Thursday, September 29, 2016

FNC Celebrates 45 Years of Film with a New Virtual Reality Experience

It’s the most avant-garde film festival in Montreal, and as the longest running film  festival in Canada, Festival du Nouveau Cinéma pumps into 11days a galaxy of genres in its cinematic fare. Its enormous apex of screenings boasts 340 films, including 138 features and  170 short films  (there are animations)from 62 countries. There are 43 world premieres, 13 international biggies and 30 North American premieres including 57 from Canada.  A series of timeless animation films are also offered free to the public at Agora, including  a "Wallace and Gromit" double feature. We love them.  You can enjoy this hilarious master/dog series along with a gamut of such animation films in FNC's Petit Loup series. All this  film fun stunningly reflects the vast inclusiveness and uniqueness of this innovative festival -  “innovative” being the catch-all word here.

This year, FNC is offering a total virtual reality film experience which seems to put you right inside the film. This new section, called FNC eXPlore comprises virtual reality works along with installations downtown as one strolls into the various spectator-friendly exhibitions. Phrases that thematically describe unique films include: A sensory experience of the other’s body (Be Boy Be Girl); your chance to become a magician (Break A Leg); and with Late Shift, the audience chooses the plot. No more passive viewing with these 20 unique immersive films. This fun journey is marked in Zones A to D; all are all within walking distance, and free.

 The festival runs from October 5th to the 16th.   
  FNC’s website is
                                                               opening film
                                             TWO LOVERS AND A BEAR*****
                                                      (Directed by Kim Nguyen)

Like the lonely woman standing in the beautiful but starkly barren snow white northern landscape – a painting by Québécois artist Jean Paul Lemieux, this riveting film captures the inescapable solitude and mystery that has shattered the lives of the two protagonists, Luc (Tatina Maslany from  the TV series, Orphan Black), and Roman ( (Dane DeHaan). 

They are living amidst 200 people in Iqualuit, an Arctic village. Both are fragile beings – haunted by their past; and the present and future look equally dismal. The magnificent tone spectacularly captured by the filmmaker is dark and ominous.

The relentless freezing temperatures are bearing down on these two young people – 
right to their bones that seem to be crumbling in this environment from which they can’t escape their individual imprints. 

Their intimacy inevitably becomes an obsessive retreat for one another – from the cold, their aloneness and their own childhood memories marked bitterly by their abusive fathers.

In the opening scene, we notice that large coffins whose contents are marked as human remains are being loaded onto trucks. This single foreshadows the doom that awaits both Lucy and Roman. As Lucy is determined to pursue her university acceptance into the biology department, Roman roars about staying on; he won’t leave; but he is beside himself with despair. His life spirals so far down that he ends up in a hospital bed after an attempt to end his misery.  Lucy keeps hallucinating about her father, and the mirage beomes a macro vision of colliding elements. Even a polar bear keeps muttering words of wisdom to Roman. Is this the father he always wanted, or his own conscience?
Finally, the pair of North-Star crossed lovers unites as they set out on a snowmobile to return home. Unfortunately, they lack the funds to fly out. 

They go into fast gear as their will to survive becomes their prime modus operandi. The film becomes surreal, and as the bear mutter philosophical phrases, we realize that raw reality is as profoundly frightening as any nightmare conjured during sleep.

Kim Nguyen has created an indelible work of rare substance .  

                                                            LE PEUPLE INTERDIT **
                                              (Directed by Alexandre Chartrand)

Catalonia has a case to make, and no matter what the Spanish president says, the fierce people of Catalonia - known as los trabjadores de Espana: very hard workers), are determined to have their own country - so much so that they even have their own de facto elected President Artur Mas i Gavarro.

This documentary vividly captures the resolute strategies used to carry out the people's own referendum - led by  key organizer, such as
Victor Curcuruli i Mirallesto.


With a team of thousands,  he manifested will and a peaceful show of solidarity for separation from Spain. Regardless of the illegality of it all, the action catapulted the underlying fact that holding a referendum should not be illegal - regardless of the voting result. 

 The striking sea of colours of the flag worn  now as T-shirts on over 2 million people snaking their way like a never-ending flag along the two streets of Barcelona that fork off into a V - the letter that symbolizes vote, peace and victory.  What an amazing sight, filmed from the heights of a helicopter.
On September 11th, 2014, almost 3 million people voted "yes" to separate, but Spain not only called the leaders terrorists, but completely refused to have any dialogue with the Catalan leaders who clearly had proven that the majority of the people wish for their own country. But first, they wished for Spain to allow and recognize a referendum of the matter.

Alexandre Chartran from Radio Canada and the director of this film also made a cameo appearance during the subsequent Catalan elections for their Assembly. It was pointed out by Gavarro that at least Canada allowed for a Quebec referendum to be held on separation - that this is legal and democratic.

The film was poorly edited, knitting together scenes that did not flow into political important dates that reflected the movement's growth and muscle. Still, the point was poignantly made if not over and over again, that Catalan's people would run a highly effective, common- sense country with passionate restraint - a sterling combination for democratic rule.


(The squealing Game)
                                           (Directed by Steve Kerr)

Montreal has a little murderous maven running around snaring men who join a site for cheaters in their marriage. Little do they know that when she beckons them with her own dominatrix Internet name as Lolita, they are in for really rough ride that doesn’t include sex.

Élie (Julianne Côté) is the lesbian/hygienist culprit who is mentally ill; evidently hates men due to their adulterous ways - as witnessed when she was a little girl; her mother experienced this first hand, but she held no grudge.

Eventually, Éric (Paul Doucet) who started the secret sex website receives anonymous letters warning him to shut it down or else he’ll pay dearly for his amoral venture. He becomes extremely agitated and wants to stop, but he doesn’t. The site gains over 50,000 users within a short time. Eric is turning into a nervous wreck.

The irony in this thriller Québécois thriller is diabolically delicious; it favours the viewer, but even we can’t predict the shocking ending. The cast is superb and the editing is second to none. The message inherent in the plot is an important one that blames the Internet as an accomplice in facilitating and 
encouraging men to commit adultery.


MAQUINERIA PANAMERICA (Directed by Joaquin Del Paso) *

Completely absurd and not clever in its satire, this film relentlessly shows factory workers at a machine plant whose boss dies suddenly and their despair. They take over the building, drinking, cavorting, and dragging out hundreds of files looking for nothing. 

If this is a statement on the sludge and drudgery of working in Mexico in a machine company on the verge of bankruptcy, then that may be the reason why in Mexican most towns, every house and building is done by hand, and they do a terrific job. I can’t say the same for this film.

Completely absurd and not clever in its satire, this film relentlessly shows factory workers at a machine plant whose boss dies suddenly and their despair. They take over the building, drinking, cavorting, and dragging out hundreds of files looking for nothing. If this is a statement on the sludge and drudgery of working in Mexico in a machine company on the verge of bankruptcy, then that may be the reason why in Mexican most towns, every house and building is done by hand, and they do a terrific job. I can’t say the same for this film.


                                     NERUDA (Directed by Pablo Larraín) **+

Lead actor Luis Gnecco who portrays the great Chilean poet and communist,  Pablo Neruda carries the entire film. An artistic biopic that portrays Neruda in the midst of the Cold War  being hunted down by his nemesis, Oscar Peluchonneau, an upstart inspector who wants to be famous – known to be the one known bringing the communist poet Neruda in.


 His character seems to figure in Neruda’s masterpiece, “Canto General”, and the film creates their relationship in a unique manner. Unfortunately, too many scenes repeat the lifestyle of salon erotica and poetic license (in every respect) that centered around Neruda who loved this denizen of free-spirited artists. 

Changes of dwellings in which he took refuge also became the main focus of the film, rather than him. Although artistically crafted, it bordered on pretension.


                                            LA PRUNELLE DE MES YEUX ***
                                   (The Apple of My Eye)                        
                                            (Directed by Axelle Ropert)

A charming French comedy with snappy dialogue of wit and sparkling repartee, this light-hearted quirky creation offers an unusual plot. A lovely blind young woman who tunes pianos meets up with a rather arrogant guy of Greek origin. He and his brother play rebetiko music from Greece, but he’s pretty bad on his bouzouki. The lady tries to improve his playing but ends up improving his will to catch the strings of her heart.

 He fakes blindness. After a series of hue hiccups, they end up falling blindly in love. Fun, wacky and wonderfully acted, the subplot of the two main characters is duplicated in another relationship of the other brother and the blind woman’s sister.
It’s a typically terrific French film.



                 LA TORTUE ROUGE (Directed by Michael Dudok De Wit)*****
                                                       (The Red Turtle)

An astounding film whose animation is so beguilingly beautiful. The soft hues and the grey tones capture the sublime feeling of loneliness and the wild wonder of a tropical island in the middle of nowhere. Colour infuses scenes at the right moments when lush jungle overrides brown humongous boulders that figure in the setting. The plot is serious yet magical. A man is swallowed up by enormous waves, but ends up being catapulted to the shoreline of a dessert island, he is completely alone. Using bamboo, he struggles to build a makeshift boat, but a huge thump from underneath once he is in the ocean, destroys it and his chances for landing in civilization.

 He builds another raft, and then another and then another – only to have the same thing happen to him. Suddenly a big red turtle appears on the beach, and he turns it on his back so he has no threat of the thump happening again, he knows it was a tortoise that had destroyed his boats, as he saw it once he dove down. The tortoise however turns into something else on that beach, and love comes his way. The touching story of love moves us all, but the ending is even more moving and tragic. Michael Dudok de Wit combined his animation brilliance with the incomparable Ghibli Studios to create a masterpiece that is both delightful and profound. This remarkable film is a timeless classic.


                  AUTRE PART (Directed by Ouananiche A.K.A Cedric)*****

A universal voyage into the benefits of travel, done with authentic voice-over testimonies by remarkable individuals who expose the bare bones of their own personal need to travel. 
Each has his/her own reasons as they analyze what pushed them into moving into the beyond .Shot in black and white with electronic music mixed into images that reference trains, planes, clouds, landscapes, city streets and more, this 4-year project presents a  theme rarely addressed. 

We discover people travel when they feel lonely; people travel to obtain the trance of the present; people travel to depart from hurts built into our DNA. Time is what we make of ourselves in the vast unknown that transports the mind and body into perhaps who we really are, unencumbered by society and those who think they know us.

This is a brilliant film that resonates with anyone afflicted with the desire to move, to change, to tread into the unknown space of that which lies ahead without knowing what to expect. 
A visual collage of great importance, I rank this film a 21st-century innovative masterpiece that quintessentially uses film for what it is meant to do – to move us, to make us reflect and to make it seem that we are in fact a part of what we are watching.


                                          BELGICA (Directed by Felix Van Groeningen) *****

 Two brothers - one stable, the other into sex, lies and drugs open up a club open to all. Soon things spiral out of control, due to the popularity of the Belgian club, and the irresponsible older druggie brother.

 It's a club run by all who work there, and no one wants their denizen of tremendous rock bands, bar drinkers and scantily clad girls. The younger sibling (Stef Aertz) keeps forgiving his bro (Tom Vermeir) until a climax can't be avoided. Belgica becomes a den of depravity and debt.

 The music in this film is as superb as the cast. The ending left two plot loopholes though.


MOI, NOJOOM, 10 ANS, DIVORCÉE (Directed by Khadija Al-Salami)****

With Yeman’s tribal law, prepubescent girls are often married off. This horrid practice is vividly demonstrated in this angst-ridden film. Nojoom is the unfortunate victim here. Married off to a wicked man who rapes, beats and enslaves her, the little-10-year-old girl endures Yeman’s primitive male dominated dominion over the female sex, regardless of their tender age. In this film her sister is also raped and to avoid shame, she must marry the man who rapes her. It’s all about saving face in the village. How horrid that mothers support the husband in saving the reputation of the family value that inherently destroys the freedom of their own daughters. Fathers view their daughters as profitable “burdens” that can be bargained off – selling them into marriage regardless of age. In fact, Nojoom’s father became so destitute – caused by having to move out of his village after his older daughter was raped. No man would want her now that she is “soiled”, so the rapist became her husband.
Nojoom is feisty and rebellious and flees to court to have her case heard for divorce. She is actually taken in by the judge and his family for protection. The ending offers satisfying retribution for Nojoom.


BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (Directed by John Carpenter) ****

It’s mayhem, magic, martial arts and mythology that constructs this completely ridiculously crafted plot that is a heck of s lot of fun. An evil /2000-year-old man/entity and his 3 martial arts cohorts kidnap a green-eyed woman who is set to marry Wang, one of the heroes whose American buddy is jack Burton (Kurt Russell). 

To rescue her along with another green-eyed chick who gets involved in the rescue, Wang, Jack and magical men must endure a rip-roaring series of near-death dangers. The special effects, creatures, sets and costumes make Dream Works look like a copy-cat company imitating the supernatural elements that fill this 1981 fantasy spoof cum James Bond exciting progressively creative hilarious film, a cult classic.

 Kim Catrall and Kurt Russell look like fresh Hollywood newcomers. The gag lines and style of delivery that intercept the non-stop action draw big laughs.  Ahead of its time, this riotous film and can match any recent martial arts/adventure work in terms of entertainment value and innovative scenes.



TONI ERDMANN (Directed by Maren Ade) ****

 Totally screwball Winfried Conradi lives in a small suburb in Germany. He’s a divorced has-been music teacher whose only student quits on him. No matter, because for this big, lovable man, life must be lived as a comedy. 

He lives this way with absurd in-your-face clown-like humour. No matter, who he’s with, he puts on a wig, false ugly buck teeth and pretends to be someone else lurking in his imagination that would fit perfectly into the social present context at hand.

 Even with his daughter Ines upon whom he springs a surprise visit while she  is working in Bucharest, Romania. Arriving one week before her birthday, he wears his silly disguises (the final one being the most outrageous) and stalks her no matter what important business meeting she has going on. He even joins her colleagues and clients; and to Ines’s anger and frustration endears himself to those who reluctantly but amusingly swallow up his stories about being connected to the right people. 

Ines is trying to snag a major player of an oil company’s German CEO whom she must bring on board if she is to make the petroleum project she heads in Bucharest successful.

When she learns Winfried’s dear dog, Willi has died, which has become the catalyst for her father trying to reconnect with her, she feels for him. Still, she can’t let go of her own inner stress, coldness and ambitious nature that is clearly causes the dividing wall between father and daughter personalities.  But her father never gives up trying to make her see that life can be lived with humour and joy. But his jokes can’t illicit even so much as a chuckle from her. 

The acting was superb. Peter Simonishcek as Winfried is outstanding. Having to play a buffoon while showing profound love for a daughter mixes the comedic with the serious, and he did just that with great mastery.

Sandra Hüller as Ines is a miracle. She portrayed with relentless taut tension all-consuming corporate ambition that eats up those who cannot accept any kind of failure                                                                                                                     

Having garnered overwhelming kudos at Cannes Festival, this movie – despite its unique and quirky tone is centered on the modern malaise of disconnection and awkward alienation affecting parents and children. The film vividly demonstrates that family estrangement can be eradicated if one is willing to go to any measure to accomplish that – even if it means making a fool of oneself.

View "Mademoiselle " review here:        

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