The 2021 Vancouver Film Festival is on now, and this is my sixth time covering it. Every year, there is a wide array of films to be seen, but one or two stand out. So this week in Home Video, here are five favourite films from past VIFFs!
Todd Haynes movies, love ’em or … not? Wait, does anyone not love Todd Haynes movies? Anyway, the point is that the man is a consummate visual storyteller, and in that regard, Wonderstruck might be his magnum opus. There are two main stories, one set in the 1970s and another in the 1920s, each with a child protagonist and each moving in their own ways. If you think that they might be connected, yes, of course, they are both to each other, and a third story told later in the film.
It would have been easy to adapt this story, a kids novel, for kids, but Wonderstruck is a moving tale for all ages.
How far would you go to get an A in school? Bad Genius tells the story of a group of kids who want (or need) to get high marks but don’t want to put in the work, and it tells that story both slickly and hilariously.
It’s easy to say that _Columbus_ is architecture porn for one good reason: it _is_ architecture porn. Video essayist Kogonada’s feature film début frames buildings in ways that I can’t recall seeing them framed before: not only in just the right light and at just the right angle, but with just the right context. This is why it’s misleading to say that it is architecture porn: because it’s so much more than that.
_Lipstick Under My Burkha_ is a hilarious movie that explores women’s daily lives in India. It’s also a heartbreaking movie that explores the daily lives of women in India. It’s a movie that has to be hilarious because if it weren’t, it would just be heartbreaking, and it’s important that this story ends with some hope.
An older man, Orlando, spends a day at a spa and then heads to a nightclub to see a woman sing. She is his girlfriend Marina, and they are very much in love. After the performance, he takes her to dinner, and later at home, they make love against the floor to ceiling windows of their shared apartment. Later that night, he falls ill, and they rush to a hospital where he dies, and she is immediately treated like a criminal. Not, however, because of the bruises on his torso and the impact wound on his head he obtained from falling down the stairs on their way to the car, but because she is transgender.
The rest of _A Fantastic Woman_ follows Marina as she copes with losing the love of her life and coping with the prejudices of the doctors, the police, and the bulk of her lovers family. It’s not the easiest watch, but it’s a vital one.
The rivalry between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe was one of the ages, and their match at the 1980 Wimbledon Championship is probably one of the greatest matches in tennis history. On track to win his fifth consecutive title, Borg had a reputation as being cool and graceful under pressure. McEnroe, the newcomer at the beginning of his ascendancy, had a reputation as a hothead who regularly threw tantrums on the court and argued with umpires. Even their styles of play were opposite, with Borg playing from the baseline and McEnroe rushing to the net. Literally, everything about this match makes it ripe for a great movie which is why it’s so frustrating that it isn’t one.
People are going to compare God’s Own Country to Brokeback Mountain. It’s inevitable because they cover much of the same ground: two men spending time away from the world and looking after a herd of sheep form a relationship. That isn’t completely unfair because the basics are remarkably similar but also because they’re both great movies.
Guy Maddin makes weird films. This isn’t a complaint; it’s a compliment of the highest order. In a world where studios are making only the safest of choices on a daily basis, weird, experimental film is always some of the most important films around. _The Green Fog_ is no exception: it re-imagines Hitchcock’s Vertigo using clips from other films (new and old) and television from the 70s and 80s –all also shot in San Francisco–, and only one single shot from the film itself.
It’s something else, and the fact that Kronos Quartet were there to play the original score live made it truly a once in a lifetime experience.
Have you ever watched a scene in a foreign film and thought “something must have been lost in translation”? The Hidden Sword is an entire movie like that.
I really like movies about making movies. I think they’re a fun way to explore and poke fun at the filmmaking business. I also like period set comedies, in particular those set in the late 40s and 50s. I like the design sensibilities, and I feel like the feel-good image of that era that still lingers today is one ripe for subversion. Also also, I really like Penelope Cruz. I think she’s a dynamic and interesting screen presence.
_The Queen of Spain_ then is a movie that should be right up my alley: it’s a period set comedy about making a movie starring Penelope Cruz. It turns out it’s not, though.
Fascism is on the rise in the world. It’s easy living on this continent to forget that it’s happening elsewhere. _In The Fade_ isn’t directly about the resurgence of Nazism, but those themes never the less play an important part in this story of family, justice, and revenge.
Director Mina Shum is back, people. Meditation Park is the latest film from the Vancouver director and explores the immigrant experience with a woman finding empowerment. You know what? It’s a damn delight, too.
Andrew Garfield has a marvellous gift: when he smiles, he does so with his entire face, including his eyes. This may sound like a weird thing to start a review with, but when you’re talking about a film where he has to lay completely motionless save for his face, it becomes a big deal.
_Thelma_ begins with two things. First, a warning that if you have epilepsy, the movie might set it off and second, a father and his young daughter walking in the woods, hunting. The girl sees a deer and inches forward, transfixed. The father readies his gun, aims at the deer, and then slowly changes his aim to the back of his little girl’s head. He doesn’t pull the trigger; it’s clear from the get-go that he desperately wants to. Then the movie starts to get interesting.