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MUN Cinema Series
Follow the links to the
Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
for more information about the films.
September 12 Run Lola Run
(Germany) 81 mins.
aka Lola Rennt (English subtitles)
Directed by Tom Tykwer
With Moritz Bleibtreu, Franka Potente, et al.
popular as an immensely entertaining escape into Berlin, this movie is still
playing on the mainland after months of sell-out crowds. The plot is as
simple as it gets: Lola (Potente) runs (without Nikes) to save her
boyfriend's life. But hot new director Tykwer plays fast and free with the
linear drive, opening us up to the way the smallest incidents can alter our
destinies. In other words, all is never quite as straight-ahead as it seems.
Call it fate, fortune, luck, or simply the director's editorial choices, the
plot of this film is, in every way, the real subject of our interest. True,
everybody loves the punk attitude of Lola: she easily embodies the new
Europe, wild and passionate, youthful and driven to get what she wants. But
this is no study in Euro-symbolism, no way. Run Loa Runs is a clever and
engaging movie that celebrates all possibilities. Just do it.
September 19 The Dreamlife of Angels
(France) 113 mins.
aka La Vie Rêvée des Anges (English subtitles)
Directed by Erick Zonca
With Élodie Bouchez, Natacha Régnier,
Grégoire Colin, Jo Prestia, Patrick Mercado.
Look, it won all the European
prizes, including Cannes. It boasts an amazingly fresh cast. It's wonderful.
It's about Isa, a twenty-something drifter in the new Europe (see above) who
lives life just as it comes -- fully, with a backpack and constant
affirmation. When things get rough, Isa just goes somewhere else. Almost
accidentally, she makes a friend in the brooding young Marie. The two of
them forge a life of compatible rhythms from the textured bits of existence,
transforming their days into amusing dates with gentle bikers, pots of tea,
and aimless conversations about uncertain futures, satisfied and unsatisfied
lives. Inevitably, the rhythms change, however. Dreamlife weaves a highly
watchable tale of random passages, taking us somewhere with patience and
good grace. Bouchez, who plays the sunny-smart waif of a lead role, is
compellingly unconventionally beautiful, a powerful screen presence who
persuades us the world is as charged as it looks in her eyes.
September 26 Three Seasons
(USA/Viet Nam 1999) 113 mins.
Sundance prize winner
Directed by Tony Bui
With Don Duong, Nguyen Ngoc Hiep, Tran Manh Cuong, Harvey Keitel,
Zoë Bui, Nguyen Huu Duo.
As the poster boasts, never before in the history of
the Sundance Film Festival has one film won three of the top awards. You've
just experienced the new Europe: here's the New Vietnam. The film centres on
four strangers in Saigon whose lives intersect in a shifting world. The real
victors of the war in Viet Nam seem to be the mutil-nationals: Saigon is lit
up with Coca Cola signs, the garish neon of global desire. The characters in
the film seek meaning beneath the glare of late capitalism, each finding it
in his or her own way. One follows a traditional path, picking lotus flowers
for an old master; another falls in love with a prostitute and would do
anything to redeem her life; a young boy hocks watches and junk in the
brightly lit underworld; finally another, an American, seeks the daughter he
left behind in the war. Past, present, and future tenses of a ravaged
country are imaged lyrically and informatively in this superbly acted film.
Frankly, can a movie with Harvey Keitel drinking whiskey in a Saigon bar
called 'Apocalypse Now' be anything but rich?
October 3 The Winslow Boy
(USA 1998) 104 mins.
Directed by David Mamet
With Nigel Hawthorne, Jeremy Northam, Rebecca Pidgeon, Gemma Jones, Guy
Edwards, Matthew Pidgeon.
That's right, we said Mamet, Dave Mamet. Is there
even a question about not finding this movie interesting? Nigel Hawthorne
speaks words by Mamet in the England of 1912. That is all ye need to know.
But for those who need even more, the Winslow family returns from Church for
a toast. Father (Hawthorne) confers blessing on daughter (Mamet's wife,
Pidgeon) and future son-in-law. They drink Medeira, my dear. Just then good
old prodigal son Ronnie returns from duty at sea. Seems he's been caught
with his hand in a till and the court room drama begins. Modern principles
bump up against traditional values, and in the battle to clear Ronnie of the
charges the Winslows are thrown into an ideological spin. Particularly
effected is daughter Catherine whose suffragette beliefs are sorely tested
by the prevailing winds of the day. Needless to say, The Winslow Boy is full
of Mametian musings, even while based on the play by Terence Rattigan. For
lovers of good words, rich plots, and juicy moral dilemmas, this is the
movie for you.
October 10 The Herd
(Canada 1999) 100 mins.
Directed by Peter Lynch
With James Allodi Colm Feore, Graham Greene, David Hemblen, Doug Lennox,
Don McKellar, Mark McKinney.
If you know about Lynch's acclaimed Project Grizzly
you'll love this film. The Herd is also about a man's battles with the
wilderness, the true story of Andy Bahr, a 62 year-old man who left Alaska
in 1929 with a herd of 3,000 reindeer. His task was to lead them to the
starving Inuit of the Northwest Territories. The journey eventually took six
complete, while every sniveling bureaucrat paying attention to the excursion
was freaking out. This might not sound like the ideal way to satisfy your
weekly entertainment quotient, but rest assured that Lynch invigorates this
docudrama with wit and power, complementing the staged realism of the shoot
with actual archival footage of the herd in the thirties. Comparisons have
been drawn between this effort and Werner Herzog's acclaimed Fitzcarraldo,
with the latter looking like a monumental bore by comparison. The north
never looked as strong, free, and forbidding as it does here, and man's
irrational obsessions with peace, order, and good government never sounded
so challenged. Watch especially for (Glenn Gould impressionist) Colm Feore's
stunning performance as a self-assured lackey of the Dominion, a man with
too many memos in his past.
October 17 Xiu Xiu
(USA 1998) 99 mins.
10th St. John's International Women's Film and Video Festival
Directed by Joan Chen
With Lu Lu, Lopsang, Jie Gao, Wenqiang, and other
names with X, Y, and Z.
In honour of the 10th St. John's International
Women's Film and Video Festival we bring you this moving and subversive
Chinese film. While Hollywood box offices churn out an infinite number of
tickets for bigger, longer, and uncut teen porn, here's a movie about a
fifteen-year old girl with enough hardship in her life to flatten your wok.
Chen's film is set in 1975, during the heat of the Cultural Revolution. As a
'sent-down' girl, the result of a widely staged policy, Xiu Xiu finds
herself forcibly removed from her province to a remote rural area near Tibet
where she is supposed to be instilled with the values of the proletariat. As
part of the edict, she must live in a wind-beaten tent with a horse herder
who, in his own silent way, cares for her, a desperate and lonely teenager.
To get out of her apparently hideous situation, Xiu Xiu is encouraged to
resort to the oldest profession. This is not a love story. Shot in the
forbidden zone of China, without government approval, Xiu Xiu sounds an
unforgettable cry of rage against a cruel system, its omnipotent leader
(Mao), and, by implication, its present-day strictures. To be sure, Chen
won't eat dim sum in that country again. But a half-hour after seeing this
film you won't forget it.
October 24 Besieged
(Italy) 90 mins.
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
With Thandie Newton, David Thewlis, Claudio Santamaria.
The difference between Italian movies and almost all other national cinemas
can be summed up in the following observation by Roger Ebert: Besieged is a
movie about whether two people with nothing in common, who have no
meaningful conversations, will have sex. Okaaaaaay. Sounds fine to us. But
typically, the film has generated a wide divergence of views. Never shy
about his subjects, Bertolucci takes on the matter of race, in this case via
an African political refugee, Shandurai (Thandie Newton), who is working as
a housekeeper while studying in Rome. Her boss, the pianist Mr. Kinsky, is a
brooding type, cultured and meditative. As we expect, because Shandurai is
so gorgeous, he starts to fall into deep obsessive lust with her. You can
choose to see all this as a study in male gazing, appropriation, Othering,
and desire, as a filmic treatment of the humanizing effects of love, or as
some combination of the above. Whatever, Bertolucci manages to give us a lot
to look at, whether you accuse him of being a dirty old cinematographer or
an honest genius. Think of Besieged as Last Tango, but this is Rome and it's
several decades later.
October 31 Hideous Kinky
(UK/France 1998) 98 mins.
Directed by Gillies MacKinnon
With Kate Winslet, Saïd Taghmaoui, Bella Riza, Carrie Mullan,
Pierre Clémenti, Abigail Cruttenden, et al.
Good title, designed to reel in
anyone who's ever been naughty or nice. Is there life after Titanic?
Full-figure gal Winslet plays the mother of two sweet little girls whom she
schleps to Morocco in the '70s, when freedom was just another word for
reefer madness. In search of spiritual transcendence, she meets instead with
economic pressures. Even in the seventies you had to eat some protein every
now and then. The large appeal of this movie lies in its unflinching
examination of our lifestyle choices. Neither sentimental nor cynical,
Hideously Kinky prefers to look at life with some bemused distance. In some
ways the movie emerges as excellent sociology about hippies, that much
maligned, misunderstood social phenomenon that once suddenly put us all in
beads and headbands. Winslet is perfect as the addled Julia, a poster actor
for the Woodstock generation. Now that the fashion has returned with a
vengeance, it's probably about time that we had some intelligent examination
of where it all came from. You might be inspired to trick or treat in
caftans after this costume-inspired matinee.
November 7 Lovers of the Arctic Circle
(Spain) 114 mins.
aka Los Amantes del Círculo Polar
Directed by Julio Medem
With Najwa Nimri, Fele Martínez, Nancho Novo, Maru Valdivieso,
Kristel Díaz, et al.
This movie is a game, a movie game. It tells the story
of Ana and Otto, whose names are palindromes. Everything in their lives
seems governed by circular patterns. We observe them through three stages:
childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. Lady Fortune spins her wheel
and these two are back to back, facing each other. Behind this love story is
the hopeful assumption that love drives our destinies, or can. A good
director knows how to connect, and this film is all about the mystery of
connections. Half the fun comes from linking images up to each other, making
sense of clues scattered throughout the story line, until, well, we
recognize how things come full circle. It is difficult to say much more
about the plot without spilling the ending, or is it the beginning? If you
have trouble connecting the movie dots you might want to consult a
November 14 Buena Vista Social Club
(Germany/USA/France/Cuba) 101 mins.
Directed by Wim Wenders
With Luis Barzaga, Joachim Cooder, Ry Cooder,
Fernández, Ibrahim Ferrer,
Rubén González, Salvador Repilado Labrada, et al.
These guys play themselves. Let the good doc(umentary) role. If you don't already have the
Grammy-winning 1997 album of the same name, produced by Ry Cooder, you will
almost certainly feel the need to rush over to Fred's when the credits
scroll down. Old Havana is remembered well and vividly through these amazing
musicians, some who are ninety years old. Cooder is the wise kingpin who
discovered the almost lost talent and staged the event itself. The rest is
musical history: from shining shoes to Carnegie Hall straight to your CD
player. Touching in its evocation of biography and history, Buena Vista
Social Club has a great beat and we can drink rum to it.
November 21 Twin Falls Idaho
(USA) 110 mins.
Directed by Michael Polish
With Michael Polish, Mark Polish, Michele Hicks, Jon Gries, Patrick
Bauchau, Garrett Morris, Lesley Ann Warren.
Heard about these body doubles
yet? Twin brothers Michael and Mark Polish direct and star in this film
about the inescapable travails of Siamese twins, Blake and Francis Falls.
Daring to answer the musical question, 'how do they do it?' the film has
them eventually hiring a hooker named Penny. Unaccustomed as she is to, er,
being watched, Penny passes on her work duty. But when one twin gets sick,
Penny stays on to assist as nursemaid, all the while falling for the healthy
guy/head. Naturally (?), themes as dependency, freedom, jealousy, and
individual agency emerge. The cinematography is lush and the psychological
realism is effective, but the Polish brothers themselves steal the show.
Wrapping our own heads around how they pulled off the uni-spectacle in the
first place is exciting enough. And any movie featuring a cameo performance
by Saturday night favourite, Garrett Morris (as a minister named Jesus),
holds lots of promise. It's hard to know what the Polish boys could do next:
a comic version of Dead Ringers?
November 28 The Dinner Game
(France) 80 mins.
aka Le Dîner de cons (English subtitles.)
Directed by Francis Veber
With Jacques Villeret, Françios Pignon, Thierry
Lhermitte, Alexandra Vandernoot, et al.
Very funny. The angle is that a
bunch of French snobs get together for regular dinner parties, with each man
bringing the dumbest person he can find as a guest. Of course, eating never
happens. One of the regs, an obnoxious guy named Pierre, has to cancel one
night when his back goes out. But his invited boob shows up, ready for
whatever. The dumb-happy Francois takes all the idiot prizes: his hobby is
making engineering models entirely out of toothpicks. Slapstick ensues as
Francois invades the apartment, unsettling all of Pierre's best-laid lives,
including his mistress. In the best traditions of French Farce --as opposed
to Hollywood stupidity-- The Dinner Party works out its gags with immaculate
conception. What does it all add up to? An antidote to seriousness? An
exercise in skilful execution? An afternoon's escape into frivolity? All of
the above, but with feeling. Look, these people know from idiots. They love
December 5 My Life So Far
(USA) 93 mins.
Directed by Hugh Hudson
Colin Firth, Rosemary Harris, Moray Hunter, Irène Jacob,
Tchéky Karyo, Kelly
MacDonald, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Malcolm McDowell.
ten-year-old boy named Fraser Pettigrew, grow him up in a Scottish castle,
and what have you got? A movie about family dysfunction, of course. My Life
So Far, set in the late 1920s on an estate near Argyle, Scotland, is based
on the memoirs of a real person--Denis Forman, former director of the Royal
Opera House, Covent Garden. Fraser's father Edward (Colin Firth) is a nutty
inventor, lending his time and energy to the perfection of peat moss.
Fraser's mother, Moira (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), blithely puts up with
it. One day an estate-avaricious uncle arrives with a young French wife
(Jacob). Father turns from moss to mess, as he starts to lust after the
beautiful woman. Meanwhile, servants and relatives come and go and everyone
seems to enjoy sounding outrageous things in front of the hearths. There's
no life like it - thank goodness. There are enough undercurrents here to
float the sheep downstream, and one wonders how in the world anyone ever got
anything done with all that dining and ranting going on. Alternately
humorous and enchanting, My Life So Far is very easy on the eyes as the
north winds blow.