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VIFF 2011, Day 5: A Revelatory Day at The Vancouver Film Festival


By far, VanRamblings' four favourite films so far are Pure, The Sandman, Corpo Celeste and Michael. Utterly original directorial visions, with revelatory performances, fully realized creations, disturbing, humane, so challenging they leave you unsettled, rattled to your core, these four films are in a category by themselves, each of the films tour-de-force cinema.

  • Pure (Grade: A+): "Courage is the only measure of life," Kierkegaard. Completely revelatory, by far the finest cinematic creation we've screened thus far at the 30th annual Vancouver International Film Festival, Lisa Langseth's stunning, utterly original and profoundly moving and wholly unsettling début stars Alicia Vikander as Katarina — unloved, utterly alone, emotionally unstable with, perhaps, a tendency towards psychopathy and, likely, a narcissistic personality disorder — in the strongest performance, in the strongest movie we've seen this year. Not to be too hard on Katarina, Vikander has created a sympathetic, if troubled, character, someone you root for through much of the film, someone whose joy you experience the few times Katarina experiences happiness. Vikander's Katarina is the most complex cinematic creature we've seen on screen at VIFF30, which makes her, and the film itself, compelling to watch. You will want to rush out to purchase your tickets for Pure, or make a point of standing in line for one, or both, of the film's upcoming screenings: Tuesday, October 11th, 3pm, Empire Granville 7, Th 3; or Thursday, October 13th, 9:30pm, Gr 7, Th 7.

  • Bullhead (Grade: B+): One rip snortin', high energy mafiosa killin' cross-border French / Flemish illegal hormone dealin' slaughterhouse tragi-comedy, Flemish writer-director Michael R. Roskam's auspicious, rocket-powered feature début also contains a breakout performance from Matthias Schoenaerts, the raging bull of Roskam's film. An insinuating, haunting, atmospheric film, Mr. Roskam was present for a Sunday afternoon screening and told the audience that his eponymous anti-hero gained 27 kilos and massive musculature for the role, telling us as well that Schoenaerts — whose father was an icon of the Belgian theatre until his death four years ago — has just been cast in Jacques Audiard's (The Prophet) new film. Added screening: 10:30am, Thursday, October 6th, Granville 7.

  • Restoration (Grade: A-): One of those peerless and involving human-scale dramas that VanRamblings simply cannot get enough of, ostensibly this Israeli film is about a misanthropic furniture restorer, his immediate family and an interloper who comes on scene. But, really, more than anything else, Restoration is a gentle film of observance of the fragile bonds that tie families together, the resolution of the story something of a revelation, well-earned, with genuine emotion and a great deal of heart. Addenda to our review: Longtime film critic Peter Chattaway, having read our review, points out that the title of the film has everything to do with the restoration of the family, which it is obvious has been rent for many, many years. Another Festival-goer caused us to recall that early in the film, when the film's main protagonist had called in a piano repairer to establish whether the Steinway piano in his possession could be repaired, he was told that the basic structure of the piano, its heart, had been broken, and it would be all but impossible to repair. Such insights now cause us to raise the letter grade for the film to an A-. Screens today: Tuesday, October 4th, 4:15pm, Vogue, and Monday, October 10, 8pm, Granville 7, Th 6.

  • Headshot (Grade: B+): A tale of betrayal, set mostly in the rain drenched Thai countryside, the story of a good cop who's framed following the bust of a prominent politician's son, and who then becomes an "assassination expert" for an organization hell bent on retribution for the evil done by the Thai state, Headshot offers gorgeous, atmospheric Bogey and Bacall noir, a troubled but eminently sympathetic hero (Nopachai 'Peter' Jayanama), and conniving (but oh so sympathetic) women with hearts of gold, who live (and die) in perfidy. Pulp fiction of the first order. Screens for a final time at VIFF. this coming: Friday, October 7th, 8pm, Empire Granville 7, Theatre 6.

  • Cairo 678 (Grade: A-): One of the true standouts at VIFF30, with three of the most sympathetic performances to be found in any film screening at VIFF this year, a well-told story with heart and a great script that provides powerful and cogent insight into the daily sexual harassment Egyptian women experience in what can, at times, be seen as a regressive Muslim society unwilling to confront the demeaning conduct directed towards the distaff element of Egyptian society. In addition to the outstanding performances by the female leads, there's a great performance by Maged El Kedwany, who plays a seasoned cop, investigating a mysterious rash of attacks on men by a knife-wielding feminist vigilante. Not pedantic or didactic in the least, but rather a compelling human story told with much skill. Screens for a final time at VIFF: Wednesday, Oct 5th, 9:15pm, Empire Granville 7, Theatre 4.

All and all, a tremendous and inspiring filmgoing Monday at VIFF 2011.

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Notes: Ran into Festival Director Alan Franey in the early part of the evening on Monday, and came away apprised of the now resolved situation vis-à-vis the 'problem' with digital projection in Empire Granville 7's Theatre 7, the only house equipped with DCP projection equipment. Those problems resulted in Festival projection staff having to present muddy, watermarked, time-coded DVD's of VIFF-booked films.

To resolve the digital projection fault issue, the Vancouver Film Festival brought in DCP 'experts' from across Canada to try to find a resolution. The solution (finally!) involved a digital projection software upgrade. Hallelujah! Problem solved. From here on in, VIFF Festival-goers will be treated to the very warmest and the very best Digital Cinema available.

"Still, I sometimes wish that we could return to using only 35mm, tangible prints you could take out the 'cans' and mount onto projection equipment. Those days are gone, or soon will be," Alan averred wistfully.

Morning passholders line-up: Although it would be an exaggeration to refer to what occurred in the morning passholders line-up as a fiasco, quite clearly on the first Monday of VIFF there was a great deal of kvetching going on around the decision taken by Brie Koniczek to split the passholders line-up into volunteers and all other passholders. The result? An unconscionable delay and a slowing down of the line to acquire tickets. Sad to say, Brie was unreceptive when VanRamblings raised the matter with her (we believe we were charming, as we've been referred by many of the patrons in the line-up with whom we've exchanged VIFF 'war stories').

Where the four volunteers dispensing tickets from the ticket table had previously worked in unison, helping each other out, and in the process causing the lineups to move quickly through the ticket acquisition process, Monday morning the shorter volunteer passholder's lineup moved relatively quickly, while the remaining passholder's lineup moved forward at a snail's pace, causing many patrons to either miss their first screening of the day, or fail to secure a decent seat in the cinema screening their film choice.

VanRamblings spoke with Iulia Manolescu (who many passholders know and love), and Pierre LeFebvre, about the matter, Pierre telling us that a dozen passholder patrons had already approached him. He told us that he'd broach the subject, with Brie, of making a change for Tuesday.

Here's hoping the passholde'rs line-up problem finds resolution.

In closing, and this can't be said often enough, note should be made that mounting the VIFF, and arranging for all aspects of the exhibition (from line-ups to projection) can only be considered a gargantuan task. VanRamblings is not critical of the administration, and is never critical of the volunteer staff, the lifeblood of the Festival. And we are not critical of Brie, either; if we were tasked with her job, we'd tear our hair out!

That occasional glitches arise is a given; if VanRamblings finds ourselves able to pass information along to cause the Festival to run more smoothly, we do so with a good heart and in the interests of all.

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

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 4, 2011 8:31 AM in VIFF 2011


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