MUN Cinema
Winter 1998

Jan 18 Twilight of the Ice Nymphs
Jan 25 Career Girls
Feb 1 Wings of the Dove
Feb 8 Hanging Garden
Feb 15 Box of Moonlight
Feb 22 Different for Girls
Mar 1 Mrs. Brown
Mar 8 Fire
Mar 15 The Sweet Hereafter
Mar 22 Year of the Horse
Mar 29 Critical Care
Apr 5 Deconstructing Harry
Apr 12 The Tango Lesson

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Updated 1998-04-06
Paul Fardy

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MUN Sunday Cinema Series
Winter 1998

All screenings were at the Avalon Mall Cinemas--2:00 pm, Sunday. Ticket prices were: Full season pass: $55.00 regular, $50.00 students and seniors; 6-Pass: $30.00 regular, 25.00 students and seniors; Single Admission: $7.00 regular, $6.00 students and seniors.

January 18  Twilight of the Ice Nymphs (Canada 1997) 94 mins.
Directed by Guy Maddin.
With Pascale Brussiéres, Shelley Duval, Frank Gorshin, Alice Krige, R.H. Thompson, Ross McMillan.

Unquestionably the most colourful and bizarre Maddin film to date and that's saying a lot. If you've seen Tales From the Gimli Hospital or Archangel you either like or loathe a Maddin film. Known for his surreal fusion of Icelandic mythology (he's from Winnipeg), romance, and an off-centre notion of personality, Maddin here lets loose with a manic blast of artificiality, creating lurid purple and orange skies over the fantasy world of Madragora. Many might find this tale of love and loss in a world of constant uncertainty a little Maddining, so we caution you --this film is not for everyone. You will need patience and a healthy sense of skewed humour. Gorshin is oddly cast as an ogre but R.H. Thompson saves the day with a persuasively weird performance as the lecherous peg-legged wizard, Dr. Solti, who leads the plainly stunned Amelia (Duvall) down the pagan path. Don't say we didn't warn you.

January 25  Career Girls (UK 1997) 87 mins.
Directed by Mike Leigh.
With Katrin Cartlidge, Lynda Steadman, Mark Benton, Kate Byers, Andy Serkis, Joe Tucker.

After the popular success of his Secrets and Lies, Leigh tried his deft hand at a more focussed experiment in improvisational actor-centred story-telling, but the themes of class and gender comically persist. Career Girls is a highly entertaining fable about two young women whose lives come together in London by fate, class, and destiny. One is a high-strung urban authoritarian, masking her uncertainty with a barking bravado; the other is a quivering mess of open doubts, a shy allergy-prone bumpkin with enough self-effacement to humble a tyrant. One of these woman is not like the other, but in the naturalistic universe of a Leigh film, circumstances often impose commonality on people's lives. In the present-day action, Annie and Hannah reunite after six years apart, six years after graduation from their North London Polytech. The film cuts back from now to then, nuance-dancing around the differences between the women while revealing their common humanity, as only the great London director can. A viewer who does not like a Mike Leigh film does not like life.

February 1  Wings of the Dove (UK 1997) 108 mins.
Directed by Iain Softley.
With Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, Alison Elliott, Elizabeth McGovern, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Gambon, Alex Jennings.

Critics have just rated this film one of the top ten of 97, a fresh adaptation of a Henry James novel about class aspirations and love, or is that redundant for James? It's worth shelling out just to gawk at Helena Bonham Carter's extraordinary cin-gorgeousness, but Wings also takes flight in other highly watchable ways. The setting might be exotic and the clothes worthy of a Merchant & Ivory liquidation sale, but the story is plainly timeless. In broad terms, this is a fable about new America bumping up against old Europe. The figures who perform this theme are the impoverished and darkly stunning Kate (Carter) who falls in love with an even more impoverished journalist (Roache). Into this scene like an unexpected butterfly flits the ravishing American heiress, Milly (Elliott), generating enough complexities of plot and turns of the screw to keep everyone gripped to the revelatory end. Bound for Oscars and literary-adaptation classes, Wings proves just how killingly Softley can make a film.

February 8  Hanging Garden (Canada 1997) 91 mins.
Directed by Thom Fitzgerald.
With Chris Leavins, Kerry Fox, Seana McKenna, Troy Veinotte, Peter McNeil, Sarah Polley, Jean Orenstein.

You probably almost strung yourself up for not having caught Hanging Garden when it played in town for a few hummingbird seconds, but now you can catch Fitzgerald's almost hysterically appreciated film again at a theatre near you. A remarkable debut by a Halifax filmmaker, Hanging Garden's success depends on Fitzgerald's tender story about a Nova Scotian family whose lives fall apart all over the rural topsoil. The reasons for such dysfunction have everything to do with Catholic superstition, class pettiness, gender conformity, and too many cookies in the cookie jar, but the linking figure in all this chaos is Sweet William (Leavins), the sensitive son who bent gay, ran away, and came back to play. The film opens with his sister's Ashley-MacIsaac-accompanied wedding dance, a ritual of raucous communal celebration that hides many weedy years of misery and repression. William s return to the garden of his youth opens him up to both tortured memories of his earlier obesely self-protective self and confrontations with the family who dared not speak his name. Everything doesn't necessarily come up roses in the end, but, hey, this is a Canadian garden. Dirt happens.

February 15  Box of Moonlight (US 1997) 107 mins.
Directed by Tom DiCillo.
With John Turturro, Sam Rockwell, Catherine Keener, Lisa Blount, Annie Corley, Alexander Goodwin, Dermot Mulroney.

Remember the indie comedy Living in Oblivion, DiCillo's last hilariously dark send-up of independent filmmaking? Right. Well, Box is his latest comic odyssey into a world of alternative lifestyles. The always interesting Turturro plays Al Fountain, a guy well in control of his domestic and professional life, not to mention his outstanding physique until one day he overhears an uncomplimentary conversation about himself. Life suddenly starts to seem, well, upside down and backwards--literally. Determined to regain self-control, Al sets out to find himself in his past, specifically near a lake where he spent his youth. Along the way he encounters the zany side of American individualism, all dressed up in Davy Crockett gear and nowhere to go. Panned by stuffy American critics, Box of Moonlight has been adored by Euro-audiences who appreciate the rich texture of this indie delight about a disturbed man's need to confront his inner playground. Modern neuroses come in many forms, and Box contains them all with a lively nonjudgmental enthusiasm.

February 22  Different for Girls (UK 1996) 97 mins.
Directed by Richard Spence.
With Steven Mackintosh, Rupert Graves, Miriam Margolyes, Saskia Reeves, Charolotte Coleman, Neil Dudgeon, Ian Drury.

Brought to us by the director who gave us the memorable award-winning Buddy Holly, Different For Girls is a charming movie about Karl and Paul, best mates at school in the boogie-night seventies. Since this is a post-modern reunion story, when they meet again in the nineties, Karl has become Kim, more interested in looking back in angora than in slouching around in leather. Paul is now in a rut, however, bored with his job and inevitably in trouble with the law. Time passes, and Kim and Paul renew their friendship, albeit on decidedly different terms. Before he can say what a loverly bunch of coconuts Paul finds himself attracted to Kim, and, er, handles his feelings badly. You can see the potential for a rather twisted treatment of an old story, can't you? Different for Girls, indeed. No crying game here, we see what's going on right up front. The challenge is where to put those damn feelings when you're glad to see buddy as biddy.

March 1  Mrs. Brown (UK/US/Ireland 1997) 103 mins.
Directed by John Madden.
With Judi Dench, Billy Connolly, Antony Sher, Geoffrey Palmer, Richard Pasco, David Westhead, Gerard Butler, et al.

As we all already know, there was a lot more to Queen Victoria than a veil and a sour mien. In 1861, the Woman was a widow after all, full of grief over the still-dead consort Albert, with no one to talk to but the odd Highland pony. Thank goodness for horse handlers, though. John Brown, reins in hand, abruptly alienated himself from the Queen's family and lackeys, but he managed to tear at the Widow's harsh wall of isolation, gently prodding her towards the fresh air and a fuller sense of well being. Mrs. Brown is the timely story of a formidable royal figure and the lengths to which her close personal servant felt he needed to go to protect her privacy. An historical drama of amazingly realistic dimensions, Mrs. Brown works for several reasons, not the least of which are the convincing performances by Dench and Connolly. Notable, too, is the film's focus on the pomp of court, the constraints of the establishment, the fussiness of identity, and the starch of black taffeta. Not just another kilt movie, Mrs. Brown takes a great swinging swipe at the monarchy, but ends up loving every decorous moment of it. Republicans should stay home and read Christopher Hichens.

March 8  Fire (Canada 1996) 104 mins.
Directed by Deepa Mehta.
With Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Kulbushan Kharbanda, Ranjit Chowdhry.

Fire, as in playing with ... because that's what director Mehta (Sam and Me) was doing when she dared to make a movie about illicit love among the castes. A cloud of controversy has followed this feature which boldly confronts a changing India. Set in New Delhi, Fire is most directly about lesbian love. Two gorgeous creatures, Radha and Sita, discover an unconventional way of handling the impossible demands of traditional values. The crisis that their tender passion generates challenges almost everything in their world, especially their husbands and brothers who have been raised to believe that men watch porn, women make chapatis. But the whole subcontinent is being transformed through upheaval, too, and so it is that Fire shows us how increasing demands for personal freedom come into conflict with age-old practices. Mehta endured a great deal of pressure from her own community upon completing this film, so Fire also carries with it the weight of her own courage. A lushly photographed hymn to change and desire, Fire burns with the passion of its innovative director.

March 15  The Sweet Hereafter (Canada 1997) 110 mins.
Directed by Atom Egoyan.
With Ian Holm, Maury Chakin, Bruce Greenwood, Arsinée Khanjian, Tom McManus, Sarah Polley.

The most masterly of masterpiece offerings this season, how sweet it is, too. An unqualified accomplishment, toweringly great, profoundly moving, widely appreciated, The Sweet Hereafter works in all dimensions. Adapted from the novel by Russell Banks, this film gracefully, slowly, unravels a tragic tale set in the white mountainous west. One day a school bus of children slides off the road into an icy pond. The rest is grief and chaos. Who better to restore order and meaning than a well-intentioned but troubled lawyer, a role played so persuasively by Ian Holm that you can scarcely believe he's acting. The lives he tries to manage are not all so wounded by sorrow that they can't resist him, though. Look for handsome Bruce Greenwood as the stoic-heroic Billy. But what of the surviving and handicapped Nicole (Polley), whose ambiguous fate is both to live to tell the tale and deal with dear ol' incestuous dad. Multi-leveled but accessibly personal, visually stunning and ambitiously narrated, The Sweet Hereafter is sure to mark a turning point in Egoyan's astonishingly brilliant career, and a future of great expectations. Beware the Ides of March. Don't even think of missing this film.

March 22  Year of the Horse (US 1997) 107 mins.
Directed by Jim Jarmusch.
With Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

A spunky rockumentary for music lovers, Jarmusch fanatics, indie followers, and, especially, Neil Young fans. Still a rebel with a heart of gold, Young is not necessarily the only guy who makes the music, though. Jarmusch's gritty document of life among the band shows us that all of the players make the sounds we've come to love through three decades of non-stop throbbing. Bassist Billy Talbot, drummer Ralph Molina, guitarist Frank (Poncho) Sampedro all share centre stage with the whiny winning Young, a collection of rockers who are still Crazy Horse after all these years. We hear nine driving songs, including "Like a Hurricane" and "Tonight's the Night," all meant to be played loud and loose. Jamming their way though a 96 European tour, the band members are also shown backstage and in inter-cut footage of earlier times. Hockey guy Scott (Beaming Father of ) even makes an appearance, yakking happily about Neil's talent and demeanor. As the opening credits attest, Year of the Horse was "proudly filmed in 8mm," lending the feature the natural gritty look and texture of the band's earthy style. Uncompromisingly about the music, Neil Young and Crazy Horse survive as icons of what counts -- in rock and roll time, of course.

March 29  Critical Care (US 1997) 107 mins.
Directed by Sydney Lumet.
With James Spader, Kyra Sedgwick, Helen Mirren, Margo Martindale, Anne Bancroft, Albert Brooks, Jeffrey Wright, Wallace Shawn.

Great cast, crew, and collection of talent, Critical Care couldn't have happened at a better time. A smart, hard-edged movie about how insurance policies essentially dictate modern medical care. James Spader plays an exhausted third-year nerdy intern belatedly enjoying an active sex life. That M.D. title seems to impress the girl every time. The dauntingly talented Helen Mirren is the veteran in charge of the intensive care unit, in itself a study of surreal designer illness. Lumet, adapting Richard Dooling's novel, makes Critical Care a dark satiric joke. That modern medicine is mercenary medicine isn't news, but the film puts considerable punch behind its study of moral dilemmas and the struggle to squeeze a little humanity out of the system. The film is a stimulating mix of a medical drama and a courtroom showdown, with broad comedy from the always funny Albert Brooks as Dr. Butz. This is a medical comedy that exposes the sore, stressed nerves of the contemporary hospital and the debilitating struggle between profits and ethics. You'll laugh, you'll die, but no one will come to assist you without your lawyer.

April 5  Deconstructing Harry (US 1997).
Directed by Woody Allen.
With 76 actors, including Judy Davis, Juliet Dreyfus, Richard Benjamin, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Elizabeth Shue.

Mia won't go anyway, but we feel we need to tell the rest of you up front: Do not even think of seeing this movie if you disapprove of excessive profanity or oral sex. Okay, now that we've issued our tantalizing surgeon general's tag, let us tell you that this is Woody's darkest and most offensively wonderful adult-life movie to date. Do we contradict ourselves? Of course. Nobody explores the hypocritical turns of middle-age middle-class, middle-brow angst, and no one can turn his life into the stuff that tabloids are made of like Woody. A nastier, angrier Woody positions himself here as Harry Block, a successful American writer with a personal life so tangled and exposed he reminds us of, well, Woody. Harry's fictional characters sure do sound a lot like Harry's real wives and lovers, so we start to get the picture quite early on that we're probably experiencing an interwoven narrative of truth and myth, one that resolves itself into a hymn to art for therapy's sake. Looking through Woody's mirror is fun, though, because the accompanying dialogue is always so aphoristic and witty. If only all ex wives, current hookers, betrayed lovers, abandoned children, deceived husbands, unethical therapists, and frustrated writers really talked like that, the world would be ... just like New York. Not there's anything wrong with that.

April 12  THE TANGO LESSON (UK/France/Argentina/Japan/Germany 1997) 101 mins.
Directed by Sally Potter.
With Sally Potter, Pablo Vernon, Gustavo Naveira, Fabian Salas, David Toole, et al.

The director and star of this movie happens to be the same woman who gave us the fictional game of Orlando, at once an experiment in Virginia Woolf and social history. The Tango Lesson flirts with the same puzzling borders between truth and fiction, but here the risk is even greater because Potter films herself and her own life experience. Shot mostly in elegant black and white, the film exploits our assumption about documentary reality to show Potter's single-minded commitment to learn the Argentinian tango. While pursuing this quest she has an emotionally wild relationship with her tango teacher, a real-life tango star, also playing himself, who is (really) about as Latin and macho and handsome and intimidating as any fictional stereotype. The charge of self-indulgence might come to mind, but amazingly The Tango Lesson evades such dismissals because the film is witty, charming, and uncannily interesting: are we watching Sally Potter or someone she has invented? Its real richness lies in its texture and layering of themes which total involvement in the dance allows Potter to explore. Apparently to be the perfect tango partner a woman is meant to "do nothing, just follow." Right--and Virginia Woolf was just a frustrated housewife. We promise: there are no sinking ships in this movie.