MUN Cinema Series
Follow the links to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for more information about the films.
September 10 Away We Go (USA/UK 2009) 98 min. [IMAGE] Our season opener is certainly a welcoming invitation to the series. The two leads in the film probably resemble many of the regulars of MUN Cinema, and so you might be seeing your life flashing before your eyes over 98 minutes, whether you want to admit it or not. Talented television performers John “The Office” Krasinski and Maya “Saturday Night Live” Rudolph are thirty somethings Burt and Verona. Their mission is to find the best place to raise a child, and the best way to parent, a challenge to these perennial, earnest graduate student types who really haven't had much life experience. They set out on a journey visiting family and friends in the hope of recognizing the perfect locale, a trip that takes them to Phoenix and eventually to Montreal, after which they know exactly what sort of parents they don't want to be. The films' authors are well known writers and super couple Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, whose own lives actually mirror where Burt and Verona end up. Funny, tender, familiar, yet full of surprise, AWAY WE GO is truly the best of today's popular mumblecore genre.
September 17 O'Horten (Norway 2007) 90 min. Norwegian with English subtitles. [IMAGE] The title of this just released Norwegian comedy belongs to the main character whose given name is Odd. Indeed. O'Horten is facing retirement as a railroad engineer, and is slightly addled by the possibility. Living alone and naturalized to a rigidly predictable routine he suddenly becomes unsettled and disoriented. What to do with his time? Pipe smoking helps, but it doesn't fill every minute of the day. Hapless and a little like Buster Keaton on Mars, O'Horten finds himself in an Oslo he doesn't really recognize. The result of this situation is an unaffected comedy informed by absurdity and joya sheer delight and an inspiration for those who think they are coming to the end of the line.
September 24 Tulpan (Germany/Kazakhstan/Poland/Russia/Switzerland 2008) 100 min. Kazakh and Russian with English subtitles [IMAGE] MUN Cinema exists to showcase movies like this. TULPAN is an amazing, Cannes award-winning comedy set in Kazakhstan. In the arid landscape of Central Asia we have life and love and more realism than any film you have seen in the last ten years. We are deep in the world of sheepherders, a culture that understands the intimate relation of man and animal and life and death. Central to the characters is Asa who arrives in their midst after having served on waterin the navy, and as far from the dusty horizontal plains of bleating sheep and hungry men as one can be. All Asa wants now is a cosy yurt to call his own, and the right woman to keep it clean and bear him a family. Tulpan is the name of the woman he courts in a set of gestures that form the heart of the story. But the real heart of the film may well be the scene in which a lamb is born a real lamb, in real time, bleats and messy fluids included. This film is about as close to nature as many of us will ever get. If this blurb makes you want to give the film a pass you should know you are making a grave mistake. This is the one time where following the sheep will give you great pleasure.
October 1 Adoration (Canada 2008) 100 min. [IMAGE] Atom Egoyan is this country's most demanding auteur. Consistent with his messages and cinematic style, ADORATION is typical in its convoluted plot formations and its deliberate withholding of details. Some find this practice maddening while others are enthralled by Egoyan's intellectual approach to storytelling. ADORATION is about family, connections, globalization, technology, and terrorismquite an ambitious set of themes. Simon is a young Canadian with a hybrid Christian-Muslim family history. Raised by his uncle after his parents died in an ‘accident,’ Simon also has an ailing grandfather as an uneasy influence. A teacher (played by Egoyan's wife Arsinée Khanjian) takes a special interest in Simon, encouraging him to imagine a story involving his personal history. The result might or might not be true, but in any event it goes viral and the consequences are harrowing. For those who like puzzles, head games, and cinematic labyrinths, ADORATION is your freshest cinematic fantasy.
October 8 Cold Souls (USA/France 2009) 101 min. [IMAGE] A Sundance favourite, COLD SOULS is what would result if Atom Egoyan had made a comedy. Directed by Sophie Barthes, the film is resolutely New York in its setting and attitude. Playing an actor coincidentally named Paul Giamatti, Paul Giamatti is the perfect anti-hero for this funny, unsettling satire. Rehearsing a production of Chekhov's “Uncle Vanya” in overwrought frustration, Giamatti reads about a new medical procedure that extracts a person's soul and keeps it in storage. Surely, life would be lighter without such an angst-ridden burden? So it is that he goes through with the procedure, only to realize he wants to reverse itlike a man who has had a vasectomy and then changes his mind. Ooops. What does one do without one's neurotic core? To be desouled is to be not one's self, that's for sure. Factor in a lab mix-up and you have a comic parable about life in the 21st century. A major take-away here is a warning against taking New Yorker articles too seriously. You'll catch on, if you have a soul, that is.
October 22 Les plages d'Agnès (The Beaches of Agnes) (France 2008) 110 min. French with English subtitles [IMAGE] In conjunction with the St John's International Women's Film Festival. This being the glorious 20th year of the Festival, there is no more fitting tribute to the history of women and film than this hymn to the art of directing by one of the greatest and most defiantly non commercial artists in the business. Less autobiography than pastiche, THE BEACHES OF AGNES is nonetheless a very personal expression of an incomparable woman. Married to the great French director Jacques Demy, Varda forcefully kept her creative independence and forged a role for herself behind the camera in a very male-centered industry. Perhaps best known for her triumph, Vagabond, Varda has left a remarkable legacy of work that honours her principles. BEACHES is a sweet, lovely, and intelligent reflection on work and life, and you will be strongly inclined to see all of Varda's work again once this film is over, as you should.
October 29 Goodbye Solo (USA 2008) 91 min. [IMAGE] Director Bahrani is one to watch. He represents a powerful new force in the US-independent movement, resolutely humanist in his storytelling. Set in North Carolina, the film has as its premise an elderly white man getting into the taxi of an African immigrant, William and Solo, respectively. The power of the film resides in the naturalistic performances of these two remarkable figures, one who in real life was Elvis's bodyguard and the other whose history in Senegal is like but not entirely identical to the character he is playing. The film explores their unlikely relationship, forged on the unspoken possibility that William's life is hanging by a thread. Partly in an effort to save a soul, Solo brings William closer into his world, with its stunning cultural differences. The drama unfolds by small and surprising degrees. Bahrani has the uncanny ability to affect complete spontaneity in his characters, but yet his scenes are immaculately rehearsed. This sometimes humourous odd couple develops an uneasy friendship in the improbable world of the Old South, Winston-Salem, NC, a sign of change in a new America, to be sure. As Roger Ebert boldly put it, “wherever you live, when this film opens, it will be the best film in town.”
November 5 The Cove (USA 2009) 92 min. [IMAGE] Did you ever see the dolphins in their pseudo lagoon at the West Edmonton Mall? Most of them ended up sleeping with the fishes. A mall is no place for marine mammals. Neither is television, for that matter. The subject of this popular documentary is Richard O'Barry, who trained all the dolphins for the tv show “Flipper”. Now an activist with a guilty conscience, O'Barry worked diligently with director Psihoyos to expose the hideous mass slaughter of dolphins in a secret cove in Japan. Their effort is breathtakingly captured on film, with the help of sophisticated cameras on a very covert operation. And so what of the dolphin's tendency to smile? That's our tragic misreading, we learn, an understandable but fatal effect of our anthropocentricity. Sure to be an Oscar nominee, gutsy and gorgeous, THE COVE is some brilliant shock doc. You'll never want to take the kids to Sea World again.
November 12 Tetro (USA/Italy/Spain/Argentina 2009) 127 min. English and Spanish [IMAGE] Iconic 'seventies director and popular vintner Francis Ford Coppola redeems himself of some arguably uneven stuff with this grand narrative about family, art, and the meaning of life. TETRO is magnificent testament to the 70-year-old's capacious imagination, admirably active and brave after all these years. An almost biblical framework governs the action between two estranged brothers, sons of a famous conductor. The younger one, Bennie (Leonardo look-alike Ehrenreich), tracks down the older one, Angelo, who has renamed himself Tetro (Gallo) in Buenos Aires. The film moves through the gritty night world of that exotic city, traveling at the same time through a fantastic symbolic landscape. Betrayal, revenge, guilt, jealousy, lovethese are the themes that have always haunted Coppola's work, and here we explore them in spades. TETRO soars in glorious digital widescreen black and white with splashes of colour. With Coppola, you have to submit to the vision, or else go home frustrated that the film did not correspond to your standards of realism. That would be a shame. This is an aging master's masterpiece, and deserves appreciation.
November 19 In The Loop (UK 2009) 106 min. [IMAGE] You will love this clever satire about current affairs and the crazy political condition of our times. It's British and therefore already destined to be drop-dead witty and incisive. Simon Foster is an MP and Minister for foreign development. In true British fashion he has a tendency to the scatological, especially in public. His assistant, the Scotsman Malcolm, copes badly with his boss's self destructive habits, but when the country seems hell bent on invading some vaguely identified Middle Eastern country along with the Americans things get positively feverish. Working just as manically against the political spin is a group of insiders who oppose the invasion. You guessed it: the resemblance between some of these characters and people named Rumsfeld, Powell, Blair, et al is not merely coincidental. IN THE LOOP is so scathing and so funny you will marvel at how the filmmakers managed to pull it all off without having to appear before someone's Senate committee. With the always commanding James ‘Tony Soprano’ Gandolfini as a Pentagon general, and peppered with hilariously biting dialogue, IN THE LOOP is a fine and sobering example of how much art really does imitate life.
November 26 Üç maymun (Three Monkeys) (Turkey/France/Italy 2008) 109 min. Turkish with English subtitles [IMAGE] Winner of the Best Director Award at Cannes, Ceylan spins a masterful tale of characters caught in a Faustian or at least a fated pact. You will certainly see and hear some evil that others speak. Servet is a Turkish politician who suddenly finds himself responsible for a crime. He convinces his driver Eyup to take the fall and protect his reputation, promising a handsome reward at the end. Eyup's wife and son then come quickly into focus. She, like all the characters in this steamy morality play, is perpetually trapped and oh-so-weary. She is also beautiful, and so naturally Servet finds himself attracted to her. Much sexual tension and high drama ensue. Indeed, THREE MONKEYS is a riveting melodrama caught in a stunning landscape, wrapped in moody skies and panoramic views. Never has the Bosporus looked so inviting. Nothing cold Turkey about this offering.
December 3 Food Inc. (USA 2008) 94 min. [IMAGE] You know that bag of popcorn you're chowing down right now? Go ahead. At least it didn't pop from an unhappy cow or a robotic chicken. Based on the best-selling non-fiction analysis of the food industry, An Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, FOOD INC is a frightfully good documentary about everything you've suspected but were afraid to confirm. That isfarmland in (North) America is being controlled by a small handful of multi-nationals who worship the economic if not the nutritional benefits of corn and corn by-products. But who knew the extent of it, and why everyone suddenly uses the term E. coli. in polite conversation? Kenner and his team point out that although food on this continent is so cheap and abundant, the rest of the world is starving to death. They also point out how a steady diet of corn-based product in North America has led to an obesity epidemic. Just check out the Food Court after this movie if you need more evidence. Less is clearly preferable to more. You'll never want to read a food label again. Go suck on a carrot, instead.