Tuesday, June 29, 2010

(Almost) midweek film notes

Caught Emily Blunt (left) as Queen Victoria in Jean-Marc Vallee’s The Young Victoria (2009) with Rupert Friend as Prince Albert and Jim Broadbent as King William IV. Blunt is of course beautiful and has a neck like a swan but the character she plays in this flick is one of subtle intelligence, assertiveness and grace. The production’s costumes are amazing.....In Emmanuel Laurent’s Two in the Wave the iconic Jean-Pierre Leaud is appropriately described as the French New Wave’s “child.” Indeed he is, starring as young as 14 years old when he was in Truffaut’s breakout 1959 movie The 400 Blows. Leaud would go on to star from adolescence to adulthood in numerous films of both Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. Two in the Wave is about Truffaut and Godard’s early friendship and the start of la Nouvelle Vague (see June 22 post). But there was hardly anyone at the DFT screening I attended Friday night – perhaps 40 people on the floor and in the balcony. Rather depressing for a metropolitan area with supposedly some film sophistication.....Don’t mistake Joan Rivers for a comedian. She’s really an actress. And her entire life has been devoted to being one. It just happens that comedy is the vehicle in which she plies her trade. “It’s all about acting and I play a comedian,” the 75-year-old power mouth says in the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (at the Maple) (June 18 post).....Loved the comment in Tom Walsh’s Free Press column today by Jake Stocker, co-owner with dad Ken of the new Spotlight theatre (formerly AMC Star) in Taylor, which re-opens tonight as a discounted movie palace: “Most of the time in movie theaters, people feel like they’re getting ripped off.” How much was that tub of popcorn anyway?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Truffaut, Godard ride la Vague

It’s here. Emmanuel Laurent’s Two in the Wave, playing this weekend at the Detroit Film Theatre. This doc examines the early relationship between the most famous of France’s New Wave (la Nouvelle Vague) auteurs – Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, and their iconoclastic first films, Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959) and Godard’s Breathless (1960), the 50th anniversary of which in a restored version overseen by original cinematographer Raoul Coutard and will be shown at the DFT July 23 – Aug. 1.....(The first of la Nouvelle Vague’s films is considered to be Le Beau Serge (1958) by Claude Chabrol, my favourite director – yay!).....Generally, la Nouvelle Vague films broke with the staid classical narrative tradition of high-minded French cinema, using a variety of techniques like jump cuts, improvised dialogue and long tracking shots. The films were often shot on low budgets and with themes that spoke of (personal) politics or the absurdity of life, paying homage to that other great French movement, existentialism.....Truffaut and Godard were writers for the famed Cahiers du Cinema film journal and applied the auteur theory (director as author) to their movies. Two in the Wave has rare footage from those early and seminal years.....The DFT suggests Breathless may be the “coolest” movie ever made. I'm going to disagree, as blasphemous as that sounds. The film may be revolutionary and credit should be paid to how it broke new cinematic territory. But it seems amateurishly choppy and the acting stilted. Even the glamorous Jean Seberg's smile can't change that. I’m inclined to agree with the filmgoer in Two in the Wave’s trailer who calls it “gratuitous dirt”.....I'm generally not a big fan of Godard. But I love Truffaut who was a true filmmaker if one measures a director’s work by coherence, rhythm, and charm or poignancy of subject matter.....That aside, Truffaut and Godard’s story is one for the ages. Allez au DFT!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Go get 'em Joan!

Dying to see Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (at the Maple). I've always admired Joan. She's kind of like the little engine that could. And of course this is what this documentary is all about. Or what Winston Churchill said "Don't ever, ever, ever, give up".....The film documents Joan trying to "reinvent" herself in a "ruthless entertainment industry" and is about "the ultimate vulnerability of the life of a performer" .....Why do I like Joan? Because she's stylish and has searing opinions on fashion, dissing appropriately what passes for glamour and personality in today's Hollywood and entertainment industry. She's also got a great sense of humour and, well, she looks fabulous. Here's to plastic surgery!.....The directing crew seems a bit odd for this subject but maybe it’s just me stereotyping. Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg have a portfolio of films about some heavy topics - and I mean heavy - like The Devil Came on Horseback (2007) about the genocide in Darfur, and The End of America (2008) with rabid leftie Naomi Wolf comparing post 9/11 America to fascist regimes like Mussolini's and Hitler's. They’re currently in post-production on Burma Soldier about a former Burmese junta member who risks all to become a pro-democracy activist.....But maybe Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work is also their way of critiquing if not assailing the entertainment industry for being some type of immoral big business, which I guess we kind of knew......In any case, can't wait to see it.....

Monday, June 14, 2010

Watch out! It's that slithery mutant monster

It’s been awhile since I tuned into TVO’s (TV Ontario to American friends) Saturday Night at the Movies. I remember when good ol’ Elwy Yost helmed the show – for years and years - and years. But Elwy these days no doubt is watching movies to his heart’s content on his houseboat in West Vancouver since his retirement from TVO over 10 years ago (!) (we're getting old).....In any case, after watching another DVD (A Little Romance; George Roy Hill, 1979 - not a lot to recommend it) the other night, I began to channel surf and landed on a film. The film was Asian and, in the frantic nature of many Japanese films, showed scenes of mass panic. At first I thought this was not much more than a cops and robbers flic. Then I realized the film was being shown on TVO so it had to be a notch above the ordinary. But there was also something that kept holding my eye. The scenes were emotionally-charged and fast-paced. As well, there seemed to be a deeply touching human story told against the surreal backdrop of the modern concrete cityscape – of overpowering freeways and viaducts and bridges.....It turns out this was a monster movie! But not just any monster movie, you see. It had a message......The film is called The Host (Gwoemul) made in 2006 by acclaimed South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho. (The film remains the country’s top-grossing movie.)....The plot revolves around a family – more particularly, a father’s - search for his daughter, who is captured by a slithery monster that jumps out of the Han River......In post-movie commentary I learned the monster was the creation of the dumping of chemicals into the river. So it’s obviously an environmental allegory. And of course the culprit is an American military base (gotta’ blame the Americans of course)......There are some non-Korean cast members including American Scott Wilson and Canuck David Joseph Anselmo.....All in all Joon-Ho impressed me so much with his direction that I’ve now rented his Memories of Murder (2005), Tokyo! (2008) and Mother, scheduled for release July 20.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Windsor's Mike Stasko's psychological drama

Windsor’s Mike Stasko brings his new psychological drama Iodine to the Capitol Theatre June 16 at 7 pm. Stasko, a graduate of University of Windsor communication studies and Brennan HS, made the film in cottage country near Georgian Bay. It had its world premiere at last summer’s Montreal World Film Festival. Besides acting as central character John Clem Stasko directs, wrote and produced the roughly hour-and-a-half flic, which also stars Ray Wise (Leland Palmer of Twin Peaks & VP Hal Gardner of 24), New Liskeard native Vicki Rivard (as Clem's girlfriend Laura), and Jason Collett of music group Broken Social Scene (his feature film debut as police Deputy Peel).....“He was looking for his father but what he found changed everything” is the tag line on the movie’s poster and web site.....The plot: Clem’s estranged father has disappeared and Clem leaves the city to revisit the family’s northern Ontario cabin, where his father had last gone. He runs into Avery (Wise) (the two are pictured left) his father’s colleague and a professor of physics. He receives no help from Avery in finding his father but discovers “a new set of eyes” to view the world around him, in the course crashing through his personal "insecurities and paranoia".....Several other Windsorites worked on the film. Stasko goes back to early high school days with Theodore Bezaire (co-producer) and Brian Parent (composer). Stasko says he acted in Bezaire’s “little films he would do” pre-college. Parent composed music for the film. In fact Stasko and Parent have been in three different bands over 15 years the current one Bloemfontein named after the South African city. A couple of the band’s pieces are on the soundtrack. Rounding out the local contingent are Eric Schiller and Stefanie Bezaire. Schiller is the cinematographer and Bezaire costume designer.....After working at YTV in Toronto Stasko studied film at Columbia University in New York and now makes his home in Carleton Place near Ottawa where he works for a company making online learning films.....Iodine is produced by Dot Film Co. The film’s web site is http://www.iodinemovie.com/ .....Tickets are also available through the Windsor International Film festival site at www.windsorfilmfestival.com/ $10 will get you into the screening and a Q & A, $15 will get you into the screening, Q & A and after party....The film will also be screened in Toronto June 18, Barrie June 21 and Parry Sound June 24. It will be released widely in Canada on DVD July 6 and available at locations like Wal-Mart and HMV.....

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chris Noth: the Cary Grant of our time

I hate to dwell on Sex & the City 2. It isn’t a particularly good movie. But any S&TC project is an event and I have been captivated by the entire series...In any case this is NOT about S&TC 2. It’s about S&TC 2 star Chris Noth.....This man, quite simply, doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. True, he has starred in Law & Order, several smaller H’wood movies and in theatrical productions. But his character – at least as presented in S&TC – is a knockout and worthy of higher things. I’ve always thought Noth (rhymes with both but true pronunciation is ‘note’ as his ancestry is from France’s Alsace-Lorraine) is the Cary Grant of our time. He’s debonair, handsome, has class & style, can call up a thousand thoughts with a slight facial expression, is of good humour, and seems genuinely kind. In other words he has a magnetic persona, the kind of star you can’t take your eyes off of, not just because of his good looks but because of his entire personality......I was lucky to have had a chance to speak to him a couple of years back, and half-joked “you’re the Cary Grant of our time.” He chuckled but I could tell he appreciated the comment.....A few notes about him: born in Madison, Wi. in 1954 (same year as me!), son of  CBS News correspondent Jeanne Parr, graduate of Yale School of Drama. Of course he has a strong local Windsor connection, engaged (not married - thanks Anonymous) to Tara Wilson, whom he met working in his Manhattan bar The Cutting Room. Wilson is from Windsor. The two opened Once Upon a Tea Cup in Windsor, a novel idea for a tea room for busy moms and kids, which unfortunately closed and re-opened in – ay! - London, Ontario.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

S&TC2 & that vintage Valentino

The word to women from the film intelligentsia (who dress in sack cloths) is: “don’t dress fabulously” and “who are you to dress-up when the world around you goes about in basement garb?”.....Case in point: a very grumpy Roger Ebert in his S&TC2 review. Hold on to your hats (whoops, that might be a fashion statement!), Heeeeere's Roger: “These people make my skin crawl...flyweight bubbleheads...their defining quality is consuming things...the loathsome (loathsome?) Mr. Big...exercise in obscenely conspicuous consumption...tacky vulgar clothing...visual style is arthritic”... But – wait now - after condemning the display of “maximum possible boobage” Roger shows he’s a red-blooded male after all: “I was gobsmacked by the delightful cleavage on display”... And finally this about poor Charlotte (Kristin Davis), the best dressed in the movie in those fantastic Fifties dresses: “One little girl dips her hands in strawberry topping and plants two big handprints on your butt. You are on the cell to a girlfriend. How do you report this? You moan and wail out: ‘My vintage Valentino!’ Any mother who wears her vintage Valentino while making muffin topping with her kids should be hauled up before the Department of Children and Family Services" (emphasis added)...Cheer up, Roger, you’ve obviously allowed yourself to be dragged down by that oh-so-dreary world around you. But you’re not too far off on the “Department” bit. Pretty soon, the fashion police will be reporting anyone who doesn’t dress in flip flops and tank tops......But to the rescue of Charlotte comes one Hiral Amin of Windsor, in a letter to the ed of The Windsor Star. She says Roger Ebert “appalls” her. Over to you, Hiral: “There is nothing wrong with a woman who is a mother to enjoy fashion. And, why is a woman not allowed to wear fabulous clothing? Just because she is a mother does not mean that she has to walk around in sweatpants and dirty T-shirts.” Hiral doesn’t let up: “In another quote he said: ‘I don't know a whole lot about fashion but I know something about taste, and these women spend much of the movie dressed in tacky, vulgar clothing.’ Without a doubt this man knows nothing about the Sex and the City style. When I saw all the clothing in this movie, I wanted to cry -- it was so beautiful”..... Roger, Hiral, is just one dour critic. Okay, maybe it was windy in Chicago that day, which means he's off-humour a lot of the time......Case in point 2: Alice Tynan at The Vine: “Charlotte’s emotional arc involves being a stay at home mum with a fulltime, braless nanny, and losing the plot at her eldest daughter when she gets red paint on the ludicrously expensive skirt she is wearing while baking cupcakes”...... And there's another similarly scathing fashion review around here somewhere but I just can't find it. But you know the drift - poor Charlotte can't get a break......Okay, we understand. There's a recession (especially in the U.S.) out there. So you have to be cheerless and not fantasize about a colourful more exotic world. But, Hiral, don't take it personally, it would become very understandable if you saw the way the average film critic dresses.