Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Early Montreal film fest highlights

Some of the highlights so far at this year's Montreal World Film Festival, which continues until Sept. 2:
At Middleton (picture left), Adam Rodgers’s first feature, stars Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga as a couple of 40-something parents taking their kids to an orientation before they set off to college. But most of the fun takes place between the parents, who see themselves as polar opposites but connect on the one thing they share sarcasm. This is a send up of modern college life, political correctness and, not least of all, young women’s addiction to cell phones.

Adieu Paris: Accomplished German director Franziska Buch’s latest film is as much about the many splendours of love as it is about life and loss, personally and professionally, and what can be gained even from adversity.
Lost in Laos (Alessandro Zunino), a crowd favourite, is about a couple of Italian 20-somethings  who head off to the infamous village of Vang Vieng, Laos for a holiday of hedonistic partying in a tourist mecca long sought out by young Westerners. Then they run into the real Laos.  
The Flower of Shanidar (Gakuryu Ishii) is a Japanese sci-fi flick about a corporate laboratory which harvests exotic flowers for a miracle drug from the flesh of women who are carefully chosen as hosts. There are references to human beings’ primitive connectedness to nature. The film is disturbing for its depictions of the extremities of science and medical ethics.
Citizen Marc (Roger Evan Larry & Sandra Tomc) is about the trials and tribulations of Canadian marijuana activist Marc Emery. But what the film reveals is the wider scope of Emery’s activism as a libertarian anti-government crusader, a devotee of Objectivist Ayn Rand. Emery almost single-handedly defeated Sunday shopping laws in Ontario. But he was extradited to the US after the Stephen Harper government agreed to turn him over for selling marijuana seeds, an alarming decision.
Gaming Instinct: What happens when a brilliant but bored teen hooks up with an equally bored but arrogant classmate, both of whom despise the society around them. A philosophical game emerges where they target someone to get him to escape his personal prison by any means necessary.
Café Ta’Amon (German director Michael Teutsch) is about a café on Jerusalem’s King George Street that has been the ancient city’s most famed gathering spot for intellectuals. The film also portrays Israel’s New Left in the aftermath of the Six Day War to oppose the "occupation" of former Arab land. Israel even had a Black Panther Party. Who knew?

Silvi Maybe Love by Germany's Nico Sommer is the latest twist on the theme of the 40-something divorcee trying for a new start. Lina Wendel as Silvi places personal ads but meets losers who turn out to be sexual freaks. This plot may seem farcical but it’s tempered by subtly and good performances.

Bozo: This Japanese film by Tatsushi Omori is a portrait of alienation in the character of a modern factory worker trapped in a Kafkaesque existence from which he feels he can’t escape, leading him down immoral roads.
Hanna’s Journey (Julia von Heinz) pits a young German business student against her country’s Holocaust past when she decides to go to Israel to work with disabled people so it will look good on her resume. She confronts a society that is a direct response to her grandparents’ Nazi past.

The Don Juans by the Czech Republic’s most esteemed director (and this year’s Montreal film festival president) Jiří Menzel, is a romp through the day to day rehearsals of a fictitious small opera company. Great performances in a film which is both a deconstruction of one of the world’s high arts as well as an obituary on the death of high culture generally.

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