Rating: NNNNNwayward American in Greece. Nossiter uses signs and portents to shuttle his hero between his wife (Charlotte Rampling) and.
wayward American in Greece. Nossiter uses signs and portents to shuttle his hero between his wife (Charlotte Rampling) and mistress (Deborah Kara Unger) with an eerie freestyling that recalls Alain Resnais’s philosophy and Nicholas Roeg’s cutting. Signs And Wonders is shot on digital video and apparently inspired by the Dogme 95 filmmakers. Don’t be put off. As showy as it sometimes is, this is still a refreshing portrait of desire.
THE UNCLESPC D: Jim Allodi w/ Chris Owens, Tara Rosling, Kelly Harms, Veronika Hurnik. 94 mins. Monday, September 11, 6:15 pm CUMBERLAND 3 , September 13, 9:30 am CUMBERLAND 4 Rating: NNNN NThis film is so smart, funny and well-acted that it makes you believe in low-budget Canadian cinema again. Owens (Agent Spender on The X-Files) plays the responsible son who’s trying to keep his soccer-loving brother in college and his mentally challenged sister from snatching babies. He’s also in love with his boss’s daughter-in-law. Allodi proves himself a good writer and an even better director by tying these threads together with sublime understatement. You won’t find any character types here, and no one seems to be acting, which means everyone is doing their job very, very well. KL
FIGHTERRTR D: Amir Bar-Lev U.S. 88 mins. Monday, September 11, 6:30 pm CUMBERLAND 2 , September 13, noon CUMBERLAND 2 Rating: NN Two aging Czech Jews, long-time friends and American citizens, return to post-Communist Prague and argue a lot about the Communist party — which is kind of interesting, because the characters are smart and willing to argue, and kind of irritating. They’re, well, cranky old guys with a lot of built-up resentment against the system. They have every right to complain, but you can hear these arguments in any good deli on a regular basis. Another shot-on-video picture, which means it looks like TV. Prague is stunning, though. JH
BEAUTIFULSPEC D: Sally Field w/ Minnie Driver, Joey Lauren Adams. U.S. 112 mins. Monday, September 11, 7:00 pm VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) Wednesday, September 13, noon UPTOWN 2 Rating: NN Driver stars as an obsessive beauty-pageant contestant who willingly gives up her daughter so she can follow her dream. Spoofing beauty contests is like shooting fish in a barrel, but there are some interesting elements here. Driver’s character is deeply injured and deeply unlikeable. But Fields cops out and leaves the feminist perspective on the sidelines, committing to an ending that feels completely false. IR
DEEPLYPC D: Sheri Elwood w/ Kirsten Dunst, Lynn Redgrave, Julia Brendler, Alberta Watson, Peter Donaldson, Brent Carver. 101 mins. Monday, September 11, 7:00 pm UPTOWN 3 Tuesday, September 12, 3:30 pm ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM Rating: NN Young, traumatized girl lands in nowhereville with her mom, meets an intriguing crone and opens up secrets from the past. A film like this could go either way: wild female fury or plodding, dreary angst. Elwood chose to plod. Deeply aims high — there are scenes and shots that look an awful lot like The Piano — but there’s very little here to lift Elwood’s protagonist out of her own navel-gazing. Even flashbacks starring Kirsten Dunst don’t help. CB
BREAD AND TULIPSGALA D: Silvio Soldini w/ Licia Maglietta, Bruno Ganz. Italy. 115 mins. Monday, September 11, 9:30 pm ROY THOMSON HALL Tuesday, September 12, noon VARSITY 8 Rating: NN Bread And Tulips won a bunch of Donatellos, the Italian Oscars, which is the sort of thing that makes one despair for the cinema that gave us Fellini, Rossellini, Bertolucci and Francesco Rosi. Accidentally abandoned by her husband in a roadside diner, Maglietta hitchhikes to Venice and takes up with Ganz, a suicidal Icelander. It’s a blobby, edgeless film that keeps almost being something — almost a sweet romance, almost a fish-out-of-water comedy. Every time you think you’ve grabbed hold of it, it slides away. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s not much of anything else either. JH
WE ALL FALL DOWNPC D: Martin Cummins w/ Cummins, Darcy Belsher, Helen Shaver. 92 mins. Monday, September 11, 9:30 pm CUMBERLAND 2 Wednesday, September 13, 11:15 am CUMBERLAND 1 Rating: N While acting in Clement Virgo’s Love Come Down, Cummins should have taken note of how to get emotional honesty out of performers without evoking the feeling of a high-school production of The Snake Pit. Every actor in this film repeatedly works him or herself into a frenzy of thespian power, including Helen Shaver as an over-the-hill junkie hooker. Only Nick Campbell really knows how to pitch his acting to the camera. JH
BREAD AND ROSESMAST D: Ken Loach w/ Adrien Brody, Pilar Padilla, Elpidia Carrillo. U.S. 112 mins. Monday, September 11, 9:30 pm VARSITY 2 Monday, September 11, 9:30 pm VARSITY 3 Friday, September 15, 4:00 pm UPTOWN 3 Rating: NNN Depending on your point of view, Ken Loach is either the conscience of the film festival scene or its nagging scold. Bread And Roses is worthy, but I had to giggle when a character chanted, “The janitors united will never be defeated.” Maya (Padilla) comes to L.A. illegally and gets a job with her sister Rosa (Carrillo) as a non-union janitor. She then hooks up with Brody’s union organizer to help get her sisters and brothers to put down their mops and pick up picket signs. Apparently, Maya is Spanish for Norma Rae. Carrillo, who give the best performance, has a stunning scene three-quarters of the way through the film that contextualizes her immigrant experience for her sister.
SCARLET DIVADISC D: Asia Argento w/ Argento. Italy. 91 mins. Tuesday, September 12, 6:00 pm VARSITY 8 Thursday, September 14, noon UPTOWN 2 Rating: NNN When you’ve sat on Daddy’s knee while he made Suspiria, when you’ve lurked on the set of Demons and starred in The Stendhal Syndrome (among the many films he exposed you in), it’s no surprise that a) you’d write and direct your own film b) it would be a thinly veiled autobiography and c) you’d pull off its Euro-centric cliche-hanging set-pieces with great aplomb. Asia Argento can act as good as she looks. And she’s so convincing as someone (we imagine) just like herself that we buy it, trash and all. PE
DR. T AND THE WOMENGALA D: Robert Altman w/ Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Kate Hudson, Liv Tyler. U.S. 125 mins. Tuesday, September 12, 6:30 pm ROY THOMSON HALL Wednesday, September 13, 9:30 am UPTOWN 1 Rating: NNN Gere stars as a Dallas gynecologist who attracts a maelstrom of insecure women, all of them apparently crazy but mostly just Texan — loud, funny and ultimately tiresome, which is not a bad description of the film itself. His wife’s in the bin, his oldest daughter’s getting married and his head nurse is in love with him. Good in parts, and featuring a supporting cast that includes Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Janine Turner and Shelley Long, Dr. T. And The Women is a minor work from a major director, in the manner of A Wedding. It’s fun when the characters are caught up in a relentless swirl of activity, less so when it sinks into contemplation of Dr. T.’s lot. Gere, however, is very good. JH
TWO FAMILY HOUSECWC D: Raymond De Felitta w/ Michael Rispoli, Kelly MacDonald, Katherine Narducci. U.S. 104 mins. Tuesday, September 12, 6:30 pm UPTOWN 1 Thursday, September 14, 3:00 pm UPTOWN 2 Rating: NNN De Felitta made this film as a loving tribute to his Uncle Buddy, a Staten Island dreamer who redeems himself after a string of failed schemes by caring for a young mother (Trainspotting’s MacDonald) ostracized by his wife and neighbours. Set in the 1950s, this old-fashioned morality tale keeps itself afloat with light comedy and a live-and-let-live attitude. The cast, half of whom are regulars on The Sopranos, fit into the period and milieu. It’s not deep, but it is noble.
HARRY, UN AMI QUI VOUS VEUT DU BIENCWC D: Dominik Moll w/ Sergi Lopez, Laurent Lucas, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin. France. 117 mins. Tuesday, September 12, 9:00 pm UPTOWN 2 Thursday, September 14, 4:00 pm UPTOWN 3 Rating: NNNN NDominik Moll is worth keeping an eye on. The narratively challenged landscape of French cinema needs him badly. Harry, his second feature — which seduced Cannes audiences but was undeservedly ignored by the jury — is a wicked mix of
CRITICS’ CHOICE: indicates 4- and 5-N reviews
Festival series are abbreviated as follows:
CWC — Contemporary World Cinema
GALA — Gala
MM — Midnight Madness
DIAL — Dialogues
DISC — Discovery
RBS — Robert Beavers Spotlight
MAST — Masters
BOF — Beckett On Film
PA — Planet Africa
PC — Perspective Canada
RTR — Real To Reel
SPEC — Special Presentations
Y1 — Year 1