This is a spectacular visual tribute to the late David Bowie’s kaleidoscopic career. Writer, performer, artist, painter, composer, singer, dancer, actor, intellectual, Bowie was all these things and more. Acclaimed documentarian Morgen throws away the usual tropes of the genre, relying instead on the rich stash of archival material the Bowie estate allowed him to borrow. We don’t need talking heads when we have so much stuff Bowie himself offered in smart TV interviews over many years. And there’s so much music, so much improv and experimentation. This is a must-see-and-hear big-screen experience, a luscious feast of 70s, 80s, and 90s pop culture.
This film could not be more timely. Director Panahi was recently sentenced to six years in jail and so it’s almost a moral obligation to see and uphold this brave film. Playing a guy who goes by his own name, Panahi is a filmmaker forbidden from practicing his art. He is trying to make a film in a small town just over the border in Turkey. This film-within-a-film device is necessary to tell the story of censorship and fear, superstition and oppression. Part scripted film, part documentary treatment of real-life obstacles for art, for young people, for women, and for love, NO BEARS won awards at Cannes and elsewhere. It’s nothing less than a humbling, self-reflective journey into the nature and purpose of art, a reminder of its importance and transformative potential.
Holy emotions, AFTERSUN is a masterpiece of the coming-of-age genre for the February chills. It stars Paul Mescal (with whom you fell in love in NORMAL PEOPLE) as Callum, a newly separated dad who takes his 11-yr.-old daughter, Sophie, on vacay in sun-kissed Turkey. Director Wells achieved a gazillion awards for this lyrical study of memory and experience. The ease with which the film unfolds as the two leads navigate their emotional and physical landscapes points to a confident, personal approach to a universal story in which you will take much pleasure.
Highly original, but with a nod to Robert Bresson, EO shows us the world through the eyes of a donkey. Not just any donkey, mind you. This one is a circus performer that was liberated by animal-rights activists and thus separated from his doting handler. Relocated and unhappy with his new digs, EO wanders off through what we know to be Europe, drifting from city to countryside, ugly built culture to sublime natural landscapes. Along the way this fuzzy beast of burden reveals a modern world marked by human greed, foolishness, and, at times, tenderness. Obviously without judgment and an acting coach, the beast just shows us what’s out there. It’s worth the trip.
The critics give this 5 stars with good reason. We’d go see Bill Nighy in everything. Here he gets to flex his best chops in a story of Mr. Williams, a civil servant with a grim diagnosis. Widowed, lonely, bored, and suddenly doomed, he wakes up to do something meaningful with the limited time he has left to live. LIVING is an open remake of Kurosawa’s 1952 masterpiece, IKIRU (TO LIVE). Transmuting Japan to post-war England, the director perfectly adjusts time and place to suit the realism of deadly London bureaucracy while maintaining the philosophical spirit of the original source material. It’s fascinating to see someone as charismatic as Nighy holding it all in—a performance worth every accolade.
This comic debut by the talented Toronto-based director opened the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival after glowing reviews at TIFF. Recently named one of Canada’s ten best of last year, I LIKE MOVIES is too much fun to miss. High-school nerd Lawrence is a movie nut. He lives and breathes film in his Ontario suburb, landing a dream job when he is hired by his local video rental store. Think Blockbuster in its heyday. Manager Alana, a complicated boss to say the least, has her own dreams. Her relationship with Lawrence is one of several that inform the young man’s emerging sense of self. Notable is ‘our very own’ Percy Hynes White who plays best friend Matt with whom Lawrence is supposed to be making the year-end film. There is so much going on here, but essentially this is another coming-of-age film set in a not-too-distant time and place. If you like movies you’ll love I LIKE MOVIES.
Nope, not Emily in Paris, nor Emily the Criminal. She is Brontë, Emily Brontë, she who said honest people don’t hide their deeds. If you liked Wuthering Heights you will looooove EMILY. Who was that woman who painted Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff (no last name) in a tortured love cycle? Director O’Connor (whom you might recognize as the star of Patricia Rozema’s 1999 MANSFIELD PARK) sits tall in the director’s chair with an intensely sensual biopic of the great 19th century novelist. There is enough biographical evidence out there to imagine Emily as the author who drew on her lived experience and creative genius to fashion her famous gothic romance. It would be easy to make this cheesy, but O’Connor knows what she’s doing and EMILY is outstanding.