This is Isabelle Huppert’s moment. Considered the only serious competition for Meryl Streep in the Best Actress Ever category, Huppert just can’t help stealing every scene she’s in. Here she plays Michèle, a rape victim—although she’s not your conventional victim. In fact, she’s so unconventional you can’t stop staring at everything she says and does. Verhoeven has created—with the help of the source novel—a fascinating narrative exploration of the topical issue of consent. Sexual relations remain a work in progress. As we follow Michèle in her response to the rape, and in her daily encounters with a host of disappointing men and confused women, we are taken on a very wild ride through our contradiction-fraught historical moment. Fascinating!
If you like “Orphan Black” then you will love THE OTHER HALF. Maslany is outstanding as Emily, an artist with bipolar disorder. Her boyfriend (in real life, too) is Cullen’s Nickie, a Brit who drives a cab through the familiar turf of downtown Toronto with a barely concealed rage. They’re quite the couple, and you might think such a story the movie calls for histrionic emoting, but we’re dealing with pros here, as well as director Klein’s expert control of the material. It’s a tour de force of acting all around. The action is in character, not the other way around. The script was a Sundance-lab favourite. The execution lives fully up to that promise
Yes this is a documentary, and so don’t get all snooty and stay away. You’ve never really seen anything quite like this (Facebook-inspired) study of a 13-year-old girl, Aisholpan Nurgaiv, who is learning to hunt with eagles. That’s what boys do, of course, and so what you’re watching is pretty radical. Shot in the stunning Altai Mountains of Mongolia, the film reveals the influence of Aisholpan’s eagle-hunting competitor dad on his young, very brave daughter. Equally stunning is the fact that this film got made at all. The film crew risked a lot finding the family in the first place, let alone achieving some of the amazing shots you’ll see here. You’re going to know a lot about eagles by the end of it, but, more to the point, you’ll get to admire the sheer guts and talent of a smart young woman. Bring your daughters for some winning life lessons!
Every now and then a film is revived because of its sheer magical brilliance. This is one of those immortal examples, a film so delightful it transcends time, as well as specific cultural and social history. The title refers to the female lead, a sweet young woman who joins in a search for the Holy Grail of Japanese cuisine--the perfect noodle. With the questing male entrepreneur Goro, she enters a dream of opening the most perfect noodle shop. Along the way, they—and we—learn absolutely everything there is to know about longish strips of edible dough. In case you didn’t know, this film is totally hilarious, a charming satire of American westerns, a comedy inside a romance all wrapped up in sōmen and udon. It’s packing the houses all over North America. Many of us can’t wait to slurp our way through TAMPOPO all over again.
Here’s Huppert again, this time in one of the best films of 2016. Just ask the critics. She is Nathalie, a down-to-earth Paris-based philosophy instructor at a major crossroads in her life. By your fifties, stuff is happening. A mother is dying, a husband is done, a career faces obstacles, and the future surely holds “things to come,’ but what? So much depends upon one’s attitude—and it really helps to be surrounded by all that great food. Nathalie faces the crossroads with the earned uncertainty of a woman in her prime. Balancing one’s confidence in an uncertain world is a neat trick, one that takes a lifetime to do well. This is an utterly exquisite performance, once again, and by an actor we’d love to roam around France with.
It doesn’t get much more dystopian than this. Colin Farrel takes the droll lead as a middle-aged man whose marriage is over. He quickly learns (from whom? how? why?) that he has 45 days to find love or risk being turned into an animal. Once the marriage is over he must go to a hotel with others in the same boat to pursue his goal. Single rebellious people roam in the woods around the hotel, easy prey for the love-seeking hotel guests who get an extension if they pick one of them off. Yes, and in a disturbingly familiar way, there are rules, lots of them, especially around dating. You have to partner up with someone who shares your quirks or tics: like must attract like. At once witty, unsettling, comically unnerving, THE LOBSTER is like The Bachelor as filmed by Godard. You are warned.
Another “of the year’s best films,” this flawless gem by director Ade captures the strains of a father-daughter relationship in the corporatized world of the upwardly mobile. Ines lives in Bucharest (site of the largest shopping mall in the world) where she traverses the male-dominated world of buttoned-up reserve as any aspiring woman must, by sublimating her emotional life, affecting detachment, and playing by the boys’ lifestyle rules. Her dad is the counter-corporate opposite. Winifried is the unleashed id, a teacher, and a theatrical character, fond of pranking, disruptive social behavior, and unfiltered spontaneity. When he visits Ines in Bucharest, the fur flies. Coincidentally, TONI ERDMANN is a fitting and obviously more romantic companion piece for THE LOBSTER—both films aiming at the same targets.
How we love Almodóvar. MUN Cinema has featured almost every single one of his masterpieces, some more masterful than others, sure. With JULIETA he is at the peak of his game, and, as always, the subject is women. In case you didn’t know, the script is adapted from three stories by—wait for it—Alice Munro. If only he had shot the film in Canada, but, okay, Spain works perfectly here as the natural context for a story about guilt, regret, and the recovery of faith. A chance encounter compels the older Julieta to reflect on her younger self, the one who long ago raised a daughter with another man. That daughter has, for reasons that slowly unravel, long disappeared from Julieta’s life. The film is a quest for both the younger self who raised the daughter and the hope for reconciliation and a possibly brighter future. To the surprise of many, JULIETA lacks the campy affectations of most of Almodóvar’s films, arguably a relief here. Clues about Hitchcockian sources dot the script, however, but you need not have read or seen “Rebecca” to see the patterns. This is a gorgeously shot adaptation of one of our best writers by one of the world’s best auteurs, underscoring the universality of great storytelling.
If you like independent cinema you love Jim Jarmusch. PATERSON is so excellent in its quiet, respectful treatment of its subject, the ruefully ambitious aspiring writer who bears the name of the film. Paterson, so well played by “Girls” star Driver, lives with his honey, a singer, in Paterson, New Jersey, driving a bus by day, hanging in the local bar by night, living a kind of pre-cellular phone utopia one can hardly imagine anymore. The drama of the film rests on the question of whether these two well-meaning creative types will “make it,” but that very question upends the foundational counter culture to which they belong, and which obviously holds so much appeal. Literary types will recognize the local reference to William Carlos Williams and Alan Ginsburg who came from Paterson, creating poetry from the most remarkably ordinary fabric of life. Need we say it? This film is also rated by the critics as one of the “best”
Another of our favourite MUN Cinema directors, Loach has come up with a relentlessly sharp-smart look at the welfare state in Britain today. Daniel is a working-class bloke from Newcastle who is advised to take some sick leave. That move, however, requires an astonishing amount of bureaucratic mumbo jumbo. And that’s really an understatement. The system does everything it can to dehumanize its subjects, and Daniel, a well-meaning, determined citizen, does what it takes to keep both his head and family above water and his dignity intact. He might not have gone to Eton but Daniel knows how to speak to power when he has to. A working-class hero is something to be. Loach sticks it to austerity like no one else.
The brilliant Iranian director of A SEPARATION returns to his study of contemporary disruption. A middle-class couple in Tehran, Rana and Emad, seem to be living the dream, settled and comfortable, starring in an adaptation of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” But just when you thought it was safe to say Loman, they must evacuate their danger-prone apartment. The relocation, at first smoothly managed, fatefully leads to a violent encounter, one for which Emad seeks revenge. What begins as an emotionally stable couple practicing their craft takes a turn on a much more unpredictable path, one from which nothing good can come.
Oscar-winning director Berman reveals the man we think we know. Gordon Pinsent is the subject of this most intimate, sensitive, and brilliantly edited portrait of our favourite cultural icon. There is a lot more than meets the eye of this rowdy man, and Berman’s film almost miraculously pulls back the curtain on such an accomplished and talented thespian, writer, and director. The film premiered at the 26th St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and many did not get a chance to see it. Those who did might want to see it again. Gordo—we’ll happily watch you again and again.
British auteur Davies sure knows how to frame a shot. A QUIET PASSION is a stunningly luminous biopic of famous recluse, the uncannily talented Emily Dickinson. Every piece of this film has a painterly quality, perfectly complementing this well observed portrait of one of the most witty and enigmatic female writers of any generation. Viewers familiar with Dickinson’s poetry will rediscover the depth of her wit; those new to it will suddenly appreciate what all the fuss has long been about. “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” she once asked. A QUIET PASSION sure turns all that around.