FACING THE MUSICR2R D: Bob Connolly, Robin Anderson. Australia. 89 mins. Wednesday, September 12, 4:15 pm VARSITY 4; Saturday, September 15, 4 pm CUMBERLAND 4. Rating: NNN This documentary demonstrates the effects of the financial gutting of higher education through a precise microcosm, the attempts of composer Anne Boyd to chair the music department at the University of Sydney, which is getting less money every year.
She's also up against professional censure and a faculty collapsing from overwork. Facing The Music's great strength is its discovery of its subject, a tough-minded artist's internal struggle between her vision of teaching as a sacred calling and her realization that without becoming a bureaucratic infighter she can't follow that calling. Its weakness is that, for a film with so much great music on the soundtrack, the sound is woefully inadequate. JH
PC D: Sean Garrity w/ Jonas Chernik, Sarah Constible, Gordon Tanner, Micheline Marchildon. 96 mins. Wednesday, September 12, 6 pm VARSITY 1; Friday, September 14, 12:15 pm VARSITY 4; Friday, September 14, 12:15 pm VARSITY 5. Rating: NNN
A very bad title (it's like handing every critic a loaded gun) for an interesting little relationship film from Winnipeg. A group of 20-somethings try, with little success, to sort out their screwed-up romantic lives in a Winnipeg winter. There are certain tonal problems: Inertia seems to start out as a comedy, but isn't; and the little Vivaldi-scored visual interludes seem to be the product of a director who listened to people tell him "film is a visual medium" and suddenly realized he'd made a talkathon. That said, Garrity is a writer-director with definite potential, and Inertia is well worth seeing on its own terms. Micheline Marchildon, who plays Alex, is a real find.JHLAN YUCWC D: Stanley Kwan w/ Jun Hu, Ye Liu. Hong Kong, China. 86 mins. Wednesday, September 12, 6:15 pm CUMBERLAND 2; Friday, September 14, 6:45 pm VARSITY 3. Rating: NNNLovingly shot, this intense romance between a rich businessman and a young male architecture student from the Chinese countryside is bursting with eroticism in its early scenes. There's a close physicality that makes us believe theirs is a love that should have lasted years. The action begins in Beijing in 1988, then moves through Tiananmen Square the next year and beyond. There are separations, dalliances and even a marriage on the older man's part. (Curiously, director Kwan's own partner told him years ago that he wanted to get married and have a baby.) The authenticity of the actors makes empathy easy, but the out-and-out melodrama of the story line is more difficult to take. PETHE STRUMA
R2R D: Simcha Jacobovici. Canada-UK. 90 mins. Wednesday, September 12, 6:45 pm CUMBERLAND 3; Friday, September 14, 9:30 am VARSITY 8. Rating: NNN
In 1941, a dilapidated steamer crowded with nearly 800 Jewish refugees - "a sardine can to oblivion" - mysteriously exploded in the Black Sea after neutral Turkey refused to help. All on board perished except for one survivor. Director Jacobovici (Deadly Currents) uses archival footage and talking-head interviews in addition to his coverage of a British team of divers looking for the previously undiscovered wreck. During the search, more than a sunken ship is found, including secret second world war deals between Turkey, Britain, Germany and Russia, and a current Turkish government that doesn't want the divers to know what other truths lie deep underwater. After the crew's credits in the end titles, the Struma's long-forgotten passengers' names scroll by in a seemingly endless list. It's the film's most emotional moment. SD
LA CHAMBRE DES OFFICIERS
SPEC D: François Dupeyron w/ Eric Caravaca, Denis Podalydes, André Dussollier, Sabine Azéma. France. 135 mins. Wednesday, September 12, 7 pm VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN); Friday, September 14, 7 pm CUMBERLAND 1. Rating: NNN
It's 1914. The dashing young Adrien (Caracava) is off to war. And then a shell explodes, tearing his face apart. Then another battle far from the trenches begins for him, in the "officers' chamber" of a military hospital, where the horribly maimed but still living must learn to live and love again.
It's The French Patient, which would be fine if it hadn't been made with such academic caution, relying too often on conventional scenes (Adrien asks for a mirror to see his disfigured reflection, goes to a brothel to seek the pleasures now denied to him, etc) and a humdrum message - of tolerance, of course - hammered home a little too forcefully. It's solid work, but given the richness of the topic, it could have been great. JC
NORD D: Josef Fares w/ Fares Fares, Torkel Petersson, Tuva Novotny, Laleh Pourkarim, Jan Fares. Sweden. 88 mins. Wednesday, September 12, 7:30 pm UPTOWN 3; Thursday, September 13, 12:15 pm CUMBERLAND 2. Rating: NN
Mans and Roro are best friends and live a peaceful if slight existence working as attendants in a Stockholm park, picking up litter, cleaning the duck pond and eating lunch on the grass. Then Mans is struck by a bout of impotence, while Roro sees himself forced into an arranged marriage by his ferociously traditional Lebanese immigrant tribe of a family.
An innocuous and predictable fable of love, friendship, immigration and sexual dysfunction, this first feature by 24-year-old Swedish-Lebanese director Fares is charming at times, often corny, and not without its grotesque moments - especially in its cartoonish portrayal of the Lebanese clan locked in a world of raised voices, medieval morals and complete cultural autism. JC
PA D: Stefanie Sycholt w/ Ian Roberts, Kagiso Mtetwa. South Africa/Germany. 119 mins. Wednesday, September 12, 9 pm CUMBERLAND 2; Friday, September 14, 10:45 am CUMBERLAND 1. Rating: NNNN
Once hailed as a national hero for killing freedom fighters, a now-decommissioned and disillusioned army officer (Roberts) is reduced to selling furniture polish from the back of a truck. Driving through an inner-city slum of Johannesburg, he's car-jacked by a nine-year-old street kid (Mtetwa) who convinces him that they're about to be killed by pursuing crack dealers. They're not, of course, but soon the two are off on a cross-country journey through the South African outback that's as much about self-discovery as it is a nation's coming to terms with history.
Beautifully shot by frequent Wim Wenders cinematographer Jürgen Jürges, director-writer Sycholt's first feature has "best foreign-language film Oscar" written all over it. But before that happens, much of Roberts's mumbling to himself in Afrikaans needs to be subtitled. Wonderful. SD
Lovingly shot, this intense romance between a rich businessman and a young male architecture student from the Chinese countryside is bursting with eroticism in its early scenes. There's a close physicality that makes us believe theirs is a love that should have lasted years. The action begins in Beijing in 1988, then moves through Tiananmen Square the next year and beyond. There are separations, dalliances and even a marriage on the older man's part. (Curiously, director Kwan's own partner told him years ago that he wanted to get married and have a baby.) The authenticity of the actors makes empathy easy, but the out-and-out melodrama of the story line is more difficult to take. PE