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MUN Cinema Series
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for more information about the films.
September 13 The Law of Enclosures
(Canada 2000) 111 mins.
Directed by John Greyson.
With Sarah Polley, Brendan Fletcher, Dianne Ladd, Sean McCann.
Let's get the criticism out of the way. Americans find our films 'boring and
pretentious' and they slammed director Greyson's (Uncut, Lilies, Zero
Patience) satire about two characters trapped in Sarnia in 1991 - forever.
How could we expect them to appreciate the narrative gimmick if they think
all oil comes from Iraq? Based on Dale Peck's book, Law of Enclosures
examines the beginning and end of a relationship, with Polley and Fletcher
as the young lovers and Ladd and McCann as the older Beth and Hank. Shirley
'Kiefer's Mom' Douglas as a raunchy old babe named Myrah lends even more
weight to an impressive cast. It might take a while to figure out that that
film's structure is a bit of a palindrome so it's better to let you know
this up front and then you can concentrate on the characters and a Sarnia
too cold and unwelcoming for words, let alone humans. The '91 Gulf War is
the main backdrop of the film, a suitable metaphor for the destructive
nature of a relationship. Time seems to have stood still but resentments and
slights have grown like Kuwaiti oil fires. As one critic says, 'This is one
of those immensely artistic films that you'll either love or hate, depending
on your ability to let yourself go in the cinema.' Take it as a challenge.
September 20 With a Friend Like Harry
(France 2000) 117 min.
aka Harry, un ami qui vous veut du bien. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Dominik Moll.
With Laurent Lucas, Sergi López, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin.
A thriller in the manner of Hitchcock, this awkwardly titled film
surveys a family man's encounter with an old acquaintance. Michel, a
hapless and frustrated wannabe writer, allows himself to be drawn into
Harry's apparently friendly suggestions about how best to improve his
life. If you know Hitch's Strangers on a Train, you'll recognize the
clever plot device behind this brilliant suspense builder. It's a case
of bad, or creepy, things happening to vulnerable people. Ordinary life
slowly becomes infected with a barely noticeable sinister force. Here,
the force resides in the astonishing performance of Lopez as Harry. He
won a French Cesar Best Actor for it in 2000, in fact, and the proof of
that honour is in almost every frame. As with Hitchcock, the fear and
the terror emerge from what you don't see, not from any obvious graphic
violence. A big hit at last year's Toronto Festival, With a Friend Like
Harry also catches some of the humour with which Hitchcock loved to
tease us. Indeed, who ever heard of a French guy named Harry anyway?
That should be your first clue.
September 27 Kippur
(France/Israel 2000) 124 min.
English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Amos Gitai.
With Liron Levo, Tomer Russo, Uri Ran-Klausner, Yoram Hattab.
It's true a film about the Middle East Situation is always
timely, and now is as good, maybe better, than ever. If it's the Disney
world of Pearl Harbour you want you know where to get it.
Kippur is about
war as hell, regardless of how holy some might claim the battle to be. A
controversial filmmaker (Kadosh), Gitai raises his own critical bar in this
searing description of what happens when one moment you're making love, the
next moment you're responding to sirens. Drawn from his own experience
during the Yom Kippur War in '73, the movie marks this period as a turning
point in national culture. For Gitai, the war occasioned a huge rift in
Israeli politics and society. The country was plunged into chaos and
internal conflict from which it has had difficulty emerging whole. Of course
that the Syrians invaded during the holiest day of the year, catching the
country off guard, added greatly to the confusion. The country was still
coasting on the victory of the '76 War and not prepared to pitch battle all
over again. Kippur follows the experience of Weinraub and Ruso, two friends
who can't find their own military unit. They join up with a medic named
Klauzner and proceed to collect the wounded and the dead in a gruesome and
repetitive ritual of absurdity. With the direct assistance of the Israeli
army and a form of direct cinema shooting, Kippur conveys an amazingly
natural look and feel. From the point of view of the battlefield, war is not
about defeating the Other so much as it is about trying to stay awake and
alive. Gitai himself believes that exhaustion more than a blazing triumphant
battle will wear down the hatred in the Middle East, and this movie attempts
to show why and how.
October 4 Greenfingers
(Canada 2000) 91 min.
Directed by Joel Hershman.
With Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly, et al.
Could there be any other nation whose idea of a comedy is to turn a
bunch of hardened criminals into wonderfully sensitive gardeners? Yes,
the British are coming the British are coming, with a cast of
first-rate actors and a stable full of stock types, not any the less
amusing for being so. A popular favourite at least year's Toronto
Festival, Greenfingers is actually based on a true
story. Clive Owen steals the show as the brooding lead, an aging
criminal who accidentally finds salvation in a bunch of violets. Mirren
merely has to show up on screen to capture our interest, but here she
hams it up as a cross between Maggie Smith and Martha Stewart, a
delightful hat-headed gardener with a with of the ol' allure in her,
nudge nudge, know what I mean, know what I mean? In the hands of anyone
but British actors this script would have about as much appeal as a
cabbage patch, but with this superior cast, clucking away against the
verdant hills of the Cotswolds, Greenfingers offers up
a pleasant diversion. Sure it's twee and a little bit precious, but
you'll learn a lot about your soil's Ph balance, and you'll be laughing
all the way to the compost heap.
October 11 Hedwig and the Angry Inch
(USA 2000) 95 min.
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
With John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor, et al.
If you haven't yet heard about this sensational cult performance by
director Mitchell you really need to get out more. This is a self-described
"post-punk neo-glam rock musical," or, in other words, the millennium
successor to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. What began as an off-Broadway
musical has since evolved into a drag queen spectacle about an East German
boy named Hansel. The boy grows up and falls for an American Sergeant who
will take Hansel back home with him only if he undergoes a sex-change
operation. The operation doesn't--um--completely work, as a remaining
'angry inch' proves. Not a Hansel, now a Hedwig, she ends up near a military
base in trailer-park Kansas, turning tricks and falling in love with the
general's son, Tommy (Pitt). Hedwig and the Angry Inch is largely shot in
flashback; we understand that she has turned her transsexual experience into
a whole stage shtick, belting out her numbers in cheesy restaurants and
galvanizing audiences into stunned appreciation. Mitchell's performance is
simply amazing, challenging every gendered pronoun you've ever taken for
October 18 Lost and Delirious
(Canada 2001) 100 min.
St. John's International Women's Film and Video Festival [IMAGE]
Directed by Léa Pool.
With Piper Perabo, Jessica Paré, Mischa Barton, Jackie Burroughs,
Take two gorgeous private school girls, mix them together in
the dorm, see them get hot for each other, watch the elders rage. Léa Pool's
cinematically stunning L&D is adapted, with full blessings, from Susan
Swann's gender-troubled novel, The Wives of Bath. Tory (Paré) and Paulie
(Perabo) are the central lovers in the gorgeous melodrama of their emerging
lives, but the film's point of view rests squarely with a third party, an
observant bystander and naïve roommate nicknamed Mouse (Barton). The movie
therefore has a literary feel to it, adding visual metaphor to the literary
frame and layering the dialogue with rich texture and sensual allure. The
doomed love affair results in a crisis of near psychotic dimensions for
Paulie, who freaks out grandly, like--and with--a bird on a wire. Roger
Ebert summed it up: Lost and Delirious is a hymn to teenage idealism and
hormones. This is fair, because the film is really less about same-sex
desire than it is about love, difficult at any age, and for any sex. There
is some additional irony is seeing staid Canadian Bishop's University as the
backdrop to this fictional tale, but the performances are strong enough to
suspend your disbelief.
October 25 The Circle
(Iran/Italy 2000) 90 min.
aka Dayereh. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Jafar Panahi.
With Maryiam Palvin Almani, Nargess Mamizadeh, Fereshteh Sadr Orfani.
If it's bellylaughs you're after, rent
There's Something About Mary. But if you want to be moved, challenged,
educated, maybe even inspired, see this Venice Film festival award-winner,
as strong an indictment of Iranian law as you'll find anywhere outside
Tehran. Director Panahi (The White Balloon) doesn't so much castigate as
explore the rough climate of anxiety and fear that informs daily life in
that country. The film has a powerful documentary feel to it and stars
non-actors, but it is also clearly constructed around a fictional frame - or
should we say circle. Essentially, the film follows the difficult and
haunted lives of three Iranian women as they are compelled to live under a
repressive regime of brutal proportions. They are the main focus for the
inquisitive lenses of the hand-held cameras. Their only apparent crime seems
to be having two x chromosomes. Banned in Iran, as you would expect,
The Circle is one of the most forceful films you will see all year.
November 1 Lumumba
(2000) 115 min.
Directed by Raoul Peck.
With Eriq Ebouaney, Alex Descas, Théophile Sowie, Maka Kotto.
Here's history with
feeling and meaning. This biopic about a famous African hero, Lumumba takes
us back to 1960 and the moment when Belgium granted independence from
colonialism and became Congo. The first Prime Minister was the indomitable
Patrice Lumumba, a freedom fighter, postie, beer salesman, a great and noble
man for all seasons. In spite of global cynicism, the odious intrusions of
the CIA, internal rancor, and a pervading sense of doom, Lumumba worked
forcefully on uniting his troubled country. If you don't know what happened
you might be surprised to learn that Lumumba was brutally executed by a
one-time ally and friend. Congo became Zaire, with the help of the US, and
the rest is still evolving history. Lumumba isn't subtle but it does grip
you with the intensity of its candour. The movie seems especially relevant
in its subtle foreshadowing of the genocide of Rwanda and in its analysis of
the conflicts that still haunt Africa today.
November 8 In the Mood for Love
(France/Hong Kong 2000) 98 min.
Directed by Kar-wai Wong.
With Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Rebecca Pan, Lai Chen.
It's Hong Kong, 1962: do you know where your partners are? In the Mood
for Love traces the entanglements of two neighbouring couples. In the
density of a crowded culture it is difficult to find any privacy, let alone
carry on an affair, but where there's a will there's lust and desire. This
is a highly charged and intensely romantic movie, as seductive as its stars
and as irresistible. International audiences have gone nuts for it, Cannes
showered the famous Asian actors with acclaim, and director Wong's
reputation is now assured. Any movie that features slow dancing usually wins
us over, but In the Mood for Love is especially clever in its choreography
of the rhythms of love. As with any good movie, this one also opens us up to
the world of a different culture. It's not just that people everywhere love;
it's how they do so in confined spaces, cramped lives, and claustrophobic
relationships. As you might have expected, the music on the track is to
November 15 The Anniversary Party
(USA 2001) 115 min.
Directed by Allan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
With Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Kline,
We love this
dinner-with-smart-saucy-friends kind of movie, a chatty dialogue-heavy
exercise in bitter wit and irreverence. Joe and Sally Therrian (Cumming and
Leigh) have been married six years and they are having a party. They haven't
lived together in a while for understandable reasons. He swings both ways,
takes drugs, plays around, and refuses to cast his wife in his movies.
Sounds like grounds to us. Sounds a lot like Alan Cumming, actually. Kevin
Klein plays an actor who can't get big romantic roles anymore and Phoebe
Cates--his real-life wife--plays his wife. Gwyneth shows up as the hottest
young actor in Hollywood, and so on. Life here doesn't merely imitate art;
it is art. There's more (look at the extended cast list on the IMDB web
site), and part of the amusement is spotting the Hollywood resemblances. We
have been to this party before, to be sure, but never with these glam and
fading glam people. We are uninvited guests who have been given permission
to stare, not such a bad party favour after all. Shot in digital,
The Anniversary Party certainly has an improvisational feel. Call it good
contrived spontaneity. It's nothing but interesting.
November 22 Nora
(Ireland / UK / Italy / Germany 2000) 106 min.
Directed by Pat Murphy.
With Ewan McGregor, Susan Lynch.
Someone called this the Joyce
of Sex. Ouch. We prefer to think of Norah as the Barnacle to which Joyce
clung. He was the perfect portrait of the artist and she was a chambermaid.
He wrote; she never read. So what was the attraction? Well, after seeing
this film it is easy to see his for her, not so much the other way around.
Norah definitely has--or uses--the upper hand here. A wimpy Joyce, played
with required prissy restraint by the talented McGregor, is pretty much
taken over by Norah's passionate command of his life. Merchant and Ivory
would have turned this love story into a tea party, but director Murphy
burns up the screen. Based on the celebrated biography of Joyce's wife, this
film is faithful to the vibrant spirit of mutual desire. Norah is a sexy
period piece that throws back the lace curtains and shows the fiery heat of
the muse. She invented Molly Bloom, just by showing up. It makes you think:
if Norah had never existed we wouldn't have had to read Ulysses.
November 29 The Closet
(France 2000) 84 min.
aka Le Placard. English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Francis Veber.
With Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, Thierry Lhermitte, et al.
A side-buster in France, this popular comedy is
the perfect antidote to late semester seriousness. The premise is, in
effect, the whole film: a dull-as-Evian condom factory accountant, Francois
(Auteuil), is so boring, so ineffectual, and so invisible that neither his
ex wife, his son, nor his bosses care a hoot about his future; losing his
job seems inevitable. One day his neighbour, a friendly guy named Belone
(Aumont), suggests a way out of a life of utter abjection: Francois needs to
pretend to be gay. Think Cage aux Folles turned on its head and inside out.
Pretending to be gay will prevent the condom factory bosses from firing him.
Eventually, and with much typically French hilarity, Francois convinces
everyone that his outer look--that of a terrible bore-is merely a cover-up
for the wild queen within. Gerard 'Meat-Eating Male' Depardieu plays a
homophobe who works himself up to a change of heart, and other familiar lead
actors are drawn from the French film pantheon, guaranteeing
Le Placard a
place in popular cultural history. There are some hilarious moments in this
one extended joke movie, and you will howl when you see the Gay Pride parade
scene. Get comfortable, release the queer within, and enjoy.
December 6 Startup.com
(USA 2001) 107 min.
Directed by Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim.
Kaleil Isaza Tuzman, Tom Herman, Bill Clinton, Maynard Jackson.
Do you feel your stocks slipping? Are you
suffering from post tech-hype depression? Is your portfolio fading?
Startup.com can cure you of your dropping investments. This gripping
documentary traces the drama of yesterday's big game. At first, directors
Hegedus (The War Room) and Noujaim thought they were following the
inevitable success story of two young childhood friends, Kaleil Isaza Tuzman
and Tom Herman. They even considered abandoning the film and getting into
the market themselves. Instead, they ended up filming NASDAQ on life support
and the two friends facing the gloomy logic of late capitalism.
works for many reasons, not the least of which is that the veteran filmmaker
Hegedus connected with the young MTV hipster Noujaim. The two women warmly
complemented each other as the older one found herself obsessing over the
younger woman's cyberculture. Ultimately, this documentary tells a great
story about friendship, big dreams, and the hazardous illusions of the new