MUN Cinema Series
Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.
September 7 A Prairie Home Companion (USA 2006) 105 min. [IMAGE] Favourite indie director Altman's latest accomplishment is a tribute to radio and the fine people who love and respect the medium. Inspired by the long-standing popularity of radio icon Garrison Keillor, the film pays gentle tribute to the other side of the microphone, so to speak. As the host, an amiable giant who goes by the name of G.K., prepares to sign off on the last show of his program, his loyal performers lament the passing of pre-iPod culture. Sadly, the legendary theatre in which the show has always been broadcast is slated for destruction to make way for a parking lot. In case you fear that Altman's gone all mushy and that A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION is dripping with sentimentality you need to know the truth. The film is hilarious, ardently anti-sentimental, and worth the price of a ticket just to hear the improvisational riffs of genius actors, Streep and Tomlin. The crew were so happy Lindsay Lohan even showed up on time for work.
September 14 The Proposition (Australia/UK 2005) 104 min. Rated R [IMAGE] The brooding brain behind this superb mythological western is none other than Australian born music icon, Nick Cave, he of the Bad Seeds, who has here conceived an amazingly bold scenario. The film captures a troika of powerful and bloody themes--family, crime, and betrayal to tell its vivid, lurid, story. Its the 19th century, we're in the Australian outback, and the men who ride the wide open terrain are as savage as anything you've ever seen drifting through Sam Peckinpah's landscapes. But more than merely tracing the dramatic arc of the western, THE PROPOSITION situates its history in the originating myth of Australia itself, a nation of greedy white settlers and angry convicts, working out their biblical behaviours in aggressive, seriously devastating ways. A nice touch is that Danny Huston, son of great American director John, commands a lot of powerful screen space. Rated R for obvious reasons.
September 21 An Inconvenient Truth (USA 2006) 100 min. [IMAGE] In case you missed this popular, compelling documentary when it appeared for a short moment in the dog days of summer, we've brought it back for your necessary viewing pleasure. Many are skeptical about the science of climate change, but as AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH rolls out its facts and figures even the most stubborn traditionalist has to agree that the case is persuasive. You listening, Rex Murphy? Those of us surrounded by water and dwindling fish stocks don't have to go far to be persuaded. But what's truly fascinating is how Al 'Could Have Been a Contender' Gore manages to be smart, funny, and totally presidential in this powerful piece of film. The guy who claims to have invented the internet is both amusing and aggressive about the science of climate change, and inevitably you end up admiring his passion and vowing to cut down on all your personal gas emissions. Indeed, all ticket holders are encouraged to leave their SUVs at home. You just won't feel right climbing into them afterwards.
September 28 The Mistress of Spices (USA/UK 2005) 90 min. [IMAGE] As a screen writer, Burges is well known for the smart funny scripts of Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice. Here he takes up his first directorial role with the same seasoned intelligence and passion for the beautiful image. Indeed, the film is simply gorgeous to gawk at, and with a San Francisco setting it is easy to feel hypnotized. As with the other films Burges has worked on, THE MISTRESS OF SPICES is a romantic comedy that aims for the good in human experience, but this time through the magic of food. And in this case it's not chocolate but Indian spices that work their savoury ways into the hearts of matter. The flawlessly skinned Aishwarya Rai is an Indian princess who shills the spices; Dylan McDermott is the good looking rich American who becomes the spicee. The film has been widely panned for being too much samosa and not enough popcorn but audiences seem to eat it up.
October 5 Souvenir of Canada (Canada 2005) 70 min. [IMAGE] This lively short documentary takes you through Douglas Coupland's brain, and a big smart funny brain it is, too. The Vancouver based artist-writer-social commentator frames an eccentric but utterly charming discussion on the krazy glue that keeps Canada distinct. The premise is that Coupland's own experience growing up out west is just like any Canadian's, for we all get the same references, watch the same television, pay GST, and eat Kraft cheese slices. With a project called Canada House, Coupland created an installation of a furnished post-war house in British Columbia. You can imagine the décor you have it in your rec room. Here he explains the concept and the carefully selected kitsch of Canadiana. Mixing talking heads, animation of the Kids in the Hall variety, and a lot of irresistible, witty humour, SOUVENIR OF CANADA should be required viewing for all citizens who appreciate the deep brown beauty of a stubby beer bottle.
October 12 Live and Become (Va, Vis et Deviens) (France/Belgium/Israel/Italy 2005) 140 min. Amharic, Hebrew and French with subtitles. [IMAGE] The title sounds as if it could have come from the marketing gang at MUN, but this made-in-France masterpiece is as far from commercial branding exercises as they come. This is a moving coming of age story about Schlomo, an orphaned Ethiopian boy who passes for a Falasha Jew during the exodus of 1985. Arriving in Israel, Schlomo is adopted by some well meaning hipsters, but his development hinges on so many uncertainties that his identity remains confused and unarticulated. The film follows him through his quest to know his past and the truth of who he is and is destined to be. Growing up Black and passing for Jewish in Israel is bound to be challenging. Schlomo's story is both entirely credible and shrewdly allegorical, set as it is against the backdrop of a fiercely politicized culture, where issues of race and belonging are crucial to daily life. To be sure, the film is intellectually challenging and laced with deep irony. Award-winning in at least two countries and profoundly probing, LIVE AND BECOME requires your undivided attention.
October 19 Familia (Canada 2005) 102 min. Shown in conjunction with the St. John's International Women's Film Festival. [IMAGE] Award winning and widely acclaimed debut feature by Quebec-based Archambault, FAMILIA shows you what French Canada does so well and with so much realism. Her life spiraling out of control, Michele and her 14-year-old daughter are forced to slum it for a while with an old girlfriend, Janine. But Janine is living a comfortable bourgeois life and made uneasy by the invasion of so much female intensity, unnerving her and her middle class concerns. Of course, all is not what it appears to be in suburbia and the plot unravels like a tangled ball of intrigue, with many comic moments carrying along the serious theme of dysfunction. This is very much a film about women and generations of class, social, and personal conflicts, all buoyantly presented with gusto and the kind of credibility reality tv can only dream about. Eat your heart out Dr. Phil.
October 26 Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel) (France/Germany/UK/Romania 2005) 116 min. French, German, English and Latin [IMAGE] It's a miracle no one had made a movie based on this factual slice of history before, but JOYEUX NOEL has long been a film waiting to happen. Based on the Christmas truce of 1914, the film marks one of the strangest recesses in the history of all wars. When French, Scottish, and, yes, German soldiers, felt compelled to stop fighting and play nice they actually did -- that is they laid down their arms, buried their dead, and had a rousing game of football, right there in the muddy space between the trenches. Nominated for a foreign film Oscar this year, JOYEUX NOEL shows us both the bloody prelude to that extraordinary pause and the punishing consequences. For stopping to fight, many were blamed and persecuted. In the catch-22 of war, sharing music and joy with your enemy is an act of treason. In this, the 90th anniversary of the battle of Beaumont Hamel, JOYEUX NOEL is a sobering, excellently crafted tribute to humanity and its threats. This release might find you shopping for the holidays with a new attitude.
November 2 Wordplay (USA 2006) 94 min. [IMAGE] Bill Clinton does it. Jon Stewart does it. So does Ken Burns and millions of others. We're not talking about having sex, telling a joke, or playing baseball, but about the daily crossword puzzle, especially the famously challenging version offered by the NY Times. Anyone who has ever picked up a pencil and wondered what might be a three letter word for an African antelope will appreciate the wit and wisdom of this wonderful documentary. The film follows the 28th annual Crossword Puzzle Tournament, hosted by NY Times puzzle editor Will Shortz, a man devoted to creating grids and baffling pedants. The real cleverness here, however, is in transforming the relatively dry subject of word guessing into a fascinating and lively documentary. Director Creadon comes up with some great tricks for keeping us alive to the mysteries of the alphabet in all its ingenious combinations. The film is simply great -- both across and down.
November 9 Bon Cop Bad Cop (Canada 2006) 116 min. Subtitled, although you don't need them. [IMAGE] If we made more films like this we'd never call for a referendum. The premise is smart and the script deliciously saucy. Two cops, one from each of the two language solitudes, are forced to work together when a body is found straddling the Ontario-Quebec border. Naturally, it follows that the French guy (hunky Huard) is all unshaven attitude and the English one (tight-jawed Feore) is buttoned up and by the book. The budget for this ingenious production was small but the talent large and the commitment even bigger. Watch for Rick Mercer as a Don Cherry type colour commentator, because this wouldn't be a film about Ontario-Quebec relations if hockey weren't part of the rivalry. Hailed as the first truly bilingual film in our history (what's up with that time delay?), BON COP BAD COP is so much fun you'll want poutine with your diet pepsi.
November 16 House of Sand (Casa de Areia) (Brazil 2005) 103 min. Portuguese with subtitles. Rated R. [IMAGE] Stunningly shot, this magnificent film is set in 1910 in the exotic landscape of Brazil's Maranhão desert. Indeed, the desert offers a kind of epic backdrop to this sweeping story of three generations of women. It all begins when a rich tyrant drags his pregnant wife and her sick mother to set up home in the middle of nowhere. Mean buddy outlives his purpose but the women carry on, wandering though the desert and all that that implies. The two women in the title roles are actually really mother and daughter, and arguably the most famous of Brazilian actors, and so the intensity of their relationship is thoroughly convincing. HOUSE OF SAND is about many things, many of them deep and philosophical, but it is also about endurance, cycles of repetition and survival, and the ravages of time and nature. The film gives new meaning to the phrase dust to dust, but ultimately this is a statement of full and positive affirmation. Rated R for some good sex scenes.
November 23 Kings and Queens (Rois et reine) (France 2004) 150 min. Honestly this is an amazing experience. Oddly, the film took a while to reach North American audiences but it apparently ranked as high in critical polls as Cronenberg's History of Violence. You'll see why. The lead role is played by Emanuelle Devos, a beautiful woman named Norah who, being French, is constantly attending to men. There's her demanding dad and an insane ex lover, as well as other self-styled kings who run interference. The plot is full of surprises because in essence this is a film about deception and the lies we tell ourselves, partly to protect ourselves from the truth we really don't want to face. And as an audience we think we know what were seeing but then director Desplechin and his team start to have their way with us, so after a while we are unsure of everything except uncertainty itself. Few films can carry this off so well, but Desplechin is a known radical and this film proves his reputation again. Oh, and did we mention Catherine Deneuve is in it? No deception there -- she really is getting younger.
November 30 The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (Canada/Denmark 2006) [IMAGE] Brought to us by the team who gave us the startling Atanarjuat, or Fast Runner, this 2006 Toronto International Film Festival opener is a treat for the senses, the brain, and the heart. In 1922, Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen came upon the apparently last great shaman of the Inuit, a man named Avva, and his beautiful daughter Apak. The meeting was fortuitous and changed Rasmussen's whole way of thinking about the north and modern threats to its way of life. At this point, the informative title and the creative team must speak for the film itself, because as of this writing no one outside the premier screening on March 11th at Ataguttaaluk High School in Igloolik, Nunavut, has seen it. In other words, this is an amazing opportunity for MUN Cinema Series viewers, and so please make it a hot spot on your chilly autumn calendar.