Final reviews from this weekend's screenings at the 14th edition of the Windsor International Film Festival (WIFF).
Big Time (Kaspar Astrup Schroder, 2018). “Big” here stands for architectural firm Bjarke Ingels Group), named for one of the world’s preimment “starchitects,” a Dane who is conquering the world through extraordinarily inventive buildings and lands. Ingels has been commissioned to design Two World Trade Center in NYC, and his designs have reimagined traditional building use. A Danish power plant is built as a triangle with the longest side serving as a ski slope. His 57 West Manhattan condo complex seeks to change New York’s west side skyline, incorporating natural space and a shaft of light. Yet Ingels at 40 seems a regular guy, cycling through Manhattan and trying to learn how to tie a bow tie. (Not everyone is an expert in everything!) This is a tightly-edited documentary with strong appeal to professionals (a lot were at the screening) and lay people alike.
The Russian Five (Joshua Reihl, 2018). Had it not been for five key defections from what was then an authoritarian Russian state in the 1990s – and in particular the Red Army team – the Detroit Red Wings would not have emerged from their interminable slumber as hockey’s “Dead Wings” of the previous decade. This doc plays spy thriller as much as sports drama, with Red Wings management employing surreptitious tactics – including literally bags of cash – to get the Russians to join them. This is one of hockey’s greatest stories and told here in all its exciting details.
The Girl in the Fog (Donato Carrisi, 2017). Talk about plot twists! This thriller will have you guessing, and double guessing, right up to the very end. In fact, “fog,” might be applied to the drama’s narrative, as we’re directed into false leads as to who exactly is the killer of a tween on a foggy night in the Italian Alps. Well known actor Toni Servillo adds typical bravura as the lead investigator, Vogel, with a flair for the dramatic and not a little skullduggery of his own.
The Confession (Nicolas Boukhrief, 2016) is a quiet but compelling story of two individuals - one a Communist, Barny (Marine Vacth) and the other a Catholic priest Fr. Morin (Romain Duris). Barny is a member of the Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France and doesn’t trust the Catholic church. When a new priest arrives, she seeks out his bonafides. Her arrogant atheism is taken in stride by Morin, a kind of intellectual himself. The performances are terrifically nuanced in a film that refreshingly takes a pro-religious POV.
Two Women (Vittorio De Sica, 1960). Every year WIFF pays nod to cinema’s historic past and screens a film by one of the world’s greats. This year it was Italy’s Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women starring Sophia Loren and Jean-Paul Belmondo. Loren as Cesira is a widowed shopkeeper in Rome who wants to escape the Nazi bombing during World War II. She and daughter Rosetta (Eleonora Brown) flee to the countryside and find a group of villagers who take them in. But the war catches up as the women try to scrounge an existence. Cesira meets Michele (Belmondo), where romantic feelings emerge, until he guides German troops with a promise to return. The village is liberated by Americans, but the movie’s great irony comes in the aftermath. Loren not only is stunningly beautiful but is a great naturalistic actress, and in full glory here.