A & E






Newspapers & Magazines




Web / Tech

VIFF 2011, Day Two: 30th Annual VIFF Off To A 'Disturbing' Start


From here on in, VanRamblings and Showbiz Shayne will schedule more tried-and-true Festival fare, and although we'll continue to screen the 'darker' films on offer at VIFF30, to some greater degree we'll turn our attention to more of VIFF's insightful 'cinema of the world' family dramas, or the many warm and irresistibly humane black comedies, the challenging noir thrillers, or the sumptuous South American 'travelogue' films.

Two days into VIFF30, where 'deeply disturbing' has turned into an early 'theme' of the 30th VIFF for Mr. Know It All and Showbiz Shayne, we are ready for a break from violence, anomie and the psychologically wounding, physically devastating film fare that has defined our Festival thus far.

Still, it hasn't all been devastating, deeply disturbing pitch black dark fare:

Circumstance, Nikohl Boosheri and Sarah Kazimi

  • One Lucky Elephant (Grade: B+): Lisa Leeman's poignant, bittersweet documentary tracks Circus Flora and the circus' avuncular ringmaster and warm-hearted owner, David Balding. Having trained Flora from a young age, Balding and Flora develop what can clearly be considered a tender bond. The crux of the story revolves a humane decision Balding takes to return Flora to Africa. When that plan fails, Balding arranges for Flora's continuing care at what becomes a cascading series of elephant sanctuaries, ending with a wrenching decision taken by one sanctuary owner that denies Balding contact with his beloved Flora. Richly rewarding, almost poetic in its cinematic melancholy, beautifully shot and realized, One Last Elephant offers an affectionate, moving and bittersweet tale of loss and love. Screens today, as well once in the last week of the Film Festival: Saturday, October 1st, 11am, Granville 7, Theatre 2; Wednesday, October 12th, 12:20pm, Gr 7 Th 1.

  • Kill List (Grade: C-): Pointless and ultra violent, yet beautifully shot and realized by British director Ben Wheatley (who brought Down Terrace to VIFF last year), production wise Kill List offers a marked improvement in Wheatley's arthouse production skills ... but to what end? The story of two men, Jay and Gal (Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley), best mates and hitmen for hire, who take on one last job, the images of violence onscreen are unbearably indelible. Does any viewer really need to watch the brutal torture of a man beaten to death with a hammer, every joint in his body destroyed and his head smashed to pumpkin mash, and watch similar scenes time and time again, all in service of what? Insight? Limning the human condition? (As it happens, there are no more screenings planned. Thank goodness. You're better off for it)

  • Michael (Grade: A): One of the three most controversial films at this year's Festival (the others, My Little Princess and Sleeping Beauty), Austrian director Markus Schleinzer's dark, discomfiting film tracks the days of a taciturn, almost mute, 30-ish, middle-aged, mid-level management executive who keeps a devastating secret: held hostage in his padlocked and soundproofed basement, Michael — a pedophile, sexual predator and kidnapper — keeps a young boy hostage. Although it may be cliché to write, Michael - quietly and with devastating force - explores the notion of the utter banality of evil, and how each of us is ultimately unknowable. As with the films we have reviewed previously - Tyrannosaur, Without and Kill List - Michael emerges as a frighteningly realized and deeply disturbing film. Screens twice more: Tuesday, October 4th, 9:15pm, Gr 7 Th 1; Friday, October 14th, noon, Gr 7 Th 4.

  • Circumstance (Grade: B): For one of the best reviewed Iranian films of the year, VanRamblings found this story of forbidden love in Tehran to lack a sense of place (you never feel Iran), the film emerging as relatively plodding and prosaic fare. Still, all of the central performances are first-rate, as are the film's production values, script and score. There's just no character, or cinematic, arc in the film, as Circumstance moves inexorably forward to its inevitable, disheartening conclusion. Screens one more time, tomorrow: Sunday, Oct 2nd, 1:15pm, Vogue.

  • Honey Pupu (Grade: C): "In the beginning nothing, and in the end nothing." An inexplicable quote from Conrad Aiken. And in between? An utterly pointless exercise in anomie, set amidst the hipster/punk set in Taipei. Replete with badly titled translation, and nothing approaching indelible performances. Screens two more times: Sunday, October 2nd, 9pm, Granville 7 Th 3; Monday, October 3rd 11:40am, Granville 7 Th 3.

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Notes: VIFF is unable to secure the proper European digital equipment for a pristine screening of Bruno Dumont's Outside Satan. As a consequence, the film is available only as a DVD 'print', dark, muddy and with a time code running along the top of the screen. Unless you're a huge Dumont fan, its probably not worthwhile attending a corrupted screening of Hors Satan.

Word out of the Vogue Theatre, from various of the volunteers and Festival staff working there is that there have been some unusual 'operational problems' during the early part of the Festival that need to be dealt with; probably something that VIFF admin will want to address sooner than later.

And, finally for this post, an acknowledgement once again for all the hard work that the VIFF administration have put into bringing us a tremendously difficult to mount, but always rewarding, Vancouver International Film Festival. VanRamblings wants to give special mention to Alan Franey, perhaps the best arts administrator Vancouver has seen in the past quarter century. Alan's calm demeanour, his warm spirit and genuine humanity, his abiding intelligence and unsurpassed facility in speaking of the films he loves with a mixture of passion tempered with reason, his superior logistical, motivational and administrative skills, his ability to keep all of the Festival staff, the volunteers and the Board of Directors working together, year in year out, to bring us the première cultural event of Vancouver's arts year should be very much appreciated by Festival patrons.

VanRamblings intends to nominate Alan for an Order of BC award.

We are all, each and every one of us, very fortunate to have Alan in place. Let's all sign on to secure the Order of BC for VIFF Director, Alan Franey!

star.jpg star.jpg star.jpg

Full VR daily coverage of the Vancouver Film Festival may be found here.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 1, 2011 7:37 AM in VIFF 2011


back to top