Saturday, November 4, 2017

WIFF 2: Screams from the post-industrial landscape

(A note: some of the films screened at this year's Windsor International Film Festival are ones seen previously and have been reviewed in earlier posts; they won't be reviewed in this week's festival coverage.)

The great Cate (Blanchett, that is) serves up another tour de force (after her 2007 Todd Haynes’s directed I’m Not There) in German director Julian Rosenfeldt’s Manifesto (pictured left)Make that a dozen or so uber performances, as she dons eclectic personas, and surrealistic backdrops, to shout out a melange of some of the world’s greatest art and political manifestos. Breathtaking!....I have truly fallen in love with Diane Lane. Yes, she’s a beautiful woman but it’s her acting skills which are sublime. In Eleanor Coppola’s delightful Paris Can Wait, she’s the bored taken-for-granted wife of a Hollywood tycoon, but who finds pleasure in the wining and dining overtures of a stereotypical French romantic (Arnaud Viard). You can’t take your eyes off Lane’s subtle, understated performance…..After Love (Joachim Lafosse) is a superbly acted film about a couple (Bérénice Bejo and Cédric Kahn) divorcing but due to economic circumstances are still forced to live together. This film could be a textbook for theatrical students…..Ingrid Goes West is an hilarious romp of a film about a young woman (Aubrey Plaza as Ingrid), mentally disturbed, caught up in the semi-real world of social media. She becomes obsessed with a minor LA star (Elizabeth Olsen), eventually stalking and befriending her, in a movie that depicts social media’s toxic extremes……The Only Living Boy in New York has a stellar cast (Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kate Beckinsale and Cynthia Nixon) and has all the makings of a great film, at least in my book. The setting is New York, the principle character Thomas Webb (Callum Turner) is a young ambitious writer, there’s plenty of scenes among the Upper West Side literary set. But it gets bogged down by an improbable love triangle involving a father, son and the same woman. Moreover, other plot elements aren’t sufficiently explored, such as Webb’s writing talents or that of the gnarly hard drinking W. F. Gerald (Bridges). The film’s audio is also poor with much muffled dialogue…..Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune is a predictable send-up of early 1970's communal living. Anna (Trine Dyrholm) exuberantly wants to push the envelope of life experiences and recruits a group of people to live together (and share the expensive rent). But when her husband’s lover Mona (Julie Agnele Vang) moves in, Anna’s seeming New Age welcome (it is the Seventies, after all) crumbles in the wake of a traditional broken heart…..What to make of Happy End, Austrian director Michael Haneke’s latest? Could it be subtitled “the family that is malevolent together stays together?” In a typical role, Isabelle Huppert as Anne Laurent is the matriarch of a construction company. Not only does she have to deal with a lawsuit arising from a workplace accident but that of the evil in the hearts of her own family. The great Jean-Louis Trintignant as her father is an irascible aged man and one can’t help feeling sad for the shocking declining physique of the famous real-life actor. The story borders on absurdity, and seems an Haneke throwaway…..A Bag of Marbles (Christian Duguay), based on an autobiographical novel, is a charming tale about two young French Jewish boys’ flight from the Nazis. While the film is sentimental its best features are its meticulously recreated scenes and sets, down to highly authentic newspapers and even splintered wood in nondescript objects like a drain pipe……Aurore (Blandine Lenoir) is a predictable feel good movie about a woman (Agnès Jaoui) entering middle age, with all the jokes about hot flashes, declining looks, and kissing frogs before meeting a prince. The movie’s a crowd-pleaser, especially among a certain demographic set (I counted two other men among the audience). 

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