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Film Fest Reviews, Part 2

10.22.2008

The 37th Festival du Nouveau Cinema reviews keep on coming! This time around I checked out Egoyan's ADORATION , animated-documentary WALTZ WITH BASHIR , and discovered the great ESTOMAGO .

But that's not all! Still to come we have Chris Bumbray chiming in with reviews of films he checked out, including SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK . I'll be back later this week with reviews of MAN ON WIRE , ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO , and winner of this years Palme d'Or, THE CLASS , as well as a festival wrap-up which includes this years winners.

Wendy & Lucy
RATING: 7.5/10

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Cast: Michelle Williams, Will Patton, and Will Oldham

Money’s tight, and Wendy’s car just broke down in a small town while driving cross country to Alaska for a job. It’s all downhill from there, an already a bleak outlook in progress, when Wendy gets busted for shoplifting and her dog (Lucy) goes astray. The film seems light and breezy almost, visually anti-climactic but definitely an experience both mentally and emotionally. Michelle Williams (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) plays Wendy, who’s riddled with dilemmas throughout, as a subtle and internal character. It’s not a showy performance, but a strong one.

The tone of the film is neutral, no dramatic pace, which works in that it allows the events and characters to command your attention. I will warn though that if you’re not in the mood for such a film it would be easy for your mind to wander off. On the other hand, I found myself contemplating Wendy’s actions throughout the film, in part trying to understand them, or wondering if I’d have done different. I guess I would recommend it as a form of meditation, and a study in minimalist storytelling.

For more info visit the Festival film page .

Adoration
RATING: 7/10

Director: Atom Egoyan
Cast: Scott Speedman, Rachel Blanchard, and Devon Bostick

EXOTICA and THE SWEET HEREAFTER are among my favorite films, but I’m hard-pressed to come up with a reason why I missed out on Atom Egoyan’s last 3 features. While I intend to rectify the matter soon, it was with that in mind that I decided to see ADORATION, a film that touches on terrorism, family, religion and youth. The story revolves around Simon, a boy being raised by his uncle (played by Scott Speedman), and the impact a paper he wrote for school has on those in his community.

Since both fiction and reality are played out, the film allows you to ponder the possibilities as the truth reveals itself. Several scenes in the film involve Simon discussing his story in video chat rooms, and Egoyan mentioned, in the Q&A that followed the screening, that those moments were in fact unscripted. The kids were given a subject to discuss and the results were so good that Egoyan was able to use most of it for the film.

I found myself easily intrigued by Rachel Blanchard, who plays Simon’s mother and is the most flexible piece of the puzzle. She’s a product of her environment in the film; a beautiful blank canvas, full of potential, but stained by those around her.

I enjoyed the fractured timeline, which Egoyan’s implemented in previous films, and overall I liked how the characters lives converge. At times the film did feel strained in trying to shift our focus to a specific plot point, but overall it gives you room to breathe as it challenges you.

For more info visit the Festival film page .

Il Divo
RATING: 6.5/10

Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, and Piera Degli Esposti

If you’ve never heard of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, before this film came out, you’re not alone.  IL DIVO takes place during his seventh term as PM and focuses on his links to the Mafia. The film is stylish and, at times, entertaining. Overall though it felt like 3 different movies mashed into one, and the experimentation with style and tone takes precedence over the importance of the story and its characters.

The opening of the film is a montage that seems inspired by Guy Ritchie’s gangster style, but the film quickly shifts to moments that are static and slow paced, with the occasional injection of shtick-y humor. One particular scene that brought things to a screeching halt, for me, involved a cat that wouldn’t get out of the way. While that, and several other moments like it, didn’t ruin the film for me, they did momentarily take me out of the experience.

I never really felt the severity of this man’s actions, or the consequences that were taking place throughout as most of it felt too dressed up to really appreciate and process. With all the new information I needed to process during the film (titles that appeared while characters were talking did more harm than good) and that I still need to investigate on my own, it was difficult to ever really get a handle on the subject. I’ll definitely see this film again as I seem to be in a small minority who found it mediocre. The film never finds its stride or comes together to allow you to understand this man any better than if you’d read a few pages about him and this period in his life. In short, a disappointing experience.

For more info visit the Festival film page .

Waltz with Bashir
RATING: 7/10

Director: Ari Folman
Cast: Ron Ben-Yishai, Ronny Dayag, and Ari Folman

WALTZ WITH BASHIR, is an animated-documentary of sorts; an interesting approach for depicting Ari Folman’s (the director) journey as he tries to fill in memory gaps from his experience in the 80’s Lebanon war. By recording interviews with friends who had served in the army with him, Ari pieces it all together and uses animation to bring it to the screen.

I can’t say I applaud the animation, but I do admire the results. Essentially this is achieved through the use of a combination of digital media, 3D and 2D animation techniques, with basic movements and backgrounds. The style of the illustration, on the other hand, is really beautiful. Lighting and sound are used for maximum effect, which combined with the filmmaker’s skill, allowed me to accept and appreciate the visual approach I initially feared would distract me.

In its final moments, the film transitions from animation to documentary footage; from incomplete and dreamlike memories to brutal a reality. For most suffering from war film fatigue this might not sound like an appealing choice. I urge you not to dismiss it, if for no other reason than to honor this man’s bravery and willingness to look back and make this film, when most would rather forget and look forward.

For more info visit the Festival film page .

Estomago
RATING: 8/10

Director: Marcos Jorge
Cast: João Miguel, Fabiula Nascimento, and Babu Santana

A random pick based solely on the outline in the festival guide, and a perfect example of how you can stumble something great. ESTOMAGO, is about Raimundo Nonato, a man who discovers late in life that he has a gift for cooking. In fact, he’s much like Remy from RATATOUILLE, when it comes to food, be it cooking in a bar, a fancy restaurant, or a prison cell, the man can do no wrong.

The film goes back in forth in time, between his beginnings as a cook, to his time in jail trying not to stay safe in a cell shared with about 7 others. In between we discover his relationship with a local hooker (who has sex with him for food), how he progressed from the bar to the restaurant, and how he went from sleeping on the cell floor to a higher bunk. This is one of those rare occasions where I wasn’t trying to think ahead of the film because I was so entertained by the characters and preferred watching the pieces reveal themselves as the film progressed. It didn’t hurt that Raimundo is extremely likable and sympathetic, and I found myself rooting for him I almost forgot, or dismissed, that he was in jail for a reason unknown to me.

Some of my favorite moments are those in which we see Raimundo finding ways to improve the meals for his cellmates. One in particular, in which he turns their ant probably into a delicious appetizer, stands out. The only thing I would warn is that perhaps the humor and charm might be lost in the subtitles, though it wasn’t the case for me. Let’s put it this way, if you’re a fan of the Food Network and thrillers, then this one’s for you.

For more info visit the Festival film page .

Next Floor
RATING: 7/10

Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Jean Marchand, Ariel Ifergan, and Neil Kroetsch

This short-film comes to us courtesy of Quebecois filmmaker, Denis Villeneuve, who previously directed the wonderful MAELSTROM. In it, we see a bizarre group of guests, dressed in period banquet gear, and seemingly enjoying a feast that will certainly kill them. As they ingest the various dishes served, their increasing weight collapses the floor beneath them. It’s all part of the plan.

What’s immediately apparent is the attention to detail; the cinematography, art direction, set design, lighting, etc… make this a successful exercise in the finer aspects of technical film-making. The end result is a look reminiscent of the early films of Gilliam and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. On the other hand, I wasn’t as captivated by the admittedly clever concept. It all felt very superficial to me, the kind of thing where you say “oh, that’s cool”, and move on.

If anything, the film excites me and has me looking forward to the director’s next project.  

For more info visit the Festival film page .

 

Links to all Festival Coverage:

Film Fest Reviews, Part 1

Film Fest Reviews, Part 2

Source: JoBlo.com

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