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VIFF 2008: And The Hits ... They Don't Keep on Comin'


Sad to say, 2008 has not proved to be a banner year on the international movie scene, at least from the perspective of what moviegoers have seen presented, so far, at the 27th annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

Festival Director Alan Franey may have searched the world for the best, and he may have found the best foreign cinema available, but best is a relative term. The films on offer at last year's Festival represent more provocative, groundbreaking, and better made cinema than what we're seeing this year.

That said, the films Vancouverites are being treated to (most of which will never return to the city outside of their Festival screenings) are, for the most part, worthy of a cinephile's time inside the darkened Festival exhibition auditorium. For instance, the past couple of days we've seen ...

I've Loved You So Long (Grade: B+): In these early days of the Oscar sweepstakes, the star of this French export, Kristin Scott Thomas, has to be considered an odds-on-favourite for an Oscar nod, and potential win come next February. Although a tad implausible in its overall explication (most particularly, when the "murder" is finally explained, towards movie's end), in the film Scott Thomas plays Juliette, a woman just released from prison after serving a 15-year sentence for murder. Juliette comes to live with her younger sister, Lea (a radiant Elsa Zylberstein), husband Luc (Serge Hazanavicius), and their two children. Slowly, Juliette re-adjusts to the midde-class life she knew before her incarceration. One of the factors that makes I've Loved You So Long compelling viewing - apart from across the board strong performances (Laurent Grevill, as Michel, a colleague of Lea's, is a particular standout, in a supporting role) - is the film's superb, utterly original, touching and at times witty, and very funny, screenplay by writer-director Philippe Claudel. Playing for a final time this coming Sunday, Oct 5th at 1pm, at the Ridge Theatre. One of the 2008 VIFF must-sees.

Summer Hours (Grade: C+): A trifle, and too often a didactic one at that, Summer Hours presents an upper middle class family divesting their late mother's estate. Overall, VanRamblings found it hard to root for the film's group of overprivileged swells; the performances are simply too cool to be engaging. Most particularly, the film fails because too much screen time is given over to treatises on 20th century French art, and furniture design.

Three Monkeys (Grade: B-): How could you not love a film that looks like this? If the story line was pedestrian and uninvolving? If the characters were enigmatic and unengaging? Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest film, in competition at Cannes this year, tells the mood driven story of a politician who convinces his driver, Eyup (Yavuz Bingol) to take the fall for a hit-and-run accident, with the promise of a big payday for the driver at the end of his sentence. From that moment on, nothing goes well: not for the politician, nor the driver's wife or son, or even the driver once he's released from prison. Gorgeous to look at, made with craft, but narratively tedious.

Chris and Don: A Love Story (Grade: B): VanRamblings is going to catch hell for not raving about this picture, but we're very ho-hum about how the story of Christopher Isherwood and his paramour, Don Bachardy, is told. Isherwood is fascinating throughout; Bachardy, not so much. Given that Bachardy narrates the lion's share of the film, viewers would have been better off with a consistent, articulate and insightful third-party narrator, rather than the inarticulate (if authentic) narrator Bachardy proves to be.

Posted by Raymond Tomlin at September 30, 2008 11:47 PM in VIFF 2008


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