Fall 1999

Sep 12  Run Lola Run
Sep 19  The Dreamlife of Angels
Sep 26  Three Seasons
Oct 3  The Winslow Boy
Oct 10  The Herd
Oct 17  Xiu Xiu
Oct 24  Besieged
Oct 31  Hideous Kinky
Nov 7  Lovers of the Arctic Circle
Nov 14  Buena Vista Social Club
Nov 21  Twin Falls Idaho
Nov 28  The Dinner Game
Dec 5  My Life So Far

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[IMDb] Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.

September 12   Run Lola Run (Germany) 81 mins.
[IMDb] aka Lola Rennt (English subtitles)
Directed by Tom Tykwer
With Moritz Bleibtreu, Franka Potente, et al.
Hugely 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.
[IMDb] 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.
[IMDb] 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.
[IMDb] 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.
[IMDb] 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 years to 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.
[IMDb] (English subtitles.)
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.
[IMDb] 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.
[IMDb] 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.
[IMDb] 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 metaphysician.

November 14   Buena Vista Social Club (Germany/USA/France/Cuba) 101 mins.
[IMDb] (English subtitles)
Directed by Wim Wenders
With Luis Barzaga, Joachim Cooder, Ry Cooder, Julio Alberto Fernández, Ibrahim Ferrer, Carlos González, 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.
[IMDb] 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.
[IMDb] 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 Jerry Lewis.

December 5   My Life So Far (USA) 93 mins.
[IMDb] Directed by Hugh Hudson
Colin Firth, Rosemary Harris, Moray Hunter, Irène Jacob, Tchéky Karyo, Kelly MacDonald, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Malcolm McDowell.

Take a 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.