Winter 2003

Jan 16  Frida
Jan 23  Comedian
Jan 30  Heaven
Feb 6  Roger Dodger
Feb 13  Ararat
Feb 20  Far from Heaven
Feb 27  Bollywood/Hollywood
Mar 6  Sex and Lucia
Mar 13  Rabbit-Proof Fence
Mar 20  Bay of Love and Sorrows
Mar 27  Chaos and Desire
Apr 3  Gambling, Gods and LSD
Apr 10  Naqoyaatsi

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

January 16   Frida (USA/Canada) 118 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for sexuality/nudity and language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Julie Taymore
With Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd, et al.
The complicated life of sensual Mexican painter Frida Kahlo was certainly large enough for a film, but it was a stroke of brilliance having Julie Taymore pull it all together. Best known for her spectacular use of set design and art direction in the Broadway hit The Lion King and the film adaptation of Titus (Andronicus), Taymore brings it all home for Frida. She gets a lot of help from Salma Hayek who was so dedicated to the role she willed herself to grow hair between her eyes. If you don't believe that you will be persuaded by Hayek's performance as the tempestuous Frida whose life was marked by two colossal signs - a handicapping bus accident and Marxist muralist Diego Rivera (Alfred Molina). The former gave Frida a permanent friendship with pain; the latter gave her a pain in the love life. Neither prevented her from living fully, if not well, as she took and danced with a variety of lovers (Leon Trotsky, Josephine Baker), painted increasingly surreal expressions of her tortured physical and emotional life, and emerged as a formidable twentieth century icon of self-determination. Watch for Hayek's real-life lover Ed Norton in the role of Nelson Rockefeller.

January 23   Comedian (USA 2002) 82 min.
Directed by Christian Charles
With Jerry Seinfeld (as himself); also with Bill Cosby, Jay Leno, Kevin Nealon, Colin Quin, Chris Rock, and others (as themselves).
If you love to sit down and watch stand-up this is the movie for you. Less an opportunity for Jerry--can we call him Jerry?--to show off his talent than it is a dissection of how jokes get made, this is a fascinating, funny movie. Comedian follows the famous star of a show about nothing to a new post-Seinfeld stage. He's fresh out of material, doesn't need the money, but he aches to perform again. At first he bombs like any poor shmuck on the circuit, but the film follows him gaining strength and enough shtick to shape a full concert's worth of stuff. While the routine evolves, Jerry seeks and gets advice from all the heavyweights, from Leno (a bit of an idiot) to elder sages Robert Klein and Cosby. You might recall a killingly incisive New Yorker piece on a comic named Orny Adams a while back, the one who got the white cane at Montreal's Just for Laughs. Comedian also tracks Orny on a doomed road to the comic dustbin, while Jerry impressively humbles himself before his peers and mentors. One whines; the other wins. Comedian shows us why Jerry never really needed Elaine, Kramer, or Art Vanderlay in the first place.

January 30   Heaven (France/Germany 2002) 96 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for a scene of sexuality. [IMAGE]
Directed by Tom Tykwer
With Cate Blanchet, Giovanni Ribisi, Remo Girone, et al.
Seriously talented actor Cate Blanchet is at the heart of this intensely bittersweet tale. As Philippa, she is living a somewhat troubled life in Turin, Italy, until one day she decides to avenge the drug-death of her husband. The authorities ignore her and so she becomes a vigilante, engaging in an activity that backfires with catastrophic effects. On trial for murder and desperate for a last chance at freedom she sees a lifeline in a cop coincidentally named Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi) who serves as her translator. He is nuts about her for reasons that have much to do with fate, a need for escape, his weariness with his uniform, and so on. Heaven was directed by the ingenious Tykwer (Run Lola Run) but it was actually germinated by the brilliant Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski who had intended a trilogy (Purgatory and Hell were to follow, the way his colour trilogy Blue, Red, and White once dominated world cinema). Fortunately, interesting director Tykwer took on the unfinished script and eventually called it his own. Yeah, the story is improbable and highly symbolic, but with Tykwer's fancy camera and editing work shadowing Blanchet in the Italian countryside we know why this movie is called Heaven.

February 6   Roger Dodger (USA 2002) 104 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for sexual content and language.
This film was screened early because Ararat was unavailable. [IMAGE]

Directed by Dylan Kidd.
With Campbell Scott, Jesse Eisenberg, Isabella Rossellini, Elizabeth Berkeley, Jennifer Beals, et al.
Guaranteed to cure you of a dose of Valentine Day-itis, Roger Dodger is a wickedly funny movie about sex, women, womanizing, and generally bad adult male behaviours. A huge hit at last year's Toronto Festival, the comedy features Campbell Scott as the titular Dodger, a New York advertising exec with enough charm to kill at all the hot spots in the club scene. When his 16-year-old nephew comes to town the movie has an excuse to showcase Roger's cunning conquest of the other sex. Yet, when they meet two virginal types in a Manhattan bar the young innocent nephew suddenly has the edge on the jaded cynical uncle. Indeed, the movie starts to turn in unpredictable ways, as we learn more about Roger's limitations, motivations, and expectations. When comedy goes deep you've reached a whole other level of art. It sure is fun to be taken into a real adult movie, starved as we are for good dialogue and mature conversation, not to mention psychological insight. If none of this persuades you to see Roger Dodger consider that Jennifer Beals and Elizabeth Berkley persuasively play innocent girls, and you'll appreciate the level of acting going on here. This is a fabulously entertaining movie with enough energy to power your hot tub.

February 13   Ararat (Canada) 116 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for violence, sexuality/nudity and language. English/Armenian.
This film was unavailable for its originally scheduled February 6th screening. [IMAGE]

Directed by Atom Egoyan.
With David Alpay, Arsinée Khanijian, Christopher Plummer, et al.
Remarkable, difficult, provocative, Ararat simply must be seen to keep up to date with your own cinematic repertoire and with Atom Egoyan whose films we've been showing even before he became the darling of Cannes and a Great Canadian. The ostensible subject is the 1915 genocide of Armenians by the Turkish military, but this is an Egoyan movie, so what we are really watching is the struggle (his) characters have to find, make, and keep meaning in their lives. The famous film-within-a-film structure allows the director to move back and forth between past and present. In the here and now we follow an 18-year-old Armenian-Canadian in search of his ethnic-national past. At this point any attempt to outline the plot within a plot would prompt you to run for your saber so let's just say that everyone in the Egoyan honour guard, from omniscient wife-actor Arsinee Khanjian, to Christopher 'Lear' Plummer, Brent Carver, and Elias Koteas has a major role in this labyrinthine tale of how memory collides with history. A arat screams Important, so it's not everyone's slice of delight, but it is timely, penetrating, and Egoyan at his most ambitious.

February 20   Far from Heaven (Canada 2002) 107 min.
[IMDb] Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, sexual content, brief violence and language. [IMAGE]
Directed by Todd Haynes
With Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson, et al.
What are the odds that Julianne Moore will get an Oscar for a Best Actress performance as a tortured middle-class housewife stuck in the Eisenhower 1950's? Here she is married to a guy who looks a lot like Dennis Quaid, a sales exec, of course, a guy on the move up the suburban ladder with a perfect son on every side. Scrupulously faithful to the 'fifties genre of melodrama, often known as the 'woman's picture,' Far From Heaven takes a moment or two to appreciate its minute attention to detail, including how stiff 'fifties movie characters now sound to us (as if people today actually talk like George Clooney). Director Haynes pays open homage to filmmakers like Douglas Sirk, who gently unpeeled the layers of social civility from the unsuspecting middle class. When Moore's housewife falls in love with a black gardener all hell breaks loose, in a fifties melodramatic way, of course. If you have seen Haynes direct Moore in his amazingly smart Safe, then you will know what you are in for here: an Oscar performance helped by a genius of a director.

February 27   Bollywood/Hollywood (Canada 2002) 103 min.
[IMDb] English/Hindi/Spanish. [IMAGE]
Directed by Deepa Mehta
With Rahul Khanna, Lisa Ray, Moushumi Chatterjee, Dina Pathak, et al.
If the crowds for last season's Monsoon Wedding are still in your memory you'd better come early for this one, a widely acclaimed and much cheered feature by the controversial Deepa Mehta. Bollywood cinema is hot these postmodern days, and Mehta has her way with it. The stereotypical hero is handsome, young, sly, and bristling against the more traditional dictates of his family. He lusts after a gorgeous singing star (the lanky Jessica Pare), but after a series of tragic-comic interventions he agrees to find a nice Indian wife. Nothing if not shrewd, and plugged into the commercial moment, he hires a beauty to pass as the 'nice' significant other. Lisa Ray sure claims this role for herself, transforming an ordinary plot device into a full fully blown comic character, with brains and beauty to spare. Between the charismatic characters and the unpredictable dance numbers Bollywood/Hollywood rocks.

March 6   Sex and Lucia (France/Spain 2001) 128 min.
[IMDb] aka Lucía y el sexo. Spanish with English subtitles.
Rated R for lots of sex. [IMAGE]

Directed by Julio Medem
With Paz Vega, Tristán Ulloa, Najwa Nimre, Daniel Freire, et al.
Did we say there was a lot of sex in this movie? Both male and female characters on screen are visibly aroused here so if you'd rather stay home and watch Friends feel free to give this a pass. For the rest of us, Sex and Lucia happens to be a love story about two people who happen to have a lot of sex, as people do when they first fall in love. Lucia (a role that earned Paz Vega a Spanish Oscar) loves a writer who can't produce anymore - words, that is. He's really good with his hands otherwise. Director Medem brought us the sensual Lovers of the Arctic Circle, that crazy palindrome of a film. Here he turns his sensual gaze on another absurd plot that folds back onto itself, involving a child from out of the past and a steady blur of fantasy and reality. The pace is dizzying, the story confusing, the characters compelling, the Spanish sun scorching, and the sex, oh yeah, the sex: there's a lot of it.

March 13   Rabbit-Proof Fence (Australia 2002) 94 min.
[IMDb] Rated PG for emotional thematic material. [IMAGE]
Directed by Phillip Noyce.
With Everlyn Sampi, Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan, Kenneth Branagh, David Gulpilil, et al.
You've probably seen the large publicity photos of this popular art house film, featuring a bedraggled trio of aboriginal children wandering the vast expanse of the Australian desert. Indeed, the film is based on the true story of their astonishing struggle to find home, a quest that was forced upon them and countless other children as recently as 1970. We've seen hideous variations on the mixed race theme in our own cultures. In Australia children of mixed race were taken from their mothers (who knows where their white fathers disappeared to?) and put in training schools aimed at turning them into domestics or factory workers. Known as the children of the Stolen Generations, they still haven't been apologized to. Here we follow three girls who were transported to a school 1500 miles away. As you might guess, they hated the forced isolation from their mother and vowed to walk their way back home, tracing their route next to Australia's country-wide rabbit-proof fence. Kenneth Branagh plays a muddled principal with unfortunate leanings, and the white authorities are in general a pretty horrid breed of humans, but there is grace to be found in all this, despite the awful truth of history.

March 20   Bay of Love and Sorrows (Canada 2002) 95 min.
Directed by Tim Southam
With Peter Outerbridge, Jonathan Scarfe, Joanne Kelly, Christopher Jacot, Elaine Cassidy, et al.
Any self-respecting student of Canadian literature should be familiar with this dark tragic novel by David Adams Richards on which the film is based. The Bay of Love and Sorrows is nothing if not New Brunswick Gothic. It's 1973 and the Bay of Miramichi is the late summer setting for the story of the cocky Michael Skid. Fueled by the eastern ideals of his hippie travels he returns to promote a kind of communalism for the rural region in which he's planted himself. Some of the locals buy the idea, others are resistant, particularly Tom Donnerel, a young farmer and the fiancé of the naïve heroine, Carrie. With a false sense of slight and an inflated townie attitude Michael joins up with the dissolute good-for-nothing Everette Hatch, a scheming dealer in all things illicit, and poison to anyone who enters his shack. First-time feature film director Tim Southam, who co-wrote the script with Richards, pushes his actors in all the right directions. Set against a ravishing landscape The Bay of Love and Sorrows is an honourable adaptation that will send you back to the novel with renewed and respectful curiosity.

March 27   Chaos and Desire (Canada 2002) 112 min.
[IMDb] aka La Turbulence des Fluides. French/English/Japanese. [IMAGE]
Directed by Manon Briand
With Pascale Bussières, Julie Gayet, Jean-Nicolas Verreault, et al.
We know audiences that will pay just to see Pascale Bussières up on the screen, and this Quebec movie reminds you why that is so. As Alice, a seismologist who returns from Tokyo to her hometown of Baie-Comeau, Quebec, Bussières steadily holds our gaze. She is, however, merely one terrific woman actor in an almost embarrassingly full female cast. Lonely and miserable, Alice finds herself drawn to many things and different people in the dull rural community, notably the one guy worth talking about, Marc Jean-Nicolas Verreault (Maëlstrom) She sees herself as a rational human being, a scientist, a woman of the world, but life among the natural attractions of Baie-Comeau has a way of undermining her confidence in science and certainty. And there is nothing like desire for another to shake the grounds of any logical system. The title points to the oppositional forces at work in all of our lives. Give into yours and come see this movie.

April 3   Gambling, Gods and LSD (Canada 2002) 180 min.
[IMDb] Documentary. [IMAGE]
Directed by Peter Mettler
The title should at least tickle your curiosity, if not your dealer's. Over 8 years in the making, Peter Mettler's three-pronged doc has a lot of ground to cover in its search for both transcendence and the people who seem to find it. This is a particularly awkward subject for a resolutely non-spiritual age, but the film keeps taking us into places at once strange and alluring, from an airport church in Toronto to religious rites in Southern India. Junkies, true believers, the homeless, priests, goddesses, you name it - anyone who has a claim on transcendent experience has a story and some time to tell it. So how does Mettler keep us interested and sometimes even spellbound for three hours? By showering us in gloriously divine images, a world travelogue of people and places. A perfect marriage of cinema and theme, this is a stunning achievement which might not lead you to the gods so much as let you share in their amazing vision.

April 10   Naqoyaatsi (USA 2002) 89 min.
[IMDb] Documentary. Rated PG for violent and disturbing images, and for brief nudity. [IMAGE]
Directed by Godfrey Reggio
Last but not least and just in time for your springtime resurrection, Naqoyaatsi is a total cinematic experience, completing the trilogy of Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi, arguably the most visually compelling set of films ever made. The first in the series explored natural versus built cultures; the second explored the effects of technology on primitive cultures. Naqoyaatsi takes the final leap, examining the transformative effects of technology through its own innovative media strategies. Indeed, this very specially effected film would not have been possible without the technology it seeks to understand. Director Godfrey Reggio offers us a rainbow of images accompanied by the hypnotic score of Philip Glass and the cello sounds of Yo-Yo Ma. Could it get any better? It does, with every passing metamorphosis: waves turn into keys on a typewriter, stock market traders dance with their hands, soldiers do ballet - these and hundreds of other magical possibilities are informed by the magic of digital technology and a fierce sense of wonder. No actors -- no voice-over - just the world unfolding in a spectacularly wired way. This is our world and welcome to it.