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VIFF 2008: The Cinema of Despair Returns


The screening of Wendy and Lucy so unsettled VanRamblings this past Wednesday, that we needed a couple of days to recover from the melancholy that had us in its grip following our mid-week viewing of Kelly Reichardt's woeful reflection on living a sad, dispossessed life in America.

Nonetheless, we trudged forward to continue our Festival attendance.

We became aware, as well, of the buzz films at this year's Fest, some having completed their run, some still to screen. Among the buzz films are: Eden, the small-but-powerful Irish film that tracks the slow disintegration of a marriage; and, Modern Life, Raymond Depardon's film about dairy farmers struggling to eke out a living in the French highlands. Modern Life was greeted with a standing ovation at its Cannes première. Screens again Mon, Oct 6 @ 11:30am, Gran7, Th 3, and Wed, Oct 8 @ 7:15pm, Gran7, Th 6.

Over the past three days, among other films, VanRamblings has taken in ...

Among The Clouds (Grade: B+): Iranian director Rouhollah Hejazi's bittersweet drama, set in southwest Iran near the Iraqi border, presents the touching story of a resourceful 16-year-old baggage porter who becomes smitten with a slightly older Iraqi woman who's not what she seems. Winner of the prize for best Iranian feature début at the Fajr Film Festival, with its lyrical cinematography and a haunting score, Among The Clouds ranks as one of our favourites at this year's Festival. Screens one more time, on Monday, Oct 6th @ 5:45pm, Empire Granville 7, in Th 1.

Firaaq (Grade: C): A narratively confusing, misogynist, sprawling low-
budget melodrama about the 2002 sectarian carnage in Gujarat, where 3,000 Muslims were killed, a film that sets about to address the humanitarian tragedy in Gujarat should offer far better treatment than this.

Tulpan (Grade: A-): Set on the the harsh but lustrously beautiful Kazakh steppe, and presenting the traditional lifestyle of nomadic sheep herders, this Cannes' Un Certain Regard winner is absolutely teeming with life as it tells its eminently engaging story of Asa (Askhat Kuchinchirekov), who shares a yurt with his beautiful older sister Samal (Samal Yeslyamova), his unforgiving brother-in-law Ondas (Ondasyn Besikbasov) and their four boisterous children. With its arresting scenes of a blue sky landscape that seems to go on forever, and with scenes of moving (and often humorous) familial intimacy inside the yurt, Tulpan was a must-see at this year's Fest. As Tulpan has completed its Festival run, let's hope Mark Peranson brings it to the VanCity Theatre for a one-week run at some point in the next year.

The Girl by the Lake (Grade: B+): Playing to a packed house at The Ridge, on a rain-drenched Saturday afternoon, The Girl by the Lake tells the surprisingly leisurely story of the murder of a young woman who is found nude on the side of a rural lake, but with no signs of sexual assault or a struggle. Into the picture comes Inspector Giovanni Sanzio (Toni Servillo), who is called in from the provincial capital to solve the mystery of the woman's death. More concerned with the Inspector's home life with his daughter and their travails revolving around the hospitalization of their wife/mother, and an exploration of the idiosyncracies of the town folk, any one of whom seems a prime suspect (not the least of whom is the father, who has filmed his daughter just a little too lovingly). The Girl by the Lake is not great art, but it certainly emerges as watchable Festival film fare. Mon, Oct 6th 6:40pm, Gran7, Th 3, and Wed, Oct 8th 11am, Gran7, Th 4.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 4, 2008 11:30 PM in VIFF 2008


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