Fall 2004

Sep 9  The Saddest Music in the World
Sep 16  Good Bye Lenin!
Sep 23  Valentín
Sep 30  Coffee and Cigarettes
Oct 7  Before Sunset
Oct 14  19 Months
Oct 21  Control Room
Oct 28  Maria Full of Grace
Nov 4  Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring
Nov 11  Facing Windows is rescheduled to December 9.
Nov 18  Touch of Pink
Nov 25  Nathalie
Dec 2  Stage Beauty
Dec 9  Facing Windows/La finestra di fronte

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

September 9   The Saddest Music in the World (Canada 2003) 99 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for some sexuality and violent images. [IMAGE]
Directed by Guy Maddin.
With Mark McKinney, Isabella Rossellini, Maria de Medeiros, Ross McMillan, David Fox, Claude Dorge, Darcy Fehr, Erik J. Berg et al.
It's actually a bit odd to think of Maddin's films as violent or sexual, because they are so stylized and arty. That's not to say they aren't filled with menace or sensual imagery because those are qualities on which a Maddin film depends. This latest feature is probably Maddin's most accessible achievement, and when you consider his Tales From the Gimli Hospital (1988) or Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (1997) you know what we mean. Here satire and romance fuse to form a surreal musical fantasy, all centered on the Depression in Winnipeg, Maddin's famously inspirational hometown. The agelessly enigmatic Rossellini plays a legless brewery owner who sponsors a contest for the saddest music in the world. Strangely, no one shows up to sing 'Let Me Fish off Cape St Mary's,' but many assorted weirdos do vie for the title, notably Kids in the Hall alumni Mark McKinney's Chester. For Rossellini, the move from 'Blue Velvet' to a starring role in a Maddin film was as natural as inhaling. Based on a screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro ('The Remains of the Day') The Saddest Music in the World marks yet another Maddin line between nostalgia and surrealism. Indeed, Maddin's sensibility is so alluringly different you can't even call it Canadian.

September 16   Good Bye Lenin! (Germany 2003) 121 min.
[IMDb] German with English subtitles, Rated R for brief language and sexuality. [IMAGE]
Directed by Wolfgang Becker.
With Daniel Brühl, Katrin Saß, Chulpan Khamatova, Maria Simon, Florian Lukas, Alexander Beyer, Burghart Klaußner et al.
A fabulous premise drives this dramatic feature about life in times of transition. It's the 'eighties and the Berlin Wall is as high as an East German's eye. Mom is a True Communist Believer who devotes more time to the Party than to her two kids. Dad checked out for capitalism a long time ago. The family is borderline dysfunctional and centreless. One day Mom sees that her son has been beaten in a pro-freedom rally. Falling into a heart attack-induced coma, she awakens months later, the Wall having come down like a ton of bricks. Alarmed that such news will send his mother back into sickness, the son painstakingly maintains the illusion of the East/West divide. Such efforts are hilarious at times, forcing laughs at Mom's expense but giving the audience no end of amusement. A huge hit at the Toronto Film Festival, Good Bye Lenin! is superbly acted and brilliantly shot, taking an absurd premise and naturalizing it through comedy and astute social-political analysis: intelligent and funny.

September 23   Valentín (Argentina/Netherlands/France/Italy/Spain 2002) 86 min.
[IMDb] Spanish with English subtitles. Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Alejandro Agresti.
With Rodrigo Noya, Julieta Cardinali, Carmen Maura, Jean Pierre Noher, Mex Urtizberea, et al.
Films about lonely kids really can't go wrong, especially if they end with a measure of (guarded) optimism. The title figure in this Argentinean based production is such a young boy, one with a vivid imagination and a deep yearning for a real family. Living in Buenos Aires with his grandmother in the politically fraught 'sixties, Valentin achingly longs for his mother's return. All the grown ups in his world seem miserable or crooked, and so in spite of his own sadness he takes on their woes, trying to cheer everyone up without ever fully realizing why they feel the way they do. Director Alejandro Agresti plays the boy's gruff dad, an interesting role in an admittedly autobiographical film. Perhaps turning himself into his childhood enemy was one way of beating his demons. The effort obviously worked. It also gave Agresti the chance to hang out with a beautiful blonde fiancé, Leticia, on whom Valentin transfers all his familial longing. As you might expect, vying for audience attention with the young child is the city of Buenos Aires itself, casual in both its beauty and sophistication. The film makes you wish you could sip strong coffee in a café and nod to charming little boys like Valentin all day. In the title role, young Rodrigo Noya is simply astonishing, totally persuasive and hypnotically good in every sense of the word.

September 30   Coffee and Cigarettes (USA 2003) 95 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Jim Jarmusch.
With Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Joie Lee, Cinqué Lee, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits et al.
Check out the calling card - great director and a cast of favourite indie circuit celebrities, a film series wet dream. If Jarmusch hadn't created this film we would have had to have done it for him. As the title suggests, Coffee and Cigarettes is about talk and the people who do it. There are 11 different stories here, all woven in and around the smoky chatty environs of a diner. Many of these vignettes were conceived and executed several years ago and for different reasons. For example the whole idea began in 1986 with a short film for 'Saturday Night Live.' Eventually what evolved into this feature is a bunch of uneven but always intensely interesting shorts made over a considerable span of time with a cast of known professionals who wander in and out of their plots like slumming actors. Sure enough, various themes start to emerge. After all, most of us worry about the same things, from the trivial to the sublime. Consider that the subjects of these conversations range from Elvis to medicine and peas. Why would anyone pay to listen to these people slurping, smoking, and talking, you might well ask? Well, if you don't like Tom Waits then you might not get it, but if you do you'll see the point of the pointlessness. We wonder if the talk down at Tim Horton's is as interesting, but then Jarmusch can make art of anyone's double doubles.

October 7   Before Sunset (USA 2004) 80 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for language and sexual references. [IMAGE]
Directed by Richard Linklater.
With Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Vernon Dobtcheff, Rodolphe Pauly, Louise Lemoine Torres et al.
It was 1995. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy played Jesse and Celine, two young strangers who end up sharing an intensely romantic night together in Vienna, expecting to meet again six months later. That was 'Before Sunrise,' a critically acclaimed favourite with the film house crowds. In this update, a long nine years have passed and the two strangers run into each other again in Paris. Jesse is now a novelist launching a book about that earlier encounter. Celine actually lives in the City of Lights. Ooh la la. Jesse has a flight to catch back to the USA but catching up is a priority, and so they agree to share coffee, if not cigarettes, and open themselves up to each other again. The gentle unfolding of the intervening years makes for a fascinating set of revelations. Simply put, this film is utterly brilliant in its uncanny ability to capture the real flavour of real conversation between two really interested adults, each of whom has taken some roads, forsaken some others. The dramatic question remains - why the hell don't they just stay together? Or will they? You will rush out to rent the first film if you're smart -- and hunger for the next installment if you're human.

October 14   19 Months (Canada 2002) 77 min.
Directed by Randall Cole
With Benjamin Ratner, Angela Vint, Kari Matchett, Sergio Di Zio, Carolyn Taylor, Marqus Bobesich et al.
The title refers not to the amount of time it takes to get served at Classic Café but to the limits of a romantic relationship. This is the twenty first century and everything is faster, and so although it once took seven years to get itchy it now takes merely a fraction of that time. 19 Months is a pseudo documentary about this very subject. Young lovers Rob and Melanie wisely determine they should salvage the good times while they have them, and so they make a pact to go their separate ways after the scientifically determined year and half. The deal is that as soon as one of them finds someone new the relationship can dissolve. Meanwhile, a film crew is covering their experiment. Had we but world enough and time we could account for why this scheme contains more flaws than a Times Square Rolex: nothing like a shared determination to be sensible about love to screw up a relationship. Before long Rob is subverting his own promises while Melanie's insecurities rumble into every exchange. Communications get petty and testy. This all sounds grim and cheerless, but in fact there is a great deal of wit and humour here, as the audience watches helplessly, painfully/amusingly aware of its own complicity in so many similarly bad arrangements. Ratner and Vint are really terrific in the roles of the angst-ridden partners, alarmingly familiar in their imperfect humanity.

October 21   Control Room (USA 2004) 84 min.
[IMDb] Documentary, Arabic/English. [IMAGE]
Directed by Jehane Noujaim.
With Hassan Ibrahim, Samir Khader, Deema Khatib, Tom Mintier, Joshua Rushing, Lt. Josh Rushing, David Shuster, et al.
In conjunction with the St John's International Women's Film and Video Festival. Given the controversial decision by the CRTC not to allow an unedited Al Jazeera broadcast into Canada, this well balanced documentary is even more important than ever. The film focuses on the Arab satellite news network, but essentially its project is to examine how both 'sides' covered the Iraq conflict, showing us how fragile and uncertain this thing called the 'facts' of the day are. We don't need a seminar in postmodernism to know this, but it is sobering to look at the way meaning is shaped, moulded, tweaked, and sometimes twisted in the service of ideology. Director Jehane Noujaim has done an amazing thing: she has made a documentary about one of the most dramatic stories of our time, as up close and personal as it gets. Everyone seems to hate Al Jazeera, stationed in the gulf nation of Qatar, everyone but about 40 million viewers that is. Demonized by the West, loathed by many Palestinians, the small start-up station sits in uneasy opposition to Centcom, the nearby massive media base where the spokesmen for White House policy declaimed their war on terrorism. Control Room wisely focuses on the human side of the conflict, trailing three interesting and very different players with contradictory views about the war and the future of the region. Indeed, the whole world depends on these events, and how news is reported to inform them.

October 28   Maria Full of Grace (USA/Columbia 2004) 101 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for drug content and language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Joshua Marston.
With Catalina Sandino Mareno, Virgina Ariza, Johanna Andrea Mora, Wilson Guerrero, Fernando Velasquez, Jaime Osorio Gómez et al.
This film is a highlight of the series, at once a seething indictment of the sordidness of the drug trade and a tribute to the nobility of (some of) humanity. That's quite a feat. The title figure is, essentially, a mule - that is, one who is contracted to take cocaine across the border from Columbia into the USA. She does this by swallowing pellets of heroin, a task for the adventurously desperate, to be sure. Swallowing pellets like holy wafers, Maria is driven to these acts out of urgent necessity. She enables vicious drug traffic on the one hand but she does so to keep herself both alive and independent on the other. Every step she takes with her belly loaded like a powdery bomb can lead to pain and tragedy, and, indeed, we witness some who suffer enormously as a result of the journey. Maria is neither saint nor sinner, although if we had to choose she would surely be behind door #1. Ultimately the film wants us to keep critical distance and emotional sympathy, and we honour its challenge largely because of the extraordinary performance of first-time actor Catalina Sandino Mareno, about as convincing a role as you'll see all year. Apparently immigration authorities intercept more than 100 drug mules a year at New York's JFK airport. That's a lot of belly aching, a fact that might make you appreciate those Air Canada sesame snacks after all.

November 4   Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring (South Korea/Germany 2003) 103 min.
[IMDb] Korean with English Subtitles, Rated R for some strong sexuality. [IMAGE]
Directed by Ki-duk Kim.
With Yeong-su Oh, Ki-duk Kim, Young-min Kim, Jae-kyeong Seo, Yeo-jin Ha, Jong-ho Kim, et al.
Mmm, 'strong sexuality' in a film about a Buddhist monk? Who knew? This is some gorgeous dreamy movie, with or without the sex. It follows, as its title suggests, the stages of a monk's life, from boyhood to senior adulthood. Typically, the young initiate learns to respect the natural world and its many secrets. Young adulthood -- summer --brings responsibility and romance. Love might make the world go round but also helps us fall right off its axis - see autumn. Inevitably an older wiser man ends up seeking enlightenment alone, enduring winter with humility and looking towards rebirth in spring. You get it, right? If you are worried about seeing David Carradine turning the corner, relax - this film is more about the stages of life in all their glory and sorrow than it is Buddhism for Dummies. Mercifully, it lacks birthday card platitudes about Being, Becoming, or None of the Above. Better to watch Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ...and Spring than to spend the evening watching lousy television, Grasshopper.

November 11   Facing Windows is rescheduled to December 9. [IMDb]

November 18   Touch of Pink (Canada/UK 2004) 91 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for sexual content and brief language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid
With Jimi Mistry, Kyle MacLachlan, Kristen Holden-Reid, Sue Matthew, Brian George, Veena Sood, Raoul Bhaneja, Liisa Repo-Martell et al.
What would Hollywood be like if everyone were out? If Cary Grant could have admitted he preferred gentleman who were blonds? What about a 1950s domestic comedy with a gay guy as the lead? Wait a minute - what about Doris Day and ....oooops? Touch of Pink aims to raise these questions, humourously and successfully. Jim Mistry plays Alim, a London-based Asian photographer with a very white British boyfriend. All is well until the door of the cage of folly opens. Mom is coming for a visit. Thrown into a spin, Amil invokes the ghost of none other than the Judy-Judy-Judy tongued devil himself, Cary Grant. Kyle 'Twin Peaks' MacLachlan does a terrific impression of the spectral visitor, at once sincere and campy. He's hard to resist. The plot has its reasons. Alim's mother lives in Toronto, preparing for a large family wedding; her trip to London is directed at bringing her son back for the event, with some straight up match-making hopes on the side. Mistaken sexual identity ensues. Fights break out. Disappointment reigns. But this is Touch of Pink, not 'Touch of Evil,' and in the end all families are transformed by love and understanding. They loved it at Sundance. You'll love it in St John's.

November 25   Nathalie (France/Spain 2003)
Directed by Anne Fontaine.
With Fanny Ardant, Emmanuelle Béart, Gérard Depardieu, Wladimir Yordanoff, Judith Magre, Rodolphe Pauly et al.
If this movie were any more French we'd have to replace your popcorn with brie. Love, desire, and betrayal form the triangle of the essential Gallic drama. Starring none other than one of the nation's most iconically beautiful stars, Nathalie features Fanny Ardant as a married woman who learns that her husband often enjoys the company of beautiful strangers when away from home. Hello -he's French! Shrewdly, she hires a stripper, played by the equally iconic Emmanuel Béart, to come on to her husband. Not surprisingly, proboscis-challenged Gérard Depardieu lustily enjoys what's been, er, thrown in his path. The film focuses on the psychological effects of the situation on Ardant's troubled character. Repressed and frustrated, she finds herself drawn into a kind of delicious voyeuristic torment when she hears about her husband's lust for the stripper, Nathalie. The film has its twists and turns, for sure, but its main focus is the field of sexual activity, especially hot sex clubs where ordinary guys like Depardieu's Barnbard can imagine he's actually making love to, well, someone like Emmanuelle Béart. The film is unbelievably sexy, but it's more talk than action - and, as you will see, that seems to be the point. Whatever, we'll have whatever they're all having, with butter.

December 2   Stage Beauty (UK/Germany/USA 2004)
[IMDb] Rated R for sexual content and language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Richard Eyre.
With Claire Danes, Billy Crudup, Rupert Everett, Ben Chaplin, et al.
A theatre lover's dream, the witty, sexy, historically correct STAGE BEAUTY takes us back to post-Puritan England, when men were men and women were men - that is, when women were not allowed to perform on stage. One of the major attractions of the 17th century theatre scene is Ned Kynaston, played with typical bravado by great cute screen actor Billy Crudup. Diarist Samuel Pepys once wrote that Ned was one of the most beautiful women on the London stage. The enchanting Claire 'My So-Called Life' Danes plays Maria, Ned's dresser. Maria is madly in love with Ned, although what team Ned plays for is not exactly clear. Maria knows every line and gesture of Ned's by heart and if the world were only a few moments older she'd be playing Desdemona, not him. Rupert Everett fittingly plays the self-indulgent sybarite, King Charles II. Not to be outdone by the more progressive French, Charles allows his mistress, Nell, to persuade him to allow women to be women on stage. The effect of this sudden decree blindsides Ned and causes havoc backstage. On stage things are a bit weird at first. When Maria gets to act she must adjust to performing as a woman, not as a man playing a woman, which is what she is used to. STAGE BEAUTY is not only about the history of the English stage but also about the challenges of gender and the blurry distinction between reality and illusion. Interesting footnote-no illusion to the heat between Danes and Crudup: the two actors really did fall in love during the shoot. Guess the play really is the thing.

December 9   Facing Windows/La finestra di fronte (Italy/UK/Turkey/Portugal 2003) 102 min.
[IMDb] Italian with English Subtitles, Rated R for language and sexuality. [IMAGE]
Directed by Ferzan Ozpetek
With Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Massimo Girotti, Raoul Bova, Filippo Nigro, Serra Yilmaz, Maria Grazia Bon, et al.
A major award-winner in Italy, Facing Windows is a wonderful study of desire. The film is set in the present but is also shadowed mysteriously by the dreadful fascist 'forties. Giovanna is the centerpiece, so to speak, a good looking woman restlessly married to Filippo. By some sort of twist in the road, they end up taking in an old man, a dazed figure without an apparent identity. Frustrated and trapped, Giovanna finds herself facing down the neighbour's window, framing as it does the attractive form of a young man. The encounter with both this strange older man and her own desire for another generate a new awareness, a sense of both loss and possibility. The experience of this encounter with the self and others changes everything. To say more would be to spoil the delight of what is largely a beautiful dramatic mystery, but you should know there are many stunning visual pleasures here. The film recalls the voyeuristic indulgences of Hitchcock (think Vertigo, Rear Window) and that's a good thing, especially in Italian. A person who doesn't like Italian movies doesn't like life. Prego.