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VIFF 2008: Bright Lights, Big City ... In Search of Festival Fare


With 193 features to choose from, not to mention almost 100 non-fiction films, and 62 shorts, those in attendance at the 27th annual Vancouver International Film Festival are presented with such an overwhelming panoply of cinematic choices there is very little chance that anyone would be able to attend even a reasonably representative sampling of the film fare on offer.

Unless, you've got a hankering to attend one of the "series" (The Ark: Elements and Animals, Canadian Images, Dragons & Tigers, Documentaries or Spotlight on France), or wish to focus on films from one part of the world (Asian cinema, for instance), chances are you may miss "the best" of what Festival Director, Alan Franey, and his merry band of Festival programmers, have on offer for your international viewing pleasure.

So, VanRamblings has an idea: travel to New York City's Film Festival, and you won't even have to leave the comfort of a Vancouver cinema. After all, the New York City Film Festival is allegedly "heavily juried", and their 28 selections are meant to represent the "best" of world cinema. One could do worse than catch the 15 films playing the New York Fest that are also on the schedule of the 27th annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

Attend The 46th Annual New York Film Festival ... In Vancouver

New York City's 17-day Festival - which kicked off this past Friday, September 26th - showcases 28 films by "emerging talents and first-rank international artists." Fifteen of their featured "contemporary classics" are set to screen right here in our lush (if rain-drenched) west coast paradise.

24 City: Jia Zhangke's 24 City, with its talking-head interviews and real-time images of work in a Chinese factory, a work of realism? A documentary? "A dispatch from a postindustrial, science-fiction future, the subject is the dizzying changes in the social and economic landscape of China," says the NY Times' lead critic, A.O. Scott. Wed, Oct 1st @ 12:30pm, Gran 7, Th 2.

After School: A follow-up to his Cannes Critics' Week award winner, Unmei Ja Nai Hito (A Stranger of Mine), Kenji Uchida's ingeniously constructed puzzled plotted script for After School feels "overstrained", says Japan Times film critic, Mark Schilling. But, heck, with more than 400 selections from which to choose, After School made the NY cut. You decide. Screens Sun, Oct 5th 7:30pm, Gran 7 Th 2; & Tue, Oct 7th 4:30pm, Gran 7 Th 2.

Chouga: Darezhan Omirbaev's flat reworking of Anna Karenina is strictly fest-related fare, says Variety magazine. Thu, Oct 2, 11 am, Gran 7 Th 4.

A Christmas Tale: A beautifully-cast, tragic-comic ensemble piece in which an extended family gathers for the title holiday, Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale is an intricate, accomplished patchwork of sometimes nutty but always believable human behaviour, says Screen International's Lisa Nesselson. Wed, Oct 1, 3:30pm, G7, Th7; Fri, Oct 3, 9:30pm, G7, Th7.

The Class: Laurent Cantet's Cannes' Palme d'Or award-winner. 'Nuff said. Screens on Fri, Oct 10, 7pm, G7, Th7; and, Fri, Oct 10, 10pm, G7, Th7.

Four Nights With Anna: Variety magazine likes it, The Hollywood Reporter doesn't. Thu, Oct 9, 6:40pm, G7, Th3; Fri, Oct 10, 11 am, G7, Th4.

Gomorrah: Set in the provinces around Naples, where the crime organization known as the Camorra is not parallel to the everyday workings of society but instead is the everyday workings of society, Gomorra's a sweeping, stirring film that has the shoot-and-loot tension of the best crime cinema but also has the scope and serious intent of great drama, says Cinematical's James Rocchi. Screens on Tuesday, Oct 7th, 9:30pm, at the G7, Th7; and again on Wednesday, Oct 8th, 4pm, at the G7, Th7.

Happy-Go-Lucky: Reveals the British master of ensemble dysfunction at a rich, new creative place, where delight and gratitude are emotions to inspire, rather than to doubt, says the NY Festival programme guide. Netted Best Actress honours for Sally Hawkins at the Berlin Film Festival. Screens on Sat, Oct 4, 4pm, G7, Th7; and Wed, Oct 8, 7pm, G7, Th7.

Hunger: Says the NY Times' Tony Scott, "Steve McQueen's Hunger, about the protests of members of the Irish Republican Army imprisoned by the British in the early 1980s, is unsparing in its depiction of raw, physical experience. At the beginning of the film the prisoners are on a hygiene strike, refusing to shave or bathe and smearing the walls of their cells with their own feces. Later this tactic gives way to self-starvation, and in both cases Mr. McQueen, a well-known English artist making his début as a feature-film director, seems intent on pushing the visual medium of cinema toward the capture of sensory, corporeal experience. Screens on Monday, Oct 6th at 9:15pm, G7, Th3; and Tuesday, Oct 7th at 11am, G7, Th4.

Night and Day: Light, charming but not terribly engaging, and as French as any Korean film is ever going to get, Hong Sangsoo's full-on tribute to the New Wave follows Korean expatriates around the City Of Lights. While brevity has never been one of Hong's particular talents, he raises the bar even higher here with a running time of 147 minutes, says Screen Daily's Dan Fainaru. Screens on Thursday, Oct 9, 8:45pm, Pacific Cinémathèque; and Friday, Oct 10, 4:30pm, Pacific Cinémathèque.

Serbis: Jason Anderson, reviewing the film for Eye Weekly during the recent Toronto Film Festival reflects what most critics feel about Serbis, which is to say, "Set in a decrepit and memorably chaotic Manilla porn theatre, the latest by Brillante Mendoza is a frantic family melodrama that mixes sleaze and social realism to mostly arresting effect. Though a more erratic work than the Filipino director's '07 TIFF entry Slingshot, it bristles with the same restless energy. And while the exploding-ass-boil shot may go several steps beyond the threshold of genteel viewers, Serbis' climactic scene proves the worth of an old showbiz adage: if you're ever worried that you're losing the audience, throw in a runaway goat. Screens on Wed, Oct 1, 10:30am, Gran 7, Th 2; Thu, Oct 2, 9:15pm, Gran 7, Th 3.

Summer Hours: Juliette Binoche. Need we say more. Okay, okay. Here's A.O. Scott: The French director Olivier Assayas's Summer Hours is at first glance an intimate study of family life in which three siblings try to figure out what to do with the country house and the art collection their mother has left them. But without ever mentioning the word, the film is also about globalization, about how the transnational mobility of people, property and money erodes traditional bonds of family, nation and place ... Though Summer Hours is coloured by a sense of loss and melancholy, it's too rigorous and too generous to succumb to sentimentality or nostalgia. Screens three more times: Mon, Sept 29, 7pm, Gran 7, Th 2; Fri, Oct 3, 4pm, Gran 7, Th 7; and Mon, Oct 6, 10:45am, Pacific Cinémathèque.

Tulpan: Polished, funny and utterly charming, Kazakhstan director Sergey Dvortsevoy's first feature film, Tulpan, which won the top prize in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at the Festival de Cannes, tells of a family not only surviving but also relishing the harsh life of sheep-and goat-herders on a barren landscape, says Ray Bennett, in the Hollywood Reporter. Screens twice, on Thu, Oct 2, 7pm, Gran 7, Th 3; & Fri, Oct 3, 1pm, Gran 7, Th 7.

Waltz With Bashir: Early buzz on this film was strong, and the beat was even stronger at the Vancouver International Film Festival among those who caught the media screening. Here's a review by Wendy Ide in the Times of London. Thu, Oct 2, 9:30pm, G7, Th 7; Sun, Oct 5, 1pm, G7, Th 7.

And last, but certainly not least, Kelly Reichardt's splendid ...

Wendy and Lucy: The story of a young woman and her dog that is also about money, individualism and solidarity in contemporary America, starring Michelle Williams, and Reichardt's own dog dog, Lucy. Either you like the director's laid back, slice-of-life style, or you don't. VanRamblings does. Screens three times: Wednesday, Oct 1 at 2:30pm, Gran 7, Th 3; Saturday, Oct 4, 1pm, Gran 7, Th 7; Tuesday, Oct 7, 9pm, Gran 7, Th 4.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 28, 2008 11:48 PM in VIFF 2008


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