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VIFF 2013: Tremendous Days of Transcendent Cinematic Affection

The Great Passage, starring Miyazaki Aoi and Matsuda RyuheiMiyazaki Aoi and Matsuda Ryuhei, in The Great Passage, VanRamblings' favourite VIFF film

On Monday, VanRamblings saw our first 'knocked it out of the park' Cinema of Our Time feature, The Great Passage, a masterwork from acclaimed Japanese director Ishii Yuya, as tremendously accomplished and moving a film as you'll see this year. We are awarding the film a rare unreserved and enthusiastic "A+", and recommend you do all in your power to arrange to take in VIFF's final screening of the film on Sunday, October 6th, at 2pm, at The Cinematheque. You'll want to purchase your tickets now — easy to do on VIFF's web page for the film — just click on the film's title link above.

Initially set in 1995, The Great Passage tells the winning and affectionate story of Mitsuya Majime, a socially awkward linguists post-graduate who lands his dream job — as a lexicographer hired to research for The Great Passage, a new 'living language' dictionary planned by a Tokyo publisher. In residence at the Sou-Un-Sou Rooming House, Mitsuya's only palpably human contact comes in the form of his elderly landlady, his only other association of consequence that of a ginger cat named Tora-san. Upon the arrival of his landlady's granddaughter, Kaguya Hayashi (Aoi Miyazaki), Mitsuya's world is turned upside down, his affection for her unbound.

Yuya's gently old-fashioned romantic comedy offers random bits of loveliness throughout. Early on, Kaguya — who as a chef is as obsessive in her love for cooking as Mitsuya is with the etymology of language — takes her undeclared suitor shopping, and when finding the knives she's traveled to find offers up the most tremendous explanation on the construction, composition and utility of knives. VanRamblings proceeded directly to Ming-Wo's to buy ourselves new knives following the screening, so impactful was Kaguya's presentation on the history and utility of knives.

VanRamblings cannot recommend The Great Passage highly enough — the whimsical screenplay, tremendously engaging performances, the movie's beguiling character arcs, as well as its warmly lambent cinematography, painterly shot composition, gently seductive pacing, and transcendently well-executed direction, makes Yuya's follow-up to his winning VIFF 2011 entry, Mitsuko Delivers — one of VanRamblings' favourite films that year — all the more welcome, extraordinary and rewarding an accomplishment.

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Tuesday looks to offer yet another salutary day at the 32nd annual Vancouver International Film Festival. As we did yesterday, we'll point you to the films that are screening today that are worthy of your attention ...

Just click on this pdf for today's VIFF screening schedule for ...

  • Honeymoon (Grade: B+). An audience favourite at this year's Festival, with its insinuating score, impending threat of violence and operatic theme of regret told within a Hitchcockian thriller construct, master Czech filmmaker Jan Hřebejk's elegantly intimate thriller weaves welcoming darkness into a nuanced story of repressed secrets and the possibility of forgiveness, all set over the two days of a bourgeois wedding celebration. Recommended. 11:10am, Cineplex, Cinema 9.

  • Heli. Winner of Best Director at Cannes for Amat Escalantes, the wildly controversial Heli — a gritty Mexican drugs and guns saga — screens today for the first time at VIFF 2013, at 4pm in The Playhouse.

  • Desert Runners (Grade: A-). Jennifer Steinman's fascinating, entirely alive documentary feature tracks a phalanx of desert marathon runners on the grueling 4 Deserts race series — encompassing Chile's Atacama Desert, a thousand kilometre strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains, the driest hot desert in the world; the 1600 km stretch of China's inhospitable palearctic Gobi Desert; the world's largest and hottest desert, Africa's Sahara; and Earth's southernmost and coldest desert, the Antarctic — while introducing us to the film's four main protagonists (ex-pro baseball player Ricky, now relocated from the U.S. to London; law-student Samantha, from Australia; British bodyguard Tremaine, who recently lost his wife to cancer; and 56 year-old Irish businessman Dave), the attendant trauma of their lives, and the transformation each undergoes throughout an ultramarathon year of physical, psychological, and emotional endurance. Recommended. 6:30pm today, and 4pm Thursday, at The Playhouse.

  • Youth. Another buzz film and audience Festival favourite, about which Variety says, "a hauntingly observational Israeli kidnapping story with riveting performances, a bold and disturbing adventure sure to trouble many in the audience." Screens today at 6:30pm, at Cineplex, Cinema 9, and again on Thursday, 4pm at SFU Woodwards.

  • From Neurons to Nirvana (Grade: B+). Oliver Hockenhull's thoughtful and rousing defense of psychotropic drugs as medication, and the role politicians play in denying us access to needed therapies, co-executive produced by Mark Achbar (The Corporation) and Betsy Carson, compels throughout in a film that is challenging for the senses and the mind. Recommended. Screens 4pm today, at the Vancity, and again on Wednesday, October 9th, 2pm, at The Rio.

  • The Past. If the trailer above doesn't catch your interest, maybe the fact that Bérénice Bejo (The Artist) picked up the Best Actress prize at Cannes this year will move you to catch the new film by Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi (last year's, A Separation) that all the critics at Cannes loved this year. Screens tonight at 9pm, at The Centre.

Apropos of nothing in particular, we'll leave you today with the following video by Rhye — VanRamblings' music find of autumn 2013 — with Toronto-born singer/songwriter Mike Milosh on vocals, and Danish instrumentalist, composer and arranger Robin Hannibal producing, their wildly nostalgic and romantic video below redolent of our youth, the video, one of our favourites of the year. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

Full VanRamblings coverage of VIFF 2013 is available by clicking here, replete with reviews, previews, Festival logistics, buzz and much more.

Here's VanRamblings' October 1st programming schedule update (pdf).

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at October 1, 2013 1:16 AM in VIFF 2013


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