Film Festival Reviews

Rating: NNNNNfriday 8 LES GLANEURS ET LA GLANEUSERTR D: Agnes Varda France. 82 mins. Friday, September 8, 6:00 pm CUMBERLAND 3.

Rating: NNNNN

friday 8

LES GLANEURS ET LA GLANEUSERTR D: Agnes Varda France. 82 mins. Friday, September 8, 6:00 pm CUMBERLAND 3 Saturday, September 9, 9:15 pm ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM Rating: NNNN NVarda makes a fascinating journey into the French heartland, where people still gather food left in the fields after the harvest — potatoes, grapes, apples. She juxtaposes these provincial gleaners with the urban street folk who pick through garbage bins in their search for food. Varda masterfully blends herself into the journey, on one level addressing her own impending old age and death. She’s such a wise woman — listen to how stunningly simple and to-the-point her interview questions are. And she’s so full of joy that she easily sweeps us up in her quest for justice. Food should never go to waste. IR

INNOCENCESPEC D: Paul Cox w/ Julia Blake, Charles Tingwell, Terry Norris. Australia. 95 mins. Friday, September 8, 7:00 pm VARSITY 8 Sunday, September 10, 4:00 pm UPTOWN 3 Rating: NNNNN NA man and a woman reunite 50 years after they first fell in love. With this modest premise, Cox creates a film of such passion and intelligence that it leaps across age and gender barriers. Tingwell plays a widowed organist who finds out that the woman he once loved in post-war Belgium now resides in his Australian city. Each brave step they take is fraught with realistic complications (she’s still married), but their triumphs are even greater. Sure to be the sleeper hit of the festival. KL

MAELSTROM PC D: Denis Villeneuve w/ Marie-Josee Croze, Jean-Nicolas Verreault, Stephanie Morgenstern, Pierre Lebeau, Klimbo. 88 mins. Friday, September 8, 7:00 pm ELGIN Saturday, September 9, 9:30 am CUMBERLAND 2 Rating: NNNA bloated, ugly fish with at least nine lives narrates this story of a young woman whose life circles around to embrace the tragedy she caused. Villeneuve (August 32 On Earth) stages a dazzling opening to the film, and makes sure to keep things aggressively interesting. Maelstrom feels like Wong Kar-wai in a melancholy mood, which is the best and the worst that can be said of the film. It is powerfully intimate, reveals a beautiful collusion between the camera’s thin depth-of-field and the face of lead actor Marie-Josee Croze, and strives to show the organizing force of chance in our lives. But the baroque, watery narrative frame distracts. Lose the fish. CB

THE FAREWELL (ABSCHIED)CWC D: Jan Schutte w/ Josef Bierbichler, Monica Bleibtreu, Margit Rogall, Jeanette Hain. Germany. 93 mins. Friday, September 8, 8:30 pm CUMBERLAND 4 Sunday, September 10, 2:15 pm, VARSITY 2. Rating: NN1956. The last day of summer. A villa in East Germany. The Stasi at the gates. Inside, legendary playwright Bertolt Brecht is spending his final ailing days surrounded by his wife, lover(s) and other devotees. The air is tense, eerie and imbued with a sense of doom that slowly — though not very clearly — materializes. Although Schutte captures this strange atmosphere and its underlying ominous mood effectively, The Farewell is seriously plagued by the hermetic obscurity of its narrative. Neither informative nor entertaining. JC

FAITHLESSSPEC D: Liv Ullmann w/ Lena Endre, Erland Josephson, Krister Henriksson, Thomas Hanzon. Sweden. 154 mins. Friday, September 8, 8:45 pm UPTOWN 1 Sunday, September 10, noon UPTOWN 1 Rating: NNNNN NBased on a Bergman screenplay (inspired by an autobiographical episode so raw that he couldn’t shoot it himself), Faithless is the riveting, quasi-surgical analysis of an infidelity and its consequences. We’re definitely on Scenes From A Marriage turf here, so those who aren’t fans might want to abstain. Others will be tempted to accuse the apprentice of having copied the master, but that’s beside the point. To create is always, to some extent, to borrow. Ullmann, one of Bergman’s favourite actors, has done so very skillfully indeed. Endre is spellbinding. JC

ALMOST FAMOUSGALA D: Cameron Crowe w/ Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand. U.S. 125 mins. Friday, September 8, 9:30 pm ROY THOMSON HALL Saturday, September 9, noon VARSITY 8 Rating: NNN In the “I liked it, but…” category. Crowe’s film is a thinly veiled autobiography dealing with his days as a teenage Rolling Stone correspondent on the road with bands like the Allman Brothers. His mentor, apparently, was Lester Bangs, who, as played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, suggests that there’s a much more interesting biographical picture to be made about Bangs than about Fugit’s wide-eyed baby journo. There is some terrific, carefully selected early-70s detail and outstanding performances by Crudup and Jason Lee as the leaders of the band that should be the Allmans, but none of them is on heroin. The soundtrack of 70s classics is evocative without being cliched.

STATE AND MAINSPEC D: David Mamet w/ William H. Macy, Rebecca Pidgeon, Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Paymer. U.S. 90 mins. Friday, September 8, 9:30 pm VISA SCREENING ROOM (ELGIN) Sunday, September 10, 9:30 am CUMBERLAND 2 Rating: NNN Despite the presence of stars like Alec Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker, Mamet’s comedy about a New England town invaded by a slick-talking movie crew belongs to the character actors, particularly Macy as a director who could tap dance his way out of hell, Hoffman as an insecure writer and Paymer as a malevolent producer. This could be Mamet’s commercial breakout film — the persistent comedy, as well as the glee with which Baldwin and Parker play self-absorbed, airhead movie stars, might make it a Mamet film for people who don’t like Mamet — but I miss the coiled menace that underlies most of his best work. And I thought The Spanish Prisoner was funnier. JH

NO PLACE TO GOCWC D: Oskar Roehler w/ Hannelore Elsner, Vadim Glowna, Jasmin Tabatabai. Germany. 103 mins. Friday, September 8, 9:45 pm CUMBERLAND 1 Saturday, September 16, 6:45 pm CUMBERLAND 1 Rating: NNNN NArguably the best film in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, No Place To Go is the story of Gisela Elsner, a West German writer whose doctrinaire allegiance to the Communist party destroys her. When the Berlin Wall comes down, she discovers that it wasn’t a workers’ paradise and that she’s lost not only her audience but also her reason for living. Strikingly photographed in velvety black-and-white (credit cinematographer Hagen Bodganski), No Place To Go turns the Modernist landscape of Berlin into a spiritual setting unimagined by a lyrical filmmaker like Wim Wenders. It views its subject with a mixture of admiration and horror — writer director Roehler is Elsner’s son, and the film is not a documentary. JH

saturday 9

TABOO (GOHATTO) MAST D: Nagisa Oshima w/ Beat Kitano, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shinji Takeda. Japan. 101 mins. Saturday, September 9, 3:00 pm ELGIN Thursday, September 14, 3:30 pm UPTOWN 1 Rating: NNN An astonishing journey into the heart of a 19th-century Samurai militia that finds itself knocked off-balance by the bewitching, androgynous beauty of a new recruit. Oshima (of In The Realm Of The Senses fame) explores the repressed homosexual tensions of this closed, traditional society with spare refinement and slight claustrophobia. An odd, elliptical tale — and a unique chance to see festival darling director Takeshi “Beat” Kitano (Hana-bi, Sonatine, Kikujiro) acting in a most unusual guise. JC

KEEP THE RIVER ON YOUR RIGHTRTR D: Laurie Gwen Shapiro, David Shapiro. U.S. 90 mins. Saturday, September 9, 3 pm UPTOWN 2 Monday, September 11, 9 pm ROM Rating: NNNNNThe filmmakers got the 78-year-old Tobias Schneebaum, abstract expressionist painter and amateur anthropologist, to retrace his youthful journeys to Borneo and Peru’s jungle lowlands and to talk extensively about those experiences. This kind of film stands or falls on the personality of its subject, and in Schneebaum they have a great one, a combination of raconteur and old kvetch — on the one hand rhapsodizing about the Borneo landscape and on the other worrying about his footing on the muddy trail: “One slip and I’ve got another broken hip!” JH

KRAMPACK CWC D: Cesc Gay w/ Fernando Ramallo, Jordi Vilches. Spain. 90 mins. Saturday, September 9, 3:15 pm VARSITY 8 Sunday, September 10, 11:45 am CUMBERLAND 1 Rating: NNThe set-up is familiar — a couple of good-looking boys on vacation get the parental units’ summer house and go cruising for nubiles. All right! But there’s an unexpected twist. Well, unexpected until about 10 minutes in. The heroes take their time realizing that while they may be cruising the beach babes, they’re really more interested in each other. Amiable performances from the remarkably attractive young cast, and, of course, there’s all that Spanish scenery. JH

MEMENTOCWC D: Christopher Nolan w/ Guy Pearce, Carrie-Ann Moss, Joe Pantoliano. U.S. 113 mins. Saturday, September 9, 6:00 pm UPTOWN 2 Monday, September 11, 9:00 am UPTOWN 2 Rating: NNN Dana Carvey made a comedy about a private eye who couldn’t remember what happened to him the day before. In Memento, Guy Pearce can’t even remember what happened 15 minutes ago, so he uses a bag of mnemonic tricks to help him find out who killed his wife. Nolan ratchets up the suspense by incorporating the inevitable repetition of situations and dialogues into the process. Like Pinter’s Betrayal, the scenes are arranged in reverse chronological order. This is stylistic mastery. PE

AMORES PERROSCWC D: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu w/ Gael Garcia Bernal, Goya Toledo, Vanessa Bauche, Alvaro Guerrero. Mexico. 153 mins. Saturday, September 9, 6:00 pm VARSITY 8 Sunday, September 10, 12:45 pm UPTOWN 3 Rating: NNNN NSpinning three stories out of a central event (a car crash), Amores Perros has drawn comparisons with Quentin Tarantino, as if no one else had made an omnibus film before. Working from a screenplay by Guilermo Arriaga, Inarritu shows himself to be a wildly inventive director, shifting tone and attitude from tale to tale, from the working-class milieu of dogfights and poverty in the first story to the bourgeois adultery in the second, and in the third resolving events that occurred during the first two. In a year when Cannes was loaded with 150-minute films, this one is not overlong despite its running time. Its strong performances and raw cinematography forge a meeting ground for melodrama and realism. JH

ANGELS OF THE UNIVERSECWC D: Fridrik Thor Fridriksson w/ Ingvar E. Sigurdsson. Iceland/Norway/Germany/Sweden/Denmark. 95 mins. Saturday, September 9, 6:30 pm CUMBERLAND 2 Sunday, September 10, 1:00 pm CUMBERLAND 3 Rating: NN Abandoning the exterior road movies (Cold Fever, Devil’s Island) that brought him to our attention, Fridriksson turns inward with this well-crafted foray into the world of schizophrenia. When his protagonist’s seemingly normal life in Reykjavik collapses in not much more than 60 seconds, the action shifts to a psychiatric institution with an all too familiar roster of sadly deluded souls. Einar Mar Gudmundsson’s book about his schizophrenic brother has been adapted into a film that’s both painful to watch and basically uninteresting. PE

LOVE COME DOWNPC D: Clement Virgo w/ Larenz Tate, Martin Cummins, Deborah Cox. 100 mins. Saturday, September 9, 6:30 pm UPTOWN 1 Sunday, September 10, 1:00 pm UPTOWN 2 Rating: NNN Virgo’s first theatrical film since Rude explores issues of family history in an ethnically polyglot world. Two brothers (Larenz Tate and Martin Cummins), one black, one white, struggle with life in the big city. One’s a boxer, the other’s an aspiring comic with a substance abuse problem. Even though this movie eerily starts to sound like The Perfect Son, Virgo has the ability to throw a whole bunch of cliches into a box and shake ’em out again shiny and new enough to be interesting. He’s also a superb director of actors, but this is not so evident in his handling of newcomer Deborah Cox. JH

PETITE CHERIE CWC D: Anne Villaceque w/ Corinne Debonniere, Jonathan Zaccai, Laurence Prejean. France.106 mins. Saturday, September 9, 7:00 pm VARSITY 4 & 5 Monday, September 11, 10:00 am UPTOWN 3 Rating: NNNIf anyone ever wondered what Jane Campion’s Sweetie would be like if it were a French film, here it is. A 30-year-old bank teller (Debonniere) lives with her parents in the suburbs. One day, she meets the boy of her dreams, the good-looking and broke Zaccai, whom she moves into her house and marries, only to discover that he’s not what he seems. Less interesting as drama than as an exercise in tone, Petite Cherie is a little long for the thinness of its narrative but worth seeing for its air of creeping claustrophobia. JH

VACANCES AU PAYSPA D: Jean-Marie Teno. Cameroon/France/Germany. 75 minss. Saturday, September 9, 8:30 pm CUMBERLAND 4 Tuesday, September 12, 4:15 pm CUMBERLAND 1 Rating: NNN Teno’s Vacances Au Pays takes the director upcountry from Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, to his home village. He’s in search of what he calls tropical modernity, the ill fit between western technology and African tradition. What he finds are failed schemes and abuses of power — everywhere Africans are embracing rusty European ideas. In Chef! and Africa, I Will Fleece You, Teno has already taken swipes at how foreign malice and homegrown corruption have blighted Cameroon. With Vacances Au Pays, he takes that jaundiced eye from the city to the bush. And maybe because he’s approaching home, the tone grows less righteous and more searching. CB

GIRLFIGHTCWC D: Karyn Kusama w/ Michelle Rodriguez. U.S. 110 mins. Saturday, September 9, 9:00 pm UPTOWN 2 Monday, September 11, 3:00 pm UPTOWN 2 Rating: NNNN NGirlfight roared out of Sundance with the director’s prize and the Grand Jury Prize for its story of a tough latina high-school girl who channels her anger and aggression into training as a boxer. It’s easy to see why the Sundance trendinistas loved this — the message of underclass/feminist uplift is delivered like a series of left jabs. But Kusama does direct well, given her tiny budget, and star Rodriguez is a revelation on an almost Swankian level. Where the heck did this performance come from? JH

BROTHERMAST D: Takeshi Kitano w/ “Beat” Takeshi, Omar Epps. U.S./Japan/UK. 107 mins. Saturday, September 9, 9:15 pm UPTOWN 1 Monday, September 11, 9:00 am VARSITY 8 Rating: NN Takeshi’s latest gangster opus is set in L.A., where his character has escaped from a Japanese turf war only to start another wherever he turns. The body count is high, which is to be expected in this genre, but it’s relentlessly ugly, too. I enjoy how Takeshi screws with people at odd moments, and I admire that this film sticks to its bloody convictions right to the end, but I didn’t like it. KL

THE WEIGHT OF WATERGALA D: Kathryn Bigelow w/ Sean Penn, Sarah Polley, Elizabeth Hurley, Katrin Cartlidge. U.S./France. 110 mins. Saturday, September 9, 9:30 pm ROY THOMSON HALL Sunday, September 10, noon VARSITY 8 Rating: NNNN

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