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MUN Cinema Series
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for more information about the films.
September 12 Monsoon Wedding
(US/India/France/Italy 2001) 114. min.
English; Hindi and Punjabi with English subtitles [IMAGE]
Directed by Mira Nair
With Naseeruddin Shah, Lillete Dubey, et al.
The series opens with a wild celebration of colour and joy. If Robert
Altman were a woman and an Indian he might have created Monsoon
Wedding, an infectiously rambling story of middle class residents of
Delhi caught up in elaborate plans for an extravagant ceremony. This
naturalistic film revolves around Aditi's (Vasundhara Das) nuptials to
Hemant (Parvin Dabas), a handsome geek from Texas whose Indian parents
have arranged this marriage. Now living as a resident of the States,
Hermant is suddenly thrown back into the old time customs his modern
life scarcely remembers. Indeed, the younger generation--cousins and
friends of the couple-are scattered across the globe, doing what
enterprising young people do these days - everything from computer work
to MBAs. The contrast between old and nouveau-global is a source of
both hilarity and reflection. Sure, the movie is a romance wrapped
inside a roti, but as in all the great wedding pictures, Monsoon
Wedding makes for great sociology. This exotic multilingual world
reveals itself to be as fascinating as any of ours, and in some ways
just as familiar. The Verma family could be anyone's, from Bauline to
Bombay. Winner of a Golden Lion at Venice in 2001, this is a must-see
September 19 Y tu mamá también
(Mexico/USA 2001) 105 mins.
Rated R for strong sexual content involving teens, drug use and language.
Spanish with English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Maribel Verdú, Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, et al.
Three Words best describe this Mexican
romance: hot hot hot. Spice your nachos and settle in for one of the
best movies of the year-an astonishingly sexy road movie involving a
gorgeous young woman and two younger men on a wild adventure to
Y Tu Mamá También (translation. 'And your mother, too')
isn't about sex, however, so much as it is a
study of an emerging Mexico, fraught with class and gender conflict,
and huge gaps between rich and poor. Youth is a great leveler, of
course, at least as long as it lasts. These two young men might come
from different worlds but at this age they both think with
their-er--hormones. Maribel Verdú gives a superb performance as the
older woman who leads the boys to the Pacific coast and into manhood.
Although we are led as much as they are by the wild unpredictability of
the plot, the movie explores deeper themes that challenge conventional
cinematic images of Mexico. Badges? These kids don't want no stinkin'
badges. They want experience, and they get more than they bargained
September 26 Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner
(Canada 2001) 172 mins.
Inuktitut with English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Zacharias Kunuk
With Natar Ungalaaq, Sylvia Ival, Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq, Lucy Tulugarjuk, et al.
We really didn't want
one more person calling to plead if we could screen this film at the
big Mall, so we programmed it as soon as we could, making just
about everyone happy. Brought to you by popular demand and out of
respect for its sheer stunning audacity, Atanarjuat is an award-winning
masterpiece, an all-Inuit production that demands to be seen again and
again. Epic in both length and substance, this film unravels no less
than a mythic tale of being and becoming. Two men, one woman: could
there be a more universal generating circumstance for a story of
revenge? Much has been said of the extended chase sequence, as far from
Hollywood as the Arctic is from Sunset Boulevard, but there is so much
more to this exquisitely shot film than thrills and suspense. Every
inch a work of drama yet so persuasively realistic, Atanarjuat bears a
strong documentary feel. This shouldn't be surprising since many of us
have never heard so much Inuktitut spoken, nor met these visionary
characters before, certainly not on screen. Director Kunu is an artist
and sculptor, and he makes of his world as beautiful an object as
you've ever seen. Atanarjuat actually played in St. John's for a few
lonely days last winter, but the seven people who managed to catch it
will probably be sitting right beside you.
October 3 Storytelling
(USA 2001) 87 mins.
Rated R for strong sexual content, language, and drug use. [IMAGE]
Directed by Todd Solondz
With Selma Blair, Leo Fitzpatrick, Robert Wisdom, Maria Thayer, Angela Goethals, et al.
Okay, we know it's been out on video for a little while but not
everyone likes to see life reduced to pixels and tracking lines.
Storytelling was directed and written by one of our favourite indie
talents and we think it deserves a big screen and an appreciative
audience. If you remember the troubling Welcome to the Dollhouse and
the even more disturbing Happiness, you'll see that Storytelling covers
similar themes, the nightmare of suburbia, the agony of parents and
adolescent youths. Solondz continues to draw an unsparing portrait of a
troubled middle class. Storytelling, however, experiments more boldly
with narrative, dividing itself into two apparently discreet sections.
The first features stunning Selma Blair as Vi, a creative writing
student who gets into quite a tangle with her prof and learns a lesson
or two about political correctness. It's a savagely wicked take on
sexual and racial politics and it'll make you squirm with raw
recognition. The other 'story' centres on a young geeky documentary
filmmaker who coincidentally wears Solondz's big dark glasses and turns
his camera on a suburban family. Mmmmm, is that self-analysis we see
before us? If Woody Allen were thirty years younger he might be making
films like this-with Diane Keaton, of course. Storytelling is not for
anyone looking for neat and tidy, but it sure makes an interesting
October 10 Human Nature
(France/USA 2001) 96 mins.
Rated R for sexuality/nudity and language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Michel Gondry
With Patricia Arquette, Rhys Ifans, Tim Robbins, Ken Magee, et al.
An ambitious title for
a modest film, but worthy of its oxymoronic subject. Sprung from the
imagination that conceived of Being John Malkovich, Human Nature is an
exuberant inquiry into the animal in all of us. Oscar winner Charlie
Kaufman wrote the script that challenges the culture that man built. A
wild child is raised by his nutcase father as an ape. All grown up and
happily dragging his knuckles on the ground, he is inevitably
'captured' in the forest one day; the rest is social history. Of
course, he becomes the subject of a bunch of loony
scientists-characters who figure like the Three Stooges crossed with
Frankenstein-and mayhem results. As these professional experts attempt
to turn the ape man into a gentleman, they betray the worst sorts of
inhuman behaviours. You can feel the full force of farce here, but
Human Nature really is a lot of fun, and its premise is dead serious,
as is the case of all strong satires. It's all worth the price of
watching Rhys Ifans as the ape man, otherwise dubbed 'Puff,' as the
utterly libidinous man-animal, as emblematic of the horny-toed male as
we've ever seen.
October 17 Thirteen Conversations About One Thing
(USA 2001) 94 mins.
Rated R for language and brief drug use.
This film is being shown as part of the 13th annual St. John's Women's International Film and Video Festival. [IMAGE]
Directed by Jill Sprecher
With Matthew McConaughey, David Connelly, John Turturro, Joseph Siravo, et al.
called this film 'brilliant.' We call it dazzling. An impressive cast
come together to honour the words of director Jill Sprecher and her
sister Karen who first collaborated on the wickedly incisive
Clockwatchers, a low-budget study of office temps that took our
audiences by pleasant surprise. Hunky character actor Matthew
McConaughey plays Troy, a smug lawyer who's loudly celebrating his most
recent courtroom triumph. Countering such unqualified glee is Gene,
played with his usual genius by Alan Arkin. How miserable is this guy?
Faced with having to fire someone in his insurance office he targets
the happiest guy around, the type who can spot a half-filled glass in a
desert. Troy will have none of this misery and insists on getting drunk
to prove it. Driving home from the bar he hits a pedestrian and flees
the scene, guilt haunting him and his claims to happiness from there on
in. Characters who have either direct or unknowing connections with
others are introduced and pursued for their own naïve attempts to fix
their well being. John Turturro is an academic who leaves his wife (Amy
Irving) for a younger babe because that's what middle age intellectuals
do; cheery Clea DuVall does domestic service for a glass half-empty
kind of client, suffers unfairly, and endures unfair pain. Unfair?
Thirteen Conversations About One Thing forces the view that deserve's
got nothin' to do with it. If the gods are having sport with us the
best we can do is carry on as best as possible with such knowledge.
This is a profoundly interesting film, full of wit and wisdom, and so
far beyond mainstream crud we dare you to find it anything less than
October 24 Full Frontal
(USA 2002) 101 mins.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
With David Duchovny, Nicky Katt, Catherine Keener, Mary McCormack, David Hyde Pierce,
Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood, et al.
Many of you will wonder what a cinema series is doing showing a movie
with the overpaid likes of Julia Roberts, but we felt compelled to
bring Soderbergh's latest venture in storytelling to a theatre near
you. The critics largely trashed this movie, turning abruptly from
their adoring fixation with the creator of Sex, Lies, and Videotape,
Out of Sight, Erin Brokavitch, and Oceans 11 to what they saw as the
thematic emptiness of Full Frontal. Some, like otherwise stuffy doyen
Robert Fulford, said all the critics were out to brunch. Decide for
yourself. To be sure, Soderbergh knows how to tell a story. Not to
mention a story within a story. Edgy Catherine Keener-whom we loved in
Being John Malkovich-plays a neurotic personal assistant married to
Fraser's brother-that is, David Hyde Pierce. Big Smile Roberts and
Blair Underwood play actors playing in a movie in which he is an actor
and she is a reporter. You still there? Shot on digital, no doubt to
provide that nervous on-the-fly-realism of Woody Allen's recent
pictures, Full Frontal zooms in and out of the 'real' movie-and the
movie within. It's largely a study of surfaces, what in fact we are
really watching when we gawk at this or any screen, so if that premise
bothers you and you're looking for deeper meaning you're in the wrong
century. Thing is, you're meant to be wondering at various stages
whether you are watching a real or a fake movie, and when you realize
how stupid that question is you'll probably relax and enjoy the play,
the glam characters, and the loony bits of Hollywood comedy. Full
Frontal is really about us-the spectators who sit and watch the
flickering screen as if it were life..
October 31 Italian for Beginners
(Denmark 2000) 112 mins.
aka Italiensk for begyndere
In Danish with English subtitles.
Rated R for language and some sexuality. [IMAGE]
Directed by Lone Scherfig
With Anders W. Berthelsen, Anette Støelbæk, Peter Gantzler,
Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, et al.
Readers of this
space will know what a Dogma film is, a product of that Danish movement
launched by Lars von Trier in which stark naturalism is favoured over
shallow artifice. But unlike some of the more sober examples of the
school, Italian for Beginners is a rousing comedy, full of charm and
likeable if incompetent characters. The story centres on the locale
itself, a suburb of Copenhagen where the services of a sports facility,
a restaurant, a hair salon, and a church continually converge. The hair
salon is sometimes the epicenter, where everyone comes to chat and
trade gossip, get shaved and trimmed, meet others, and fall in love.
It's all Pastor Andreas can do to keep everyone straight and happy, as
his daily duties demand. Naturally, the restaurant sees the locals come
and go for all the same reasons. The delightful Italian waitress plays
her ethnically different part, inspiring the natives to appreciate a
more liberated sensual life, steal beauty, and visit Venice. The
results of this cross-character and cross-cultural pollination is a
highly affectionate study of the possibilities of desire and friendship
in a narrowly circumscribed world. The sheer cheeriness of this comic
vision is bound to banish the dark dreariness of a Halloween night.
Come dressed as a Dane.
November 7 Cherish
(USA 2002) 99 mins.
Rated R for language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Finn Taylor
Robin Tunney, Tim Blake Nelson, Jason Priestley, Lindsay Crouse, et al.
Robin Tunney is simply fabulous in this amusing
variation on the whodunit genre. As Zoe, Tunney is an office worker
with absolutely nothing to recommend her, or so it appears to her
co-workers. Desperately infatuated with nearby Andrew (crazy race-car
driving Jason Priestley), Zoe follows her heart into an unexpected
showdown with destiny. Hijacked in her car by a masked stranger she
finds herself suddenly arrested for killing a cop, is placed on a heavy
watch, and confined indefinitely to her San Francisco apartment. Here's
the interesting twist. Bored out of her mind and trapped by the
criminal charges, Zoe must find the killer without leaving her cell of
an apartment. The situation forces her to take full responsibility,
transforming herself from office geek to interesting agent. How she
does this is a large part of the fun of Cherish. Various characters
enter and exit, and Zoe's natural awkwardness makes for some hilarious
encounters. Ultimately, she must find the killer, clear her name, free
herself of her old personality, and get a new life. The writing is
ingenious and the performances make everything possible. Cherish is a
word you will come to associate with a remarkable and widely overlooked
November 14 Iris
(UK 2001) 90 mins.
Directed by Richard Eyre
With Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Kate Winslet, Hugh Bonneville, Penelope Wilton, et al.
This season's series is featuring a lot of good acting,
and Iris is no small example. Yes, yes, we know the movie played here
for four swiftly passing days and that it's been out on video, but as
with Storytelling we really believe you want to see such big
performances on the big screen. Dame Judi 'Shipping News' Dench plays
the Alzheimer's-ridden novelist Iris Murdoch. In his memoir of his
struggle to keep his wife grounded, John Bailey composed as moving a
love story as ever saw ink. Here we get to see brilliant enactments of
Bailey's compassionate account, the film emphasizing the sheer
eccentricity of these two unlikely intellectuals, their liberated love,
and enduring mutual respect. Kate Winslet plays the younger Iris to a
tee, as Iris flashes back to the heady days of the couple's courtship
amid the leafy confines of Oxford. The remarkable Jim Broadbent (Moulin
Rouge) is Bailey to a tea, with Hugh Bonneville playing his own younger
self in equally persuasive ways. These are all brave performances,
uninhibited and unpretentious. So it is that in its survey of the two
eccentrics the movie traces the path of social history, time's winged
chariot, and the heaviness of domestic duty. Well deserving of their
Oscar nominations, Dench and Broadbent will move you to read Murdoch
and hope to hell you will always remember what you are thinking about
from one moment to the next.
November 21 The Mystic Masseur
(India 2001) 117 mins.
Rated PG for mild language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Ismail Merchant
With Aasif Mandvi, Om Puri, James Fox, Sanjeev Bhaskar, et al.
No, this is not a porn
film. If you know your Nobel laureates you'll recognize that The Mystic
Masseur is adapted from the V.S. Naipaul novel of 1957 that launched
his career. As with many of his works to follow, this one exposed the
complex Indian community of 1940s Trinidad to critical scrutiny. This
is Naipul's originating world, one of a colourful colonial culture,
where indentured Indian workers cultivated their own gardens of
tropical insularity amid the dominant powers. Amazingly, this is the
first of Naipul's many works to be adapted for film, and who better to
do so than the experienced set decorator and period piece magician
Ismail Merchant? The film centres on the life of Ganesh, a teacher who
worships books and who is encouraged to write one of his own. His
publication is overwrought and overrated, but he's the last to know.
With a naïve mission to carry his alleged healing skills to the
people, an increasingly famous Ganesh ends up marrying the daughter,
Leela, of a conniving local businessman, Ramlogan. In some ways the
event is a variation on Monsoon Wedding, as groom and father-in-law
cross eyes and tactics over who is supposed to pay the bills. The
post-nuptial follies of Ganesh and his family are at once hilarious and
moving, just as Naipul once wrote of them. Ganesh ends up shifting his
base from the rural backwaters to the urban centre, bringing with him a
host of false assumptions about his privilege as an Indian and a man.
The subject of an innocent shaped by power and empire is an old one,
but the delivery is funny, tender, and entirely original.
November 28 Baran
(Iran 2001) 94 mins.
Rated PG for language and brief violence.
Farsi with English subtitles. [IMAGE]
Directed by Majid Majidi
With Hossein Abedini, Zahra Bahrami, Mohammad Amir Naji, Hossein Mahjoub, et al.
We can't get enough of
these movies from countries that begin with 'I' and end up being the
scourge of George W. If films are good for something they ought to be
educating ignorant westerners about lands, cultures, and people who
exist on the other side of a media divide. Baran goes a long way to
humanizing the unknown, and we recommend it highly for that reason
alone. That said, in its own right Baran is a powerful fable about
Lateef, a young labourer who is building something near the Afghanistan
border. Actually, he is not so much building as helping the builders,
scores of Afghanis who have fled their war-torn country in search of
freedom or at least a decent wage and peace. In Iran they are protected
to a point, but they are underpaid and treated poorly. Lateef, who as
an Iranian escapes the hard labour of the refugees, is suddenly faced
with having to do real work when circumstances throw him back into
line, hauling concrete sacks. Lateef isn't happy, to put it mildly, and
he seeks revenge against the boss who assigned him and the person
assigned to his milder duties. But one thing leads to another and soon
Lateef benefits from the inversion of his world. Good things can happen
in bad circumstances, and so it is that Lateef grows up by discovering
love and tolerance. This might sound sappy and sweet, but in fact Baran
offers up the sort of social realism we crave. Director Majid Majidi
hit the mark with his The Children of Heaven in 1997, and he continues
here with a beautifully shot tribute to the forces that sustain a
vexed, misunderstood, and underrepresented slice of the world.
December 5 Fubar
(Canada 2002) 76 mins.
Rated AA. [IMAGE]
Directed by Michael Dowse
With Paul Spence, David Lawrence, Gordon Skilling, et al.
This is the perfect end of semester antidote to winter, exams, being,
and non being. Not surprisingly, this lively mockumentary follows the
lives of a head banging generation-in other words, guys who are F*****
Up Beyond All Repair. Not that there's anything wrong with that. A
smash hit at Sundance, FUBAR revolves around Dean and Terry, two
mullet-headed guys who would no more attend MUN than they'd shop at the
Mall. These guys drink beer, play ear-splitting heavy metal music, joke
about bodily functions, and live life as unrespectably as possible. The
narrative device is a yuppie doc filmmaker who follows the boys on
their unpredictable escapades. Shots happen. Canada rocks. By now many
of you will have decided to stay home and rearrange your stamp
collection, but be assured that FUBAR is actually hilarious in a very
irreverent Canadian sort of way. We know these guys. They're
everywhere, and they're here. Some scenes are side-splittingly funny,
others are anarchically puzzling, leaving you wondering where the real
actors end and the extras begin. Bring the rebel in you to this film.