MUN Cinema Series
Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.
January 10 2 Days in Paris (France/Germany 2007) 96 min. English and French with English subtitles [IMAGE] The ever lovely actor Delpy writes, directs, and stars in this utterly charming romance about, well, romance. It is intriguing to think of this film as the antidote to the two cinematic treats in which Delpy has famously starred, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. Here she focuses not on two people coming together in one of the most romantic cities in the world, but on their unraveling. Marion and Jack have been living together in New York; in an effort to reanimate their relationship they holiday in Europe, ending up at Marion's parents' apartment in Paris (played by Delpy's real-life parents). The City of Lights ends up dimming the luster of things, however, turning the genre inside out. A romantic comedy nonetheless, 2 DAYS IN PARIS just reinforces our love affair with the amazingly talented Delpy, not to mention the city from which she comes.
January 17 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (France/USA 2007) 112 min. [IMAGE] You think you have problems? Imagine life being reduced to your left eye. Magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby woke up from a stroke that left him virtually dead. He is paralyzed, profoundly incapacitated, and walled in by darkness. To say that the film is actually based on the film Bauby wrote in this condition is to speak of the sheer power of human willand a glorious imagination. He "wrote" by blinking his way through the alphabet, one letter at a time. Artist Schnabel hired the finest crew in the world to bring those painfully wrought words to the screen in stunning, dreamlike, gorgeous colour. The film evokes the world as Bauby experiences it, a rush of confusion and memory. Schnabel deservedly won best Director at Cannes for this vivid achievement, and the film has been gathering prizes at an almost humbling speed. If you see only one film this year, this has to be it.
January 24 Margot at the Wedding (USA 2007) 92 min. [IMAGE] If you liked The Squid and the Whale you'll also like this saucy feature from the wordy brain of Baumbach, another study in the relentless dysfunction of the family. Here we find Margot (Kidman) traveling with her son to her sister's big rambling place in the east where she is about to get married again. The sisters don't really speak to each other, but weddings demand attendance and Margot shows up with a history of slights, grudges, peeves, and painful memories, in addition to her own agenda. The sisters spar, but in that compelling Baumbach waywith lacerating wit, nerve-touching truths, and wicked personal revelations. It's like watching World Federation Family Wrestling. Kidman is uncharacteristically mean-spirited, showing the dark side of all those perfect heroines on which her career has risen. And the performances in general achieve that level of smart, independent dialogue that reminds us so much of ourselves. Deliciously dark, with the devil in the details.
January 31 Persepolis (France/USA 2007) 95 min. [IMAGE] You'll be hearing a lot about this dark, uniquely animated feature. It's France's Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 80th Annual Academy Awards. Why? Based on the 2-volume graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi, PERSEPOLIS is a masterpiece of adaptation. The work is autobiographical, as legions of readers already know. Marjane was 8 in 1978 when the Islamic revolution changed her country, a precocious child in Tehran. Mistakenly, her happy family and doting grandmother believed that the overthrow of the Shah would result in more secular reform. Instead, the Ayatollah Khomeini ruled and the rest is now ongoing, troubled history. Marjane is shipped off to Vienna for a spell, insisting on her independence and universal human rights. She embraces a popular culture that defies the oppressiveness of religious ideology, but such rebellion has its price. PERSEPOLIS is an astonishing personal journey, rendered beautiful and poignant, at turns hilarious and frightening, with the help of some of the finest animators on the planet. If your knee jerks at the thought of feature animation you should get it fixed, and see this film.
February 14 Poor Boy's Game (Canada 2007) 104 min. [IMAGE] Among other reasons to see this strong feature from acclaimed director Virgo is that the film is based in Halifax. This is a story, as the title implies, about working-class culture and the men who reproduce it. Donnie (Sutherland, son of Donald, brother of Jack Bauer) has been in prison for a decade, paying for having beaten a black young man to a brain-damaged pulp. While incarcerated, he developed even better boxing skills and acquired a lover in the form of his black cellmate. Now out on the streets, if not out of the closet, Donnie has to deal with the fall-out of that long-ago black and white feud. Glover plays the dad of the original victim, struggling to find the right way to avenge his son's fate. If you remember Virgo's brilliant debut film, Rude, you will appreciate this film's enormous strengths. The performances are impressive and the themes of race, class, and sex are forcefully woven through a smart, persuasive script that should be a contender, if you follow our meaning.
February 21 Youth Without Youth (USA/Germany/Italy/France/Romania 2007) 124 min. [IMAGE] Many have wondered if great American director Francis Ford Coppola would ever turn away from his successful vineyard operations and resume filmmaking. After ten years in grape heaven he has. YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH is the story of Dominic (Roth), a man with a peculiar challenge. Depressed and defeated and Romanian to boot, he decides to kill himself, but lightning strikes and he ends up growing younger. This strange phenomenon attracts the attention of Third Reich officers who are launching their infamous campaigns against humanity. Ok, that's bad, but one day, Dominic thinks he sees a woman with whom he was once in love. Lightning strikes her but the process is sadly reversed. The older she gets the more languages she starts to acquire. Since Dominic is a linguist, the relationship is a mixed blessing. (Is the title starting to make sense?). No one ever said Coppola wasn't an ambitious filmmaker. In YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH he seems hell bent on pushing complexity at his viewers, the result also being a mixed blessing of sorts. Always interesting, the maestro of the apocalypse is still working through the human condition in glorious technicolor.
February 28 Redacted (USA/Canada 2007) 90 min. [IMAGE] Controversial, brilliant, and already an award-winner, this comeback feature by provocative thrill-master de Palma is arguably the finest anti-war film of the season. Based on real events, the film simulates the way the director himself discovered some of the shocking truths of the war in Iraq. At an army checkpoint, bullets from a speeding car kill a woman and her unborn child. A chain of revenge sets in, as one of the soldiers is killed by a local soldier. In turn, two Americans go after the perpetrators, committing hideous crimes and generating more hatred, suspicion and loathing among the very people they were sent to protect. You don't need to be a liberal to see why the war is not working the way the Bush administration promised it would. Further irony attends to the fact that some of the footage of this film was actually "redacted", when de Palma was bullied into not showing the faces of real Iraqi victims of warthe faces we never see on the 6 o'clock news. It's not pretty but it's real, and it's no surprise that REDACTED won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Attention must be paid.
March 6 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania 2007) 113 min. [IMAGE] Undisputed winner of the Cannes Golden Palm, this masterpiece, fresh from the emerging talent of the Romanian film industry, simply must be seen. Set in the dying days of the East bloc, with the utterly contemptuous Ceausescu still in power, the film focuses on the haunting commonplaces of terrible and alarmingly recent times. It's 1987 and two college roommates, Gabita and Otilia, are preparing for something. We soon discover what that might be, an abortion for Gabita, which Otilia does her best to procure. Expecting relief but finding only horror and despair, the two women endure an unimaginably despairing 24 hours, the details of which are subtly, never shockingly, revealed in the slow, steady, unrelenting candor of the film image. Internationally acclaimed director Mangui has proven that you do not need a huge budget or special effects to produce cinematic gold. You need respect for your characters, a sense of timing, purpose, and a profound respect for the dignity of humanity. The subject is dark but its treatment is never exploitative or flashy. Dare to be moved.
March 13 In the Shadow of the Moon (UK/USA 2007) 100 min. [IMAGE] Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars... It was the summer of '69 and many of us vividly remember where we were when the Apollo mission landed with a graceful thump on that big cold cheesy orb. This exciting, spectacular documentary interviews the surviving astronauts, most of them alive and well and open and willing to talk about their extraordinary space odysseys. Intercut with their candid accounts are some of the most amazing samples of footage you've ever seen. Years have been spent polishing, cleaning, and enhancing the filmstock collected by the six missions that managed to make it to the moon. Much of what we see here is therefore fresh and startling. If Stanley Kubrick were alive today he'd take as much pleasure as we do out of this stunning display of what lies above.
March 20 Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (USA 2007) 117 min. [IMAGE] A movie buff who doesn't like Sydney Lumet doesn't like life. And will we ever see Philip Seymour Hoffman act badly? Never: the man is one of the finest living screen actors-amazingly relaxed in his portly body and fully credible in any role he takes on. And so between Lumet and Hoffman we're already well on the way to a fine MUN Cinema melodrama, the kind that haunts your waking moments as well as your dreams. Also starring in this bleak, gritty flick is Ethan Hawke, an arguably more uneven actor but one who delivers here under the right direction and against such a brilliant foil. He plays a down-in-the-dirt brother to Hoffman, a loser of a father who seems to be going nowhere fast. As the more affluent day-job-holding older brother Andy, Hoffman has his own problems. Never evil or even psychotic, the two brothers nonetheless are driven to imagine a serious criminal act. The consequences of their unfortunate plan become the meaty substance of the narrative, with Albert Finney as the imposing patriarch who has both the wisdom of experience and a hell of a lot to answer for. As the Irish saying goes, 'May you be forty years in heaven BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD.'
March 27 Up the Yangtze (Canada 2007) 93 min. [IMAGE] Ever wonder what happened to those ambitious Concordia films school grads? Some end up achieving greatness. Yung Chan offers us a terrific feature-length documentary essay on the radically shifting landscape that is contemporary China. You don't need a paddle to get there, only curiosity and a willingness to follow the plight of one woman, Yu Shui, whose poor family lives along the Yangtze, the ancient river now rapidly evolving into a tourist-boat waterway. The effects of this phenomenon and of general cultural shift on Shui and her family are devastating at times, mirroring the general upheaval of an entire nation on the make. Filmmaker Chan approaches his subject with a smart sensitivity, managing to find humour and humanity among the hazardous channels of cultural tourism.
April 3 Waiter (Ober) (Netherlands/Belgium 2006) 97 min. [IMAGE] Billed as a sophisticated black comedy, this quirky, recessively storied cinematic game is sure to please fans of the Being John Malkovich genre. Played by the director himself, the hapless waiter Edgar lives out a drearily routine life of serving up food, playing with his mistress, and trudging back to his wife. Soon we learn, however, that Edgar is merely a product of a screenwriter's imagination, a figure of fiction, but then we are always watching fiction, after all. Does anyone really care where the truth lies? Like the monster getting even with Dr Frankenstein, Edgar starts to scheme a way out of his character, with wit, humour, and a fair share of slapstick, of course. Stylish and playful, WAITER serves up the perfect end-of-season schnitzel.
April 10 Death at a Funeral (USA/UK/Germany/Netherlands 2007) 90 min. [IMAGE] Funerals ain't what they used to be, and in a British director's hands, they are almost guaranteed to be full of farce. Just when you thought things couldn't get worsedad having diedthey do. Caskets pile up like unwanted relatives, identities are mistaken, corpses won't lie down, body parts are exposed, eulogies are hilarious, priests don't know what they're talking about, and so on. There's nothing like a good old-fashioned British comedy to prove that the Brits invented eccentricity. You'll laugh until you get mourning sickness.