Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Birthday, Videomatica!

They're as old as we are!  (Just a little older, actually. Pacific Theatre is in it's 25th season, but our actual birthday will be next June. Or August. Or September. Or November. Depends when we decide we were actualy born.)  They opened their doors in 1983, and whatever other accolades they may have earned over the years, surely none is more coveted than the title Ron's Favourite Video Store.  I was a fan even before I started up with - now "fan" has crossed over into "fanatic," as the coolest movies in town show up in my mailbox any given day. (Tell me - what's the last thing that arrived in your mailbox that you got excited about? Bills? Flyers? Letters from Pacific Theatre asking you for money?)  Just this morning it was EDUCATIONAL ARCHIVES VOLUME SIX: RELIGION - including the Rolf Forsberg classic, STALKED!

Anyhow, I just got an email celebrating the grand occasion (Videomatica's birthday, not the arrival of my DVD).  Look at the fab stars who've rented from VM!

Knowing I'm sounding like an ad, I'll still say it - you really ought to subscribe to Almost every Soul Food Movie I've written up in my blog over the past years can be rented at their store, and with the subscription, they send them to you in the mail. My subscription is about $30 a month, which means at any given time I've got three dvds signed out. When I finish one, I put it in the postage-paid envelope they provide, pop it in the mail, and a few days later my next movie arrives in the mail - whatever has made it to the top of the queue of movies I've created on their website, which I can change whenever I learn about another movie I want to see. Honestly, it's the coolest thing.


Happy birthday, Videomatica!


PARABLE (1964, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

Commissioned by the New York City Protestant Council of Churches for their 1964 World's Fair pavilion, this 22 minute clown-Christ circus allegory is better than you might expect, a film without dialogue that aims for something like Fellini or maybe Bresson. Controversial in its day – even the fair's director asked for it to be withdrawn! – the film was big in church rentals for the rest of the decade, and you can still find it through some mainline church media libraries.



STALKED (1968, USA, Rolf Forsberg)
Flesh. In motion. Flesh. Illogical. Unpredictable. To me, a vastness of fools. Fools to be exploited, not pitied...

Between his breakout hit PARABLE and the seventies Christian Scare Classic THE LATE GREAT PLANET EARTH, Rolf (under the influence of Fellini, Bergman and possibly other hallucinogens) created this astonishingly weird short film, sort of a CARNIVAL OF SOULS for Christ. "The Man" needs a break from his day job sculpting gruesome Bible scenes for house of wax, so he flies to Europe, only there's nobody there to meet him. I mean nobody. Except a guy in wooden shoes, who ends up following him through the streets of Amsterdam, dancing and pounding on doors. I think he's supposed to be Jesus: you'll never hear "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" in quite the same way again. A stranger religious ed film was never made – more's the pity. Available on Fantoma's "The Educational Archives, Volume Six: Religion."


ANTKEEPER (1966, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

ANTKEEPER (1966, USA, Rolf Forsberg)

His wife helped found Second City, Rolf made distinctly weird short films for the Lutherans. Here a gardener sends his son to teach the ants in his garden how to live peacefully. SPOILER: The ants kill his son. Voiced by Herman Munster.


PS I'd dearly love to get hold of a copy of this. Anyone?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ends midnight, Monday Nov 24: Criterion 40% Off Sale

Criterion is changing websites, and they're selling all their in-stock DVDs at a 40% reduction. (Frankly, I'm guessing it has more to do with switching over to BluRay, but what do I know?) Wow. Lots of Soul Food titles from the cognoscenti site. Here are some examples, but you'd be best just to head for the site and start searching. Bresson, Tarkovsky, Kurosawa, all the usual suspects (not including THE USUAL SUSPECTS).

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Given my new love affair with New York, and my long-time relationship with the theatre, I'm stoked about Charlie Kaufman's SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK at Tinseltown: "A theater director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as he attempts to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as part of his new play."

I've also been waiting forever for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, the latest of Danny Boyle's variations on the theme of getting-rich-quick: "The story of how impoverished Indian teen Jamal Malik became a contestant on the Hindi version of Who Wants to be A Millionaire?" Curiously, there's but one showing, Sunday morning 10am at the Park. And it sounds like they provide breakfast? I'll let you know more when I do. (Mark Moring of CT Movies writes "The best movie of the week—and one of the best of the year—is SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, the latest from acclaimed director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Millions). In the film, an unrepentantly optimistic and magical work of art, a teen from India's slums becomes a contestant on a game show and finds himself on the cusp of untold riches. Reviewer Brandon Fibbs gives the movie 4 stars.")

THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS (Holocaust through the eyes of a German officer's son) is new at the Fifth Avenue. Soul Foodie Peter Mogan calls RACHEL GETTING MARRIED "nothing short of brilliant," invokes Vinterberg's THE CELEBRATION: that's at Tinseltown, Fifth Ave, Esplanade. Peter also raves I'VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (at the Park), tantalizing us with this insistence; "You must see this movie asap. I can't tell you why but when you see it, it'll make sense as to why and why I can't tell you. French with subtitles. Currently at the Park. Seriously, you must see this." He says Kristin Scott Thomas is brilliant in it, and also in TELL NO ONE (Fifth Ave, Ridge), describing "great twists and turns without Hollywood melodrama."

BURN AFTER READING (Coen comedy, classy cast) continues to smolder at the Scotiabank, and Long(-running) DARK KNIGHT fights on at Granville 7.

And of course we're looking forward to DOUBT, adapted by John Patrick Shanley from his brilliant Pulitzer Prize play, starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams. How I wanted to stage this at Pacific Theatre! But who would dare after that? Limited release December 12, should hit Vancouver by sometime in January at the latest.


Busy fall, so I missed a few I'd wanted to see, BRIDESHEAD REVISITED and MIRACE AT ST ANNA among them. (Let me know of any more you'd flag). We'll keep a lookout for the DVD releases. Relatively recent adds to Videomatica shelves with possibly significant levels of Soul Food content would be IN BRUGES, SON OF RAMBOW, REDBELT, DANTE'S INFERNO, and most definitely SILENT LIGHT, the year's Soul Food masterpiece (but don't go looking for car chases or explosions - makes a swell double feature with ORDET, if that gives you any idea).

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Nov 18: Canadian Premiere, RWANDA: HOPE RISES

Steve Plitt was involved on the tech side during our earliest days in the 12th Avenue theatre. His focus since then has been film, including the much-celebrated SUPERANON which has been featured in plenty of Soul Food emails over the years. I see his name on the credit list for this upcoming premiere...

After many years in the making, you are invited to the Canadian Premiere of my documentary, Rwanda: Hope Rises. It premieres Nov. 18th at the Vancity Theatre in Vancouver. Screenings are at 7pm & 8:45. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Advance tickets can be bought online
More information and a teaser-trailer are available on the film's website.

Thanks, and hope to see you there!

Trevor Meier

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's Worth Seeing?

Catch me up! Since heading for NYC September 11 (no, that wasn't me, that was some other guys. Different September 11...) I've been pretty much off the movie beat. First the splendours of Manhattan, then MOURNING DOVE rehearsals, then MOURNING DOVE exhaustion, and then... Now.

So I picked up a couple more of my movie magazines, and have started finding out from people what's out there now that's worth seeing. (Especially anything with Soul Food content? I missed MIRACLE AT ST ANNA, looking forward to DOUBT, anything else with God stuff this fall?) Any tips?

Here are the results of one such conversation, from Soul Food afficionado Peter Mogan...

As promised, Peter's top five of the past few months:

Rachel Getting Married - nothing short of brilliant. Outstanding performances from every actor, with special applause for Anne Hathaway in a career performance. Think of Vinterberg's THE CELEBRATION for feel and genre. Jonathan Damme has delivered the complete movie: story, acting, cinematography.

I've Loved You for So Long - a masterpiece of acting by Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein. You must see this movie asap. I can't tell you why but when you see it, it'll make sense as to why and why I can't tell you. French with subtitles. Currently at the Park. Seriously, you must see this.

Tell No One - another French flick with Kristin Scott Thomas in a supporting role. This movie is another winner: amazing story, fantastic performances from the leading roles, great twists and turns without Hollywood melodrama. I was mesmerized.

Brideshead Revisited - good story, strong acting, yes but this is a cinematographic masterpiece. Every frame is an art piece. Amazing.

Dark Knight - what preachers try to do from the pulpit - teach about sin and the human condition - is done far more meaningfully and grippingly by Heath Ledger's Joker. Like Clockwork Orange this movie uses very disturbing scenes to engage the audience in a very important question about good and evil.

Finally saw a third French flick, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly which I really appreciated.



I need to give DARK KNIGHT another shot: I had terrible seats, and the dialogue was mostly inaudible.
But Peter's definitely right about DIVING BELL: gorgeous. Why is it that one of the most cinematic films imaginable came from the most unfilmable novels imaginable? Which makes one think of ADAPTATION...

More on More: Writers write about A Man For All Seasons

Terry Teachout and filmmaker David Koepp bring their insights into A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS, in the Wall Street Journal and Film Comment respectively.  Here

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

dante's inferno (2007)

Thanks to IMAGE Update for word about DANTE'S INFERNO: THE MOVIE, which toured small festivals through the first half of 2007 then went to DVD in August this year.
Yes, folks, you read that right. And no, it's not a special effects extravaganza starring Jack Nicholson, directed by George Lucas, and produced by Steven Spielberg. It's actually done in the manner of a Victorian puppet theater, and it's been updated with a cast of oh-so-very contemporary characters. The amazing thing is that it works. The stylization of the cleverly drawn characters and backgrounds, the over the top dialogue and soundtrack, the visual gags and "updating"--all these elements combine to keep viewers on their toes. There are, in fact, great actors involved: Dermot Mulroney as the voice of Dante the Pilgrim (you know, he's the slacker who's frequently hung over and not doing too well with a job or the girls), and James Cromwell as the wise but unsentimental Virgil. The curtain rises on some shady urban streets when Dante the slacker says: "About halfway through the course of my pathetic life, I woke up and found myself in a stupor in some dark, unfamiliar place. I'm not sure how I ended up there; I guess I'd taken a few wrong turns." The updating comes in a variety of forms, from simple changes of setting--Francesca and Paolo in a seedy no-tell motel--to the more broadly satirical, as when they encounter the late Senator Strom Thurmond dressed as a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth's maple syrup. The satire gets political, of course, and occasionally predictably so: Dick Cheney is the damned soul whose body continues to operate up "above," though inhabited by a demon. The whole thing is risky and inevitably some jokes fall flat, but there's also a lot of love for the original here, and creativity to burn. In the midst of all the playfulness there's even a hint that there are, indeed, high stakes in this mortal life of ours. "I was totally expecting to see demons and bondage stuff," Dante the pilgrim says at one point, but Virgil counters: "This is hell, Dante, not your personal fantasy."
Here's how they describe it at the film's official website...
DANTE’S INFERNO has been kicking around the cultural playground for over 700 years. But it has never before been interpreted with exquisitely hand-drawn paper puppets, brought to life using purely hand-made special effects. Until now. Rediscover this literary classic, retold in a kind of apocalyptic graphic novel meets Victorian-era toy theater. Dante’s Hell is brought to lurid 3-dimensional, high-definition life in a darkly comedic travelogue of the underworld — set against an all-too-familiar urban backdrop of used car lots, gated communities, strip malls, and the U.S. Capitol. And populated with a contemporary cast of reprobates, including famous — and infamous — politicians, presidents, popes, pimps. And the Prince of Darkness himself.