VIS D: Pedro Costa w/ Ventura, Vanda Duarte. Portugal/France/Switzerland. 155 min. Thursday, September 14, 5:15 PM VARSITY 2; Saturday, September 16, 8:45 AM VARSITY 2 Rating: NNNN
Despite shooting entirely in natural light using a static camera, Costa poetically illuminates Lisbon's lower depths with a series of long monologues connected by the wanderings of a middle-aged Ulysses inexplicably abandoned by his wife after 30 years. About to be relocated by the state to a new housing block, he's searching for (among other things) his surrogate "children" to see whether they will move with him.
Character eclipses plot here, and the film is filled with unforgettable, soulful denizens of the city. Colossal Youth isn't a movie that jumps off the screen from the start, but it will reward those viewers able to enter its beautifully composed, moving world.
UNNATURAL & ACCIDENTAL
CWC D: Carl Bessai w/ Carmen Moore, Callum Keith Rennie. Canada. 90 min. Thursday, September 14, 6 PM PARAMOUNT 4; Saturday, September 16, 12:15 PM VARSITY 1 Rating: NNN
A native woman (Moore) discovers that her mother is missing and goes in search of her on Vancouver's skid row, only to encounter despair, alcoholism and murder. Metis writer Marie Clements's adaptation of her play - inspired by the unsolved deaths of a dozen native women in the 90s - packs a powerful punch, though it occasionally feels like a New Age version of CSI.
Director Bessai gives the film a moody, nightmarish look, but the script lacks a fitting structure. The repeated sequences of enticement (Rennie plays the creepy serial killer), murder and shocking newspaper headlines feel monotonous. Still, Moore, Rennie and the actors portraying the various victims give good performances, and the theme of society's disregard for the marginalized, if too subtly presented, is nonetheless timely.
MAST D: Nanni Moretti w/ Silvio Orlando, Margherita Buy. Italy. 112 min. Thursday, September 14, 6 PM RYERSON; Saturday, September 16, 12:15 PM PARAMOUNT 1 Rating: NN
In a rare Moretti movie that doesn't star the director, a failed exploitation producer (Orlando) meets a screenwriter who's written what the producer blindly sees as an exploitation script about a powerful criminal but is actually a scathing portrait of former prime minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi.
Though Orlando's character is awfully bland, the film twitches to life at the climax, when we see a couple of scenes from the movie he's making. Moretti plays Berlusconi while Moretti the director delivers a dead-on parody of Francesco Rosi's mid-70s political thrillers. We come away wishing we'd seen that film rather than the one about the guy producing it.
SPEC D: Marc Evans w/ Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver. Canada/UK. 112 min. Thursday, September 14, 6 PM VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN); Saturday, September 16, 12:45 PM RYERSON Rating: NNN
Snow Cake offers up the bizarre sight of Weaver not only playing an autistic woman, but one who lives in Wawa, Ontario! Linda's (Weaver) daughter has been killed in a car accident while hitchhiking; the man who gave her daughter a lift (Rickman) comes to apologize but stays on to help her out.
The contrived odd-couple premise draws us in for two reasons: we want to see if sadness or grief can reach Linda, who lives only in the moment and is obsessive about order. And we want to see if Rickman's icy character (who's also carrying tons of baggage) can melt. It's worth seeing for the two stars and for the wonderful Scrabble scene. But the sections involving a free-spirited neighbour (Carrie-Anne Moss) aren't as compelling.
CWC D: Francisco Vargas Quevedo w/ Don Angel Tavira, Dagoberto Gama. Mexico. 99 min. Thursday, September 14, 6:45 PM CUMBERLAND 2; Saturday, September 16, 9:15 AM CUMBERLAND 1 Rating: NNN
You can feel the spirits of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata being filtered through Buñuel's Los Olvidados in this black-and-white social realist fable. The tale of Mexican peasants fighting for their land begins innocently with a couple of village buskers apparently scrounging for a meal. The younger man turns out to be a rebel leader who heads to the hills when the army arrives, but the elderly violinist sticks around to secretly aid the guerillas while musically charming the military commander.
Their unlikely relationship supplies considerable suspense to this simple story, which would be severely diminished without the dignified, dour presence of the 81-year-old Tavira, who has spent a lifetime playing his violin despite losing his right hand in an accident at the age of 13.
VIS D: Bruno Dumont w/ Samuel Boidin, Adélaïde Leroux. France. 91 min. Thursday, September 14, 7 PM ISABEL BADER THEATRE; Saturday, September 16, 11:45 AM ISABEL BADER THEATRE Rating: NN
Like Dumont's earlier L'Humanité, Flandres won the Grand Prix du Jury at Cannes, the sort of gesture the judges like to make to show that they aren't trivial. People who honour the director's minimalist brutalism are obviously serious.
A young farmworker goes off with the army to a dirty war in an unnamed North African country. Horrible things happen, including a gang rape and a castration. Dumont makes slow-moving movies about unintelligent characters who do unspeakable things to one another because they can. His stark style and fondness for inexpressive actors make his films resemble Bresson's, though without the prospect of spiritual transcendence.
RTR D: Martin Lavut. Canada. 90 min. Thursday, September 14, 8:45 PM ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM; Saturday, September 16, 12:15 PM ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM Rating: NNNN
Arthur Lipsett was 25 in 1961, when he made his first short, the brilliant surreal Modernist collage Very Nice, Very Nice. Twenty-five years later, gripped by depression, he took his own life. Very Nice, which influenced Kubrick and Lucas, was nominated for an Oscar, briefly putting Lipsett in the exalted company of Norman McLaren. But his work looked at a much deeper level of reality than that of his NFB colleague.
In this exploration of Lipsett's life and work, Lavut subtly punctuates the oral history offered by a handful of friends and co-workers with artfully chosen excerpts from Lipsett's films, giving a human context to the man's genius and madness.
It's a sizable achievement, and of course very, very nice.
CWC D: Andrea Arnold w/ Kate Dickie, Tony Curran. Scotland. 113 min. Thursday, September 14, 9:30 PM ISABEL BADER THEATRE; Saturday, September 16, 9 AM VARSITY 8 Rating: NNN
Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes, Arnold's debut feature starts out slow and kind of interesting, gets a little faster and really interesting, then wimps out at the end.
Set in Glasgow, it stars Dickie as Jackie, who monitors closed-circuit surveillance cameras placed in a desperately poor housing project. When an unexpected face shows up on her monitor, she starts stalking the man, an ex-con. Yes, she's out for revenge.
The first half of the film is photographed as if every character were his or her own surveillance camera, with shots coming at us through things, around corners and at odd angles. It's like middle-period Atom Egoyan, but without Egoyan's interest in bland kink, and unfortunately, it straightens out at the end.
MM D: Christopher Smith w/ Danny Dyer, Laura Harris. UK. 90 min. Thursday, September 14, midnight RYERSON; Saturday, September 16, 3:30 PM PARAMOUNT 2 Rating: NNN
The Office with a body count. The staff of a British arms company head to the Balkans for a weekend retreat to build company morale only to wind up in the wrong place - a ramshackle dump that's the hunting ground of a group of highly trained masked killers who, for no apparent reason, want to butcher them.
Well made, with some clever performances from the likes of Toby Stephens and Tim McInnerny, but it loses something because the killers seem to be motivated only by their insanity; they're only here because the filmmakers need killers.