Montreal Film Journal

2005 LOG (3)

(1 Mar) Raging Bull (1980, Martin Scorsese) 92
[ Part of the Directors Series ]
[ Part of the AFI list (#24) ]
[ Part of Les Chefs-d'oeuvre ]

(2 Mar) p.s. (2004, Dylan Kidd) 61
[ Kind of a less creepy "Birth", this is also the story of a woman who meets someone who might be a reincarnation of a dead lover... Except that he's not a little kid, he's a twentysomething art student, so the sexual tension makes more sense. Especially since, while Laura Linney is a good deal older than Topher Grace, she looks as spectacular as any twenty year old. "p.s." is a nice, slightly unusual romance – not on the level of Kidd's "Roger Dodger", mind, but it's a well written, well directed little movie nonetheless. ]

(3 Mar) Brodeuses (2005, Éléonore Faucher) [ review ] 75

(3 Mar) Celebrity (1998, Woody Allen) 67
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(4 Mar) Be Cool (2005, F. Gary Gray) [ review ] 40

(4-6, 8 Mar) South Park – Season 5 (2001, Trey Parker) 84
[ "Geez, you're a little irritable, Kyle. What's the matter, you've got some sand in your vagina?"
"Cartman is the biggest asshole in the world! How is it that God gives him a million dollars?"
"That's what it's called when you're milking a dog, beating it off!"
"You're the worst character ever, Towelie."
"You wanna get high?"
"Let me taste your tears, Scott."
"What's up, Bin Laden?"
"You may not have realised this, but Martha and I have buttocks where our faces should be."
"What's this, a toenail clipper? DIE, TERRORIST!"
"At least we got rid of all the nig-"
"I'm just like the foetuses, Chuck, I wasn't born yesterday."

Aaah, "South Park", after all these years it's still the edgiest, ballsiest show on TV. More importantly, it's also one of the most consistently hilarious. The craziest thing might be that we've grown to care about these stupid little cut-out characters. The "On a Very Special South Park" episode where Kenny dies (seriously this time) almost made me cry! ]

(6 Mar) Alias 4.8 (2005) [ review ] 71

(6 Mar) The Contender (2000, Rod Lurie) [ review ] 90

(6 Mar) Walking Tall (2004, Kevin Bray) 28
[ I wasn't gonna waste time with this, considering my throwaway action flicks days behind me, but after seeing "Be Cool" I was on this unlikely The Rock high and needed another fix. Here he plays a man who, after 8 years in the army, returns to find his hometown plagued by unemployment, gambling and drugs. Nothing a big piece of wood and some elbow grease can't fix, right? Meh. I love The Rock, but he's better at comedy than at generic vigilante shit. This is like a bad Steven Seagal movie, watchable but hardly memorable. ]

(7 Mar) Mooladé (2005, Sembène Ousmane) 32
[ When Collé offers protection to four little girls fleeing excision, it causes great turmoil through the village. The men and many of the women ignorantly hang on to primitive misogynistic traditions, so it's an uphill battle for Collé and the others who refuse to see their daughters get cut. Based on subject matter alone, there's an incentive to give the movie a pass. But while there are some powerful moments in "Mooladé", much of it feels amateurish and the acting is uneven. There's no dramatic progression, it's not always clear why characters do the things they do and the resolution is unconvincing. Good intentions and good filmmaking are not the same thing. ]

(7 Mar) Oldboy (2005, Park Chan-wook) [ review ] 91

(8 Mar) La vie avec mon père (2005, Sébastien Rose) 43
[ François Agira (Raymond Bouchard) is a famous writer, even though his only novel was written 30 years ago and he has been living off its success ever since. He spent most of his life chasing women around the world, but now that he finds himself impotent, literally and figuratively, he returns home to the two sons who grew up without him. There's Paul (Paul Ahmarani), a pseudo-intellectual slacker like his old man, and Patrick (David La Haye), a big shot in the pharmaceutical industry who's all about pragmatism. In one of those only-in-the-movies set of circumstances, the three men wind up living together in a dilapidated house with five dogs and a cellar full of wine. Hilarity ensues? Yes, for the first half, which offers plenty of witty dialogue and inspired visuals gags. Unfortunately, about halfway through, writer-director Sébastien Rose decides that fun ain't enough, he has to get Serious. Borrowing freely from "Les Invasions Barbares", he sets up this situation where the yuppie son has to take care of his bon vivant father. David La Haye makes the best of a character that's little more than an archetype but, try as he might, Raymond Bouchard is unable to balance erudition and hedonism like Rémy Girard does so well. The third act is particularly ponderous, with the earlier good-spirited tone disappearing under opera and tears. ]

(9 Mar) The Notebook (2004, Nick Cassavetes) 59
[ I was mucho reluctant to watch this, like I was mucho reluctant to watch "A Walk to Remember" (also based on a Nicholas Sparks weepie). But once again, endless people went ga-ga over it (including Marie-Chantal Perron!) so I caved in. First impressions: not sure about the old folks stuff, but I'm loving Rachel MacAdams and Ryan Gosling is pretty cool. The particulars of the story are kinda lame and déjà vu, the parents are stereotypes (Suckiest. Joan Allen. Performance. Ever.), etc. Still, the romance works, clichés and all. It's totally Harlequin, with the "summer romance like a shooting star" and World War II passing by like an afterthought, the renovating of the house, Cyclops as the "proper" other man... Again, the old folks framing device is soooooo obvious and trite, but I still felt involved in the basic love story, as contrived schmaltzy and as it can be. Objectively, I'd say this is not a great film, but I cried like a little girl so... Whatever. ]

(11 Mar) South Park 6.8, 7.9 (2002-03, Trey Parker) 77
[ "I crapped outta my mouth!"
"Ready? First one to get a platinum album wins!"
Needed another South Park fix, remembered that I hadn't watched the bonus religion-themed ‘sodes on the "Passion of the Jew" DVD... I love this show so, so much! The petty rivalry between Cartman and Kyle alone is totally priceless. ]

(13 Mar) Alias 4.9 (2005) [ review ] 80

(13 Mar) The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001, Woody Allen) 49
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(15 Mar) sleepover (2004, Joe Nussbaum) 61
[ I was embarrassed at first, you know, that old saw about how there are all these masterpieces I haven't seen but I'm still going for the silly teen movies, etc. In my defense, 1) I thought Alexa Vega was cool in the "Spy Kids" movies, 2) I felt like watching a stupid little movie before bedtime and, 3) "sleepover" is actually not half bad. It has less bite and wit than "Mean Girls", but it's short and sweet, full of punk-pop songs and harmless gags, it's got Steve "Brick" Carell and Jeff from "Curb your enthusiasm" in the grown-up parts and the girls, well, they're pretty cute. I went along as the titular sleepover turned into a scavenger hunt and led to the inevitable high school gym dance. It's all kinda corny and predictable, but it's good-spirited and I got a sense that the filmmakers weren't taking themselves seriously. For example, one of the girls is chubby and boys never talk to her, but that night one does. They talk a little, he mentions that he's got a job moving speakers, then they're separated. You can guess that at the end he'll show up and sweep her off her feet, but what's hilarious is how it's through a song at the dance being dedicated to the chubby girl "from the speaker-moving guy"! Also, in the special features, director Joe Nussbaum mentions that as a teen, his sleepovers generally consisted of eating pizza and renting "Commando" every weekend. Gotta respect that! ]

(17 Mar) Genesis (2005, Claude Nuridsany & Marie Perennou) 73
[ From the creators of "Microsmos", which took a close look at the lives of insects, comes this new film in which the scope is vaster but the treatment is still intimate. Not so much a documentary as an epic visual poem, "Genesis" explores the origins of life, from the first single cell through the evolutionary process, from the miracle of reproduction to the inescapability of death. The history of the universe is compared to the human experience and illustrated by the wonders of nature and animal behaviour. We get to witness amazing sights like the crystallization of Vitamin C, a volcanic eruption, a storm at sea, a fish learning to walk, mudskippers jumping on each other, a fight between Galapagos iguanas, a snake swallowing an egg whole, the seahorses' dirty dancing... Having African griot Sotigui Kouyate discoursing on scientific findings as if they were old mythical stories is an inspired idea, even if it somewhat withdraws from the visceral thrill of the sequences where the images tell their own tale, accompanied by the imaginative music of Bruno Coulais. While it doesn't quite have the majesty of the ‘Qatsi pictures, "Genesis" could be an invaluable teaching tool – or a trippy flick for stoners. ]

(17 Mar) Les Rivières pourpres (2000, Mathieu Kassovitz) 38
[ Here's a post-"Se7en" French thriller that tries to do it fast and furious like the Americans but is undone by unnecessarily complicated plot. So you got this oddly secretive fac in the mountains, torture and mutilation, Jean Reno as the older lone wolf commissaire and Vincent Cassel as the younger hot-headed gendarme... Kassovitz assure behind the camera, putting together a few neat action bits (a video game-style baston, a couple of chases, the big climactic confrontation and its soap opera twist), but there's not much sense to be made of the story. More entertaining than the movie itself is the DVD featurette in which Cassel and Kassovitz admit that "Les Rivières pourpres" is an incomprehensible mess! ]

(18 Mar) L'esquive (2005, Abdellatif Kechiche) [ review ] 77

(18 Mar) It Happened One Night (1934, Frank Capra) 62
[ Part of the AFI list (#35) ]

(20 Mar) Alias 4.10 (2005) [ review ] 66

(20 Mar) Rocky IV (1985, Sylvester Stallone) [ review ] 78

(22 Mar) Les Passeurs (2005, Hejer Charf)
[ Five young Montrealers walk along Saint-Laurent Boulevard, encountering various people of all origins and collecting their stories. Sounds fascinating? Well, it might be if this was a straight documentary, but for some reason writer-director-producer-caterer Hejer Charf drowns the mildly interesting non-fiction bits in an awfully obvious narrative performed by spectacularly inept actors. Early on, one of the "passers" pitches a project about filming random folks on the street. He's told it's not commercial, so his buddies and him get a camera from a pawnshop and do it on their own. These self-referencial digs at the establishment are hardly subtle, but Charf repeats them in voice-over just in case. The film's docu-fiction format is inspired by the classic "Le chat dans le sac" and, again, to be sure we notice, we're shown clips from it and it's directly referenced. All this does is make Charf's film look all the more embarrassingly amateurish in comparison - Gilles Groulx she is not. Likewise, quoting from Ti-Jack Kerouac and Rimbaud and putting Pasolini and Godard posters on the wall only comes off pretentious since "Les Passeurs" does nothing to earn the company of its influences. I pass by St-Laurent blvd almost every day, I can appreciate its diversity without a clumsy filmmaker holding me by the hand. ]

(23 Mar) Frank Miller's Sin City (2005, Robert Rodriguez) [ review ] 92

(24 Mar) Kelly Clarkson – behind hazel eyes (2005) [ review ] 60

(25 Mar) D.E.B.S (2005, Angela Robinson) 24
[ When will I wise up? I should know by now that hot girls don't necessarily mean a hot movie. Still, how can you screw up a comedy about a sorority of gun-toting spy babes in little white blouses and plaid skirts? Uninspired writing and flat direction, that's how. The spy genre's already been spoofed to death anyway, and the girly stuff is routine as well. Having the female supervillain falling in love with one of the crime-fighting schoolgirls should make for some naughty fun, but the lesbian relationship is played surprisingly straight (no pun intended). The spy spoof is only dressing, it turns out, for a boring romantic comedy. This is supposed to be a cross between "Clueless" and "Charlie's Angels", but there are practically no actual gags, no crazy action scenes and not even much sexiness. Considering how doable Jill Ritchie, Devon Aoki, Meagan Good, Sara Foster and Jordana Brewster all are, that's saying something. ]

(27 Mar) Alias 4.11 (2005) [ review ] 65

(29 Mar) Les États-Unis d'Albert (2005, André Forcier) [ review ] 66

(31 Mar) Le grand voyage (2005, Ismaël Ferroukhi) 54
[ Réda (Nicolas Cazale), a young Arab man who has lived in France his whole life, must put everything on hold to drive his elderly father (Mohamed Majd) to the Mecca. The two are drastically different and they argue about everything: when and where to stop, which road to take, who to associate with, etc. "Le grand voyage" is about a spiritual journey, but it's not a very religious film. The old man doesn't impose his beliefs on the young one (or the audience, by extent) – he stops at throwing out his cellphone. This father-son story is thin and predictable, but the movie can still be enjoyed as a travelogue. It's like we're in this little beat-up car ourselves, on a road trip across Europe and the Middle-East. ]

February / April