October 19, 2012
Although VanRamblings has begun an exploration of the worthy films due out between now and year's end, a task which we commenced yesterday, in today's post we'll publish a full list of the Audience Favourites at VIFF 2012.
(but before we begin, just a reminder ... you know, always a good thing)
The Top 25% of International Features at VIFF 2012
All these films were very well attended, received at least 75 ballots, and averaged well over 4 in public voting (4 being "very good"; 5 being "excellent"). In order of rating:
The Hunt, dir. Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark/Sweden)
Nuala, dir. Patrick Farrelly, Kate O'Callaghan (Ireland)
The Invisible War, dir. Kirby Dick (USA)
Come As You Are, dir. Geoffrey Enthoven (Belgium)
Any Day Now, dir. Travis Fine (USA)
Royal Affair, dir. Nikolaj Arcel (Denmark/Sweden/Czech Republic)
Wagner's Dream, dir. Susan Froemke (USA)
El gusto, dir. Safinez Bousbia (Algeria/France/Ireland/UAE)
The Sessions, dir. Ben Lewin (USA)
Beware of Mr. Baker, dir. Jay Bulger (USA)
The Sound of the Bandoneón, dir. Jiska Rickels (Netherlands)
The Iran Job, dir. Till Schauder (USA/Germany/Iran)
October 18, 2012
With Vancouver's International Film Festival fading into memory, what do cinephiles have to look forward to when it comes to cinema?
Fortunate for us, the end of VIFF harkens the beginning of Hollywood's serious season, that time of year when Paramount, Universal, Disney, Sony and the Weinstein Company release their catalogue of Oscar-contending great cinema into the darkened theatres located in neighbourhoods near to us. Yes, it is true that attending movies at our local multiplex can be a dear financial experience, and yes it is also true that theatre attendance, and movie box office, are down, way down from years past — fewer than half as many people go to movies today as was the case in the 1930s, and our population is two and a half times what it was then — but for lovers of cinema, the communal experience of seeing and feeling great movies while surrounded by our neighbours and friends and family emerges for us as an experience that is so deeply woven into the fabric of our lives that we would no sooner forego the experience than forego the act of breathing.
Today, we will begin a review of the 20, or so, fine films that are either currently resident at a local multiplex near you, or are due to arrive to much fanfare in our humble little village by the sea over the coming 2½ months, as we point you in the direction of films that'll contend for Oscar, worthy of your most precious resource: your time and money and attention.
First up today, those well-reviewed, well-conceived Hollywood-funded artistic endeavours that have already found their way into our local multiplexes (Hollywood-funded art, almost a contradiction in terms, huh? ... but Hollywood does produce a few cinephile-friendly films each year, despite the mind-numbing corporate nullities they release through much of the rest of the year). The most-talked about artistic film endeavour of 2012 is ...
Both the most controverial and the most celebrated film of the year, Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master has been referred to reverentially as a cinematic masterpiece, "mesmerizing in word and deed" (Kenneth Turan, LA Times), and "one of the great movies of the year — an ambitious, challenging, and creatively hot-blooded but cool toned project that picks seriously at knotty ideas about American personality, success, rootlessness, master-disciple dynamics, and father-son mutually assured destruction." (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly). A certain Oscar contender, with Best Actor Oscar nods for Joachim Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman (who may drop down to Best Supporting Actor) a certainty, and a likely Best Supporting Actress nod for the wonderful Amy Adams a strong probability, this "brilliant, exasperating, challenging and unmissable" film (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune) demands the attention of any serious cinephile. Currently booked into Leonard Schein's Fifth Avenue Cinemas, as well as Cineplex-Odeon's Scotiabank downtown.
Argo. "A superbly crafted and darkly funny real-life political thriller, with pitch-perfect performances (Claudia Puig, USA Today), "a skilfully made grownup entertainment, combining an incredible true story with crafty thriller conventions (Tim Grierson, Screen Daily), who also writes ...
Based on the 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Iran by militants, which forced six staff members to seek refuge in the Canadian embassy. With the Iranian Revolution raging and the American staffers in danger, CIA operative Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) hatched a desperate plan: Work with a Hollywood producer (Alan Arkin) and Oscar-winning makeup artist (John Goodman) to concoct a fake sci-fi movie and convince the Iranian authorities that the Americans are actually part of a Canadian film crew in Iran to scout locations. As preposterous as that plan sounds, Argo documents real events.
Runner-up for the Audience Award at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, with a Canadian-based, previously unknown to much of the world, story, superbly acted, well-conceived, placing Affleck in the first rank of American directors (he's been called "the new Clint Eastwood"), apart from all the Oscar foofaraw surrounding the film, Argo is a damn good entertainment. Screening at Scotiabank Theatre downtown, and at cinemas across Metro Vancouver. Clearly, Argo is very much a must-see film.
While we're on the subject of must-see films, there are two more cinematic works of art that are playing in Vancouver that are likely to garner Oscar recognition, and given the reviews and the reception for the films must be considered films worthy of your time, both superbly constructed films screening at Cineplex Odeon's International Village Cinemas, in Yaletown.
Arbitrage represents a radical revision of traditional values. It is an attack on a new American mentality that values wealth above morality. Many of us may regard Robert Miller (Richard Gere) as an example of financial executives who knowingly sell worthless investments to people who trust them and then bet against them themselves. This was one of the Wall Street crimes that brought about the 2008 collapse. Charges were never filed against those thieves. They're still at work. Arbitrage is not only a great thriller, but a convincing demonstration about how the very rich can, quite literally, get away with murder.
Or any one of a dozen other reputable critics, all of whom agree that Arbitrage gives the audience a vital emotional workout (Owen Gleiberman, EW), offers an insanely gripping tale of high finance and low ethics (Bilge Ebiri, Vulture), and that début feature writer/director Nicholas Jarecki has created a refreshingly candid film, a combination of intelligent, grown-up writing, and an entertaining, audience-pleasing film of the first order.
One of the best-reviewed, most critically-acclaimed films of the year, with breakout performances from Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller — all of whom you'll being hearing about and watching on screen for years to come — you should take in a screening of Stephen Chbosky's self-
adapted (from his 1999 best-selling novel) début feature, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a film celebrated as "honest and unsentimental, with a revelatory finale (Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times), and "tough-minded, an ecstatic expression of the beautiful solidarity of youth." (Owen Gleiberman, EW, who gives the film a full, and extremely rare rating for EW, Grade: A).
October 17, 2012
The most frequent despairing question patrons attending the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival queried VanRamblings about over the 16 day course of the Festival was this: once the Festival is over, where do we find the kinds of films we are gifted with seeing during our beloved VIFF?
The answer to that question is multifaceted.
Mubi: Co-founded by Ebert Presents at the Movies, and Mubi, film critic and essayist, the impossibly young, Russian-born Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, who also founded Chicago's online guide to independent and underground cinema, Cine-File.info, Mubi bills itself as "your online cinema, anytime, anywhere," while suggesting at the same time that it is the première online cinema website, and community, for people who love film. Intrigued?
For only 99¢ to $2.99 per film, or $6.99 for a monthly subscription which allows unlimited film viewing, subscribers may gain access to award winning festival gems, classics and cinephile favourites. What's on tap at Mubi? Surf here and scroll down to see some of the hundreds of titles that you may stream onto your computer (and then to your big screen HDTV), films like Luis Buñuel's 1929 classic, Un chien andalou, 2010 festival award-winner, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's altogether wonderful, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, or Caroline Link's Nowhere in Africa, which is VanRamblings favourite film of the first decade of the new millennium. All for free, or 99¢ or $2.99, or as we say above, $6.99 for a full month of viewing unlimited movie classics, foreign films, and festival award winners.
You didn't know about Mubi? Now you do. Your welcome.
Videomatica: Locally, of course, there's Graham Peat's foreign film and classic film emporium which, although rentals are no longer available, does a bang up
online sales business, as well as great in-store video sales at their new location — at the back of Zulu Records, 1972 West 4th Avenue, in Vancouver. Surprisingly, many of the films that can be purchased may be had for as little as $15. You'll find a nifty "previously viewed" section in the store, as well, where videos may be purchased very much on the cheap. Correction: In an e-mail from Videomatica proprieter Graham Peat, the estimable Mr. Peat corrects that Videomatica is a "bricks and mortar" store only, that online sales are not available. Our apologies for the mistake.
Cinémathèque: Chances are that you took in a VIFF screening, or three, at Vancouver's beloved film lovers art house cinema, Pacific Cinémathèque, which throughout the year screens classics, the best of the best in foreign cinema, retrospectives of the work of cinema's most celebrated auteurs, in house theme-based film festivals, student films, country-based film retrospectives, and so so much more. Here's this month's PC calendar.
Annual film festivals, other than VIFF: Where do we start? There's the august DOXA Documentary Film Festival that takes place each spring, set in 2013 to run from May 3rd to 12th; DOXA screens films throughout the year, as well. There's also Vancouver's Latin American Film Festival that takes place approximately a month before VIFF begins, each year.
This past week, The Straight's Craig Takeuchi wrote an online piece on the autumn film festivals, ranging from the 17th annual Amnesty International Film Festival (November 2 to 4) to the Jewish Film Festival (November 7 to 15), as well as five other 'local' film festivals. And that's just this autumn. Cinephiles don't have to go long between Vancouver's many film festivals.
The Vancity Theatre: Tom Charity is the programmer for VIFF's Vancity Theatre, ensuring that diehard local cinephiles never have to wait too long between screenings of great films at the super comfy film centre screening room. Once the VIFF Repeats have completed their run this Thursday, you can look forward to screening such films as the absolutely tremendous and moving Rebelle (War Witch), Canada's Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee, and Tabu, both of which begin a one week run this Friday, October 19th. If you didn't catch Rebelle, or the equally tremendous Tabu, during their brief VIFF run, here's your opportunity to catch two of the year's very best films. If you're not on Vancity Theatre's mailing list, make sure to add your name to the list the next time you visit the theatre.
Festival Cinemas / Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas: Leonard Schein's Festival Cinemas has long been recognized as Vancouver's première art house (we're not sure that Leonard would like that construction of his cinema, and would probably wish that we would say fine cinema — and, let's face it, he does book some very fine cinema). In recent years, Cineplex Odeon's International Village Cinemas have given Leonard a run for his money. Between the two cinema complexes, most weeks a cinephile's appetite for great film can be more than sated. Just take a look at the current lineup at the two cinemas: at The Village, Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral; one of the best reviewed films of the year, Arbitrage; End of Watch; and the film critics are going ga-ga over, Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Over at Festival Cinemas' Fifth Avenue Cinemas location, Leonard's also booked The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Arbitrage, and adds Rian's Johnson incredibly well-reviewed new film Looper, and Paul Thomas Anderson's equally well-reviewed lock for Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director Oscar nods, The Master.
In tomorrow's VanRamblings' post we'll take a look at a few of the Oscar contenders currently playing around town — tremendous films all — and follow up that post, over the next couple or three days, with trailers for, and some insight into, the Oscar contender / film cinema that will open sometime before year's end, or early in the new year, worthy of your time.
The bottom line: We live in a film lovers paradise in Vancouver. Although we miss 200 great films, each year, which fail to arrive on our shores (cuz they don't have a Canadian distributor in place, so unless you're willing to travel to Seattle, you're out of luck), thanks to Tom Charity at The Vancity Theatre, Leonard Schein over at Festival Cinemas, Artistic Director Jim Sinclair at Cinémathèque, and all the fine folks who bring us tremendous cinema through the many focused Vancouver film festivals that dot our artistic cinema calendar throughout the year, those of us who live in La-La land will never want for great cinema (youse just gots to have the money).
October 16, 2012
Yesterday, we published a list of our Top 10 favourite narrative features at VIFF 2012, all of the films we wrote about, revelatory, poignant, humane and human scale, films that moved us beyond words which might find expression to portray such, cinema which helped to provide us with a new and transformative direction forward in our lives, the path not only towards light and enlightenment, but a re-prioritization of our life's goals and a focus on that which is most important — connection, fidelity, family, community activism, and the struggle in which we all must engage to bring about a better, fairer, more just and humane world for ourselves, our family, our neighbours, and all of us living in and across every far flung community — in every country of the world — across our globe.
Today, then, the 10 documentary feature films that screened at VIFF2012 that most moved and enlightened us, and most contributed to a rekindled appreciation of what is necessary to transform our world — not as naïve, unthinking projection, but real world, working with others, change. For only working together, we will find ourselves able to begin the long, hard journey towards a world that values us, our families, our neighbours, and every citizen, in every country, across our vast, complex planet.
1. Bay of All Saints: Far and away, our favourite doc at VIFF 2012, as is the case with the Top 5 documentary films on our list, Bay of All Saints pulled us in, gripped us like mad with phenomenally strong rooting interests, the film at all times one of the most poignant, revelatory and humane documentary films we screened this year. Filmed by Annie Eastman, Diane Markrow and Davis Coombe over a six-year period, from 2005 til 2011, at the three-quarter point in the film, when 9-year-old Rebeca goes missing, you are crushed, devastated, you almost can't breathe, and you are angry, angry, angry with the filmmakers for creating such an indelible rooting interest in Rebeca, and then have her volatilizarse into ... what? harm's way? Unforgivable ... until, until ... Set amidst the waterfront palafita slums of Salvador, Brazil, this winner of SXSW's Audience Award for best documentary, Annie Eastman's potent non-fiction film paints an often tragic picture of life in the impoverished shantytown, yet manages somehow to offer a profound and moving expression of hope, through the fighting spirit and struggle of the film's principles. Outstanding. Humane. Heartrending.
2. Stories We Tell: Groundbreaking, reverential truth-telling of the first order, a story of a life unraveled and somehow pulled back into coherence, where tough, tough questions are confronted and answered, Sarah Polley's devastating documentary feature is nothing less than a cinematic work of art, a film that in exploring the dynamics of family, memory and truth, limns the ragged poetry of life. Shocking, melancholy, and lovely beyond words.
3. No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII: Offering a powerful indictment of the discrimination to which women reporters were subjected in reportial coverage of WWII, and a moving testament to the will, character and strength of purpose of groundbreaking reporters Ruth Cowan, Martha Gelhorn and photographer Dickey Chapelle. From sneaking aboard a hospital ship to be able to cover D-Day, as in the case of Gelhorn, or defying orders to capture photographs of wounded Marines from Iwo Jima — photos so powerful that Life magazine refused to run them — the legacy of these pioneers, who changed not only the role of women in journalism, but also how war was reported — by portraying its collateral damage on civilian populations rather than just tactics and battles — continues to this day to inform mainstream media news coverage of tragic circumstance and war, and news reporting on the human condition.
4. The World Before Her: One of the most involving, engaging and transformative documentaries screened at VIFF2012, the film presents the 20 finalists in the Miss India contest as informed, educated, feminist, near-revolutionaries working to overturn conventional norms and the social order vis-à-vis women's roles in the society. Juxtaposing the stories of these women with that of a young fundamentalist Hindu Nation woman, Prachi, who has dedicated her life to preserving (even if by violent means) a social order that diminishes the humanity of women ... well, this is powerful documentary filmmaking of the first order, a film that has it all — a powerful and involving story, 'characters' on screen who could not be more sympathetic, and in being such present wildly engaging rooting interests. A fully realized vision from the film's director, Nisha Pahuja. A great doc!
5. Revolution: A recently released United Nations report states that should world powers fail to address the issue of the acidification of our oceans, seas, lakes and other water bodies, by the year 2048, the lack of government action on the matter will result in the extinction of all sea life, vanishing from the earth forever. Employing the most moving, non-didactic, wildly entertaining and humane means possible, filmmaker Rob Stewart has turned in a mighty doc, one that should be seen by everyone. Quite simply, Stewart's entirely revelatory doc emerged as one of the most engaging and informative and heartfelt documentaries we screened at VIFF2012 (we were in tears at moments throughout the film). We went into the screening doubting that the film would be anything more than a rehashed diatribe, and came out believing that Revolution should be mandatory viewing for every student, in every school across the globe (for adults, as well). We even tweeted Vancouver Board of Education Chair, Patti Bacchus, with such suggestion. Hopefully Patti — and everyone who's reading this — will take in this Thursday's, 7pm screening at the Vancity Theatre, on Seymour.
6. Nuala: Renowned Irish journalist, feminist TV producer and host, book reviewer, teacher and New York Times best-selling author Nuala O'Faolain, who passed on May 9, 2008, was the second eldest of nine children, the daughter of neglectful parents — a raffish social affairs columnist father, and a book-loving, alcoholic mother. Somehow, through her love of literature, a becoming and entrancing beauty which brought her many (many) lovers, and the undampened spirit she carried within her throughout her life, Nuala prevailed. As British poet Philip Larkin wrote, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do." Winner of VIFF's 2012 Best International Documentary award.
7. Three Sisters: Wang Bing's documentary, third eye camera tracks infant children and their barely older cousin who, in the most impoverished circumstance possible, and against all reasonable odds, care for themselves, fend for themselves, in what was for us the most eye-opening, deeply human, strikingly lensed documentary film we screened at VIFF 2012. The three sisters of the title are Yingying (10), Zhenzhen (6) and Fenfen (4), daughters of Sun Shunbao, a peasant abandoned by his wife, who scrapes for work in the nearest town of Tonghai, leaving his young daughters alone, utterly alone for weeks or months at a time. That the sisters have distinct personalities — with Zhenzhen the mischievous giggler, Fenfen the slightly forlorn follower, and Yingying the sad one — isolated, stern-faced and unbearably lonely — carrying the burden of responsibility on her tiny shoulders, her village peers' utter imperviousness emerging as the darkest of human interactions we saw on screen at this year's Festival — was for us, nothing less than heartrending. One of VIFF 2012's strongest docs.
8. The Flat: A subtle investigative document, an enquiry into one Jewish family's ongoing relationship with the German Nazi state, the fictions that propel the stories of our lives, and centering on Hannah, the filmmaker's mother, who comes to terms with what may have been her parent's collusionary relationship with a senior Nazi official, before and after WWII, The Flat is a moving documentary film, providing historical insight and a needed reminder of the horrors of war. Revelatory, and quietly disturbing.
9. Room 237: Director Rodney Ascher's whirling dervish of a film, an intriguing, arcane, jaw dropping, elliptical, gleefully mad and head-first plunge down the rabbit hole of Kubrickiana, posits with precision and unassailable — if verging on crazy — verisimilitude, that Kubrick's 1980 film, The Shining, actually limns the genocide of Native Americans and, even more darkly, the Holocaust, the 'evidence' less a conspiracy theorist's waking nightmare than an insomniac's bruising, majestically labyrinthine puzzle picture of terrifically argued, impeccably constructed rumination.
10. Virgin Tales: Focusing on Randy Wilson, the National Field Director for the ultra-conservative, U.S.-based Family Research Council, his wife, their five daughters, two sons and their spouses — ranging from ages 9 to 23 — this entirely fascinating, human scale exploration of conservative convention, 'purity balls' and 'manhood ceremonies' — the film centered on the utterly winning, broken heart of the film, eldest daughter Jordan — was at all times — even though it pissed off the audience that took in a screening of the film the last day of VIFF 2012 — moving, fascinating, warmly appreciative of the family, non-judgmental and entirely human scale in its introduction to a family whose core values we probably share, even if we might might find the societal engagement of the family members utterly abhorrent. This right wing family isn't murdering doctors who perform abortions, they're not blowing up public buildings or making the lives of others miserable. Hasidic Jews are allowed to raise their children as they see fit. Khalsa Sikh's are given the same right. But not, somehow, fundamentalist Christians, about whom we are too ready to pass judgment, are not allowed anything close to the same freedom, as we tut-tut and wag our fingers and feel all superior. We thought the Wilsons, as presented on screen, were a lovely family; each of the family members sincerely loved one another. And at the end of the day, it is love — not misunderstanding and intolerance — that gives our lives meaning. We're prepared to take this family at face value. A counterintuitive film to choose as one of the best, but you know what? Virgin Tales was one of the strongest, the best, the most joyous and heartfelt films we screened at VIFF 2012. No matter what anybody says. Sometimes you just have to go with your heart. And we are.
October 15, 2012
Over the course of the 16 days that the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival took place this year, there was much discussion as to which films were the favourites among those who were taking in more than 50 films. These films were the buzz films, the films that moved the audience to tears or to joyous ecstasy. The thing is, though, that what one person loves, the next may feel only meh about.
The above said, on this chilly autumn Monday, VanRamblings offers our favourites at this year's Festival, in some sort of approximate order, and why it is these films have made our 'best of' list. Tomorrow, we'll publish a list of our favourite VIFF 2012 documentaries, but first up today, our favourite 2012 Vancouver Film Festival narrative fiction features ...
1. Thursday Till Sunday
For VanRamblings, there was no other picture that screened at VIFF 2012 that so deeply rooted itself inside the experience of the character on the screen (11-year-old Santi Ahumada as Lucía, pictured left), than did director Dominga Sotomayor's lovely, amazing, absolutely original and utterly devastating début film, Thursday Till Sunday. The viewer was provided the unique perspective of sensing every facet of the unfolding horror taking place in the front seat of Lucía's parent's car, as Ahumada, Sotomayor and ace cinematographer Bárbara Álvarez allowed us access to a place we've never been before — in this case — behind Lucía's plangent, mournful eyes, and the catastrophic, unfolding horror she felt with her every sense, the wrenching disintegration of her parent's marriage, the inexorable watershed movement towards pivotal and unrelenting change for 11-year-old Lucía. That the directorial decisions taken by Sotomayor, the camera work by Bárbara Álvarez, and Ahumada's utterly natural performance fused to create the most affecting drama screened at VIFF 2012, means that for the viewer, apart from anything else we felt and witnessed while watching Thursday Till Sunday — an experience that can only be described as devastating — that we were witness, as well, to the emergence of a dynamic, signal new Chilean/Latin American directorial voice, and the birth of a major star in 11-year-old Santi Ahumada.
2. As Luck Would Have It: The film which touched us most deeply at VIFF 2012, the most devastatingly emotional film for us, with the most salient and honest expression of love we've ever seen expressed on screen.
3. When the Night: For us, on par with As Luck Would Have It, filmed as a Hitchcockian murder mystery (it's the insinuating score), with a great, great romance anchoring the film, honest, with fully realized characters (those scenes in the upper chalet ... omigawd), we saw it for a second time on Tuesday, and loved it again. We could watch When the Night again and again and again, and gain something more from it with each viewing.
4. Stories We Tell: Groundbreaking, reverential truth-telling of the first order, a story of a life unraveled and somehow pulled back into coherence, where tough, tough questions are confronted and answered, Sarah Polley's devastating documentary feature is nothing less than a cinematic work of art, a film that in exploring the dynamics of family, memory and truth, limns the ragged poetry of life. Shocking, melancholy, and lovely beyond words.
5. A Late Quartet: The finest independent American film of 2012, the most erudite film screened at VIFF 2012, with virtuoso performances from all involved, with a breakout performance by Imogen Poots — who holds her own in the august company of an absolutely amazing Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman as you've never seen him before, with a transcendent performance by Catherine Keener, and a performance by, and character arc for, Mark Ivanir that rivets you to the screen — this at all times amazingly watchable, finely-tuned drama about an eminent New York string quartet, and the internecine, often destructive politics within the group — sexual and otherwise — offers a juggernaut of precise, insightful, humane and heartfelt filmmaking that in 2012 knows no equal.
6. Liverpool: The most audacious filmmaking of 2012, writer-director Manon Briand's utterly original, of-the-moment, social media-flash-mob-infused delirium of a film announces the arrival of a new world class directorial talent, a new voice in film who in setting a new direction for film grabs us by the lapels and pulls us in, all the while informing us that, "This is the future of cinema, this is where we're going. Come on along for the ride!"
7. Neighbouring Sounds: A masterwork. Kleber Mendonça Filho's grasp of mise-en-scène is unparalleled — all at once benevolent, sentimental, melancholy, arresting and oddly oblique, and yet very much full of meaning, superbly constructed, beautifully shot, and infused with an aural landscape that serves, always, to inform our warm narrative appreciation of the film.
8. Egg and Stone: An absolutely remarkable début for writer-director Huang Ji, this Rotterdam Tiger Award winner represents the most auspicious début by an Asian filmmaker at VIFF 2012. The narrative offers a powerful indictment of male sexual privilege, the film an almost wordless, beautifully realized mood sense memory piece. Autobiographical, part of what will become a trilogy on the subject of the movement of young Chinese women towards empowerment. With one of the most wrenching choices by a filmmaker as cinematic material ever (the D&C), and a central performance by newcomer Yao Honggui that simply burns with intensity.
9. The Hunt: The most fully realized film at VIFF 2012, and the overwhelming Audience Favourite, human scale in every dimension, with superb performances by all concerned — the performance by 5-year-old Annika Wedderkopp, and the consistent relationship she maintains with Mads Mikkelsen throughout, and his relationship with her father — is central to the success of Thomas Vinterberg's beautifully shot, bleak and chilling new psychological thriller. The Hunt is Scandanavian cinema, af ekspertise, with its lambently rural, autumnal mise-en-scène, and its great fidelity in character realization. In the first rank of 2012 international film releases.
10. Something in the Air: With a greater fidelity than one would have thought possible, Olivier Assayas' new film captures what it meant to be a student radical in the late 60s and early 70s, as well as the milieu of the era — the protests, the marches, the casual nudity, frequent sex and changing of partners, the drug-taking, the focus on the arts as an agent for change, and the innumerable, deadening hours of debate relating to arcane points of radical political philosophy, where no one agreed on anything, when the worst thing someone could say about you was that you were bourgeoise. Reputedly an autobiographical account of Assayas' work within the French student radical movement, circa 1971, this immaculately realized cinematic work, with its exceptionally attractive cast — we'd never heard of nor seen India Salvor Menuez previously, but we'll be on the lookout for her now, not to mention how wonderful it was to finally see Lola Créton up on the big screen — emerges as a compelling cinematic entertainment, an historical document of a more hopeful and radical era, and so so much more.
We also loved, and believe the following films to be in the first rank of films which were screened at the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival: Canadian Best Foreign Language nominee, Rebelle (War Witch); Tabu and Holy Motors (both due to return to the Vancity soon, both of which we loved); Michael Haneke's Cannes' award-winner, Amour, which as it did with Vancouver Board of Education Chair, Patti Bacchus, left us reeling; Abbas Kiarostami's masterful Like Someone in Love; the feel-good hit of VIFF 2012, the exceptionally well-made Come As You Are; Sundance award-winner and certain Oscar contender, Ben Lewin's, The Sessions; our first over-the-moon favourite at VIFF 2012 and one of the two best America indie films of the year, Any Day Now; the brutal and graphic 'rape as a victor's reparation of war' historical drama, Rose; Cristian Mungiu's delusional madhouse, yet austere, new film that transforms during its 153-minute running time into an intellectually acute and tragic tale of romantic heresy and religious dogma gone awry, one of VIFF 2012's strongest films, Beyond the Hills; and our favourite animated film, the at all times wonderful (we wept at points throughout), Ernest et Célestine.
And, in wrapping up today's post, we would also express our appreciation for the craft of the filmmakers, who in putting their life blood into the making of their films, deserve yours and our appreciation for these very fine VIFF 2012 films: Lucy Mulloy's wondrously delightful, heart in your throat Cuban narrative, Una Noche; Sacha Polak's disturbing, entrancing and sexually twisted, Hemel; an early VIFF 2012 favourite, the at all times delightful Danish film, Teddy Bear (Denmark excelled at great films this year); Rodrigo Plá's exceptional, La Demora; the extremely moving, almost cinema verité, Aquí y Allá; one of our two favourite films from Québec this year, Rafaël Ouellet's exceptional slice-of-life character drama, Camion; Ken Loach's Scotland-set kitchen-sink drama, as only he can make them (which is to say, hopeful at all times and teeming with life), The Angels' Share; Sean Baker's humane take on the porn industry, and aging in America (with a breakout performance by Dree Hemingway), Starlet; one of our early favourites, the kitchen-sink father-daughter drama, Maya Kenig's exceptional directorial feature début, Off-White Lies; Nigel Cole's verging on Bollywood, East London set, likable, working class dramedy, All in Good Time; the first breakout film for us in preview, the best of the 'forbidden love' pics we saw at VIFF 2012, Morocco's, Love in the Medina; and, Hang Sangsoo's elliptical, engaging Roshomon-style picture puzzle of a movie, starring the always wonderful Isabelle Huppert, In Another Country.
And, in closing today, please find a list of our favourite VIFF 2012 documentary films, humane and heartrending films of the first order.
(And, yes, we're aware Stories We Tell is on both lists, we loved it that much, as we believe Sarah Polley's new film to be both devastating narrative, and groundbreaking, heartrending documentary truth-telling)
October 14, 2012
Although the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival may be shuttered until late September of 2013, in 'fact' the Festival is not over.
Not quite yet.
Commencing yesterday afternoon, the Vancouver Film Centre began showing the Best of the Fest, VIFF Repeats of some of 2012's Festival favourites. And, my oh my oh my, are there some great films screening this week in repeat, films deserving of your attention, and well worth a visit to the Vancity Theatre to take in what is almost sure to be the final screenings of these movies in Vancouver.
VIFF Repeats at the Vancity Theatre
We are able to write in this post, that we absolutely loved many of the films you see scheduled in the Vancity Repeats graphic above.
Of course, Nuala — which deservedly won the Best International Documentary award this past Friday night, presented by VIFF Director Alan Franey — ranks among the best documentaries the Vancouver International Film Festival has ever screened. A powerful, unflinching, truth-telling exploration of the life of celebrated Irish novelist, journalist, broadcaster Nuala O'Faolain, Nuala is the story of a survivor, a person whose unimaginably difficult life was transformed into a life of meaning.
When the Night, which screened at the Vancity last night, simply blew our socks off with its Hitchcockian approach to what emerges as one of the greatest love stories to be captured on screen this year, or any year. We loved this film, and hope against hope that somehow When the Night makes it back to our shores.
Now on to today. First up on this rainy Sunday, at 2pm, a final screening of Side by Side: The Science, Art and Impact of Digital Cinema, a documentary film directed by Christopher Kenneally and warmly narrated by Keanu Reeves. Plotting the direction movies are likely to take in the digital age, interviews conducted with an array of prominent filmmakers — from Martin Scorsese and David Fincher to Steven Soderbergh, Christopher Nolan and many, many more — here's a film that enlightens and enrages, all while offering keen insight into both the filmmaking process and how, going forward, we will see images exhibited on our screens come to life. There is no better thing you can do with your Sunday afternoon than take in a screening of Side by Side: The Science, Art and Impact of Digital Cinema.
At 6:45pm, Vancity presents The World Before Her, one of the most involving, engaging and informative documentaries screened at VIFF2012. Presenting the 20 finalists in the Miss India contest as informed, educated feminist revolutionaries working to overturn conventional norms and the social order vis-à-vis women's roles in the society, and juxtaposing the stories of these women with that of a young fundamentalist Hindu Nation woman, Prachi, who has dedicated her life to preserving (even if by violent means) a social order that diminishes the humanity of women ... well, this is powerful documentary filmmaking of the first order, a film that has it all — a powerful and involving story, 'characters' on screen who could not be more sympathetic, and in being such present wildly engaging rooting interests, first rate production craft, and the fully realized vision of the film's director, Nisha Pahuja — all of this and more suggests that you should run, not walk to tonight's 6:45pm screening of The World Before Her at the Vancity.
And for the final film screening on this inclement and kind of chilly Sunday, The Hunt — which not only deservedly won the VIFF 2012 Audience Award this past Friday, but ranks among the best films of the year, the most well-made film of the year, the most involving and honest film of the year. Hell, you don't have to know anything about the film other than all that is written above in this paragraph. You would be doing yourself a disservice, if you didn't attempt to take in a screening of The Hunt at 8:45pm this evening. VIFF passholders who present their pass will be given free entrance to the screening (a previous screening had to be cancelled, so VIFF will consider tonight's screening of The Hunt a 'make-up screening').
We'll focus on two more films: The Angels' Share, which we saw at a sold-out early afternoon screening at the big Granville 7 theatre (just short of 1000 patrons in attendance), a film which finds celebrated British kitchen-sink dramaturge Ken Loach at his peak, The Angels' Share is a film possessed of humour, immense humanity and hope. And, Rob Stewart's Revolution, an entirely revelatory doc, one of the most engaging and informative and heartfelt documentaries to have screened at VIFF2012 (we were in tears at moments throughout the film). We went into the screening of Revolution doubting that the film would be anything more than a rehashed pedantic diatribe, and came out believing that Revolution should be mandatory viewing for every student, in every school across the globe (for adults, as well). We even tweeted Vancouver Board of Education Chair, Patti Bacchus (who we love like a sister, and whose husband, Lee, is one of our favourite people on the planet), with such suggestion.
Throughout the Festival, we found opportunity to chat with the humane and erudite and entirely engaging Tom Charity, about which films might return to Vancity as part of the Vancity's regular programming schedule. The Straight's Craig Takeuchi has published a more complete compendium of the films that Tom has already booked into the Vancity, those film titles in the available link in this paragraph. We were thrilled to read ...
Vancity Theatre Programme Co-ordinator Tom Charity has informed me that they'll be bringing back the following films: Rebelle (War Witch) (which is Canada's official entry for best foreign-language Oscar), Tabu, Holy Motors, The Ambassador, Keep the Lights On, The Invisible War (one I also highly recommend for its in-depth and often shocking exploration of rape in the army), and Museum Hours.
In addition to the films listed above, Sean Baker's Starlet, and Travis Fine's Any Day Now — both of which have a distributor, in Music Box Films, in place so at least have the potential to return — may make their way to the Vancity. As for us, we will continue to work with Tom to get Mia Hansen-Løve's Goodbye First Love — which, by hook or by crook, we'll find a way to bring to Vancouver (we're resourceful when we want to be). The estimable Mr. Charity is supportive of the notion of bringing Goodbye First Love to the Vancity, but there may be — as is often the case in matters such as this — mitigating distribution issues. We'll see what we can do.
October 13, 2012
The 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival concluded its 16-day run on Friday, October 12th. The winners of two juried awards, and six audience awards were announced prior to the screening of Holy Motors by Leos Carax at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. The Dragons & Tigers Award winner was announced previously.
The Canadian Images jury announced two awards. The jury included popular Vancouver actor Jay Brazeau, Montréal filmmaker Anne Émond and Columbian-American media personality Claudia Mendoza-Carruth.
The Award for Best Canadian Feature Film
The Award for Best Canadian Feature Film, and its $10,000 cash prize, went to Jason Buxton of Nova Scotia for Blackbird. The winner was selected from twelve films in competition. The jury selected this film "for its years of research by the director on the juvenile correctional system; how it transforms the life of a creative kid. The supporting characters are extremely well crafted, free of clichés. We look forward to the development of the careers of both newcomer Connor Jessup and first-time feature director Jason Buxton." Claudia Mendoza-Carruth presented the award.
Honourable Mention for Canadian Feature Film
Becoming Redwood, directed by Jesse James Miller of BC, for its "beautiful journey that transports you to the 1970s. Ryan Grantham carries the film with extraordinary gravitas on his 14-year old shoulders, winning the audience over."
Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film Award
The Canadian Images jury, represented by Jay Brazeau, awarded a $2,000 cash award from an anonymous donor to Juan Riedinger of BC for Float. The jury selected this film as "a dark and large subject treated with simplicity and truth. The director handled these seasoned actors with finesse."
Honourable Mention for a Canadian Short Film
Peach Juice, directed by Brian Lye, Callum Paterson and Nathan Gilliss of BC. "Funny, with a great sense of humour. A different kind of take on animation showed much promise. We look forward to seeing more. It was a bittersweet story."
Rogers People's Choice Award
The Hunt, directed by Thomas Vinterberg, won the Rogers People's Choice Award. All of the Festival's 236 feature films — features and nonfiction — were eligible, and festival-goers chose the most popular film by rating every film they saw on a scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). Tara Thind, reporter for OMNI TV, presented the award on behalf of Rogers.
VIFF Most Popular Canadian Film Award
The audience chose Becoming Redwood, directed by Jesse James Miller, for the VIFF Most Popular Canadian Film Award, presented by Canadian Images Programmer, Terry McEvoy.
VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award
Blood Relative, directed by Nimisha Mukerji, won the VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award, presented by Canadian Images Programmer, Terry McEvoy.
VIFF Most Popular International Documentary Film Award
The audience chose Nuala, directed by Patrick Farrelly and Kate O'Callaghan, for the VIFF Most Popular International Documentary Film Award, presented by Festival Director, Alan Franey.
VIFF Most Popular Environmental Film Award
Revolution, directed by Rob Stewart, won the VIFF Most Popular Environmental Film Award. The award was announced by Festival Director, Alan Franey.
VIFF Most Popular International First Feature Award
The audience chose I, Anna, directed by Barnaby Southcombe, for the VIFF Most Popular International First Feature Award, presented by Festival Director, Alan Franey.
Women in Film and Television Artistic Merit Award
The unanimous decision for the 2012 WIFTV Artistic Merit Award goes to Manon Briand, writer-director of Liverpool.
Previously Announced Awards
Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema
The $5,000 Dragons & Tigers Award for Young Cinema, generously supported by donor Brad Birarda, went to director Li Luo of China for Emperor Visits The Hell (Tang Huang You Difu). Presented to the director of a creative and innovative film from East Asia that has not yet won significant international recognition, the award was announced on October 4th. The distinguished jury was comprised of Portuguese filmmaker João Pedro Rodrigues, whose films To Die Like a Man (2009) and The Last Time I Saw Macao, the latter screening at VIFF 2012; filmmaker Makato SHINOZAKI, a former Dragons & Tigers finalist (Die! Directors, Die! and Since Then); and Chuck Stephens, writer, teacher, and contributing editor / columnist, Film Comment. They considered eight films in competition.
The Vancouver International Film Festival exists, in part, thanks to the support of generous donors. On Friday evening, VIFF acknowledged the support of major partners Rogers Communications, Fidelity Investments Canada, and Telefilm Canada. VIFF extended its thanks and appreciation to the Province of British Columbia through the Ministry of Community, Sport, and Cultural Development's Community Gaming Grants programme, as well as the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage's Building Communities, Arts & Heritage programme.
For those of us still recovering / withdrawing from the loss of the Festival (it's still here, but not in full swing until next September), Teacher of the Year, an official selection of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, directed by Chris Modoono, and starring Gil Zabarsky, Kathleen Littlefield & Rachel Dratch.
October 12, 2012
Well, that's it folks. 400 films, 16 days, and that's (almost) all she wrote.
That said, VanRamblings is not done yet with Festival reportage, even if the Fest has ended. First order of business, we intend to write a love letter (of a sort) to Alan Franey, which will be published here. We haven't made any firm decisions on publishing a prescriptive remedy for what seemed, this year, to be a plethora of logistical problems; we may or may not.
There is much that we would like to write about on the 87 (yes, only 87) films we screened during the 16 days of the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival, so we may do that. Chances are that tomorrow (probably later in the day), we'll publish the VIFF2012 winners announced late on Friday; and, as the Festival makes information available on audience favourites, we'll make that information available to you, as well.
And, of course, we'll set about to publish our Top 20 favourite films screened at our illustrious 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival.
For now, though, a Flickr slideshow, a pictorial remembrance of our Festival.
(Over the weekend, we'll add a few more photos to the slideshow, and edit the slideshow so the order of the photos is more coherent, and makes more sense)
October 11, 2012
In the early morning of Wednesday, October 10th, seeing a hundred or so VIFF patrons lined up outside the Empire Granville 7 waiting to gain entrance to Rafaël Ouellet's very fine Camion, Vancouver International Film Festival Director Alan Franey approached those standing in line and commenced an open dialogue with the dedicated ticket and pass holders.
The first question, the primary interest of those in line referenced, "next year" for the Festival: "Where will the Festival be located in 2012 following the closure of the Empire Granville 7?" Alan had some heartening news.
"In the past couple of days, VIFF has received a number of calls from members of the community, offering exhibition space for next year's Festival. SFU has indicated that they could make cinema screens at Woodward's and Harbour Centre available to the Festival. CBC also called. Apparently, the CBC complex on Hamilton has a state-of-the-art cinema within, which could be made available to VIFF. Should the Festival secure the use of Cineplex-Odeon's International Village (formerly Tinseltown) 12-theatre complex, in 2013 VIFF would become a Festival situated in an area that has long been designated as the future cultural hub of the City, Downtown Northeast."
Of course, the Vancouver International Film Festival would continue to employ the Vancity theatre at VIFF's Film Centre on Seymour, as well as the Pacific Cinémathèque on Howe Street, as venues for the Festival. There's been preliminary discussion / suggestion that should the Festival secure a sponsor and subsidy, and work out the attendant logistics so as to ensure patron convenience and safety, that a shuttle bus service, at little or no cost, may be a transport option for Festival patrons that would ensure transport between Festival venues in 2013. Or, patrons could simply take advantage of an already vibrant downtown Vancouver transit system.
For Canadian cinema, 2012 has proved to be a particularly strong year. VanRamblings has already written that we believe Manon Briand, who brought her Liverpool to VIFF2012, to be an accomplished filmmaker, and an important new voice in cinema. We were certainly swept away by Sarah Polley's investigative, melancholy yet full of life documentary, Stories We Tell. On Wednesday morning, we found ourself moved by Rafaël Oulett's:
Camion (Grade: B+): Winner of both the Ecumenical Jury and the Best Director awards (for Québec-based writer-director Rafaël Oulette) at this year's Czech Republic's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, throughout the screening of Camion we wondered to ourselves, why is it that we in western Canada cannot seem to produce well-made, international quality, slice-of-life character dramas that provide insight into the human condition, that move, inform, create a sense of mood and place, and are infused with the melancholy of life yet manage to offer hope, films that create a sense of connection for the characters on screen, and for those of us in the audience? Rafaël Ouellet has created all of that and more in one of the true highlights of the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival.
Stories We Tell (Grade: A): Sarah Polley's new documentary memoir resonated with us like mad. Engaging, fluid, melancholy, hearfelt, and skilful storytelling of the first order, a film that unfolds with intrigue, heartrending candor and narrative resonance that somehow manages to universalize a very personal story, at the end of the day what Sarah Polley has captured on screen is bold, ground-breaking, reverential truth-telling, a story of a life unraveled and somehow pulled back into cohesion, where tough, tough questions are confronted and answered. No one has ever created as original a work of art — as is the case with Stories We Tell — that explores the dynamics of family, memory, truth and the ragged poetry of life. This is exceptional filmmaking, pertinent, shocking, and lovely beyond words.
October 10, 2012
In the films we see at VIFF, as is the case with film we screen during the remaining 11½ months of the year, we demand cinema possessed of insight, wit and intelligence, poetry and craft, honest reflections on the human condition, fidelity of intent and purpose for the characters we see on screen, and that they be moving with a melancholy subtext (even if it's a comedy). We want to see films on the human condition.
We feel much the same about the people we let into our life. We demand the very best from our children, Jude and Megan, and have never sanctioned anything other than complete emotional honesty. Of course, we demand fidelity from our friends and family. We demand of our friends that they are loyal to a fault, have our best interests at heart, that they never ever engage in passive aggressive behaviour so as undermine our fragile heart. Our friends must be possessed of a keen insight into themselves, as well as us, and into the human condition, in general.
Of course, we demand of our friends that they possess a keen wit and and an enquiring and overweening intelligence, that they possess a consuming interest in the political realm — here at home, in the province, federally and beyond (we expect quite a sophisticated analysis, as well) — and in respect of politics we don't care whether someone's a Liberal, an NDPer, supports the Green party, or ... well, we'd include the Conservative party in the above delineation, but honestly, we'd be misleading you if we indicated a support for Stephen Harper's Tories. We do have many friends in the Progressive Conservative parties resident in provinces across Canada — we appreciate their moral take on the issues and their commitment to community and social justice, and have found generally their approach to politics to be humane, and when you get right down to it, to the left of most of our so-called left friends (we've moved in left circles for 50 years).
Oops, getting off topic. Patricia won't like the digression above, she demands writing about film, and scolds us if we disappoint her. And as Patricia is our muse for these nightly, reflective essays on VanRamblings, we might as well get on with things. So to placate Patricia, and because we actually like to write, and because we saw a life raft of terrific films on Tuesday, we'll provide you with some insight into ...
Beyond the Hills (Grade: A): After dealing with the psychodrama that began our day in line outside the Granville 7 (sheesh, I mean, really?), we settled down to the 153-minute screening of Cristian Mingui's fictionalization of a 2005 incident involving a novice who died after being subjected to an exorcism in Romania's Tanacu monastery: an irrational horror at the heart of 21st-century Europe. We hadn't really done our homework on the film prior to Tuesday's screening, and kept saying to ourselves during the film's first two-thirds, "Cristian Mungiu is turning out a film in support of those who seal themselves away in rural monasteries, to a life of ... what? Really, that's Mungiu's follow-up to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days?" And then, and then, at the two-thirds point in the film, the honesty and fidelity, intelligence and insight, and honest reflection on the human condition emerged (beginning with a spectacular "speech" by a resident doctor in the Romanian hospital, where the monastic novice has been transported).
Migawd, did the doctor set things straight. A little passionate honesty goes a long, long way, in our books. We felt so emboldened after the screening that we engaged one of the senior VIFF staff to address and resolve an outstanding issue of concern, but were disappointed to find only a passive-aggressive response to those expressed concerns, and an utter and absolute lack of fidelity in our contact. Still, a common response when one is feeling under attack, although such was not our intention, and we hope against hope, our demeanour (we strive to be respectful at all times). Hey, we recognize that we've been a pain in the ass at this Festival for some people (although we find we are considered to be charming by others, according to the feedback we've been receiving); but that comes from demanding the best from all of us, and settling for no less. Be honest and sincere, think about the things you say, be prepared to take action where necessary and be responsible for yourself and for all of your utterances. Both of us will be be a better off for the experience, when a little humanity, a modicum of humour, kindness and wit is brought to our engagement.
Good thing, then, that Festival Director Alan Franey never, ever, ever disappoints. We could write that Alan Franey is the best arts administrator in the City, but that would only be the partial truth. Alan Franey is probably not only the hardest working, but the most sophisticated, intelligent, insightful, organized, humane, caring, warm, and dedicated (we could go on for quite a bit longer) arts administrator in the country. Alan Franey ranks as one of the finest corporate leaders it has been our privilege to interview and engage, at any point in our 40+ years as a working journalist.
Hemel (Grade: A): Arriving at VIFF2012 with immense buzz, after winning the Critics' FIPRESCI Prize at Berlin this year, at Tuesday morning's screening, Hemel was everything, and more, that had been promised. A chilly, chilly film emotionally, the lack of emotion onscreen was more than made up for by the promised and delivered outré sex, general kinkiness and nudity (here's some video), mostly involving Hemel ("Heaven" in Dutch). A character study delving into Hemel's experience of life, uneasy resolution is reached by movie's end. How did Hemel become who we see onscreen? With its insinuating trance score offering aural landscape to all we see before us, this movie about a wild and out-of-control, verging on dangerous, woman leaves us to ponder whether her sexual acting out is a product of, or a response to, rape in late adolescence or her early teens years, or derives from her involvement in street, child prostitution, again in late adolescence or her early teen years — the time when a sense of a child's sexuality begins to emerge and cohere — or is the product of a very early, and sustaining, sexual relationship with an adult, sometimes an uncle or a neighbour, but more generally the father. That the answer to the film's puzzle revolves around bodily fluids and function, takes the whole issue of resolution to a new and disturbing conclusion. Sacha Polak's provocative character study of a beautiful Dutch twentysomething enables Hannah Hoekstra to shine in this year's most stunning, star-making performance.
A couple of quick notes: we loved, loved, loved Come As You Are, and find ourselves grateful beyond words for the recommendation to see the film, from many, many of our VIFF cinephile friends. We also took in a second screening of When The Night, early last evening, and we liked the film much more during a second viewing — that's going some when you take into account that we loved When The Night when we first saw it in preview three weeks ago. We didn't think it possible to love the film any more than we already did; we were wrong. We loved When The Night's cinematography, performances, narrative, insinuating score, as well as it's evocative setting.
October 8, 2012
VanRamblings is concerned about the fragility of our emotional state.
Since taking in an early Saturday morning screening of Álex de la Iglesia's treatise, As Luck Would Have It, we have felt emotionally wrung out, fragile, and have in the days since wondered if we will make it through til Festival's end, on Friday. That As Luck Would Have It addresses a core belief we have long held respecting the dynamic of women's impact on the lives of men, and that VanRamblings had never seen this core philosophy expressed on screen before was for us, overwhelming & profound, the truest expression, and capturing, of love that VanRamblings has ever seen on film.
On Monday afternoon, still recovering from As Luck Would Have It, not to mention Monday morning's screening of certain Best Picture Oscar nominee, The Sessions — which we also found profoundly moving — as the Empire Granville 7's wonderful overseer, Teresa Weir, approached us for our ticket for the screening of The Angels' Share in Theatre 7, as we were thanking her for her kindness to us throughout the Festival, we broke down and cried. Too many films, too many tears over too many days, too little sleep?
Whatever the circumstance, we will carry on, while remaining grateful for the support of Festival staff, volunteers and patrons — our Festival family.
As Luck Would Have It (Grade: A+): There is no movie we have found more deeply affecting than Álex de la Iglesia's at all times wondrous new film. A very dark comedy that simply teems with life, the most well-conceived and executed picture that has played the Festival, the single most heart-wrenching family drama that has played the Festival year, as I wrote to my friend Michael Klassen after Saturday morning's screening ...
This morning, I saw Álex de la Iglesia's new film, As Luck Would Have It, starring Salma Hayek in a role that provides her with the opportunity to turn in the best performance of her career. A story about economic dislocation, and the love that the husband and wife in the film have for one another and how that love defines their lives and informs all decisions that are made for their family, had me on the floor. Although I've seen some very affecting films at VIFF, on Saturday morning at the screening of As Luck Would Have It, about two-thirds of the way through the film, during a conversation Salma Hayek was having with José Mota, who plays her husband, I completely lost it ... I sobbed uncontrollably, I had a hard time catching my breath, I thought I was going to have to run from the theatre and collapse in some dark corner ... I heaved heavy sobs for 15-minutes before pulling myself together enough to make it through the remainder of the film. That a film can speak to someone, as As Luck Would Have It has resonated with me, simply reinforces for me the power of the image to transform.
Of the more than 80 films VanRamblings has seen to date at VIFF2012, As Luck Would Have It has emerged as our very favourite film.
And more from the same e-mail to Michael, on the VIFF animated film, Ernest and Célestine (Grade: A): ...
I also caught a screening of the French animated film, Ernest et Célestine, which also proved both powerful and affecting. You would like this film because of your love for Sophie. In many films at VIFF this year, relations between children and their parents have resonated deeply with me ... Ernest et Célestine is very much a father-daughter story, I believe. I love the way Célestine treats Ernest, just like Megan used to, and still does, as she helps to keep me on the right path ... our daughters, just like our wives, always have our best interests at heart, their honesty and their love in their relations with us, as well as their insistence that we always be our best selves, becomes for us in our lives a defining and abiding characteristic of both the love we hold in our hearts for our children and our spouses, and they for us.
We have had a wrenching few days at VIFF, finding the following two films, moving, deeply affecting and humane ...
- Revolution (Grade: A): A recently released United Nations report states that should world powers fail to address the issue of the acidification of our oceans, seas, lakes and other water bodies, by the year 2048, the lack of government action on the matter will result in the extinction of all sea life, vanishing from the earth forever. Employing the most moving, non-didactic, wildly entertaining and humane means possible, filmmaker Rob Stewart has turned in a mighty doc, one that should be seen by everyone. There's one more screening tomorrow, Wednesday, October 10th at 1:30pm at the Vancity Theatre. Revolution is, quite simply, a must-see documentary.
- Rose (Grade: B+): Wojtek Smarzowski's new film offers a searing indictment of rape as a victor's reparation of war, and an indictment of post WWII Russian soldiers as a monstrous force of evil. Set in Masuria, a lake region bordering East Prussia and Poland that after WWII was turned over to the Soviet Union, Rose offers a story of place, time, people and history in an epic tale of an historic tragedy. Another must-see. Screens for a final time, Wed., Oct. 10, 7pm, Gr7.
Tuesday's must-see VIFF films include: First thing in the morning, there's Beyond the Hills, Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's follow-up to his award-winning "race-against-the-calendar abortion thriller 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days; next, Hemel offers a twisted story about love, lust and erotic fixation, Sacha Polak's weirdly beautiful, graphic and tender début feature both compulsive and transgressive. Hemel was one of the buzz films coming into VIFF2012. Screens for the first time today, Oct 9, 2pm, Gr2, and again on Thursday, 11am, at the Vancity Theatre, on Seymour.
The other must-see VIFF films on this Tuesday are: VanRamblings favourite romance, the at all times wonderful When The Night, a film we love and about which we have heard only praise from those who've attended screenings of When The Night, earlier in the Festival. And, finally, on Tuesday, Bay of All Saints, by far our very favourite documentary film at VIFF2012, screens for a final time today, at 3:30pm, Gr6.
As we wrote yesterday, based on buzz and the insistence by VIFF patrons that VanRamblings must attend, tonight we'll be taking in a screening of what has become Week 2's buzziest film, Come As You Are.
Ran into Festival Director Alan Franey following a mid-afternoon screening of the Christopher Kenneally / Keanu Reeves documentary, Side by Side: The Science, Art and Impact of Digital Cinema, and spent a few minutes catching up with Alan (who looked great on Sunday in his cream coloured suit), touching on a range of Festival-related subjects.
Alan expressed a concern that, in VIFF's final year at the Empire Granville 7, the patron experience has not been everything that he might have hoped it would be, that he would have liked to "go out on a higher, better note." We both agreed, though, with the changes Alan implemented on Friday that the ship had been righted, that following a review at the end of the first week arising from the ongoing consultation / seeking of feedback from staff, volunteers and festival-goers, the patron experience had improved measurably, to patron satisfaction, over the course of the past 72 hours.
VanRamblings suggested that where it mattered most, VIFF is experiencing an exceptionally rewarding year: the films. From The Hunt, Any Day Now, When The Night, Thursday Till Sunday, The Late Quartet, Bay of All Saints, Egg and Stone, Teddy Bear, Rose, Nuala — well, the list could go on and on, couldn't it? — VIFF is experiencing an exceptional year. The films we see at VIFF don't arrive as if by magic, they're curated by Alan, PoChu AuYeung, Mark Peranson, Terry McEvoy, Stephanie Damgaard, Shelly Kraicer, Tony Rayns and Sandy Gow, as well as being juried by a dedicated, hard-working group of cinephiles. This year, the VIFF programmers have outdone themselves, as the Vancouver International Film Festival grows from strength to strength to strength.
Of course, we touched on the issues which Alan must address respecting the re-locating of VIFF in 2013 to a new site(s). Alan indicated that he doesn't want to rush into anything, or react precipitously, that he and his team will take some time to review the options available to VIFF. For now, though, following a hard-fought year of working to bring to Vancouver the best curated and juried film festival in North America, Alan will take a brief, well-deserved break, before settling down to the tasks at hand.
Then VanRamblings rushed off to the Empire Granville 7 for an early evening screening of Lucy Mulloy's wondrously delightful, heart in your throat Cuban narrative, Una Noche where we arrived late to meet COPE Executive Director, Sean Antrim, our companion for the screening. Sean had to rush off to a late Thanksgiving dinner (VanRamblings sets aside all prosaic concerns during the Festival, so no turkey dinner for us on Sunday, as we took in five powerfully affecting VIFF screenings).
A few notes to complete VanRamblings' shorter than usual VIFF post ...
Our Children: VIFF has secured a pristine DCP print of Belgium's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, following the almost week-long psychodrama that occurred following last Monday's screening of Our Children at the VanCity. The film's producers had supplied a degraded production screener with a time code running across the top, with a critical two minutes of the film missing (VIFF didn't know that a portion of the film was missing). We're looking forward to attending today's 3:45pm screening at the Empire Granville 7. Given that Our Children looks to be a solid Oscar contender (Amour would appear to be its only serious competition), and given that the word VanRamblings heard from friends who actually stayed for the entirety of the Our Children screening last week, who told us they felt the film to be among the strongest of the films they had seen at VIFF in 2012, well .. given that most of these friends/VIFF patrons are not given to engaging in the kind of hyperbole that defines our 'review' approach (we either love a film, or really don't care for it, there's ain't no in between with us), the comments of these friends would have to be considered high praise, indeed. Bottom line: Our Children is one of today's must-see films.
Come As You Are: As patrons were exiting Cinema Three late Sunday morning, we were approached by several VIFF regulars, who told us, "Raymond, I don't know what you've got scheduled for the late show on Tuesday, but whatever it is, cancel it. You absolutely have to see the 9:30pm screening of Come As You Are on Tuesday night." So that's where we'll be. Ahhhh, how wonderful to be taken care of by the VIFF family.
Any Day Now: Talking about films that are can't miss, the final screening of Any Day Now occurs at 9:30pm this evening, in the Empire Granville 7. There are very few films which we will guarantee any VIFF patron and cinéaste will love, but let us tell you: Any Day Now is amongst the best American independents of the year. You really oughta do youself a favour and take in a screening of this powerfully affecting period drama.
Monday's screenings represents one of the potentially strongest VIFF days, thus far, film wise. Must-sees on Monday include: Ernest et Célestine, The Sessions, The Angels' Share, Amour, Our Children, No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII, All in Good Time, Kinshasa Kids, Revolution, The Flat and Any Day Now.
And, finally for this post: we were told by VIFF staff that a screening of The Hunt had to be cancelled on Sunday, for technical reasons. Apparently, there'll be an additional screening announced today. Given that The Hunt is probably the most well-crafted and accessible film at VIFF in 2012, The Hunt would have to be considered yet another must-see.
October 7, 2012
Imagine yourself on a Sunday morning at the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival. You've just walked into the Empire Granville 7, where you've been greeted by one of the volunteers, and are then ushered into a dark room with seats all facing forward. You feel reverent.
You are about to worship at the 'church of cinema'.
One hundred years on, global cinema has arrived as a form of transcendence, for many replacing the once venerated position held by the institutional church. Think about the similarities: churches and the cinema are both large buildings built in the public space. Both have signage out front indicating what is about to occur inside.
As physical structures, the church and the cinema create a sense of sacred space with their high ceilings, long aisles running the length of the darkened rooms inside, the use of dim lighting, the sweeping curvature of the walls, and the use of curtains to enhance the sacredness of the experience.
In the church of the cinema we take communion not with bread and wine, but with the ritualistic consumption of our favourite snack.
Consider if you will, the memorable moment when you enter the auditorium to find your perfect viewing angle, allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy. Although you may not receive absolution at the cinema, there is the two-hour reprieve from the burden of your daily life.
As the lights are dimmed, the service begins: The seating, and the opening introduction constitute a liturgy for one and all, not dissimilar to the welcoming ritual that occurs in a church service prior to the sermon. If you are like most people, you obey an unwritten rule that requires you to be in place in time for either the singing (if you're in church) or the introduction of a film by a Vancouver Film Festival theatre manager. And, you remain silent while in the theatre, focused on all that unfolds before you.
There is, too, the notion that as the film limns your unconscious mind you are being transported, elevated in some meaningful way, left in awe in the presence of a work of film art.
What we want from church is often, these days, more of what we receive from the cinema on offer at the Vancouver International Film Festival: the vague, unshakable notion that the eternal and invisible world is all around us, transporting us as we sit in rapt attention. We experience the progress and acceleration of time, as we see life begin, progress, and find redemption. All within two hours. The films at the Vancouver International Film Festival constitute much more than entertainment; each film is a thoughtful meditation on our place in society and our purpose in life.
As a film draws to a close, just as is the case following a sermon we might hear in church, our desire is to set about to discuss with friends that which we have just experienced. Phrases and moments, transcending current frustrations with a new resolve, all in response to a line of dialogue or an image on the screen that we have now incorporated into how we will lead our life going forward.
In the holy trinity of meaning, cinema reigns supreme, the personal altar of our home theatres placing a distant second place, the city providing the physical proof of the reality the other two point to, oriented towards the satisfaction of the devout cinemagoer's theology.
Throughout the centuries we have sought to find meaning through manifest ritual and symbolism. If, as in the scene from American Beauty, a plastic bag sailing in the breeze is an intimation of immortality then there is, perhaps, something for us to consider respecting the difference between art as diversion and art in our lives as a symbolic representation of an awakened mindfulness, allowing us to transcend the troubles of our lives.
For those who attend the Vancouver International Film Festival, cinema has emerged as that place where we might experience life in the form of parable, within a safe and welcoming environment, that place where we are able to become vulnerable and open, hungry to make sense of our lives. Cinema delivers for many of us access to the new spiritualism, the place where we experience not merely film, but language, memory, art, love, death and, perhaps even, spiritual transcendence.
October 6, 2012
VanRamblings' Thursday and Friday at the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival involved some of our favourite films to date at VIFF 2012. For VanRamblings, attending our annual film festival is akin to being in love, and not just love, but infatuation. We love the patrons in the lineups and in the cinemas; we love the films we see from early morning to late at night; we love all of the VIFF staff and volunteers, every single one of them; we love writing about the Festival (until the wee hours of the morning), after a full day inside one of VIFF's darkened theatres. We could, however, use a bit more sleep — two to three hours a night for 16 days ... well, we're glad we can still manage to function on as little sleep as we've been getting. Truth to tell, though, we've not only 'survived', we've thrived each and every glorious day at VIFF 2012 — and in the process, driven some people a little nuts. For which we apologize. But ... hey, we're in love!
As for the films we screened on Thursday and Friday, we absolutely loved / were over the moon about the following four great and abiding films, each one of of which has rocketed onto our Top 15 films at VIFF 2012 list.
Liverpool (Grade: A): Structured as a murder-mystery, and a puzzle picture of the first order, with a wildly inventive narrative that pulls you right in as it moves from the personal to the political, with the release of the film Liverpool, director Manon Briand announces herself as a world class film talent, an auteur, and an accomplished filmmaker with a firmer and more joyous understanding of popular culture than VanRamblings has previously been witness to. Liverpool is the most audacious Canadian film of 2012!
Something in the Air (Grade: A): Here's a picture of of VanRamblings (and spouse) in 1972. Anarchist. Rebel. Student leader. Radical journalist. Community activist, and organizer. Filmmaker. Writer. With a greater fidelity than one would have thought possible, Olivier Assayas' Something in the Air captures what it meant to be a student radical in the late 60s and early 70s, as well as the milieu of the era — the protests, the marches, the casual nudity, frequent sex and changing of partners, the drug-taking, the focus on the arts as an agent for change, and the innumerable, deadening hours of pedantic diatribes and debates relating to arcane points of radical political philosophy, where no one agreed on anything, when the worst thing someone could say about you was that you were bourgeoise, the need for the vanguard to foment "revolution for the people" (Me? I was and still am, a Bakuninist, so I don't believe in the concept of a 'vanguard'). Reputedly an autobiographical account of Assayas' work within the French student radical movement, circa 1971, this immaculately realized cinematic work, with its exceptionally attractive cast — we'd never heard of nor seen India Salvor Menuez previous to Friday night's screening of Something in the Air, but we'll be on the lookout for her now; not to mention how wonderful it was to finally see Lola Créton up on the big screen, given that Mia Hanson-Love's Goodbye First Love hasn't made it to Vancouver yet; and, oh yes, we'd be remiss if we didn't praise Clément Métayer's searing, absolutely captivating performance — emerges as a compelling cinematic entertainment, and so so much more.
Like Someone in Love (Grade: A): Unexpected and a total surprise, Abbas Kiarostami's at all times wondrous, compelling watch, from movie's outset to its out of the blue, abrupt and verging on horrific ending leaves you in no doubt that you are in the hands of a cinematic master, and you'd do well to fasten your seatbelt, cuz you're in for a wild ride. Addressing the issues of lust, 'love', and disconnection verging on anomie, Like Someone in Love is hardly what the trailer above suggests it is, and neither is it what most critics have found it to be ("an enchanting drama of misfired passions"), it is so much more. Both Rin Takanashi and Ryo Kase give the performances of their careers. A delight, and a great time at the movies.
Egg and Stone (Grade: A): We raved about Huang Ji's début film in our post yesterday, and ran a video of the Q&A that followed a screening of the film, so today we'll leave you with the film's compelling to watch trailer.
Empire Granville 7 Closing Permanently
Contrary to the information provided by Empire Theatre management at the outset of VIFF 2012, and in response to rumours floating around VIFF throughout the day on Friday, Festival Director Alan Franey confirmed to VanRamblings late Friday evening that the Empire Granville 7 will close permanently on Sunday, November 4th. "An era comes to an end," wrote Franey in his e-mail to VanRamblings. "The only silver lining that I can see is that whichever venues we end up using next year are likely to have less complex issues for street assembly."
The specifics of the "street assembly" comment above relates to an issue VanRamblings raised with Alan in an e-mail sent at 2 a.m. on Friday morning, respecting the efficacy of lineup assembly outside the Granville 7. A portion of that e-mail referenced what VanRamblings believed (and wrote in our e-mail to Alan) suggesting that there is "the same amount of street furniture" on Granville Street this year, as was present in 2010 and 2011. Turns out, VanRamblings was wrong on that count, relating incorrect information to Alan, information he was kind enough to clarify, writing ...
"There is in fact more fixed furniture on the street (outside the Granville 7) than last year, and certainly more than the year before. We had involved discussions with the City of Vancouver about how to manage the space as well as possible, not being able to ourselves afford the costs of the engineering department temporarily rearranging benches etc. In the final week of the Festival, VIFF intends to improve the signage on the street, so that assembling patrons will more easily be able to identify the beginning of lineups."
VIFF patrons lining up outside the Granville 7 on Friday evening will have noticed a much improved mustering of patrons in lineups, as well as improved communication between VIFF staff and volunteers, and VIFF filmgoers. VIFF has worked always to ensure its strong, ongoing commitment to patrons, leading to the best customer service possible for the tens of thousands of VIFF filmgoers who joyously attend the Festival.
Four final notes on this Saturday, October 5th, Thanksgiving weekend post.
Our Children: Just about the best news we heard on Friday (in a day that was filled with good news, despite hearing that the Empire Granville was closing), we were heartened, thrilled, and ... oh, say .... hmmm ... over the moon to hear that VIFF's Kathy Evans, in charge of Print Traffic Distribution, has managed to secure a first-rate DCP print of Our Children. Guess where we're gonna be this coming Monday afternoon a 3:45pm?
VIFF Highlights for the Thanksgiving Weekend: Just click on the link preceding this palaver, and you'll be taken to a place that just may provide you with the opportunity to engage in a bit of cinematic magic.
Programme Updates: As the Festival enters its second week, VIFF programmer's thoughts begin to turn to consideration as to what Festival favourites to bring back in the final two days, as both a response to popular demand, and (truth to tell), availability. There are already a number of additional screenings VIFF will make available. Good news. A worthwhile endeavour? Checking out the programme updates.
See you at the movies!
October 5, 2012
Week One of the 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival is but a fond memory. Although VanRamblings is having something of an odd Festival (you don't want to know), in respect of what is most important about the Festival — films films and more films — for the true cinéastes among us, Week One of VIFF2012 has proved nothing less than glorious.
Every VIFF patron with whom I've spoken this past week has their favourite film (in fact, a great many favourite films). Most individual patron film choices are both idiosyncratic and subjective. And it was always thus.
As for VanRamblings, here are our first-week VIFF favourites in 2012 ...
- Any Day Now. The at all times most wondrous film at VIFF 2012, with terrific central performances by Alan Cumming and Garett Dillahunt — not to mention the single most expansive cast of Hollywood character actor royalty VanRamblings has ever witnessed on screen.
- When The Night: One of our very favourite films screening at VIFF2012, Cristina Comencini's newest film (her 2005 incest drama, Don't Tell, earned a foreign language Oscar nomination) ranks among the most accomplished dramas screening at VIFF 2012. Set in Macugnaga, a small mountain town in Italy's northwest corner and the holiday destination of privileged middle-class mother Marina (Claudia Pandolfi) and her toddler son Marco, and Manfred (Filippo Timi), their brooding antisocial host, this Brontë-esque tale of ill-fated, star-crossed love grabs you from the outset, and just won't let go.
- Thursday Till Sunday. One of the many, many memory mood sense pictures screening at VIFF this year (which means that for the filmmaker, plot and dynamic narrative is not necessarily as important a consideration as is the sensual evocation of character), Thursday Till Sunday is our favourite Latin American film in 2012, which is really saying something when in 2012 Latin American films are among the strongest films screening at VIFF. A subtle, observant and oh so moving drama about the disintegration of a marriage, as seen through the melancholy experience of their 11-year-old daughter, Lucía. Heartbreaking and at all times a compelling watch. With Bárbara Álvarez's lambent cinematography, and accomplished work by first-time director Dominga Sotomayor, Thursday Till Sunday ranks as one of our resonant and redolent picks for VIFF 2012...
We are equally over the moon about the incredibly engrossing and moving Brazilian documentary, Bay of All Saints. We loved Teddy Bear, the low-key Danish drama about an enormous and painfully shy bodybuilder whose need for connection leads him to Thailand, where he hopes to find a bride. No Job for a Woman: The Women Who Fought to Report WWII, and Nuala are numbers 2 and 3, after Bay of All Saints, in our doc category.
The Hunt is our favourite 'big' picture this year, an accomplished and wrenching drama created by The Celebration's Thomas Vinterberg. Rebelle (War Witch), Canada's Best Foreign Language 2012 Oscar nominee, just knocked our socks off when we saw it last Sunday. Aquí y Allá, Mexico's award winning examination of migrant labour, proved a moving experience from beginning to end, as did the Uruguayan family drama, La Demora.
The kitchen-sink father-daughter drama, Off-White Lies, was a winner in our books. Sean Baker's Starlet came out of nowhere, and knocked our socks off, this provocative downbeat filmic insight into the porn industry, with its poignant yet contentious May-December relationship drama central to the film's narrative, ranks high on our 'best of' list. On the recommendation of friends, we took in a screening of In Another Country, and man oh man are we glad we did. A sort of Korean Rashomon revolving around the always lovely and provocative Isabelle Huppert, this filmic curiousity involved us from beginning to end. Did we mention that we loved Love in the Medina, a sensuous Moroccan tale about forbidden love?
And that we loved: The Flat, the revelatory Holocaust investigative documentary; or that the Senegalese kora doc, Griot, had us wanting to pick up our old kit bag and move to Senegal, now ... right now. Otelo Burning, the anti-apartheid drama, and The Sound of the Bandoneón are certainly high on our list of favourite VIFF non-fiction films.
And boy oh boy, were we blown away by Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love, one of the most inventive, accomplished, surprising, humane and completely unexpected films at VIFF (that ending is a stunner!). And, we're certainly glad we took in a screening of Violeta Went to Heaven, Andrés Wood's (Machuca) story about Chilean activist-singer, Violeta Parra, widely considered to be the mother of Latin American folk music.
We've already written about how over the moon we are over the at all times brilliant Neighbouring Sounds, and Tabu, Miguel Gomes' stunning fever dream of a film, the two most accomplished films at VIFF2012, both of which we just loved.
Egg and Stone (Grade: A): An absolutely remarkable début for writer-director Huang Ji, this winner of the Tiger Award at this year's International Film Festival in Rotterdam, Netherlands, represents the most auspicious début by an Asian filmmaker at VIFF 2012. The narrative offers a powerful indictment of male sexual privilege (throughout the film, one could see the uncle as nothing less than a monster), an almost wordless, beautifully realized mood sense piece. Autobiographical, part of what will become a trilogy on the subject of the movement of young Chinese women towards empowerment. The D&C scene had me on the floor; one of the most wrenching choices by a filmmaker as cinematic material, ever. With a central performance by newcomer Yao Honggui that simply burns with intensity.
October 4, 2012
Each year at the Vancouver International Film Festival — for many, many years now — admin staff (this used to be Jane Macdonald's job before she retired from the Festival) have chosen an audience-pleasing, feel-good film to pack the house and draw in a crowd who might not normally attend a film festival. Most of the time, the films chosen succeed in doing what was intended. In 2012, the film assigned as the mid-Festival audience-pleaser:
- Love Is All You Need (Grade: C+): Susanne Bier is an Academy award winning director (for 2011's, In A Better World). In 2012, jettisoning her social conscience, Ms. Bier has turned out a film that, although well-crafted (production design and cinematography are both first-rate), emerges at best as pablum, a film that drags out all of Hollywood's worst rom-com tropes, with an unsurprising and woefully underwritten script that telegraph's the entire movie in the first five scenes. Not the worst film on tap at VIFF 2012, but omigawd, is Love Is All You Need the direction Ms. Bier intends to take her career?
Yes, it is true: VanRamblings is something of a curmudgeon. From comments made to VanRamblings after the screening, the reception was generally positive. VanRamblings understands that there's an economic imperative at work here: Tuesday night's screening sold out, the film brought in Festival-goers who might not otherwise attend a VIFF film — the salutary consequence: VIFF participation is democratized, and a new audience comes out to enjoy the Festival, which event always, always has to be seen as a good thing. We just wish a better film had been chosen.
October 3, 2012
Year in, year out the International Shorts programme emerges as one of the most overlooked aspects of the Vancouver International Film Festival. Attendance at screenings is sparse, buzz is muted, if present at all, and very few VIFF patrons — amidst what seems to be at times almost a cacophony of films — allow themselves to have the films in the shorts programme wash over them and change their lives forever going forward.
Early on Tuesday evening, in Theatre 5 at the Granville 7, VanRamblings took in a screening of the International Shorts programme, Teen Tales, a cinematically lovely and moving, curated programme of six international short films, five of which we are over the moon about, films as well-crafted as the most accomplished films at this year's Festival, the collective work of a group of young directors whose films we will come to admire for decades into the future, the skill of these shorts auteurs, simply peerless and embodying always a filmic intelligence, a love of the craft of filmmaking, with an absolutely shattering and utterly original presentation of narrative.
October 2, 2012
More Inside the Beltway Coverage of VIFF 2012
VanRamblings feels quite disappointed in ourselves on having focused so much attention in the early VIFF posts on various VIFF 'glitches' this year (and let's face it, in every other year of VIFF's existence, and to be perfectly honest — in every other Film Festival anywhere on this planet) that has dogged the opening days of Vancouver's annual exhibition of world cinema.
Still and all, as a journalist, one supposes that it is our duty to report out in order that you have information you can work with. This has been the oddest year for VanRamblings VIFF coverage, though, pretty much bereft of our tried-and-true capsule reviews, focusing instead on the day-to-day machinations on the periphery of VIFF, rather than films? Odd that. Oh well.
Anyway, the above said, here we go again for today ...
- Our Children: VanRamblings attended a 1pm, Monday, Vancity screening of Our Children, only to be told minutes before the screening that VIFF had been able only to acquire a degraded, time-coded production screener of the film, rather than the promised DCP 'print'. The New York Film Festival, whose Fest is running simultaneously with ours, has both a DCP 'print', as well as an appearance by the film's director, Joachim LaFosse. NYFF50 probably has in its possession the only English-subtitled DCP on the continent. New York will screen Our Children this Friday and Saturday evenings. Will VIFF find a way to acquire / have shipped the DCP of Our Children currently residing in the big smoke? And what does the snafu mean for VIFF filmgoers?
On Monday afternoon, VanRamblings spoke with VIFF Print Traffic Co-ordinator Kathy Evans about the matter. We expressed a concern that the screener currently in VIFF's possession — in addition to degradation of film quality — is also missing 2 minutes of content, involving a crucial scene establishing the lead character's state of mind and her consequent inexorable decline into tragedy. For VanRamblings, we would have stayed to watch Our Children; even a degraded, time-coded DVD screener — but a screener missing crucial footage?
Here's what VIFF's Kathy Evans told us about the matter: the producers of Our Children have let her know that they are anxious to get a DCP version of the film to us in time for next Monday's and Thursday's VIFF screenings. The producers have every incentive to do so, given that Our Children is Belgium's Best Foreign Film Oscar nominee, and any buzz the film could garner at our VIFF Fest would only serve to help the film's chances to gain entry as one of the five finalists in contention for an Oscar. On a concluding note: Ms. Evans assures VIFF filmgoers that she and her team are "working diligently" to ensure that VIFF acquires a DCP 'print' of the film as it is meant to be seen, assuring us as well, that she will keep VanRamblings apprised on any developments in the matter, so that we can keep you informed.
Note should be made that in the 31 years that VanRamblings has attended VIFF, print acquisition problems has, annually, proven a concern, as it does for each and every Film Festival in every jurisdiction across our planet. In VanRamblings' experience, VIFF administration conducts itself always with diligence, fortitude, integrity, sincerity and strength of purpose in serving the needs of VIFF patrons. If there's a resolution to the matter involving Our Children to be had, senior VIFF admin, and Ms. Evans and her team, will find the resolution satisfactory to the needs of VIFF patrons.
October 1, 2012
Sean Baker, who brought his new film, Starlet — the provocative May-December friendship drama — to VIFF2012, at the Q&A following an early morning screening of the film (above) told the audience that the film had found a North American distributor in Music Box Films — who have acquired a number of films screening at our VIFF, for distribution in Canada and the United States, including Ira Sachs' well-reviewed, Keep the Lights On, and VIFF favourite Any Day Now. VanRamblings reader Joan Skosnik was kind enough to write to us with the information that the Alan Cumming / Garret Dillahunt period drama had been acquired for distribution.
Music Box Films acquired Canadian Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee Monsieur Lazhar last year, and took it right through the Oscar process, where the film emerged as an even odds prospect for a win. Will the same thing happen for Starlet, Any Day Now or Keep the Lights On? VanRamblings thinks not, and believes that these three films are unlikely to return to Vancouver, unless VIFF Vancity programmer Tom Charity picks them up for a one-week run. Distribution is a costly process, and when you're talking about distributing films that cost only $250,000 to make in the first place, although those films might find release to theatres there'll be next to no money for marketing and advertising the films, so who'll even know that they've found a home at a cinema in our town, post-Festival?
Maybe the three films referred to above will return to Vancouver, maybe they won't. Clearly, they're all worthy films. VanRamblings' advice? Why risk possible disappointment? See them as part of your VIFF2012 film schedule!
September 30, 2012
The first three days of the 31st annual Vancouver International Film has proved to be nothing less than spectacular.
Although VanRamblings' Festival started out a bit on the meh side, Friday and Saturday were knockout punches in terms of film quality. As was mentioned yesterday, the counterintuitive (at least for us), heartfelt drama, Any Day Now , has emerged as the most well-acted, poignant, and accomplished piece of indie filmmaking we've seen thus far at VIFF2012.
Nuala (Grade: B+): Renowned Irish journalist, feminist TV producer and host, book reviewer, teacher and New York Times best-selling author Nuala O'Faolain, who passed on May 9, 2008, was the second eldest of nine children, the daughter of neglectful parents — a raffish social affairs columnist father, and a book-loving, alcoholic mother. Somehow, through her love of literature, a beauty which brought her many (many) lovers, and the undampened spirit she carried within her throughout her life, Nuala prevailed. As British poet Philip Larkin wrote, "They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do." Odds-on favourite to win Best Non-Fiction Film at VIFF2012 (no mean feat that considering the superior quality of VIFF docs this year), Nuala is must VIFF viewing in 2012. One final screening, Wednesday, October 3rd at 11am, Vancity Theatre.
Any Day Now (Grade: A-): The Audience Award winner at Tribeca this year, winner of Best Actor (Alan Cumming) and Best Director (Travis Fine) at the Seattle Film Festival in June, among a raft of other awards, this touching, tragic, sentimental and (fortunate for us) at times wildly comic 1979-set apparently true period drama explores the discrimination to which gay men have long been subjected, and the lengths to which one must go to engender tolerance and civil rights. Far from pedantic or a polemic, the at all times honest and beautifully-etched story of Paul, a closeted deputy district attorney who falls in love with Rudy (Alan Cumming), a flamboyant, lip syncing drag queen, and the fight the two wage to adopt Marco (Isaac Leyva), a teen with Down syndrome, offers as intimate and nuanced a character-driven drama as you're likely to see this year. A film not to miss. Screens again next Saturday, October 6th at 11am at the Vancity Theatre, and on Monday, October 8th at 9:30pm, Empire Granville 7.
September 29, 2012
Most casual filmgoers attending a VIFF screening feel pretty darn good about the experience. What one sees up on screen is paramount, and the politics of the Festival remains of not even blithe concern.
Not so for the passholders.
Yes, those folks who hold a Festival pass ($400 for unlimited filmgoing, $325 if you're a senior or a student), including the media, volunteers and Festival guests are a kvetchin' and a moanin' and a whinin' this year. Who likes change? So, as part of today's post we'll address the early concerns that have plagued passholders, and see if we can't put rumours to rest by getting the facts out for public consumption.
1. VIFF adopted a new, $64,000 ticketing system this year which, on the first day, proved to be slow, inept, frustrating, not particularly well thought out, and of great concern to diehard Festival passholders. Throughout Thursday all VanRamblings heard (and we spoke repeatedly with senior VIFF staff) was that VIFF was "wedded to" the new system, and it would remain in place Friday. Apparently, at some point during the VIFF opening gala, someone (one would have to think Alan Franey, Festival Director) made the decision to scrap the new VIFF ticketing system, and on Friday morning VIFF returned to distributing tickets by hand. VanRamblings sorta liked the new system, and thought it could work if the bugs were worked out. But, alas, the bugs weren't gonna get worked out (for instance, when taking passholder film info, staff had to scroll through all films to find the specific passholder request(s) — a cumbersome at best process). At any rate, all that is old is new again.
2. When VISA pulled out as a VIFF sponsor this year, VIFF senior staff changed a passholder entry system that had long been in place. Passholders are the bread-and-butter of VIFF, the passionate movie catholics who give VIFF 'meaning' (not to mention a great deal of money, and much enthusiasm for the work VIFF staff perform throughout the year). VISA, as part of their sponsorship arrangement, demanded that their 'VISA passholders' receive "early entry"; VIFF staff extended that to all passholders. So, for years, passholders were pulled out of line to gain early entrance to screenings, followed by ticket holders, a de facto recognition of the value of the passholder contribution to the Festival. This year, with VISA gone, and no preferential demand by VISA on the table, VIFF adopted a new system, which VIFF accounts/business manager Mickey Brazeau refers to as "the new egalitarianism", in which all those in the passholders / ticket buyers lineup gain entrance at the same time. My oh my, has this created a kerfuffle. VIFF Exhibitions Manager Teresa Weir relented on Friday night, and gave advance entrance to passholders for the 9:30 p.m. screening of Nameless Gangster. Apparently the passholder advance entry decision taken on Friday night represented a one-off; we'll see.
Of course the kvetchin' wasn't limited to the two items above: concerns have been raised about what many consider to be the failure of the online ticketing system, the snail's pace system for ordering 20/30 ticket packs, the website (e.g. one can't search by actor any more, and when placing a title into the search engine, more often than not you'll come up with two dozen responses), the VIFF app (film lengths are not listed), ad nauseum.
September 28, 2012
Each year for many, many years now, the esteemed and prestigious New York Film Festival has kicked off its run on the Friday, following the Thursday kick-off of our very own and much-looked-forward-to international film festival by the sea. And each year for many, many years, the number of films crossing over between the two festivals — meaning the number of films playing both Festivals simultaneously — has been quite substantial, a feature of both film festivals which continues on to this day.
In 2012, there are 14 films which will screen at both VIFF and the NYFF (New York's is a much smaller, heavily-juried Festival).
Can't make it to New York this autumn for the NYFF, well folks not to worry cuz here's what VIFF has on tap in 2012 that the folks in the big smoke will be viewing the same time as us west coast denizens (note should be made that there are a number of films which you'll find listed below to which VanRamblings has not made previous reference, which is all to the good for VIFF filmgoers who are still putting their VIFF film schedule together).
Aquí y allá (Here and There)
Antonio Méndez Esparza 2012
Mexico/Spain/USA | Spanish with English subtitles | 110 minutes
Pedro returns home to a small mountain village in Guerrero, Mexico after years of working in the U.S. His daughters feel more distant that he imagined, but his wife Teresa is delighted he's back. With the money he's earned he can create a better life for his family, and maybe even start the band with his cousins he's dreamed about for years. But work back home remains scarce, and the temptation of heading back north of the border remains as strong as ever. Antonio Mendez Esparza has made a most remarkable début; rarely, if ever, has a film about US/Mexican border experience felt so fresh or authentic. Using non-professionals, Mendez Esparza gets remarkably nuanced performances that gives a richness of nuance and detail to each of his characters that goes way beyond cliché and stereotype. Winner of the Grand Prize at this year's Critics Week in Cannes.
Michael Haneke 2012
France/Austria/Germany | French with English subtitles | 127 minutes
The universally acclaimed winner of the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Amour is arguably Michael Haneke's crowning achievement to date, a portrait of a couple dealing with the ravages of old age that is as compassionate as it is merciless. The great veteran French actors Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva are staggering as Georges and Anne, long-married music teachers living out their final years surrounded by the comforts of books and music in their warm Paris apartment. After Anne suffers a stroke, Georges attends to her with firmness shot through with love. The underlying unease, as well as some abrupt surprises, are hardly unexpected from Haneke, who challenges the viewer to confront the experience of his characters as directly as he does. But he rewards the effort with a film that is all the more moving for its complete avoidance of sentimentality. An unquestionable masterpiece.
September 27, 2012
Well, the day has finally arrived. The 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival is underway! While VanRamblings will find ourselves cozying up with a few hundred other enthusiastic filmgoers at Festival venues across Vancouver's welcoming and autumnal downtown peninsula, as promised earlier in the week — please find 20+ more VIFF films VanRamblings is recommending as worthy film festival film fair. See you at the movies!
Note: The VIFF iPhone app became available yesterday, which for iPhone folks makes life so, so much easier. Just put "VIFF" into your search function in your App Store iPhone app, and you'll be off to the races.
Tabu: Tim Robey in The Telegraph writes, "We're lucky if a single Tabu arrives each year: a film that knows cinema inside out, and uses it to work pure magic," while ViewLondon gives Tabu an unparalleled five-star rating ("beautifully shot, brilliantly directed, superbly written, hugely rewarding, achingly emotional. Unmissable). Do we need to go on? For screening times, click on the title link at the outset of this capsule recommendation.
Helpless: One of the VIFF films to which VanRamblings is most looking forward to (and we're seeing it back to back on Tuesday, October 2nd with Tabu) this Korean suspense thriller from female Korean director Byun Young Joo has emerged as a Korean box office smash, a critic's darling, as well as winning Ms. Young Joo the 48th annual Baeksang Arts Festival Best Director award. Russell Edwards, in Variety, writes ...
Fear and loaning lead to emotional mayhem and murder in the taut South Korean psychological thriller Helpless. Adapted by Byun Young-joo (Ardor) from a Japanese novel known in English as All She Was Worth, this tale of a man whose fiancée goes missing taps into present-day economic anxiety as well as the terror of emotional commitment.
A haunting, desperate, mystery-thriller addressing the theme of female agency (all too rare in Korean cinema), TwitchFilm's take on the film: "With great stylistic panache Helpless marries noir with the current zeitgeist of the financial distress suffered by many across the globe. Kim Min-hee, whose knock-out portrayal as the mysterious, seductive, and ultimately ruthless femme fatale is the film's compelling, and riveting, heart of darkness."
September 26, 2012
As promised on Monday, VanRamblings will recommend 20+ of a total of 40 films (20+ more tomorrow) playing at 2012's Vancouver International Film Festival — based on great reviews available on the web written by critics employed by industry trade magazines Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, as well as IndieWire, Screen Daily, and The Playlist, among other web sources, as well as on the recommendations of friends who've seen the films you'll see covered in today's post (say, at the recent Toronto or Venice film festivals, or earlier in the year at the Berlin, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, London, Seattle, Locarno or Cannes film festivals), or on the strong recommendation of friends who work within VIFF's superstructure, in the programming department or elsewhere within the Festival.
Without further ado, then, here goes ...
Sister: The buzziest of the buzz films at 2012's VIFF, yet inexplicably off the radar for most festivalgoers — even given that the film stars the always radiant Léa Seydoux — the film, a winner of the Silver Bear award at the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival, Ursula Meier's latest outing has been called a tough, tender and compelling Dardennes-style drama by Screen Daily critic Lee Marshall, IndieWire's Eric Kohn gave the film an A-, and writes "Sister bears the mark of a filmmaker with supreme control over her material," while The Hollywood Reporter's Jordan Mintzer calls the film touching, and Variety's Boyd van Hoeij suggests that "a gentle sprinkling of humor offsets the generally darker material." Plays late in the Festival, on Thursday, October 11th at 9:15 pm, Empire Granville 2, and on the final day of the Festival, Friday, Oct 12th, at 10:30 am, again in the Granville 2.
Neighbouring Sounds: Vogue magazine and NPR critic John Powers writes, "Written and directed by Kleber Mendonca Filho, this isn't merely the best new movie I've seen this year; it may well be the best Brazilian movie since the 1970s," while Variety's Jay Weissberg writes that the film is "superbly constructed, skillfully acted and beautifully lensed ... it's equally clear this exceptionally talented helmer understands exactly what he's doing & why." Trailer. Sep 27, 9pm, Gr 7; Oct 1, 3:15pm, Gr 2; Oct 3, 10:30am, Gr 7.
Bay of All Saints (Grade: A-): The winner of SXSW's Audience Award for best documentary, Annie Eastman's potent documentary paints an often tragic picture of life in a palafitas slum, just off the coast of Salvador, Brazil, yet manages somehow to offer a profound and moving expression of hope, through the fighting spirit and struggle of the film's principles, who provide such strong rooting interests for the viewer that you're just pulled right in (just wait to see how you feel when 9-year-old Rebeca goes missing). Outstanding. Humane. VanRamblings' favourite documentary thus far. Screens on Friday, September 28th at 10:45am, Pacific Cinémathèque; October 8th at 9:15pm, Gr1; and, for a final time, Oct 9th, 3:30pm, Gr 6.
Amour: Won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year, will likely emerge as the Oscar's Best Foreign Film winner next February, has the critics raving (another A- from Indiewire's Eric Kohn) and has Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman calling Amour, "transfixing and extraordinarily touching, perhaps the most hauntingly honest movie about old age ever made." Screens: Saturday, October 6th at 6:15pm, Vogue Theatre; Oct. 8th at 3pm, Vogue; and for a final time, Friday, Oct 12th, at 6:20pm, in the Gr3.
September 24, 2012
The 31st annual Vancouver International Film Festival kicks off Thursday, September 27th and runs through October 12th. This year, the Opening Night Gala features Midnight's Children, Canadian director Deepa Mehta's adaptation of the Booker Prize winning Salman Rushdie novel (with script and narration supplied by Rushdie himself), an epic, panoramic look at the history of India and Pakistan over a 50-year period. The Festival concludes with Leos Carax's hypnotically cinematic Cannes' award-winner, Holy Motors, closing out the Festival on the aforementioned Friday, October 12.
In between the opening and closing night films, over its 16-day running time, VIFF will unspool 380 features, documentaries and short films from 75 countries across the globe, with 107 Canadian films — making Vancouver the planet's largest film festival screening Canadian fare.
As always, VIFF will showcase the efforts of a number of local filmmakers, including features by director Mark Sawers, Camera Shy, a black comedy about a corrupt Vancouver city councilor; an independent feature written by Kristine Cofsky, and co-directed by Terry Miles & Cofsky, In No Particular Order, a 20-something portrait of "a quarter-life crisis"; the world première of director Katrin Bowen's relationship comedy, Random Acts of Romance, featuring local actress Amanda Tapping; and Bruce Sweeney's new murder mystery / neo-noir police procedural, Crimes of Mike Recket.
On the documentary side of VIFF's Canadian Images series, you'll want to catch Julia Ivanova's High Five: An Adoption Saga, a moving tale of a childless B.C. couple who end up on a rollercoaster ride to adopt five Ukrainian siblings, as well as acclaimed director Velcrow Ripper's Occupy Love, a journey deep inside the Occupy movement, the global revolution of the heart that continues to erupt around the planet.
In addition to the Canadian Images programme series, many of the Festival's trademark series will return: Dragons and Tigers: The Cinemas of East Asia , which remains a core component, and highlight, of the 31st annual VIFF; the annual Spotlight on France series; the Nonfiction Features of 2012 series (95 documentary films, 80 of which are feature-length this year), an important component of which is the Arts and Letters series focusing on music from across the globe; and the largest and most looked forward to component of the Festival, Cinema of Our Time — a key can't miss aspect of which is the International Shorts programme — featuring tremendously moving cinema from every corner of our planet, offering a window on our world and an insight into the lives of others who reside on every continent, and whose concerns, perhaps not so surprisingly, differ not so much from our own. And finally this year, World Wildlife Fund Canada returns to sponsor Garden in the Sea, VIFF's thought-provoking environmental series, always well-attended and a highlight of the Festival.
Award-winning films screening at this year's 31st annual Festival include: Michael Haneke's tender, haunting and brilliant new movie, the Cannes' Palme D'or winner, Amour; Sundance winner, The Sessions, a frank, funny and immensely touching indie drama that seems headed for Oscar recognition; Berlin Best Film winner La Demora, a powerful and closely observed psychological portrait of an arthritic, forgetful elder and the daughter who cares for him; and director Huang Ji's remarkable début feature, the Rotterdam Tiger award winning autobiographical drama, Egg and Stone, centering around a fragile-looking 14-year-old girl who becomes the victim of terrible sexual abuse.
Films arriving on our shores which have garnered recognition elsewhere and should be considered worthy of inclusion on your Festival schedule include: Aquí y Allá, writer-director Antonio Mendez Esparza's beautifully observant exploration of the stresses immigration places on family and self; Barbara, Berlin Best Director winner Christian Petzold's crisply shot, mesmerizing story of love and subterfuge in 1980 East Germany; Beyond the Hills, Cristian Mungiu's (4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days) tragic tale of religious and romantic conflict; Helpless, a superior Korean mystery suspense thriller from female Korean director Byun Young Joo that has set domestic box office records in Korea; Hemel, sort of a Dutch female version of Shame, Sacha Polak's psychologically illuminating début turns Polak into a director to watch; and The Hunt, Thomas Vinterberg's film stars Cannes Best Actor winner Mads Mikkelsen as a kindergarten teacher accused of child abuse.
September 21, 2012