THE PROFESSION OF ARMS
MAST D: Ermanno Olmi w/ Hristo Jivkov, Sergio Grammatico. Italy. 105 mins. Saturday, September 8, noon VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN); Thursday, September 13, 6:45 pm VARSITY 2; Thursday, September 13, 6:45 pm VARSITY 3. Rating: NN
Exquisitely photographed and staged, Olmi's epic is best seen with someone who has a working knowledge of late Renaissance Italian painting, so you can get footnotes on the paintings Olmi uses as visual models for his anti-war film. Set in 1526, it documents the invasion of northern Italy (recalling that Italy did not exist as a political entity at this point) by German mercenaries apparently in the pay of Spain and opposing the Pope. Ranged against them are armies led by a young captain of the Medici family. Every time the scene changes, Olmi throws up titles with the names of the characters as well as the time and place, and eventually I was just wondering, "Is this going to be on the final?" JH
MUCH ADO ABOUT SOMETHING
R2R D: Michael Rubbo. Australia. 98 mins. Saturday, September 8, 12:15 pm VARSITY 8; Tuesday, September 11, 5 pm ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM. Rating: NN
Or, more accurately, a whole lot about not very much. Reviving the "Did Shakespeare really write his plays?" controversy, writer-director-producer Rubbo rehashes claims that Christopher Marlowe was really the Bard of Avon. Kooky Brit academics make their argument for Chris over Bill, while scenes from both their plays featuring over-acting, plummy-voiced thespians suggest similarities if not absolute plagiarism. Eventually, the pro-Marlowe side convinces, but Rubbo's amateurish filmmaking and annoying narration make Much Ado look like a Benny Hill mockumentary minus the laugh track.SD
MISSING YOUNG WOMAN
R2R D: Lourdes Portillo. U.S. 75 mins. Saturday, September 8, 3 pm CUMBERLAND 3; Monday, September 10, 11 am ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM. Rating: NNNN
In the last decade, between 200 and 400 young women have disappeared or been murdered in the Mexican border town of Ciudad Juarez. Portillo talks to some of their families and uncovers a shocking web of evil involving ritualistic murders possibly committed by corrupt cops, drug dealers or the men working in the American-owned factories that have taken root in the region. You'll come out of this powerful documentary shaken to the core, realizing that life is cheap, especially if you're a poor Mexican woman. IR
WARM WATER UNDER A RED BRIDGE
MAST D: Shohei Imamura w/ Mitsuko Baisho, Mansaku Fuwa. Japan. 119 mins. Saturday, September 8, 3 pm VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN); Friday, September 14, 6:30 pm ISABEL BADER THEATRE. Rating: NNNNN
Seventy-five-year-old directors are supposed to be imposing eminences making grand final statements. They aren't supposed to let fly their inner goofball. Imamura's Warm Water Under A Red Bridge is a tonally bizarre comedy about an unemployed, freshly divorced man who journeys to a remote village in search of a treasure. He finds work on a fishing boat, but he also meets a woman who has some intriguing physiological qualities and mystical powers.
Imamura's always had a very individual sense of comedy, even if it's gone unnoticed in critical appreciations of harrowing masterpieces like The Insect Woman and Vengeance Is Mine. And Warm Water Under A Red Bridge has the effortless elegance you find in late Buñuel, even if the plot sounds like a bizarre dirty joke - something one could also say about Buñuel's The Obscure Object Of Desire. Highly recommended. JHCOMMENT J'AI TUE MON PERE
SPEC D: Anne Fontaine w/ Michel Bouquet, Charles Berling, Natacha Regnier, Stéphane Guillon. France. 98 mins. Saturday, September 8, 6:30 pm UPTOWN 1; Monday, September 10, 1 pm ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM. Rating: NNNN Everyone has a clearly assigned function in Jean-Luc's (Berling) successful but cynically ordered chessboard of a life. His classy blond wife is a perfect hostess, his jobless brother makes a good chauffeur, and his sensual assistant provides after-hours warmth. Meanwhile, his gerontology practice thrives, selling very expensive promises of youth to a rich clientele who refuse to age. Underneath it all are several loose threads begging to be tugged.Behind the Freudian title is a movie very much in the vein of Fontaine's 1997 Dry Cleaning, in which the arrival of an outsider insidiously upsets the established order, baring the darker emotions simmering behind a polished façade. This time though, the outsider is no stranger, but a long-gone father who appears unannounced at Jean-Luc's doorstep after years of silent exile, sporting a disturbing serenity and an utter lack of remorse for having abandoned his family. Fontaine films the grinding, resolutely unsentimental father/son confrontation with gripping iciness. The dialogue is sharp and wicked, the acting superb. Cerebral French cinema at its best. JC
GALA D: David Atkins w/ Steve Martin, Helena Bonham Carter. U.S. 94 mins. Saturday, September 8, 6:30 pm ROY THOMSON HALL; Sunday, September 9, 9:30 am UPTOWN 1. Rating: NNN
Call it Dental Indemnity. Martin plays an upright dentist seduced by a mysterious patient (Bonham Carter) who steals his supply of drugs and involves him in a murder. This rare comedic noir casts Martin as the befuddled straight man to an amusing supporting cast that includes Kevin Bacon and a divine Laura Dern, who quietly steals the movie as Martin's anal fiancee. It's fun, but would have worked better if Atkins had either pumped up the offbeat humour or followed a darker, more serpentine plot.IR
MAST D: Kiyoshi Kurosawa w/ Haruhiko Kato, Kumiko Aso. Japan. 117 mins. Saturday, September 8, 6:30 pm CUMBERLAND 2; Monday, September 10, 12:30 pm UPTOWN 1. Rating: NNN
Ghosts drive people to despair and self-destruction in this movie about dread and the Internet. Apparently, George Romero was wrong. When there's no more room in hell, the dead will surf the Net. Not as genuinely frightening as his 1997 thriller, The Cure, Pulse still has a haunted tone that is uniquely Kurosawa's. It has a lot to do with the way his frames isolate characters in unknowable space. At the same time, Pulse veers wildly between Expressionist mannerisms, as if the director had spent all his pre-production time watching The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, and the quiet despair projected by the actors.JH
CWC D: Jessica Hausner w/ Barbara Osika, Christoph Bauer, Peter Fiala, Wolfgang Kostal. Austria/Germany. 80 mins. Saturday, September 8, 9 pm CUMBERLAND 3; Monday, September 10, 3:15 pm CUMBERLAND 1. Rating: NNN
An ex-student of Haneke and assistant on Funny Games, Hausner was bound to have a penchant for disturbed adolescents and sinister atmospheres. She exploits it with a distinctive touch in this cruel and darkly funny first feature. Lovely Rita is a marginal but creepily determined teenager with no friends, bleak thoughts, a depressing middle-class environment and a lot of brewing revolt. She is also prone to twisted sexual crushes on 40-year-old bus drivers and 11-year-old kids. A trim portrait of Austrian society at its repressive worst, with a startling finale. JC
MAST D: David Lynch w/ Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring. U.S./France. 146 mins. Saturday, September 8, 9:30 pm VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN); Monday, September 10, 3:30 pm UPTOWN 1. Rating: NNNN
After The Straight Story but on the road again, this return to the Lynchian universe of Blue Velvet and Lost Highway is a love story set in the celluloid dream world of Hollywood. An innocent blond wannabe actress from Deep River, Ontario, gets off the bus in L.A. and steps into her aunt's apartment to find a sultry brunette suffering from post-accident amnesia.
In between auditions, they search for identity and inhabit an increasingly surreal world. The opening car accident grabs your attention, the richly layered sound design keeps it, and among the many memorable scenes, there's an unforgettable Roy Orbison moment near the end. There are many twists and turns on Mulholland Drive. It's a trip worth taking. PE
NO MAN'S LAND
GALA D: Danis Tanovic w/ Branko Djuric, Rene Bitorajac. Bosnia. 98 mins. Saturday, September 8, 9:30 pm ROY THOMSON HALL; Sunday, September 9, noon UPTOWN 2. Rating: NN
Soldiers from opposing sides find themselves trapped together between the lines during the mess in Yugoslavia. People negotiate their fate while the UN peacekeeping forces twiddle their thumbs impotently. Everybody at Cannes loved this Bosnian "black comedy" about the civil war. Ooooh, it's great, ooh, it's brilliant. As my companion at the film's final Cannes screening noted, "It's the first pacifist film from Bosnia - how good does it have to be?" Not very. It started to lose me when a soldier in one of the trenches is reading the paper and says, "Rwanda, what a mess!" First-time director Tanovic plainly shops for irony at K-Mart.JH
CWC D: Bertrand Bonello w/ Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jérémie Rénier. France/Canada. 105 mins. Saturday, September 8, 9:30 pm ISABEL BADER THEATRE; Monday, September 10, 3 pm UPTOWN 2. Rating: NN
The Pornographer tells the story of a father-son reconciliation in which the father (Léaud) must come to terms with his son's Gen-Y angst and the son (Rénier) must face up to his father's career as a porn director. Believability problem one: wouldn't a 20-ish lad whose father was a pornographer be looking for a job as assistant director, or at least a chance to help with casting?
The always compelling Léaud is the film's main selling point. He's in top form here as an over-the-hill and out-of-touch filmmaker still trying to bring a bit of art to the trash he's still grinding out after almost three decades. It is, however, yet another mainstream French film that contains hardcore material, the third or fourth I've seen, and it strikes me that I've never seen anybody in any of these films who's enjoying the sex. JH
PC D: Anne Wheeler w/ Wendy Crewson, Joe Cobden, Peter Coyote. 105 mins. Saturday, September 8, 9:30 pm CUMBERLAND 2; Thursday, September 13, 4:30 pm CUMBERLAND 3. Rating: NN
The You've Got Mail premise redux. A woman meets a great guy via e-mail and he turns out to be her worst nightmare. She's a coasting middle-aged author, so her worst nightmare is a guy half her age who's a brilliant writer with a manuscript far better than her own. Wheeler (Better Than Chocolate) is a practised hand at probing a woman's experience of love, but this isn't one of her best. The countless bubble-bath scenes are the first giveaway. Worse, Elyse Friedman's script stuffs geysers of words into Crewson's mouth, and Wheeler matches it with a frantic rush of music and too-cute effects. It's all a mile a minute and an inch deep.CBTAPESPEC D: Richard Linklater w/ Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, Robert Sean Leonard. U.S. 86 mins. Saturday, September 8, 9:30 pm UPTOWN 1; Monday, September 10, 3:45 pm VARSITY 8. Rating: NNNSee cover story, page S1.SDTHE SUN BEHIND THE MOON
MAST D: Mohsen Makhmalbaf w/ Niloufar Pazira, Hassan Tantaï, Sadou Teymouri, Hayatalah Hakimi. Iran. 85 mins. Saturday, September 8, 9:45 pm VARSITY 2; Saturday, September 15, 12:30 pm UPTOWN 1. Rating: NNNN
After a bout of disappointing, heavily metaphoric tryouts (Gabbeh, The Silence), Makhmalbaf recovers the politicized intelligence and gutsy emotions of his earlier work while maintaining the visual splendour of his more recent films.
Nafas (Pazira) is a young Afghan journalist settled in Canada who suddenly finds herself called to revisit her native country when she receives a suicidal letter from her sister. A clandestine, serendipitous journey through a ravaged land, The Sun Behind The Moon paints a terrifying yet sumptuous portrait of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. It's a powerful (if a little manipulative) piece that should be seen, if for no other reason, for the spine-chilling way it draws on images of the greatest beauty to convey evil. JC
A MA SOEUR!
CWC D: Catherine Breillat w/ Roxane Mesquida, Anaïs Reboux, Arsinée Khanjian, Romain Goupil. France/Italy. 93 mins. Saturday, September 8, 10 pm UPTOWN 3; Sunday, September 9, 3:30 pm ISABEL BADER THEATRE. Rating: NNN
After Romance, A Ma Soeur finds Breillat back on familiar ground, the romantic/sexual entanglements of teenaged girls, with the added fillip that this picture seems based on four decades of seething resentment. Two sisters, one pretty (Mesquida), one not (Reboux), spend a summer vacation getting on each other's nerves while the pretty one loses her virginity to a vacationing college student. That scene, which plays for almost half an hour and is an extraordinary dramatic construction - almost a film within the film - displays Breillat at her psychologically incisive best. On the other hand, based on 36 Filette and Romance, I suspect that Breillat is at heart a misogynist; she's got issues, and her films often seem like botched self-therapy. JH
See cover story, page S1.SD