Reviews

VIFF Review: ‘Pain and Glory’ is Amaldóvar’s most deeply personal film

Posted by Matthew on October 10, 2019
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Pain & Glory / VIFF 2019

Antonio Banderas and Pedro Amaldóvar are two of Spain’s biggest film exports and have worked together numerous times. It’s fitting then that in Pain & Glory, the story of an ageing filmmaker in a creative rut who needs address some unresolved issues from his past, Banderas is basically playing Amaldóvar.

He’s not, of course. Not exactly. Banderas is Salvador Mallo, a respected director who was a maverick in his youth and who has settled into more soulful work in his later years who is suffering from debilitating pain and illness. So he’s basically Amaldóvar in this semi-autobiographical film. He’s also transcendently good in the role.

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VIFF Quick Reviews: Guest of Honour, In the Tall Grass, Burning​ Cane, and Hard-Core

Posted by Matthew on October 08, 2019
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VIFF 2019

The Film Festival is a busy time and I want to make sure that every film gets its due so in an effort to catch up here are quick review of four films I saw at VIFF but hadn’t had enough time to write about.

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VIFF Review: The Two Popes is fun and funny

Posted by Matthew on October 08, 2019
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The Two Popes / VIFF 2019

When Pope Benedict XVI resigned there was a ripple of disbelief. None had resigned the papacy in 700 years. There was concern that he was being forced out due to his traditional and hardline stances. That his health was failing, or worse yet his mind.

Enter Jorge Bergoglio, a Cardinal from South America who was concerned with the poor and with reforming the church. Bergoglio had commanded a few votes at the previous papal election and Benedict and he disagreed on almost everything but ultimately it was Bergoglio who would next be elected and made Pope Francis.

The Two Popes retells the story of Bergoglio’s life, as he tells is to Pope Benedict in the year leading up to Benedicts resignation. It’s a charming movie, with more than a few good laughs, and two master thespians playing off one another for nearly two hours. In other words: you should definitely see it.

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VIFF Review: ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’ is one of the most beautiful films you’ll see this year

Posted by Matthew on October 06, 2019
Movies, Reviews / 1 Comment
Portrait of a Lady on Fire / VIFF 2019

In the story of Orpheus and Eurydice after Eurydice is bitten by a snake and dies Orpheus is advised that he can head to the underworld to retrieve her. He is told that he must lead her back to the surface world but that he must not look back for her until they are safely returned. As Orpheus crosses the threshold back to the surface he relents and turns back but Eurydice is still below and is then doomed to stay in the underworld forever.

It’s this story that is at the heart of the theme in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, a film as concerned with memory as it is with love. As the three principal women discuss in the film, is Orpheus a fool for looking back when he knows that will seal his love’s fate? Or is he a fool for love who wants to catch a final glimpse of his love exactly as she is in that moment, exactly as he loves her, and forgo putting them both through a second painful death?

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VIFF Review: ‘Daughter’ jumps head first into grief and self destruction, but doesn’t quite stick the landing

Posted by Matthew on October 06, 2019
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Daughter / VIFF 2019

Loss of a loved one does many things to many people. Some turn quiet and introspective, some get angry and abusive, and some are broken by the experience and become self destructive.

Daughter is the story of a man dealing with an immense personal loss who is one of these third types of people. Jim’s (John Cassini) life is in a spiral, a positive feedback loop of drinking and prostitutes and running away from his grief. He is estranged from his wife and friends and is barely present at his job, and all because he doesn’t have the courage or will to face his traumatic past.

That, my friends, is a hell of a setup for a movie. I wish the payoff was as good.

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Review: ‘Joker’ is a joke without a punchline

Posted by Matthew on October 05, 2019
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Joker

Let’s get this out of the way: I did not like this movie. Todd Phillips has made a movie about a horribly abused man who lives in a world full of assholes and who also has mental health issues and who also has a condition who also has some terrible impulses and through the course of the movie starts acting on those impulses, and places the blame literally everywhere but on him, but doesn’t really make a compelling argument about any of these ideas.

Joker is an essay without a thesis or a joke without a punchline. There’s a lot going on but no actual payoff. I couldn’t tell you who Joker is actually for, but I worry that one of the worst crowds on the internet is going to hold it up as inspirational.

In a word: yikes.

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VIFF Review: ‘The Whistlers’ convoluted plot keeps it from engaging.

Posted by Matthew on October 04, 2019
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The Whistlers / VIFF 2019

Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) is a cop. You won’t know that immediately, but you’ll know it soon enough. He’s not a good cop, in fact, he’s as dirty as they come. He’s arrived on La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands, to learn an aboriginal whistling language in order to communicate right under the noses of the Romanian police.

I’m not going to go into the actual plot here because as a slick neo-noir film the plot has so many twists and turns that telling you anything might be giving something away. Suffice to say that there is Christi and there is a femme fatale (Catrinel Marlon as Gilda) and there is a whole slew of bad people on either side of the law.

There’s just one problem: It’s kind of boring.

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VIFF Review: ‘Koko-di Koko-da’ is stuck in a time loop with self-loathing

Posted by Matthew on October 04, 2019
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Koko-di Koko-Da // VIFF 2019

One moment. It only takes one moment to shatter a person. Everyone has a different breaking point, but we all surely have one. For Tobias and Elin, theirs came whilst on a family holiday, during a routine meal for three with their daughter. It’s Elin who gets sick, swelling up and turning red and eventually the reason they are airlifted to a nearby hospital. They stay the night and wake up early to sing happy birthday only to be devastated to find their daughter has passed in the night.

To say this is a gut-punch would be an understatement. The film jumps three years ahead to the couple on their way to a camping trip. A few days away from their lives but isolated together with their mutual grief and self-loathing.

What follows is a surreal misadventure, one that leans heavily into metaphor and is —to put it mildly— difficult to watch. As they wake up in the morning they are accosted by three individuals (a woman with a hunting dog, a unibrowed brute carrying a dead dog, and an old-timey carnival barker) who proceed to humiliate and murder them. And then it happens again. And again. And again.

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VIFF Review: ‘The Realm’ is a fast-paced​ and satisfying political thriller

Posted by Matthew on October 03, 2019
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The Realm / VIFF 2019

The opening scene of The Realm follows Manuel (Antonio de la Torre) from a quiet beach, through a noisy kitchen, and to a table full of friends enjoying wine and seafood. There is laughter and toasting and inside jokes, and a great time being had by all. It’s a joyous scene but these men and women are no mere friends, they are all government officials and their good time comes at the expense of t​he people they have been elected to represent.

This is the world of The Realm, one in which it seems that nearly all government officials are corrupt to some extent and Manuel –our hero– is perhaps the worst of them. He has been living the high life for the last fifteen years off bribes, kickbacks, and graft, but when some of said graft comes to light his political party ousts him.

That’s a hell of a setup for a story but does the movie equal the potential? Yes, it mostly does.

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VIFF Review: Feminist Live Reads ‘Some Like It Hot’ has women playing men playing women (and totally rocks it)

Posted by Simon on October 01, 2019
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Feminist Live Reads: Some Like It Hot / VIFF 2019

Sitting comfortably alongside VIFF for a number of years, Feminist Live Reads reaches through the fourth wall to give an even more intimate experience to the moviegoer set. And their love letter tonight to ‘Some Like It Hot’ was part live theatre, part jazz performance, all brought together by some of the most versatile women you’ll ever hear tearing through Billy Wilder’s electric script.

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VIFF Review: ‘The Lighthouse’ is on a journey into madness and it’s taking you with it

Posted by Matthew on September 29, 2019
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The Lighthouse / VIFF 2019

Robert Eggers has made two movies now. Both with predominantly natural light, both with a confident eye and camera, and period set using actual dialogue from sources contemporary to said setting.

The man has a style, is what I’m saying. But whereas The Witch was a good old fashioned horror movie about a family terrorized by their own inadequacies and also a witch, The Lighthouse is something different altogether. It’s a chronicle of two men descending into madness, tortured by their utter solitude but also each other’s persistent company.

It’s tense, it’s absurd, it features two powerhouse performances, it’s overwhelming, and it’s an absolute must-see.

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VIFF Review: ‘Who You Think I Am’, in which Juliette Binoche dazzles

Posted by Matthew on September 28, 2019
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Who You Think I Am

Loneliness is a painful emotion. Whether you’re surrounded by people or not, the feeling that you are truly alone can cause even the most rational people to do all kinds of things. We are, after all, all human and subject to the whims of our emotions.

Enter Juliette Binoche as Claire, a 50ish publisher and professor and divorcée who is making her way unhappily through life. After she is spurned by Ludo –the younger man she has been seeing– when she suggests they spend some real time together she decides she would like to enact some revenge upon him. To that end she creates Clara, a gorgeous 24 year old avatar to bait Ludo with. After several glasses of wine and friend requests she receives a message, but it’s not Ludo she’s hooked, it’s his roommate Alex.

This is where things start to go a little sideways, and also where I am going to do my best to stop speaking about the plot as this one has many twists and turns and I don’t want to spoil any of them.

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VIFF Review: ‘Amare Amaro’, bitter love indeed

Posted by Matthew on September 27, 2019
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Amare Amano / VIFF 2019

Tragedy is defined as a form of drama, based on human suffering, that invokes an accompanying catharsis for the audience. A story in which the characters suffer, and no one ends up happy, and maybe we learn something along the way.

Amare Amaro is, very loosely, an adaptation of the Greek tragedy Antigone, in which the heroine attempts to secure a proper burial for one of her brothersin defiance of the king. Her brother was killed in battle, fighting for the wrong side, and fought to the mutual death against his own brother. This is not a happy story, in case the genre didn’t tip you off.

The updated story, in which Antigone is removed and one of the dead brothers is now the protagonist, has been transposed to modern times and results in a beautifully shot but melancholy picture about the lengths we’ll go to for the honour of the people we love.

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VIFF Review: ‘Babysplitters’ has some great moments but overstays its welcome

Posted by Matthew on September 26, 2019
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Babysplitters / VIFF

Having a baby is an overwhelming life change. I’m stating the obvious here, but it is the inciting idea behind the plot of Babysplitters, in which two couples who are divided on their intentions to have a child get together and decide that if the four of them have one baby together, then the burden might not be quite so life changing.

That right there is a pretty great setup for a comedy. There’s plenty of room for hi-jinx as the four people make the decisions that two normally would, as double the normal number of values and undisclosed religious backgrounds and other exiting biases and expectations clash together.

Add a great cast and you’ve have a hell of movie. Luckily, this movies has that too with Danny Pudi (Community) and Emily Chang in the lead roles. Together they enjoy an easy and sincere chemistry as a married couple at odds over whether to have a child (she wants one, he’s not so sure). Once they learn that their best friends (Maiara Walsh and Eddie Alfano) are in the same boat (but with the roles switched) the plot and hi-jinx ensue. But also it’s where the films problems begin.

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VIFF Review: ‘Assholes: A Theory’ is a disappointment

Posted by Matthew on September 25, 2019
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Assholes: A Theory / VIFF 2019

Everyone knows one. A friend or acquaintance you tolerate because a shared history or friend circle. He’s an asshole, but he’s your asshole. But why is he such an asshole?

Assholes: A Theory wants to explore the this segment of society. Why are people Assholes? How are they assholes? Can we distinguish different kinds of assholes? What kind of behaviour is asshole behaviour? What can we do about it?

A documentary with such a strong setup could be equal parts fascinating and hilarious. Unfortunately this is not that documentary, as while there are a few laughs and a few interesting examinations, the film peters out before it starts to hit the meat of the problem.

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