The cinema of despair arrives back on our shores for the 35th consecutive year, as the prestigious and always provocative 35th annual Vancouver International Film Festival is set to commence on Thursday, September 29th, bringing joy and a degree of pathos to the lives of all those who love film as creative and challenging art, and art that provides a humane and, in most instances, insightful window into this ever-changing world of ours.
Today's VanRamblings column presents four more VIFF films we believe may be worthy of both your time and your consideration at VIFF 2016.
Note should be made that reviews for the four films are not universally over-the-moon, although there's enough good that has been written about each film that further salutary investigation by you may be well warranted.
Each year for the past 20 years, VanRamblings has chosen 20 - 30 films from the VIFF programme, in advance of the Festival, that we've identified as "sure fire winners" based on what we've heard from friends, and have found in reviews on the 'Net. Our track record has been this: out of 20 films we've identified each year, five have emerged as life-changing cinema, nine have proved worthy of our time & we're glad we caught the films, three have provided travelogue-like entertainment, and three we've just hated.
Still and all, appreciation of film is subjective — one person's cup o' tea may not be another's cup o' tea. Read on, assess, then decide for yourself.
I, Daniel Blake. Winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year (which is to say, the Grand Prize winner), 80-year-old U.K. writer-director-social activist-kitchen sink dramatist Ken Loach's latest powerful foray into humane cinematic agitprop emerges as one of the two films to which VanRamblings is most looking forward to screening at our VIFF 2016.
From David Rooney's review at Cannes, in The Hollywood Reporter ...
"For more than 50 years, Ken Loach has been making social-realist dramas tied together by a prevailing thread — the compassionate observation of the struggles of the working class to hold onto such fundamental dignities as a home, a job and food on the table within a hostile system that often views them unfairly as the cause of their own misfortunes.
Vividly drawn, full of beautifully subdued performances, authentic, entirely of the moment and anchored by incisive characterizations rich in integrity and heart, and by an urgent simplicity in its storytelling that's surprisingly powerful, I, Daniel Blake portrays ordinary people pushed to breaking point by circumstances beyond their control, and by a government welfare system of circuitous Kafkaesque bureaucracy seemingly designed to beat them down."
Deeply moving and at times darkly funny, Ken Loach establishes himself yet again as the Clifford Odets of contemporary British cinema as his new film intervenes in the messy, ugly world of poverty with the secular intention of making us see that it really is happening, and in a prosperous nation, too. I, Daniel Blake is a film with a fierce, simple dignity of its own. Screens for a first time on Monday, October 3rd, at 3:45pm at The Playhouse; on Thursday, October 6th, 3:15pm at The Centre; and on the last day of VIFF, Friday, October 14th, 6:30pm at The Centre.
Graduation. Romanian Palme d'Or winner (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) Cristian Mungiu's latest follows a doctor's attempts to help his daughter pass a life-changing school exam with superbly subtle observation. As Peter Bradshaw writes in his five-star review in The Guardian ...
"Graduation, is a masterly, complex movie of psychological subtlety and moral weight, about the shabby choices people make as they claw their way up: people constrained by loyalty to others who have helped them with wrongdoing, who use those others' corruption as an alibi for their own failings, and those who hope that the resulting system of shifty back-scratching somehow constitutes an alternative ethical system. But how about the children, those innocent souls for whose sake all this grubbiness has been endured? Should they be preserved from graduating into an infected world of compromise and secret shame?"
An intricate, deeply intelligent film, and a bleak picture of a state of national depression in Romania, where the 90s generation hoped they would have a chance to start again, there are superb performances from Adrian Titieni as surgeon Dr Romeo Aldea, and 18-year-old Maria Dragus — who played the priest's daughter Klara in Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon. It's a jewel in an exceptional Cannes 2016 lineup."
With unfailingly convincing performances, a script that keeps the proceedings on a slow burn throughout, Mungiu's direction is the kind that refrains from drawing attention to itself, inviting the audience to fully immerse itself in the story and forget about the people behind the camera. Screens on Friday, September 30th, 1:15pm at Cinema 10, International Village; Wednesday, October 5th, 8:30pm, at The Centre; and for a final time on Tuesday, October 11th, 3:15pm at The Playhouse.
Yourself and Yours. Hong Sang-soo continues in the same intellectually playful vein that he explored in last year's VIFF favourite Right Now, Wrong Then. This is a film which, through use of characters who may or may not be doppelgangers, memories which may or may not be faulty, leaves us with questions that it resolutely refuses to answer, and as such may prove difficult for some members of the audience to process. Going in to TIFF, advance word on Yourself and Yours was not great, either, because the film had been rejected from Berlin, Cannes et al.
As Stephen Dalton writes in his TIFF review, in The Hollywood Reporter ...
"The discreet charm of Yourself and Yours will depend entirely on your tolerance levels for stylistic ticks and the ramblings of tedious, self-pitying drunks and slackers and their minor relationship dramas. Still, South Korean director Hong Sang-soo possesses a distinctive voice and an interesting track record, but his latest exercise in flimsy whimsy may be for indulgent hardcore fans only."
Wendy Ide is much more generous in her Screen Daily review ...
"Hong Sang-soo uses his trademark long takes, with occasional zooms, to capture the meandering conversations that play out between the characters. It's a technique which places emphasis on the performances. Fortunately, the actors are more than up to the task, particularly Lee You-young who is as beguiling as she is elusive. Ultimately, the film makes a case that perhaps it's better not to know everything about the person you love. And sometimes you just need to shed the baggage and start the relationship again from the beginning."
Blithe-bordering-on-farcical, wry and perplexing, with a darker than usual tone, fans of Hong Sang-soo will find plenty to like in Yourself and Yours, namely its wry humor, but for the uninitiated, it may prove a difficult entry point into the prolific filmmaker's work. Screens twice, on Sunday, October 9th, 8:30pm at Cinema 8, International Village; and for a final time on Thursday, October 13th, 2pm at Cinema 10, International Village.
Two Trains Runnin' (Grade: A-). An absolute knockout, one of the critics' and passholder favourites screened in preview at VIFF, and set to unspool at the 54th annual New York Film Festival as part of its Spotlight on Documentary program, Sam Pollard's Two Trains Runnin' is pure cinematic poetry set amidst the racial tensions and general social upheaval that were the order of the day in the '60s, when churches were bombed, shotguns were blasted into cars and homes, and civil rights activists were murdered.
In June of 1964 hundreds of university students eager to join the civil rights movement traveled to Mississippi, starting what would be known as Freedom Summer. That same month, two groups of young men — made up of musicians, college students and record collectors — also traveled to Mississippi. Though neither group was aware of the other, each had come on the same errand: to find an old, long-forgotten blues singer and coax him out of retirement. Thirty years before, Son House and Skip James had recorded some of the most memorable music of their era, but now they seemed lost to time, their music preserved only on scratchy 78s.
A tribute to a generation of blues musicians and the story of how the search for these pioneering musicians intertwined with the American civil rights movement, Two Trains Runnin' is an entirely remarkable document about how on June 21, 1964, these two campaigns collided in memorable and tragic fashion, and how America's cultural and political institutions were dramatically transformed, a story as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. Screens on VIFF's opening day, Thursday, September 29th, 6:30pm at The Cinematheque; Saturday, October 8th, 3:15pm at The Rio; and on Wednesday, October 12th, 6:30pm, at Cinema 9, International Village.
Today's, and previous VIFF 2016 columns may be found here.
Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 21, 2016 12:12 AM in VIFF 2016