Fall 2013

Sep 12  Before Midnight
Sep 19  The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Sep 26  Frances Ha
Oct 3  Beyond the Hills
Oct 10  I'm So Excited!
Oct 17  The Hunt
Oct 24  Hannah Arendt
Oct 31  Museum Hours
Nov 7  Muscle Shoals
Nov 14  The Broken Circle Breakdown
Nov 21  Twenty Feet From Stardom
Nov 28  Much Ado About Nothing
Dec 5  Fruitvale Station

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

September 12   Before Midnight (USA 2013) 109 min.
Even if you haven't seen the two films preceding this one (Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) you will appreciate the amazing grace of Linklater's latest exploration of the course of true love. This might be the film of the decade, an unflinching look at what has happened to Jesse and Celine, the two gorgeous creatures who met on a train some nine years ago in the happy kingdom of film. What really appealed to us about the two earlier films is that they brought together characters whose humanity and longing were instantly recognizable. We totally got what they were about, and hoped their special kind of romance would last to the end of celluloid. BEFORE MIDNIGHT satisfies our need to know what happened to them, but it does so in powerfully realistic ways. As it does for any couple who know each other almost too well, time simply changes the nature of that earlier romance. Love is a temporary insanity curable by marriage, said Ambrose Bierce, and so it is that Jesse and Celine are even more recognizable now, still utterly human, and, thank goodness, lovable, after all these years.

September 19   The Reluctant Fundamentalist (USA/UK/Qatar 2012) 130 min.
This is the kind of film that has mainstream appeal but not mainstream distribution. The story centres on a man caught on the horns of a dilemma. Changez settles back in his Pakistan homeland after a successful career in New York. America gave him an Ivy League degree and a job on Wall Street but after September 11 everything changes. His privileged life is radically altered by the turn of events, and in America he becomes an easy object of profiling. In Lahore where his father lives and where he returns, Changez is also mocked for having bought into Western values. Where, after all, is home in light of such conflict? The film is a fascinating treatment of the East/West divide following 9/11, as seen through the eyes of one stuck in the middle. There's nothing reluctant about filmmaker Nair, who deftly handles the journey back and forth, past and present, here and there, with skill and insight.

September 26   Frances Ha (USA 2012) 86 min.
We loved Baumbach's The Squid and the Whale and so we expect good stuff here. We get it and more. The film centres on the friendship of two young NY City girls. If you're thinking Lena Denham's Girls you're half right. The setting and demographic are the same, but this film explores two much more likeable characters than the ones we see weekly on HBO. Indeed, they are actually funny, not just laughable. Clearly, the film is homage to the New Wave French cinema of the 'sixties. Shot in a velvety black and white, it has an arty Godardian feel to it, while conveying the sense that we are eavesdropping on two young people in the throes of early adulthood. The script is crisp and smartass and NY never looked more hip. It all makes you want to run down Broadway in your Converse high tops accompanied by a David Bowie tune.

October 3   Beyond the Hills (Romania/France/Belgium 2012) 150 min.
[IMDb] Romanian with English subtitles [IMAGE]
Now here's a thriller for a cold autumn evening. Ever wonder what would happen if the basic narrative of classic horror (The Exorcist et al) would be in the hands of a brilliant art-house director? BEYOND THE HILLS answers the question. Two young women friends have traveled paths divergent. One visits the other who has chosen monasticism, living severely and self-denyingly in a mountain convent. When younger, they were, we assume, friends with benefits. Voichita has now chosen Christ as her love, however, and she is intent on bringing Alina over to that faith-based side. Alina will have nun—er, none of it, and what ensues is a bone-tingling battle between two equally beautiful and passionate forces. The film is stunningly shot on location in Romania, the natural landscape emerging as a dramatic element in this study of the beauty of passion itself. Be prepared to be somewhat shocked and surprised, never disappointed.

October 10   I'm So Excited! (Spain 2013) 90 min.
[IMDb] Spanish with English subtitles [IMAGE]
The title's exclamation point pretty well sums up the spirit of Almodóvar's approach to making movies. Do it with gusto and a fierce sense of play! The word "romp" was probably coined for his movies. This is no exception. Harkening to his reputation-building Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, this film works hard towards the genre of farce. It's so in your face you practically have to wear a mask. It's full of colour, music, and impossibly outrageous prostitutes. The gimmick is cute: a plane is in near-crashing limbo somewhere over La Mancha and the three flamboyantly gay stewards have to keep everyone calm—or sedated—while they confront the possible end of everything. Performing a superbly choreographed version of the Pointer Sisters' famous tune is one way, sure. The rain in Spain actually does fall mainly on the plane!

October 17   The Hunt (Denmark 2012) 115 min.
[IMDb] Danish with English subtitles [IMAGE]
You know Vinterberg. He's the guy who gave us the brilliantly crafted Celebration/Festoon. THE HUNT is the same film, in some ways, but from another point of view. And, as with that drama and its Dogme aesthetic, Vinterberg uses natural light and a hand-held camera to intensify the realism of his story, bringing us so close to the action we can almost taste the danish. The story is about a man who is falsely accused of child abuse and so becomes the real victim in a community that cannot possibly comprehend a child's deception. It's a thrilling study of perception and reality, and how quickly one can become helpless in the face of so much collective illusion. The film is also, as the director himself has put it, a response to what he sees as a crisis in Scandinavian masculinity. That's something to chew on, for sure.

October 24   Hannah Arendt (Germany/Luxembourg/France 2012) 113 min.
[IMDb] German/French/Hebrew with English subtitles. Screened in collaboration with the 24th St. John's International Women's Film Festival, [IMAGE]
Not many directors would have the guts to make a movie about one of the more famous philosophers of the modern age, but von Trotta has been nothing but fearless throughout her career. Most famous for coining the phrase "the banality of evil" to describe Adolf Eichmann and the events of the Nazi Holocaust, Arendt is here imagined as the writer who covered the trial over a period of four years for The New Yorker. Harrowing archival film of Eichmann himself is intercut to lend veracity and chills to the proceedings. While Arendt was covering the trial she was also deeply involved with the highly influential German philosopher Martin Heidegger, still controversial for his own Nazi sympathies. What a pair of brainy thinkers. Someone had to do the biopic, after all.

October 31   Museum Hours (Austria/USA 2012) 107 min.
[IMDb] German with English subtitles [IMAGE]
Oh, this is such a lovely movie. Ever wonder about the lives of the people who keep watch on all the precious art in museums? Here's a story about one of these characters, a quiet unassuming figure named Johann who keeps watch at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. One day he encounters a pleasant Canadian woman who needs some help discovering the city. Johann steps up to fill her void while she in turn serves to dull his loneliness. He takes her to many of the non-touristy corners of Vienna, while they get to know each other and exchange adult commentary. Johann is gay, and so cut the romance. What's left is two people discovering something new, unencumbered by sexual tension. If your travel budget is tight this is one easy way to see Vienna, coffeehouses and all.

November 7   Muscle Shoals (USA 2013) 111 min.
The title is the Alabama town smack in the muddy waters of the Mississippi Delta where so much awesome music was born. In the 'sixties and 'seventies many hugely soon-to-famous musicians found the place a haven from the busy world of the city and relocated there to compose their notes and record their hearts. At the centre of this strangely powerful social phenomenon was Ricky Hall who founded FAME Studios. As music historians know, Hall did much to change the way music was made and distributed. His first hit was Percy Sledge's "When a Man Loves a Woman" which, in turn, led to the success of an Aretha Franklin and many other soul singers whose music became intimately tied to a new race-conscious America. It's a head-bobbing toe-tapping wash of nostalgia: MUSCLE SHOALS, in the corner of your soul, for sure.

November 14   The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium 2012) 111 min.
[IMDb] Flemish with English subtitles [IMAGE]
Here's another toe-tapping film, this one a drama set in Ghent in Brussels. A banjo-playing singer and his gorgeously tattooed partner are told their 6-year-old has cancer. This horribly bad news is balanced against extended flashbacks to the earlier worry-free days in the couple's relationship, and so the film moves from happier to sadder times, back and forth. The cutting is breathtaking, the music uplifting, even while the narrative is moving to an inevitable tragedy. Meanwhile, there is a political current to all this involving stem cell research and George W's right-wing faith-based prohibitions against it. Yup, it makes for one serious musical ride, but there is humour and lightness here, too. Bring both your handkerchief and your funny bone.

November 21   Twenty Feet From Stardom (USA 2013) 91 min.
Has anyone ever really longed for a career as second fiddle? 20 FEET is about the people behind the central star, the men and women who sing their hearts out in hopes of a solo career. The footage in this unique documentary will blow you away. Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson and many more are featured front and centre while their back-ups croon and sway, punctuating the music with their gloriously necessary supporting sounds. It's a fascinating look at the non-stars, the ones who dream of making it and who never imagined they'd ever be front and centre in a documentary about their supporting roles.

November 28   Much Ado About Nothing (USA 2012) 120 min.
This film is so brilliant it's worth an exclamation point! Whedon sets the Shakespearean romp in modern dress and wisely turns it into a screwball comedy. And as in those black and white masterpieces of the genre, this adaptation runs at breakneck speed through witty lines uttered by foolishly comic characters. The plot is familiar. Love and lust comingle in equal measure. Well-meaning romantics are foiled by blocking characters who can't tolerate anyone else's happiness. Identities are mistaken, eavesdropping and miscommunication abide. The two central lovers are matched by their supporting players and in the end everyone gets exactly what he, she, and they all deserve. MUCH ADO is definitely about something. "For man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion."

December 5   Fruitvale Station (USA 2013) 85 min.
Oscar Grant, ex con, father and son, was fatally shot one night after a hard day's life, just trying to do the right thing. The film, named after the California site of Grant's execution, won all the big prizes at Sundance, deservedly so. The film traces those last 24 hours of Grant's life, lending him dignity and his unworthy death a troubled context. It's 2009 and you can barely hear freedom ringing. The film has become a lightning rod for all kinds of opinions about how best to represent racism, but those Sundance audiences were powerfully moved by the story and voted with their hearts. It's a true story, after all. The achievement here is that the film doesn't preach or rant; it just shows a man's life. Yes, it's emotional, but that's the very human point.