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MUN Cinema Series
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January 10 Mulholland Drive
(USA/France 2001) 146 min.
Rated R. [IMAGE]
Directed by David Lynch.
With Justin Theroux, Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Ann Miller,
Robert Forster, et al.
We are not sure we have ever showcased a film at
once as well received and least understood than this one. If you spent 1989
obsessing over who killed Twin Peaks' Laura Palmer then you'll appreciate
David Lynch's career-topping feature about ... about ... no,
simply can't be finished. You can describe the genre (film noir), the look
(a dreamscape), the influence (Hitchcock), and the strategy (surrealist),
but you certainly cannot describe what the movie is about. At best, you can
say it's about dreaming. Lynch goes where no Hollywood director has dared to
explore---into the experience of a kind of pure cinema, the way Bunuel and
Dali once conceived of it. No wonder the Cannes jury awarded him a golden
prize at the 2001 festival. Sure, we are teased into a coherent movie about
two women, one blonde, the other dark, one named Betty, the other Rita, one
with amnesia, one not &ellipsis; and so on &ellipsis; but if you think you
can make the link between the loopy narrative bits they eventually leap to
you're just a poor idiotic causal-plot dependent.
Above all, Mulholland Drive is totally
hypnotic. Let go, surrender to the imagery, and you'll be fine. In short,
just give it up.
January 17 Century Hotel
(Canada 2001) 96 min.
Directed by David Weaver.
With Eugene Lipinski, Lindy Booth, Colm Feore, Tom McCamus,
Mia Kirshner, Raine Maida, Chantal Kreviazuk, et al.
A fabulous cast dominates
this well written feature debut with a great concept at its core. Weaver’s
script tracks the past century by examining the guests who stay in Room 720
of a Toronto hotel. From 1921 to the end of the twentieth century, stuff
happens. Everything changes. And, of course, it doesn't. Styles come and go,
time marches on, but sweet and icky human behaviour tends to repeat itself.
The characters we meet include a flapper, a Chinese immigrant, a soldier, a
professor, a rock star, a maid, a prostitute, and so on. The arc of the
narrative rises with no apparent symmetry, as some characters demand more
screen time than others, some plots are resolved, others drift away into
imagined history. All of it is interesting and you will end up wanting to
know more about every one of the hotel inhabitants.
The budget, as in Treed Murray, is almost embarrassingly low,
but the concept is BIG, arguably a
necessary effect of such limited conditions. Watch especially for the
cinematic debut of singers Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk who occupy a
fascinating plot line about rock-star fan compulsiveness.
January 24 The Man Who Wasn't There
(US 2001) 116 min.
Directed by Joel (and co-written with Ethan) Coen.
With Billy Bob Thornton, Francis McDormand, James Gandolfino, et al.
There isn't a Coen Brothers film we don't admire, which is why even though
The Man Who Wasn't There played in Mt Pearl for a much too short
week we have brought it back for townies and
others from up along. Carrot-eating blood-sucking method actor Billy Bob
stars as a familiar film-noir anti-hero, beset by a life of boredom and
betrayal, in that order. A barber in small-townsville, Ed Crane snips and
smokes, snips and smokes, maddeningly enduring the guy in control of the
other chair and speculating about whether his wife Doris is cheating on him
with Tony Soprano. Famously shot in silky black and white,
The Man Who Wasn't There tells us by its title that it is
fascinated by the ironies of the
noir genre. The plot twists and turns, the truth is slippery, the fabulous
women are fatal, and the unlikely central character is flawed and pitiful,
sympathetic and a bit of an idiot, a man caught in and by circumstances he
doesn't have a hope in Hades of controlling. If you appreciate style as well
as substance you will adore this latest tour de force from Bros Coen, the
smartest fraternal pair to animate the screen since the Warners.
January 31 Innocence
(Australia 2000) 94 min.
Directed by Paul Cox.
With Julia Blake, Charles `Bud' Tingwell, Terry Norris, Robert Menzies, et al.
Finally, a real love story---that is, a story about real love. Paul Cox
reliably comes across with profoundly moving films (Lonely
Hearts, Man of Flowers), proving that Australia's film
industry's still got it. Here he directs a story about two appealingly
decent people who reunite as seniors. Once teenage flames, Claire and
Andreas find themselves in the sweet twilight of their lives, getting
it on with gusto all over again. Everyone is surprised by their
transgression, not the least of whom is John, Claire's dullish husband.
Innocence took the main prizes at the big festivals last year
because it looks so unflinchingly, honestly, and humourously at mature
love, and not the kind necessarily linked to sex. That said,
Innocence is clearly interested in sex, the kind that is
finally free from social restraint and false modesty after 60 years of
life. The film therefore has an amazing candor, as far from the phony
gestures of a Vanilla Sky or a Serendipity as you can possibly get.
When real stories happen to good actors you get Innocence,
possibly the most poignant film you will see this year.
February 7 Princess and the Warrior
(Germany 2000) 132 min.
aka Der Krieger und die Kaiserin. Rated R. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Tom Twyker.
With Franke Potente, Beno Fürmann, et al.
The witty director of Run Lola Run has
come up with something not completely different. We have had many requests
for this feature, what Roger Ebert has shrewdly recognized as the product of
an artist. In some ways The Princess and the Warrior is an extension
of Lola's themes, but a more serious and probing version.
Here Twyker explores the
relationship between choice and fate with and through the same compelling
Lola star. Potente is Sissi, a nurse in a psychiatric hospital whose life is
saved---in a scene too intense and astonishing to be described in mere words
(just be prepared!)---by a hood named Bodo. Before long Sissi sees it as her
destiny to track him down and acknowledge the debt she feels she owes him.
If only life were that simple. Fortunately, this movie isn't interested in
simplicity, because Twyker takes us into a deep and fascinating labyrinth of
coincidences, where the conventions of a heist genre converge with those of
romance. It's a lengthy two-hour quest, but if you really crave three hours
of meaningless special effects you know where else you can go.
February 14 Last Wedding
(Canada 2001) 100 min.
Directed by Bruce Sweeney.
With Benjamin Ratner, Frida Betrani, Tom Scholte, Nancy Sivak, Vincent Gale,
This showing was cancelled because the print was not available.
It will be shown on March 28th.
February 21 Kandahar
(France/Iran 2001 ) 85 min.
Directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
With Niloufar Pazira, Hassan Tantai, Sadou Teymouri.
thinking the distributor made a mistake and thinks the Empire Theatre is in
Kabul, but never mind, we've got it, we're showing it, you'll love it.
Amazingly, this semi-documentary drama was made before what CNN has invented
as `America's New War.' What might have been an art house film attended only
by people who speak Farsi is now a major theatrical phenomenon.
centres on the journey of a female journalist---in this case one inspired by a
real Canadian woman, Niloufar Pazira---who dared to penetrate the
looking-glass world of the Taliban to locate a desperate pen pal.
Pazira contacted director Makhmalbaf and what we see on the screen is his attempt
to turn crisis into art. The burqa-disguised lead is a woman named Nafas
(actually played by Pazira!) whose fate (or is it fiction? we are never
entirely sure) leads her through the dizzying maze of Afghanistan. Truth
is, the film was actually shot in and around the Iran-Afghanistan border,
and most of the people Nafas/Pazira encounters in this film are the real
thing: locals who had never even seen a film before let alone acted in one.
There is no denying the power of the golden dry landscape itself and the
bizarre and miserable condition of women under Taliban rule, but perhaps
above all the film provides the unmistakable sense of a different culture,
as much in need of our understanding and patience as our own confusing
February 28 Tar Angel
(Canada 2001) 110 min.
aka L'Ange de Goudron. In French with English subtitles.
Directed by Denis Chouinard.
With Hyam Abbas, Kenza Abiabdillah, Koumba Ball, et al.
More than timely, Tar Angel is positively uncanny.
Brought to us by Quebec's latest sensational wonder-director, this
movie is about all the major themes of the moment: immigrants, bureaucrats,
paranoia, cultural conflict, and state oppression. See it as a film about
Anywhere Anytime and you'll be freer to appreciate the universal nature of
its subjects. But there is no denying the presence of la belle province
either. The title character is Ahmed, an Algerian living in Montreal who
walks the roofs of the city's houses with that familiar smelling bucket of
black goop. His teenage son, daughter and pregnant wife all need his
hard-won paycheck. So he does what he must: tar roofs, pray, and feed his
family. Meanwhile, he longs for Canadian citizenship, knows the words to O
Canada better than we do, and patiently, respectfully, bides his time. Life
is hard enough but then harder stuff happens. Citizenship is deferred, the
teenage son gets into trouble, and the father embarks on a journey through
the perplexing province of Quebec to find him. Imagine being an outsider to
that already multi-signed space. Tar Angel is at times amusing and
deeply troubling in its treatment of the fear of Others and generational/family
conflict. Obviously not shy about layering his story with richly interwoven
themes, Chouinard has created a little masterpiece of contemporary
experience. In Quebec, not being able to turning right on red lights is the
least of anyone's problems.
March 7 Our Lady of the Assassins
(Colombia/France/Spain 2000) 98 min.
aka La Virgen de los sicarios. Rated R. Spanish with English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Barbet Schroeder.
With Germ´n Jaramillo, Anderson Ballesteros,
Juan David Restrepo, Manuel Busquets, et al.
Based on Fernando Vallejo's
1994 novel, this gritty portrait of life in Medellín, Colombia,
is both wise
and disturbing. Schroeder captures the inexplicable reality of a city filled
with gorgeous cathedrals and vicious drug dealers. Life is cheap and dirty
here, no place for God or man. Nonetheless, and although God has obviously
left the buildings, man must live, if ruthlessly. Fernando is the aging
prodigal resident who returns to the city of his birth, vaguely in search of
a kind of annihilation à la death in Venice. Alexis, a young murdering
type, lures Fernando into his brutal life, one informed by the corrosive
drug-saturated culture of Columbia, which the original novel captured so
vividly. Having been raised in Colombia, Schroeder knows what he is filming
about. Indeed, much of the film is set against the real mean streets of
Medellín, a modern urban hell if there ever were one. If you remember the
lurid romanticism of Schroeder's Barfly you will appreciate the
nature of his vision in Our Lady of the Assassins.
Somewhere off stage, American
celebrities and bourgeois yuppies are enjoying the pleasures of cocaine.
In Medellín, no one seems to benefit from the economy of illegal trade.
Think of Our Lady as Blow from the point of view of all
those people George Jung ripped off in the seventies.
March 14 Treed Murray
(Canada 2001) 90 min.
Directed by William Phillips.
With David Hewlett, Aaron Ashmore, Kevin Duhaney, Jessica Greco, et al.
Be prepared: this is a blurb about a Canadian feature in which the word
`quirky' will not appear. Treed Murray sounds as if it might
be weird, but it's really a simple story with a powerful allegorical
spin. Low budgeted and well written, this clever and compelling film
proves that all you need is talent, not big studio backing, to say
something intelligent. Hewlett plays a cool urban guy---that's right,
Murray---who is stuck in a tree. What's it like to act for almost 90
minutes about 16 feet away from the rest of the cast? Well, at least
he didn't need to use Listerine. Murray is an ad exec, a white rabbit
of a guy, always late for an important date, on the hustle and
somewhere to go. One day when a gang of muggers confronts him in a park
he has nowhere to go but up. The gang finds him and the movie evolves
into a psychodrama between the shrewd if unfortunately elevated Murray
and the young earth-bound punks. Shark, the West Side Storyish leader
of the pack, is not easily outsmarted, however. He loathes everything
Murray stands for and resolves to fight this one to the grass.
Fortunately this is Canada and the gang members don't pack side arms.
Apparently, a good vocabulary always helps when fighting rough in
Toronto. Director Phillips dubbed his movie Die Hard in a Tree.
Even better, Bruce Willis was never even consulted.
March 21 Together
(Sweden 2000) 106 min.
aka Tillsammans. Swedish with English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Lukas Moodysson.
With Lisa Lindgren, Michael Nyqvist, Emma Samuelsson, Sam Kessel, et al.
We have been trying to import this totally hilarious comedy by the
director of Show Me Love for some time. Together is
Moodysson's irresistible follow-up, a post-Bergmanesque look at a
mid-seventies commune of hippies. It's cheap-shot territory, sure, but
this gentle satire of hypocrisy and non-communal selfishness prefers to
structure its intelligence around the point of view of a young girl,
Eva, who runs away from her drunken father. Hippie havens might have
been repressed hotbeds for naïve adults but they sure were creative
learning experiences for kids. You'll recognize the group dynamics with
alarm. Marxists, feminists, newly identified lesbians, dogmatic
anti-capitalists, organic-loving dictators, serious readers: these all
commingle---or try to---under one granola-sheltering roof. It is
impossible not to laugh at the extensive character studies offered up
for us here, as if we were examining a prehistoric species with
impossibly noble ideas. But Together goes deeper than mere
caricature, humanizing its point of view with wit and sensitivity.
You'll really love this one.
March 28 Me You Them
(Brazil 2000). 104 min.
aka Eu, Tu, Eles. Portuguese with English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Elena Soarez.
With Regina Casé, Lima Duarte, Stênio Garcia, Luís Carlos Vasconcelos,
Why is it that Latin
Americans tend to structure their comedies as sexy adult versions of Three's
Company? Here we have an even more complicated arrangement when an
independent Brazilian woman named Darlene ends up living with three of her
suitors. Raising a young boy on her own, Darlene has to consider the
options. Three is better than none, to be sure. Things begin reasonably
enough when she first marries a kind and elderly neighbour. Things intensify
when her husband's young romantic cousin moves in. Things get really crazy
when a hunk of a farm labourer starts chasing Darlene. The plot is
contrived, but who cares? We're gawking at Brazil, listening to fabulous
music, trying to decipher a foreign language, and being charmed by a diverse
stable of men and a strong willfully sexual woman. You night consider this
movie a refreshing complement to the phony middle class communality of
Together. In Me You Them people are poor and cannot afford
to idealize human
behaviour. They need practical strategies to make the most of the daily
grind, creating an interesting economy of sex and necessity.
April 4 *TBA*
(to be announced)
check back for updates
March 21 Amélie
(France/Germany 2001). 122 min.
aka Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain [IMAGE]
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
With Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, et al.
One of the most
charming wonderful exuberantly life-affirming pictures you will ever see -
ever - this sure-to-be Oscared romantic comedy will take the wrinkles right
out of your chinos. Even the ordinarily detached French have gone
nation-nuts for Amélie, the titular figure in this most delightful treat
played by Audrey Tautou. She possesses an irrepressible optimism about life,
a sense of wonder and appreciation, and a fabulous hair cut. Raised in a
cocoon of loneliness - offered to us in a brilliantly funny montage (watch
for the Quebec tourist joke) - this sweet waif is transformed completely
when she hears the news of Princess Diana's death. One thing leads to
another. Amélie thereafter commits to executing not-so-random acts of
kindness for strangers for the rest of her life. Of course, we all know
where good intentions lead, so there are consequences, some dangerously
unpredictable, but some so inevitable you have to wonder if life isn't
running according to a glorious plan, after all. Under director Jeunet's
creative direction, and abetted with a superb script, this movie takes us on
a fantastic cinematic journey through time and space and Paris. You really
couldn't ask for anything more in a movie. Come early -- snuggle into your
seat: you're in for a splendid ride.
Lukas Moodysson's Together,
which was originally scheduled for March 21st,
will not be shown.
March 28 Last Wedding
(Canada 2001) 100 min.
Directed by Bruce Sweeney.
With Benjamin Ratner, Frida Betrani, Tom Scholte, Nancy Sivak, Vincent Gale,
Mark this one in your PDA. You really don't want to miss it.
A black comedy of manners, Last Wedding might have been an excellent
award-winning antidote to the forced schmaltz of Valentine's Day. We bring
it back to you now, after a distribution screw-up. The occasion for the
snappy dialogue and revealing character studies is, of course, the nuptials
of some friends. Noah and Zipporah are the `last' of a group to stand before
the judge, the other two couples being already hitched and not altogether
blissfully. Vancouver director Sweeney worked the script from his own life
experiences, natch, so the authentic rings of conversation here should not
surprise us. When Last Wedding opened the Toronto Film Festival everyone
knew it was a winner and that Sweeney would write his own ticket to the
Genies. When scripts refuse to dumb down, when dialogue is smart and
brutally honest, when characters are as familiar as your favourite t-shirts,
you get a brilliant work like this. Make sure to get to the church of the
cinema on time. Last Wedding is outstanding in every category.
Elena Soarez' Me You Them,
which was originally scheduled for March 28th,
will not be shown.
April 4 Business of Strangers
(US 2001) 84 min.
Directed by Patrick Stettner.
With Stockard Channing, Julia Styles, and Fred Weller.
movie that will rumple your Easter bonnet. An actor's dream, Business of
Strangers features two exceptionally gifted women in the combative lead
roles. Stockard Channing plays a tough talking, experienced, formidable
corporate force named Julie Styles. She hustles software for the company.
The plot is driven by the imminent arrival of her boss, who, she assumes,
has come to lower the boom. Meanwhile her assistant techie, a younger woman
who is decidedly not trying to fit into the demanding corporate world, turns
a bad day sour when she fools up the A/V presentation. Julia Stiles is Paula
Murphy, a rebellious Dartmouth grad with plenty of young attitude and some
fierce body art. Intensely psychological and brimming with melodramatic
possibilities, this movie pits these two counter-generational women first
against and then with each other. Fate soon conspires to bring them together
in a bar later that night, encouraging an encounter that will disclose some
secrets and change everything. Pity the poor schmuck of a male executive who
walks into their minds. Business of Strangers has been critically lauded as
an insightful look at the hotel-bound on-the-fly cell-phone-packing modern
businesswoman, a new hybrid of sense and femininity. Billed as a
comedy-thriller, this movie is definitely rated R - for Riveting.