Monday, December 29, 2008

engaged to the cinema

This year my affinity was towards films that layered non fiction with fiction with an emphasis on the former, deconstructions of cinematic form, style and technique, social realism, optimistic hymn's pertaining to life, subtle beauty, and human endurance, as well great social film going experiences with friends and family.

The fourteen Best Films of 2008
1.Flight of the Red Balloon (Hsiao-hsien Hou, 2007)
2.Un conte de Noël (Arnaud Desplechin, 2008)
3.Milk (Gus Van Sant, 2008)
4.Man on Wire (James Marsh, 2008)
5.Of Time and the City (Terence Davies, 2008)
6.Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008)
7.Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood, 2008)
8.JCVD (Mabrouk El Mechri, 2008)
9.My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)
10.Sukiyaki Western Django (Takashi Miike, 2007)
11.4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
12.Vicky Christina Barcelona (Woody Allen, 2008)
13.Ashes of Time Redux (Wong Kar Wai, 2008)
14.The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008)

Have a great new year.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

its a wonderful life

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

roman inconography

The Fall of the Roman Empire (Anthony Mann, 1964)

The Fall of the Roman Empire is a sword and sandal film about the rise and fall of Caeser Commodus. It is a statement about personal and communal pains of a society founded on violence and the affect of power and paranoia has on a leader. The 1960s was the decade of the epic as hollywood was reacting to decrease of film audience to the household television. It is the producers Samuel Bronston who was responsible for getting iconography of the film intact including the sets, clothing, animals, transportation, and locations. Anthony Mann directorial touches include statues in the foreground covering the frame to add and remind the viewer of an unseen motivating factors, establishing pan shots emphasizing the purity of the sky with the corruption in rome, individuals set against a bustling Rome and desolate classical roman architecture and film noir contrast between actors with low key lighting and shadows. Dimitri Tiomkin creates an enhancing film score and their are good performances from Sophia Lauren and James Mason.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our town does not only have one repertory anymore

Mayfair Theater, Since 1932.
1074 Bank Street

Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
New 35mm print with live music
(01/02, 9PM)
Midnight Movies: from the margins to the mainstream (Stuart Samuels, 2005)
Special Guest: Stuart Samuels, director of midnight movies
(01/09, 10PM)
The ultimate midnight movie experience
Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)
(01/09, 12PM)
Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
(01/20, 9:20PM)
Sukiyaki Western Django (Takashi Miike, 2007)
(01/23, 11:30PM)
Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
(01/28, 9PM)
Visitor Q (Takashi Miike., 2001)
(01/30, 11:30PM)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Film Noir, Wilder, Curtiz and a few new releases

Bytowne Cinema,
324 Rideau Street.

Film Noir
High and Low (Akira Kurosawa, 1963)
(01/12, 4:30PM)
The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
(03/02, 9:15PM)
Must-See Cinema
The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
(01/19, 9PM)
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
(02/09, 8:55PM)
New Releases
The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)
(01/16, 9:20PM)
Entre les Murs (Laurent Cantet, 2008)
(01/30, 6:35PM
Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)
(02/06, 7:05PM)
Che Part 1 (Steven Soderbergh, 2008)
(02/27, 6:50PM)

Friday, December 19, 2008


"After all, you made me sit through “No Country for Old Men” twice, so I figure you owe me one." - Dave K

"PANIC ROOM is a meditation on our desire to invade Jodie Foster’s privacy . . ." - David Boxwell

"Maybe ZODIAC is only ostensibly a serial killer movie in conventional terms, but it’s pretty clearly some sort of commentary on serial killer movies or meta-serial-killer movie — which may qualify it AS a serial killer movie." Alex Hicks

"David, if THUMBSUCKER is faithful to Walter Kirn, then I’ll be staying away from his novels. After his idiotic review of James Wood’s book, I was planning to anyway." - Kent Jones

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I want to be in on this ride

Eat My Dust (Charles B. Griffith, 1976)


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Must-See Cinema

Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood, 2008)
*the final film in a trilogy that began with Unforgiven and continued with A Perfect World - Glenn Kenny

Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)
*exercise in minimalist cinema about ultra-ordinary people. - Andrew Sarris

The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)
*mickey rourke has an edge and a magnetism and a pure, sweet smile that surprises you. - Pauline Kael

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (David Fincher, 2008)
*a big-budget studio film whose central theme is human mortality - Dave Kehr

Ashes of Time Redux (Kar Wai Wong, 2008)
*its about human disconnections; how we choose, for the sake of honour, love or greed, to avoid the physical present. - Mark Sinker
(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 12/17)

Monday, November 24, 2008


Saturday Night Sinema Presents:

Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999)

(Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, Saturday November 29th, 11:00pm)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Charlie Kaufman is a genious

Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)

Synecdoche, New York is a film about life and everything that it encompasses. This overly ambitious film is the synecdoche (si-nek-duh-kee), when a part is used for the whole, where in 124 minutes on a projected screen you can experience a film that captures the process of mortality. The story is about a theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) his latest project is a successful yet artistically submisive adaptation of Death of a Salesman played by young actors that honestly baffles his father as well his wife Adele (Catherine Keener) misses the premiere to send out miniature crates containing her tiny paintings. These early scenes give off a necessary comical relief to contrast the darker broodings that follow. Soon after Adele leaves him and takes away their daughter due to his self-depreciating nature. He becomes enormously disturbed and this disastifaction stays with him through out his life. His next projects is a recreation of his past and on-going memories of his life in a football sized theater in New York city where he is getting actors to play the people from his life. This is done in a very comical fashion where in a scene there would be the real Caden Cotard, the actor playing him and a double which is not only funny but calls into questions the essense of ones own identity. The story unravels through diary entries, dream sequences and re-creations of memories that have emotional importance which defines him as a person. This is the most mature screenplay Charlie Kaufman has ever created which includes great movies like Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless mind, Adaptation and Being John Malovich. Unlike the hip style of the latter by Spike Jonze and Michelle Goundry, Synecdoche is Kaufmans directorial debut and the style is retricted to theater, which he is familiar with working as a stage director the last few years, and maximizes on medium shots and close ups. The style works with the conundrum the film brings up about how one would even go about presenting a play of that magnitude. Michelle Williams and Emily Watson have magnificent supporting roles as assistents to Caden. Their is a challenging aspect to the film that requires a constant engagemnt with the viewer that will keep you thinking about Synecdoche for days to come.-David Davidson

Synecdoche, New York premieres at the ByTowne Cinema Nov. 21st at 6:55 p.m. and will be there until the 27th. Tickets are $10, $6 for members.

Monday, November 3, 2008

23rd European Union Film Festival

The Class (Lauren Cantet, 2008)
Of Time and The City (Terence Davies, 2008)

The 23rd European Union Film Festival will be playing films from the European Union and its member states. The New European Cinema movement has a reemergence of new filmmakers that are making original films that try to communicate their own national values and aethetics throught their film. The state of the cinema of the new Europe has its roots in the early 1990s with the end of communism especially in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic where there had been restraints lifted that brought about intense and scathing work that that lacked insight and since there was no longer a strong totalitarian power to speak out about a lot of the filmmakers had an issue with finding something else to voice. Through experimentation European cinema has moved forwards and is now at the for front of world cinema winning the prestigious prizes at cannes for consecutive years. The festival would be a good chance to watch these exciting films since the majority of them will not get an international release. Most of these films are made to fulfill a national film quota for these countries and rarely go abroad other then to the film festival circuit. As well it is a great opportunity to explore other cultures, ways of life and altogether be a fulfilling experience.

Two films in the upcoming week that would be definitly worth checking out is The Class and Of Time and the City. The Class directed by Lauren Cantet is the first French film to win the the prestigious Palme d'Or from Cannes in 21 years. The film is based on the book Entre les murs about a teacher in the 20th arrondissment of Paris written by and starring François Bégaudeau. François tries to analyze the role of the teacher in a class room, its value and the theoretical retraints of the education system. He has a challenging approach to teaching that can vary from caring to confrontational. Laurent Cantet refuses to mold the film in a class room drama by drenching the film of the genres typical clichés. Of Time and the City shot with a digital camera by the acclaimed British filmmaker Terence Davies is a personal documentary on the Liverpool of his youth in the 1940's to the 50's. It is a telling journey of what it was like being British during the war meditating on memories and their emotional importance. It is composed of found footage with Davies accompanying it with a performative voice over narration which he also wrote and poetry selections from T.S. Elliot. .-David Davidson

The Class will be playing Friday Nov. 14th at 7:00 pm and Of Time And The City will be playing Tuesday Nov 18th at 7:00 pm. The screenings will take place at the auditorium at the Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street. Tickets are $10, $6 for members and students. For more information on films and listings you can visit there website at

Friday, October 31, 2008

Jules et Jim

Jules et Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)

François Truffaut with Jean-Luc Godard and Éric Rohmer were radical film critics who turned to filmmaking in the 1960s under the given title the French New Wave. They were the critics responsible for the auteur theory that proposes it is the filmmaker who is responsible for the creative process of the film and that there is a personal projection through the mise-en-scene. François Truffauts 1962 masterpiece is one of the most romantic and stylistically evocative film of the entire movement. The story takes place in France, Germany and Austria before, during and after the first world war. The two friends who the film is titled after Jules (Oskar Werner) and Jim (Henri Serre) are two writers who are interested in the world of the arts, actively participate in a bohemian lifestyle and fall in love with the same beautiful women Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). All the while transporting the viewer to an ancient ideological lifestyle visiting cool french bars Parisian landmarks and gorgeous summer homes. The themes involve alternatives to the traditional couple relationship and on love, life and tragedy that were beautifully summed up when Catherine sings Le Tourbillon over the enchanting musical score by Georges Delerue. This was Jeanne Moreau first encounter with François Truffaut and her role of Catherine is staple of French Cinema. Catherine is a disenchanted women whose strife's never end well and who has perpetual feelings of ennui. To make the beautiful black and white cinematography by Raoul Coutard even more enjoyable, Truffaut beautifully alternates between grave and joyous subject matter that entices a wonderful feeling that is both funny and melancholic. In French with subtitles. 105 min.-David Davidson

Jules et Jim plays at the ByTowne Cinema Nov. 17 at 8:55 p.m. and Nov. 28 at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $10, $6 for members.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kym's smile

Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008)

A entralling film on a familiar subject, this suburban melodrama play's with prolonged montages that evoke endearing sympathy and with an acute use of sound and music especially a indie-rock accoustic adaptation of the wedding march it profiles Kym (Anne Hathaway), a recovering junkie that got out of rehab for her sisters Rachel`s wedding. Jonathan Demme started his carrer in the 1974 under AIP`s Roger Corman and pays his dept to his mentor by having him appear in a cameo where he picks up a camera at the wedding. Through a shaky hand-held camera and versatile tracking shots the film create`s enchanting and devastating moods. The screenplay by Jenny Lumet treats all the characters with respect and dignity as it examines Kym personal imperfection, repressed memories and her hope of overcoming them.-David Davidson

(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Truffaut, Leigh & Demme

Coming to the Bytowne Cinema in november.

Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008)
Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008)
Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut, 1960)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It was kinda fun in a necrophile sort of way

This was published in the Volume 69, Issue 9, Oct. 16-22, 2008 issue of the Fulcrum. —D.D.

Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
**** (A)

Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse portraits one of the most paranoid and alienated women in motherhood in cinema. A good-hearted wife to Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) in 1960 New York once pregnant gets entangled in a series of sinister coincidences. Ambiguously portrayed in a feverish nightmare or during a satanic ritual Rosemary gets raped by satan. Much of the film’s intensity derives from Polanski style, the claustrophobia of the appartment, the over bearing dark ancient building, the eerie decor and the unnerving tone fills each frame of the film with dread, grief and apprehension. With an adhering use of expressionistic actors the film sets the mood for an intense fright. A perfect companion before Halloween, show up!-David Davidson
(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, Monday October 20th, 9:05)


Selected Conversations with Innovative and Influential Creative Figures in Film, TV and Digital Media at Pinewood Dialogues and more Jonathan Rosenbaum.

Friday, October 10, 2008

October Indefinite Openings

Changeling (Clint Eastwood, 2008)
(scheduled opening October 24th)

Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
(scheduled opening October 24th)

Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008)
(scheduled opening October 10th)

Friday, September 26, 2008

At The Movies

The Lucky Ones (Neil Burger, 2008)
(South Keys & AMC 24 Kanata)

Next of Kin (Atom Egoyan, 1984)
(National Archives Auditorium, 395 Wellington Street, Friday, October 17th, 9:00pm)

American Nightmare (Don McBrearty, 1983)
Deadly Eyes (Robert Clouse, 1982)
(Club SAW,67 Nicholas Street, Saturday, October 25th, 9:30 & 11:00)

Shangri-La (Takashi Miike,2002)
(National Archives Auditorium, 395 Wellington Street, Sunday, November 2nd, 7:00pm)

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (Marina Zenovich, 2008)

In France he is desired and in America he is wanted.
- Andrew Braunsberg

Rajmund Roman Liebling was born on August 18, 1933 in Paris, France. His family moved to Poland in 1937. At the dawn of the second world war his family was moved to the Kraków Ghetto.He stayed alive by living in a farm where he had to sleep in a cow stall. One of his life-affirming motivation was to reunite with his family when the Nazi Germany would be defeated. Once the war ended he found out his mother and sister were killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

He graduated from the Polish film school in Łódź in 1959. His international breakthrough masterpiece Knife in the Water (1962) was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards and was just re-released on dvd by the Criterion Collection. His films dealt with intelligent psychological horrors and alienation. Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown and The Tenant were popular in the art house film circuits. In 1969 his pregnant wife of the time Sharon Tate was murdered by followers of Charles Manson.

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired explains what exactly happened in 1978 between Roman and the 13-year-old Samantha (Gaily) Geimer. Through archive footage, photographs, newspaper clippings, text, courtroom sketches and interviews. Marina Zenovich beautifully lays out and layers the facts wrapped up in the divisive case. The scandal with Samantha involved Roman organizing a private photo shoot for a french edition of vogue that lead to the unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. After that there was an indictment for Roman where the showboating presiding judge, Laurence J. Rittenband sentenced him to 50 years in prison. To get around the American legal system Roman fled to London and then to Paris where he holds citizenship. France does not extradite its own citizens so he has been staying there ever since and he avoids traveling to countries that might give him up to American authorities. The film sheds a light on the activities leading up to, involving and after the case. (Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 09/26-09/30)

He is now 75 years old and is married to the french actress Emmanuelle Seigner and they have two children Morgane and Elvis. In 2002 he won his first Palme D'or at Cannes for The Pianist and now he is currently working on a adaptation of the novel The Ghost, written by Robert Harris.- David Davidson

Friday, September 12, 2008

Rooster and Turk

Righteous Kill (Jon Avnet, 2008)

It's not in my guy's DNA (to retire). ...Probably, his ambition is to die on the job. Sort of like an actor.
-Al Pacino

Rooster (Al Pacino) and Turk (Rober De Niro) are New York City Police Department investigators hunting a vigilante killer. This is Pacino and De Niro latest collaboration film since Micheal Mann's police-thriller Heat in 1995. Their characters in the film are police officers that are trying to take down a noctorious drug dealer. The films principal emotion expressed is anger. Anger towards the judicial system, criminals and personal short coming. As you discover throughout the film one of the two buddy cops turn out to be a serial vigilante killing unpunished culprits. His amoral murders include a wide range of victims including children killers, pimps, rapists and sexually abusive priest. The film examines these murders from a distance and since the murderer is unknown the police force can only speculate over who is to blame for them.

The anger the two cops feel can be respective of the late actors fading career since their heyday in the 1970s. Their performance he can be seen as reprisals of earlier roles. Their signature macho trademark, depressed brows, powerful lines and their ability to look serious and confused. There is as well a parable between the unethical killings and their choices to take on roles in mediocre movies in their later career. Since this is a mediocre film. The film structure is formulaic with obligatory cliches of the action-crime genre and even conventional anti-conventions. The climax of the film boils down to a locker-room prank that has a unrealistic denouement where Al Pacino's accompanying officers disappears. The film ends with the death of Rooster then cuts to Turk going on with his life as he watches his little league baseball team play a game. The ending brings you back to reality and contrasts the dying star fate with the realist life of the audience.-David Davidson

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Life Defining Moments

Man on Wire (James Marsh, 2008)
My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007)

Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg will be the second non-fiction documentary to come to the Bytowne this month with Man on Wire that deals with personnel life defining moments. My Winnipeg is an exploration on Maddin's youth growing up in his home town of Winnipeg.

Philippe Petit and his compatriot's recalls their memories of Mr.Petit youth involving his passion with tightrope walking in Man on Wire. He started out in Paris by walking between the neighboring Cathedral of Notre-Dame dancing along a wire between two of its towers then went on to the Harbor Bridge in Sydney and then finally his 1975 high-wire walk between the World Trade Center in New York. The film is constructed through interviews with Philippe, his girlfriend of the time Annie Allix, his best friend Jean-Louis Blondeau and a few other accomplices as well as personal still photographs from the era documenting their efforts and well crafted re-enactments. It is essentially a heist film by focussing on the legal, technical, physical and psychological aspects of setting up the wire between the twin towers. An understated message of the film is the seductive ability of the criminal and dangerous goal that has everyone flocking towards Phillipe.

This tightrope walk was to be the last for Phillipe. Since a child he conceived a passion to walk between the trade center. Now that dream is over and there is the lasting impression of happiest he once had then in his life as he speaks unguarded about those day. His relationships with his girlfriend and friends ended with the evangelical feat. His walk permanently changed the public perception of the buildings when at the time were not to popular and now the film is bringing back some amazement and awe to a structure we can no longer relinquish.-David Davidson

Man On Wire (Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 09/05-09/14)
My Winnipeg (Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 09/12-09/16)


The 65th Venice Film Festival  came to a close September 6th and with a jury chaired by Wim Wenders announced the Golden Lion for Best Film to The Wrestler by Darren Aronofsky. Starring Mickey Rourke the film is a drama of a retired wrestler who decides to return to the ring for a last match.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

End of the Summer Cinema, Bytowne September & October

I personally found my summer months not have being to enthused about new films. There might have been a few gems in a sea of rubbish. This summer great new releases included Flight of the Red Balloon, Encounters at the End of the World and the Dark Knight. So instead of going out to see films, I stayed in. I kept myself occupied visiting film history. I just came back from Montreal where they were having their World Film Festival. They had many screenings throughout the city, there was a Tony Curtis tribune and Brian de Palma had a master class on his oeuvre. They closed down part of St.Catherine street and had an immense screen to project films each night. When i was there they were playing Heaven's Gate (Michael Cimino). When i got there i sat beside three other film students. They were great, we talked about films, had a few drinks (they were generous enough to share some mixed drinks they brought in Coke bottles). Hundreds of strangers just sat there, either on the provided benches, stairs or sitting on the ground to enjoy the film. There was a great sense of a cinephile community.

What i was anticipating was what all the New York, Chicago and Sight & Sound critics were talking about. The films listed below have premiered already in major cities for a couple of months now but thankfully their here for the fall. Were now just getting Man On Wire (James Marsh, 2008), Taxi to the Dark Side, Gonzo the Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (Alex Gibney, 2007, 2008), My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, 2007), Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (Marina Zenovich, 2008).-David Davidson

Man On Wire (09/05-14), Taxi to the Dark Side (09/11), Gonzo the Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson (09/12-15), My Winnipeg (09/12-15), Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (09/26-30) (Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Great Date In Barcelona Or We'll always have Rhiota.

Vicky Christina Barcelona (Woody Allen, 2008)
*** (A Must See)

Vicky (Rebeca Hall) and Christina (Scarlett Johansson) disembark in Barcelona for a sunny summer stay with family friends Judy (Patricia Clarkson) and Mark (Kevin Dunn) Nash. Vicky is in Barcelona to further her postgraduate work on Catalan and the architect of Antoni Gaudí and Christina is there for love. Christina meets a well known painter in the arts community Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). He is introduced at his nihilistic best; we find out about his devastating ex-wife who shot him, he is all by himself and he is looking gloomy drinking wine. The two girls go on a weekend trip in Rhiota with Juan Antonio where Christina accidently gets sick. Hesitantly Vicky goes out with Juan and they indulge in beautiful Catalan wine, cuisine, classical guitar to accompany private intellectual and emotional conversations. Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz) returns and gets back together with Juan Antonio just as a blooming relationship with Christina is emerging. The film contrast the relationships of the two leads Vicky with her stable and secure relationship with an Allen prototypical New York intellectual Doug (Chris Messina) and Christina with her spontaneity and excitement in her love affair with Juan Antonio and Maria Elena. Underneath it all there is a study of compromise in relationships, everyone has their own regrets and desires that are fulfilled or neglected. As Vicky is trying to come to terms with her shrewd night with Juan Antonio the film meditates on fleeting joyful encounters and concealing sadness with alleged cheerfulness. Woody Allen has always been trying to combine the froth with the serious and this film offers many of pleasures that are reminiscent of his good old days. The cast is gorgeous, cute, beautiful, sexy, and sells itself but what makes the film so much greater are the hilarious wisecracks; Great, just what we needed a Rorschach blotch.

Vicky Christina Barcelona is Woody Allen's the latest film from his prolific career as a writer-director that started in 1969 with his directional debut Take the Money and Run. His last feature to show in Ottawa was Scoop (2006). "Well, Scoop I found to be a trivial little Kleenex of a film..." Woody Allen proclaimed in a recent interview with The Village Voice. Cassandra’s Dream (2007) did not even make it to repertories in Ottawa. Point is: Vicky is the best Allen you can get. Vicky Christina Barcelona will be playing at the AMC and SilverCity and more comfortably at the Bytowne in October. To get ready for the Bytowne premiere their playing, my favorite Woody Allen film, Manhattan (1979) on September 23rd and 24th. If you still want more his next film Whatever Works is scheduled for release next year and will be starring Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator Larry David and if your going to be in Los Angeles next summer he will be directing his first ever opera Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.-David Davidson

(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 10/02-10/05)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Community of Extremities

Encounters At the End of the World (Werner Herzog, 2007)
*** (A must see)

This is Werner Herzog latest documentary since Grizzly Man (2005). Mr. Herzog deals with the country as a whole, geographically, geologically as well as historically. Encounters At the End of the World is a documentary film about the southernmost continent Antarctica and its inhabitants. In Encounters you get to be over and under Antarcticas 14 million km² of ice. The untethered ice diving mood is filled with awe and fright with its gloomy aqua palette knowing the risk that goes along with such a dangerous trip. The continent snow-white landscapes are extraordinary in size and show the Transantarctic Mountains for all its beauty. The inhabitants are penguins, fur seals, different types of lichen and algae and its human population. Their are scenes where you are just hanging out with the scientist listening to their stories that are all interesting. Their is a philosopher/fork-lift driver, a journeyman plumber who believes he is from Aztec royalty, a Russian refugee, an eccentric Harvard scientist that wears tweed jackets in homage to the first turn of the century explores and a man who has been studying penguins for the last 20 years who doesn't really talk much. While their not doing research they spend their time watching old sci-fi movies, they go out to bars to see locals performing schticks, grow plants in a green house and wonder where they will go to next. Like Herzog with Encounters he has now filmed a feature on every continent and like these researchers they are drifters of the planet. As one scientist puts it "If you take everyone who is not tied down, they fall to the bottom of the planet". They give a caution about the consequences of global warming and how the melting continent might break off some monstrous icebergs that would have a disastrous impact.-David Davidson

(Bytowne, 324 Rideau Street, 08/15-08/21 & Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 08/23-08/24)

Friday, August 8, 2008

Blue Velvet and Lost Highway

Blue Velvet (1986) and Lost Highway (1997) are going to be playing together as a double bill at the Mayfair on August 25th and 26th. These esoteric films come from one of the most talented post surrealist filmmaker David Lynch. David Lynch has a bizarre naturalist gift to create ugliness and darkness in the most ordinary places. Blue Velvet was filmed after the commercial failure Dune (1984) and leads him to his most well known television series Twin Peaks while Lost Highways is his most structurally innovated film since his breakthrough picture Eraserhead (1977).

Blue Velvet takes place in a white picket fence suburb and tells the unusual story of Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) attempt to solve a murder mystery with intimate's to old film noirs. The film is renowned for his closet-voyeurism scene where he horribly discovers Dorothy Vallens masochistic sexuality. Jeffreys romantic interest is the detectives blonde, innocent daughter Sandy (Laura Dern). She is a light woman there to contrast the dark Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) a night-club singer Femme Fatale who sings Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet (the inspiration for the film). There is also the psychotic Dennis Hopper who represents repressed desires and ugliness and that are hidden in society.

Lost Highway is like a serpent swallowing its own tail. The film is hallucinatory in the way it twists all events together. The cyclical narrative structure reverts to the one of Eraserhead dealing with multiple-personality disorder in a bewildering manner fusing characters together. The film puts together powerful sound and image together to create spattered expressionistic effects. The film floats on adolescent subjects such as aggressively, manliness and dirty sex. Some of these events work while others are compelling tick off including the beating of a motorist for tailgating that seem excessive but their attributed to deadbeats anyway. In a film where the characters are more like interchangeable entities the thrill of it is in the perplexing rhythm structure.

(Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, Monday and Tuesday, August 25 and 26, 6:30 and 8:50)-David Davidson

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hong Kong Sorrow

In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
*** (a must see)

He remembers those vanished years. As though looking through a dusty window pane, the past is something he could see, but not touch.

Set largely in Hong Kong and partly in Singapore between 1962 and 1969. In the Mood for love is about the pinings of two neighbors Mrs.Chan (Maggie Cheung) and Chow Mo-wan (Tony Leung). Their spouses are suspected to be having affairs with each other and are always away. Christopher Doyle the director of photography catches glimpses from doorways and behind windows transforming the location to the forefront of the filmic space. The film is told as if it were a romantic memory revisiting the same apartments, streets and offices fusing simultaneous events in vivid montages. As the two neighbors learn more about each other they do not compromise their morals and stay true to their partners. One day Chow Mo-wan take a journalism position in Singapore. This forces them to decide on if they want to be together. Circumstances leads them to part ways and the two decide not to revisit each other even when the situation arises. The film ends in a scene where Chow Mo-wan whisper inaudibly something into a wall. This secret is a metaphor for the things we leave behind in our lives. Then we are brought back to reality with a newsreel of de Gaulle visiting Cambodia and the film ends.

(The Criterion Collection, 2-Disc Set, $31.96)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The World of Today Yesterday

Play Time (Jacques Tati, 1967)

The revered French filmmaker Jacques Tati film Play Time is generally considered as his masterpiece. The film takes place in contemporary Paris and deal with Mr.Hulot (Jaquest Tati) copping with the world. In Play Time the immediate environment takes precedence over the tourist and inhabitance. The grandeur of Play Times modernist Paris had to be created instead of using natural location as their filming conditions turned out to difficult to overcome. The cost of production for the film in itself bankrupted Tati who personally financed the picture.

What is so enjoyable about the film is the scope of the world it presents. The film shot in 70mm, unlike most films that are shot in 35mm, allowed for a more developed mise-en-scéne. This allows for a wider and sharper image and sound. In a single scene there would be unbridled events occurring at once. Everything would be going on smoothly in the frame until eventually interlocking the scene together. It serenely plays out more like a tableau vivant than it does a story.

Play Time succeeding Les Vacances de Mr. Hulot (1953) and Mon oncle (1958) offers a much smaller role for Mr.Hulot. The character of Mr.Hulot was suppose to be a one time role but since his creation has become more important then his creator. Tati wanted to kill off Mr.Hulot but keep the Mr.Hulot paradigm present through out the film. His charming bumbling persona returns by others resembling him or by nondescript pantomimes. This was done to infer there is a little Hulot in all of us.

The Canadian Film Institute has been running Playtime: The Cinema of Jacques Tati for the last month. The festival ends next Saturday with Tati’s last film Trafic (1971).

National Archives Auditorium, 395 Wellington Street, Saturday, August 9th, 7:00.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Conscious Balloon

Flight of the Red Balloon (Hsiao-hsien Hou, 2007)
*** (A must see)

Hou Hsiao-hsien, the Twaiwanese film-maker was commissioned to remake Albert Lamorisse Le Ballon Rouge (1956) by the Musée D`Orsay. Mr.Hou is one of the greatest narrative filmmakers and his structural innovations focus on a contemplative model instead of a conservative narrative by focusing on impression, gestures, moments and moods. The story takes place in a contemporary Paris. Suzanne is a performer in an adult puppeteer theatre and lives humbly in her small bourgeois apartment. The two principle characters are the realistic Suzanne (Juliette Binoche) who is trying to attain an emotional equilibrium and her charming son Simon (Simon Iteanu). Their characters are developed through melodrama as Suzanne fights with one of her tenants and her ex-husband while Simon learns to play the piano, plays and goes about his day. The hired nanny Song (Fang Song) observes the family. She is a film student who has a deep appreciation for life and genuinely enjoys the time she spends with Simon. Like the balloon she is a calm, self-contained observer. Red Balloon is beautifully shot with a subliminal style using window reflections, shallow focus and long tracking scenes due to the director of photography Mark Lee. From an unreachable height the balloon represents a free floating metaphor. In my humble opinion it represents transcendence. The potential self-realization that can be achieved that is always present in ones life. The sincerity of the performances showcases each characters inner emotion, feelings and thoughts.

The film is playing July 25th to August 4th at the Bytowne Cinema.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Today’s Dark Knight

The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

Heath Ledger passed away tragically due to a drug overdose in January. His performance in Dark Knight since then has been praised in the industry. Now finally being able see it is both superb and sad. He had a subconscious way of bringing the inner life of characters into the roles he played. His part in the film is genuinely unnerving and his Joker is intensely evil. He is no longer playing a super villain but a modern day terrorist. He outlines moral dilemmas where either choice results in someone’s death. He goes into his past explaining the scars around his mouth came from being cut up from his father who asked him "Why so serious?" before cutting his face. At the same time it is a shame that it will be one of his last performances. There is talk of maybe a posthumous Oscar nomination and he has an upcoming role in Terry Gilliam`s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus that is now in post-production.

Christopher Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan have been working together since Christ’s first feature film Memento that was based on a short story Memento Mori by Jonathan. They collaborated again in 2006 for The Prestige and finally on the screenplay for Dark Knight based on the DC Batman Comics. Bob Kane the creator of Batman inspiration for the Joker is from Paul Leni’s German Expressionism film The Man Who Laughs (1928). The comic-book hero had several big screen adaptations prior to Nolan’s films. There was the 1966 cinematic transfer with Adam West taking up again his campy performance from the television show of the time and Tim Burton revamped the superhero with his more gothic and perverse 1989 Batman.

The new series is a lot darker then any of the previous films. This sequential film in Nolan’s Batman series has the Bruce Wayne character (Christian Bale) is already developed. In Batman Begins through a series of flashbacks involving Bruce we learn his true motivation and fears. As a child he falls down a hole and there he is attacked by bats. The idea and thought of bats scare him right into his adulthood. After that he leaves the theater earlier with his parents who then get accidentally murdered while being mugged. He channels his grief into a revenge plot to take down the criminals. Then through vigorous training that resembles something out of Star Wars and the best high-tech equipment Wayne Enterprise can buy he faces his fears and the Gotham City criminal world. The film is full of exciting action sequence, awe-inspiring scenes of Batman flying thought Gotham City, actually Chicago, and effective one-liners.

Dark Knight starts with a bank heist. There is a group of criminals all wearing clown mask who try to pull off the perfect heist. The mask the men are wearing was influenced by the ones worn by the gangsters in The Killing (1956). The clowns turn off the alarm, take everyone as hostages, and shoot the vigilante bank manager then get way with the money. As these events progress they are slowly turning on each other due to orders from the organizer, a sociopath who wears make-up and calls himself the Joker. The Joker turns out to be in the group. He betrays the clowns that aren’t dead yet then gets away by driving away in a school bus in between a caravan of other busses while the police arrive at the scene to late. This sequence here depicts the view the Joker has on the world. He believes that as long as things are in order instead of chaos whether it is good or evil is irrelevant.

The Gotham city in the Dark Knight is the one of the 21st century. The city is darker, nihilistic, swamped with corruption and crime and the citizens are unsympathetic and afraid. The city no longer is in its own confined existence as the film switches to Hong Kong to emphasize its global economic and moral connections. The Joker plays a terrorist who is devastating the city with high explosives, political assassination and destroying buildings including a hospital. Batman is now an antihero in between good and evil. He tortures to get information and creates a wiretap information center to locate the hiding spot of the Joker. The film has political implication echoing the society we live in now by skillfully putting together images that have cultural value.

The Jokers action poses moral problems for Batman and the citizens of Gotham City. He puts two ferry boats loaded of passengers, one boat civilians and the other boat of felons, against each other to blow the other ferry or be blown. To offset the pessimism of destroying the good-will of The White Knight district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) into the murderous Two-Face. The film rejoices with the humanism of one the criminal on board one of the ferry’s who convinces the warden to give him the detonator and he throws it out into the water instead of sacrificing the other boat.

There are excellent performances from Michael Caine returning as Bruce Waynes faithful butler, Maggie Gyllenhaal with a heartbreaking performance as Rachel Dawes, Gary Oldman as the understanding Lt. James Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox Wayne Enterprises technical adviser.

The film is playing at all major theaters and make sure to get there early since screenings have been selling out.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Looking Out, Looking In

Maya Deren was one of the pioneering American avant garde filmmakers. She made short experimental films that felt like nightmares dealing with critical emotional experiences. Born Eleanora Derenkowsky, her parents anglicized their last name to Deren when they moved to New York in the 1922 due to threatening anti-Semitism and later in 1943 she changed her first name to Maya that in Buddhists means illusion.

Her films were never able to get into cinemas due to Hollywood’s Monopoly over them and instead she exhibited her films from her own living room. In the 50s Deren toured North America exhibiting her films. An exhibition at the Provincetown Playhouse entitled `Three Abandoned Films - A showing of Meshes of the Afternoon, At Land & A study in Choreography for the Camera` sold out and inspired Amos Vogel’s formation of Cinema 16. Some of her followers included Manny Farber, Le Corbusier, Marcel Duchamp and David Lynch.

Her filmography includes Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), At Land (1944), A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945), Ritual in Transfigured Time (1946), Meditation on Violence (1948) and The Very Eye of Night (1952-55).

Meshes of the Afternoon was directed by Deren and her husband of the time Alexander Hammid. The sound was later added by Maya Derens third husband Teiji Ito. Influenced by the European Surrealist Luis Buñuel's and Salvador Dalí Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L'Age d'Or (1930). She filled her films with objects and physical facts that were infused with profound psychological meaning. The use of symbolism and poetic psychodrama pleased her father who was a psychologist. The principal character in this film is as well played by Maya Deren who is sulkily beautiful as she wanders throughout her house.

The film begins with a series of events including Maya Deren picking up a flower, dropping a key, seeing bread and a knife on a cutting board, putting on a record, seeing a mirror and a phone being off the hook and then sitting on a chair. The chair looks out onto the path she took to get into her house. There is a close up of her eyelids closing and then it looks like the camera pulls back into her pupil for a tunnel shot of her watching herself outside the window. There is fear, poetry and rhythm as we see the early events repeat themselves and the objects return in different contexts in what we can interpret as a dream sequence. The film meditates on the characters paranoid fears, restlessness and alienation. This trance film contrast fluid camera movement with shaky movements and experiments with rhythm and editing.

In the 50s she was awarded a grant from the Guggenheim to travel to Haiti to research voodoo. Due to malnutrition and a developed drug dependencies she died in 1961. Her last remaining project was a documentary Divine Horsemen: the Living Gods of Haiti that was only completed by her old husband Teiji Ito.

Maya Deren: Experimental Films DVD (Mystic Fire Video, 26.98$)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Centretown Movies

The Centretown Outdoor Film Festival starts this Friday July 18th. The festival gets the community together for a fun night to watch a movie. The screenings are at Dundonald Park located at 512 Somerset St. The screenings are pay as you can with the money going to a different charity organization each week. The movies will be each Friday and Saturday until August 16th.

Hal Ashbys 1971 Harold and Maude story is about a young man Harold played by Bud Cort who has become disenchanted with life. Staging mock-suicides has become a routine that his domineering mother takes very little notice. At a funeral Harold meets Maude an energetic, light-hearted senior citizen played by Ruth Gordon who shows him how to live each day to its fullest.

Friday, July 18: Across the Universe
Saturday, July 19: Golden Compass
Friday, July 25: Who Killed the Electric Car
Saturday, July 26: Office Space
Friday, August 1: The Constant Gardener
Saturday, August 2: Transformers
Friday, August 8: King Corn
Saturday, August 9: Maltese Falcon
Friday, August 15: Harold and Maude
Saturday, August 16: Ratatouille

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Girl From Monday

Hal Hartley, the American independent filmmaker, 2005 film The Girl from Monday is a sexy sci-fi comedic thriller, starring Bill Sage, Sabrina Lloyd, Leo Fitzpatrick and Tatiana Abracos. The film depicts a futuristic dystopian society where people have tattooed bar codes on their wrist and having sex boosts both partners’ credit ratings. It is a meditation on modern consumerism and its relation to sex. Satirizing a world where everywhere you look there is advertisements for new products. Though the fluctuation between color to black and white, dutch angle shots, freeze frames, and blurry effects might throw some viewers off of the film. Hartley’s experimental technique is as avant-garde as Godard in the 60s and fits the content of the film perfectly. The Girl from Monday is full of plot twists, sexy characters, beautiful visuals and dialogue that are delivered with deadpan humor.

(Possible Films, single disc, $21.99, Rated-R)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fantasia 2008,

Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival start’s July 3rd and continues until the 21st. The festival started in 1996 and it’s goal was show unaccessible Asian films. This years festival will include films from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Québec and other countries. It is an independent film festival and I do not recognise any of the directors or films except for Takashi Miike, Sukiyaki Western Django. It is playing on the Wednesday the 9th at 5PM. (too bad I can not make it)

Maybe I will go down and check it out on its closing weekend of the 19th to the 21st.

Here is the festivals official website.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Bytowne Cinema July & August 2008, Inglorious Bastards

The new bytowne schedule came out today and it looks like we will have a good two more months. A great two months if you take into account the Jacques Tati retrospective at the archieves and the films the national art gallery will be playing. The bytowne will be getting new 35mm prints of Ingmar Bergman`s Monika and Francois Truffauts Les Quatre Cents Coups (it was worth getting the film guide for Jacques Rivette original review of the film). The must see cinema include Almodovar`s All About My Mother, Kurosawa`s Ran, Kazan`s A Streetcar Named Desire, Kubrick`s 2001 and Wilder`s Some Like It Hot. For new features there will be Hou Hsiao Hsien Flight of the Red Balloon and Herzogs Encounters at the End of the World. The IFCO (Independent Filmmakers Co-operative of Ottawa) will hold their 16th annual gala premiere with new films by Ottawa filmmakers.

Monday July 7th, 9:10, All About my Mother
Monday July 21st, 8:50, Kurosawa`s Ran
Friday July 25th, 9:00, Flight of the Red Balloon
Monday July 28th, 9:10, A Streetcar Named Desire
Friday August 1st, 6:55, Les Quatre Cents Coup
Thursday August 7th, 9:30, IFCO Gala
Friday August 22nd, 7:00, Monika
Monday August 25th, 8:50, 2001: A Space Odyssey
Monday September 1st, 8:40, Some Like It Hot


Quentin Tarantino confirmed finishing the screenplay for his long-awaited new film Inglorious Bastards. The film will be a Modern World War II epic. The film is scheduled to be ready for Cannes 2009.

"Do you want me to drive you home or do you want to come back to my apartment and watch me aphabetize my videotapes?"
- Tarantino to his girlfriend at the time (1992)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Belle de jour

Belle de jour (1967)
Luis Buñuel

Luis Buñuel was a Spanish filmmaker who started making films at the age of 29. His first project was a surrealist short that he co-wrote with Salvador Dali Un chien andalou (1929). His next film was L'Âge d'or (1930). L'Âge d'or was his first full lenght feature and with this film he set a precedence for what surrealism meant to cinema by filling the film with symbolism, juxtapositions of images, attacks against catholicism and the bourgeois class.

I want to note that André Breton, the leader of the original surrealist movement in the 1920s, wrote this manifesto to describe surrealism.

Surrealism as,
Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express -- verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner -- the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.

Bunuel who started out with the antiplot structure to his films changed towards a miniplot narrative in his later years. His earlier work was full of symbolism which gave it its surreal quality while tith Belle de Jour he shows the surrealism of realism with Séverine consciousness as its primary source. The whole film revolves not so much on the life of Séverine (Played by Catherine Deneuve) but on her thoughts and feelings. She is the typical bourgeoise that Bunuel mocks and when she gets bored with her husband, she decides to go work in brothel during the day, that is where the name of the film comes from, she calls herself Belle de Jour.

Catherine Deneuve who recently won the Prize of the 61st Festival de Cannes ex-aequo was 24 when she took on this role. She plays a great Séverine, she is thrilling and looks great. Bunuel shots of her included close up of her feet, nude and in chic outfits. Its worth noting that she is dressed in Yves Saint Laurent. Yves Saint Laurent (August 1, 1936 – June 1, 2008) is one of the best known french fashion designer and he has jus recently passed away and Catherine Deneuve was one of his muses.

What I find really makes this film great is how it interweaves dream sequences, thoughts, conciousness and reality all into one without any explanation. an openness to explore Séverine subconcious appreciation of ringing bells and cat noises, a exploration of her childhood experience and her desire for adventure. The ending i thought was superb. Her husband has just come to terms with what Séverine has been doing and we see him crying in his wheelchair. She sits down and watches him cry then he gets up and tells her that everything will be ok. There is a subtle transition from reality to thought. The movie ends, Séverine is happy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

New undergraduate programs, Film Studies

The University of Ottawa is starting a new undergraduate program, Film Studies, in the Department of Communications. The program will focus on trends in cinema that shaped it to become what it is today. There will be explorations on the works of the worlds great directors. I believe this program is an important step to help shape the student community on the art of film.

Here is the website: Film Studies

Monday, June 2, 2008

The 1930s the making of the new man, theater screenings worth going to

Starting June 6th at the National Gallery of Canada, there is going to be a new exhibit opening The 1930s The Making of The New Man. The works will be dealing with themes of Genesis, Convulsive Beauty, The Will to Power, The Making of The New Man, Mother Earth, The Appeal of Classicism, Faces of our Time, Crowds and Power, The Charnel House.

There will be a film series as well. Here the films

July 10th, 7:00, The Pictures of Dorian Gray, Albert Lewin, 1945
July 17th, 7:00, Frankenstein, James Whale, 1931
July 24th, 7:00, Le Chagrin et la pitie ( The Sorrow and the pity), Marcel Ophüls, 1969
July 31st, 7:00, La belle et la bete, (beauty and the beast),Jean Cocteau, 1946
August 7th, 7:00, Amarcord, Federico Fellini, 1973
August 14th, 7:00, The Great Dictator, Charles Chaplin, 1940

Now thats exciting, and dont forget in June theres:

Monday June 2nd, 9:05 Belle De Jour, Luis Buñuel 1967, Bytowne Cinema
Wednesday June 4th, 9:05 Standard Operating Procedure, Errol Morris, Bytowne Cinema
Monday June 9th, 9:15 Touch of Evil, Orson Welles 1958, Bytowne Cinema
Friday June 13th, 7:05 My Blueberry Nights, Kar Wai Wong 2007, Bytowne Cinema
Monday June 16th, 9:00 Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese 1976, Bytowne Cinema

and a reminder that the Canadian Film Institute are playing five of Jacques Tati`s films in July at the National Archives Auditorium.

JOUR DE FETE, 1947, Saturday July 5th, 7:00 pm
LES VACANCES DE MONSIEUR HULOT, 1953, Saturday July 12th, 7:00 pm
MON ONCLE, 1958, Saturday July 19th, 7:00 pm
PLAYTIME, 1967, Saturday July 26th, 7:00 pm
TRAFIC, 1971, Saturday August 9th, 7:00 pm

Friday, May 30, 2008

Paranoid Park

Paranoid Park 2007
Gus van Sant

The film is a story about a high school skateboarder Alex (Gabe Nevins, Gus van Sant found the actor through myspace)in Portland, Oregon who one day decides with his friend Jared to visit the tougher Paranoid Park (O'Bryant Square). There one night something happens to Alex and the film is an uncovering of what that was. The film was based off of Blake Nelson novel of the same name and the adaptation was done by Gus van Sant. Blake Nelson has said the book is like Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment in a young adult setting. The chronology of the film is shuffled with the present day Alex moving on with his life as we are discovering what happened to him that night at Paranoid Park through his letter he is writting to Macy.

Alex becomes larger then life and the center of everything that is going on. The cinematographer for this film was Christopher Doyle (Wong Kar Wai cinematographer) and he combined shots filmed in 35 mm, Super 8 and videotape. His focus was on Alex while everything else seemed to be blured in a soft focus, there were also full body shots that makes alex feel almost trapped within the frame similar to his experience was trapped within unable to communicate it with anyone. The film was full of long takes with no dialogue witch let Leslie Shatz layered sound design shine through mixing together Nino Rota, Beethoven, Elliot Smith, obscure whispering and a pop ballad. The music was everything but clithe and created an angelic melody to the skateboarding scenes, the most frightening ticking when Alex is wondering what he should do, and is defiant of cliches when there is the romantic pop ballad playing over the breakup of Alex and Jennifer.

The film is also about adolescent alienation, where after the traumatic event, the pure youthful Alex starts to have doubts about the things that matter to him in life and that all he can think of is the guilt he has boiling inside of him as well as a good aliby to where he was that night. At the start of the film there is an interogation between Alex and Detective Lu and only later on do you find out the legitimacy of the claims. That scene and part of the story have elements that can be traced back to Truffauts The 400 Blows. But that is where the similarity stops this film is Gus van Sant return to a smaller budget, adoslecent conciousness, high school life and brings a new freshness of youth in cinema.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sydney Pollack (1934-2008), 61st Cannes

Sydney Pollack; producer, director and actor, died May 26th. His film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? was part of the catalyst for the new hollywood generation. He directed Paul and Leonard Schrader The Yakuza in 1974, Starred in Woody Allens Husbands and Wives, he won 10 oscars for Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman, He was in Bob Atlmans The Player, he did many films with Robert Redford, He worked alongside Tom Cruise in Stanley Kubrick last movie Eyes Wide Shut and most recently he was in Michael Clayton.

His strength was in acting and getting the actors to stay fresh and truthful through each scene. He was taught under the famed teacher Sandy Meisner. As his roles in different films varied he was always able to renew himself. He will live on in cinephile for his powerful performances and in the great films he directed.


The 61st Cannes film festival finished and the film that won the Palme D`or Laurent Cantet’s “Entre les murs”. This is the first French film to win the prize in 21 years. Benicio Del Toro Won the best actor award for his role as Che Guevara in Steven Soderberg Biopic on the revolutionary. Since I could not have made it this summer due to prior engaments I will have to see the films in theaters when they come to town. Some other note worthy films to look out for that premiered at Cannes are Woody Allens Vicky Cristina Barcelona (they were saying it is going to be his next big hit), Charlie Kaufmans Synecdoche, New York (Anything Charlie Kaufman) , Wim Wenders Palermo Shooting (from the films i have seen, i have to say that Wenders makes some of the most touching and moving films i have ever seen), and Atom Egoyan Adoration (who i have alot a great things about and is Canadian).

ps.. on a other note, WOODY ALLEN AND HIS NEW ORLEANS JAZZ BAND are going to be at the montreal jazz festival Sunday, June 29, 2008 at 7:30 PM and Monday, June 30, 2008 at 7:30 PM, it looks like alot of fun.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Indiana flop Jones, and Charlie my new favorite Kaufman

If you liked the other Indiana Jones, I am sure you will most likely enjoy this movie. All i can say about it is that the there were maybe two great scenes, a nuclear explosion of a small abandoned town (I am sure with how ever much just that one scene cost a dozen much better films could have been made) and the beautiful ending scene that was ruined by the characters talking. There were alot of one liners that were funny to laugh at but it was all to unrealistic and kitschy. You can tell that George Lucas was writing this stuff for his total disrepect for his audience inteligence. The film also had an older generation stench, there was no spirit or youth in this movie. There was not one thing i liked about Cate Blanchett playing the Stalin secret agent Irina Spalko and the youngest actor on the set Shia LaBeouf who plays the greaser seemed contrived. By the end of the movie i was getting really drowsy and was happy it was over.

I found out yesterday that at the world exchange, empire 7 there is a new student promotion where for 11.49 you get your movie ticket and a medium soda and popcorn. All you have to do is showthem your student card at the ticket booth. At this theater here the usual third row seat was to close so we sat in the 5th row, but i would be careful since the drink holder in the middle seat there is broken. The screening was alot of fun I went to the movies with Kat, Pete, Ira, Sara, Leah and Andrew. Ira was bringing forth a more objective view on the film, commenting on the audience a film like this has, the films only qualities is its constant one liners (Russians, they werent you...) and Kat was just thouroughly enjoying the picture laughing and being scared at the right moments, by the end i was resting my eyes a few times to be caught by her telling me to wake up and for myself to say i wasnt sleeping.

On to something more interesting... Charlie Kaufman. A genius. I think this guy so cool!
He is the screenwriter behind Spike Jonze Films being john malkovitch and adaption as well as michel gondry eternal sunshine and human nature.
I watched Adaptation a few days ago and it really got to me. I thought it was tragic Donald Kaufman died. I could not have believed it. On the cover of the dvd at the bottom it says written by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman, at the End of the film there is a message dedicating the film in his loving memory, Donald Kaufman even shared and Oscar for best screenplay and in his filmography it says he wrote an other movie 3. I was convinced and sad to see how he tragically was shot and then flew out of the car window to his death. It ruined my night. But it turns out that Donald was just a fictional character Charlie created to help him finish his film. Once charlie decides he does not know how to finish his film, he brings him in to help him finish the adaptation of the orchid thief. There the movie gets its big ending that Robert McKee the big screenplay Guru was telling him the movie needed. It works perfectly.
The film is compared with Fellinis 8½, Godards Contempt and Truffauts Day for Night for being one the best films about film making. At the beggining he talks about how he beleives a film should be and it is just inspiring. Speaking about how films should be character and motivationaly driven instead of the traditional plot driven. He aims for a free flowing, fragmented narrative and at the same time there is a very formal structure to his film.
His newest film Synecdoche, New York has just premiered at Cannes yesterday and It looks great. From the clips it feels like a New York Woody Allen tale of romanticism and fear of death. Kaufman has cited Woody Allen as an influence on his work, Kaufman being brought up in a Jewish home saw Woody Allen as a person he could aspire to become. I cant wait for his film to come to town.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Indiana Jones what to do

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is premiering tonight in Ottawa. It is playing at 9:30 at Empire 7, World Exchange.

Alright so my last two days were full of turmoil. Wednesday May 21st, it was the morning and I just got to work. I decided to skip getting my usual coffee in the morning since was I running late, i was already 20 minutes late for work. Once at my desk I started looking at a few my regular film blogs.
My first was Roger`s. First off, I have a Love-Hate relationship with his work. When I was first introduced to film criticism, he was the first critic i started to follow. He is the most accessible and I was impressed by his credentials (He is the only film critic to have won a pulitzer price) and he updates his website with his reviews for the chicago sun-times quite regularly. He was born in June 1942 and from what I read in his book Awake in the Dark is that he started going to the movies as a child in the 50s, he then went to university for literature and there he joined several film societies as well he became a film critic for the student paper and from there he moved around jobs until he got to where he is now. He has taught on film studies at the university of Chicago, has his own show previously with Gene Siskel and now with Richard Roeper aswell he has his own film festival.
I used to read his reviews with such passion, I thought it was so cool that there were others people out there that liked these kinds of films and I was so interested in all the different levels of analysis of the films. But that was when i was young, at that time none of my friends were into films and since then I talk about films with almost everyone i know and it is alot more social. As i am reading his reviews now, I note that they are mostly just reviews. He gives good sinopsis of what is going on and gives a bit of history about the director, scrip-writer and the analogies he uses are not very good. I think he is just getting old, his reviews are extremely conventional and i no longer feel any passion behind them.
As i was reading his review for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull i was surprised to read what I did. He gave the film 3,5 out for 4 stars and his comments on the film were overly typical.

I want to point out that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are my least favorite directors from the 70s New Hollywood directors and On top of that their old now so that makes them even more out of touch. George Lucas was the worst and no doubt you can find his name as one of the writers. Those two are the business men of the movie business and in my books as well as others such as Marty and Bob Atlman are the cause for movies to be in the state their in, where the big hollywood blockbusters over rules most attempts for smartter more personal and artistic films. But in reality if Lucas and Spielberg didnt come up with the blockbuster someone else would of. Steven Spielberg breakthrough film was Jaws and then he went on to Close Encounters of a Third Kind with Francois Truffaut, Schindler's List Which I believe is his Masterpiece), E.t., A.I. with Stanley Kubrick, Munich and the Indiana Jones Trilogy­. I say their worst not in regards to if their films are enjoyable or not. In the Early 70s all the New Hollywood directors were hooked by the French New Wave and the Author Theory, that points out that the director is the real star of the film and not the producer, actor or scriptwriter. Marty Scorsese was putting himself in all his pictures through locations (Little Italy) and themes from his own life Francis Copola and his Zoetrope Production Agency was trying to make of films outside of the studio system and making them his own until he ran out of money and had to make The godfather. George Lucas decided that he Wanted to start to make film to play with the audience emotions and when everyone was doing fragmented narratives he decided to use a simple conversative narrative and just focus on the story. After gentrifying the Sci-fi genre. His first Star Wars was the highest Grossing film of all time and since then he decided to follow the film with two sequels and 3 prequels. I believe his films lack creativity and aspiration and just try to recreate their original Success. I believe Stephen Spielberg is doing the same thing with his upcomming Indiana Jones Film. Stephen Spielberg next film is going to be Tintin and I am more looking forward to see that then Indiana Jones

The new Indiana Jones film recently played at Cannes where a critic that was there mentioned that the cheering was alot louder at the beginning of the movie then at the end. There were also people expecting the film to be negatively responded since its a big hollywood blockbuster, but that didnt happen so would that change how you think about the movie.

I feel like i am missing a part of the nostalgia of this film since i have not seen the originals when they first came out and i have not yet seen them. I remember my dad brought the movie to my attention a few months ago and he was really enthuiastic about it. He told me the new film reminds him of his childhood and seen the originals.

At first i was unsure about seeing it, but i decided i was going to for three different reasons. 1) I am sure the movie will be in good fun, 2) It is the premier and interested in seeing whose going and being part of this event, 3) I do not want to not see it and have everyone telling me how good (if it turns out to be the case) over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ira, Sarah and the french new wave

Ira Hardy and Sarah Rush are moving to Vancouver beginning of July. I wish them good luck on everything there.
I recently took this picture of them that I found had a few similarities to the cinematography of Raoul Coutard for Godards A Bout de Souffle.
on Raoul Coutard He is a genius, check him out. He theorizes about photography and cinematography and discusses the french new wave directors.

Check out these blogs:,,

Le cinema de Jacques Tati, Fellini`s Roma at the Bytowne Cinema

I know very little about Jacques Tati`s films. I heard his name quite a few times and read that he was a great influence on newer directors. Leon was telling me that the architecture program had to watch Playtime in their first year to see how Monsieur Hulot interacts with the modern architecture he is confronted with. From what I get Monsieur Hulot is played by Jacques Tati himself and is a returning character in his films.

The Canadian Film Institute are playing five of his films in July at the National Archives Auditorium.

JOUR DE FETE, 1947, Saturday July 5th, 7:00 pm
LES VACANCES DE MONSIEUR HULOT, 1953, Saturday July 12th, 7:00 pm
MON ONCLE, 1958, Saturday July 19th, 7:00 pm
PLAYTIME, 1967, Saturday July 26th, 7:00 pm
TRAFIC, 1971, Saturday August 9th, 7:00 pm

I hope to see you there.

Ps. I decided again that i will no longer be reading film reviews for films i have not yet seen. I have ruined to many surprise endings by doing so, i hope you all follow my lead.

I caught Fellini`s Roma at the bytowne last night and it was a great show. There was a pretty good turnout alot of the seats in the cinema were full. One thing i really enjoy about the theaters is the sense of community it creates. I dont know the people there but when you know there a full theater of people out there like you, who enjoy the same movies it gives you hope that not everyone is into those big hollywood blockbusters and are more interested in smaller more personal and artistic films. I will admit that most people that are there are alot older and they are most likely rewatching these films in the theaters. They have most likely been to the film actual opening in 1972. The actual film stock had a few problems, the film was interupted 3 times, sometimes for a considerable length. This reel has been traveling from theater to theater for the last thirty years and it was definitly missing a few frames.
For some reason i thought Peter Falk was in this film. Maybe i am thinking of Wings of desire.
While watching the movie again I noted a few things i enjoyed. There is the Fellini Cameo that goes on in the middle of the film, the overcharacterization of everyone facial features, the roman food and table manners, roman decadence and the old music halls and movie theaters.
A few technical aspects to note would be the early use of the multilayering of sound. The technology to achieve this had only recently been created and Fellini was one of the first to make it popular. Since then it can be found in the New Hollywood directors such as Martin Scorsese, Robert Atlman and Woody Allen.
What is the movie about.
I thought the film was a subjective view of Rome from its most beloved citizen Federico Fellini (1920-1993). It showed how the city has changed by contrasting the present day 1970s with the early fascist Italy of the early 40s. The city keeps moving forward and evolving while trying to hold on to something from its past. The architecture and the landmarks like the Saint Peter's Square, Ponte Sant'Angelo and the Column of Marcus Aurelius are shown in these really short shots and do not seem to be the focus as much as a backdrop.
When i first saw Roman Holiday all i could think about was driving around Rome in a Vespa scooter during the day, now after i saw Roma I want to bike around on a Motorcycle into the night.

Ps. I am getting into the habit of seeing Leslie working there monday and i would want to note to my readers to congratulate her on her new place and hope everything goes well with her new roommate Amber, i could not have made it to the Party but I was imformed that it was fun.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Stanley Kubrick

I will try to write a summary on Stanley Kubrick, with an examination on two of his better known films 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Ne touchez pas la hache

Ne touchez pas la hache (Canadian Title:The Duchess of Langeais)
Director: Jacques Rivette, 2007

I went to go see this film because of the director. If you wikipedia French New Wave, the prominent group of french critics turned to director from the 60s who asserted that the true star of the film is the director (auteur theory), you will see Rivette up on the list with some of my other favorite directors Godard, Truffaut and Rohmer (This blogs name has its root in a series of film Rohmer directed, les contes moraux). This was the first film i saw made by Rivette, so i can not compare it with any other of his works and i am not to familiar with Balzac the early 19th century french writer known for founding realism in European literature.

The film is about the relationship between Antoinette de Langeais (Jeanne Balibar) and Armand de Montriveau (Guillaume Depardieu) in the 1820s in Paris. Antoinette is married to a man who is of a high social status but is never home. Armand just returned from fighting for France where he was tortured and endured alot to be able to get back. The two of them get back and there is a connection between the two and they start to see each other regularly for him to tell her about his experiences and to go to the ball. Because of her social status he can never be really hers. She is married and in a world where etiquette and appearances are everything all they have are their opportunities to talk with each other­. He pursues her, she then pursues him and then he pursues her. I havent studied Balzac nor am i going to pretand to have, so i will leave that as the review.

The film is brought into the 1820s by mentioning Bonaparte who was the ruler of France at the time, all the lighting in the film comes from natural sources (i.e. candles and sunlight), the costumes and sets were lavish, extravangant typical of the French upper class of the time, carriages, the social rules and norms placed on by society, and the presence of the church.

The film was beautifully shot, i was blown away by how the film seemed perfectly natural and realistic. The film was shot with only natural lighting so most scenes were in low-key lighting using candles as the sources and the sound only came from synchronous sources where at the dance balls that were going on there was an actual band performing classical pieces. The use of realistic sound made everything more believable. The scene at the Castle by the sea you would have a fly buzzing around and seagulls making noise. Everything made you feel like you were really there.

The ending was reminded me of the end of Contempt (Godard 1963) where the camera pans over the ocean and sky.

4 out 4 stars.

I just found out their playing Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and A Clockwork Orange (1971) at the mayfair monday May 5th-6th and Alain Resnais Coeurs (2006) on 7th and 8th.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

At the movies

Friday May 2nd, 9:00 Ne touchez pas la hache, Jacques Rivette 2007, Bytowne Cinema
Saturday May 3rd, 7:00 The Sacrifice, Andrei Tarkovsky 1986, National Archives Auditorium
Monday May 19th, 8:30 Fellini's Roma, Federico Fellini 1972, Bytowne Cinema
Monday May 22nd, 9:20 Blood Simple., Joel Coen 1984, Bytowne Cinema
Thursday May 29th, 9:20 Paranoid Park, Gus Van Sant 2007, Bytowne Cinema
Monday June 2nd, 9:05 Belle De Jour, Luis Buñuel 1967, Bytowne Cinema
Monday June 9th, 9:15 Touch of Evil, Orson Welles 1958, Bytowne Cinema
Friday June 13th, 7:05 My Blueberry Nights, Kar Wai Wong 2007, Bytowne Cinema
Monday June 16th, 9:00 Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese 1976, Bytowne Cinema

National Archives Auditorium, 395 Wellington Street
ByTowne Cinema, 325 Rideau Street