Vancouver International Film Festival

VIFF Review: ‘The Whale and the Raven’ is quiet and gorgeous

Posted by Matthew on October 12, 2019
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The Whale and the Raven / VIFF 2019

Whales are among the more majestic animals on the planet. They’re enormous but graceful, and they play an important part in the cultural history of many of the First Nations peoples of BC. In the Kitimat fjord system there are a pair of researchers, Hermann Meuter and Janie Wray, who study the orca and humpbacks who make their homes there, and Mirjam Leuze took cameras to chronicle what they do.

The Whale and the Raven is the result and follows is a slightly meandering but absolutely stunning-to-look-at 100 minutes of footage of the north coast of British Columbia.

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VIFF Review: ‘Synonyms’ is maddening, heartbreaking, frustrating, challenging, and contains a performance you definitely shouldn’t miss

Posted by Matthew on October 12, 2019
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Synonyms / VIFF 2019

Synonyms begins with the protagonist Yoav (Tom Mercier) breaking into a luxurious but unoccupied apartment looking for a place to sleep for the night. The clothes on his back, the few things in his bag, are all of his worldly possessions. After a night in the austere accommodations, he takes a shower and during that shower, someone steals all of his clothes and his bag.

Frantically he runs, naked and dripping wet down the stairs and after the thief but it’s too late, his things are gone. Rather than chase them into the street he returns to the apartment and passes out in the tub, seemingly to wait for death.

This franticness is at the heart of Yoav’s character. He’s in France feeling his past self with the sole, desperate intention to form a new self. But is that even possible?

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VIFF Review: ‘White Snake’ is an epic, adult, animated adventure

Posted by Matthew on October 11, 2019
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White Snake / VIFF 2019

Animation is a medium. It’s a weird thing to have to actually write down but to many when you say you’re about to watch an animated film they make a number of assumptions but they all basically boil down to the thought that animation is a genre with its own tropes and conventions but that’s not really the case, is it? Animation is a medium through which we often tell children’s stories but it’s actually perhaps the most expressive film medium, and perfectly capable of telling adult stories.

This fact is exemplified by White Snake, an animated epic from China which has a soft, whimsical animation style but also a dark, violent, and occasionally erotic story to tell.

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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: ‘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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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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Awesome News: Spider-Man is back in the MCU, Kevin Feige Takes to the Stars War, VIFF 2019 is in full effect, the return of the trifecta, and more!

Posted by Matthew on September 28, 2019
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Spider-Man

There really is a whole lot of news each week, isn’t there? This week has seem some pretty big bombs drop such as Kevin Feige working on a Star Wars, VIFF starting up, Jurassic World 3 casting news, Jason Bateman directing news, Phoebe Waller-Bridge gets a truck load of cash from Amazon news, Batman news, Wes Anderson news, and Spider-man is back in the MCU news. Let’s dive right in!

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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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