Friday, September 21, 2018


For several years I worked on a book about films and faith. Soul Food Movies: A Guide to films with a spiritual flavour. After writing well over 100,000 words, I had to set it aside and focus my attention on my theatre company, and that was that.

As I went, I posted the various pieces on this blog.  Here are links to most of those.  I've also added titles of other "soul food" movies I didn't manage to write about then, or that I've discovered since - but because I haven't written about them, they won't have links.  

These aren't necessarily the greatest or most-recommended movies that have some sort of soul food angle. They're just the ones I got to before I had to abandon the project. But there are a lot of my own personal favourites in the mix. I'll boldface those, just so you know.

It only makes sense when you look at it backwards. 
Too bad we got to live it forwards.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, USA, Stanley Kubrick, screenplay with Arthur C. Clarke, from Clarke’s “The Sentinel”)

21 Grams (2003, USA, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
(also here)

3 Godfathers (1948, USA, John Ford)

49 Up (2005, UK, Michael Apted)

49th Parallel (1941, UK, Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger screenplay, Ralph Vaughan Williams score)

Let's play “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” 
Who wrote the phrase "No man is an island"? 
John Donne? John Milton? John F. Kennedy? Jon Bon Jovi?

Jon Bon Jovi. Too easy. 

And, if I may say so, a complete load of bollocks. 
In my opinion, all men are islands. I like to think I’m Ibiza.

ABOUT A BOY (2002, UK/USA/France/Germany, Chris & Paul Weitz, Peter Hedges screenplay, Nick Hornby novel)

ABOUT SCHMIDT (2002, USA, Alexander Payne, Louis Begley novel)

Acts of the Apostles ("Atti degli apostoli" 1969, Italy/France/Germany/Spain/Tunisia, Roberto Rossellini)

ADAM'S APPLES (“Adams æbler” 2005, Denmark/Germany, Anders Thomas Jensen)

The Addiction (1995, USA, Abel Ferrara, Nicholas St. John screeplay)

AFTER LIFE (“Wandafuru raifu” 1998, Japan, Hirokazu Kore-eda)

Agnes of God (1985, USA, Norman Jewison, John Pielmeier play and screenplay)

Amadeus (1984, USA, Milos Forman, Peter Shaffer play and screenplay)

Amen. (2002, France/Germany, Costa-Gavras)

That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid. Ever. Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it... and my heart is going to cave in.

AMERICAN BEAUTY (1999, USA, Sam Mendes)

Amistad (1997, USA, Steven Spielberg)

...And God Spoke (1993, USA, Arthur Borman)

Angel-A (2005, France, Luc Besson)

Amazing Grace (2006, UK/USA, Michael Apted)

Amelie (“Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain” 2001, France, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

Anchoress (1993, Belgium/UK, Chris Newby)

I'll never paint again. Because it's of no use to anyone. That's all. 

ANDREI RUBLEV (“The Passion According To Andrei” 1966, USSR, Andrei Tarkovsky)

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938, USA, Michael Curtiz)

Antkeeper (1966, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

Apocalypto (2006, USA, Mel Gibson)

The Apostle (1997, USA, Robert Duvall)

Around The Bend (2004, USA, Jordan Roberts)

I am very, very sorry 
for the terrible distress that I have caused you.
I am very, very sorry...
Atonement (2007, UK/France, d. Joe Wright)

AU HASARD BALTHAZAR ("Balthazar, By Chance" 1966, France, Robert Bresson)

Auto Focus (2002, USA, Paul Schrader)

Babette's Feast (“Babettes gæstebud” 1987, Denmark, Gabriel Axel, Isak Dinesen story)

BAD LIEUTENANT (1992, USA, Abel Ferrara)

Barabbas (1962, Italy, Richard Fleischer, Christopher Fry screenplay, Par Lagerkvist novel)

BARCELONA (1994, USA, Whit Stillman)

Barabbas (1962, Richard Fleischer, Christopher Fry screenplay from Par Lagerkvist novel)

Becket (1964, UK/USA, Peter Glenville, Jean Anouilh play)

THE BELIEVER (2001, USA, Henry Bean)

Ben-Hur (1959, USA, William Wyler, Karl Tunberg screenplay from Lew Wallace novel)

THE BIG COUNTRY (1958, USA, William Wyler)

The Big Fisherman (1959, USA, Frank Borzage, Lloyd C. Douglas novel)

We talked about Christ.
About Christ! Did you mention what line of industrial lubricant Jesus uses?
THE BIG KAHUNA (1999, USA, John Swanbeck, Roger Rueff screenplay)

BIG NIGHT (1996, USA, Stanley Tucci & Campbell Scott)

The Big Lebowski (1998, USA, Joel and Ethan Coen)
Bill Cunningham New York (2010, USA, Richard Press)

Black Robe (1991, Canada/Australia, Bruce Beresford, Brian Moore screenplay/novel)

Blade Runner (1982, USA, Ridley Scott)

Black Snake Moan (2007, USA, Craig Brewer)

Blood Simple (1984, USA, Joel & Ethan Coen)

I could never get used to that part of the job. The power and the glory. The threat of divine vengeance. 
But I persevered. I was about my Father’s business.
It was the morning of December 31st, 1999 when I returned, at last, 

to judge the living and the dead. 
Though still, and perhaps always, I had my doubts.
Book of Life (1998, France/USA, Hal Hartley)

The Bourne Identity / Supremacy / Ultimatum (2002/2004/2007, USA, Doug Liman / Paul Greengrass)

Breach (2007, USA, Billy Ray)

Breaking The Waves (1996, Denmark, Lars von Trier)
BROADCHURCH: SEASON 1 (2013, UK, Chris Chibnall etc)

Broadway Danny Rose (1984, USA, Woody Allen)

BROOKLYN (2015, UK/etc, John Crowley)

BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON (1972, Italy/England, Franco Zeffirelli, screenplay with Lina Wertmuller)

Bruce Almighty (2003, USA, Tom Shadyac)

Bull Durham (1988, USA, Ron Shelton)

The Camden 28 (2007, USA, Anthony Giacchino)

Cat People (1942, USA, Jacques Tourneur, Val Lewton / DeWitt Bodeen screenplay)
Cat People (1982, USA, Paul Schrader, screenplay w/ Alan Ormsby, DeWitt Bodeen story)

THE CELEBRATION ("Festen" 1998, Denmark, Thomas Vinterberg)

Central Station (“Central do Brasil” 1998, Brazil/France, Walter Salles)

Sometimes God likes to put two guys in a paper bag and just 
let ‘em rip.

CHANGING LANES (2002, USA, Roger Michell)

CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981, UK, Hugh Hudson)

Children of Men (2006, UK/USA, Alfonso Cuaron, P.D. James novel)

Chocolat (2000, USA/UK, Lasse Hallström)

The Chosen (1981, USA, Jeremy Kagan)

Close-Up ("Nema-ye Nazkid" 1990, Iran, Abbas Kiarostami)

I decided I needed a complete make-over, 
except this time I'd make-over my soul.
CLUELESS (1995, USA, Amy Heckerling)

Cold Heaven (1990, USA, Nicolas Roeg, Brian Moore novel)

Le Confessionnal (1995, Canada, Robert Lepage)

Cool and Crazy ("Heftig Og Begeistret" 2001, Norway/Sweden, Knut Erik Jensen)

Cool Hand Luke (1967, USA, Stuart Rosenberg)

Copying Beethoven (2006, USA/Germany/Hungary, Agnieszka Holland)


Cry, The Beloved Country (1995, South Africa / USA, Darrell Roodt, Alan Paton novel)

A Cry In The Dark (1988, Australia, Fred Schepisi)

You could learn a lot from children.
They believe in things in the dark, although we tell them it's not so.
Maybe we've been fooling them.
Curse of the Demon ("Night of the Demon" 1957, UK, Jacques Tourneur)

Dancer in the Dark (2000, Denmark, Lars von Trier)

Day of Wrath (“Vredens dag” 1943, Denmark, Dreyer)

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951, USA, Robert Wise, screenplay Edmund H. North, story Harry Bates)

DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978, USA, Malick)
DEAD MAN WALKING (1995, USA, Robbins)

Dead Poets Society (1989, USA, Peter Weir)

Dear Wendy (2005, Denmark, Thomas Vinterberg, Lars von Trier screenplay)

The Death of Mr Lazarescu ("Moartea domnului Lazarescu" 2005, Romania, Cristi Puiu)

The Decalogue ("Dekalog" 1989, Poland, Kieslowski)

Le Diable Probablement ("The Devil Probably" 1977, France, Robert Bresson)

Diary of a Country Priest (1950, France, Bresson)

Divided We Fall ("Musime Si Pomohat" 2000, Czech Republic, Jan Hrbejk)

DOGVILLE (2003, Denmark/USA, von Trier)

Doubt (2008, USA, John Patrick Shanley)

THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS (France, 1998, Erick Zonka)

The Elephant Man (1980, USA, David Lynch)
The End Of The Affair (1955, UK, Dmytryk)
The End Of The Affair (1999, USA, Jordan)
Europa 51 (1952, Italy, Rossellini)

Everything Is Illuminated (2005, USA, Liev Schreiber, Jonathan Safran Foer novel)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005, USA, Scott Derrickson)

The Exorcist (1973, USA, William Friedkin)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (USA, 2000, Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato)

Fearless (1993, USA, Peter Wier)

Fiddler on the Roof (1971, USA, Norman Jewison)

FIELD OF DREAMS (1989, USA, Phil Alden Robinson, W.P. Kinsella novel)

Fight Club (1999, USA, David Fincher, Chuck Palahniuk novel)

Flatliners (1990, USA, Joel Schumacher)

The Flowers of St Francis (“Francesco, guillare di Dio” / “Francis, God’s Jester” 1950, Italy, Roberto Rossellini, screenplay with Federico Fellini)

Forgiveness (2004, South Africa, Gabriel)
Francesco (1989, Italy/Germany, Cavani)
Francis of Assisi (1961, USA, Curtiz)
The Fugitive (1947, USA/Mexico, John Ford)
The Funeral (1996, USA, Abel Ferrara)

Gates of Heaven (1980, USA, Errol Morris)

GEORGE WASHINGTON (2000, USA, David Gordon Green)

God Told Me To (“Demon” 1976, USA, Larry Cohen)

GODSPELL (1973, USA, Greene)

The Gospel According to Vic ("Heavenly Pursuits" 1985, UK, Charles Gormley)

The Green Mile (1999, USA, Frank Darabont, from Stephen King novel)

The Green Ray ("Le Rayon verte" "Summer" 1986, France, Rohmer)

GROUNDHOG DAY (1993, USA, Harold Ramis)

Hail, Caesar! (2016, USA, Joel and Ethan Coen)
Hail Mary ("Je Vous Salue, Marie" 1985, France, Godard)

Hardcore (1979, USA, Schrader)

Do you ever visit the people you save?
Are you crazy?
Go visit her. The woman you almost saved. Never stop saving them.

HAWAII, OSLO (2004, Norway, Erik Poppe)

Heaven (2002, Germany, Tom Tykwer, Kieslowski/Pieskowicz screenplay)

Hell House (2001, USA, Ratliff)
A HIDDEN LIFE (2019, USA, Terrence Malick)
The Hiding Place (1975, USA, Collier)
Higher Ground (2011, USA, Vera Farmiga, Carolyn S. Briggs memoir)
THE HOMESMAN (2014, USA, Tommy Lee Jones)

Homicide (1991, USA, David Mamet)

House of Sand and Fog

THE HUNT ("Jagten" 2012, Denmark/Sweden, Thomas Vinterberg)

I Confess (1953, USA, Alfred Hitchcock)

I Walked With a Zombie (1943, USA, Jacques Tourneur, Lewton/Siodmak/Wray screenplay)

Doesn’t it make you furious when they walk all over you this way?
No. I can’t afford to hate people. I haven’t got that kind of time.
IKIRU (1951, Japan, Akira Kurosawa)

In A Better World (2010, Denmark, Susanne Bier)
IN BRUGES (2008, UK/Belgium, McDonagh)
In Your Hands (2004, Denmark, Olesen)
Into Great Silence (2005, France, Gröning)
INTO THE WILD (2007, USA, Penn)

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946, USA, Frank Capra)

Italian For Beginners (2000, Denmark, Scherfig)
Jacob's Ladder (1990, USA, Lyne)
Jesus Christ, Superstar (1973, USA, Jewison)
JESUS OF MONTREAL (1989, Canada, Denys Arcand)
Jesus Of Nazareth (1977, UK/Italy, Zeffirelli)

Do you believe in God?
I believe in myself.
What does that mean?
I have confidence in myself.
I've been doing some soul searching lately, asking myself some pretty tough questions. You know what I found out? I have no interest in myself. I start thinking about myself, I get bored out of my mind.
JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO (1990, USA, John Patrick Shanley)

The King (2005, USA/UK, James Marsh, w/ Milo Addica)

LADY BIRD (2017, USA, Greta Gerwig)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007, USA, Gillespie)

The Last Days of Disco (1998, USA, Whit Stillman)


Why didn't you tell me there were mysteries?
David, my whole life has been about a mystery.
No! You stood in that church and explained them away! Dad, I've been taken with some sort of otherness, and I don't know what to do. We've lost our dreams. And they come back, and we don't know what they mean.
The Last Wave (1977, Australia, Peter Wier)

Leon Morin, Priest (1961, France, Melville)
Lilies Of The Field (1963, USA, Nelson)
LOVE & MERCY (2014, USA, Bill Pohlad)
THE MATRIX (1999, USA, Wachowski)

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, USA, Andrew Adamason)

LITTLE CHILDREN (2006, USA, Todd Field, Tom Perrotta novel)

If people think that makes me weak... or mad... so be it. That is the path I am committed to. To love the sinner, but hate the sins. To assume the best in people, and not the worst. To believe that anyone, no matter how evil, can be redeemed... eventually.
LONGFORD (2006, UK/USA, Tom Hooper, Peter Morgan screenplay)

The Lord Of The Rings (2001-2003, New Zealand/USA, Jackson)
Magnolia (1999, USA, P.T. Anderson)

A Man Escaped (1956, France, Robert Bresson)

A Man For All Seasons (1966, USA, Zinnemann)
A Man For All Seasons (1988, USA, Heston)

The Man Who Planted Trees ("L'homme qui plantait des arbes," 1987, Canada, Frederic Back

The Man Without A Past (2002, Finland, Kaurismaki)

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (2004, USA/UK, Michael Radford)

Of course there’s a God! We all basically know there is.
I know no such thing.
Of course you do! When you think to yourself 

— and most of our waking life is taken up thinking to ourself — 
you must have that feeling that your thoughts aren’t entirely wasted, 
that in some sense they are being heard. 
I think it's this sensation of silently being listened to with total comprehension 
that represents our innate belief in a supreme being, an all–comprehending intelligence. 
What it shows is that some kind of belief is innate in all of us. 
At some point most of us lose that, after which it can only be regained by a conscious act of faith.
And you’ve experienced that?
No, I haven’t. I hope to someday.
METROPOLITAN (1990, USA, Whit Stillman)

The Mill And The Cross (2011, Poland, Lech Majewski)
The Miracle Maker (2000, UK/USSR, Hayes/Sokolov)
THE MISSION (1986, UK, Roland Joffé)

LES MISERABLES (1998, UK/Germany/USA, Bille August)

Molokai: The Story Of Father Damien (1999, Belgium/Australia, Paul Cox)
Monsieur Vincent (1947, France, Cloche)
Monsignor Quixote (1987, UK, Bennett)

MOST ("The Bridge" 2003, USA, Bobby Garabedian)

MY NIGHT AT MAUD'S ("Ma Nuit chez Maud" 1969, France, Eric Rohmer)

The Neon Bible (1995, UK, Terence Davies)

NEITHER HEAVEN NOR EARTH (2015, France/Belgium, Clément Cogitore)
The New World (2005, USA, Terrence Malick)
The Night Of The Hunter (1955, USA, Charles Laughton)
The Ninth Day (2004, Germany, Volker Schlondorff)

Not Of This World ("Fuoiri Dal Mondo" 1999, Italy, Giuseppe Piccioni)

O Father, we ask that you deliver this woman from sin. 
Destroy it by the spirit of God.
Heal her through and through, including her heart. 

Make her a new creature in Christ. 

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? (2000, USA, Joel and Ethan Coen)

Of Gods and Men (2010, France, Xavier Beauvois)
On The Waterfront (1954, USA, Kazan)
Open City ("Roma, città aperta" Rome, Open City" 1946, Italy, Rossellini)

Open Your Eyes (“Abre los ojos” 1997, Spain/France/Italy, Alejandro Amenabar)

Ordet (1955, Denmark, Dreyer)
Ostrov ("The Island" 2006, USSR, Pavel Lungin)

The Painted Veil (2006, USA, John Curran, W. Somerset Maugham novel)

Paisan (1946, Italy, Rossellini)

Pale Rider (1985, USA, Clint Eastwood)

PAN'S LABYRINTH (“El Labertinto del fauno,” 2006, Mexico/Spain/USA, Guillermo del Toro)

Parable (1964, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

The Passion Of Joan of Arc (1928, France, Carl Theodor Dreyer)

I don't know what all of this means, but it's got to mean something. Don't you see that?
It makes sense. It's got to be a sign.
Personal Velocity (2002, USA, Rebecca Miller)

Phone Booth (2002, USA, Joel Schumacher)

The Potting Shed (1961, USA, Paul Bogart, Graham Greene play)
Power and the Glory (1959, USA, Carmen Capalbo Graham Greene novel)
Power and the Glory (1961, USA, Marc Daniels, Graham Greene Novel)

The Princess and the Warrior ("Der Krieger und die Kaiserin" 2000, Germany, Tom Tykwer)

La Promesse ("The Promise" 1996, Belgium, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006, Gabriele Muccino, Steve Conrad screenplay)

The Quiet American (1958, USA, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Graham Greene novel)
The Quiet American (2002, USA/Germany/Australia, Phillip Noyce, Graham Greene novel)

The Rapture (1991, USA, Tolkin)

Requiem (2006, Germany, Hans-Christian Schmid)

Revanche (2008, Austria, Götz Spielmann)

A River Runs Through It (1992, USA, Robert Redford, Norman Maclean novella)

Romero (1989, USA, Duigan)

The Rookie (2002, USA, John Lee Hancock)

Rosetta (1999, Belgium, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)

What can I do? What can I do? 
Come on. Help me. Please. Just this once.
I'll keep on running, okay? 

I'm waiting... I'm waiting... I'm waiting... I'm waiting...
RUN LOLA RUN ("Lola Rennt" 1998, Germany, Tom Tykwer)

The Sacrifice ("Offret" 1986, Sweden, Tarkovsky)

Saving Grace (1985, USA, Robert M. Young, Celia Gittelson novel)

SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993, USA, Steven Spielberg)

The Sea Inside ("Mar Adentro" 2004, Spain/France/Italy, Alejandro Amenabar, wr Amenabar & Mateo Gil)

A Serious Man (2009, USA, Coen)
The Seventh Seal (1956, Sweden, Bergman)

Shadowlands (1985, UK, Norman Stone, William Nicholson screenplay/stage play)
SHADOWLANDS (1993, UK, Richard Attenborough, William Nicholson screenplay/stage play)

Shane (1953, USA, George Stevens)

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994, USA, Frank Darabont, Stephen King story)

Shotgun Stories (2007, USA, Nichols)

Signs (2002, USA, M. Night Shyamalan)

Silence (1971, Japan, Masahiro Shinoda)
SILENCE (2016, USA/Japan/etc, Martin Scorsese)
Silent Light (2007, Mexico, Reygadas)

THE SON ("Le Fils" 2002, Belgium, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)

SON OF MAN (2006, South Africa, Mark Dornford-May)
The Song of Bernadette (1943, USA, King)
Songs From The Second Floor (2000, Sweden, Andersson)
SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS (2005, Germany, Rothemund)

Spartacus (1960, USA, Stanley Kubrick)

The Spitfire Grill (1996, USA, Lee David Zlotoff)

Stalked (1968, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

The Stand (1994, USA, Mick Garris, Stephen King teleplay from his own novel)

There's no writing on here. This ain't no will.
Yes it is. It's the will of God.
Stars in My Crown (1950, USA, Jacques Tourneur)

The Station Agent (2003, USA, Thomas McCarthy)

The Straight Story (1999, USA, David Lynch)

Strange Cargo (1940, Frank Borzage)

Stranger Than Fiction (2006, USA, Marc Forster)

Superman (1978, 1980, 2006)

Take Shelter (2011, USA, Jeff Nichols)

Tears of the Sun (2003, USA, Antoine Fuqua)

Before, praying seemed ridiculous.
I used to say, “You pray to force God to give you things.”
Ten (2002, Iran/France/USA, Abbas Kiarostami)

Ten Commandments (1923, USA, DeMille)
Ten Commandments (1953, USA, DeMille)
TENDER MERCIES (1983, USA, Beresford)
Thérèse (1986, France, Cavalier)
The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005, USA, Tommy Lee Jones)
The Three Colors Trilogy: Blue, White, Red ("Trois Coleurs: Blue, Blanc, Rouge" 1993-1994, Poland/France, Kieslowski)

THE THIRD MIRACLE (1999, USA, Agnieszka Holland, Richard Vetere novel)

Time of the Wolf ("Le Temps du loup" 2003, France/Austria/Germany, Michael Haneke)

To End All Wars (2001, USA, David L. Cunningham, Brian Godawa screenplay)

Tree of Life (2011, USA, Terrence Malick)
The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962, France, Bresson)
The Trip To Bountiful (1985, USA, Masterson)
TRUE GRIT (2010, USA, Joel and Ethan Coen)
The Up Series (1964-present, UK, Michael Apted)

THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998, USA, Peter Weir)

Unforgiven (1992, USA, Eastwood)

USHPIZIN (2004, Israel, Giddi Dar)

Vanilla Sky (2001, USA, Cameron Crowe)

VANYA ON 42ND STREET (1994, USA, Malle/Gregory)
The Verdict (1982, USA, Lumet)
Voyage to Italy ("Viaggio in Italia" 1953, Italy, Rossellini)

WAKING NED DEVINE (1998, Ireland/UK/France/USA, Kirk Jones)

The Way (2010, Spain/USA, Emilio Estevez)

Whistle Down the Wind (1961, UK, Bryan Forbes)

The Wicker Man (1973, UK, Robin Hardy, Anthony Shaffer screenplay)
The Wicker Man (2006, USA, Neil LaBute)

WILL YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR (2018, USA, Morgan Neville)
WINGS OF DESIRE (1987, Germany, Wenders)

Wise Blood (1979, USA, John Huston, Benedict & Michael Fitzgerald from Flannery O'Connor novel)

Wit (2001, USA, Nichols, Margaret Edson stage play)
Witness (1985, USA, Weir)

THE WRONG MAN (1956, US, Alfred Hitchcock)

What then must we do?

THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY (1982, Australia, Peter Weir)

You Can't Take It With You (1938, USA, Frank Capra & 1984, USA, Kirk Browning & Ellis Rabb)

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.