Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beyond the Hills (2012)

Beyond the Hills • După dealuri (2012)
Best New Film Romanian New Wave
Genre: Drama
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Starring: Cosmina Stratan, Cristina Flutur, Valeriu Andriuta, Dana Tapalaga
Language: Romanian
Duration: 150 min.
Rating: 8.7
A drama centered on the friendship between two young women who grew up in the same orphanage; one has found refuge at a convent in Romania while the other tries to convince her to leave and return with her to Germany where she now works.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Barbara (2012)

Barbara (2012)
Barbara (2012)
Best New Film
Genre: Drama
Director: Christian Petzold
Starring: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Jasna Fritzi Bauer, Mark Waschke, Rainer Bock
Language: German
Duration: 105 min.
Rating: 8.5
A Berlin doctor, relegated to a clinic in the East German countryside, plots her escape to the West.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Royal Affair (2012)

A Royal Affair • En Kongelig affære (2012)
A Royal Affair • En Kongelig affære (2012)
Genre: Historical Drama
Director: Nikolaj Arcel
Starring: Alicia Vikander, Mads Mikkelsen, Mikkel Boe Følsgaard
Language: Danish, English, German, French
Duration: 137 min.
Rating: 7.4
An 18th century historical drama and epic romance about the love triangle between a German doctor, the queen of Denmark, and her deranged king.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

No (2012)

No (2012)
No (2012)
Genre: Historical Drama
Director: Pablo Larraín
Starring: Gael García Bernal
Language: Spanish
Duration: 118 min.
Rating: 7.6
An ad executive comes up with a campaign to oust dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile's 1988 referendum.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rebelle (2012)

Rebelle (2012)
Rebelle (2012)
Genre: Drama
Director: Kim Nguyen
Starring: Rachel Mwanza, Serge Kanyinda, Mizinga Mwinga
Language: French
Duration:  90 min.
Rating: 8.0
The story of a young girl who is kidnapped and forcibly inducted into a rebel army.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Children of Sarajevo (2012)

Children of Sarajevo • Djeca (2012)
Children of Sarajevo • Djeca (2012)
Genre: Drama
Director: Aida Begić
Starring: Marija Pikić, Ismir Gagula, Bojan Novojec, Sanela Pepeljak, Vedran Đekić, Mario Knezović
Language: Bosnian
Duration: 90 min.
Rating: 7.9
The story of two orphaned siblings in post war Sarajevo. Older sister Rahima, fiercely struggles to maintain her independence and keep her younger delinquent brother Nedim, on the right path.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Our Children (2012)

Our Children • À perdre la raison (2012)
Our Children • À perdre la raison (2012)
Genre: Drama
Director: Joachim Lafosse
Starring: Émilie Dequenne, Niels Arestrup, Tahar Rahim
Language: French, Arabic
Duration: 111 min.
Rating: 7.8
A young mother of four finds herself trapped in an increasingly unhealthy emotional climate.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Amour (2012)

Amour (2012)
Amour (2012)
Palme d'Or Winner
Genre: Drama
Director: Michael Haneke
Starring: Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert
Language: French, English
Duration: 126 min.
Rating: 8.0 
Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple's bond of love is severely tested.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lore (2012)

Lore (2012)
Lore (2012)
Genre: Drama
Director: Cate Shortland
Starring: Saskia Rosendahl, Nele Trebs, André Frid, Mika Seidel, Kai-Peter Malina, Nick Holaschke, Ursina Lardi
Language: German, English
Duration: 109 min.
Rating: 7.8
Five siblings are left to fend for themselves when their Nazi parents are taken into Allied custody.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Holy Motors (2012)

Holy Motors (2012)
Holy Motors (2012)
Best New Film
Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Sci-Fi
Director: Leos Carax
Starring: Denis Lavant, Edith Scob, Eva Mendes, Kylie Minogue, Elise Lhomeau, Jeanne Disson
Language: French, English, Chinese
Duration: 115 min.
Rating: 9.1
From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy figure who rides the streets of Paris in a limousine, transforming into multiple characters along the way.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

VIFF 2012 - Recap

After an excellent 16 days, VIFF 2012 has come to an end. Here are a few thoughts and observations on my first experience attending a film festival full time:
  • Firstly, a huge thank you to the organizers of VIFF for putting on a great festival, and for providing me with a pass to enjoy it with.
  • All told, I saw 64 films in 16 days on 9 different screens. Easily the most I've ever seen in such a short time span. Normally I'm lucky if I can make it out to 4 or 5 for the entire festival.
  • Being a pass holder has some nice perks, I was able to get into every screening I wanted, and with unassigned seating it's tremendously convenient to be allowed in first.
  • It's amazing how quickly I was able to adjust to seeing so many movies. On the first day, seeing 3 was enough to completely wear me out, but as I got into the rhythm, I stretched it out to 4, then 5, and then finally 6 on the last day.
  • I managed to catch 10 of the 2013 Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film submissions. The only one I sadly couldn't fit into my schedule was Uruguay's entry La Demora.
  • Got very lucky with the weather this year. It was sunny almost the whole time, and amazingly it didn't rain at all until the final day. That's practically unheard of for Vancouver in October.
  • Much praise to the staff and volunteers, who from what I observed, were all very friendly and helpful the entire time. Same can't be said for a few of the spectators, but I guess that's unavoidable.
  • The VIFF trailer that opened every film was nicely done. Short and simple, and even after seeing it 60+ times it never got annoying.
  • Speaking of annoying, I wonder how badly the directors want to bang their heads against the wall when they have to listen to some of the inane remarks they get during the Q&A sessions.
  • I've known this for years, but the Vogue Theatre is a lousy place to watch films. It has a huge seating capacity which makes it the obvious choice for the popular screenings and big galas, but the seats are cramped and uncomfortable, the screen is way too small for a venue this size, and the building has terrible ambient light control, resulting in a washed out picture most of the time. Hopefully they can find a way to take advantage of the new 50 foot screen at The Centre for more than just the closing gala in the future.
  • On the other hand, the Vancity Theatre is an absolute gem. Hands down the best place to watch films in the city. The sound, the screen, and the seating, are all very impressive. Next year I will have to try and fit in more screenings there.
  • It's a shame that the Granville 7 cinemas are closing down. While nobody will miss the tacky 1980's faux art-deco decor, or the awful sight lines, the convenient central location is something that can't be replaced. The four main venues for this year's festival were all within a five minute walking distance from each other, so it will be interesting to see what will happen in 2013.
Finally, here's my roughly ordered top 20 list (expect full reviews for all of these in the coming days/weeks):
  1. Holy Motors (Cannes)
  2. Beyond the Hills (Cannes)
  3. Barbara (Berlin)
  4. Laurence Anyways (Cannes)
  5. Berberian Sound Studio (Edinburgh)
  6. The Hunt (Cannes)
  7. Tabu (Berlin)
  8. Stories We Tell (Venice)
  9. The Key of Life (Shanghai)
  10. Rust & Bone (Cannes)
  11. Rebelle (Berlin)
  12. Amour (Cannes)
  13. Leviathan (Locarno)
  14. Twilight Portrait (Kinotavr)
  15. Camion (Karlovy Vary)
  16. Children of Sarajevo (Cannes)
  17. Lore (Sydney)
  18. Our Children (Cannes)
  19. Neighbouring Sounds (Rotterdam)
  20. Come As You Are (Oostende)

Monday, October 15, 2012

VIFF 2012 - Day 16

Capsules of the films I saw on the final day of the 31st Vancouver International Film Festival. Full reviews of my favorites, plus a recap of my festival experience to come shortly.

Sister (L'enfant d'en haut)
directed by Ursula Meier
Switzerland Switzerland
Meier further refines her craft with this her second feature film. It gets heavy handed and repetitive with the visual metaphors (impressively shot by Agnes Godard), but the story is always engaging, and the principal characters are wonderfully rendered. An outstanding performance from young Kacey Mottet Klein, as a streetwise kid who finds inventive ways to look after himself and his older deadbeat sister.

Full Review
Persistence of Vision
directed by Kevin Schreck
USAUSA, UKUK, Canada Canada
A very low budget documentary that tries to assemble the story behind the making of Richard Williams' The Thief and the Cobbler, an animated film he worked on for nearly three decades but never completed. An interesting story of creative obsession, but the predominately low resolution archival footage make this better viewed on a small screen. Also a shame that Williams refuses to talk about the film, his participation would have made this far more interesting.
Stories We Tell
directed by Sarah Polley
Canada Canada
An amazingly well crafted documentary told with great cinematic skill. It's a multi-layered film that not only tells a personal story, but also thoughtfully explores how memories and perspectives differ and how the true story changes depending on how it is told and who is telling it. Watching a stranger's grainy Super-8 home movies has seldom been so emotional or captivating.

Full Review
directed by Antej Farac
Sort of like a German version of Trailer Park Boys. It's a comedic drama that takes place in a decrepit housing project in Munich, featuring a cast of quirky characters living on the fringes of society, many of whom are real residents of the building playing themselves. It's stylishly shot, and uses a good blend of absurd fantasy and grim reality to tell a strange, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, but always relevant story.
directed by Volker Goetze
Senegal Senegal
A documentary about Ablaye Cissoko, a remarkably talented Senegalese singer and kora player, directed by German jazz trumpeter Volker Goetze. Provides a fascinating portrait of the artist and of the quickly eroding West African culture he represents. Features some beautiful imagery and several emotional musical performances. 
Holy Motors
directed by Leos Carax
What an exciting way to end the festival. This is an outrageously stunning cinematic statement that breaks all the rules and conventions and offers no apologies for doing so. Carax's comeback offers a rare thrill ride where you truly never know what to expect. Denis Lavant delivers perhaps the most versatile performance ever filmed, and the glorious cinematography captures a surreal version of Paris that reminds us of all the wonders of cinema. Masterful and magical, it rightfully should have won the Palme d'Or.

Full Review

Friday, October 12, 2012

VIFF 2012 - Day 15

Museum Hours
directed by Jem Cohen
Using the old world city of Vienna and its famed Kunsthistorisches museum as the backdrop. The film makes an intriguing blend of documentary and fiction that quietly and thoughtfully explores and reminds us of the presence of art in life and vice versa. Told loosely through the perceptive observations of an Austrian museum guard, and a Canadian tourist who crosses his path.
Into the Gyre
directed by Scott Elliott
A documentary with a fascinating premise, but provides little information that we don't already know, and only mild speculation for the rest. Technically sound, but its length, content, and format would play better on cable tv than the cinema.
Come As You Are (Hasta la vista)
directed by Geoffrey Enthoven
A highly enjoyable, and hilariously politically incorrect dramatic comedy that follows three young disabled Flemish men who take a road trip to a Spanish brothel that caters to their type. It plays out predictably, is melodramatic at times, and some of the localized humour may escape those reading subtitles, but it's still a very well crafted film with great characters and it received a good round of applause at the end.

Full Review
The World Before Her
directed by Nisha Pahuja
Canada Canada
A chilling documentary that follows two small town Indian girls unknown to each other and who live what appear to be completely different lives. One raised as an extreme Hindu, and the other a beauty contestant from a progressive family. What makes this so compelling is the haunting way the director demonstrates the terrible irony of just how simillar their lives and futures really are despite outward appearances.
The End of Time
directed by Peter Mettler
A wild and ambitious rumination on the perception of time with some visually mind blowing imagery and soul shaking sound. Feels like a collaboration between Chris Marker and Terrence Malick, with a touch of Gaspar Noe. A tad pretentious at times, but still an utterly absorbing film experience.