Fall 2007

Sep 6  Once
Sep 13  Red Road
Sep 20  La Vie en Rose
Sep 27  Introducing the Dwights
Oct 4  Amazing Grace
Oct 11  Pierrepoint - The Last Hangman
Oct 18  Waitress
Oct 25  The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Nov 1  Paris, Je t'aime
Nov 8  The Namesake
Nov 15  Offside
Nov 22  The 11th Hour
Nov 29  Shake Hands With the Devil

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

September 6   Once (Ireland 2006) 85 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for language. [IMAGE]
It's a comedy, musical, romance, drama: it's got it all and it's set in Dublin, and so you can't go wrong. ONCE taps into our inner musician. He (Hansard) is an Irish street busker, singing for coins, pouring out his heart-breaking tunes to anyone who will listen. She (Irglová) listens, although less for his romantic talents than for his ability to repair stuff. She is also different (Czeck) and a pianist and it is only a matter of time before they start harmonizing. They aren't interested in fame or being the Next Best Thing. They are too serious, grounded, and smart to chase empty dreams. They are, in short, totally suited for each other, even if they are the last to know. The enormous appeal of this modest Sundance crowd-pleaser lies both in the scenery and the talents of the two leads. Hansard is actually a singer-songwriter for the Irish band The Flames and Irglová is a Czech musician and songwriter. In other words, you won't hear a single false note in this irresistible film.

September 13   Red Road (UK/Denmark 2006) 113 min.
Another fine feature from across the pond, RED ROAD is a hugely popular European thriller that will keep you gripped right up to the unpredictable end. Director Arnold won the director's prize at Cannes for this little masterpiece. RED ROAD is a product of a Scottish-Dutch initiative called Advance Party, its principles of filmmaking having evolved from the Dogma group of Lars von Trier, et al. So it is that RED ROAD is low-budget, shot on location, and resolutely, darkly, realistic. So-called extras are real people on the streets of Glasgow: as little staging as possible has gone into the work, and the effect is intensely immediate. The "red road" is the low-housing area where Jackie (Dickie) is paid to watch closed circuit footage of the drug-addled streets. One day she notices someone familiar on the camera. A chase of a kind ensues, with all the paranoid plot points of noir, leading to a thoroughly stunning conclusion. Note, the sex in this movie is as real as it gets. Rated R for just that reason.

September 20   La Vie en Rose (France/UK/Czech Republic 2007) 140 min.
This film is also widely known as The Passionate Life of Edith Piaf, which tells the whole tragic story in a nutshell. Still, blurbs must be written and this one emphasizes the brilliance of Marion Cotillard's performance. Not even Dr Phil could have relieved Piaf's amazingly unfortunate circumstances, abandoned by her mother and father in turn, surrounded by prostitutes, approaching blindness, reaching the full height of 4'8", overly fond of drink and drugs—and there's more. But it's important to remember the music that Piaf managed to make, leaping from the sidewalks of Paris to the grand stages of the world, singing her tiny heart out while in love with several famous French guys, broken-hearted from same, and yet always looking on the bright—or rosy—side. LA VIE EN ROSE is guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and download some Edith Piaf.

September 27   Introducing the Dwights (Australia 2007) 105 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for sexual content and language. [IMAGE]
Known as Clubland in Oz, INTRODUCING THE DWIGHTS features the always reliable acting chops of Brenda Blethyn, here playing the overbearing matriarch of a decidedly dysfunctional batch of under-achieving victims. Harbouring a grudge and a deluded self image, Jean (Blethyn) believes she is infinitely better than the rest of her clan. This entirely false notion comes from having been a mediocre stand-up club act, which she still performs to excruciating excess. Obviously an embarrassment to her children and a fright to civilized audiences, Jean needs to crash and burn before the movie can advance the lives of its younger characters. Alternatively comic and poignant, INTRODUCING THE DWIGHTS has a strong element of Aussie irony, never allowing itself or its characters to take things too seriously.

October 4   Amazing Grace (UK/USA 2006) 111 min.
Experienced director Michael Apted (Seven Up, Lipstick, Gorky Park, Rome, and many more) takes on the complicated history of the slave trade, no less, through the life and 18th-century times of saintly reformer William Wilberforce. If you love listening to excellent British actors making articulate arguments in powdered wigs, then this is the movie for you. Wilberforce was a fervent abolitionist who substantially paved the way for total reform. Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd carries himself in the part with just the right measure of dignity and conviction, not to mention tight-fitting waistcoats. His nemesis is close friend William Pitt the Younger, the future British prime minister, who is played to perfect pitch by a young Benedict Cumberbatch. When you consider that among others (like Albert Finney), the jowly Michael Gambon and the handsome Rufus Sewell round out the stellar cast then you can expect Good Acting. Watch for the uncanny parallels between Wilberforce's relentless crusade for human and animal rights and the pleas for such rights in our own troubled times. In some ways, only the cut of men's breeches has changed.

October 11   Pierrepoint - The Last Hangman (UK 2005) 90 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for disturbing images, nudity and brief sexuality. [IMAGE]
What kind of man wakes up, gets dressed, eats his breakfast, and then goes to work hanging people? Why your average hard-working Englishman, surely! As the title of this film indicates, Albert Pierrepoint was exactly that kind of guy, having inherited the trade, so to speak, from his father and uncle before him. The film traces the turbulent period in England between 1932 and 1956, through the war and the consequences of crimes committed in its name. At first, Pierrepoint rises to the challenge of those consequences well and in the light of public glare, but as times change and cries against capital punishment strengthen, so does his conscience. Timothy Spall is superb in the role as the troubled executioner, all dressed up and, one day, nowhere to go.

October 18   Waitress (USA 2007) 107 min.
[IMDb] Shown in conjunction with the St. John's International Women's [IMAGE]
There is a sad poignancy to this terrific comedy, in that director writer Adrienne Shelly's life was tragically cut down before she ever had a chance to see her success, especially at Sundance. Nonetheless, WAITRESS is a tribute to her talent and an unforgettable achievement. Presented in conjunction with the St John's International Women's File Festival, WAITRESS features the lovely Keri Russell in the title role as Jenna, a small-town girl who can bake sweetness from misery the way Edith Piaf sang joy out of tragedy. Pregnant and unhappy with a moron of a husband, Jenna somehow finds a way to move forward, falling into a crush over her doctor, finding solidarity in her girlfriends, and concocting a life as American as, well, apple pie—only one of her amazing desserts. Mildred Pierce was never that lucky. In a word, WAITRESS is totally yummy.

October 25   The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ireland/UK/Germany/Italy/Spain/France 2006) 127 min.
We would never hesitate to bring in a Ken Loach film: the 70-year-old British director does it better than almost anyone, always marrying the political to the personal with emotional intelligence. This much acclaimed study of two brothers involved in the Irish struggle for independence in the 1920s is no exception. Damien O'Donovan (Murphy), a young doctor, joins his older brother Teddy (Delaney) in the dangerous movement against the occupying British force. Indeed, violence is pervasive and shocking. Seeing the country boys squaring off against the British "Black and Tan" militia is wrenching, but out of such conflict comes radical transformation. The rest, as we well know, is recent history. Typical of a Loach film, the characters don't just act; they articulate their positions. And true to Loach's politics, those positions have everything to do with class and property—the true motives of any colonizing nation. Fierce criticism from the British right wing against THE WIND THAT SHAKES THE BARLEY almost proves that point. Fortunately, nothing will shake Ken Loach out of such fine, committed filmmaking.

November 1   Paris, Je t'aime (France/Liechtenstein 2006) 116 min.
[IMDb] Rated R for language and brief drug use. [IMAGE]
Comprising eighteen segments based in different sections—or arrondissements—of the fabled city, this intensely satisfying film surveys the vast, rich, colourful, profoundly civilized wonderfulness that is Paris—at least as great as the sum of her parts. Twenty-two filmmakers contributed to this collage of sound and image, from Gena Rowlands to Wes Craven. The result is a panoply of styles and approaches, loosely held together by recurring characters and the omniscient potential of love. PARIS, JE T'AIME is almost as good as being there, without losing your luggage or suffering the indignities of Air Canada. There are many stories in the City of Lights, and anyone who is tired of them must be tired of life.

November 8   The Namesake (India/USA 2006) 122 min.
[IMDb] Rated PG-13 for sexuality/nudity, a scene of drug use, some disturbing images and brief language. [IMAGE]
Working in her characteristic lush visual style, filmmaker Nair adapts a much adored novel (by Jhumpa Lahiri) into a powerful screen epic. The film traces two generations of a Bengali family, beginning in 'seventies Calcutta where circumstances throw two young strangers-lovers together. Their accidental encounter eventually takes them to the USA where they have a child with the oddly twinned name of Nikhil/Gogol. The young son, played brilliantly by Kal Penn, grows up to become as non-Indian as he can be, at least until maturity knocks some pressing identity questions into his head and forces a reconsideration of everything he is and has come from. THE NAMESAKE scrupulously avoids sentimentality, too wise a film to recycle the clichés of assimilation dramas, and Nair once again proves she is deft with the long reach of history and some very Big Ideas.

November 15   Offside (Iran 2006) 93 min.
True story: director Panahi was told he could not bring his daughter to a soccer match in Iran, and so he decided to tell the world about it. The result of this absurdity is a stunning comic gem, laced with poignancy and strong political significance, but light and lively nonetheless. OFFSIDE is set in Tehran, specifically in a soccer stadium from which female fans are banned. No gender mixing allowed. And so a feisty group of young women try to pass themselves off as young men, but are caught and put behind bars, with the impassioned sounds of the game teasingly within hearing, but never within sight. The comic drama of the film is generated not from the game but from the interplay between the imprisoned girls and the young, somewhat baffled guards who have to keep them in their place. Ultimately, it's clear that everyone is trapped in such a repressive society. Amazingly, the director managed to make this film right under the eyes of the censors. If you recall Panahi's Iranian masterpiece The Circle then you know you are in the hands of a master.

November 22   The 11th Hour (USA 2007) 95 min.
Well, the message is grim and we've heard it before but you have to admit that Leonardo sure is better looking than Al Gore. The handsome youngish star might not be adopting babies but at least he's doing something good with all that celebrity power. DiCaprio narrates and co-produces this dire-sounding doc that gives us both reason to fear and some hope for making it all better. Architects and biologists offer practical alternatives to living and driving more efficiently. If you love this planet you'll feel moved by the images of what we are doing to its lovely surface. Test drive a hybrid and take it to this movie.

November 29   Shake Hands With the Devil (Canada 2007)
Already several versions of Romeo Dallaire's award-winning account of his horrifying stint as overseer of the Rwanda genocide have come and gone to the screen. Finally, however, we have a genuine Canadian feature that promises to do justice to the story in all its alarming details. The film, produced by Halifax-based Michael Donovan, is opening major festivals throughout the fall, and so reviews and commentary are sure to follow. What we do know at the time of this program is that we are lucky to have secured a date for this important production and that Quebec actor Dupuis bears an uncanny resemblance to Dallaire, right down to the prominent mustache. Don't miss it.