Barbara (Christian Petzold) casts Nina Hoss as a doctor assigned to an East German hospital sometime in the early 80s. Under constant surveillance for an unknown offence, she carries herself with an impenetrable rigidity. It's a risky choice to introduce your protagonist as an unreadable cipher, but Hoss is up to the challenge. We can't stop looking at her. Interactions with patients offer flashes of the person Barbara might have been, and as the film goes on, the slightest changes of expression signal minute cracks in her facade. Why is she ferrying cash from one place to another? The obvious comparison is to Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck's 2007 thriller The Lives Of Others, which has a similar setting but a different approach. Barbara isn't a thriller, but a character study of a woman trying desperately not to give herself away, and it carries a fascinating power. Subtitled. 105 min.
Rating: NNNN (NW)
Opens Dec 28 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. See here for times.
Not Fade Away (David Chase) is obviously a very personal film for the creator of The Sopranos, a coming-of-age story set in the 60s told from the perspective of Douglas (John Magaro), who, inspired by the Rolling Stones, forms a band and tries to make it big. It's lovingly art directed, with an expertly selected soundtrack that mines the music of the times - who'd have thought you'd hear Tracy Nelson's Down So Low in a feature film? - but there's almost nothing new in the story itself. Douglas goes to college and gets radicalized, freaking out his father (James Gandolfini) - a relationship that becomes more and more predictable. The band members argues about who should be the lead singer, get a flicker of interest from a would-be manager who wants to cramp their creative style and make them sing covers. But Not Fade Away, with its profound belief in the power of rock ‘n' roll, has a longing to it that is palpable. If you grew up in the era, you'll love this. Just about everyone else won't get it. 112 min.
Rating: NNN (SGC)
Opens Dec 28 at Yonge & Dundas 24. See here for times.