SPOT D: Ulrich Seidl w/ Vivian Busch, Lisa Grossmann, Tanya Petrovsky. Austria. 118 mins. Friday, September 7, noon VARSITY 8; Sunday, September 9, 12:30 pm CUMBERLAND 3. Rating: NNN
Three wannabe-but-never-will supermodels attempt to kick-start their careers in fashion backwater Vienna, far from the runways of Milan or Paris. Shot in colour-bleeding 16mm and blown up to grainy 35mm, this pseudo-documentary tracks the coked-up trio as they stumble from failed auditions to seedy nightclubs looking for approval -- fame? love? -- that never comes.
Under their near-perfect, surgically enhanced exteriors, they're hollow shells. Director Seidl often shoots the actors straight-on while they preen into mirrors. The effect is Warhol-like: as the models stare into the camera desperately trying to make themselves more beautiful, they only reveal their ultimate flaws. SDCOOL AND CRAZY
R2R D: Knut Erik Jensen. Norway/Sweden. 105 mins. Friday, September 7, 3 pm VARSITY 8; Saturday, September 15, 6:45 pm UPTOWN 3. Rating: NNNThirty-odd men - some of them very odd, and several in their 90s - stand on the edge of the world, facing the North Pole, their faces furrowed by decades of icy winds and turbulent seas, fervently singing nostalgic ballads and full-scale marches.
This is the stranger-than-fiction topic of this unusual documentary about the male choir of the Norwegian fishing village of Berlevag, which was once made famous by Isak Dinesen as the setting for Babette's Feast. A quirky, more rugged and unmistakably polar answer to Buena Vista Social Club.JCJE RENTRE A LA MAISON
MAST D: Manoel de Oliveira w/ Michel Piccoli, Antoine Chappey, Leonor Baldaque. Portugal/France. 90 mins. Friday, September 7, 3:30 pm UPTOWN 1; Friday, September 14, 5:30 pm VARSITY 4; Friday, September 14, 5:30 pm VARSITY 5. Rating: NNNN
Having sworn off de Oliveira films years ago, I was surprised to find that this latest offering from the 94-year-old Portuguese director, who's mostly known for being cryptic and editing-unfriendly, is both wonderfully lucid and moving.I'm Going Home is a poignant but never morose meditation studded with graceful touches of humour. Piccoli shines with tenderness and restraint as an aging actor forced to come to terms with the loss of his wife and daughter in a car crash as well as the slow but unmistakable signs of mortality besieging him. Add in an appearance by Catherine Deneuve and a tasty John Malkovich cameo. A delicate pleasure.JCEL CASO PINOCHET
R2R D: Patricio Guzmán. France/Spain/Belgium/Chile. 110 mins. Friday, September 7, 6 pm VARSITY 1; Friday, September 7, 6 pm VARSITY 6; Sunday, September 9, 9 am ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM. Rating: NNN Surviving victims of the Pinochet regime speak straight into the camera about the torture they endured and the disappearance of their loved ones. Then there's the slow and tortuous process that led to the Chilean dictator's indictment: his theatrical 1998 arrest in a London clinic after a tea party at Margaret Thatcher's, the 503 days of house arrest in England, the final extradition to Chile, where he was at last stripped of his lifetime immunity from prosecution. The style is on the TV-documentary side of bland, but the material is strong and stark. The Pinochet Case is a blistering account of human suffering and abuses of power that also raises the subtler but equally disturbing issue of the moral integrity of the British government.JCTHE ICELANDIC DREAM
NORD D: Rbert I. Douglas w/ Thor Sverrisson, Jn Gnarr, Matt Keeslar. Iceland. 92 mins. Friday, September 7, 6 pm CUMBERLAND 2; Tuesday, September 11, 4:30 pm CUMBERLAND 1. Rating: NNNN
Perpetually dressed in a Cult T-shirt, 30-something Toti (Sverrisson) is a soccer-obsessed loser who figures he'll achieve business success by importing Bulgarian cigarettes to Iceland. No one's interested in his dodgy product until someone reads the fine print on the cigarette pack and notices that guarana - an herb that has the same chemical composition as caffeine and cocaine and a similar physiological effect - is a key ingredient. Sales boom, and Toti becomes the toast of Reykjavik, though his mates think he should settle down with a good woman and a good TV set. Shot digitally Dogme-style, with the actors improvising their lines, director Douglas's deadpan humour recalls Finland's Kaurismåki brothers' (Ariel, Leningrad Cowboys) sly, bleak fatalism. Very, very droll. SD
CWC D: Ferzan Ozpetek w/ Margherita Buy, Stefano Accorsi. Italy/France. 98 mins. Friday, September 7, 6 pm ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM; Saturday, September 8, 1 pm UPTOWN 3. Rating: NNN
The grieving Antonia (Buy) discovers that her seemingly perfect late husband was having an affair with a man named Michele (Accorsi), whom she befriends along with his over-the-top buddies, who all live in the same Roman apartment building. It's a soft-edged gay film where the straight woman gets a glimpse of the wacky world of homos and transsexuals. Buy has a way of looking uncomfortable and curious at the same time, which is a must if we're to believe Ozpetek's (Harem Suare, Steam) vision of the duo's complicated and moving relationship.IR
SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK
SPEC D: Edward Burns w/ Burns, Heather Graham, Stanley Tucci, Rosario Dawson. U.S. 106 mins. Friday, September 7, 6 pm VARSITY 8; Sunday, September 9, 11:30 am CUMBERLAND. 2 Rating: NNN
Another of Burns's off-centre romantic comedies, with the usual strengths and weaknesses. Here's the question: why does someone who's as good a director of actors as Burns not realize that his own screen presence tends to emit a loud sucking sound? He deserves high praise for Tucci's performance as a philandering bastard and Graham's as his put-upon wife, not to mention stalwart character work by Aida Turturro and Dennis Farina. (Of course, these actors generally do good work no matter who's behind the camera.). Then Burns comes on as a guy with relationship problems and meets an impressively padded Dawson (Josie And The Pussycats) - a more beautiful version of Burns's real-life ex, Maxine Bahns, who co-starred in his movies until he started dating Graham - and the picture just lies there till the real actors show up. JH
CWC D: Majid Majidi w/ Hossein Abedini, Zahra Bahrami. Iran. 94 mins. Friday, September 7, 6:30 pm CUMBERLAND 3; Saturday, September 8, 4 pm UPTOWN 3. Rating: NNNThere are 1.4 million Afghans in Iran. This is the story of some of them. A young Iranian from the sticks, under a construction site foreman's wing, takes his obsession with an Afghan woman who's working illegally (and in disguise) to the point of almost throwing away his life for her and her family. Majidi transports us to an Iran we've never seen before and shows us lives we'd never want to live. The moving plight of the Afghan refugees (forced to scrounge for whatever they can get) is set against the young man's inability to act directly on his emotions, making his story all the more touching. Still, it's a bit too long in the telling and Majidi lacks Kiarostami or Makhmalbaf's power.PEHEARTS IN ATLANTISGALA D: Scott Hicks w/ Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin. U.S. 101 mins. Friday, September 7, 6:30 pm ROY THOMSON HALL; Saturday, September 8, 9:30 am UPTOWN 1. Rating: NNNWould that we all could glimpse our youth through Piotr Sobocinski's lens. Kieslowski's late, great cinematographer lights up this film, in which a successful writer fondly remembers his last summer of childhood, when he was 11. It's a fleeting moment that begins with Richard Nixon's nomination for president and doesn't quite make it to Bill Mazeroski's World Series-winning home run.
The writer had a crush on the girl who was one of his two best friends, and a mysterious lodger had moved into the upstairs flat of the house where he lived with his widowed mother. Anthony Hopkins plays the tenant with psychic powers who briefly becomes the boy's surrogate father, expanding his world view in the process. Hopkins's magus-like charm casts a warm, believable spell, and William Goldman's screenplay hits all the right notes, but Scott Hicks's over-produced, glossy vision undercuts them both.
Still, it's great to see those old cars with fins.PEHOW'S YOUR NEWS?R2R D: Arthur Bradford w/ Susan Harrington, Sean Costello. U.S. 82 mins. Friday, September 7, 9 pm VARSITY 8; Sunday, September 9, 3 pm ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM. Rating: NNN A group of physically and mentally disabled adults from Camp Jabberwocky in New Hampshire take to the road with cameras and mikes to interview their way across America: random civilians, baby deer, Las Vegas showgirls, exceedingly minor movie actors... pretty much anybody. It's at once inspirational and discomfitting, because it forces the audience to wonder if we are laughing with or at the subjects. Shot on video for the American pay-TV service Cinemax, so the words "visually undistinguished" are a polite way to describe its style.JHMAYA
CWC D: Digvijay Singh w/ Anant Nag, Mita Vasisht, Nitya Shetty. U.S. 105 mins. Friday, September 7, 9 pm ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM; Sunday, September 9, 9:30 am CUMBERLAND 3. Rating: NNNN Maya is 12 and has just gotten her first period. In her town, when a girl reaches puberty, the family throws a lavish feast while she undergoes a ritual rape by the temple priest and his cohort of elders.
It took almost five years for first-time director Digvijay Singh to put together his project about this practice, which is still prevalent in parts of India. Bollywood wouldn't touch the film, fearing it would tarnish India's image as a paragon of enlightened spirituality, so Singh brought it to the U.S. Determined not to pander to audiences' smug little comfort zones, he sets the story not in a poor, ignorant - and hence somewhat forgivable - milieu, but in the heart of the well-to-do middle class, among educated and humane individuals. The result is a disturbingly unsensational film that hangs on muted sounds and the surreal, naturally saturated colours of the Indian landscape. A resonant and promising debut. JCTHE UNIVERSAL CLOCK -- THE RESISTANCE OF PETER WATKINSR2R D: Geoff Bowie. Canada. 75 mins. Friday, September 7, 9:15 pm CUMBERLAND 3; Saturday, September 15, 6:30 pm ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM. Rating: NNNAn intriguing companion piece to Peter Watkins's La Commune, Paris 1871. NFB veteran Bowie combines a "making of" documentary with footage of various talking heads at the MIP-TV market in Cannes. They're talking about ideal formats for informational programming of the sort to be found on the Discovery and History channels, in one case advocating the use of a "universal clock," the shrinking of all information to fit the 47-minute hour of commercial television. Could have done with more of Watkins's rigour and less of Bowie's self-pitying narration, but it's worth seeing.JHLA CIENAGA
CWC D: Lucrecia Martel w/ Graciela Borges, Mercedes Morán. Argentina/Spain. 102 mins Friday, September 7, 9:30 pm VARSITY 2; Friday, September 7, 9:30 pm VARSITY 3; Sunday, September 9, 9:30 am ISABEL BADER THEATRE. Rating: NNN
In this Argentine kitchen-sink drama, two cousins and their families spend a hot summer together in the provinces far from Buenos Aires. Each woman has four children and different problems and joys. Events accumulate rather than happen, and the climate and place are characters in the action. It's all a metaphoric morass (ciénaga means swamp) where everyone is bogged down, some just trying to keep their drinks cold, others enduring a host of cuts and scrapes until their wounds are finally examined. All this ennui has hooks, though. Think The Celebration without the Dogme.PE
An intriguing companion piece to Peter Watkins's La Commune, Paris 1871. NFB veteran Bowie combines a "making of" documentary with footage of various talking heads at the MIP-TV market in Cannes. They're talking about ideal formats for informational programming of the sort to be found on the Discovery and History channels, in one case advocating the use of a "universal clock," the shrinking of all information to fit the 47-minute hour of commercial television. Could have done with more of Watkins's rigour and less of Bowie's self-pitying narration, but it's worth seeing.JH