Fall 2001

Sep 13  The Law of Enclosures
Sep 20  With a Friend Like Harry
Sep 27  Kippur
Oct 4  Greenfingers
Oct 11  Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Oct 18  Lost and Delirious
Oct 25  The Circle
Nov 1  Lumumba
Nov 8  In the Mood for Love
Nov 15  The Anniversary Party
Nov 22  Nora
Nov 29  The Closet
Dec 6  Startup.com

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[IMDb] Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.

September 13   The Law of Enclosures (Canada 2000) 111 mins.
Directed by John Greyson.
With Sarah Polley, Brendan Fletcher, Dianne Ladd, Sean McCann.
Let's get the criticism out of the way. Americans find our films 'boring and pretentious' and they slammed director Greyson's (Uncut, Lilies, Zero Patience) satire about two characters trapped in Sarnia in 1991 - forever. How could we expect them to appreciate the narrative gimmick if they think all oil comes from Iraq? Based on Dale Peck's book, Law of Enclosures examines the beginning and end of a relationship, with Polley and Fletcher as the young lovers and Ladd and McCann as the older Beth and Hank. Shirley 'Kiefer's Mom' Douglas as a raunchy old babe named Myrah lends even more weight to an impressive cast. It might take a while to figure out that that film's structure is a bit of a palindrome so it's better to let you know this up front and then you can concentrate on the characters and a Sarnia too cold and unwelcoming for words, let alone humans. The '91 Gulf War is the main backdrop of the film, a suitable metaphor for the destructive nature of a relationship. Time seems to have stood still but resentments and slights have grown like Kuwaiti oil fires. As one critic says, 'This is one of those immensely artistic films that you'll either love or hate, depending on your ability to let yourself go in the cinema.' Take it as a challenge.

September 20   With a Friend Like Harry (France 2000) 117 min.
[IMDb] aka Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Dominik Moll.
With Laurent Lucas, Sergi López, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin.
A thriller in the manner of Hitchcock, this awkwardly titled film surveys a family man's encounter with an old acquaintance. Michel, a hapless and frustrated wannabe writer, allows himself to be drawn into Harry's apparently friendly suggestions about how best to improve his life. If you know Hitch's Strangers on a Train, you'll recognize the clever plot device behind this brilliant suspense builder. It's a case of bad, or creepy, things happening to vulnerable people. Ordinary life slowly becomes infected with a barely noticeable sinister force. Here, the force resides in the astonishing performance of Lopez as Harry. He won a French Cesar Best Actor for it in 2000, in fact, and the proof of that honour is in almost every frame. As with Hitchcock, the fear and the terror emerge from what you don't see, not from any obvious graphic violence. A big hit at last year's Toronto Festival, With a Friend Like Harry also catches some of the humour with which Hitchcock loved to tease us. Indeed, who ever heard of a French guy named Harry anyway? That should be your first clue.

September 27   Kippur (France/Israel 2000) 124 min.
[IMDb] English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Amos Gitai.
With Liron Levo, Tomer Russo, Uri Ran-Klausner, Yoram Hattab.
It's true a film about the Middle East Situation is always timely, and now is as good, maybe better, than ever. If it's the Disney world of Pearl Harbour you want you know where to get it. Kippur is about war as hell, regardless of how holy some might claim the battle to be. A controversial filmmaker (Kadosh), Gitai raises his own critical bar in this searing description of what happens when one moment you're making love, the next moment you're responding to sirens. Drawn from his own experience during the Yom Kippur War in '73, the movie marks this period as a turning point in national culture. For Gitai, the war occasioned a huge rift in Israeli politics and society. The country was plunged into chaos and internal conflict from which it has had difficulty emerging whole. Of course that the Syrians invaded during the holiest day of the year, catching the country off guard, added greatly to the confusion. The country was still coasting on the victory of the '76 War and not prepared to pitch battle all over again. Kippur follows the experience of Weinraub and Ruso, two friends who can't find their own military unit. They join up with a medic named Klauzner and proceed to collect the wounded and the dead in a gruesome and repetitive ritual of absurdity. With the direct assistance of the Israeli army and a form of direct cinema shooting, Kippur conveys an amazingly natural look and feel. From the point of view of the battlefield, war is not about defeating the Other so much as it is about trying to stay awake and alive. Gitai himself believes that exhaustion more than a blazing triumphant battle will wear down the hatred in the Middle East, and this movie attempts to show why and how.

October 4   Greenfingers (Canada 2000) 91 min.
Directed by Joel Hershman.
With Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly, et al.
Could there be any other nation whose idea of a comedy is to turn a bunch of hardened criminals into wonderfully sensitive gardeners? Yes, the British are coming the British are coming, with a cast of first-rate actors and a stable full of stock types, not any the less amusing for being so. A popular favourite at least year's Toronto Festival, Greenfingers is actually based on a true story. Clive Owen steals the show as the brooding lead, an aging criminal who accidentally finds salvation in a bunch of violets. Mirren merely has to show up on screen to capture our interest, but here she hams it up as a cross between Maggie Smith and Martha Stewart, a delightful hat-headed gardener with a with of the ol' allure in her, nudge nudge, know what I mean, know what I mean? In the hands of anyone but British actors this script would have about as much appeal as a cabbage patch, but with this superior cast, clucking away against the verdant hills of the Cotswolds, Greenfingers offers up a pleasant diversion. Sure it's twee and a little bit precious, but you'll learn a lot about your soil's Ph balance, and you'll be laughing all the way to the compost heap.

October 11   Hedwig and the Angry Inch (USA 2000) 95 min.
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
With John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor, et al.
If you haven't yet heard about this sensational cult performance by director Mitchell you really need to get out more. This is a self-described "post-punk neo-glam rock musical," or, in other words, the millennium successor to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. What began as an off-Broadway musical has since evolved into a drag queen spectacle about an East German boy named Hansel. The boy grows up and falls for an American Sergeant who will take Hansel back home with him only if he undergoes a sex-change operation. The operation doesn't--um--completely work, as a remaining 'angry inch' proves. Not a Hansel, now a Hedwig, she ends up near a military base in trailer-park Kansas, turning tricks and falling in love with the general's son, Tommy (Pitt). Hedwig and the Angry Inch is largely shot in flashback; we understand that she has turned her transsexual experience into a whole stage shtick, belting out her numbers in cheesy restaurants and galvanizing audiences into stunned appreciation. Mitchell's performance is simply amazing, challenging every gendered pronoun you've ever taken for granted.

October 18   Lost and Delirious (Canada 2001) 100 min.
[IMDb] St. John's International Women's Film and Video Festival [IMAGE]
Directed by Léa Pool.
With Piper Perabo, Jessica Paré, Mischa Barton, Jackie Burroughs, Graham Greene.
Take two gorgeous private school girls, mix them together in the dorm, see them get hot for each other, watch the elders rage. Léa Pool's cinematically stunning L&D is adapted, with full blessings, from Susan Swann's gender-troubled novel, The Wives of Bath. Tory (Paré) and Paulie (Perabo) are the central lovers in the gorgeous melodrama of their emerging lives, but the film's point of view rests squarely with a third party, an observant bystander and naïve roommate nicknamed Mouse (Barton). The movie therefore has a literary feel to it, adding visual metaphor to the literary frame and layering the dialogue with rich texture and sensual allure. The doomed love affair results in a crisis of near psychotic dimensions for Paulie, who freaks out grandly, like--and with--a bird on a wire. Roger Ebert summed it up: Lost and Delirious is a hymn to teenage idealism and hormones. This is fair, because the film is really less about same-sex desire than it is about love, difficult at any age, and for any sex. There is some additional irony is seeing staid Canadian Bishop's University as the backdrop to this fictional tale, but the performances are strong enough to suspend your disbelief.

October 25   The Circle (Iran/Italy 2000) 90 min.
[IMDb] aka Dayereh. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Jafar Panahi.
With Maryiam Palvin Almani, Nargess Mamizadeh, Fereshteh Sadr Orfani.
If it's bellylaughs you're after, rent There's Something About Mary. But if you want to be moved, challenged, educated, maybe even inspired, see this Venice Film festival award-winner, as strong an indictment of Iranian law as you'll find anywhere outside Tehran. Director Panahi (The White Balloon) doesn't so much castigate as explore the rough climate of anxiety and fear that informs daily life in that country. The film has a powerful documentary feel to it and stars non-actors, but it is also clearly constructed around a fictional frame - or should we say circle. Essentially, the film follows the difficult and haunted lives of three Iranian women as they are compelled to live under a repressive regime of brutal proportions. They are the main focus for the inquisitive lenses of the hand-held cameras. Their only apparent crime seems to be having two x chromosomes. Banned in Iran, as you would expect, The Circle is one of the most forceful films you will see all year.

November 1   Lumumba (2000) 115 min.
Directed by Raoul Peck.
With Eriq Ebouaney, Alex Descas, Théophile Sowie, Maka Kotto.
Here's history with feeling and meaning. This biopic about a famous African hero, Lumumba takes us back to 1960 and the moment when Belgium granted independence from colonialism and became Congo. The first Prime Minister was the indomitable Patrice Lumumba, a freedom fighter, postie, beer salesman, a great and noble man for all seasons. In spite of global cynicism, the odious intrusions of the CIA, internal rancor, and a pervading sense of doom, Lumumba worked forcefully on uniting his troubled country. If you don't know what happened you might be surprised to learn that Lumumba was brutally executed by a one-time ally and friend. Congo became Zaire, with the help of the US, and the rest is still evolving history. Lumumba isn't subtle but it does grip you with the intensity of its candour. The movie seems especially relevant in its subtle foreshadowing of the genocide of Rwanda and in its analysis of the conflicts that still haunt Africa today.

November 8   In the Mood for Love (France/Hong Kong 2000) 98 min.
Directed by Kar-wai Wong.
With Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Rebecca Pan, Lai Chen.
It's Hong Kong, 1962: do you know where your partners are? In the Mood for Love traces the entanglements of two neighbouring couples. In the density of a crowded culture it is difficult to find any privacy, let alone carry on an affair, but where there's a will there's lust and desire. This is a highly charged and intensely romantic movie, as seductive as its stars and as irresistible. International audiences have gone nuts for it, Cannes showered the famous Asian actors with acclaim, and director Wong's reputation is now assured. Any movie that features slow dancing usually wins us over, but In the Mood for Love is especially clever in its choreography of the rhythms of love. As with any good movie, this one also opens us up to the world of a different culture. It's not just that people everywhere love; it's how they do so in confined spaces, cramped lives, and claustrophobic relationships. As you might have expected, the music on the track is to swoon for.

November 15   The Anniversary Party (USA 2001) 115 min.
Directed by Allan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
With Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline, Phoebe Cates.
We love this dinner-with-smart-saucy-friends kind of movie, a chatty dialogue-heavy exercise in bitter wit and irreverence. Joe and Sally Therrian (Cumming and Leigh) have been married six years and they are having a party. They haven't lived together in a while for understandable reasons. He swings both ways, takes drugs, plays around, and refuses to cast his wife in his movies. Sounds like grounds to us. Sounds a lot like Alan Cumming, actually. Kevin Klein plays an actor who can't get big romantic roles anymore and Phoebe Cates--his real-life wife--plays his wife. Gwyneth shows up as the hottest young actor in Hollywood, and so on. Life here doesn't merely imitate art; it is art. There's more (look at the extended cast list on the IMDB web site), and part of the amusement is spotting the Hollywood resemblances. We have been to this party before, to be sure, but never with these glam and fading glam people. We are uninvited guests who have been given permission to stare, not such a bad party favour after all. Shot in digital, The Anniversary Party certainly has an improvisational feel. Call it good contrived spontaneity. It's nothing but interesting.

November 22   Nora (Ireland / UK / Italy / Germany 2000) 106 min.
[IMDb] Directed by Pat Murphy.
With Ewan McGregor, Susan Lynch.
Someone called this the Joyce of Sex. Ouch. We prefer to think of Norah as the Barnacle to which Joyce clung. He was the perfect portrait of the artist and she was a chambermaid. He wrote; she never read. So what was the attraction? Well, after seeing this film it is easy to see his for her, not so much the other way around. Norah definitely has--or uses--the upper hand here. A wimpy Joyce, played with required prissy restraint by the talented McGregor, is pretty much taken over by Norah's passionate command of his life. Merchant and Ivory would have turned this love story into a tea party, but director Murphy burns up the screen. Based on the celebrated biography of Joyce's wife, this film is faithful to the vibrant spirit of mutual desire. Norah is a sexy period piece that throws back the lace curtains and shows the fiery heat of the muse. She invented Molly Bloom, just by showing up. It makes you think: if Norah had never existed we wouldn't have had to read Ulysses.

November 29   The Closet (France 2000) 84 min.
[IMDb] aka Le Placard. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Francis Veber.
With Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, Thierry Lhermitte, et al.
A side-buster in France, this popular comedy is the perfect antidote to late semester seriousness. The premise is, in effect, the whole film: a dull-as-Evian condom factory accountant, Francois (Auteuil), is so boring, so ineffectual, and so invisible that neither his ex wife, his son, nor his bosses care a hoot about his future; losing his job seems inevitable. One day his neighbour, a friendly guy named Belone (Aumont), suggests a way out of a life of utter abjection: Francois needs to pretend to be gay. Think Cage aux Folles turned on its head and inside out. Pretending to be gay will prevent the condom factory bosses from firing him. Eventually, and with much typically French hilarity, Francois convinces everyone that his outer look--that of a terrible bore-is merely a cover-up for the wild queen within. Gerard 'Meat-Eating Male' Depardieu plays a homophobe who works himself up to a change of heart, and other familiar lead actors are drawn from the French film pantheon, guaranteeing Le Placard a place in popular cultural history. There are some hilarious moments in this one extended joke movie, and you will howl when you see the Gay Pride parade scene. Get comfortable, release the queer within, and enjoy.

December 6   Startup.com (USA 2001) 107 min.
[IMDb] Documentary [IMAGE]
Directed by Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim.
(as themselves:) Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, Tom Herman, Bill Clinton, Maynard Jackson.
Do you feel your stocks slipping? Are you suffering from post tech-hype depression? Is your portfolio fading? Startup.com can cure you of your dropping investments. This gripping documentary traces the drama of yesterday's big game. At first, directors Hegedus (The War Room) and Noujaim thought they were following the inevitable success story of two young childhood friends, Kaleil Isaza Tuzman and Tom Herman. They even considered abandoning the film and getting into the market themselves. Instead, they ended up filming NASDAQ on life support and the two friends facing the gloomy logic of late capitalism. Startup.com works for many reasons, not the least of which is that the veteran filmmaker Hegedus connected with the young MTV hipster Noujaim. The two women warmly complemented each other as the older one found herself obsessing over the younger woman's cyberculture. Ultimately, this documentary tells a great story about friendship, big dreams, and the hazardous illusions of the new economy.