Winter 2012

Jan 12  Café de Flore
Jan 19  Le Havre
Jan 26  French Immersion
Feb 2  Melancholia
Feb 9  My Week With Marilyn
Feb 16  The Guard
Feb 23  The Skin I Live In
Mar 1  Like Crazy
Mar 8  A Dangerous Method
Mar 15  Martha Marcy May Marlene
Mar 22  Restless
Mar 29  Carnage
Apr 5  Monsieur Lazhar

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

January 12   Café de Flore (Canada/France 2011) 120 min.
[IMDb] French with English subtitles [IMAGE]
How lucky are we to be launching the winter series with this masterpiece from the incomparable Vallée! If you recall his brilliant work in C.R.A.Z.Y. then you will anticipate the accomplishment of this story of love and loss. The film follows two main narrative streams in two different times—now in Montreal and forty years ago in Paris. In the present day, a man wants to leave his beautiful wife for another, younger beautiful woman. His kids are not amused. The abandoned wife, meanwhile, is experiencing nightmares and fits, imagining a woman of forty years ago living through similar feelings. In that story, the husband leaves because the child has Down's syndrome. Threading the stories is the backbeat of some fabulous tracks. As the diva sang, Music makes the people come together. Music mix the bourgeoisie and the rebel. The stories are parallel and not obviously connected except in theme, and until the very ending. You need to stay through the closing credits, people. You will emerge shaken and stirred.

January 19   Le Havre (Finland/France/Germany 2011) 93 min.
[IMDb] French with English subtitles [IMAGE]
Voted by many critics as the best film of 2011, this is a story of the local encountering the global. A fable for our time, LE HAVRE is set in the title's northwestern French town. Central to the action is Marcel, a modest man who shines shoes at the port and worries about his younger wife's sudden illness. When a runaway African boy falls into Marcel's life, the shoe shiner must make some choices, even while the authorities are hot on his trail. Deadpan, droll, and subtle with its suspense, LE HAVRE is a charming dream of possibility—imagining a world in which human beings behave the way they are supposed to, but most often do not. Of course, behaving well is not always as easy as it looks.

January 26   French Immersion (Canada 2011) 98 min.
[IMDb] French and English [IMAGE]
Too close to the bone to get wider circulation? You decide. We think FRENCH IMMERSION is the perfect Canadian film about which critics on both sides of the language debate agree—they almost all panned the film as outrageous, cartoon-like, even offensive. But check out the Globe and Mail's critic, who observed that this is a "farcical send-up of English-Canadian and Québécois customs, French Immersion is fondly reminiscent of rollicking British comedies of the sixties. The film could be titled Carry On Up the St. Lawrence." Franchement, we also see it that way—a deliberate exaggeration of a sometimes absurd reality: anglos and francophones going at it over nothing more than the size of a sign, an apostrophe, or a coach whose French isn't quite Hab(itant)s enough. Get the picture? Director Tierney, who brought us the universally adored Bon Cop Bad Cop, understands political incorrectness like the back of a puck. He shoots/il lance; he scores.

February 2   Melancholia (Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany 2011) 136 min.
Many critics observed that 2011 was the year of the apocalypse—in film. You don't have to be a vampire to recognize that we seem preoccupied with the end of things (Tree of Life blah blah blah). But who would have suspected director von Trier to have come up with such a benign version of this theme? Famously now, the film opens with an eight-minute overture set to Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde". It's Justine and Michael's wedding day, and a planet called Melancholia is hurtling towards Earth. Happy and sad come together like opposing particle beams. Largely through the disturbed, unpredictable behavior of the bride (Dunst), the film develops a slow beat of anxiety and dread. Perhaps a catastrophic collusion with the planet might not be such a bad thing, after all. People do anticipate it in different ways. Profoundly metaphysical, confident in its gorgeous spectacle of human nature, MELANCHOLIA is a hypnotic experience you will either embrace or deny. Unlike the case of the advancing planet, there's no predicting.

February 9   My Week With Marilyn (UK/USA 2011) 99 min.
Can you believe this film didn't even play mainstream here? Well, we're smarter than the distributers. The film is based on the true story of a young man named Colin Clark, who got to spend yummy time with the blond icon of the 20th century on the set of "The Prince and the Showgirl" (1957), a movie being directed in England by another 20th century icon, Laurence Olivier. Marilyn Monroe's husband, playwright Arthur Miller, was away in Paris and production was stalled, and so she asked the disbelieving, lucky young man to join her in the country. What happened? Not much. Or did it? The point is not really sex, but the experience of being with Marilyn in all her wonderfulness for a week. Michelle Williams plays her with an Oscar Award attentiveness—a complex hybrid of insecurity, vivaciousness, wit, and anxiety. It's Marilyn for a week, more than most could wish for, and more than enough to glean the fragile core of an enigmatic beauty.

February 16   The Guard (Ireland 2011) 96 min.
We'll line up for anything featuring Brendan Gleeson. Here he is the cop of the title, as Irish as Barack O'Bama, a stout brick of a man, at least two jigs ahead of an American FBI agent—the comic foil. Played by Don Cheadle, who has come to Galway to look into a drug-related murder, the FBI guy is the perfect opposite to Gleeson's Gerry Boyle. The plot is thick and menacing, but the fun of the drama lies in their intense exchange, fraught as it is with creative conflict. Boyle knows all about African Americans from television, probably Rupert Murdoch's version. Cheadle's Agent Everett knows all about the Irish from a lot of bad jokes. Not surprisingly, their conversations depend on outrageous stereotypes. We laugh, sometimes nervously. There are drugs, really bad guys (from evil Dublin, of course), false leads, menacing situations, and a suspenseful shoot-out, but mostly there is Gleeson in almost every scene—irresistibly, brilliantly performing one of the most memorable characters ever seen on screen.

February 23   The Skin I Live In (Spain 2011) 117 min.
[IMDb] Spanish with English subtitles [IMAGE]
Spanish auteur Almodóvar launched the career of Antonio Banderas who ended up marrying a Hollywood actor who's had a lot of plastic surgery (Melanie Griffith) and bumping through an uneven career in mainstream stuff. Here Almodóvar brings his protégé back to Spain to make nothing short of an edgy psychological thriller—a story about a plastic surgeon obsessed with refashioning the faces— and bodies—of others. Coincidence…? We're just sayin'. As Dr. Robert Ledgard, the accomplished Madrid-based surgeon, Banderas is almost shockingly good looking. So what if he keeps a beautiful woman imprisoned in his mansion basement, or starts to resemble a doctor named Frankenstein? We want to see him as good--that is, until we can't. The film unpacks a powerful set of past events that inform the present-day doctor's character. With full Almodóvarian dramatic irony, the bad doctor Ledgard doesn't fully understand his own obsession either. Sumptuously shot, as we have come to expect from the passionate director, the film sews together a thick layer of plotlines, all in the name of truth and beauty.

March 1   Like Crazy (USA 2011) 90 min.
A triumph at Sundance, on the critics' best lists for 2011, we love this film LIKE CRAZY. First love is the sweetest, if not the deepest, and so it is that the film tracks the development of such a couple in such a condition. Jacob, a senior college student in L.A., falls head over heels for Anna, a London exchange student. Their love is like a red red rose—perfect, beautiful, utterly romantic. The thorny part is that Anna has to return to London, and so the course of love, like this mixed metaphor, hits some snags. Can love ever sustain such long distance and time? Who hasn't asked this question and tried to answer it with agonizing longing? Everyone adores the performance of Felicity Jones as Anna. She won the biggest prize at Sundance for it, and when you see this film you'll understand why.

March 8   A Dangerous Method (UK/Germany/Canada/Switzerland 2011) 99 min.
Is there anyone more suited to film the world's most famous friendship and falling out? Who else but David Cronenberg, the master of psychodrama, sexual perversity, and split personality would even have the audacity to take on the vexed relationship of Freud and Jung? Sexy 'It Boy' of the moment, Michael Fassbender, plays Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung with enough conviction to make you believe in the collective unconscious. Keira Knightley plays Sabina Spielrein, his patient/lover who embodies the most delicious neurotic tendencies, a lab experiment all to herself. Witness to this romantic tempest is that bearded guy with the pipe and a great couch. Viggo Mortensen plays the 'father of modern psychiatry' with typically professional cool. Appropriate to the subject matter, A DANGEROUS METHOD focuses more on talk than on sexual action. Were these men both obsessed with an hysterical woman or with each other? Sometimes a homo-erotic relationship is just a homo-erotic relationship.

March 15   Martha Marcy May Marlene (USA 2011) 102 min.
The title's a mouthful, but then if you had been indoctrinated into a strange and perverse cult you'd have a whole new bunch of names, too. Elizabeth Olsen does a star turn as the many-monikered central figure, a damaged and vulnerable woman. Martha is therefore ripe for the charismatic seductiveness of Patrick, leader of a hippyish cult in upper New York State—a bucolic site where on the surface everything seems utopian. The film is quite deliberate in its focused description of how someone like a Martha could ever submit to such patriarchal submission. As Patrick, John Hawkes gives a compelling performance of a man with a power women seem to crave. The film cuts back and forth between the experience in the cult and Martha's ostensible post-cult recovery at her affluent sister's summer home some years later. One has to ask: is life in the materially rich real world any better than the one in the cult? The sleeping arrangements are better, at least.

March 22   Restless (USA 2011) 91 min.
Director Van Sant has long been interested in the mushy, awkward, unformed, fragile world of the teenager. Typically, the two central characters meet cute at a funeral. He has been orphaned; she has brain cancer. Hell, why not fall in love? For this controversial director, everything is almost always doomed anyway. Set in the impossibly hip town of Portland, RESTLESS features Dennis Hopper's son Henry (is that perfect casting or what?) as Enoch, the troubled loner with a bad case of existentialism. Adorable Mia Wasikowska is Annabel , the walking embodiment of the word waif. Good news is that neither of them seems to have discovered sexting, and so they actually communicate in charming, tender, face-to-face ways. Yes, it's a tear jerker, but in the hands of such an accomplished director it is easy to submit to the view that a life lived well and in the full bloom of love is better than one lived long and empty.

March 29   Carnage (France/Germany/Poland 2011) 79 min.
Great title for a film by the infamous Polish auteur. This dream cast of four heavyweights chews through the harsh and witty lines like jawbreakers. Based on a Tony-award winning play, CARNAGE is exquisitely sharp in its dissection of the empty discourse (and morality) of the modern middle class. It all begins with a schoolyard fight between two boys, moving to an initially polite conversation and then escalating to an all-out battle between the parents of the boys at a well appointed Brooklyn apartment. Polanski is a master of space, subtly framing the dialogue in carefully angled shots of the apartment, steadily fashioning the prison of words in which the characters find themselves. As the director well knows, appearances are everything. What you say comes from what you see. Some critics were savage about this film. What do they know? We think it's a superb analysis of class attitude, social behavior, and the sheer horror of the everyday.

April 5   Monsieur Lazhar (Canada 2011) 94 min.
If only Canadian films had better distribution. We should be talking about this film in every coffee shop. That we are not is a scandal. Sigh … Even if you do not know Montreal you will love this film about the current, complex world of student-teacher relations in that global village. The title figure is a substitute, filling in for a much loved teacher who killed herself. Bachir Lazhar is not only a stranger but he is faced with helping his young company to heal after the shock of loss—and discovery of the body. An Algerian immigrant with his own nervous history and legal status to manage, Lazhar comes to reveal more about himself and his own capacity to learn through his subtle and often surprising interactions with his students. Canada's proud entry in the Oscar race, this is one of the best movies you will see all year.