Monday, December 28, 2009

Celebrating Altruism

A Christmas Carol (Robert Zemeckis, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)


(SilverCity Gloucester, 2385 City Park Drive)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

See You January

January Listings

Bytowne Cinema
Swimming Pool (François Ozon, 2003) 11/01 & 12/01.
The Killer (John Woo, 1989) 27/01 - 28/01.
Red Cliff (John Woo, 2008) 29/01 - 2/02.

The Mayfair Theatre
Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) 9/01 - 11/01.
Battleship Potempkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925) 15/01.
Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008) 15/01 - 17/01, 20/01 & 21/01.
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009) 28/01 & 29/01.
The Shaolin Temple (Xinyan Zhang, 1982) 29/01.
Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (James Cameron, 1981) 30/01.

Saturday Night Sinema: Cannibalism Cult

Man from Deep River (Umberto Lenzi, 1972)
*** (A Must-See)


(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 26/12)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Industrial Militarist Indignant

Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)
** (Worth Seeing)


In James Cameron's Avatar there is the presentation of a utopian traditional culture deeply rooted in nature, and because of globalization and militarism through the humans attempt to exploit the land for a valuable resource, the tranquility of the land and its residents will be wounded. An important driving force of the film is the protagonist Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) physical disability. Due to a military battle wound he is now a para-pelagic. This not only presents Jakes motivation to have a avatar-clone but provides the context of personal tolls in large-scale conflict and it bring up class differences as Jakes social and financial position prevents him from getting the operation that could restore his legs.

This is a really interesting hybrid film due to its layering of analog and media, use of performance capture technology, and being in 3-D. I was entertained watching Avatar, its visual flairs such as the aweinspiring alien world and the sensational climax à la Titanic crash were terrific but the film is severely devalued by its banal narrative with repeated clichés and predictability.-David Davidson

(SilverCity Gloucester, 2385 City Park Drive)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Orson's Mercury Theatre Production

Me and Orson Welles (Richard Linklater, 2008)
**** (Masterpiece)



(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Recommended Reading: 2009 Canada Survey (and my 10 best films of 2009 list)


Overview of this years Canadian Cinema
By David Davidson


International Film Guide 2009: The Definitive Annual Review of World Cinema
Edited by Ian Haydn Smith
Wallflower Press, 2009

I was late to pick up the International Film Guide 2009 which came out in March. The IFG is a high standard publication that overviews almost every film-producing country. The Canadian survey by the expert local correspondent, Tom McSorley, showcases both populist and esoteric films while missing a few targets. However, I am still at odds with what exactly this is an overview of. If it is an overview of Canadian films released in 2009, wouldn’t the publication early in the year prevent the writer from knowing what exactly is going to be released? If it is an overview of Canadian films released in 2008, how come these films, if released at all, only got a distribution this year?

To define Canadian film and Canadian cinema I am including the following personal definitions. A Canadian film is: "a film whose creative vision (e.g. director, scriptwriter) is dictated by a long-term Canadian resident." The Canadian-ness is relative to its presentation of a Canadian citizen experience at a particular time on our fine Canadian soil. Canadian Cinema – this is geography specific – are Canadian films that are projected on local screens with a regular audience. If I cannot see the film, I would not classify it in the Canadian film canon. Canadian cinema living in Ottawa, Ontario – the capital city of Canada – is defined by the projections at the Bytowne Cinema, the Mayfair Theatre, the Library and Achieves Canada, or the Empire 7. Gatineau 9, which plays French dubbed or subtitled Hollywood films, elliptically receives French-Canadian films that do not get screened at the other film theatres (e.g. J'ai Tué Ma Mère). An adventurous cinéphile can always go to Montreal or Toronto to see films that do not get a local distribution. As well there is the second-rate video substitute, if that is even available.

The IFG Canadian survey brings up many familiar mainstream films and some non-distributed films while lacking a few noteworthy Canadian films and institutions. There is no mention of Xavier Dolan’s J'ai Tué Ma Mère which was a huge commercial and critical success at the Cannes film festival and in the province of Québec. The most important Ottawa Filmmaker Lee Gordon Demarbre in this year alone released two films Smash Cut and Summer’s Blood. Finally there is no mention of Canadian film festivals (e.g. Nouveau Cinema, Fantasia, TIFF) as being great showcases for the many independently financed Canadian films. These exclusions are only a few squabbles in what is a condensed overview in an exhaustive guide to world cinema.


*****


This year has been my first entire year of film reviewing and documenting. Last year in May, I started Ottawa Film Review. My writing from 2008 was a trial run for the structure and writing that I would produce this year. Realizing the hegemony of Hollywood movies on our culture – much thanks to the writing of film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum – my affinities this year was a reaction against the mainstream which led towards a discovery of more personal and rich films.

The first four films on my list; Skidlove, Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis, Smash Cut, and Adoration, are by Canadian filmmakers. This shift towards independent Canadian films emphasize being more attuned to the works of local filmmakers. This summer I was even captured on Super 8 celluloid in my friend Scott Birdwise submission in the IFCO Dogme 95 challenge. But not all Canadian films are worth promoting. The Necessities of Life and One Week, two heavily advertised “good” Canadian films, were entirely forgettable. I have yet to seen J'ai Tué Ma Mère, but I think if I had, it would have been included on my list. A non-contender is Guy Maddin’s National Film Board commercials Night Mayor, which are terrific surreal period explorations of the start of the NFB, as well I still anticipate maybe one day seeing his short Send Her to the Electric Chair which screened at the Rotterdam film festival.

Two Lovers and A Serious Man, are terrific films which mean a lot to me as I can identify with their Jewish protagonist and how they relate to the world and history.

I thought Waltz with Bashir was the best national film that came out this year. Other notable contenders include Youssef Chahine’s final film Le Chaos, Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophète, and Laurent Cantet’s Entre les Murs, and Ramin Bahrani's Goodbye Solo.

The Limits of Control is, for me, the best recession film with its concern of alternative lifestyles and preoccupations to counter balance the dominating capitalist worldview held in the United States. Other important recession films include Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story and Kelly Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy.

Tetro is Francis Ford Coppola latest film and the filmmaking is revelatory. Other exciting films include Spike Jonze’s furry Where the Wild Things Are, Wes Anderson’s stop motion Fantastic Mr. Fox, Werner Herzog's head trip The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, Judd Apatow's personal Funny People, and Chan-wook Park’s maniac Thirst.

The final spot on my list goes to Frank Cole’s Life Without Death which screening and book launch, Life without Death: The Cinema of Frank Cole, was organized by the Canadian Film Institute. The film changed my perception on Canadian film history and personal filmmaking. This might not have been a 2009 release but the reason for its inclusion is that I rather incorporate Frank Cole's work then this years Frank Cole documentary The Man Who Crossed the Sahara.

Finally I have to add that the most important cinema related event in Ottawa was the reopening of the Mayfair Theatre last January. It is such a pleasure to see programming that express a passion and love for movies anew every month. With eclectic taste and original showtimes the Mayfair Theatre redefined cinema experiences in this town.-David Davidson

The Ten Best Films of 2009 (in no particular order)
1. Skidlove (Ryan Arnold, 2009)
2. Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis (Daïchi Saïto, 2009)
3. Smash Cut (Lee Demarbre, 2009)
4. Adoration (Atom Egoyan, 2008)
5. Two Lovers (James Gray, 2008)
6. A Serious Man (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2009)
7. Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman, 2008)
8. The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009)
9. Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola, 2009)
10. Life Without Death (Frank Cole, 2000)

Inherent Vice

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)


Werner Herzog is really doing something interesting in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans. This iguana-child film is somewhere between dream-like and high off of too much coke. The shift from realism to stylishness, heady camera movements, drug infused episodes (which are elliptic and brief, like the 15 minute euphoria you would get from doing cocaine), and with the blundering protagonist contribute to a dazed-like feeling. As well, Nicolas Cage camp performance provokes laughter and giddiness which is an element of being stoned after smoking marijuana.-David Davidson

(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 4/12 - 10/12)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Leering at Decadence

The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
**** (Masterpiece)


(Cinéma du Parc, 3575 Parc Avenue, Montreal, PQ)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hanukkah December Projections

December Listings

Bytowne Cinema
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009) 4/12 - 10/12.

The Mayfair Theatre
Bad Lieutenant (Abel Ferrara, 1992) 4/12 & 6/12.
The Inglorious Bastards (Enzo G. Castellari, 1978) 11/12 - 12/12 & 16/12 - 17/12.
Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988) 19/12 - 20/12.
Man from Deep River (Umberto Lenzi, 1972) 26/12.

Cinéma du Parc
The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942) 2/12 - 3/12.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recommended Reading: Tom McSorley on The Adjuster


Clearing Up the Adjuster
By David Davidson

Atom Egoyan's: The Adjuster By Tom McSorley, 128 pp.,University of Toronto Press, $16.95.

Tom McSorley’s new book is a revealing examination of Atom Egoyan’s fourth feature The Adjuster (1991). McSorley describes The Adjuster as “a dark drama about the complex and intense relationships between an insurance adjuster and his clients”. As the executive director of the Canadian Film Institute in Ottawa, Tom McSorley ,in the last couple of years, has helped program screenings at the Library and Archives Canada of Atom Egoyan’s first and latest feature: Next of Kin (1984), and Adoration (2008). The Canadian Cinema series, published by the University of Toronto Press, goal is to “bring scholarly reflection on Canadian cinematic tradition and contemporary Canadian film”.

McSorley’s monograph on The Adjuster begins with a short history of Canadian cinema. The turning point is 1982 with the Capital Cost Allowance (CCA). This lead to the post-tax shelter generation of Canadian filmmakers who would spearhead a creative resurgence in national film. The Toronto Festival of Festivals - now more commonly known as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) - emphasis on Canadian content (e.g., “The Northern Light”, “Perspective Canada”) was a launch pad for the Toronto New Wave filmmakers emerging work, with Atom Egoyan at the frontline. McSorley thematically connects The Adjuster with Egoyan’s first three films Next of Kin, Family Viewing (1987) and Speaking Parts (1989) emphasizing the formers continuity, its Cinemascope widescreen, and growing international attention. The analysis of the film is illuminating. Specifically its examination of the fire motif, Michelangelo Antonioni’s influence, the absurdist tradition, and finally pinpointing what exactly is the integral aspect of The Adjuster viewing experience. The quality of not knowing.

Tom McSorley’s monograph on The Adjuster came out in early September and feels really fresh with its references to Adoration that was just released this year. The book launch at the 2009 TIFF, programming of The Adjuster as part of the festivals “Open Vault” retrospective, and an upcoming film Chloe emphasize Atom Egoyan strong oeuvre that has consistently been getting more international attention and quality appraisals. If you have not yet seen The Adjuster, it is well worth seeing. If you want to better appreciate it and understand its role in the context of Canadian cinema, read this book.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Modern French Cinema

Un Prophète (Jacques Audiard, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)


Jacques Audiard's Un Prophète story follows 19-year-old Malik El Djebena in prison as he cunningly works his way up through the hierarchy of a Corsican crime syndicate. Audiard claims that the film aims at "creating icons, images for people who don't have images, the Arabs in France", and he does so in a gripping prison-crime-thriller. Comparing it to other recent foreign language thrillers examining the relationship between crime and business; Slumdog Millionaire (2008)and Gomorra (2008), it stands out by being more visually inovative and stylish. The length allows for a greater examination of the multifaceted issues while avoiding easy simplifcations.-David Davidson

(Canadian Film Institute, Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, 28/11, 7:00PM)

Splendid Melancholy

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)


Wes Anderson's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox, co-written with Noah Baumbach, is a splendid and wistful yarn. Mr. Fox and Mrs. Fox unhappy marriage, with their child Ash, an annoying runt, is the catalyst for Mr. Fox's mid-life crisis. He buys a new house; that he can not afford, is unhappy as a journalist, and regresses back to an instinctual bestiality and theft. The marriage between the Foxes is underlined with regret, and their son Ash is always being devalued. The animation is well done and there is a lot of attention given to small details (e.g., decorated apples, Mrs. Fox thunderstorm landscapes etc.), but I feel that George Clooney as the voice of Mr. Fox is a terrible miscast. That guy really irks me.-David Davidson

(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Angry and Provoking

The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972)
**** (Masterpiece)


(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 20/11)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Smash Cut

A butchered "300 word" version of this capsule was published in the Volume 70, Issue 14 of the University of Ottawa student paper the Fulcrum. They were even able to cut out any mention of Sasha Grey, one of the prized eye candy of the film. However, I am happy Smash Cut is getting a lot of recognition, especially best 2009 film by a local filmmaker in the Ottawa Expres.-D.D.

Smash Cut (Lee Demarbre, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)



Lee Demarbre’s Smash Cut, from a screenplay by Ian Driscoll, is an entertaining Ottawa gore film which just had its world premiere Saturday July 18th in Montreal at the Fantasia Film Festival. Both dark and jovial, the plot follows a local filmmaker Able Whitman (David Hess), acting as a surrogate for Lee Demarbre, and its concerns are the inconveniences and compromise that filmmakers creating a collaborative art have to deal with.

The film starts off with Herschell Gordon Lewis, a low-budget gore filmmaker who spawned the genre in the 1960s, warning the viewers “that filmmaking is a blood sport” and that the content of the film is sure to shock. Herschell Gordon Lewis films Blood Feast (1963), Color Me Blood Red (1965), and The Gore Gore Girls (1972) were some direct influences on the film . His films were filled with gruesome murders, evisceration, and half-clad women victims. Blood Feast starred Connie Mason, from the centerfold of playboy magazine, which is now being paralleled with Sasha Grey who comes from the adult entertainment industry. But his style was invisible, with very little camera movement and a texture that resembled b-exploitation-movies of the era, unprofessional acting, implausible shlock stories, always bright lighting which consisted of a bursting comic-book color palette with flashy hues of blue, red, pink and orange, and moods which were more fun than morbid.

Smash Cut's camera work, by the cinematographers Jean-Denis Ménard and Karl Roeder, is intensely modern, it was shot on a high resolution RED digital camera, with steady cam shots bringing you into the action, close-ups on the dismantlement’s, intricate long shots as well as a mixing up of medias including shots from the perspective of the cameras view-finder, and a short interposition of a monochromatic silent film. The original music, and sound mixing, by Micheal Dubue creates a mood of eeriness and suspence. One scene that stays in mind occurs when the camera follows Able Whitman from his car arriving at the Bytowne Cinema on Rideau Street, past the posters, one of The Dead Sleep Easy (Lee Demarbre, 2007), up the marquee, through a window, and into the projection booth.

Smash cut begins with Abel Whitman presenting his lastest picture, the audience pans the film, denounces its artificiality of a detached eye-ball. For his next picture, Abel, will remove the eyes of a victim with a medical knife, in a sequence that is even more nauseating then the eye slicing in Un Chien Andalou. Then he goes to a bar and drinks his problems away, gets a dance from a stripper named Gigi (Jennilee Murray), and then leaves with her. Driving home, she surprises him by returning her regular fee, but an unsuspecting incoming automobile sidetracks him off of the street where he hits a tree. She dies. The accidental murder of the women, a fleeting career, and frustration towards an audience that is not receptive to his work brings him to a nervous breakdown. What unfolds is a murderous escapade; he has now an insatiable desire to murder and to use the corpses in his film. As precocious as the Nietzscheans in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948). The body parts make everything, well the gore at least, in his new film of a murdering toy all the more realistic and believable, allowing him to get more grants, a major distribution, which pleased his producer Philip Farmsworth Jr. (Michael Berryman), and awe from his peers.

One unnoted dept Smash Cut might owe would be too Warren Beatty’s Bulworth (1998). Abel Whitman’s nervous breakdown and then ravage lunacy parallels the plight of Sen. Jay Billington Bulworth where after realizing his vanishing presence as a political candidate he decides put a contract out on himself and then starts to blurt out truth’s denouncing the system hypocrisies. With every prod to the current political organization, the more powerful his following becomes. Which is similar to the aggrandizing of Abel as his film is consecutively improving.

The only potential problem the film poses is it lack of a message. What does this film have to say about the world we live in? Able Whitman while in a room preparing to get government funds is asked by an artist what kind of film is he making, her answer was that she will be using the money to decry the passivity that arise from televisions, and then he tells her his film will be a sojourn in the macabre, then knocks her out, slowly tortures her, depletes her blood into a canister and finally lashes it onto the star of his new film April Carson (Sasha Grey). April is Gigi’s sister, the murdered stripper, who is on a editorial pursuit, along with a investigator Isaac Beaumonde (Jesse Buck), to relocate her.

Ian Driscoll script has Shakespearian touches, in particular Hamlet which Abel Whitman comments as being as precursor horror film. The investigator Isaac eventually catches on to what Abel has been doing and puts on a a re-enactment of Abel Whitmans murder of the movie critic Gretchen Gregorski (Guen Douglas) paralleling the same device Hamlet uses on Claudius, though comically done with paper masks and a pretend stabbing with a knife that never makes contact.

Many simple pleasures that arise from the film are the locations and people, starting off with the Car Wash on Catherine Street, the repertoire cinema’s Bytowne and the Mayfair, the National Art Gallery of Canada setting, and alongside the Rideau Canal. This viewer’s only problem arose when Abel Whitman decides to murder one of the film’s producers with a Harpoon, he is asked where he got the Harpoon, and before plummeting him with it, he answers at the Harpoon store. For as this lifetime Ottawa, Ontario, resident knows there are no Harpoon stores here! As well there are a few cameos of a few friends that would have no other opportunity to be immortalities on film including Layla Brown, Lesley Marsland (both from the Bytowne Cinema) and Michael Dubue (In the band the Hilotrons, and Mayfair Theatre) as well as a few Ottawa Famous figures including Guen Douglas (Planet Ink Studios), Jennilee Murray and Phil Caracas (The Harry Knuckles trilogy, and Bytowne Cinema).

The communal midnight screening experience was very lively. Including a waiting line that went around the corner, a practically packed house at the Théâtre Hall at Concordia (1455 de Maisonneuve O.), loud cheers, burst of laughter, comments, and a receptive question and answer period. With popcorn, and soda everyone was in the mood for a good time. The Q & A session afterwards was very enlightening with Lee Demarbre, Ian Driscoll, Sasha Grey and David Hess. Lee Demarbre was his usual enthusiastic self, Sasha Grey, who is 21 years old, (her next film is Steven Soderbergh The Girlfriend Experience) seemed rather reserved when she was not speaking, and finally the Sanford Meisner protégé and acting veteran, David Hess (The Last Hill on the Left) seems to exert both levity and the knowledge of old age. All cohorts played off of each other like a perfect pitch tune.

During the Q & A session, David Hess contextualized the midnight movie phenomenon. He commented on how back then, New York City in the 1960’s, nobody knew who was directing the pictures. When an audience would go to see a midnight movie, their usual routine for the night would involve getting high off marijuana and then watch a lurid seedy picture. The director of the picture remained unanimous, and even though he knew personally Hershell Gordon Levis, he commented on how he still had to be re-introduced to him later through his films.

The conditions were both open and social as Lee Demarbre seemed to be an incarnation of what it means to be a film enthusiast for the people of Ottawa (Full disclosure: I am an avid enjoyer of Lee Demarbre films and with Rachel Leblanc I have made a short documentary on him, you can find it if you youtube; cult fiction lee demarbre). His flamboyant repertoire programming at the Mayfair Theatre (1074 Bank Street) got many local residents to make the pilgrimage to go see the world premiere of Smash Cut in Montreal. When the questions started, some of them were from extras from the movie, others thanking him for the great movies playing at the cinema and wannabe screenwriters asking him for advice. Make sure to go see this one when it gets its local release because this film is well worth checking out.-David Davidson

(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 20/11)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Montreal Experimental Cinema

Alchemical Illumination (Double Negative Collective, 2004-2009)
*** (A Must-See)


The Double Negative Collective has been a fluctuating group of experimental filmmakers who reside in Montreal. Scott Birdwise the programmer at the CFI organized another Café eX event of experimental cinema which was a unique experience and produced a particular state of mind in a community setting.

The collective works were very strong but I want to single out one candidate whose work had the most gloss and polish. A remarkable sight and sound virtuoso Daïchi Saïto's two of his seven short films played. They were dazzling symposiums of images and noises and their pacing left one out of breath. All That Rises (2007) a seven minute film juxtaposing footage from an alleyway with a black screen focuses on what is shown and consequently with what isn't. The manufactured and urban setting of the latter is a contrast to Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis (2009). An evolved ten minute work in a tranquil forest setting the film is both a return to nature and a colorful painting of light. With Malcolm Goldstein contrapuntal score these works were very compelling. Through Daïchi's collisions of images and rapid-fire editing these two screenings provided visceral pleasures similarly associated with other long-take deconstructionist such as Guy Maddin and Sergei Eisenstein.-David Davidson

(Club SAW, Café eX, 67 Nicholas Street, November 5th)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

DVD Watching November Confinement

November Listings

The Mayfair Theatre
Smash Cut (Lee Demarbre, 2009) 20/11.
The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972) 20/11.
The Polar Express (Robert Zemeckis, 2004) 28/11.
Double Agent 73 (Doris Wishman, 1974) 28/11.

Canadian Film Institute
Un prophète (Jacques Audiard, 2009) 28/11.

Friday, October 30, 2009

On Skidlove, Canadian Mumblecore

Skidlove (Ryan Arnold, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)


Skidlove, which is slang for passionate affection between disenfranchised youths, tells the story of a twenty-something painter Ryan Arnold and his attempt to kindle a relationship with the girl, Jaymee Keith, that he likes. The two meet and hook up in a expositional long montage with a daze-like score. They soon start to go out after some initial reluctance from Jayme. Her reluctance springs from her hidden occupation of selling her bottled urine and menstrual blood on the black market. The buyer of her excretions personally inhales in rapture her goods. This is the love triangle.

Ryan, a struggling artist, typically does not have too much money to throw around. His restaurant job with accompanied meager wage and intermittent painting sales awards him his spare luxuries. His dinner consist of Ramen noodles, he drinks Pabst Blue Ribbon, and leads a relatively lackluster life, but he is happy. He lives, works, and sleeps around his studio. This is where he appears to be the most comfortable and open. He discredits photography in its inability to capture experiences and as a corrupting form of recollection. In his paintings either the ones he is working on or if they are just in the background his life experiences, memories, and emotions abstractly arise in them.

Ryan Arnold and director of photography, Chris Clifford, paint a beautiful surface with colorful light and darkness. Scene's that stick out include Ryan walking at night in a purple hued treescape, the dank and gritty Toronto downtown streets look the way that they feel and Ryan gratifyingly and mournfully biking around. While the cinematography around train tracks reminds the viewer of other existential tales such as Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D (1954) and Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot Le Fou (1965). Isolated contemplative close-ups demonstrate the close relationship between actor and the cameraman.

Ryan is charismatic, upbeat and pleasant with his friends and girlfriend. In conversations he comes off as sly and funny. His magnetism when dented with failure brings out even more human qualities as it leads to personal re-evaluations. He represents the 21st century emerging adult. He bikes around the city, walks unfazed down sidewalks, and earnestly busses table at a restaurant.

Jaymee's living is dictated by her output of urine, menstrual blood, and soiled underwear. The monetary gains of such simple, and discusting, demands are an easy way out of having to work. This form of comprise and moral adjustment is a result of her encounters with the black market dealer Roger Bainbridge. He is disgusting, violent, crude, sadism and perversions. He is the source of many gross outs and a painfully needling experience. His leaching onto the already troubled couple is a parable about the negative and corrupting effects of living in a large city. Roger tries to purchase Jaymee ease and affection while Ryan emotionally wins her over through perseverance. What makes up this film is the choices, habits, resiliency embodied by the diffident protagonist.–David Davidson

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Judaism + Nihilism

A Serious Man (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2009)
**** (Masterpiece)


(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Exam Studying Procrastination

Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)


(SilverCity Gloucester, 2385 City Park Drive)

Meditation on Life and Death

Life Without Death (Frank Cole, 2000)
**** (Masterpiece)


(Canadian Film Institute, Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, 17/10 & 18/10)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Late Night Stylish Vampire Picture

Thirst (Chan-wook Park, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)


(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 16/10 - 18/10 & 21/10 - 22/10)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Nine-o'clock Movie Anticipating Hanekeland

Shocker (Wes Craven, 1989)
** (Worth Seeing)


(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 12/10)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Free Market Tribute

Capitalism: A Love Story (Michael Moore, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)



Documentary activist filmmaker Michael Moore`s Capitalism : A Love Story sets out to do a historical analysis on the current financial collapse. The aim being to create a cause and effect relationship in the United States of America from the Great Depression to the current Recession in regards to the effects and evolution of its socio-economic system.

The Franklyn D. Roosevelt administration (1933-1945) started in the Great Depression. A era of deprivations and rationing. In face of a turbulent landscape with social need insufficiencies president Roosevelt, in an important historical artifact, addressed the nation in a call for a “second Bill of Rights” proposing to insure the rights for a job, equitable pay and health care. The bill was never enacted.

In the post-war era, with the Harry S. Truman administration (1945-1953) and the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration (1953-1961), was the turning point for productivity, industrialization and development. These objective conditions were a result of the destroyed Eurasia infrastructure and accelerated government spending during the war. The destroyed German and Japanese nations were unable to participate in an international market which led to the booming American manual labor industry. The Marshall plan helped create new European countries progressive Bill of Rights. Germany and Japan reached an industrial level and started to have an innovative and competitive automobile industry. Their emergence on the international market had an adverse effect on the supply of American jobs. The negative effects of free-market capitalism took place which lead to General Motors cutting jobs. Flint, Michigan has been greatly devastated by the job loss of the closing of the General Motor factories which Mr. Moore explores further in his first documentary Roger & Me (1989).

Partly autobiographical, home videos of Mr. Moore`s childhood are woven throughout. Joyously bathing in the revolutionary and progressive spirit of capitalism of its day. Videos include his families touchstone moments of 1960 white middle class suburbia life. His father Frank Moore, an automotive assembly-line worker, was an employee at one of the now defunct manufacturing plants. Which he reflects upon with Michael when the two returns to its remains. He ruminates about the joys of working at the factory in a team.

The Ronald Regan era (1981-1989) shifted the American political-economic-social spectrum towards corporate sponsorship and reduced business regulations. In the third millennium the employment, wages, and healthcare of the working class has been decreasing and there is a 1% financial elite. To explore these relationships between individuals and society there are humanizing cases which he shows to represent the personal effects of larger economical and social shifts. There is an enduring concern for the difficulties of the working people and suffering population.

Capitalism : A Love Story is valuable in its ability to teach and inform. However it is guilty of facetious comparisons, manipulative filming, boorish antics, and an inability to come to a conclusion. Catholicism, through select preachers, also do some deriding. Mr. Moore opportunistically lavishes them with opportunities to scorn the most certainly atheistic Wall Street bankers. This gets tiring really quickly. Interest include underlining jobs of the lowly service workers which are created by capitalism. The positions include a carpenter who boards up houses, a sign salesman that specialized in foreclosures and guards that are always pushing Mr. Moore aside. The psychological implications of their occupations are interesting. Ultimately, a criticism of the profit system is still noteworthy at any cost and this documentary is sure to inform and broaden one’s mind to the context of the world we live in. It is a great opposition to inferior popular media coverage and press publications which regrettably dominate our culture.–David Davidson

(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Frank Cole Retrospective

A Life (Frank Cole, 1986)
**** (Masterpiece)


(Canadian Film Institute, Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, October 3rd)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

October Horrors and Shrills

October Listings

Bytowne Cinema
The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio De Sica, 1948) 2/10 - 08/10.
Le Silence de Lorna (Dardenne Brothers, 2008) 9/10 - 13/10.
La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960) 21/10 - 22/10.

The Mayfair Theatre
Il Divo (Paolo Sorrentino, 2008) 2/10 - 4/10 & 7/10.
The Dead Zone (David Cronenberg, 1983) 5/10.
Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975) 9/10.
The Killer (John Woo, 1989) 10/10 & 11/10.
Shocker (Wes Craven, 1989) 12/10.
Thirst (Chan-wook Park, 2009) 16/10 - 18/10 & 21/10 - 22/10.
The Cabinet of Dr.Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920) 16/10.
Faust (F.W. Murnau, 1926) 23/10.
Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931) 31/10.

Canadian Film Institute
A Life (Frank Cole, 1986) 3/10.
Life Without Death (Frank Cole, 2000) 17/10 & 18/10.

Companionship and Recitations

Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009)
* (Has redeeming facets)


The paradox of Jane Campion’s period-costume film Bright Star is in its inability to mesh sight and sound. When its auditory dialogue is at its peak there is nothing worth looking at and when the visuals reach an insurmountable beauty there is nothing worth hearing.

True emotion is the focus of these sparse and brief scenes of John Keats (Ben Whishaw) reciting his poem “Ode to a Nightingale” to Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish) and when they are enjoying each other companionship through subtle gestures, particularly his sentimental down looking, and light physical contact involving the two holding hands. Emphasizing the cathartic benefits and warmth of relationships.

The film does not truly raise above the comfortable-world-cinema middlebrow with its pandering to the baby boomer generation sensibilities. Particularly with its focus on love in face of physical illness as John Keats dies of tuberculosis, a pristine white bourgeois family with primarily no concerns except a remedy for a broken heart, and finally with its familiar and twice-told grasping of a sociological clash of a relationship being formed by two members of opposite economic stratums.

Its treatment of the role of women in society and self-expression and devaluation of John Keats poetry, which is now considered a key figure of Victorian Romantic poetry, is interesting. But all in all the film leaves one disappointed.-David Davidson

(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 25/09 - 08/10)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Subsection of the Corrupt and Mundane American Corporation Topography

The Informant! (Steven Soderbergh, 2009)
** (Worth Seeing)


(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Praising Silence

The General (Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton, 1926)
**** (Masterpiece)


The Railrodder (Gerald Potterton, 1965)
*** (A Must-See)


(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 17/09)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Beautifully Brooding and Energetic

Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)



In Francis Ford Coppola's new film Tetro, two brothers, Tetro (Vincent Gallo), who leads a bohemian lifestyles waking up late, idylls at cafes and casually does the lights at a theate; and Bennie (Alden Ehrenreich), who has been working on a crew-ship. They reunite in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to discuss their dismay paternal issues and mothers death while try to attribute all of these issues to a play they are writing. His screenplay, the first since "The Conversation" in 1974, drifts around recurring themes about brotherly obligations, love and ambivalence. The anguished artist Tetro is a celebration of angst and paralysis, he even is introduced with crutches, some scenes are not fully developed and fade to black before the action, while the eventual twist seems more as a surprise device then it fulfills any developmental purposes. But these criticisms aside the story rings of personal truth and the autobiographical elements make attributing these characters to their Coppola counterparts one part of its many charms.

The theme of family pressure on outstanding individuals, Tetro is referred to as once being a genius, can be seen as the pressure’s that motivated Mr.Coppola into creating his 21st feature. Tetro debates about what is the good of a work of art and the corrupting gaze of the both the media and the critics. One touching examples of this is when Tetro, not wanting to attend a festival that is putting on his new play “Wander Lust”, talks to Miranda about the superficialities of success and about sharing his happiness with her. While later he talks to his brother Bennie about bringing up memories and experiences out in the creative process as a way to come to terms with distressing events. Finally he eschews the important South-American critic Alone (Carmen Maura) who after a failing publicity stunt cuts out the lights and cameras and walks away unfazed.

The film is a new arc in Mr. Coppola career, with Youth Without Youth in 2007, full of late style and artistic renewal. It’s ostensible characters; Bennie is 17, Tetro looks like he is in his 30s, his gorgeous wife Miranda (Maribel Verdú), and a myriad of colorful characters are all full of life and bustling with energy. Fully taking advantage of their physiques there are some stark nude scenes between Tetro and Miranda where just her curves are illuminated, and there is a hedonistic threesome in a bubble bath between Bennie and his two leading ladies. The frame is beautifully put together focusing on picaresque diversions including drinking coffee, folding clothes, watching neighboring strangers on the street, playing with a puppy, hanging out in apartments, and being at a theater. Broken up long scenes might at first be distracting but as it progresses it achieves an originality of its own. Shot in widescreen black and white by Mihai Malaimare Jr. the film beautifully exposes a variety of interesting local sights including the neighboring urban space outside of and inside Tetro’s cosmopolitan apartment, a waterside scene of the large crew ship Bennie debarked off of, and on a road trip passing by the Patagonian mountains. Throughout extended moments of silence the films score by Walter Murch comes in with its hypnotizing sweeps.

There are short interludes, which create very energizing filmmaking. To expand on episodes and emotions there are short theatrical choreographed dance sequence shot in color, as are the flashbacks, that perfectly utilizes bright colors for expressive emotional effects with an angelic hymn with what sounds like fluttering wing flapping. It has a hypnotizing effect. The dance hall sequences aesthetic hawks back to the opera stage performances of The Godfather: Part III and further to the original Italian cinemeastro Federico Fellini whose music hall sequences were a key element in defining this style in such films as Nights of Cabiria and Amarcord.

When the two brothers discuss, Bennie brings up how he really enjoyed as a child when Tetro exposed him to Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger's The Red Shoes and The Tales of Hoffmann. A dance sequence from the film is inserted and is later reiterated surreally by Mr.Copola with floating clocks, body parts, pigments, etc. To demonstrate the cathartic capacities dance can have. There are two indelible scenes witch focus on a women dancing. A flashback where Tetro's father Carlo Tetrocini (Klaus Maria Brandauer), a famous conductor, steals his own son’s girlfriend from him and gets her to give him a dance at a dinner surrounded by all of Tetro's friends, and later when Miranda who is in her spandex one-piece workout suit after a few simple stretches starts to dance for Bennie and then gets an insulting screaming when Tetro shortly gets home. This moment of jealousy is only of the many reverberating themes that arises and dissipates throughout the film which makes this a work of vast complexities and richness.-David Davidson

(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 11/09 - 15/09)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Against Greed and Corruption

Key Largo (John Huston, 1948)
*** (A Must-See)


(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 8/09 - 9/09)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Well Put Together Metaphysical Comedy

Cold Souls (Sophie Barthes, 2009)
** (Worth Seeing)


(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 4/09 - 10/09)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Back to School September Screenings

September Listings

Bytowne Cinema
Cold Souls (Sophie Barthes, 2009) 4/09 - 10/09.
Key Largo (John Huston, 1948) 8/09 - 9/09.
Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950) 11/09 - 16/09.
Tetro (Francis Ford Coppola, 2009) 11/09 - 15/09.
Bright Star (Jane Campion, 2009) 25/09 - 08/10.

The Mayfair Theatre
Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989) 01/09.
The Killer (John Woo, 1989) 12/09.
The General (Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton, 1926) 17/09.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Notes from the Irritated

Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
* (Has redeeming facets)


In continental 1940's France, in a small wooden house isolated around a vista of prairies. Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet), A cow farmer, is chopping wood as his three daughters are performing household chores. Col. Hans "Jew Hunter" Landa (Christoph Waltz, winner of the Best Actor Prize at Cannes) arrives to the farm, you can see his car slowly creep up in the landscape behind a blowing white sheet. He is there to question Perrier anew on the disappearance of a neighboring jewish family. After a long mundane interrogation, that involved Col. Hans asking for a fresh glass of milk and the smoking of a embarrassing "Sherlock Holmes" pipe he confronts Perrier to acknowledge his cooperation with the Jews. In a lurid close-up of Perrier, thoughts of saving himself and his daughters are put against giving up these inocent refugees that he is protecting. His heroism is broken down and he gives them up. Which leads to the Nazi soldiers coming in and shooting the floorboards where underneath they are hiding. Sawdust and wood fly upwards. They are dead. Except for Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent), one of the girls in hiding. She escapes.

This first chapter out of five is the height of the films examination of history and the actual effect Nazi's had on occupative individuals, families and the European Jewish population. Though the scene, with its landscape shots juxtaposed against close-ups, is a pastiche of both confrontations and the style derived out of spaghetti westerns. Also following in the next chapter with the introduction of the Inglorious Basterds (a misspelled appropriation of Enzo G. Castellari's The Inglorious Bastards). Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) and his archaic Jewish-American militants murder, remove scalp's and carve swastikas on foreheads of Nazi's. By paying homage to the western's sordid violence against obvious historical "bad guys" it is assuming that what is going on should be admired or enjoyed. When in reality the film is turning the American soldiers into Nazis. Their morally ignoble violence reaches a climax, paralleling the story's climax, as two soldiers shoot down a film theater full of Germans simultaneously while the building is burning down.

The scenes between Shosanna and Pvt Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl) are in this little French film, the Brit's sending the film critic Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) is from a bunch-of-guys-go-to-war movie, the scenes with Gobbels and Hitler are shot like a glorying-war-hero film, and the relationship between Shosanna and Marcel (Jacky Ido) is a derivative of the race-issue-subverted-as-melodrama pictures. This mishmash of genre tenets do come together coherently and the effect on the viewer is somewhere between boredom and who-cares. The references to G.W.Pabst or Leni Riefenstahl do not elevate the film either.

Redeeming facets include the films use of multiple languages and dialects. Especially in a foreign context (I saw the film in Berlin), it had a tremendous effect. When the actor spoke either German or Italian (except for Lt. Aldo Raine and his minions) this viewer had very little, or no, idea what was being said, emphasizing a un-American context and the films international market. As well the splendid montage of Shosanna getting all dressed up for the film premiere of Nation's Pride.

Any film that decides to dramatize the second world war has a very complex task in front of it. The further in history we are from the actual events the more important it becomes to remember them with accuracy. With more and more films coming out on the subject, the second world war is now being partly remembered more in terms of film genres. Disrespectable poetic licensing is being used all over cinema; by art-house films (Korczak), action pictures (Valkyrie), and especially Inglorious Basterds with its naive wish-fulfilling fictional dramatization. No matter how much Quentin Tarantino would wish cinema, the flammable 35mm prints of films or the concept, could of ended the war and saved millions of jews, It didn't. The closer we get to fiction, the further we are removed from fact.-David Davidson

(Hackesche Höfe, Berlin, Germany)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Meta-Physical Class-Consciousness of Cab Drivers and their Fares

Night on Earth (Jim Jarmusch, 1991)
*** (A Must-See)


(Babylon Filmtheater, Berlin, Germany)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fantasy "Upcoming" FilmFest

Giallo (Dario Argento, 2009)
* (Has redeeming facets)


(Cinemaxx, Posdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Diverse 1960s French Filmmaking

Paris vu par... (Claude Chabrol, Jean Douchet, J-L Godard, J-D Pollet, Eric Rohmer & Jean Rouch, 1965)
*** (A Must-See)



(Arsenal, Posdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Comprehensible-Linguistically Impenetrable-Sexy Melodrama

Los Abrazos Rotos (Pedro Almodóvar, 2009)
** (Worth Seeing)



(Cinestar Sony Center, Posdamer Platz, Berlin, Germany)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grandfather of American Independent Cinema

Love Streams (John Cassavetes, 1984)
**** (Masterpiece)


Big Trouble (John Cassavetes, 1986)
* (Has redeeming facets)



(Cinema du Parc, 3575 Parc Avenue, Montreal, PQ)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

American-Iraqi Action War Film

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)
****(Masterpiece)


(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Magnificent Australian Outback Scenery

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott, 1994)
** (Worth Seeing)


(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 27/07 - 28/07)

Out of Service August

In August, between the 13th and 27th, this blog will be less frequently updated as I am going to Berlin, Germany to visit my friend Shaun. Hopefully I can check out, what looks like a great repertory cinema the Kino Arsenal. Any worthwhile international news pertaining to the art of film may be updated here as well.-D.D.

August Listings

Bytowne Cinema
Easy Virtue (Stephan Elliott, 2008) 7/8 - 8/8 & 12/18 - 13/8.
Chéri (Stephen Frears, 2009)27/08 - 30/08.

The Mayfair Theatre
Martin (George A. Romero, 1977) 15/08.
The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh, 2009) 21/08 - 23/08 & 25.08.

Cinéma du Parc (Montreal)
John Cassavetes Retrospective 31/07 - 13/08.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Grim World of Alfred Hitchcock

Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972)
****(Masterpiece)


(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 26/07 & 27/07)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Quintessential American Road Movie

Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 1971)
****(Masterpiece)


Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop, from a screenplay by Rudolph Wurlitzer and Will Corry, is a existential-muscle car-road movie about two friends, The Driver (James Taylor) and The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson), who pick up The Girl (Laurie Bird), fall in and out of love with her, both physically and spiritually, drive down, the pre-Interstate Highway, U.S. Route 66, where in New Mexico, they meet and challenge G.T.O (Warren Oates) to a cross-country drag race to Washington, D.C.. Most of the film consists of picaresque diversions including racing, sleeping, eating, visiting and waiting.

With a penchant for long takes, dead-pan Zen state performances and a minimalist use of dialogue, the film has a spellbinding effect that immerses the viewer into the trip. With the cameras placed in the passenger, or back, seat of the car, we are allowed to see what the driver is seeing through the windshield, while the exposition shots provide a magnificent look at the 1970’s nonindustrial American countryside landscape.

It is similar to Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) in its stark, cheerless and desolate depiction of rural communities and inhabitants. The Girl channels Marie (Anne Wiazemsky) as she wordlessly joins the guys in their 1955 Chevy 150, and then becomes first a motivating source and then one of frustration. Even the editing becomes ambivalent, similar to Bresson’s, as the Girl walks into a gas station women washroom, occupied by a bumbling male hitchhiker, and then, the film, cuts away from the action without giving any resolution.

The depiction of each city is dark and pitiless. In one city a drag racer after losing a race is screamed at publicly by his girlfriend, before she leaves him, there are wrinkled elderly, a mother with children selling wares by a bus terminal, and the police have a dominating presence throughout each state. As hard as G.T.O. tries to reach out to people, though one suspects his dishonesty as his back-story is consecutively changing on how he got his Orange 1970 Pontiac GTO, people always seem to leave him. Leaving him alone to keep on traversing the Main Street of America. One hitchhiker he picks up, Oklahoma Hitchhiker (the great Harry Dean Stanton), is a lonely homosexual. The Oklahoma Hitchhiker puts his hand on G.T.O.'s right leg who then immediately refuses the non-heterosexual invitation, and when the hitchhiker went, assumedly, too far and is asked to get out of the car on the side of the highway, in the rain, he begs for compassion and G.T.O. gives him the humanist benefit of dropping him off in the next city.

Two recent road movies influenced by Two-Lane Blacktop are Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights (2007) and Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny (2004). My Blueberry Nights is about Elizabeth (Norah Jones), Norah Jones singing profession parallels James Taylor and Dennis Wilson own music careers before Two-Lane Blacktop, going across the United States meeting many hardened individuals until returning home optimistically as ever. My problem with the film, not only as a road movie but as a Wong Kar Wai film, his first English language feature, is its audience-pleasing familiarities and conventionalism. The Brown Bunny originality tides it over. It takes the notion of; perception as a form of redemption, and the road as an escape, a means to forget, in this case, and in most, a girl, to new heights. In Two–Lane Blacktop when The Girl first gets into the drag racers car, while their eating in a diner, you can hear on the radio Hit the Road Jack by the Stampeders, a song about a women and the open road. The use of music in The Brown Bunny is also used to add depth, and accentuate feelings of alienation, regret, and the romance of the open road.

Experience becomes a source of redemption for the counter-culture duo. When The Driver and The Mechanic realize they have no place to go, their endless search for authenticity and “another” race, along with their memories of The Girl who left them for a boy on a motorcycle come to a close, so does the film, as it reaches a point of disinclination, the sound vanishes, and then finaly the film stock itself starts to disintegrates.-David Davidson

(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 22/07 & 23/07)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ottawa Gore

Smash Cut (Lee Demarbre, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)



Lee Demarbre’s Smash Cut, from a screenplay by Ian Driscoll, is an entertaining Ottawa gore film which just had its world premiere Saturday July 18th in Montreal at the Fantasia Film Festival. Both dark and jovial, the plot follows a local filmmaker Able Whitman (David Hess), acting as a surrogate for Lee Demarbre, and its concerns are the inconveniences and compromise that filmmakers creating a collaborative art have to deal with.

The film starts off with Herschell Gordon Lewis, a low-budget gore filmmaker who spawned the genre in the 1960s, warning the viewers “that filmmaking is a blood sport” and that the content of the film is sure to shock. Herschell Gordon Lewis films Blood Feast (1963), Color Me Blood Red (1965), and The Gore Gore Girls (1972) were some direct influences on the film . His films were filled with gruesome murders, evisceration, and half-clad women victims. Blood Feast starred Connie Mason, from the centerfold of playboy magazine, which is now being paralleled with Sasha Grey who comes from the adult entertainment industry. But his style was invisible, with very little camera movement and a texture that resembled b-exploitation-movies of the era, unprofessional acting, implausible shlock stories, always bright lighting which consisted of a bursting comic-book color palette with flashy hues of blue, red, pink and orange, and moods which were more fun than morbid.

Smash Cut's camera work, by the cinematographers Jean-Denis Ménard and Karl Roeder, is intensely modern, it was shot on a high resolution RED digital camera, with steady cam shots bringing you into the action, close-ups on the dismantlement’s, intricate long shots as well as a mixing up of medias including shots from the perspective of the cameras view-finder, and a short interposition of a monochromatic silent film. The original music, and sound mixing, by Micheal Dubue creates a mood of eeriness and suspence. One scene that stays in mind occurs when the camera follows Able Whitman from his car arriving at the Bytowne Cinema on Rideau Street, past the posters, one of The Dead Sleep Easy (Lee Demarbre, 2007), up the marquee, through a window, and into the projection booth.

Smash cut begins with Abel Whitman presenting his lastest picture, the audience pans the film, denounces its artificiality of a detached eye-ball. For his next picture, Abel, will remove the eyes of a victim with a medical knife, in a sequence that is even more nauseating then the eye slicing in Un Chien Andalou. Then he goes to a bar and drinks his problems away, gets a dance from a stripper named Gigi (Jennilee Murray), and then leaves with her. Driving home, she surprises him by returning her regular fee, but an unsuspecting incoming automobile sidetracks him off of the street where he hits a tree. She dies. The accidental murder of the women, a fleeting career, and frustration towards an audience that is not receptive to his work brings him to a nervous breakdown. What unfolds is a murderous escapade; he has now an insatiable desire to murder and to use the corpses in his film. As precocious as the Nietzscheans in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948). The body parts make everything, well the gore at least, in his new film of a murdering toy all the more realistic and believable, allowing him to get more grants, a major distribution, which pleased his producer Philip Farmsworth Jr. (Michael Berryman), and awe from his peers.

One unnoted dept Smash Cut might owe would be too Warren Beatty’s Bulworth (1998). Abel Whitman’s nervous breakdown and then ravage lunacy parallels the plight of Sen. Jay Billington Bulworth where after realizing his vanishing presence as a political candidate he decides put a contract out on himself and then starts to blurt out truth’s denouncing the system hypocrisies. With every prod to the current political organization, the more powerful his following becomes. Which is similar to the aggrandizing of Abel as his film is consecutively improving.

The only potential problem the film poses is it lack of a message. What does this film have to say about the world we live in? Able Whitman while in a room preparing to get government funds is asked by an artist what kind of film is he making, her answer was that she will be using the money to decry the passivity that arise from televisions, and then he tells her his film will be a sojourn in the macabre, then knocks her out, slowly tortures her, depletes her blood into a canister and finally lashes it onto the star of his new film April Carson (Sasha Grey). April is Gigi’s sister, the murdered stripper, who is on a editorial pursuit, along with a investigator Isaac Beaumonde (Jesse Buck), to relocate her.

Ian Driscoll script has Shakespearian touches, in particular Hamlet which Abel Whitman comments as being as precursor horror film. The investigator Isaac eventually catches on to what Abel has been doing and puts on a a re-enactment of Abel Whitmans murder of the movie critic Gretchen Gregorski (Guen Douglas) paralleling the same device Hamlet uses on Claudius, though comically done with paper masks and a pretend stabbing with a knife that never makes contact.

Many simple pleasures that arise from the film are the locations and people, starting off with the Car Wash on Catherine Street, the repertoire cinema’s Bytowne and the Mayfair, the National Art Gallery of Canada setting, and alongside the Rideau Canal. This viewer’s only problem arose when Abel Whitman decides to murder one of the film’s producers with a Harpoon, he is asked where he got the Harpoon, and before plummeting him with it, he answers at the Harpoon store. For as this lifetime Ottawa, Ontario, resident knows there are no Harpoon stores here! As well there are a few cameos of a few friends that would have no other opportunity to be immortalities on film including Layla Brown, Lesley Marsland (both from the Bytowne Cinema) and Michael Dubue (In the band the Hilotrons, and Mayfair Theatre) as well as a few Ottawa Famous figures including Guen Douglas (Planet Ink Studios), Jennilee Murray and Phil Caracas (The Harry Knuckles trilogy, and Bytowne Cinema).

The communal midnight screening experience was very lively. Including a waiting line that went around the corner, a practically packed house at the Théâtre Hall at Concordia (1455 de Maisonneuve O.), loud cheers, burst of laughter, comments, and a receptive question and answer period. With popcorn, and soda everyone was in the mood for a good time. The Q & A session afterwards was very enlightening with Lee Demarbre, Ian Driscoll, Sasha Grey and David Hess. Lee Demarbre was his usual enthusiastic self, Sasha Grey, who is 21 years old, (her next film is Steven Soderbergh The Girlfriend Experience) seemed rather reserved when she was not speaking, and finally the Sanford Meisner protégé and acting veteran, David Hess (The Last Hill on the Left) seems to exert both levity and the knowledge of old age. All cohorts played off of each other like a perfect pitch tune.

During the Q & A session, David Hess contextualized the midnight movie phenomenon. He commented on how back then, New York City in the 1960’s, nobody knew who was directing the pictures. When an audience would go to see a midnight movie, their usual routine for the night would involve getting high off marijuana and then watch a lurid seedy picture. The director of the picture remained unanimous, and even though he knew personally Hershell Gordon Levis, he commented on how he still had to be re-introduced to him later through his films.

The conditions were both open and social as Lee Demarbre seemed to be an incarnation of what it means to be a film enthusiast for the people of Ottawa (Full disclosure: I am an avid enjoyer of Lee Demarbre films and with Rachel Leblanc I have made a short documentary on him, you can find it if you youtube; cult fiction lee demarbre). His flamboyant repertoire programming at the Mayfair Theatre (1074 Bank Street) got many local residents to make the pilgrimage to go see the world premiere of Smash Cut in Montreal. When the questions started, some of them were from extras from the movie, others thanking him for the great movies playing at the cinema and wannabe screenwriters asking him for advice. Make sure to go see this one when it gets its local release because this film is well worth checking out.-David Davidson

(Fantasia Film Festival, 1455 de Maisonneuve O., Théâtre Hall Concordia, July 19th, 12:15AM)

Fantasia "Asiaphilic" Film Festival

Clone Returns Home (Kanji Nakajima, 2008)
** (Worth Seeing)


I Love S/M (Katsuhiko Fuji, 1983)
*** (A Must-See)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Economic International Affair

L'heure d'été (Olivier Assayas, 2008)
** (Worth Seeing)


(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 10/07 - 23/07)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Comical Cynicism

Whatever Works (Woody Allen, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)


(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Automobile as a Inconvenient or Advantageous Extension

Les Amants (Louis Malle, 1958)
** (Worth Seeing)


Louis Malle's Les Amants played at the Canadian Library and Archives as part of the Canadian Film Institute 50 years of the French New Wave 1: Louis Malle. They have already played his breakthrough hit Ascenseur pour l'échafaud (1958) and on Saturday July 19th at 9:00PM they will be screening Zazie Dans Le Metro (1960).

In Les Amants, Jeanne Tournier (Jeanne Moreau) is a uninspired Continental housewife who habitually leaves her, newspaper owner, husband Henri (Alain Cuny) for Paris on weekend long trips to visit her long time bourgeois friend Maggy (Judith Magre) and polo champion lover Raoul (José Villalonga).

Part road movie, the story only picks up when people are driving, on a venture to invite her debaucherous Parisian friends to meet her husband, her car dies on the way back to Dijon. The failure of her automobile is the catalyst towards getting picked up by a good samaritan Bernard (Jean-Marc Bory), prolonging her drive home (Bernard is a slow driver and stops to pay a visit to a ill companion), getting passed on the road by her friends, and finally being introduced to a simpler way of life.

When she finally arives home she becomes disasfied anew with her husband and lover. She becomes moonstruck at nightfall with Bernard, they share their love with each other both spiritually and physically (at the time of the release this sparked a american obscenity case). In the morning Jeanne decides to leave her life, including all material goods, kinship and friends and gets in the car with Bernard. As she is driving away she expresses her doubts of a sustainable future and wonders where there is to go from there.

Through the film the automobile becomes a symbol of inconvenience, it represents a loss instead of a gain. Jeanne is so uncertain about what she wants that with each escapist attempt she gets closer to a unsustainable future and further from acknowledging a personal identity. The car becomes a dehumanizing vehicle which temporary lets her forget who she is and what responsibilities she has to mount up to.

Louis Malle's at times can be a sententious filmmaker. His treatment of Jeanne in Les Amants is a good example of it. This might be an attempt at dealing with a serious subjet like adultery but it is doing so through unjustifiable means. The film is intellectually naïve and emotionally ignorant in its plastic treament of Jeannes motives on having extramarital relations and as a object of pity when she is leaving her dedicated husband and children to pursue a foolish love affair. A better example of a upper class milieu dissatisfaction would be Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Avventura (1960) whose treatment of individuals is more existential then exploitative. Finally what redeems the film is the beautiful cinematography by Henri Decaë, the capturing of the bumpkin and bourgeois in their respective french local and Jeanne Moreau catapulting performance.-David Davidson

Mad Max 2 (George Miller, 1981)
****(Masterpiece)


On July 4th at the Mayfair Theatre, under the flamboyant programming of Lee Gordon Demarbre (his new film Smash Cuts is premiering at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal and you can get your tickets here), occured the most important event this city has seen pertaining to alternative filmgoing experiences. The Dusk ‘til Dawn movie marathon!!! started out at 9:20PM and went on until 6:20AM. Following in the 1970’s and 80’s grindhouse filmgoing tradition the night was a celebration of the exploitation genre. Starting off with Daryl Duke’s The Silent Partner (1978) from a screenplay by Curtis Hanson, a exquisite Toronto noir which became immanently timely due to our recent economic digressions in its potrayal of a banker as being a conniving-greedy-corupt-murderous individual, followed by John Hough’s Incubus (1981) starring John Cassavetes, a mistery movie which turned out to be George Miller’s masterpiece Mad Max 2 (1981), and finally a women-in-prison double bill including Bruno Mattei Violence in a Women's Prison (1982) and Paul Nichola's Chained Heat (1983).

What makes George Miller’s Mad Max 2 (a.k.a. The Road Warrior) such an interesting post-apocalyptic road movie is how Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), continuing his role of the original Mad Max, vehicles the advantageous relationship man has with his automobile. It is set in Australia which lends its desolate and empty landscapes to be driven upon with such solitude and purpose. Max is such a hardened and embittered individual who is only after receiving gasoline (a dire resource in a unfertile baren landscape) that at first when he unites with a community being devastated by a band of marauders he is even untrusting of them until he slowly is touched by their needfulness, regains his lost humanity and decides to help them out.

Dean Semler's widescreen cinematography of Australia's vast desert landscapes (Silverton, New South Wales) creates an ideal atmosphere for the taking of place of action on the mass scale of a post-apocalypse highway. In such a vast space it is the smaller actions that start to matter the most. Exhilaration arises from the mobile camera placement, varying from bird's-eye view to bumper shots, and technique. While well executed choreographed movements of vehicles and people, smooth-pacing and fast-editing leading up to the climactic chase sequence manages to instill insurmountable feelings of awe and admiration in its creation of pure beauty and greatness.

Max's fast black-painted muscle car, a modified Pursuit Special, or any driving automobile becomes an extension of Max and signifies a means to overcome a chalenge. Max’s brutish masculinity is accentuated by the strength of his set of wheels. Throughout the film it is with his car that he can confront his aggresors, fulfill his first mission of returning a corpse to its respectful community, retrieving a truck to help the stuck desert inhabitants move their gasoline, helping everyone escape, and enabling good to prevail over evil. When he finally decides to leave the caravan at the end of the film is it with the realization that his journey does not end with them, and that his search for authenticity and redemption must go on. Max Rockatansky principally emerges as a prototypical road movie, or pre-road movie, hero with the likes of other greats including Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) in The Searchers (1956) or Travis Henderson (Harry Dean Stanton) in Paris, Texas (1984).-David Davidson

Thursday, July 2, 2009

American Action Fare on the Current Economic Drought

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Tony Scott, 2009)
** (Worth Seeing)


(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

American Working Class Road Movie

Even though I rate this film as A Must-See I want to warn prospective viewers that I had qualms with the presentation of the film at the Bytowne Cinema [6/23/09] due to the poor quality and unfixable out of focus print they were screening. This has been my first experience with a shoddy screening at the Bytowne and hopefully they can resolve this in the future.-D.D.

*****

Goodbye Solo (Ramin Bahrani, 2008)
*** (A Must-See)

A very moving picture. William (Red West) offers a taxi driver Solo (Souléymane Sy Savané ) 1000$ to take him to a secluded mountainous destination Blowing Rock. Solo noting his pessimism, and suspects a possible suicide attempt, brings him into his home and life with the intent that his humanity could change his mind. Solo shares with William his house, work, aspirations, family and friends. William visits and exchanges small talk with his son, unknown to the boy that he is his father, who man's a ticket booth at a movie theater on a regular basis. His only pleasurable experiences in what is a drab and solitudinous life. Eventually Solo’s prying creates a rift between the two. Only after a reluctant reconciliation, Solo, with his daughter Alex (Diana Franco Galindo), hesitantly drives William to Blowing Rock. Acknowledging William’s suicide (which appears off-screen) Solo drives back home with his daughter trying to gather the strength to move on after what he has just experienced.

A very driven film. The majority of the scenes are filmed in the dark night and all you can see are the street lights and illuminary cars. The driving scenes are full of social realities as Solo spends his nights away from his wife working, at a job he does not enjoy (he drives degenerate passengers with a look of overriding unhappiness), driving around, and getting in trouble with, a drug dealer friend, and studying for a flight attendent position, brushing upon racial prejudices, that he has already been turned down for once, even though he was more then qualified for the position. As a working class taxi driver being on the road, either in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, or on the countryside, means a transitory experience of contemplation, melancholy, and seclusion. The automobile becomes a metaphor for our perpetual search for authenticity and redemption that is seldom attained.-David Davidson

(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 19/06 - 25/06)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hitting The Road

Summer Road Movies
Goodbye Solo (Ramin Bahrani, 2008) 19/06 - 25/06, Bytowne Cinema.
Away We Go (Sam Mendes, 2009) Now playing at SilverCity Gloucester.
Y tu mamá también (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001) 06/07 - 07/07, Bytowne Cinema.
Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 1971) 22/07 & 23/07, The Mayfair Theatre.
pilgrIMAGE (Peter Wintonick, 2009) 24/07 & 26/07, The Mayfair Theatre.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (Stephan Elliott, 1994) 27/07 - 28/07, Bytowne Cinema.
Interview Project(David Lynch, 2009) Available online .

******

July Listings

Bytowne Cinema
The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, 2009) 05/07 - 09/07.
Amarcord (Federico Fellini, 1973) 09/07 - 13/07.
L'heure d'été (Olivier Assayas, 2008) 10/07 - 23/07.
Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action (Velcrow Ripper, 2008) 17/07 - 21/07.
Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009) 24/07 - 30/07.

Canadian Film Institute
Les Amants (Louis Malle, 1958) 04/07.
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk, 2001) 05/07.
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954) 11/07.
Zazie dans le Metro (Louis Malle, 1960) 18/07.
Rocco and his Brother (Luchino Visconti, 1961) 19/07.
La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954) 26/07.

The Mayfair Theatre
Dusk till Dawn Movie Marathon!!! 04/07.
Adoration (Atom Egoyan, 2008) 10/07 - 12/07 & 14/07.
Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948) 11/07 & 13/07.
Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1968) 11/07 & 15/07.
Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977) 17/07.
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958) 18/07 & 20/07.
Darkman (Sam Raimi, 1990) 24/07.
Drag me to hell (Sam Raimi, 2009) 24/07 & 26/07.
Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972) 26/07 & 27/07.

Up In The Air Over Up

Up (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson, 2009)
** (Worth Seeing)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Well-Rounded Knockout

Tyson (James Toback, 2008)
*** (A Must-See)


What makes James Toback’s documentary Tyson such a curious study is in its ability to commodify the retired boxer by getting him to communicating his painstaking experiences, motivations and contradictions. The film is beautifully weaved through single and split screen interview sessions in Mr. Tyson’s apartment, solitude sunset scenes on Ocean Beach, achieve footage, and photographs. Michael Gerard Tyson rummages his aberrant experiences, from childhood criminality growing up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, through unsuccessful wedlock to Robin Givens, the immortalizing biting of Evander Holyfield’s ear, and finally the won, and then lost, of the world heavyweight championship. His exploits emanate from his insuppressible violent, and untrusting, nature.

In a close-up of his large mug, with his head shaved clean, a tribal tattoo wrapped around his left eye (and what sorrowful eyes!), his intimate reflections, at the age of 43, on his unstable and abysmal existence, solidify the Mike Tyson mythology. For the price of admission you can take in the psychology of one of the most sordidly terrifying 21st century popular culture icons.-David Davidson

(Bytowne Cinema, 324 Rideau Street, 10/06-14/06)