MAST D: Michael Haneke w/ Isabelle Huppert, Benoît Magimel, Annie Girardot. Austria/France. 130 mins. Monday, September 10, 3:15 pm UPTOWN 3; Friday, September 14, 2 pm VARSITY 2. Rating: NNNN
After a brief foray into Euro-humanism with last year's Code Inconnu, Haneke is back on his favourite terrain, dissecting the workings of very disturbed minds. The pianist is Erika Kohut (an electrifying Huppert), esteemed professor at the prestigious Vienna Conservatory. A woman with icy manners and a seriously deranged psyche, Erika lives in a sick state of enslavement to her obsessive, controlling mother. She chillingly rebukes the men who dare approach, seeking refuge instead in morbid voyeurism and self-mutilation. Based on a controversial novel and treated with almost clinical precision, The Pianist was the shock movie at Cannes this year, where it walked away with three awards (the two acting prizes and best director). Perverted work of genius or grotesque trash? One thing's for sure the faint-hearted should abstain. JC
R2R D: Bruce Weber w/ Peter Johnson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Frances Faye. U.S. 98 mins. Monday, September 10, 6:15 pm VARSITY 8; Tuesday, September 11, 11:15 am CUMBERLAND 3. Rating: NNN
Weber is best known for films that valorize a certain kind of male beauty, reaching an apotheosis in Let's Get Lost, an exhaustive study of the ruin that was jazz singer and trumpeter Chet Baker. Chop Suey follows suit with its lust-filled photographs of apparently straight model Peter Johnson, but it's also a bizarre memoir about singer Frances Faye's life and times as a cabaret performer in the closeted 50s.
The title is accurate - Chop Suey is all over the place. But it has rather less of the obsessive earnestness of Broken Noses and Let's Get Lost. JHAPRES LA RECONCILIATIONCWC D: Anne-Marie Miéville w/ Claude Perron, Miéville, Jean-Luc Godard. France/Switzerland. 75 mins. Monday, September 10, 6:30 pm CUMBERLAND 2; Wednesday, September 12, 5 pm UPTOWN 3. Rating: NNNGodard steps in front of the camera in this fourth feature by his long-time personal and professional collaborator, Anne-Marie Miéville. It's a brainy reflection on love, language and fatigue that is infuriatingly mannered and wordy, though at times also quite magical. Heavy on discourse and light on narrative, Après La Réconciliation is more demanding than rewarding. It is deliciously enlivened, however, by Godard's grumpy, mischievous presence and deadpan wit. Interesting that the festival places Godard's Eloge De L'Amour in Masters and this film by his collaborator in Contemporary World Cinema.JCKISSING JESSICA STEIN
CWC D: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld w/ Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen, Scott Cohen. U.S. 94 mins. Monday, September 10, 7 pm ISABEL BADER THEATRE; Wednesday, September 12, 12:45 pm UPTOWN 1. Rating: NNNNWinner of the audience award at this year's Los Angeles Film Festival, Kissing Jessica Stein is a rare lesbian comedy - it's funny. Westfeldt stars as high-strung Jewish straight girl Jessica, who's had it with men and answers a personal ad written by stylish art gallery manager Helen (Juergensen), another straight girl looking to cross over. The question is, do these lipstick lesbians have what it takes to become dykes? This very funny film is based on the play Lipschtick (bad title), written by struggling New York actors Westfeldt and Juergensen, who write quick, naturalistic dialogue and play comedy with flair. Westfeldt's Diane Keaton-like stammer and absent-minded braininess bounce off Juergensen's quippy, acerbic veneer. They're a charmingly hapless femme couple.IRPARIS: XYPA D: Zeka Laplaine w/ Laplaine, Sylvia Vaudano. France. 80 mins. Monday, September 10, 7:45 pm CUMBERLAND 1; Tuesday, September 11, 9 am CUMBERLAND 3. Rating: NN There's not much fun in this film about two emotionally remote characters and the breakup of their marriage. LaPlaine wrote and directed it and stars as Max, the husband, who's basically a broody, uncommunicative guy who runs a clothing business with his partner, Paco. When his wife leaves him a few days before Christmas, he withdraws even more. Shot in digital black and white, Paris: xy is both visually and emotionally unsatisfying, rescued to a degree by the music. Not recommended. JHDISTANCE
CWC D: Hirokazu Kore-Eda w/ Tadanobu Asano, Arata, Yusuke Iseya. Japan. 122 mins. Monday, September 10, 8:30 pm CUMBERLAND 3; Thursday, September 13, 2:30 pm CUMBERLAND 2. Rating: NN
Distance, the latest by the director of After Life, brings together four strangers who are related to the members of a small apocalyptic cult that poisoned Tokyo's water supply some years earlier. If After Life built a certain narrative and emotional rigour on its No Exit premise, Distance plays like a bizarre cross between Shinji Aoyama's Eureka (people recovering from a traumatic event) and The Blair Witch Project (annoying people lost in the woods with a shaky-cam). I've always agreed with Hitchcock: if you show someone arriving somewhere, the audience will make the leap and assume that he got there somehow. No need to show the whole journey. JHTHE FRANK TRUTHPC D: Rick Caine. 100 mins. Monday, September 10, 9 pm ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM; Wednesday, September 12, 11:15 am CUMBERLAND 3. Rating: NNNYou know you're a Canadian celebrity when your face has been grafted onto a porn star's body in the pages of Frank magazine. Cain's insightful documentary focuses on the mag's publisher, Michael Bate, a guy who likes to stir up shit publicly but who can be awfully touchy when it comes to his own private life. Caine takes us inside the magazine's unimpressive Ottawa office, captures its haphazard approach to journalism and collects comments from those whom Frank has mercilessly derided, including Conrad Black, Wendy Mesley and Mike Duffy. He also reveals just how much of a hypocrite Bate is: he won't go after targets if they happen to be among the rich and powerful parents who send their kids to his wife's Montessori school. IRLE FABULEUX DESTIN D'AMELIE POULAIN
SPEC D: Jean-Pierre Jeunet w/ Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz. France. 120 mins. Monday, September 10, 9:30 pm VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN); Wednesday, September 12, 3:30 pm UPTOWN 1. Rating: NNNNN
High on the list of phrases I never thought I'd hear: "a romantic comedy from the director of Delicatessen and Alien Resurrection." Tautou, who had a small role in Vénus Beauté, gets to stretch as a shy young woman who re-routes her quiet life when she realizes that her destiny is to help other people, though in extremely odd ways. She's matched by Kassovitz, playing a young man who collects discarded photo-booth strips. Kassovitz is best known in North America as the director of La Haine and the recent thriller Crimson Rivers, but he has a considerable filmography as an actor in France.
Jeunet uses Paris very inventively, mixing the familiar (Sacre Coeur) with the unexpected and treating the streets and buildings as a great big set, altering and repainting at will. The result is the kind of whimsical Paris not seen much lately - a real movie Paris, if that isn't too much of a contradiction in terms. One of the best movies I saw at Cannes.JH
You know you're a Canadian celebrity when your face has been grafted onto a porn star's body in the pages of Frank magazine. Cain's insightful documentary focuses on the mag's publisher, Michael Bate, a guy who likes to stir up shit publicly but who can be awfully touchy when it comes to his own private life. Caine takes us inside the magazine's unimpressive Ottawa office, captures its haphazard approach to journalism and collects comments from those whom Frank has mercilessly derided, including Conrad Black, Wendy Mesley and Mike Duffy. He also reveals just how much of a hypocrite Bate is: he won't go after targets if they happen to be among the rich and powerful parents who send their kids to his wife's Montessori school. IR