Sunday, January 08, 2017

onscreen now | mass is ended, silence, jackie, manchester, l'argent

It's that time of year when there's lots worth seeing in the cinemas. I think of it as the Year End Film Festival - the YEFF.  I keep track of the critics' Top Ten lists - there's a post about that over on my Soul Food Movies blog - and I try to see as many as I can of those top films that catch my interest.

But before we get to some of those that are on Vancouver screens now, let me alert you to an older film with only one screening, this evening at 8:40 at the VIFF/Vancity Theatre. THE MASS IS ENDED is a 1985 film by Italian director Nanni Moretti, whose later film THE SON'S ROOM was a stunner.

"A young priest, Don Giulio, struggles to maintain his faith. Having been a radical college student in the 1960s, Don Giulio has now rejected his long hair and liberal ideals in favor of the church. He has himself transferred to his home parish, only to discover the church empty and the town indifferent. Meanwhile, Don Giulio’s friends from his radical days begin popping up with their lives in serious disarray. Don Giulio seeks solace with his beloved family, but his family too is in chaos." VIFF

Back to the YEFF. The event movie of the year, soul food-wise, is surely SILENCE, which Martin Scorsese has been planning to make and I've been eagerly anticipating for 25 years. In CalArts days or early PT days I read Shusaku Endo's play "The Golden Country," which is something of a prequel to his novel on which the film is based. The play very much affected me, and were the cast size not so large I would have staged it long ago at Pacific Theatre. There was a mutual admiration between Graham Greene and Shusaku Endo, and much in common not only in the priest characters in Greene novels such as The Power and the Glory but also in their view of the Christian faith - which would have much to do with Robert Farrar Capon's insistence that the church consists of the last, the least, the lost, the little and the dead (Parables of the Kingdom). There's a nice summary of the Greene-Endo connection in the essay "Bad Priests and the Valor of Pity" by Christopher A. Link; although that link will only give you the first few paragraphs of his piece unless you've got academic credentials I lack, it's enough to lay out the essentials.

Anyhow, SILENCE opened at the Fifth Avenue Friday at noon, and I was there. It didn't disappoint.

As if that wasn't enough, my buddy and I fulfilled a New Year movie tradition by making it a double feature, returning for the late matinee screening of JACKIE. Which exceeded all expectations. I thought it would be just another of this tiresome procession of mid-century biopics, Hollywood's dreary product-recognition strategy for boomers, the corrollary of superhero retreads for everybody else. But it's something far more aesthetic, rigorous than the run-of-the-mill nostalgia. I should have known; it's #10 on the Metacritic Top Ten Tally for 2017. French director and production crew. And surprising elements of Christian reflection, in the person of a Catholic priest who talks with – and challenges – Jackie. Soul Food in unexpected places.

I'm going to call MANCHESTER BY THE SEA Soul Food, as well, but your mileage may vary. A couple friends found it overwhelmingly sad, or bleak, which surprised me - yes, these are broken lives, but I found great hope in it all. The two obvious Christians are the film's only flat characters, skewered for comic effect - yet even that flatness deepens by the end of their scene as some of our judgment and expectations are reversed, and the conversation that follows it broadens the idea of who and what may be "Christian." Religious faith is a thread that runs through Kenneth Lonergan's work, from the remarkable, unremarked presence of a Lutheran pastor in YOU CAN COUNT ON ME - remarkable because church life is so much a part of the lives of so many of us, and so rarely a part of the lives of movie characters - to the Jewish character in MARGARET.  Lonergan has remarked that he is not a believer, but that he almost wishes he was - that there's something good about having that kind of hope and reassurance.

I think MANCHESTER is his most fully realized film. MARGARET was his most ambitious, and with that reach came flaws I'm more than happy to overlook, but which tripped up most critics and many viewers. YOU CAN COUNT ON ME has the scope and feel of a play - Lonergan has written many - and he nails it. But MANCHESTER reaches farther, I think, and to my sensibility, pretty much perfect.

And coming up soon, another older film, by Soul Food auteur Robert Bresson.  Two screenings only, this Monday and Thursday evening. I'll let the good people at Pacific Cinematheque tell you all about it...

L’Argent (1983, France, Robert Bresson)
Pacific Cinematheque
Mon Jan 9 @ 8:15
Thu Jan 12 @ 6:30

NEW RESTORATION | The awe-inspiring farewell film of Robert Bresson, one of cinema’s immortals, freely adopts a Tolstoy novella (“The Forged Coupon”) and transposes it to contemporary France. L’Argent (“Money”) charts the circulation of a counterfeit 500-franc bill and the contagion of evil it spreads as it passes from hand to hand. When an innocent man unwittingly uses it to pay for a meal, the consequences prove disastrous. As in all Bresson’s major works, the real drama here is internal, spiritual, metaphysical; it derives not from plot or character but emanates from a rigorous austerity and intensity, from a meticulous accumulation of detail. In Bresson, objects and gestures miraculously transform into manifestations of the transcendent! L’Argent is one of Bresson’s best and most beautiful films — and one of his most harrowing indictments of modernity’s spiritual bankruptcy. It shared the Best Director prize at Cannes in 1983 with Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Year End Film Festival 2016

Manchester by the Sea

The YEFF has begun! The outbreak of watchable movies that heralds the coming of the new year. Since 1995, somebody or other has compiled a tally of critic Top Ten lists for the preceding year. From 1995-2000, the DIY era of the internet, a guy named Alex Fung did it (all praise and honour to you, Alex, whoever and wherever you are); in 2001 and 2002, I did it on a very limited basis; then Movie City News started in 2003, and as they trailed off the past few years Metacritic took up the torch. The following list comes from them, though I recalculated it to align their scoring system with previous years and so more films would be included. In brackets, the film's score according to the revised point system, followed by the position on the actual Metacritic chart. After the brackets, a place where the film can be viewed by Vancouverites: IV = International Village, 5Ave = Fifth Avenue, SC = SilverCity, VC = VanCity (often one screening only). You could sure make a couple days of it at the VanCity, Dec 29 and Dec 31!

I've boldfaced films that show up on my own 2016 Faves list, which I'll include at the bottom of the post. Silence is highlighted in red, a film I've been looking forward to for literally decades - Martin Scorsese's film treatment of Shusaku Endo's classic novel about Jesuits in 17th century Japan.

Hell or High Water

Metacritic Best of 2016: Film Critic Top Ten Lists
(recalculated Dec 27))

1. Moonlight (1638.5, 1) IV
2. Manchester by the Sea (1146, 3) 5Ave, IV
3. La La Land (1130, 2) Park, SC, Scotiabank
4. Hell or High Water (660, 5) VC Dec 29 8:00, iTunes 5.99
5. Arrival (635.5, 6) Scotiabank
6. Toni Erdmann (594.5, 4) opens Jan 27, no iTunes/Netflix
7. O.J.: Made in America (532, 7) Black Dog? no iTunes/Netflix
8. The Handmaiden (508.5, 8)
9. Paterson (466, 11) opens Feb 3, no iTunes/Netflix
10. Jackie (447.5, 10) 5Ave, Rialto

11. Elle (439.5, 9) gone, no iTunes/Netflix
12. American Honey (280.5, 13) iTunes 5.99
13. The Lobster (274, 12) iTunes 5.99
14. Silence (270, 13) opens Jan 6
15. Cameraperson (241, 15) VC Jan 1 8:20, iTunes pre-order
16. Everyboday Wants Some!! (238.5, 16) VC Dec 29 1:45, iTunes 6.99
17. Love & Friendship (237.5, 21) iTunes 5.99
18. The Witch (235.5, 17) iTunes 5.99
19. I Am Not Your Negro (229.5, 17) no iTunes/Netflix
20. Loving (211.5, 21) opens Dec 30 at Rialto

21. Green Room (208.5) iTunes 0.99
21. Sing Street (209, 20) iTunes 5.99
23. Certain Women (185.5, 21) no iTunes
24. 13th (171.5) no iTunes
25. Fences (171) IV
26. The Fits (168.5, 21) VC Dec 29 4:00, iTunes 5.99
27. Krisha (167) iTunes 5.99
28. Zootopia (157) iTunes 4.99
29. Weiner (149) no iTunes
30. Nocturnal Animals (147.5) 5Ave

31. 20th Century Women (146.5, 17) opens Jan 6, iTunes pre-order
32. Things to Come (145) VC Dec 31 5:00, no iTunes
33. Sully (143.5) iTunes 5.99
34. The Edge of Seventeen (137.5)
35. I, Daniel Blake (127) no iTunes
35. Kubo and the Two Strings (120.5)
37. A Bigger Splash (109.5) iTunes.99
38. Embrace of the Serpent (109) iTunes 5.99
39. Hail, Caesar! (107) iTunes 9.99 buy
40. Aquarius (104.5) VC Dec 30 7:00

41. Midnight Special (103)
42. The Nice Guys (102)
43. Knight of Cups (96)
44. Deadpool (94)
45. Fire at Sea (93.5)
46. Hacksaw Ridge (90) Hollywood 3 Pitt Meadows
47. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (86) VC Dec31 1:00, iTunes 5.99
48. Son of Saul (85.5)
49. Tower (85)
50. Julieta (84)

Neither Heaven Nor Earth

Ron's Favourites (So Far)

1. Manchester by the Sea
Kenneth Lonergan. His first film, You Can Count On Me, was superb: human scaled, true, and featuring the first performances I'd seen by either Laura Linney or Mark Ruffalo - wow. I also liked the fact that, while it wasn't a film about Christian faith, the church was matter-of-factly just a part of the characters' lives. Kind of like the real world. His troubled second film, Margaret, (Anna Paquin, Mark Ruffalo, Matt Damon) reached further and fell shorter: on my first viewing I considered it a masterpiece, on second viewing I saw why many critics thought it a failure. It's probably neither, but when it's working, it is phenomenal. Manchester by the Sea (Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams) is perfect. A friend called it "a Pacific Theatre movie," which I take to be a) high praise indeed for Pacific Theatre, and b) perfectly accurate.

2. Neither Heaven Nor Earth
Earlier in the fall, the VanCity/VIFF screened this French film about the Afghan war and I was mesmerized, stirred. It evoked in me the fear of God - not a common emotion in our safe North American Christianity, not something we're comfortable considering. God is all grace and reassurance, right? I wonder. Worth noting that a friend despised it, finding it pretentious and nonsensical. Consider yourselves warned.

3. Everybody Wants Some!!
Richard Linklater drops us in the middle of another world: college baseball, frosh weekend, 1980. Glorious fun, terrific ensemble acting, sharp portrayals of so many fascinating characters. Somehow I found the end-of-high-school hijinks depressing in Dazed and Confused; why I bought in to the start-of-college shenanigans and had a blast in this film, I couldn't say.

4. Hell or High Water
I love genre pictures where the characters stay human. Here, a bank robbing crime spree pic is also a convincing film about two brothers whose lives have gone different directions - as well as an indictment of a financial system where banks are the ones robbing ordinary citizens. Suggest why gangsters were Depression-era heroes.

5. Hail, Caesar!
Probably a minor entry in the Coen Brothers oeuvre, but I got a huge kick out of it - and saw, beneath the shaggy-dog tale of a mid-century studio producer, something about vocation and calling. Like O Brother Where Art Thou!, this Coen film has Sullivan's Travels as its touchstone.

6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Such imagination, and so much fun!

7. The Confessions
Outstanding Italy/France VIFF entry about a modern Father Brown in the midst of the world's financial and political elite.

The Lobster


Monday, February 15, 2016

mar 2 + 4-10 | numb | jason goode, aleks paunovic

Pacific Theatre audiences will remember Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and Aleks Paunovic's frightening, vulnerable performance - directed by Jason Goode, a friend of PT for a long time. A year ago Jason shot a feature film here in BC, with Aleks in the lead. It premiered at the Whistler Film Festival, and now the show gets a Lower Mainland run! 

Landmark Cinemas 10, New Westminster | tickets
Sneak Preview: Mar 2
Regular screenings: Mar 4-10

When a couple in financial distress discover GPS coordinates that promise to lead to stolen gold they must partner with a pair of mysterious hitchhikers to enter the remote winter wilderness to recover the coins.

DIRECTOR: Jason R. Goode

Aleks Paunovic (iZombie, This Means War)
Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Gallactica, Law & Order UK)
Marie Avgeropoulos (Tracers, The 100)
Stefanie von Pfetten (Cracked)


Saturday, January 16, 2016

jan 17 | ingrid bergman & roberto rossellini at viff | stromboli & journey to italy

Ingrid Bergman & Roberto Rossellini at VIFF
Sun Jan 17
Stromboli | 3pm
Journey To Italy | 6:50pm
both screenings at the VanCity

When I was immersed in writing about Soul Food movies, there was one European master of cinema whose work was virtually unavailable. Occasionally on the big screens of art houses, and any time on the small screen in your home, it was easy enough to see pretty much anything by Robert Bresson, Andrei Tarkovsky, Karl Theodor Dreyer, Krystof Kieslowski, or – if your tastes ran to a distinctly nordic brand of angst and doubt – Ingmar Bergman.

But Rossellini? Good luck. Almost no prints available for public screening, and many titles not available at all. On video, aging VHS tape or low-budget worse-quality semi-legal DVD copies, all of them badly subtitled - when you could find them at all.

In the fall of 2006, Cinematheque Ontario hosted the first major retrospective of Rossellini's films. I blogged about the month and a half series, which moved on from Toronto to Los Angeles and New York, writing "whether it will ever reach Vancouver remains to be seen. For now, we'll just have to enjoy the catalog, and try to restrain our envy…" That post includes curator James Quandt's notes on Making The Rossellini Retrospective as well as a passage from another of his essays, dealing with Rossellini's Catholicism.

For those of us who couldn't get to Toronto, New York or Los Angeles I transcribed everything Martin Scorsese had to say about Rossellini in his very personal film essay My Voyage To Italy. It's great stuff: here's a link.

In spring 2007 I made my first trip to New York, and spent time at MoMA looking at the rare posters, photos and papers relating to the Rossellini Retrospective that was finishing up there. The photos in this post are from that visit.

In 2010, Criterion made Rossellini's War Trilogy available on DVD; Rome Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and Germany Year Zero (1948). "This is a momentous occasion. We have been working on our five hundredth release for either ten or twenty-five years, depending on how you look at it. No project has been more challenging than this one, but we could not be prouder to mark our twenty-fifth birthday by offering you spine number 500, Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy…" More about Rossellini and that DVD set here.

Even then, the New Yorker's Richard Brody wrote "But there’s one boxed set, a natural to compile, that doesn’t exist, and its absence from home video is perhaps the single most grievous cinematic blind spot in the marketplace: the five features and one short film that he made with Ingrid Bergman (whom he married in the course of their collaborations), between 1949 and 1955."

Eventually Criterion released 3 Films By Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman; Stromboli, Europa '51, and Journey To Italy. And tomorrow, an opportunity for Vancouverites to see two of those films on the big screen at the home of the VIFF; Stromboli screens at 3pm, Journey To Italy at 6:50.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

now playing / coming soon

Lots to see these days, and with the Blue Jays out of the post-season, I've got the time. Here's what's on my list just now…

"Bowing to the principle that there can never be enough films about criminal fraternities…" etc. Anthony Lane. Just in case that principle is right, I think I'll check out Johnny Depp's latest. "But are we watching a warped force of nature, as was certainly the case with the real Bulger, or an acting master class?" Either way, I'm in.

6th week, good for probably only one more
International Village: 7:35 10:35
SilverCity Riverport: 10:10
a couple others

Egoyan directs Chris Plummer as an aging Holocaust survivor, slipping memory, growing confusion, who sets out to bring a Nazi war criminal to justice. Review snippets sound like it's largely unsuccessful, mundane, perhaps predictable, but I might give it a go because of the inverted REFUGE OF LIES themes.

Fifth Ave 1:00, 4:00, 6:30, 9:10 / Thu 1:15, 3:45, 6:15, 8:55
International Village 2:20, 4:50, 7:05, 9:45
Riverport Sat Sun Tue 12:05 2:25 5:00 7:30 10:05, varying times Mon Wed Thu
other cinemas

Luci liked it. Probably has dates. Definitely has Tom Hanks.

Week 2, will be around for a while
International Village 1:20, 4:20, 7:20, 10:30
Riverport 12:30, 3:50, 7:10, 10:30
Rialto White Rock 1:15, 4:00, 6:50 (+ 9:35 Sat Oct 24)
and others

"Matt Damon's strongest performance in a decade" - Time.  That's saying something: 2006, The Departed. 2007, Bourne Ultimatum. 2009, The Informant!  2009, Invictus. 2010, True Grit.  2011, Margaret.  2012, Promised Land. 2014, Interstellar.  I'll see it, if only for the line “I'm going to have to science the shit out of this.”

Week 4, probably around for a while
random times at Riverport (3D), Park, others

Was going to skip it: Man On Wire more than sufficed.  But 3D?  Yeah, this is the right story for the gimmick. May check it out. Love the old school poster. If they used Mayer Hawthorne for the theme song, I'd be there in a minute.

Week 4
International Village 1:30, 7:15, 10:05 (4:25 is 2D)
Riverport  1:25 only

Mexican border drug wars, probably brutal.

Week 4
Riverport 1:20, 4:15, 7:10, 10:05

Somehow mountain climbing and the whole Everest thing has never grabbed me. But with a screenplay by William Nicholson (Shadowlands) and Simon Beaufoy (who impressed me in an extended interview about his screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire), I just might check it out. Probably has dates. "Solid, if too squarely beholden to standby scenes of worried wives weeping at home while the menfolk follow their mad bliss" - Lisa Schwarzbaum

Week 6. Probably only a couple more weeks to go
International Village 1:45, 4:40, 7:40, 10:30
Riverport 4:25, 7:15 except Thu, 10:30
other cinemas


I was going to skip it. Software guru bio, who needs it? Social Network was NBD, for me, after the opening scene. But Danny Boyle directed (never seen a Danny Boyle I didn't like), Aaron Sorkin screenplay (I know, I know, Social Network, blah blah blah). // Now I've seen a Danny Boyle I didn't like. Should have listened to my qualms. Considerably less memorable than The Social Network. Which was considerably less memorable than I would want in a movie. I guess films about relationally impaired software developers aren't my cup of tea, as beguiling as that premise may sound.

Week 2
Fifth Ave 12:30, 3:30, 6:50, 9:50
Riverport 1:30, 4:25, 7:20, 10:15
Rialto 4:15, 6:45 (+ 1:45 Sun)

Jumped right over the shark into Shyamalan territory. Lurid, over-wrought, cartoonish, derivative, silly - and that's accentuating the positive. Camp only works if it works, and while your mileage may vary, I felt it very much didn't work. I'm good with the over-the-topness of it, if only it had been well done: I'm afraid del Toro just lacks taste. Poor dialogue, awkward performances (except the three in the poster, who range in descending order from strong to no big deal to uneven, red to black to white), unconvincing all round. Except the ghostie-monster creatures, who were genuinely disturbing and threatening. Truly, the attempt to create a new story in a Shelley / Stoker / Bronte world, with nods to Rebecca and The Shining, is fine with me - but it just didn't work.  What a terrible fall from Pan's Labyrinth.


Globe & Mail: "The story of a woman kidnapped by a man only known as Old Nick and held captive in a soundproof garden shed for seven years, where she gives birth to a son, Jack. One of the bestselling Canadian novels of the past decade, with sales exceeding two million copies around the world since it was published in 2010. Booker Prize finalist. The film adaptation, an impressive distillation of everything that made Donoghue’s novel great." PTC Rec
May open Oct 30 in Vancouver

Los 33 (The 33)
Opens wide Nov 13
Based on a true story about the collapse at the mine in San Jose, Chile that left 33 miners isolated underground for 69 days.

The Stanford Prison Experiment
VIFF Nov 27 - Dec 2
Twenty-four male students out of seventy-five were selected to take on randomly assigned roles of prisoners and guards in a mock prison situated in the basement of the Stanford psychology building.
Nov 27 8:20
Nov 28 6:20
Nov 29 7:50
Nov 30 6:30
Dec 2   8:15

The Revenant
Jan 8 2016
Alejandro González Iñárritu
In the 1820s, a frontiersman, Hugh Glass, sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling.

Midnight Special
Mar 18 2016
Directed by Jeff Nichols (Shotgun Stories, Mud, Take Shelter)
A father and son go on the run after the dad learns his child possesses special powers.


Cop Car
Aug 7 2015
I'll see anything with Kevin Bacon in it. Two kids find themselves in the centre of a deadly game of cat and mouse after taking a sheriff's cruiser for a joy ride.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

YEFF 2014 | MCN + Metacritic | Combined List | Jan 1 2015

Canadian film won Jury Prize at Cannes 2014
Screens at Vancouver Intl Film Centre tonight at 6:50 ONLY

As of New Year's Day, here's where the Critic Top Ten List tallies stand in our very unscientific meld of Movie City News and Metacritic tabulations. (Unscientific because the two meta-lists undoubtedly overlap.) Both tabulations agree on eight of the top ten films, with Boyhood and Budapest #1 and #2 respectively, and juggling the next three: my Top Five would also include Boyhood, Birdman, Budapest and Whiplash, with Skin yet to be seen. 

Beyond that, MCN likes Dardennes better, Meta favours Fincher. I'm still intrigued to see LEGO, ranking as high as it does, and am baffled that my beloved Homesman makes only a couple MCN lists, and none on Metacritic. I stand corrected. (As if...) 

There are notes on some of the films here.

1. Boyhood                            (709.5 = 456.5 + 253) iTunes
2. Grand Budapest Hotel          (386.5 = 266.5 + 120) Netflix
3. Birdman                            (277 = 182 + 95) Fifth Ave
4. Under The Skin                   (272.5 = 185.5 + 87) Netflix
5. Whiplash                            (256 = 184 + 72) Intl Village closes tonight 

6. Selma                                     (192 = 130 + 62)
7. Inherent Vice                            (159 = 114 + 45)
8. Ida                                     (155 = 98 + 57) Netflix
9. Two Days, One Night          (134.5 = 104.5 + 30)
10. Mr Turner                            (132 = 93 + 39) Fifth Ave

11. Nightcrawler                   (129 = 82 + 47) 
12. Gone Girl                            (119 = 72 + 47) Intl Village
13. Only Lovers Left Alive         (111.5 = 77.5 + 34) iTunes
14. Foxcatcher                            (111 = 79 + 32) Intl Village
15. Goodbye to Language         (107.5 = 73.5 + 34)
16. Snowpiercer                   (105 = 73 + 32) iTunes
17. Citizenfour                            (102 = 78 + 24) 
18. LEGO Movie                   (97.5 = 64.5 + 33) iTunes
19. Force Majeure                    (95 = 59 + 36) 
20. Guardians of Galaxy          (81 = 52 + 29)

21. The Immigrant                            (71 = 39 + 32) iTunes
22. Leviathan                            (65)
23. American Sniper                   (60)
24. Winter Sleep                   (53)
25. We Are The Best                   (49.5)
26. Edge Of Tomorrow          (44)
27. Babadook                            (38.5)
28. Calvary                            (37.5) 
29. Interstellar                            (35.5) SilverCity Scotiabank
30. Listen Up Phillip                   (32.5)

31. Love Is Strange                   (30)
32. National Gallery                   (29.5) VIFF Jan 3
33. Stray Dogs                            (28)
34. Life Itself                            (26)
35. Last of the Unjust                  (21)
36. Imitation Game                   (20.5) Park Riverport Scotiabank
37. Nymphomaniac                   (19)
38. God Help The Girl          (18)
38. Manakamana                   (18)
38. Mommy                            (18) 6:50 tonight VIFF only showing
38. Night Moves                   (18)
38. Overnighters                   (18)
38. Wild                                     (18) Fifth Ave, Intl Village

44. Missing Picture, The          (17.5)
45. Most Violent Year          (17)
45. Starred Up                            (17)
47. Theory Of Everything          (16) *
47. Weekend, Le                   (16)
47. Wild Tales                            (16)
50. Obvious Child                   (15.5)

Homesman (11.5)

Saturday, December 27, 2014

YEFF 2014 | Movie City News + Metacritic | Combined List

Each year, Movie City News compiles tons of critic top ten lists at the end of the year and comes up with a pretty good tally of what was great. This year Metacritic is doing the same. The lists differ somewhat - they've input some different lists - so I've totalled the number of points each calculated to come up with a very unscientific Top Twenty. (I've posted brief notes on some of these over here). Unscientific because there are undoubtedly lists that show up in both tabulations, and other lists that show up in only one.  For now, so what: it's a swell guide to films worth seeing, and with several key films only just recently released - Inherent Vice, Mr Turner, etc - there'll be lots of shifting around over the next few weeks. But for what it's worth... 

1. Boyhood (381.5)
2. Grand Budapest Hotel (197.5)
3. Birdman (173.5)
4. Under The Skin (135.5)
5. Whiplash (129.5) probably in its final week at International Village

6. Selma (124) hasn't opened here yet
7. Ida (116.5) Dec 30 only at VIFF
8. Inherent Vice (84.5) hasn't opened here yet
9. Gone Girl (77)
10. Foxcatcher (76.5) 

11. Citizenfour (72.5) gone
12. Goodbye to Language 3D (72) 
13. Mr Turner (68.5)
14. Nightcrawler (67) gone
15. Snowpiercer (59)

16. Force Majeure (58) gone
17. LEGO Movie (51.5)
18. Only Lovers Left Alive (49.5)
19. Two Days, One Night (47.5)
20. The Immigrant (41) Dec 29 only at VIFF

Those in red are screening over the next week in Vancouver, those in black boldface are available on Canadian Netflix or iTunes.

Three other films figured in the MCN Top Twenty;

#12. American Sniper
#15. We Are The Best
#20. Interstellar

Here are some other films now playing in Vancouver or online that also show up on the lists;

Theory of Everything
Imitation Game
Mommy Jan 1 only

Saturday, December 13, 2014

YEFF 2014 | Movie City News | The First List

The Year End Film Festival kicks into higher gear with the first MCN tabulation of critic top ten lists (12/10). The results are always highly skewed this early in the process: not only a small sample size, but also it's early, nobody much has seen Inherent Vice yet (for example), but once they do it'll be top five, dontcha think? Mr Turner? Etc. But it has begun: a fine guide to the movies not to miss. (Red are my top picks. I've also added results from Metacritic's tally of Top Ten Lists (to 12/12): as MCN and Meta tally more and more lists, I bet their rankings will converge.)

1 Boyhood | iTunes, VIFF Jan1
d. Richard Linklater, summer release. Twelve years in the making, tracks a family through the son's school years. Sight & Sound #1, Guardian #2, Metacritic #1.
Extraordinary. My #2.

2 Whiplash |  Intl Village etc
Training of a jazz drummer. Guardian #4, Meta #6.
Next on my watchlist. Can't wait.

3 Birdman | 5th Ave, SilverCity etc
d. Alejandro González Iñárritu. Meta #6.
Wow. Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, especially Edward Norton! My #3.

4 Selma
Historic civil rights march. Meta #8, New Yorker Top 30.

5 Grand Budapest Hotel | NetflixCDN, VIFF Dec26
d. Wes Anderson. Sight & Sound #6, New Yorker #1, Meta #2, Guardian #9.
I loved it, second only to my beloved Moonrise Kingdom among Wes's works. My #4.

6 Nightcrawler | IV, SC etc
Jake Gyllenhaal as L.A. crime journalist who crosses the line. Guardian #7, Meta #8.

7 Snowpiercer | iTunes
d. Joon-ho Bong. Gritty sci-fi, lots of fans. Meta #12

7 American Sniper
d. Clint Eastwood. New Yorker #6, Meta#17.

9 LEGO Movie | iTunes
Guardian #10.

10 Interstellar | Park, SC etc
d. Christopher Nolan. My friend Rick Bonn's absolute favourite. Meta #17.

11 Under the Skin | NeflixCDN, VIFF Dec27
Extremely stylized Brit flick. Sight & Sound #5, Guardian #1, Meta #3..

12 Theory of Everything | 5th, SC etc
Stephen Hawking biopic. Meta #11.

13 Gone Girl | IV, SC etc
d. David Fincher. New Yorker Top 20, Meta #10.
Lots of strong elements: in true Fincher fashion, ends up being about more than just the story. Still, didn't stick with me.

14 Only Lovers Left Alive | NetflixCDN
d. Jim Jarmusch vampire pic. Meta #12

15 Calvary | Black Dog, iTunes
d. John Michael McDonagh, brother of In Bruges guy. Surprised this ranks so high: it won't last. Definite Soul Food: film maker sets out to tell story of a good priest, and - for all the fallen humanity - sticks to it. And Brendan Gleeson's portrayal is memorable. Refs Diary Of A Country Priest. But I found the script mannered, and the story remarkably lacking in drama despite the high stakes, ultra-dramatic premise. Then found it pulled together in the last lap, very much so in the home stretch, and in retrospect even find myself interested in seeing it again, to my surprise.

16 Imitation Game
Alan Turing cracks Enigma code, WW2.

17 We Are The Best | iTunes, VIFF Dec28
d. Lukas Moodysson. Rambling, sweet-spirited story of three high school girls, wannabe punk rockers in eighties Stockholm. I liked it fine: not Top Ten material.

18 Fury | SC etc
Brad Pitt in a Sherman tank.

18 Edge of Tomorrow | iTunes
Tom Cruise vs aliens.  Huh?

20 Inherent Vice | Toronto release Dec 25
d. P.T. Anderson. Joaquin Phoenix, Owen Wilson. Guardian #3, Meta #5.
Dying to see this, judging only by the trailer. Even moreso reading Indiewire 10 Films To Watch Before You See Inherent Vice, including Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, To Live And Die In L.A., In A Lonely Place, Breathless, Cutter's Way. But this one looks much funnier.

Listed, not yet Top 20, notable;

Olympic runner in a life boat and a Japanese prison camp. Chariots Of Fire / Life of Pi / Bridge On The River Kwai? But everyone insists it's good.

Foxcatcher | IV, 5th
Best Director, Cannes. Strange biopic about multi-squillionaire and Olympic wrestlers(!). Movie pal Peter Norman's #4, Meta #12.

The Babadook | VIFF Dec27
Debut feature of Aussie director about anguished single mom, monstrous six-year-old, and storybook bogeyman. VIFF: "Most impressive debut feature of the year also happens to be the scariest. At different times will remind you of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Rosemary's Baby and Repulsion, Poltergeist, Don't Look Now, Paperhous and Candyman, The Shining, Psycho and The Exorcist."

Two Days, One Night 
Dardenne brothers. Guardian #6.


Non-MCN Top Films of 2014

1,000 Times Good Night | Dec 13 15 17, Jan 3
d. Erik Poppe, Norway. I liked his Hawaii, Oslo. Juliet Binoche as war photographer.

Citizenfour | IV
Snowden doc. Met #12.

A Girl Walks Home Alone
Top VIFF recommendation from my pal Karen.

The Homesman
d. Tommy Lee Jones.
My #1 favourite of 2014: alas, gone from the cinemas, not yet available elsewhere.

Ida | VIFF Dec30
Sight & Sound #9, Guardian #8, Meta #12.

The Immigrant | VIFF Dec29
New Yorker #5. VIFF: "Arguably the most underrated US movie of the year." Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, Marion Cotillard, mean streets of 1920s New York.

Russian reworking of Book Of Job. Sight & Sound #3, Guardian #5.

Mommy | VIFF Jan1
Canadian winner of Cannes Jury Prize, Canada's Best Foreign Language Oscar nom. Troubled mother-son, visually stunning.

Mr Turner | Dec 19 limited release
d. Mike Leigh. Timothy Spall won Cannes Best Actor as Brit landscape painter. Sight & Sound #11.

National Gallery  | VIFF Dec 26 27 28 31, Jan 3
Doc about London's National Gallery. Sight & Sound #11.

The Overnighters | VIFF Dec 17 30
Doc about crisis when North Dakota pastor opens church to homeless migrant workers. VIFF: "The Overnighters is remarkable for taking social documentary into the realms of ethics and morality, asking if the lip service our society likes to pay towards forgiveness, tolerance, rehabilitation and compassion holds up in the real world. It’s also ultimately a very moving portrait of a man embracing the example of Jesus Christ, but bound to fall short."

Winter Sleep | VIFF January 16 17 18 19 20 22 23 26 29
d. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey. Cannes Palme d'Or. Sight & Sound #7.

Friday, December 05, 2014

top 2014 films | dec 5 + 6 etc | force majeur + babadook

The YEFF is upon us. Lots of the year's top films show up on local screens from mid-November through mid-January, and year-end Top Ten lists appear to help ferret out the best films we've missed during the rest of the year.

Two that may be showing up on such lists are Force Majeur and Babadook. Both onscreen today and tomorrow at the Vancouver International Film Centre (aka VanCity).

(aka TURIST, 2014, Sweden, Ruben Ostland)
fri dec 5 @ 8:20
sat dec 6 @ 4:45
mon dec 8 @ 6:30
thu dec 11 @ 8:20
sun dec 28 @ 3:45

VIFC: "If you enjoyed the psychological intensity of Denmark’s The Hunt you must check out this riveting Swedish drama, another film about a middle-aged man whose world crumbles around him. In this case the inciting incident is an avalanche at a ski resort. It’s a near-miss for Tomas, his wife Ebba, and their two young children. But their narrow escape is over-shadowed by Tomas’s instinctive urge to run for his life without a second thought for his family. It’s a sight Ebba just can’t shake… Tomas, for his part, is inclined to deny it ever happened. “It’s very interesting,” he says. “You have your perspective, but that’s not how I experienced it.” Unfortunately this belatedly brave stab at historical revisionism can’t persuade his wife to love him or his kids to trust him, and over the next few days the ski holiday comes to resemble a kind of three-star purgatory of humiliation, dejection and rejection for all concerned, but especially the red-faced patriarch. Perhaps the most surprising thing about Force Majeure is how funny it is. Admittedly the humour is rather uncomfortable, especially if you’re a husband and father and not entirely confident of how you’d react if push came to shove and a wall of snow, ice and rock was hurtling down on your head*, but fast-rising writer-director Ruben Ostlund (Play, 2011) has fashioned what amounts to a comedy of manners here – or perhaps the opposite, because there’s nothing like a brush with mortality to make good manners look irrelevant."
* the avalanche, incidentally, is a cameo from Whistler-Blackcomb’s snowpack, and very impressive it is too.

"An ice cold knockout. Brilliantly perceptive and frostily funny." Aaron Hills, Village Voice

"Damning, frequently hilarious study of imploding male ego." AV Club

"Visually stunning. Emotionally perceptive." Variety

(2014, Australia, Jennifer Kent)
fri dec 5 @ 10:35
sat dec 6 @ 10:15
fri dec 12 @ 10:40
sat dec 13 @ 10:30
sat dec 27 @ 9:30

VIFC: "The most impressive debut feature of the year also happens to be the scariest. This tale of an anguished single mom (an incredible performance from Essie Davies), her monstrous six-year-old, and the storybook bogeyman who terrorizes their home is guaranteed to chill you to the bone.
Jennifer Kent is clearly well schooled in horror movies. The Babadook at different times will remind you of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, of Rosemary's Baby and Repulsion, Poltergeist, Don't Look Now, Paperhouse and Candyman, The Shining, Psycho and The Exorcist. Yet she has synthesised these influences into something organic and original, a movie that is at once a psychological study of mental breakdown and a grisly fable, a film about grief and parenthood that is also a movie about horror movies — why we are drawn to confront the darkness, and why we shrink from it."

"What's been delivered here is a potent brew of psychological terror mixed with a genuinely spooky story, making The Babadook easily the best horror movie of recent years."
George Byrne, Irish Independent

"Manages to deliver real, seat-grabbing jolts while also touching on more serious themes of loss, grief and other demons that can not be so easily vanquished."
Scott Foundas, Variety

Monday, June 02, 2014

jun 2/4/5 | we are the best! | lukas moodysson

Three chances to see this one, featured in the May issue of Sight & Sound. "A pair of disgruntled punks - shy 13-year-old Bobo and outspoken 12-year-old Klara - have a mission, even if they have slightly missed the boat on punk's glory days: they will form a band. It doesn't matter that they can't play a note because they have a plan: to press-gang their serenely friendless Christian classmate Hedvig - who can actually play the guitar - into joining their group."

We Are The Best! 
Vancouver International Film Centre (VanCity)
Mon Jun 2 06:30
Wed Jun 4 06:30
Thu Jun 5 06:30

In We Are The Best!, music is treated as an essential form of self-expression but is also fertiel ground for discussing a variety of issues, including spirituality. Moodysson is a committed Christian and includes a number of scenes - alternately hilarious and touching - in which the girls wrestle with issues of faith. Young Klara has a near-messianic commitment to atheism, and declares of Hedvig: "We'll influence her away from God... That's what punk's all about - influencing other people." For an ostensibly light film, it's weighty stuff.

Lukas Moodysson (Together; Show Me Love) adapts his wife Coco’s graphic novel about three young misfits growing up in early ’80s Stockholm. Pixieish, mohawk-sporting Klara (Mira Grosin) and her best friend Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) are 13-year-old rebels looking for a cause. Despite having no instruments-or discernible musical talent-the two put all their energy into forming an all-girl punk band, recruiting their shy, classical guitar-playing schoolmate Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) as the third wheel. With tender affection for his young characters and the period in which his film is set, Moodysson paints an ebullient and sharply observant portrait of DIY spirit and growing up different.

"A joyous, heart-swelling tale of youthful rebellion." Manohla Dargis, New York Times

"A joyous time capsule. Captures the DIY empowerment of punk rock and the bond of female friendships in one blissful swoop. For those of us who’ve been hoping that Lukas Moodysson would return to the tender touch of early movies like Show Me Love and Together, the wait is over." David Fear, The Village Voice

"A gloriously funny coming-of-age comedy – although age itself is squeezed almost entirely into the margins, crowded out by the film’s raucous, window-rattling love of being young." Robbie Colin, Daily Telegraph

Friday, May 02, 2014

may 2 & 16 | sagrada

This puts me in mind of the first fully staged Pacific Theatre production, in the spring of 1985. THE ZEAL OF THY HOUSE, Dorothy Sayers' play about architect William of Sens and his construction of Canterbury Cathedral. 

Sagrada - The Mystery of Creation
VanCity / VIFC
May 2 @ 5pm
May 16 @ 3pm

"Arguably the most popular building site in the world, the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona is still a work in progress, 125 years after the first stones were laid. Designed by the controversial Catalan genius Antonio Gaudi, the Sagrada is a testament to Faith… Faith in God, in the natural forms that so inspired the architect, and also in man, for Gaudi always knew this work would have to be completed long after his life-time." VIFC

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Season One just arrived at Black Dog. As I said when I first heard about this from Jeff Overstreet, it might just slip past my aversion to television. If I can find a place I can view it. And free up the eight (?) hours to watch it. (How do you TV people find the TIME?)

"Anne and I have finally reached the end of the BBC murder mystery miniseries event BROADCHURCH and... wow. It's not just good — it's Gospel. Do not miss it. I thought TOP OF THE LAKE was the best series of this kind, but BROADCHURCH is better. The acting and writing are excellent throughout. David Tennant (Anne's favorite Doctor) is great, but this is Olivia Coleman's show. She's awesome. BROADCHURCH is be the most beautiful, truthful depiction of grief that I've ever seen. It's also a harrowing depiction of the havoc wreaked by tabloid-news culture. The writing in the closing episode surpassed my highest hopes." Jeffrey Overstreet

Friday, March 21, 2014

the police officer's wife

from "A Tale Of Two Festivals: Venice" by Olaf Moller
Film Comment, Nov/Dec 2013

"...the Special Jury Prize for Philip Gröning’s The Police Officer’s Wife — outraged the middlebrow arbiters of taste for daring to demand something from their viewers instead of simply giving them what they supposedly want...

"...Which brings us back to the bruised bodies and battered souls of ... The Police Officer’s Wife. For all the unease and disquiet it provokes, [the film] is a remarkable achievement: a darkly cruel antipode to Gröning’s lightly festive 2005 documentary about monastery life, Into Great Silence. This tale of domestic violence escalating to infanticide is also structured around seasonal and religious cycles and rituals. The aesthetic device of beginning and ending every chapter with a title card was maddening to most—and there are a lot of chapters, some consisting of only one or two shots. Gröning’s rigor might look self-serving or vain, but these fade-ins and -outs are the film’s meter: regardless of what happens in the scenes and from one scene to another, these identically timed intervals recur with absolute regularity—another ritual, so to speak. As religious cinema, The Police Officer’s Wife is an extraordinary meditation on suffering and sacrifice as the bedrock of Christian belief..."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

oct 26 29 30 | wings of desire | cinematheque

Wings Of Desire is certainly one to see on the big screen, if at all possible: and Cinemathque is making that possible, even for free if you're lucky! Also clearly one of the Soul Food masterpieces: indeed, director Wim Wenders came to faith during its filming, as he describes to filmmaker Scott Derrickson in this interview for IMAGE Journal. It also happens to be the favourite film of Jeffrey Overstreet, which is something - he's seen one or two movies. Roger Ebert also a fan - also saw lots.

Wings of Desire
West Germany/France 1987. Director: Wim Wenders

Pacific Cinematheque
Sat Oct 26 | 6:30
Tue Oct 29 | 6:30
Wed Oct 30 | 8:40

Cinematheque: "Angels perched atop the buildings of Berlin listen in to the innermost thoughts of mere mortals in Wim Wenders’s lovely, lyrical Wings of Desire, a soaring high-point of the famed German director’s cinema, and a highly moving, melancholic elegy to a Berlin still divided. Damiel (Bruno Ganz) and Cassiel (Otto Sander) are two brooding, compassionate angels who eavesdrop on the secret pains and fears of ordinary peopled going about their daily business in the city. When Damiel falls for a beautiful trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin), he decides to renounce his immortality to return to earth as a human, hoping to attain a love that will transcend life in the heavens. The stunning cinematography — crisp black-and-white, lurid Technicolor — is by French great Henri Alekan, whose many credits include Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. Inspired by the poems of Rilke, and dedicated to Ozu, Truffaut, and “other fallen angels,” Wings of Desire earned Wenders Best Director honours at Cannes in 1987. “Remarkable ... A film about the Fall and the Wall, it’s full of astonishingly hypnotic images ... Few films are so rich, so intriguing, or so ambitious” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out). B&W and colour, 35mm, in German with English subtitles. 127 mins."

To enter to win tickets to see Wings of Desire, email your contact info and preferred screening to:
Contest ends noon, Thu Oct 24. Two pairs of tickets will be given away, winners will be selected at random. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

oct 18-23 | nostalghia | pacific cinematheque

tarkovsky + big screen = soul food
enough said

Okay, I'll say more. This Tarko isn't as explicitly about matters of faith as, say, Andrei Rublev or The Sacrifice. But a mystical Christian aesthetic informs every one of his films, and the images in this one are without parallel. Don't go eager for narrative: this is all about image. There is story there, but take my word: you'll be in the right frame of mind if you go to look at moving pictures rather than a movie: at visual poetry rather than a story onscreen. But if you're up for that... 

Italy/USSR 1983. Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
Pacific Cinematheque
Friday, October 18, 2013 - 6:30pm
Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 4:00pm
Saturday, October 19, 2013 - 9:10pm
Sunday, October 20, 2013 - 7:00pm
Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 9:10pm

30TH ANNIVERSARY! NEW 35mm PRINT! ► A true gift to cinephiles: a new 35mm print of an unsurpassably gorgeous film by one of cinema’s greatest visionaries! We’re pleased to present the Canadian premiere of this deluxe 30th-anniversary re-release of Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia. Shot in Tuscany, and co-written with prolific Italian screenwriter Tonino Guerra (who also co-wrote Antonioni’s L’Avventura), Nostalghia was Tarkovsky’s first film made outside the USSR — he had finally tired of Soviet censorship — and proved to be his penultimate work. (1986’s The Sacrifice, made in Sweden, would be his last film.) While in Italy researching the life of an 18th-century Russian composer who died there, a Soviet musicologist has a sexually-charged but unconsummated relationship with his beautiful translator, and meets a mysterious madman (played by Bergman regular and Sacrifice star Erland Josephson) who is convinced that the world is about to end. Nostalghia is suffused with an almost overwhelming sense of longing and homesickness, and is composed of some of Tarkovsky’s most astonishing imagery. It shared, with Robert Bresson’s L’Argent, a special Grand Prize for Creative Cinema at Cannes in 1983 (given that year in lieu of the best director award). “Extraordinary ... Nostalghia is not so much a movie as a place to inhabit for two hours ... A world of fantastic textures, sumptuously muted colours, and terrarium-like humidity. This is a film that turns the spectacle of an ancient, leaky cellar into an image as memorable as any this century” (J. Hoberman, Village Voice). Colour and B&W, 35mm, in Italian and Russian with English subtitles. 125 mins.

"Tarkovsky's films remain so important today because of their ineffable spirituality."
Slant | full review

oct 16 | tyrannosaur | pacific cinematheque

Here's one I had long ago flagged as potential Soul Food - perhaps in the same sort of register as HARDCORE, REVANCHE, or the films of Lars Von Trier. Dark, but sometimes that's where even dim light shines brightest. Anyhow, it's screening tomorrow night at Pacific Cinematheque - sorry for the late notice. 

Great Britain 2011. Director: Paddy Considine
Pacific Cinematheque
8:15 wed oct 16

Cinematheque: "In his first feature as a writer-director, British actor Paddy Considine plumbs the depths of human fallibility (not to mention his own straitened childhood on a Midlands council estate) in an auspicious debut that references the “kitchen-sink” realism of directors such as Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. Set in gritty blue-collar Leeds, Tyrannosaur stars Scottish actor Peter Mullan as Joseph, an unemployed, hard-drinking widower whose inchoate rage leads him to commit acts of unspeakable violence. One afternoon, on the run from a fight, Joseph ducks into the closest refuge — an empty thrift shop - where he meets Hannah (Olivia Colman) a gentle Christian woman who offers to pray for him. Convinced she is nothing but a smug middle-class do-gooder, Joseph angrily rebuffs her, yet finds himself drawn back to her shop the next day. A tentative friendship develops, one that is challenged when Joseph learns the truth about Hannah’s relationship with her abusive husband James (Eddie Marsan). From this least likely of places, a story of grace and possible redemption gradually emerges. “A visceral, considered dissection of abuse and rage ... The performances of Mullan, Colman, and Marsan are excellent and create a compelling human drama” (Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian). Colour, HDCAM. 92 mins."

Warning: Contains scenes that may be upsetting to sensitive viewers.

Monday, September 09, 2013

sep 26 - oct 11 | viff

One of the great pleasures of September - compensating in part for summer's end and the return to work - is the Vancouver International Film Festival. Combing through the titles, making lists, adjusting schedules. I'm always watching for possible Soul Food movies - films with a spiritual flavour. If they were plays, we might stage them at Pacific Theatre. That sort of thing. Here are a couple I (and friends) have spotted so far.

There Will Come a Day ("Un giorno devi andare" Italy/France, 2012, 110 min)
Sep 27 12:00 pm | Centre for Performing Arts
Oct 07 06:15 pm | Centre for Performing Arts

The Amazon is a major character in Giorgio Diritti’s heartfelt, piercingly beautiful There Will Come a Day, a superbly made and very affecting film about a young woman searching for herself while working as a missionary in Brazil. Her spiritual and physical journey leaves her—and the audience—profoundly changed.

 “Giorgio Diritti has no fear of the astounding image; the opening shot is of a night sky with a half-moon, against which is superimposed the sonogram of a fetus. The baby will not survive. A woman is heard crying. Augusta, a thoughtful, intense young woman [with a face worthy of Botticelli], is traveling by boat along the Amazon in Brazil, ministering to the “Indios” along with Sister Franca, an Italian nun of the old-line Catholic stamp. Why does Franca care, Augusta asks, whether or not the Indios perform the sacraments of the Church, when they don’t understand what they’re doing? It is a bond with God, Franca says; understanding is irrelevant. They are an odd couple, not destined to last. But what is, Augusta wonders. She has been abandoned by her husband because she cannot have children, and has left Italy for missionary work in search of answers… Diritti addresses a number of topical issues, including the rise of Third World evangelism, the displacement of poor Brazilians (in preparation for the World Cup and Olympics), the ecological disasters brewing in the Amazon and the widening disparity between rich and poor. Technical credits are first-rate, especially the work of d.p. Roberto Cimatti, who captures in his camera a suggestion of divinity.”—John Anderson, Variety

A Place in Heaven ("Makom be-Gan Eden" Israel, 2013, 117 min)
Sep 27 04:30 pm | Vancity Theatre
Oct 03 01:40 pm | International Village #10
Oct 06 06:45 pm | International Village #10

When a retired general lies on his deathbed, bitter and alone, his estranged son, an ultra-orthodox Jew, tries to save his soul from hell. This quasi-Biblical, epic drama spans the history of Israel through 40 years and three wars, yet, like director Yossi Madmony’s previous film Restoration, it is, at its heart, about father-son relationships.

The meaning of the title emerges as a tale within a tale that begins shortly after the founding of modern Israel. When a brave, much admired officer, dubbed Bambi (Alon Aboutboul), returns to base after a daring mission, the cook’s assistant, a young rabbi, tells him enviously that he has earned a place in heaven for endangering his life on behalf of his Jewish brethren. As a secular Zionist, Bambi scoffs at this notion and notes that he would gladly give up that place in exchange for his favorite spicy omelet. Since religious law permits the trade of such an abstract concept, the cook draws up a contract. Such impulsive behavior, typical of the arrogant, young Bambi, proves to have long-term consequences…

Like the flawed heroes of the Old Testament, Bambi registers as achingly human, no more so than in his relationship with son Nimrod, who rejects his expectations and turns to other father figures in order to forge a life of his own as a religious Jew. In the end, this probing fictional biography provides an intimate portrait of an obstinate man whose principles come before everything else. And just the right hint of Madmony’s characteristic mystical overtones adds to its allusive weight.


The Dostoevsky source for With You, Without You may signal Soul Food content: who knows.  The Priest's Children looks like a Soul Food long-shot, but hey....

*   *   *

The Missing Picture

Other films have caught my eye, if not necessarily on the Soul Food portion of the menu. Last year some cinema pals and I watched Mark Cousins' 17-hour The Story Of Film: An Odyssey in a two-day marathon: this year we'll reconvene at his latest, A Story Of Children And Film, which surveys everything from The 400 Blows, Kes, ET and Fanny and Alexander to selections from Finland, Iran, Japan and elsewhere. The aesthetic strategy of The Missing Picture reminds me of Kamp, a memorable Holocaust theatre piece I saw in the PuSh Festival a couple years ago, and The Act Of Killing which screens at the VanCity prior to the film festival, on Sep 16, 18 and 19. Also at the fest, the deadpan quirk of Matterhorn appeals, as does Finding Vivian Maier, a portrait of the celebrated street photographer whose work was unknown in her lifetime. And Time Goes By Like A Roaring Lion clicks with certain of my own fascinations (should that be "chronophobia" or "chronophilia"?). 

Most Telling Blurb: "With its culture of intimidation, the playground has always resembled a prison yard." German film? Yup.