Monday, November 10, 2014

WIFF capsule reviews - part two

Here are my final reviews of films I saw at WIFF’s 10th edition:

An Eye for Beauty (Quebec 2014): This latest from Denys Arcand (The Decline of the American Empire, The Barbarian Invasions) is a rather prosaic story about a Yuppie couple in rural Quebec whose eyes are wandering. Despite some stilted acting by leads Éric Bruneau and Melanie Merkosky and a story that’s been told a zillion times, the film holds our interest not least because of great direction and cinematography (set in spectacular rural Charlevoix and storybook Quebec City) as well as depiction of contemporary lifestyles to which many of us can relate. 3.5/5

The Sea (Ireland 2013): Based on the John Manville Booker prize-winning novel (Manville is also the screenwriter) first time director Stephen Brown must have thought he had a quality mood piece about memory, loss and regret on his hands. He did. But the characters plod through the scenes, particularly lead Ciarán Hinds, who nevertheless is interesting in this overly dramatic film. Other good cast members are Charlotte Rampling and Rufus Sewell. But the movie is awfully derivative of a thousand similar stories and a bit of a strain to watch. 2/5

In her Place (South Korea 2014): This studied piece about a teen’s psychological disintegration speaks volumes about teenage pregnancy, modern alienation, and the often disconnectedness between adults and children. Ahn Ji Hye is brilliant as the despondent and increasingly disturbed teen, waiting out her pregnancy, while an affluent couple seek to adopt her child. 3/5

Altman (Canada 2014): Noted documentarian Ron Mann gives us a more than competent summary of the life of acclaimed iconoclastic director Robert Altman. Well-edited, the film includes a vast array of snippets from Altman’s many pictures (including MASH, Nashville, A Wedding, The Player)  and earlier seminal TV series' episodes he directed for shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Combat! 3/5

The Immigrant (United States 2013): James Gray continues his New York-themed films, and again with actors like Joaquin Phoenix (who I always want to call the new Brando) and Marion Cotillard. Jeremy Renner also stars. I couldn’t stay for the entire screening but the re-creation of early 20th century New York is brilliant. Phoenix is always great to watch and Cotillard is terrific in the role as a frightened newly-arrived Polish immigrant. But the film seemed a bit directionless. 2.5/5

The Keeper of Lost Causes (Denmark 2013):  I love Scandinavian films and though not a fan of crime movies will seek out such a film from Sweden or Denmark because of those countries’ cinemas’ intensity and tweaking with genres. Unfortunately not so with this movie which is a very straight forward crime story. 2/5

Mr. Turner (UK 2014): Acclaimed English director Mike Leigh’s latest is a brilliant period piece with astonishingly realistic sets and a standout performance by Timothy Spall (picture above) as the great artist himself. Spall really is amazing and should win a boatload of best actor prizes. The cinematography by Dick Pope should win also because every scene bares resemblance to a muted Turner masterpiece. One problem: either the dialogue is so realistic or the volume recorded so low it was often difficult to decipher what the characters were saying. 4/5

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