Monday, January 24, 2011

Capsule reviews of three Windsor films

Planting Vines is the most accomplished film I have seen from Windsor-Essex filmmakers. It screened this past weekend at the WEx3 film fest- a collaborative mini festival put together by directors Nicholas Shields of the above film, Chris Pickle of Saving Grace, and Otto Buj of Primordial Ties.....Planting Vines was shot both in Montreal and Windsor, with glorious exterior shots of downtown Montreal and Montreal’s old city, and with mainly interior shots made here in Canada’s motor capital. Christopher Lawrence-Menard is in the lead role as coming-of-age architect Daniel who seeks the ideal among the crass in his sometimes debauched profession. Amy Rivard, who has had turns in North American touring theatre, plays his girlfriend Sonya. Of the three films shown over the weekend this has the best narrative structure and scene flow with some imaginative technical effects rarely seen in any movie. Lawrence-Menard and Rivard are maturing in their acting and have solid foundations to build on for future film roles. As does definitely Shields as a director.....Saving Grace seems both a serious psychological thriller and a send-up of 1970s-era psycho/horror dramas. Mandy Bo (Grace) is a drug addict trying to get custody of her daughter. Recovering from an overdose in hospital she’s kidnapped by a janitor, Clayton (played by Jason Barbeck), and awakens in a dungeon-like room in an abandoned building. Clayton tries to convince Grace that his intentions are honourable as he rescues her from the apocalyptic events happening all around them. “I don’t have any bad intentions, I’m just not good with people,” he says. She of course thinks it’s all bunk. Bo and Barbeck have their characters’ fundamentals down pat but the acting could have been a little more polished and the script could have moved more away from clichĂ© (i.e., the close up of dripping blood from the hook that impales the not-so-well-intentioned Hank (Peter Coady)).....Otto Buj’s Primordial Ties is another coming of age story about a young woman which seems a throwback to a 1950s noir. Stephanie Sobocan plays Marjorie, a beautiful ingĂ©nue who seems out of place and time, obsessed with her long-deceased father (Mark Lefebvre), a possible occultist or bizarre scientist. She escapes from the world around her to listen to old reel-to-reel tapes of her father’s philosophical musings. This is Sobocan’s first film, and she’s good in evoking the innocence and mysteriousness of her character. In the film Buj seems to want to separate the idealist wheat from the materialist and conventional chaff as his story aims for the ideal and pure. But the directing is at times heavy handed and can jump confusingly between scenes, as it goes back and forth in time to unfold the enigma at the story’s heart.....

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