Friday, October 23, 2009

Antichrist opens in November

I was getting a little concerned that Danish director Lars Von Trier's latest film Antichrist might not come to the Main Art Theatre after all. (What, this is too heavy subject matter for Detroit audiences?)After all, I did see the film's trailer on my last visit to the Main in September. But scrolling down Landmark Detroit’s web site I found no mention of it in the upcoming films list for the company’s Detroit properties - the Main or Maple theatres. An e-mail to the company clarified things, however. Said customer service, "The film is slated to start at our Main Art Theatre on 11/13/09.We won’t have a confirmation of that until Tuesday, November 10." Female lead Charlotte Gainsbourg won best actress at Cannes for her role. Any new film by Von Trier (Dogville, Dancing in the Dark, Breaking the Waves), of course, is something of an event. But one wonders if his elite status is getting to his head, as when he declared "I am the best film director in the world." I saw the film recently in Montreal (Oct. 15 post). Last night in New York a midnight screening was sold out with people turned away. In one sense, this film, classed in part as horror, will come too late for local audiences. It would have been great to have had it for Halloween.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Otto Buj's Primordial Ties

You can catch the trailer of Windsor filmmaker Otto Buj's new film Primordial Ties on Youtube. But that's the only part of the feature, now in post-production, local audiences will be able to see probably until next fall. Buj is concentrating on getting the film into a festival next year and finding a distributor. If a festival picks it up it will have exclusive premiere rights. In other words the picture wouldn't be released to general audiences until after that time....This will be Buj's second feature after 2004's The Eternal Present. The film stars newcomer Stephanie Sobocan. "She was comfortable getting into it through me having seen (his) first film," Buj says, and thought the role would be "interesting".....The movie, at just over 90 minutes, was shot in Windsor in 2008.....The trailer introduces Primordial Ties as a "strange new film by Otto Buj" and describes it as "the love story...of a father and the daughter...that he never had." Buj says it's a kind of coming-of-age story about a young woman "with a very sort of abstract notion about her past and her origins" and a "mysterious" father played by Mark Lefebvre, who was in The Eternal Present. The daughter is convinced her father, who is "maybe an amateur scientist" or "maybe he dabbled in occult arts" created her in a Pygmalian way.....Like The Eternal Present Buj financed the film himself. He jokes: "I never recovered from the first one and I got into the second one."..... The Eternal Present received good reviews including in The Globe and Mail. It played at one medium size festival and at another Canadian niche fest. It also was made into a DVD with Netflix buying 200 copies and 100 and is for sale at stores such as Amazon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Glass - the documentary

Composer Philip Glass's music might seem among the most esoteric if not captivating. This, after all, is the man whose music has been described (in complimentary tones) as opening "the acoustic door to the unknown" and as an artist who does "existential dread better than anybody." One therefore might think the pianist remote and intimidating. Not at all. The opening shot of 2007's Scott Hicks (Shine) documentary shows Glass on a family outing in the front car of the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island, New York, screaming his head off like everybody else. In fact, in the movie, Glass, A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts, the composer - age 70 at the time the film was made - comes across as a regular guy (as if shrugging "what, me, one of contemporary music's foremost composers?") if abundantly talented and a workaholic, often juggling music with family life including a couple of small kids and the requisite toy-covered living room floor. Hicks follows Glass from his New York residence to summer house on Cape Breton Island, to collaboration with musicians and filmmakers including editing room suite work with Woody Allen, and preparing for opening night of his latest opera Waiting for the Barbarians in Germany. Definitely worth a view. Available on DVD

Friday, October 16, 2009

WIFF update

The Windsor International Film Festival is extending its reach to East Lansing Michigan this year with a screening of Quebec film The Necessities of Life (Ce qu'il faut pour vivre) Nov. 3. It actually starts the festival although there will be an official Windsor gala at Caesars Windsor Nov. 12. Then the fest screens that and two other films (Pontypool and C'est pas moi je le jure) Nov 4 - 7 at the Detroit Film Theatre in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Regular screenings take place at the Capitol Theatre Nov. 13-15....Festival director Peter Coady admits the additional US screenings are stretching him a bit thin. "I may have bitten off a little more that I should have," he laughs, "but we're committed now." Coady says it's part of the festival's mandate to promote Canadian films and calls the DFT "a wonderful place" to showcase them in a US metropolitan area. This of course isn't the first time the fest, now in its fifth year, has screened films stateside. The East Lansing screenings came about because of interest from the Canadian Studies dept. at Michigan State University. But, who knows, he says, things could "snowball" in future because he has had interest from as far away as the University of Wisconsin asking if we "would consider taking the show on the road"......Coady says the festival schedule is essentially complete and details will be announced at a press conference Oct. 27. "There are a couple of films we're waiting on to determine whether they're going to receive wide distibution," he said. "If they are we may have to drop them from our line-up.".....Meanwhile screenings will be consolidated downtown at the Capitol. Last year they were spread around the city "and I don't think it worked," he said. "We really wanted to have a kind of central location." Attendance dropped last year because of this and other factors like the economy and fewer Americans coming across. "We would normally have drawn more people from Detroit." Coady won't disclose any other titles but says 30 or 31 features will be shown, up from about 26 last year. A new section will be documentary shorts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Festival of New Cinema

Just returned from the 38th edition of Montreal's Festival du Nouveau Cinema ( This fest, which has been compared to Sundance and Telluride, is older than the bigger and more well-known Montreal World Film Festival (MWFF), which takes place prior to Labour Day......Nouveau Cinema, long-associated with programming director and co-founder Claude Chamberlain, is an edgier version of the MWFF or for that matter, the roughly comparable (in the mainstream sense) Toronto Intl Film Festival. And unlike MWFF - which draws huge crowds of cinephiles and general public - Nouveau Cinema attracts more hardcore film fans. Edgier, artsier? Yes and yes......And while I'm almost an annual attendee at the MWFF - I was there for the first edition in 1977 and have missed only three or four editions since - conversely I've attended Montreal's "other" fest just six or seven times. Nouveau lasts 12 days. I got to the first five & managed to see 17 films. Highlights:

Antichrist - Lars Von Trier's latest (soon coming to Detroit's Landmark Theatres). It stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Don't let the trailer - which makes the film look a silly horror flic - fool you. Von Trier plays with big themes, nothing less than the age old struggle between man and woman. Dafoe and Gainsbourg are a couple who lose a son, the incident shown in an opening slow-motion prologue to the aria "Lascia ch'io pianga" from Handel's Rinaldo. The death sparks incredible grief on the part of Gainsbourg's "she" that the aloof "he" (Dafoe) - a psychotherapist - cannot assuage. Rather, she descends into a psychotic maelstrom. This flic isn't for the feint of heart. There is violence to turn your head. There are scenes reminiscent of Medievel dystopian paintings. Audience reaction ranged from shouts of "Bravo" to snickering. Best to judge for yourself.

Two Lines - Probably my favourite. This film - part of a Turkish cinema retrospective - by filmmaker Selim Evci - also features a couple but in a somewhat more temperate relationship than the aforementioned Defoe & Gainsbourg. But there is simmering tension under the smooth day-by-day interaction of Mert and Selin, an artsy middle-class couple. Realizing the growing ennui in their relationship they take a short vacation. The film - with little dialogue - is masterful at capturing nuances of face and body expression. Again, the relationship comes down to a power struggle but the false veneer of serenity wins the day.

An Education - Set in London in the early 1960s before it was "swinging" this coming of age tale tells the story of Jenny (up-and-comer Carey Mulligan) who, at 16, becomes infatuated with the sophisticated and "older man" David (Peter Sarsgaard), seemingly independently wealthy who wines and dines her and showers with gifts and trips. Carey has dreams of breaking-out of dreary middle class suburbia and immersing herself in beat culture, smoking French cigarettes and listening to jazz. David shares similar tastes. A somewhat unlikely story (a formidable dad played by Alfred Molina would allow this?) but decently-enough acted and slickly-made by (Danish) director Lone Scherfig (Italian for Beginners) for BBC films. Novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) wrote the script.

The Time That Remains - There are Israeli films, some (or many) sympathetic to the Palestinian/Arab cause. They're made by Israeli Jews. This film is different. It's by an Israeli Arab. Unlike other films which side with the Palestinian cause set in the Occupied Territories like the West Bank, The Time That Remains shows Arab life inside Israel itself. Israel, of course, has a large Arab population. The film is a chronology of the filmmaker, Elia Suleiman's, family from the creation of the state in 1948 - when his father was an activist - to the modern day construction of the security (anti-terrorism) fence. It depicts his (Christian) family's everyday life in context of the wider Arab-Israel dispute. Whether you agree with its anti-Israel perspective as a piece of filmmaking the movie has merits, particularly in its funny and sometimes absurdist scenes of everyday life.

Double Take - A documentary by Johan Grimonprez this slick rapid-cut film juxtaposes Alfred Hitchcock and the Cold War. Hitchcock has long has a double in the personality of Ron Burridge. The film suggests how one image (the real Hitchock) can be mistaken for another. Likewise the key players after WW II - the United States and Soviet Union - might be mistaken for one another in their power, aggression and arrogance. There's lots of 1950s kitsch as the rise of television plays a backdrop, with Folger's coffee brand domestic housewife commercials making hilarious appearances. And does a scene of a man falling in 1945 after a military plane crashes into the Empire State Building portend 9-11? Lots of grist for the political/cultural mill.

Slovenian Girl - directed by Damjan Kozole with newcomer Nina Ivanisin, this story about a prostitute in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana is set against wider culture of modern day Slovenia, still struggling to modernize from its darker Yugoslavian past. Ivanisin's alienation from that society may be reflective of a country going thorough rapid change exemplified by the recurring images of European Union delegations zipping along city boulevards while pedestrians are relegated to unimportant bystanders.

Eamon - First-time feature director Margaret Corkery lays open the raw feelings of the cliched dysfunctional family - in this case an unmarried couple with child - where the child, Eamon, serves as a wedge between parents. The child first aligns himself with mom who anyway has a hate on for dad. When the couple tries to reconcile it's Eamon who is on the outs but becomes aware of just how nasty his parents are. There are, sadly, tens of thousands of stories like this. Corkery has portrayed one with skill, drawing good performances from all concerned.

Goodnight Irene - You've heard the song. And, yes, it's sung in the movie. But this film alone is worth seeing for the performance of Robert Pugh, a disgusted-at-the-world aged Brit ex-pat living in Portugal. As alcoholic Alexander Corless he meets Irene (Rita Loureiro) an artist and neighbour who refuses to be intimidated by his rants. They become friends until one day she disappears. Meanwhile Bruno (Nuno Lopes) enters Corless's life under somewhat shady circumstances. Corless, with good reason, rejects him. But they eventually bond in the search for Irene. A first feature about getting by with a little help from your friends by director Paolo Marinou-Blanco.