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MUN Cinema Series
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September 14 The Filth and the Fury
(USA/UK 2000) 108 mins.
Rated R, as you would expect. [IMAGE]
Directed by Julien Temple.
Profs: do your students appear to
have more stud piercings than St. Sabastien? Students, do alarm bells go off
louder than air raid sirens when you walk through airport security checks?
If you are wondering why we are still interested in checking out the punk
'movement' then just look around. The legacy of this anarchic cultural
phenomenon is still with us, however tamed by the fashion demands of late
capitalism. Director Temple had already scored on the subject with his
wonderful documentary, The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle (1980) which
Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren's account of how he created the
notorious unfab four. In this update, the boys themselves get to tell their
side of the story. Johnny Rotten, Steve Cook, Paul Jones and even the late
Sid 'My Way' Vicious go a fair distance to explaining an important slice of
social history. Temple well animates the message of punk, repeatedly
returning to the source of all that seventies rage: the British class
system, the Queen, and even well beyond her to Richard III. One critic
refers to The Filth and the Fury as 'nipple clamps for the brain.' Uh,
perhaps you might want to wear a hat.
A film about the career of the notorious punk rock band, the Sex Pistols.
September 21 Joe Gould's Secret
(US 2000) 104 mins.
Rated R. [IMAGE]
Directed by Stanley 'Big Night' Tucci.
With Ian Holm and Stanley Tucci. Written by Howard A. Rodman.
Based on "Professor Seagull" and "Joe Gould's Secret" by Joseph Mitchell.
This small low-budget picture actually opened the Sundance Film Festival
this year, a gesture underscoring the importance of the writer's craft above
all else. Indeed, this is a film about words, and the characters who can
make them important. Based on a true story, Tucci stars as the New Yorker
writer (Mitchell) who stumbled upon a street tramp (Holm as Gould)
proclaiming he was producing an oral history of -- everything. Most of us
have heard similar rants down at the Ship, but Gould actually claimed he had
transcribed enough conversations to add up to a whopping 1.2 million words.
Mitchell suspended his belief and tried to publicize Gould's achievement,
but, in fact, he never did see the actual document. The New York of the
fifties is evoked realistically here, as is the urgency of Gould's littlest
hobo rants and roars. As Gould, Ian Holm is up to his predictable
brilliance, becoming the character as naturally as stepping in urban
garbage. Tucci wears great clothes but his direction reminds us that he's
more than a good-looking character actor.
September 28 Not One Less
(China 2000) 106 mins.
aka Yi ge dou bu neng shao [IMAGE]
Directed by Yimou Zhang.
Starring Wei Minzhi, Gao Enman.
Very popular on the
mainland right now, and we don't mean mainland China. You might remember
Zhang's amazing nineties films starring the gorgeous Gong Li--Raise the
Red Lantern, Ju Dou and Shanghai Triad.
The couple broke up and Zhang is trying to survive.
Not One Less, although as unflattering to Beijing as any of his
other films, will probably help pay the bills. The film is about Wei, a 13
year-old girl who is sent to look after a rabble of wild schoolchildren in
the provinces. Resources are so limited that chalk is a luxury. The
challenge for young Wei is to keep all her charges in school. She earns a
bonus if she does. The poor kids generally leave school to go to work and
help their families, however, so she has her work cut out for her,
generating both hilarity and sorrow. Typical of Zhang's films, there isn't
much action, but we get to peek deep inside a society to which even special
visas won't give access. It is worth noting that the cast consists entirely
of non-professionals who use their own names and portray characters from
their own walks of life. That fact raises the realism of this feature drama
by many bonus points, and makes for especially compelling viewing.
October 5 Chuck & Buck
(USA 2000) 95 mins.
Rated R for sexuality and language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Miguel Arteta.
With Mike White and Chris Weitz.
Perhaps the most
widely known feature on our series this fall, Chuck & Buck has been hugely
popular. Shot in what is becoming an art-house trend--quick digital
on-the-fly style--this movie is pretty daring in its attempt to out the
hidden theme of childhood sexuality. The story centres on two childhood best
friends who reunite when they are 27. Chuck, who is now a Charlie, has
matured into the stereotypical L.A. record producer, complete with trophy
girlfriend and cool buddies who have wandered off from Peter Fonda's party
in The Limey. Buck is still Buck, oddly undeveloped and never really having
grown up. When they meet up again, Buck insists on reclaiming their youthful
intimacy, literally. His actions are at once natural and perverse, depending
on whether or not you want to give him the benefit of his doubts about the
pleasures of the adult world. The movie is by turns hilarious and
disturbing, pressing buttons we might not have admitted we had. It cracks
open some questions about sexual identities and natural desires, and forces
us to wonder about the degree to which Buck reminds us of who we see in the
mirror. Highly recommended, but not if you think Anne of Green Gables is the
ultimate expression of childhood fantasies.
October 12 Judy Berlin
(USA 1999) 93 mins.
Directed by Eric Mendolsohn.
With the incomparable Sopranos star, Edie `whatzamatterwityou' Falco, Aaron
Harnick, and Madelaine Kahn (in her last film role).
Set in the
predominantly NY Jewish suburb of Babylon, the movie begins with failed
filmmaker David (Harnick) being tossed out of his house by his mother
(Kahn). He then runs into old classmate, Judy (Falco), an aspiring and
possibly terrible actress. Therein lies the premise for a tired film about
two losers. But something happens, what you might call a sign and wonder. A
solar eclipse occurs and lasts all day, casting everyone pretty well into
darkness. Groping about, the characters nonetheless find moments of
illumination. This first-feature by Mendelsohn shows his experience as a
designer on several Woody Allen movies. In fact, he shot some of it out of
his own parents' Long Island house. If there is an influence it is the
later Woody Allen, who often makes small comedies about minor changes in the
lives of ordinary people. An ensemble cast helps propel the cast and its
wit, and a light confident touch transforms the suburbs into an enchanted
daydream. Mendelsohn won the Best Director Award at Sundance for this
charmer, so come see why.
October 19 Violet
(Newfoundland première) 111 mins.
St. John's International Women's Film and Video Festival.
Directed by Rosemary House and produced by Mary `cell phone' Sexton.
Starring Mary Walsh, Bernie Stapleton, Brian Hennessey, Andrew Younghusband,
Janice Spence, Jody Richardson, and an esemble cast featuring almost
everyone you have ever seen or performed at the Ship.
Set among the verdant lawns of Mt. Scio, the story centres on Walsh as a
librarian who returns home when her
brother (Rick Boland) suddenly dies, the victim of both his drunken folly
and an old family curse. Neurotic about her own mortality, which is
aggravated by her middle-aged angst, Violet's nervous psyche actively
resists the friends and family members who try to help. House directs with
Italy on her brain, morphing this emerald isle into a beautiful site of
possibility as charmed as any enchanted summer. You will recognize the look
and feel of European romance here, appropriate enough since Walsh's Violet
yearns to recapture the freedom and sensuality she once experienced in
Tuscan climes. Performances are strong, with some standout acting especially
from Hennessey and Younghusband, whose mugs you never want off the screen.
The title role seems to have been written for Walsh, however, who flashes us
bits of Marge Delahunty and that spear-waving breast-plated warrior princess
thing she does. Ultimately, though, Walsh invents the entirely new character
of Violet, a smart and feeling woman as far removed from donut-shop Connie
as tin-bits are from savory.
October 26 East/West
(France 1999) 120 mins.
aka Est/Ouest. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Regis Wargnier.
With Catherine Deneuve, Oleg Menchikov, Sandrine Bonnaire.
"If you want to have a clear picture of how
the daily life under Stalin's USSR was, you must see this great movie."
Of course, if not, you can always watch Rocky and Bullwinkle. Wargnier did the
marvelous Indochine with Deneuve, so you will recognize the style and sweep
of cinematic history here. The story opens at the end of WW II, when a
Russian émigré doctor named Alexei (Menchikov) takes up Stalin's offer to
return and rebuild the motherland. He comes back with his French wife,
Marie, and their boy to discover he's wandered into a pre-Potemkin
nightmare. Stunned and disoriented by the brutality of Stalin's Russia, the
couple starts to disintegrate. Forced to act loyal and submissive, Alexei
does whatever it takes to stay in official favour, even sleeping with every
Soviet uniform he can. Marie, meanwhile, cannot tolerate that colluding
game. She comes from the West and refuses to understand the codes of a
country she loathes. Many plot manipulations ensue, as the film builds to
the intensity of a possible escape. Certainly director Wargnier knows how to
jerk us around so that we are carried into over-the-top emotional pitches,
the stuff on which movie plots thrive. Destined to have lost the Best
Foreign Film Oscar to the magnificent All About My Mother,
nonetheless resonates in the light of post-Soviet Russia and all its
attendant troubles. Worth the price just to gawk at Deneuve herself, playing
a liberating lefty with great Yves St Laurent make-up.
November 2 Color of Paradise
(Iran 1999) 90 mins.
aka Rang-e khoda. In Farsi with English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Majid Majidi.
With Mohsen Ramezani, Hosein Mahjoob.
We have been waiting for this one, our first Iranian
feature, and one of apparently many brilliant Iranian efforts. An eight-year
old blind boy learns Braille. Eager to read everything, including nature's
rifts and bumps, the child is utterly passionate about life's sensual
pleasures. We are privileged to see the exquisite countryside denied the
boy, but he experiences the world with more intense interest than most of us
are capable with the aid of mind-altering substances. The Color of Paradise
won the top prizes at the Montreal Film Festival last year, blowing everyone
away with its lucid message about cultural prejudices and religious
constraints. When Mohammad's father worries that having a disabled boy will
harm his chances to marry well, he sends him away to work for a blind
carpenter. We might very well end up asking who is really blind here. The
cinematography is breath taking, the acting natural, and the parable both
persuasive and profound. Iran might become a new tourist destination if this
November 9 Bossa Nova
(Brazil/USA 1999) 95 mins.
Directed by Bruno Barreto.
Starring Amy Irving, Antonio Fagundes.
Written by Alexandre Machado, Fernanda Young.
What better way to banish the dark morbidity of
November than to fly to Rio de Janeiro, cinematically speaking. Bossa Nova
is a romantic comedy with agreeable film-tourist scenery and a light
whimsical touch. Here's another ensemble cast with hip-swaying music, the
ingredients for an entertaining escape. Amy 'I Used to be Mrs. Spielberg'
Irving plays Miss Simpson, a widow teaching English in Rio. Antonio Fagundes
is the handsome lawyer named Pedro who has been tossed out of domesticity by
his fickle wife. Pedro's father works in the building where Simpson teaches,
so he gets to check her out on the elevator. Other characters searching for
love and meaning come and go and swirl around the central romantic couple.
You can imagine the beginnings of a Latin sit-com, to be sure, but the film
is truly funny, without the help of a laugh track. Even Amy Irving's
perm-tight curls seem to relax a little under the spell of Brazilian charm.
Antonio Fagundes has been dubbed the Cary Grant of his national cinema, a
drop-dead title if there ever were one. Irving is actually now married to
director Barreto, so she gets almost as much camera time as Rio itself. The
city never looked more stunning, so if you are looking for documentary
realism and shots of rampant street crime you've come to the wrong studio.
November 16 Saving Grace
(UK 2000) 92 mins.
Directed by Nigel Cole.
With Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson.
This hilarious British comedy in the best of
the tradition opens with a familiar angle. Grace (Blethyn) discovers that
her newly widowed state has left her with a tonne of bills and no possible
way of avoiding bankruptcy. The last to know her husband was a squandering
jerk, Grace innocently chats up her trusted gardener, Matthew. Still holding
on to her magnificent Cornish garden herself, Grace offers to help Matthew's
struggling marijuana plants and opens up her greenhouse into what turns out
to be an astonishingly lucrative business operation. Now consider the comic
possibilities: a village right out of Trollope, more eccentrics than ever
stayed at Fawlty Towers, and a patch of home-grown weed. The juxtapositions
could fuel enough laughs for even the most unstoned audiences. Consider the
potential when a linen-suited Grace goes into London to do some deals amid
the rough-and-tumble dealers of the City, or when some old Cornish biddies
do the unthinkable and inhale. Saving Grace is funny and charming, an
optimistic boost for the supporters of decriminalized marijuana and a sign
of happy times to come.
November 23 Shower
(China 1999) 92 mins.
aka Xizhao. English subtitles. PG-13 for language and nudity. [IMAGE]
Directed by Yang Zhang.
Starring Jiang Wu, Pu Cun Xin.
Another Chinese feature but unlike Not One Less, Shower was produced with private money,
that of an ex-pat American who invested on faith and promise. The result is
something like the first Chinese version of an indie film. As the title
suggests, the setting of the film is the Chinese bathhouse, where friends
and neighbors commonly retreat to bond and to restore their weary bodies and
anxious minds. Enterprising new-China businessman Da Ming seeks his fortune
in Beijing. Running on the experience of his rural family's bathhouse
operation, he contrives to set up a modern version, a coin-operated
robo-shower. You can imagine the plot from here. In severing his traditional
ways, Da Ming has bought into a coldly impersonal new attitude, more or less
the way Pip did in Great Expectations, but without the benefactor. When he
is forced to return home to the equivalent of the Grange, Da Ming starts to
remember what he loved about the old bathhouse, which, predictably, is
slated to be torn down to make room for something more high-tech and
functional (Disneyland?). Clearly Shower is about the rapid pace of
modernization in China, where everyone wants to make money quick quick
quick. The film promotes reflection about the consequences of showering over
bathing, a timely metaphor that probably applies almost anywhere.
November 30 The Terrorist
(India 1998) 96 mins.
aka Malli. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Santosh Sivan.
Starring Ayesha Dharkar, Vishnu Vardhan, Bhanu Prakash, K. Krishna
and Sonu Sisup.
John Malkovich presents this film:
"I first saw The Terrorist in November 1998 while I was a member
of the jury at the Cairo Film Festival. I was stunned by the simplicity
and elegance of its images, and by the assuredness and power of its
storytelling. Shot with minimal resources, The Terrorist is
a testament to the notion that all that's truly needed to make a wonderful
film is a story worth telling and a poet at the helm."
Who are we to argue with the guy in whose brain everyone
wants to be? Bless John Malkovich. This unforgettable film needs to be seen.
The 1992 assassination of Rajiv Ghandi obviously drives the film's engines,
yet the actual details of the assassination are never mentioned. A gorgeous
19-year-old girl named Malli, raised as a revolutionary, offers to become a
suicide bomber. But Malli starts to see the world differently during her
final days of preparation. Her programmed ideological intensity begins to
yield to a burgeoning sense of self, to a new awareness, and to the beauty
of the world itself. What once seemed like easy answers become challenging
new questions. So it is as youth and its absolutes pass into a more complex
reality. The poetry of which Malkovitch speaks is painted on every frame, as
director Sivan unveils an India we haven't seen since the likes of the great
December 7 The Tao of Steve
Rated R for language and some drug use. [IMAGE]
Directed by Jenniphr Goodman.
With Donal Logue, Greer Goodman, James Wills, et al.
This final showing of the series is everyone's favourite.
It's about a slob of a guy named Dex who is overweight
and your mother's nightmare.
But Dex, unambitious as he is, a full-time kindergarten teacher and
a visual loser, discovers a woman who steers him correctly in the
direction of horny fulfillment.
The answer to the question --how does Dex get so much sex?-- is
practice practice practice, but practice your Zen, that is.
Dex understands what women want.
A guy who knows that, even a fat boor whose idea of dressing up is
putting on a bathrobe, holds a key to the universe.
Why Steve? Because of Steve McQueen, the god of cool, not to mention
Steve McGarrett and Steve Austin.
The film won the Best Picture award at this year's Sundance Festival.
It's long on charm, character, and wit.
Plan your exam schedule around this fabulous comedy.
You'll learn something.