CWC D: John Jeffcoat w/ Josh Hamilton, Ayesha Dharker. U.S. 98 min. Tuesday, September 12, 5:30 PM VARSITY 8; Thursday, September 14, 2:30 PM VARSITY 8; Saturday, September 16, 7:30 PM VARSITY 8 Rating: NNNN
Movies with great premises usually begin well, then lose steam. Not this one. Todd (Hamilton) manages a call centre for a company that produces kitschy Americana. When the operation is outsourced to India, he's forced to move there to train his replacements to take calls and sound like Yanks.
What ensues is part culture-clash comedy, part critique of global exploitation and (sounds cheesy but it's not) part romantic comedy. The script is fresh and lively, never more so than in a montage featuring Indians quoting scenes from famous U.S. movies. Boy-next-door Hamilton shows lots of comic charm, and Dharker, as his feisty protege, has a smile that could light up Bombay. A winner.
QUELQUES JOURS EN SEPTEMBRE
SPEC D: Santiago Amigorena w/ Juliette Binoche, John Turturro. France/Italy. 115 min. Tuesday, September 12, 6 PM RYERSON; Thursday, September 14, 9 AM PARAMOUNT 1; Saturday, September 16, 9 AM ISABEL BADER THEATRE Rating: NN
French muse Binoche can play any number of roles, but she's miscast here as Irène, a secret service agent who's trying to connect a mysterious former agent (Nick Nolte) with his two children. Wearing serious-looking glasses and awkwardly wielding a gun, Binoche looks smugly amused as she hauls the two kids - one's French, one's American - from Paris to Venice while various shady types, including a poetry-spewing Turturro, tail them.
First-time director Amigorena knows how to frame a scene, but his script is an anti-U.S. diatribe disguised as a Third Man-type espionage thriller. It's all unconvincing, including its cheesy lead-up to the events of 9/11.
DANS LES VILLES
VIS D: Catherine Martin w/ Hélène Florent, Robert Lepage. Canada. 87 min. Tuesday, September 12, 6:15 PM CUMBERLAND 2; Thursday, September 14, 12:15 PM CUMBERLAND 1 Rating: NN
If you go to the movies for escapism, forget this one. Note to director Martin: a gut-wrenching musical score is overkill when you pepper the screen with characters who look like they've never smiled in their whole lives, and one who cries incessantly on behalf of the unfeeling world.
In this story of the aforementioned bawler, arborist Fanny meets other desperate souls (a blind man, an old woman, a suicidal 20-something). The acting is painfully committed, particularly by the actor portraying a character who repeatedly beats herself in frustration. Unfortunately, because we're never given a real reason for all this suffering or an antidote, the audience is left feeling almost as helpless.
However poetic, the film just feels relentlessly sad.
UN DIMANCHE A KIGALI
CWC D: Robert Favreau w/ Luc Picard, Fatou N'Diaye. Canada. 118 min. Tuesday, September 12, 6:45 PM PARAMOUNT 4; Thursday, September 14, 3:45 PM CUMBERLAND 2 Rating: NN
I wish the general in charge of the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda had been anything but Canadian. That way, our filmmakers wouldn't feel compelled to atone for Roméo Dallaire's impotence.
Picard plays a Canadian filmmaker working on a documentary on AIDS in Rwanda who falls in love with a local girl on the eve of the Hutu massacre. Despite many warnings that suggest he should grab the girl and his passport and catch the first thing smoking, he pushes his Hamlet-like indecision into the realm of stupidity, and her refusal to leave without him indicates that she's not the sharpest pencil in the box either.
Long and portentous, and there's something offensive about a film on the Rwandan genocide where the thematic core is a white journalist's moral anguish.
VAN D: Christian Volckman w/ Romola Garai, Jonathan Pryce. France/Luxembourg/UK. 105 min. Tuesday, September 12, 7 PM PARAMOUNT 2; Thursday, September 14, 12:45 PM PARAMOUNT 2 Rating: NNN
See review, page 74.
PRIMO LEVIS JOURNEY
RTR D: Davide Ferrario. Italy. 91 min. Tuesday, September 12, 9 PM PARAMOUNT 3; Thursday, September 14, 10 AM PARAMOUNT 2 Rating: N
After he was liberated from Auschwitz in 1945, Italian chemist and writer Primo Levi travelled throughout Europe for eight months before returning to his hometown of Turin. Director Ferrario retraces his journey 60 years later to see how Europe has changed.
Even though we occasionally hear Levi's poetic prose, there's little insight into his work or life here, and even less into Europe's post-war legacy. Ferrario displays no skill with interviews, and his camera subjects are obvious. Even a marginally interesting scene in which he and his camera crew are interrogated in Belarus lacks dramatic shape.
This feels like a History Channel doc you look at for 10 seconds before switching.
SUR LA TRACE DIGOR RIZZI
CF D: Noël Mitrani w/ Laurent Lucas, Pierre-Luc Brillant. 91 min. Tuesday, September 12, 9 PM CUMBERLAND 3; Thursday, September 14, 10:15 AM PARAMOUNT 3 Rating: NNN
One-time soccer player Jean-Marc Thomas (Lucas) is a petty thug mourning his lost love in Montréal's ice and snow. When he's hired to kill someone (the titular Igor Rizzi), a series of bizarre coincidences cause him to re-examine his life.
The story moves agonizingly slowly (we learn Thomas's name at minute 45), the sole plot twist is blatantly telegraphed, the subtitles are hard to read, and Lucas looks nothing like a soccer player, even one who's gone to seed.
But Christophe Debraize-Bois's cinematography, using mainly available light, gives the film a gorgeous vérité quality, and Lucas is compelling enough that you want Thomas to succeed, however unlikely an outcome that may be.