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Film Fest Reviews, Part 3

Being both a Montrealer & a crazy film buff, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check out a couple of films at the 37th Festival du Nouveau Cinema . While my coverage will be nowhere near as comprehensive as my fellow Joblo-er, Gino, I did manage to see four of the more intriguing films that played at the fest. While my reactions to the films varied, I can honestly say that I enjoyed each film in some way, and I was very impressed by the slate of films chosen for the festival. The following are short reviews of the four films I managed to check out; IL DIVO , THE HURT LOCKER , FLAME & CITRON , and SYNECDOCHE N.Y.

IL DIVO
RATING: 6.5/10

Director: Paolo Sorrentino
Cast: Toni Servillo

Maybe it’s my lack of knowledge regarding the Italian political scene of the late eighties/ early nineties, but I had a really hard time understanding IL DIVO. Obviously this film was designed for an Italian audience that recalls the reign of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, and I imagine that they must have adored this film.

To be sure, it’s an exceedingly well crafted and slickly made film, but it’s not the least bit user friendly. It kind of assumes you know everything there is to know about the circumstances it depicts, and if you’re not able to keep up, you’re left in the cold. Sadly, I was lost within the first five minutes, and by the hour mark I was repeatedly looking at my watch.

The only thing that really grabbed me about the film was the brilliant use of music. The soundtrack is absolutely brilliant, and there are some really great musical montages- particularly the brilliant and violent one that opens the film.

THE HURT LOCKER
RATING: 8.5/10

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie

The only reason I bought a ticket to see THE HURT LOCKER was due to Kathryn Bigelow being at the helm. I loved NEAR DARK, POINT BREAK & STRANGE DAYS, although her star faded a bit after K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER. I’m really glad I ended up seeing this, as it was easily the best film I saw at the fest.

THE HURT LOCKER succeeds where most Iraq war films fail due to the simple fact that it doesn’t spend a lot of time moralizing or taking a political stand. Rather, it only seeks to entertain, and that it certainly dies- in spades. It centers on a bomb disposal unit headed by a reckless, adrenaline junky played by Renner- in what surely will be a star making performance. He’s incredible in this film, and if there’s any justice he’ll get an Oscar nomination for his work here.

Unfortunately, I have a feeling a lot of people are going to dismiss this film as just another Iraq film when it comes out. That’s too bad as audiences will miss out on the best war film I’ve seen since BLACKHAWK DOWN. There’s a lot of good action in the film- including a great sequence where Renner & his team get locked in a nasty sniper battle with insurgents. Some may object to the fact that it doesn’t take a clear anti-war stance, but I for one respect that Bigelow stays somewhat neutral. Really, the film is less about Iraq, and more about how, to some, war can be a drug just as addictive as any out there. Highly recommended.

Flame & Citron
RATING: 8/10

Director: : Ole Christian Madsen
Cast: Thure Lindheart, Mads Mikkelsen

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I’m a sucker for WW2 films so this was a no-brainer. It’s the true story about a team of resistance fighters- the titular Flame (Lindheart) & Citron (Mikkelsen) who, during the war, carried out the top secret assassinations of many top ranking Nazis & collaborators. Think of it as a less sexy version of BLACK BOOK.

It’s actually a really well made wartime espionage yarn, although it maybe goes on a little too long. Still, I really enjoyed the film- especially Mikkelsen’s performance the tormented Citron. His final stand against the Nazis is a really exciting, well shot action scene.

FLAME & CITRON certainly doesn’t break any new ground, but it is one hell of an entertaining yarn- and an easy recommendation, especially if you’re a fan of this type of film.

SYNECDOCHE N.Y
RATING: 6.5/10

Director: : Charlie Kaufman
Cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Emily Watson, Michelle Williams

This is definitely the most puzzling film I’ve seen in a long time. On the one hand, it’s very funny, well acted, and beautifully shot. On the other hand- it’s terribly pretentious and confusing, even compared to Kaufman’s other work. Compared to this, his earlier films are remarkably straightforward.

The first 2/3’s of the film are really great, but the last third is pretty out there- and to be honest, at this point the film totally lost me. However, I have a feeling that this will be the type of film that may benefit from repeat viewings, so I’ll have to give it another shot on DVD. While I really doubt it will catch on, as it’s not the least bit user-friendly, it’s definitely worth seeing- especially if you’re looking for something usual.

I should also note that despite my problems with the film, the acting- particularly from Hoffman, was absolutely outstanding (nobody shouts like Hoffman). I also laughed quite a bit throughout- as the film is actually pretty damn funny at times, particularly in the first part of the film centering around Hoffman’s paranoia regarding his health (which I can relate to all too well).

Source: JoBlo.com

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