donny ends up being manipulated by the calculating Teach. The result is a series of man-testing manoeuvres, typical of Mamet's dark inquiries into the nature of male behaviour. The dialogue is rapid and witty and full of street-talk that will curl your brain cells, while the seamless direction of such outstanding performances ensures that you'll lose yourself in one of the most mesmerizing films in this series.
(US 1995) 106 mins.
Directed by Julian Schnabel.
With Jeffrey Wright, Michael Wincott, Benecio Del Toro, Claire Forlani, David Bowie, Dennis Hopper, Gary Oldman, Christopher Walken, Willem Dafoe, Parker Posey, Courtney Love.
Check out the cast, will ya? A veritable Who's Who of the gang who eat in Tribeca and own Andy Warhol originals [sic]. In some ways the male counterpart to last season's I Shot Andy Warhol, Basquiat is the docudramatic recreation of one of most provocative young artists of his generation, Jean-Michel Basquiat. It's been said that artist Schnabel is in many ways making a film about himself, but so what else is new? Basquiat catches --and largely through Wright's astonishingly convincing performance--the early eighties meteoric rise of a homeless genius. Ambitious and brilliant, a graffiti specialist named Samo essentially advances from making art out of maple syrup to hanging Great Black Expensive Art in Soho galleries. By then he was known as Basquiat, of course, and with the help of drugs and booze and the other accessories of fame, soon dead at 27. Ah, those were the good old eighties, well before both art ceased to matter and Courtney Love was taken seriously. As much about the commodifying banality of the art market as about the stridently gutsy talent of a compelling black artist, Basquiat marks an amazing slice of hi-low pop-art convergence, intimately explored by Schnabel who pieces it all together like bits of broken dishes.
Hard Core Logo
(Canada 1996) 98 mins.
Directed By Bruce McDonald.
With Hugh Dillon, Billy Talent, Bruce McDonald.
A provocative title from an always inspired filmmaker, Hard Core Logo returns Canadian McDonald to another of his favourite subjects, the rock music scene. Sharing with Highway 61 its episodic road-movie vigour, Logo travels east-west this time, tracking a (fake) band's tour across the prairies to B.C. as a (fake) documentary. Comparisons with Rob Reiner's satiric This is Spinal Tap have been copious, but McDonald insists that his film is much more of a (real) documentary about the plight of rock musicians, and especially Canadian ones, for whom life can be pretty miserable at forty below on the bald prairies. McDonald plays a filmmaker attempting to record the group on film as it reunites in a surprising paydirt concert and propels itself from venue to venue thereafter. The shaggy quality of life on the road suits McDonald's independent creativity perfectly, and not surprising Logo rocks with the kind of authenticity that undermines all those phony public images of Canada (see Canadian Bacon) as a genteel-friendly nation of do-gooders. Lead vocalist Joe Dick is (really) played by Dillon, actually a (real) singer of a (real) band called the Headstones, what one reviewer referred to as Canuck Punk. Maybe. Whatever. It sure is animated anarchy with a heavy beat, and it's darkly funny to the bone.
(US 1996) 99 mins.
Directed by Abel Ferrara.
With Christopher Walken, Chris Penn, Vincent Gallo, Benicio Del Toro, Annabella Sciorra, Isabella Rossellini, Gretchen Mol.
One of the most skilled NY filmmakers around (The Bad Lieutenant, Miami Vice, Crime Story) Ferrara chisels his tools here on the shadow world of the urban thirties, a New York gripped by depression angst and labour clashes. Vengeance is the way of the gangster world, as we've seen before, but this new spin on an old morality tale takes some pretty startling turns. The Tempio family gathers to mourn the murder of young Johnny (Gallo); it's also an opportunity to reminisce about the family's history of bloodshed and honour, or is it the other way around? Brothers Ray (Walken) and Chez (Penn) want to get even, but their nervous, albeit loyal, wives, shudder to think about what the boys will be up to next time they get itchy. Fascinating is the way that this world intersects with that of the union movement, as Johnny (in flashback) find himself enamoured of the noble communist principles that underpin its foundation. When he refuses to ease up on a local businessman because doing so would be an enormous affront to the working man, we know we're in no run-of-the-mill underworld. Full of the sorts of startling cinematic surprises for which he has become famous, The Funeral is Ferrara's thinking person's Godfather, as comfortable with corruption and violence as with a good Italian suit.
Secrets and Lies
(UK 1996) 140 mins.
Directed by Mike Leigh.
With Timothy Spall, Brenda Blethyn, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Phyllis Logan, Claire Rushbrook.
Is anyone better, more pointed, human, incisive, socially current, political than Mike Leigh? Did anyone see Naked and not think Genius At Work? This fabulously lauded follow-up feature sets up a young, middle-class optometrist, Hortense, as a curiously adopted child in search of her true parents. The hunt leads to Cynthia, not the sort of lucky sweepstakes find you'd idealize Mom as being, but there she is nonetheless--boozy and made miserable by her doleful daughter Roxanne, and supported financially by her brother Maurice, a suburbanoid photographer. Secrets and Lies is alternately funny and moving, but above all it's spell bindingly naturalistic. Hortense is black, Cynthia is white, so how could one issue from the other? Well, that's one of the film's more obvious dramatic questions. See the whole film and understand why everything counts for something in a Mike Leigh film, even the most abject and miserable creatures whose lives are just one bloody lousy phone call after another.
(US 1996) 96 mins.
Directed by Doug Liman.
With Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, Patrick Van Horn, Ale Desert, Heather Graham, Deena Martin.
Here's a film that ought to have played mainstream but for mysterious marketing reasons didn't. Fortunately you can now catch its buoyant spiritedness at a theatre near you. A thinking jock film, Swingers details the anarchic nature of current male-identity crises and gender relations. Mike, played brilliantly by newcomer Favreau, has just been dumped by his girlfriend so he moves from NY to Hollywood to seek acting fortune. After much whining and indulgent moping, Mike's buddies decide enough already and determine to show him the old-new rules of the make-out artist. Hilarious banter, bonding, and bar-hopping follow, all in the manner of today's retro trends. Director Liman is obviously filming out of personal experience of the world as a minefield for young guys, a place rigged to suck the hair gel right off the top of your head. Swingers is really a lot of fun, and if you think you've seen all the buddy pictures you'll ever need, it honestly is a lively and smart addition to a well tested genre. Guaranteed pleaser.
(Canada 1996) 95 mins.
Directed by John Greyson.
With Brent Carver, Marcel Sabourin, Aubert Pallascio, Jason Cadieux, Danny Gillmore, Matthew Ferguson, Alexander Chapman, Rémy Girard, Gary Farmer.
If you've seen or heard about Urinal or Zero Patience then you know a little something about director Greyson's award-winning queer cinema. Brechtian in their theatrics and Pasoliniesque in their subjects, Greyson's films mark a radical departure from mainstream art, focussing as they do on the ways time and space, fact and fiction, warp our characters. Like Robert Lepage's Confessionnal, Lilies establishes its time frame as 1952, the moment of Catholic Quebec's emergence into modernity. An aging bishop agrees to hear a condemned man's confession inside a penitentiary, but when he enters the chapel he finds himself imprisoned, forced to watch a reenactment --through a keyhole-- of events of forty years ago that led to the present moment. The play that catches the conscience of the priest dramatizes a love triangle involving the prisoner and the priest and the beautiful boy Vallier, once all young Catholic sons growing up in the idyllic pastoralism of northern Quebec. The all-male prison cast perform all the adult roles, Genet-style, illuminating the sumptuous image-choked screen with totally persuasive gestures, and adding to the ironically layered texture of this tale within a tale. Lilies, adapted from Marc Bouchard's stage play Les fluettes, is a tour de force of the kind of cinema we have come to expect from the cinematic visionary brow of Greyson. Complemented by the glorious choral work of The Hilliard Ensemble, Lilies ought to be heard as well as seen.
Breaking the Waves
(Denmark/France 1996) 159 mins.
Directed by Lars von Trier.
With Emily Watson, Stellan Skarsgård, Katrin Cartlidge, Jean-Marc Barr, Adrian Rawlins, Udo Kier.
Come early: this is the epic story of a female-fool-saint you've heard so much about, the one that carried home all the festival prizes for von Trier (Europa, The Kingdom), and the one not to be missed, told about, reminded you forgot, or ignored if you honestly call yourself a film fan. Breaking the Waves is --REALLY-- like no other film you have ever seen, and nothing said here can prepare you for its reaching sweep of the landscape of the human heart. Mesmerizingly wide-eyed Emily Watson plays the central role of the passionately naive and life-affirming Bess, a tiny woman in a world of fiercely Calvinistic Scots, a world where men wear white pointy beards, look like the backs of coughdrop packages, and forbid music because it leads to dancing. The women aren't much better, of course, but then they have to look at those men all day. Into this world arrive the foreign music-loving oil riggers, and especially the tall worldly Jan who falls in love with pretty Bess. Bliss after marriage is followed by tragedy on the rigs, however, but the film only begins there. Where, then, the films asks, does martyrdom become sainthood, and how do you know a saint when you have sex with one? Even by proxy. There is nothing more to say in this blurb because there is nothing to substitute for the sheer amazement of watching this Best of All Possible Films.
(UK 1996) 102 mins.
Directed by Gillies Mackinnon.
With Kevin McKidd, Laura Fraser, Joe McFadden, Claire Higgins, Stephen Duffy.
It's Glasgow 1968, the year that launched a thousand new hairdos. The three Maclean brothers are growing up rough and tumbling, caught between the street codes of gang violence and the lure of establishment success. Focussing on the youngest of the trio, thirteen-year old Lex, Small Faces structures these choices as difficult and contradictory. One older brother, Bobby (Duffy), is almost psycho in his addiction to macho rebelliousness. The other, Alan (McFadden) dreams of being an artist. Overseeing her brood is their weary den mother (Higgins), struggling wisely to keep some order on a pop-culturally exploding universe and her sons' raging hormonal urges. Remember Gregory's Girl? Well think of that film's off-centre charm up against the aggressive grittiness of Trainspotting and you have an idea of why Small Faces has been so successful on the rep-house circuit. The film doesn't provide subtitles so clean the wax out of your ears before viewing and quiz a local Scot after the show as to what you think you heard.
(FR 1996) 102 mins.
Directed by Patrice Leconte.
With Fanny Ardant, Charles Berling, Bernard Giraudeau, Judith Godreche, Jean Rochefort.
A yummily delicious screenplay involving eighteenth-century wit, all dressed up and ready for deadly play. It's the court of Louis XIV, bien sûr, and who needs weapons when men's (and women's) minds are as sharp as rapiers? Before MTV and Bravo, the Versailles courtiers attempted to out-ridicule each other for entertainment. And very few of them actually gained the king's attention without stepping over one another. Naive Gregoire Ponceludon enters into this nest of vipers, anxious to ask the king to help him dam a river and thereby cut down on the malaria epidemic affecting the peasants in his home province. Soon he realizes what it takes to `win' at court, and under the tutelage of the Marquis de Bellegarde, an unfavoured physician, Gregoire manages to leap over the heads of the pompous powdered pedants around him. Director Leconte (Monsieur Hire) creates the most marvellously sardonic period piece ever, seedy around the elegant edges, full of back-stabbing glee, and always capering dangerously around the edges of ridicule.
(UK 1996) 89 mins.
Directed by Hettie Macdonald.
With Glen Barry, Linda Henry, Scott Neal, Ben Daniels, Tameka Empson.
The title comes not from Martha Stewart's Christmas recipes but from the possibilities of a good life on the way-outside. Powerfully praised last summer upon release, Beautiful Thing is a bravura first feature from director Macdonald who turns her polished lens to working-class homosexuality, not the world of Tom Hanks opera lovers, but the one of two poor English boys who fall in love over a long hot summer. This may sound like drearier-than-thou subject matter but Beautiful Thing is actually a comic film about life on the margins of Everything. Jamie is smart and thoughtful, pushed around at school, and resolved finally to play hooky and watch tv rather than endure such humiliations. Next door is Ste, a handsome in-crowd at-the-centre guy who loves sports as much as being popular. The love that dares not speak its name grows gradually and in spite of crazy neighbours, depraved parents and siblings, and the usual pressures on children to get ahead, get a job, and get laid. Never sentimental but always sweet, and never condescending but always humorous, Beautiful Thing remints the genre of the working-class drama into something quite new and refreshing. The real shame would be missing this surprisingly feel-good-gay movie.
Grace of My Heart
(US 1996) 115 mins.
Directed by Allison Anders.
With Illeana Douglas, John Turturro, Matt Dillon, Eric Stoltz, Bruce Davidson, Patsy Kensit, Jennifer Leigh Warren.
Boasting an incredible score of popular music, Grace of My Heart describes the unwritten story of how America's greatest stars made it big through the music of anonymously toiling writers. Few got the fame they deserved, and in this bright and candid story about the Brill Building/House where these writers struggled, one such dreamer emerges at the centre. Denise Waverley (Douglas, so great as the skating sister in To Die For) arrives in NY City longing for the spotlight herself, but her manager (Turturro) encourages her to write the hits that keep on coming instead. Valiantly loyal to her dream, however, Denise continues to keep her principles intact, even while the trends shift and sixties bop turns wildly to psychedelics. The really amazing thing about Grace of My Heart is that Anders (Gas Food and Lodging) managed to convince such renowned composers as Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello to write original songs in the manner of the period. The result is rhythmically authentic and fresh at the same time, a truly rivetting look and sound of a small and vital piece of the historical 45 hit-record.