MUN Cinema Series
Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.
September 13 Moonrise Kingdom (USA 2012) 94 min. [IMAGE] If it was good enough to open the Cannes Film Festival this year then it's good enough to open MUN Cinema. It's hard to describe Wes Anderson's cinematic style: it's quirky, all right. But not too far below the surface of his eccentric characters and plots there lies a sadness that comes with the inevitability of adulthood. So it is that MOONRISE KINGDOM is in many ways a celebration of youth, or, more importantly, the freedom and spontaneity that attend to youthand tragically fade with experience. Young moody Suzy and thoughtful Sam are drawn to each other, seeking escape in the 'sixties on an island as magical as the one over which Prospero once ruled. Indeed, Anderson's world is stamped with Shakespearean blocking figuresconfused adults, menacing officials, and all manner of obstacles on the path of young love. Naturally, a full cast of eccentric actors show up to remind us we are in Anderson Land, especially Bill Murray who plays Suzy's gin-soaked dad. This is such a wonderful, sweet, poignant film that you are bound to be moved not only by the fate of the marvelous young actors but by the imagination that invented them and the brave new world they dare to inhabit.
September 20 Compliance (USA 2012) [IMAGE] First, we need to disclose that this taut psychological thriller was based on a real series of events and, second, that it is sometimes really difficult to watch. It all depends on your capacity to watch people being utterly submissivecompliantin the face of authority, no matter how randomly assigned or self-appointed that authority is. Low budget and shot with deliberate close-range, claustrophobic framing, COMPLIANCE puts ordinary people into extraordinary situations. The disturbing action happens in a Midwest fast-food restaurant, where a call from a disembodied authority making accusations leads to a young woman's utter degradation. Yes, that sounds icky and it is, but consider the title of the film and step back to understand it as an experiment in human behavior. There is a Blair Witch Project feel to the escalating horror, but when you are reminded that these events actually happenedand continue to happenyou are likely to ask some larger questions about sex, class, and power. Did we mention that COMPLIANCE is really hard to watch (at times)? Just remember, IT'S ONLY A MOVIE! Not a feel-good one, at that.
September 27 Take This Waltz (Canada/Spain/Japan 2011) 116 min. [IMAGE] Yes, Polley is Canada's sweetheart, because, after all, who else would structure an entire dramatic feature around a Leonard Cohen song? TAKE THIS WALTZ is an almost perfect study of a young marriage, and of a young woman and the journey she stumbles through on the road to independence. Michelle Williams is nothing less than flawless in the role of sweetheart Margot, as cute and nearly as clueless as a button. Seth Rogen is her equally unassuming Lou, a gentle bear of a guy who is also clearly making it all up as he goes along. Complicating their relationship is neighbor-artist Daniel who seems fated to disrupt their status quo. TAKE THIS WALTZ is directed with a skillful, graceful sensitivity to the subtleties of people and place. Even Toronto emerges as a charming, casual character of a city, a benign backdrop for the unpredictable turn of love. This is the Toronto of a Jane Jacobs, not a Rob Ford, and we say amen and thanks to Polley for that.
October 4 Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (USA 2012) 91 min. English and Mandarin [IMAGE] What an inspiring doc this is. By now you have heard of the controversial artist and activist who persists in making his work in the face of all the repression in Chinaliterally. Winner of a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, NEVER SORRY shows us much of the man and a lot more of his work, locating him in a long history of art activism. It's an amazing and continuing story, one largely spliced together by journalist-director Klayman who works here with the fragments of found footage and interviews. We get the picture, all right. Ai Weiwei is fearless and necessarily defiant and he knows that the more attention he gets the harder it will be to make him fall. Anyone who has ever doubted the power of Twitter should pay special attention. The artist has more to say than what he ate for breakfast.
October 11 Beasts of the Southern Wild (USA 2012) 93 min. [IMAGE] Widely lauded as one of the year's best films, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD does what only film can dothat is, invent an entirely new and convincing visual universe out of a very old one. Director Zeitlin has pulled off a miracle for his debut feature, casting a bunch of non-actors in a post-apocalyptic, or more likely post-Katrina universe. The young 6-year-old Quvenzhané lives with her dad, Wink, on a ravished, watery island just off New Orleans. Her world is poor and desperate, some might even say ugly, but that's probably our tired point of view. For her, the world is as magical and mysterious as a secret garden. She sees transformative possibilities, mythical realities, and the promise of surprise in everything. This film is so original and fresh that one is hard pressed to define its genre. Zeitlin has produced something entirely new, a universe borne of rust and imagination, and you know you probably can't see that every day!
October 18 Las Malas Intenciones (The Bad Intentions) (Peru/Argentina/Germany 2011) 110 min. Spanish with English subtitles [IMAGE] Screening with the 23rd St. John's International Women's Film Festival, this award-winning feature is an utterly charming account of a six-year-old girl, Cayetana, who must endure an absent socialite of a mother and a rich stepfather about whom she is at best indifferent. Learning that her mother is pregnant, the young girl imagines a disturbing scenariothat she must die on the day her new brother will be born. The film is set in the Peru of the eighties, as violence and civil unrest erupted. That political drama is backdrop to a story about privilege and loneliness, the private, imaginative world of a little girl contrasted with the troubled politics of the adult world just outside her wealthy fortress. Poignant and humourous, and infused with a powerful sense of how history shapes a young mind, Las Malas Intenciones achieves a rare blend of tones. It's a little masterpiece of social history as seen through the eyes of a child.
October 25 Pariah (USA 2011) 86 min. [IMAGE] This is yet another feature centred on a younger person, in this case a 17-year-old named Alike. Played with astonishing naturalness by young actor Adepero Oduye, Alike experiences the challenges of being a high-school lesbian, shying away from outright disclosure but subtly acknowledging her identity when she has to. This is a really a coming-of-age story, with well-meaning parents struggling, in their own awkward ways, to avoid dealing with an unassailable truth. How common a story this is, we already know. Alike lives in a world we recognize all too well, full of petty cruelties and uncomfortable behaviours. Director Rees commands her subject with appealing confidence. PARIAH is far more accepting of life's differences than its title would suggest. Beautifully shot, written and acted, the film is an accomplished treatment of a world still in transition.
November 1 Pina (Germany/France/UK 2011) 103 min. Subtitled, presented in 3D [IMAGE] Leave it to Wenders to illuminate the world in 3D, showing us there is much more to the technology than cartoon figures popping into our eyeballs. German dancer Pina Bausch is Wender's subject, a remarkable innovator who inconveniently died while Wenders was making this film about her and her talent. But undaunted by illness, Pina insisted he carry on with the project and we are grateful he did, for the result is more than a lyrical tribute to a remarkable woman; it is also a study in time and space and the ways a body moves through these. You don't have to know or even like anything about modern dance to get swept away by this amazing film, so hoof it over to the theater to soak in some sexy beauty and see the world in all of its dimensions.
November 8 Cosmopolis (France/Canada/Portugal/Italy 2012) 108 min. [IMAGE] Yup, we're in a Cronenbergian universe here all right: there's a guy without emotion or affect and there are some beautiful women who don't seem to mind having a go at him. Love's got nothin' to do with it. In this case, the guy is blood-sucking heartthrob, recently jilted Robert Pattison in the central role of the rich guy in a limo crawl. All he wants, if want is even operational, is a haircut. But stuff happens in the course of that quest in that stretch limo, everything from sexual dalliances and criminal acts to prostate examinations. Now that's what we call a car with extras. Cronenberg is one of our best cultural icons, a flawless, brilliant, cerebral director who loves making stories for our affectless age. Adapted from a strange novel by Don DeLillo, COSMOPOLIS is a ride you won't easily forget.
November 15 Laurence Anyways (Canada/France 2012) 159 min. French with English subtitles [IMAGE] Also a buzz-magnet at Cannes, LAURENCE ANYWAYS is about a high-school teacher who yearns to be a woman, and then decides to do something about it. Laurence's girlfriend Fred anchors the drama as the partner who has to deal. At first she is supportive of the change but then she faces self-doubt and a range of emotional reactions, swinging from guilt to sympathy to resentment and so on. It's a remarkable performance and one that grounds Laurence's own transition in a much bigger narrative of personal and social transformation. Get this: Quebecer Dolan is 23 years old. Everyone knows the guy is a genius. After all, he pulled off an extended film about a touchy subject and got to strut his stuff at Cannes. This is already his third feature, and so who knows where all of this is going? For the rest of us mere mortals, LAURENCE ANYWAYS is evidence enough.
November 22 Oslo, August 31st (Norway 2011) 95 min. Norwegian with English subtitles [IMAGE] Another adaptation from a novel, another show. Based on the work of Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, OSLO tracks about twenty four hours in the life of an addict who, fresh from rehab, is on his own in the city. Is this an existential journey, a final diurnal round, a transition into sobriety? The answer isn't exactly blowing in the wind but a lot depends on what you make of the encounters Anders has with others, including and especially an old good friend who has taken a very different path. So much also depends on the performance of Danielsen Lie as the troubled young man, a remarkable tour de force of credibility. It's not every druggie who can quote Proust and Schopenhauer without pretension and so you know you're in the grip of some finer material here. This is a beautiful, thoughtful, and intelligent film and you'll feel so much smarter after seeing it.
November 29 Intouchables (France 2011) 112 min. French with English subtitles [IMAGE] Another feel-good offering in this series collection, INTOUCHABLES smashed French box offices and charmed its way into art-house theatres everywhere. It's an irresistible, true story about a millionaire who is paralyzed after an accident and in a fit of bored rebellion hires a smart-ass thief as his caregiver. The film explores their growing relationship, an odd couple if ever there were one. The tall saucy African has a thing or two to teach the stuffy French rich guy, including how best to smoke pot, and so you know you're in one of those reverse teacher-victim tales we've seen before. But the performances are so enchanting and fun, and the film is shot with such a zippy energy, that you'd be a Cronenberg character if you didn't find yourself smiling at it. Make sure you stick around for the credits to see where the story came from. It's an uplifting moment that just won't go away.
December 6 Your Sister's Sister (USA 2011) 90 min. [IMAGE] Don't you just love Emily Blunt? This is really an actor's dream of a movie and Blunt is so well matched by her co-stars who form the other sides of a peculiar triangle. Iris (Blunt) wants her best pal Jack to cheer up from grieving for his brother. She arranges a getaway at the family homestead where her sister Hannah is hanging out. Before you can ask who's older, Jack and Hannah are hooked up and complicated. How do they tell Iris? Machinations ensue. The film is one of those fabulously balanced scripts where good dialogue ends and improv begins and you can't really tell where the line is. The three actors play off against each other like sophisticated pros, capturing the zeitgeist through their wit and dietary inclinations. We know these people; we are these people. Shelton directs them all with a kind of happy confidence, showing off the scenic west coast environment steady as she goes.