RTR D: Lucy Walker. UK. 104 min. Monday, September 11, 3:15 PM VARSITY 8; Wednesday, September 13, 12:30 PM CUMBERLAND 2; Thursday, September 14, 5:30 PM VARSITY 3 Rating: NNNN
Mount Everest's symbolic importance and Tibetan attitudes toward blindness are mirrored in this funny, touching and gorgeous documentary. In 2004, American climber Erik Weihenmayer, the first sightless person to climb Everest, organized a ludicrously risky expedition: he led a half-dozen blind Tibetan teens to the peak of Everest's neighbour, Lhakpa Ri.
Though the editing lessens the impact of the trek's arduousness, the climbers' mounting tension is palpable. It's unclear whether the battle between Weihenmayer's goal-oriented team and the kids' more laid-back European teachers is due to national differences or oxygen deprivation, but watching the super-driven Weihenmayer become more Zen about the whole experience is almost as rewarding as the huge grins on the kids' faces.
RTR D: Rob Stewart. Canada. 89 min. Monday, September 11, 3:30 PM RYERSON; Thursday, September 14, 5 PM VARSITY 8 Rating: NNN
Photographer-turned-filmmaker Stewart sets out to make a documentary demonstrating that sharks are not the monsters of popular fiction, and gets some great underwater footage doing it.
Along the way, he gets involved in the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's attempts to protect the sharks off Costa Rica, which leads to a sea battle, attempted murder charges, the Taiwanese mafia and a good exposé of illegal shark-finning - a multi-billion- dollar business that's killed 90 per cent of the world's shark population.
AWAY FROM HER
GALA D: Sarah Polley w/ Julie Christie, Gordon Pinsent. Canada. 110 min. Monday, September 11, 6:30 PM ROY THOMSON HALL; Tuesday, September 12, 9:30 AM RYERSON Rating: NNNN
See review, page 46.
DISC D: Sheng Zhimin w/ Liao Zhong, He Xing-quan. China. 96 min. Monday, September 11, 7:15 PM ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM; Wednesday, September 13, 3:15 PM CUMBERLAND 1; Thursday, September 14, 6 PM CUMBERLAND 4 Rating: NNN
This slow, affecting film unspools at a frustrating pace, but if you can let yourself relax, you're in for a powerful story about family love, the struggles of living in a modern city and the need to confront the past.
Jian-jun (Liao) married a plain woman because it was easiest; his father, Lao Li (He), can't get over his first wife, even as he tries to build a life with his new wife and her delinquent son, who has himself gotten into a questionable relationship.
Too simple in parts and somewhat abrupt in others, but if you're patient, the movie does work, thanks to terrific acting and a tour guide's vision of China.
THE DOG PROBLEM
SPEC D: Scott Caan w/ Giovanni Ribisi, Lynn Collins. U.S. 89 min. Monday, September 11, 9 PM RYERSON; Wednesday, September 13, noon RYERSON; Saturday, September 16, 8:45 AM PARAMOUNT 2 Rating: NN
Caan's first writing/directing effort was a wannabe Tarantino film with some potential and a great role for Caan. In his second stab at playing Woody Allen, Caan again gives himself the meatiest part and all the best dialogue. Too bad this time around he spends so much time on the elaborate screen credits and so little on the story.
Ribisi plays his usual manic personality trying to find love and write a novel with the help of his horny best bud (Caan, natch), chaste stripper Lola (Collins) and his new, as yet unnamed dog. Along the way, Caan gives us a caricatured gangster, a Paris Hilton-type canine fiend (Mena Suvari, hilarious) and other wacky hijinks. Stick to acting, Scott.
I DONT WANT TO SLEEP ALONE
MVC D: Tsai Ming-liang w/ Lee Kang-sheng, Chen Siang-chyi. Taiwan/France/ Austria. 115 min. Monday, September 11, 9 PM ISABEL BADER THEATRE; Wednesday, September 13, noon PARAMOUNT 1; Saturday, September 16, 10 PM VARSITY 3 Rating: NNNN Festival fave Tsai journeys beyond his familiar Taipei to his native Malaysia here, but his filmic obsessions have made the trip with him. I Don't Want To Sleep Alone is another of his erotic dreamscapes full of suggestive imagery (shadowy alleyways, dripping water) and unspoken desires. Tsai's pouty-lipped muse, Lee, plays two wounded men who are nursed back to some kind of health. Meanwhile, the city's being overtaken by a mysterious disease, resulting in a tragicomic scene of sex with surgical masks.
Tsai is a master of showing and not telling, and his characters' tasks, no matter how trivial, are always hypnotic to watch. He gets a lot of ambience from his set, especially an echoing abandoned building.
Let's see if a distributor picks this up. Tsai's 2005 TIFF feature, The Wayward Cloud, still hasn't found one.
SPEC D: Philippe Falardeau w/ Olivier Gourmet, Paul Ahmarani. Canada/ Belgium/France. 105 min. Monday, September 11, 9:30 PM PARAMOUNT 1; Wednesday, September 13, 11:45 AM PARAMOUNT 2 Rating: NNNN
In this whimsical dramatic comedy about fathers and sons, two world's fairs and electric cars, writer-driector Falardeau invokes places and events as disparate as the Belgian Congo, Expo 67 and JFK's Ich Bin Ein Berliner speech while using both Belgian and Quebecois cultural clichés as fodder for sly humour.
The intricately plotted story (a puzzle conspicuously lacking in loose ends) never becomes precious, thanks to the emotional weight of its two stars - the dogged, put-upon, opportunistic Gourmet and the fanciful humanist Ahmarani - and the potent patrilineal narrative threads.
SLEEPING DOGS LIE
VAN D: Bobcat Goldthwait w/ Melinda Page Hamilton, Geoff Pierson. U.S. 89 min. Monday, September 11, 9:45 PM PARAMOUNT 2; Wednesday, September 13, 3 PM PARAMOUNT 1 Rating: NNNN
The most striking thing about demented comic Goldthwait's Sleeping Dogs Lie is that the story of a young woman seeking romantic fulfilment has a genuine sweetness behind the studied outrageousness of its premise. Don't let anyone tell you what that premise is, because the opening is mind-boggling if you walk into it cold. It's uneven as hell.
Goldthwait demonstrates admirable control of tone in a film that wants to be all over the place, and Hamilton deserves particular praise for holding the movie together with her starring performance. You have to admire a film that successfully argues that, just maybe, complete honesty isn't the best basis for a relationship.