Friday, September 6, 2013

Montreal fest wrap

Following are some highlights from the back half of the Montreal World Film Festival, which ended Labour Day:

Le Bonheur (Happiness) – one of the two best films of the fest (the other The Don Juans), this was an astonishing first feature from Fabrice Grange. Filmed in grainy black and white (picture left) it has all the appearance of the French New Wave circa 1960. Set in modern Paris both its look and theme (a searing romance) transcend time lines, with ever so subtle references to French film and literature, from Godard to Lelouch’s A Man and a Woman to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Story of O.

Monica Z – Unless you’re a real diehard jazz fan you’ve probably never heard of Sweden’s Monica Zetterlund, who became the country’s premier jazz singer of the 50s and 60s and also sang with some of America’s greatest jazz artists. A nice biopic from Per Fly.

Domestic Life (Isabelle Czajka) stars the great Emmanuelle Devos in a film about, you guessed it, suburbia. Not necessarily a condescending put down of the burbs the film is more about the anxiety of relationships among couples in the land of backyards and cul de sacs. One wonders whether these women will ever escape domestic chores and the mall but by the film’s end the ennui, it seems, will continue.

The Farmer and His Prince – a small documentary by Bertram Verhaaag provides a surprising inside look at Prince Charles and his dedication to organic farming and the Duchy Home Farm, a sprawling farm that tests, grows, and markets a huge variety of organic products. Who knew?

Jeunesse (Youth) - This is Justine Malle’s (daughter of director Louis Malle) first feature and it’s a pretty good effort. The subject: young people attending college for the first time with a set of idealistic views, often unconventional yet mature, in a refreshing portrait of the start of adult life.

A Thousand Times Goodnight (Erik Poppe) – Juliette Binoche plays Rebecca, a photojournalist who is driven to the world’s hot spots, usually war zones. But her family wants her home in Ireland, and she’s torn between the two. This film won a sustained standing ovation and I couldn’t figure out why. Yes, it’s dramatic in parts, but hardly more. In fact it could be described as misogynist. My particular beef was that it didn’t question Rebecca’s role as a journalist who embedded herself with suicide bombers and didn’t try to warn their victims.

3X3D: Three films by avant garde directors in 3-D. Peter Greenaway and Jean-Luc Godard’s are the best with Edgar Pêra’s a disappointing splotch of images (and it wasn’t because of the glasses!). Greenaway’s Just in Time takes us through the history of the 2000-year-old Portuguese city of Guimaraes, where the films were made, in labyrinthine style. But it is Godard’s The Three Disasters which is an exhilarating and subversive take on cinema through the ages that is the best here.

Brasserie Romantiek – Another strong directorial debut – and a crowd favourite – by Belgium’s Joël Vanhoebrouck. This is essentially a play about a restaurant staff preparing Valentine’s night dinner, with, as you can imagine, romantic intrigue among kitchen staff and diners out front, in situations mostly but not all funny.

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