Nouveau Cinéma 2006 (BY ALEXANDRE AND KEVIN)


OPENING FILM:
Congorama (Philippe Falardeau) 89

“Ich Bin Ein Quebecer!”
When a misunderstood Belgian inventor (Olivier Gourmet) learns from his sick old father (Jean-Pierre Cassel) that he’s adopted, having been born in a barn in Ste-Cécile, he flies to Canada to find his biological parents. His journey takes him to a nun (Janine Sutto), a priest (Gabriel Arcand) and another inventor of sorts (Paul Ahmarani) and then… Ha! I wouldn’t dare divulge all the surprises this highly clever little picture packs.

“Des diamants, un père disparu, une invention révolutionnaire…”
Falardeau’s film is a joy of every moment, marvellously telling an original, absurd, slyly moving story. Many scenes are replayed from different angles, as we learn more about Gourmet and Ahmarani’s characters (who form a superb comic duo, apart or together) and the things that bring them together. The movie also offers a refreshing vision of Quebec, celebrating both its more traditional/provincial side (the Catholic Church, country music, Molson beer) and a growing overture towards the world (Expo 67, relations with Belgium and Congo, natch). This is all very enjoyable, but it doesn’t stop there: ultimately, this tale of fathers and sons is downright biblical! (KL)

***

What better way to begin a festival than by showing the new movie of Philippe Falardeau (“La moitié gauche du frigo”). Congorama (90), starring Paul Ahmarani and the always excellent Olivier Gourmet, talks about family in a strange way. Falardeau has a nice way to tell a story and he is a great actors director. At first, maybe for the first 20 minutes, I was not sure if I was enjoying the film, whether it was good, and I wasn’t sure where it was going. But when Louis (Ahmarani) arrives this is when the film truly starts. And after that everything is perfect with great acting, dialogue and lots of surprises. I highly recommend this film and try not to read too much about it. Great start for the FNC. (AC)


Away From Her (Sarah Polley) 87

“Sometimes there’s something delicious in oblivion.”
This is a story about a woman with Alzheimer’s whose mind is gradually degenerating, but it’s not a miserable viewing experience. It’ll make you cry a lot, for sure, but with much beauty and brightness through the sadness. This is a mature, masterfully calibrated picture, which comes as quite a surprise when you know that it’s the directorial debut of a 27-year-old woman. Polley’s film, based on a short story by Alice Munro, takes a relatively sober visual approach, but with poetic touches, great use of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon and a special handling of light and brightness – eternal sunshine of the spotless mind?

“I’m going… but I’m not gone.”
One thing that makes “Away From Her” instantly affecting is our long history as moviegoers with the eternal beauty of Julie Christie, which makes it all the more heartbreaking to see her aging and ailing (just as it would be to see Polley in such a role 50 years from now). Gordon Pinsent is very moving too as her husband, who didn’t always treat her well during their fortysomething years of marriage but who’s truly there for her now, with infinite compassion and patience, even though he has to watch her forget about him, their life together, their love… I’m getting tearful again just writing about it!

“Once the idea’s gone, everything’s gone.”
This is a film about the toll of time, about long-term relationships, about the infinity of the Canadian winter, about the loneliness of one’s own fragmented spirit, about the tragedy of forgetting and being forgotten. (KL)


Shortbus (John Cameron Mitchell) 69

A sex therapist (“I prefer couples counsellor.”) can’t get an orgasm even though her husband makes her go through the most acrobatic positions in the Kama Sutra. A depressed DV filmmaker and his former child star boyfriend bring in a third man into their relationship. A dominatrix longs for a real human connection. All of them converge in the titular underground New York club, where they indulge in copious amounts of art, sex and friendship. Sounds great, and it kind of is but, while Mitchell makes awesome use of color, music and humor like in his brilliant “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” and the various characters in his new film are all somewhat fun/touching, none of them is nearly as iconic, badass and fascinating as Hedwig. Still, I liked this mix of “Rent”, “Happiness” and “Ken Park” quite a bit, and its joyful, graphic celebration of the three Cs (cock, cunt, cum) is certainly memorable. (KL)

***

Before choosing the film Shortbus (77) in my selection for the FNC, I watched the trailer to get an idea of what I was going to see. Afterwards, I said to myself, well that will be funny, and at the same time I recalled “Hedwig” and the pleasure I had watching that movie. So it was sold, I was going to see “Shortbus” by John Cameron Mitchell. The film starts with an opening that you will not forget with its nice “maquette” of New York and of course all the sexual acts that are included in that first 15-20 minutes. So that was funny, strange, but at the same time I was enjoying the movie. But after the introduction, the movie changes gears a bit, all the characters are looking, searching for something. It’s a quest to fill up their life, to fill up the emptiness in their life. There is the gay couple looking for what is not working in their life, a couple therapist searching for an orgasm, a dominatrix looking for a real relationship, etc. At some point I was so sad for them because as the film goes along further the characters are depressed and looking for something to make them fill alive. There are some great characters, great dialogue (specially with the old mayor of New York and a young guy), great use of music, and the more I think about the film, the more I like it. (AC)


Babel (Alejandro González Iñárritu) 90

This is the latest of Iñárritu’s series of films in which unrelated characters are linked by a road accident, here involving a tourist bus in the Moroccan desert and a stray bullet. I’m starting to feel that the multithread, jangled-chronology thing has not only lost its originality and surprise value, it kind of undermines the potency of each individual story. Still, out of the recent outflow of such pictures, which includes “Crash” and “Syriana”, this is by far the most effective. It also surpasses the two aforementioned titles in the depiction of a post-9/11 world of heightened racial tensions and political turmoil, the all too actual issues of “illegal” Mexicans in the US and of violence (and the repression of such) in the Middle East being very movingly dramatized. And then there’s the kinky Japanese teen comedy, which completes the film’s triptych thematically by, um… Your guess is as good as mine! Throwing a drastically different in tone and style storyline about a horny deaf-mute schoolgirl who enjoys flashing her bush (!) into a harrowing drama doesn’t make any sense to me but on its own, that part of the film is a lot of trippy fun and ultimately moving, too. All in all, this is a return to the brilliance of “Amores Perros” after the muddled “21 grams”. (KL)

Waiter (Alex Van Warmerdam) 70

After two very good film in a row at the FNC I was wondering if I was pushing my luck by going to a film by Alex Van Warmerdam from the Netherlands called “Waiter”. Well, I had a very good time and laughed a lot during the screening. It was not all good, at some point it was kind of flat, but in general it was very good. The film tells us about the life of a waiter (Edgar, played by writer-director Van Warmerdam) in his boring restaurant, in his boring home, with bizarre neighbours and a life without real love. The thing is after 20 minutes in the film we understand that we are watching a story that a writer is writing at the moment. So we are watching the story in the story. It’s not a new way to tell a story but it works very well in this case. The character (Edgar) and the author are interacting with each other, and that is very funny. So if you want to see a very good comedy, with great characters and great dialogue, go see that movie. So it’s 3 on 3 for the FNC. (AC)


La belle bête (Karim Hussain) 66

Here’s a movie that’s easy to hate. Heck, it practically dares you not to hate it! But twisted as I am, I liked it anyway. Oh, it’s definitely uneven, heavy and rough around the edges, but there is some damn ballsy filmmaking in there and a pitch-dark sense of humor that I responded to. Think of a gangbang between Lynch, Bergman and Cronenberg and you might get an idea of how odd the film is. The dynamic at its centre is neatly established in the opening series of wordless shots, where we instantly understand the relationships between the three main characters through their body language. Adapted by Marie-Christine Blais from her first novel, this is the story of a young woman who’s violently jealous of the symbiotic, incestuous love shared by her brother and their mother.

The storytelling is bumpy and the dialogue can be too literary, especially coming from the always affected Carole Laure, but fortunately Hussain’s also got the two best young Quebec actors to work with, Marc-André Grondin and Caroline Dhavernas, whose charisma cuts through the occasional stuffiness of the picture like a knife. Dhavernas is supposed to be an ugly duckling, all crazed and disturbed, but while it works to a degree, her charm and beauty still shine through. Grondin’s character could have been better defined, but he brings a welcomed balance of intensity and vulnerability to it. Altogether, “La belle bête” is not perfect by any means; it’s a bit too artsy-fartsy for horror fans, and the gore and surreal flourishes (hello, Mr. Horseman!) will turn off the poor souls looking for another family drama à la “C.R.A.Z.Y.” But if you take it as a dark comedy à la “Visitor Q”, you might have as much fun watching it as I did. (KL)

Red Road (Andrea Arnold) 90

What a beautiful film, very hard, but so human. I don’t know where to start with that movie, I don’t know what to say. The story’s about Jackie (Kate Dickie), a girl working in a place where they control surveillance cameras on the streets. So everyday, she is looking at monitors to see what’s happening in a part of Glasgow. One day she sees someone that she didn’t want to see, or at least not know. We know that there is something wrong with the guy, Clyde (Tony Curran), and we can feel that he did something to Jackie. She follows him to meet him, to be closer to him. This is a very slow movie, and very intriguing. It’s very hard to describe it, but one thing I know is that the director took a great decision by choosing to do a movie that takes its time and does not tell the spectator until the last 15 minutes of the film what the guy did wrong. And when we find out, it is so well done, very sensitively. I’m not sure everything is clear in what I’m saying, but you have to see it for yourself to understand. If you’re planning on going to see it, be sure you have English subtitles to help (because of the Scottish accents)! A must see if you like Haneke and Lars von Trier, not for the deranged way of those directors, but more for the feeling the movie will leave you with after the end of the credits. Beautiful!!!!!! (AC)


Direktøren for det hele (Lars von Trier) 57

Alright, this is kind of a wank-off. Like “The Idiots”, this is an intentionally amateurish, Dogme-style trifle, with inconsistent sound mix and light levels, inept framing, apparently random jump cuts… Coming from an unknown, you’d quickly dismiss it as an unremarkable little flick with a good performance by Jens Albinus and a few amusing bits (the sex scene, Jean-Marc Barr butchering the Danish language, etc.). But of course, von Trier’s reputation warrants more of our attention, a fact he neatly milks. He pops up (off screen) 3-4 times to poke fun at how this is just a silly comedy, “not worth a moment’s reflection”, and he points out bad camerawork, forced plot turns, how needlessly stretched the ending is… You gotta give it to Lars, clever bastard, he makes it almost impossible to hold his perceived failings against him!

So what is the movie about? Actually, it’s got a promising premise. Albinus plays a pretentious, idiotic actor who’s hired by a businessman to pose as the fictitious president of his company, whom he made up so he could remain chummy with his employees and blame unpopular decision on his higher-up. This elusive “boss of it all” now needs to materialize at the request of a grumpy Icelander they’re about to sign a major deal with, hence the need for someone to play the part. Not that surprisingly, even in this light comedy, von Trier sneaks in some commentary about capitalism, acting and people’s desperate need for attention/approval. So this isn’t a complete waste of time, and maybe if the comic timing wasn’t undermined by having to read subtitles I’d even recommend it. As is, this is mostly for completists. (KL)

Arrivederci Amore, Ciao (Michele Soavi) 60

I don’t know what to say about this movie, only that everything in this film is not new. Corrupted cop, corrupted guy, drugs, sex and rock’n’roll. Still the director Michele Soavi manage to entertain us, and just that is good… But what was he thinking when he put Smoke on the water (Deep Purple) or Aqualung (Jethro Tull) as background music? That was a terrible choice. But Alession Boni who played Giorgio Pellegrini, the main character, was great and very convincing. (AC)