COV D: Peter Pearson w/ Keir Dullea, Dayle Haddon. 94 min. Friday, September 15, 4:45 PM ISABEL BADER THEATRE; Saturday, September 16, 8:45 PM VARSITY 2 Rating: NN
Pearson's 1973 film about small-town Saskatchewan is both a long-form video for Gordon Lightfoot's If You Could Read My Mind and a great argument for higher education. In this year's selection for the Canadian Open Vault, Rick (Dullea) is an aging playboy who dresses like Clint Eastwood and gets everything handed to him, including the affections of obviously self-hating women. The only one who rejects him is university-educated Joanna (Haddon), and her resistance to his "charms" kicks off the High Noon-style denouement.
The film's nudity and words like "dink" and "bugger" might've been risqué once, but from this vantage point you just want Rick to grow up and the other women in his life to grow a pair.
SPEC D: Kabir Khan w/ John Abraham, Arshad Warsi. India. 106 min. Friday, September 15, 6 PM VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN); Saturday, September 16, 9:30 AM PARAMOUNT 1 Rating: NN
Two Indian journalists head for Afghanistan in the early days of the war and soon find themselves, along with their guide and an American photographer, heading for the border under the gun of an armed Talibani. It's kind of a comedy, like a Hope-Crosby Road picture with a real body count, simultaneously manipulative and ingenuous. The filmmakers are so busy making a plea for understanding that they dare not ponder any of the implications of the situations in which the characters find themselves.
It will probably offend the hell out of Pakistanis.
TALES OF THE RAT FINK
RTR D: Ron Mann w/ John Goodman, Jay Leno (voices). Canada. 76 min. Friday, September 15, 6 PM VARSITY 8; Saturday, September 16, 11 AM PARAMOUNT 2 Rating: NNN
Mann's sprightly account of the career of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth offers the same pleasures as his earlier films like The Twist, where archival footage, lively animation and cheery music (this time a surf-inflected score by the Sadies) carry us easily through a straightforward look at a some forgotten corner of pop culture.
This time it's hot rods and custom cars. Roth was in on the ground floor. His trademark Rat Fink character and flame-painted hot rods are still around. The film also claims him as the inventor of message T-shirts, fibreglass auto bodies and more. Mann puts words in Roth's and his cars' mouths via celebrity voices, a move that's historically suspect but entertaining.
WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS
Masters D: Spike Lee w/ Ray Nagin, Terence Blanchard. 240 min. Friday, September 15, 6 PM RYERSON; Saturday, September 16, 11:45 AM VARSITY 8 Rating: NNNNN
This epic documentary on New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina may be Lee's masterpiece, a furious, focused, heart-wrenching portrait of a city apparently abandoned by the U.S. government after the greatest natural disaster in American history.
Constructed out of interviews with New Orleans residents of every social stratum, interlaced with news footage of President Bush and his officials, Lee's made-for-HBO film is an indictment of government indifference and a shredding of the country's false front; it reminds us how seldom we see the unsanitized poor in American popular culture. Lee's long-time collaborator, composer Terence Blanchard, contributes the score and appears as a returning New Orleans resident .
On the downside, it's four hours of scarce festival time for a movie that premiered August 20 on the Movie Network.
CWC D: Neil Armfield w/ Heath Ledger, Abbie Cornish. Australia. 108 min. Friday, September 15, 9 PM VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN); Saturday, September 16, 11:45 AM PARAMOUNT 4 Rating: NNN
There's no sugar-coating this junkie love story about an aspiring artist named Candy (Cornish) and her boyfriend, Dan (Ledger), a poet and petty thief smacked around by life on smack. While the plot's as thin as an addict's arteries - Dan pimps Candy out so they can score off chemist pal Casper (an underused Geoffrey Rush) even as they struggle to get clean - the performances carry the day.
Cornish is both sweet and sorrowful as the fragile free spirit swallowed by addiction, and Ledger proves again that his strength lies in his ability to portray weakness while never appearing unsympathetic, making this hard Candy much easier to swallow.
AFTER THE WEDDING
GALA D: Susanne Bier w/ Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgård. Denmark. 120 min. Friday, September 15, 9:30 PM ROY THOMSON HALL; Saturday, September 16, 3 PM VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) Rating: NNN
This well-made Danish drama looks like a conservative, high-end TV movie and plays like nighttime soap opera, but with a good, harsh undercurrent. The story - a Danish aid worker living in India goes to Copenhagen to receive a grant for his orphanage and becomes entangled with the rich donor and his family - has some good twists. But the show really belongs to Lassg&229:rd as the rich, secretive and highly manipulative industrialist who turns what could have been a stereotype into a powerful character study.
MM D: Andres Morgenthaler w/ Germany/Denmark. 90 min. Friday, September 15, midnight RYERSON; Saturday, September 16, 12:15 PM CUMBERLAND 2 Rating: NN
Animator Morgenthaler appears to be one pissed-off Dane. In this mostly animated film - with some live action - Morgent August, a missionary priest, returns home when his porn star sister dies. He assumes custody of his niece, the saucer-eyed Mia, and comes to realize that the child has been serially abused by her mother's "friends." So August tells the porn magnates, "Get my sister's pictures and films off the market or else." The bad guys, naturally, sneer at him. Then he goes all Travis Bickle on them to assuage his own feeling of guilt about his compulsive videotaping of his sister, which may have led her into porn. Princess shows us that there are very few attractive animated characters in Denmark.