Thursday, January 21, 2010

NOW PLAYING: Dreyer, Dreyer and more Dreyer! And more...

Surfeit of tasty Soul Food in cinemas just now, and some other just plain fine films. (Not that it isn't all food for the soul, one way or another, but you know what I mean...)

But we'll start with Lars von Trier's ANTICHRIST, which may or may not be either or both. (Friday through Monday at the VanCity) I'm truly not recommending it: DOGVILLE is one of my three favourite films, but this one is way across the line into... I don't know. There are brilliant passages, there are laughably awful passages. I could hardly enter into the film, so troubled was I about the state of mind of the artist. This is von Trier's first film after a serious clinical depression, and all I could think was, "You poor, poor man," and I don't mean to be condescending. What torment and confusion are reflected here. It's a mess. It's unforgettable - for better and worse. Soul Food? Yes, but it's gone rancid, I think: completely concerned with spiritual things, but... What's really fascinating is the double bill pairing of this film and Dreyer's masterful DAY OF WRATH, a Soul Food essential - now that's programming! From the theatre's website: "The most important influence on Lars Von Trier's films is his fellow Dane Carl Dreyer, one of the great, tragically neglected figures in world cinema history. Antichrist speaks directly to Day of Wrath, the two films explore the hostility and suspicion between the sexes, the threat of female sexuality, men's desire to contain and control it and the evil that results."


So that means we've got something of a Dreyer Fest shaping up! Pacific Theatre's presentation of Reid Farrington's PASSION PROJECT opens next Wednesday (Jan 27), an extraordinarily dense and concise exploration in live performance of Dreyer's silent film masterpiece THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. Which will itself be screened the night after we open, one performance only (Jan 28) at Christ Church Cathedral with the premiere of a live score composed by Stefan Smulovitz. Both Joan projects are part of the PuSh Festival, which launched last night.

I've been waiting since VIFF for another chance to see Michael Haneke's newest, THE WHITE RIBBON. Opens Jan 22 at Tinseltown. Mysterious acts of violence in a small German town just before the outbreak of the first world war. Reprisals? Threats? The inception of darker things yet to come? Dark, troubling, elusive - but apparently more accessible that Haneke's strangest pieces (Time of the Wolf), and less horrifying than his most controversial (Funny Games, Benny's Video), it looks like a Must See. Soul Food? Well, the church is a very strong presence in this village, from what I understand - whether its role is positive or negative is uncertain (and may well remain uncertain even once one has viewed the film, if I know Haneke...)

CREATION opens Friday at Tinseltown, a toney Darwin biopic that looks to be a tract for neither side of the creation/evolution fracas. Looking at the trailer, can't help thinking of that William Wilberforce movie from a few years back, AMAZING GRACE - at least in the trailer, there's a similar look and feel. Name actors, accents, costumes, all that.

THE BLIND SIDE is showing all over the place. Thought it would be unbearably Hallmark, but I liked it plenty, mostly due to Sandra Bullock's precise, energized portrait of a no-nonsense Southern woman of means whose Christian faith and compassion just won't let her drive by that big homeless kid walking the streets in the rain. You can hate her privilege, you can decide to see the film as the worst kind of self-congratulatory white liberalism (check out The Village Voice), but honestly... I guess I want to know if Melissa Anderson has any homeless kids living in her spare room? The story happened, and it's worth telling. And Sandra Bullock is definitely worth watching.


BOOK OF ELI is from the same producers as BLIND SIDE, and I'm guessing there's some sort of Christian something-or-other going on at Alcon. No doubt they're shooting for the church market - study guides, that sort of thing - and I'm guessing Christians were the screenwriters on both projects. ELI is way more problematic for me than BLIND SIDE, even though I happen to be a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction (growing up under air raid sirens has much to do with that, I think): the violent action movie genre and the gospel are, for me, a very problematic combination. But if you're up for a crazed mix of THE ROAD, ROAD WARRIOR, GHOST DOG, ZATOICHI and CHILDREN OF MEN (with a book instead of a baby), this one's for you.

And there's a curious clutter of other quasi Soul Food flicks around this coming week as well. Quite strange. Believe it or not, there are viewers who find the strangest Christ-figure of all in Jeff Daniels' "Dude" in THE BIG LEBOWSKI - midnight Friday at The Rio. Thursday next week (Jan 28, VanCity) another of the stranger Jesuses on celluloid, the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - which I'm not sure is all it's cracked up to be, but registers pretty high on the goofy fun meter. THE FIFTH ELEMENT (Wed 27, VanCity) is Soul Food of a sort, but on the cinematic nutrition chart, it's no more than eye candy - but at least it's not as stupid as another of Luc Besson's pretty flicks that wants to be spiritual, ANGEL-A. All available at Videomatica.

And then there's the usual back end of the pre-Oscar movie parade that starts each November and marches on through early February. I get a bit of a TENDER MERCIES vibe from the CRAZY HEART trailer, and while I won't set my sights quite that high - the Robert Duvall film is my lifetime favourite - I won't miss it. AN EDUCATION is a coming-of-age film set with great particularity in England on the verge of the Beatles - and hey, there's even a C.S. Lewis plot detail! THE FANTASTIC MR FOX has become my favourite Wes Anderson film, and that's saying something. I found INVICTUS extraordinarily inspiring: there are aspects of the film that don't entirely work for me, but the portrayal of Nelson Mandela fueled me coming into 2010 - I'm thinking of having a bracelet made, "WWND."

You can still catch ME AND ORSON WELLES once daily at the Denman (2:30) - really fun "making of the Mercury Theatre's Julius Caesar" backstage pic, terrific acting (especially Elia Kazan's granddaughter). And PRECIOUS is still at Tinseltown - it's #6 on the MCN Critics' Tally, so I'd love to catch it before it's gone. Also on that list and still viewable in Vancouver: AVATAR, THE ROAD, SINGLE MAN, UP IN THE AIR, even WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (maybe my favourite of 2009).

And then there's THE LOVELY BONES, a life-after-death story, tarted up with snazzy heaven visuals by Peter "Rings" Jackson - new this week.

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