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)