Anthropoid-d. Sean Ellis-I took the commuter train into Toronto on the weekend ,and checked out a brand new Euro co-production,t hat just had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on 1 July 2016.
Anthropoid stars:Cillian Murphy, Jamie Dornan, Toby Jones, and Charlotte Le Bon . It tells the story of Operation Anthropoid, the World War II assassination of Reinhard Heydrich by Exile Czechoslovak soldiers on 27 May 1942.
It’s an interesting story-line that I was somewhat familiar with,as it it has been the subject of previous feature film endeavours; including the 1943 Fritz Lang film: Hangmen Also Die! This featured the only Hollywood script by Bertolt Brecht, and I caught an archive screening of it at the 2013 Berlinale.
However, that version filmed during the war years couldn’t reveal the true details of the secret mission at the heart of the story, as it was still mostly classified. This modern re-telling doesn’t suffer from the same limitations however.
It does suffer however from a clear lack of a consistent directorial and visual vision, relying too extensively on basic,routine,and uninspired coverage shots + editing, especially in the early stages. The movie was shot on film, and I found the digital conversion I viewed in Toronto unusually grainy,and lacking in clarity at times.
The choice of English dialogue was unfortunate. I’m a bit of a purist,and prefer films in their native language. It lends much more authenticity. It was also strange when the Nazi characters were allowed to speak German.Then the German was translated into English, in certain scenes, so the Czech people could understand it? It was awkward and took away from the film.
Otherwise the sets and locations and lighting all top notch, and I really liked the supporting casts performances of Toby Jones and Anna Geislerová.
And the story is great, it just might have been better realized with a more authentic grounding in the Czech language and a more consistent visual style.
Hunt For The Wilder People-d.Taika Waititi-Closer to home,I dusted off the bicycle and headed to the homey confines of the Westdale Theatre, in Hamilton.There was a film screening that I had just missed at the Fantasia Film Festival, and I knew the director from his recent vampire-comedy: What We Do In The Shadows.
That film was released to critical acclaim in 2014.Director Waititi had been noticed even before this for his TV work , and was also nominated for an Academy Award for his 2004 short film Two Cars, One Night. His first feature films: Boy became the top grossing New Zealand film before the release of Hunt for the Wilder People.
Based on the book Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump,this film stars Sam Neill and Julian Dennison as a father figure and son who become caught in a manhunt.The film premiered In Competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on 22 January 2016.
I knew little about this movie before viewing, and went mainly on my love of Waititi’s previous film.
What a nice film this is. Inventive,funny,quirky,poignant, and inappropriate.
All at the right times and in the right measures. With great performances and a wonderful cinematic view of the wilds of New Zealand; I would definitely recommend this flick.
Even if you have to just around to find it:)
Closet Monster-d.Stephen Dunn-Well it turned into a double-bill at The Westdale Theatre, as they had a brand new Canadian feature screening that had some buzz around it.
Closet Monster is drama written and directed by Stephen Dunn , and its Dunn’s debut feature.
It stars Connor Jessup as Oscar Madly, a creative and sexually confused teenager who retreats into a fantasy world to deal with his sense of isolation.The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Canadian Feature.
The film was shot on location and set in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This is a great feature to come out of the East Coast of Canada, dealing with topics of sexual identity, teenage angst, domestic violence, and artistic expression.
Those are is a lot of topics for any seasoned veteran to attempt; so it is even more impressive to see a 24 yr old filmmaker take on the challenge in his first feature.
I liked style of the film and it was helped along greatly by solid performances, good visual style, and a great 80’s inspired synth soundtrack from Todor Kobakov & Maya Postepski.
Actually the score may have been my favourite element of the film especially in the very cool and pivotal party scene.
Overall , this is a very ambitious and interesting film,although a few things didn’t add up for me.
The portrayal of the Father in the film seemed very uneven, and the use of artistic metaphor and symbolism was heavy handed at times. And I understood the use of the pet hamster as a escape for Madly from the harsher realities of his youth, but still…a talking hamster? Quibbles perhaps:)
Closet Monster is in limited release this summer in Canada ,but do try and catch this new flick from a rising star in Canadian indie film.
Operation Avalanche-d. Matt Johnson-a very cool flick ,and an interesting take on the entire faked moon landing conspiracy theory. I did see a recent comedy flick called Moonwalkers that mined this territory as well. But this film is a very different kettle of fish.
Following up on his first feature The Dirties with his partner Owen Williams ,this is a drama about CIA surveillance operatives who take it upon themselves to convince their higher ups to allow them to shoot a fake moon landing. Relying on old film stock, reams of archive footage from NASA, and touches of black humour and inventive story-telling; this is a great new Canadian feature .
Catch this is you can, and watch for a surprise appearance from Stanley Kubrick:)
Toro-d. Kike Maillo (Spain 2016)- I caught the North American Premiere of this film at Fantasia recently. This is a new Spanish crime thriller that is more than just action and suspense. It is really a story of loyalty, betrayal, and sacrifice-with a nice grounding in Catholic religious imagery.
From director Kike Mallo, Toro is his follow up film to the 2011 sci-fi film Eva. Here he tells the story of Toro , a street thug who informs his gangster boss that he is leaving the criminal life behind after one last job.
However, the job goes horribly wrong and Toro ends up on jail, but is now a new man. He has no interest in criminal life, only his lovely girlfriend and their future together.
But the past has a way of catching up to him upon his release on bail, and he must come to the aid of his remaining family and hope not to lose everything he dreams for the future.
This is a great story mixing comedy, action, and drama in a super realist style, with some un-nerving and shocking imagery at times, but perfectly keeping with the thematic motifs and imagery built up through the storyline.
The Priests-d. Jang Jae-hyun (South Korea-2016)-A Korean exorcist movie? Why not. Another in a strong string of movies featured at Fantasia from South Korea, The Priests is a crowd pleaser of a drama about the demonic possession of a young teenage girl in Seoul.
Coming to the rescue are burned-out outcast priest Father Kim (Kim Yoon-seok), who approaches tracking down and fighting demons to crime fighting. Making him the lead detective of sorts in this story.
And at his side is the newest in a long line of assistants,the very new and rebellious Deacon Choi (Kang Dong-won) ,who also stars in another great film at Fantasia: A Violent Prosecutor.
Together this unlikely pair must fight not only the powers of evil, but of the uncaring and untrustworthy beauracracuy of their own Church.
But they are a plucky pair and they have some aids at their disposal: a Bible, a tube of toothpaste, a Bach CD, and a piglet!
A very enjoyable horror film with some funny moments, keep your rosary beads close if you manage to catch a screening though:)
Americana-d. Zachary Shedd (USA 2016) This is a great new Neo-Noir feature which had its international premiere here in Montreal Sunday night. Writer-Director Zachary Shedd was present to lend some insight into the screening.
Alcoholic ex-editor Avery Wells (David Call) is drinking himself into a semi-stupor at his isolated cabin in the Nevada mountains. That’s until his longtime producer friend (Jack Davenport) shows up and drags him back to civilization.
As Avery dries out at his friends house, he realizes the real reason for his rescue. Avery’s actress sister (Kelli Garner) is starring in his friends latest production which has gone way over budget ,and is seemingly doomed to failure.
Can Avery save the film in he editing room, and stay sober enough to do it? Or will the sudden shooting of his sister turn him into a tragic sleuth;destined to follow clues that may be real or hallucinations. And lead to the same dead end he is all too familiar with in his own life.
This is a beautifully brooding character study, and noirish drama, wonderfully executed on numerous levels.
DOP: Justin Foster brings a wonderful eye to the San Fransisco Bay area,as well as the isolated cabin in the Nevada mountains.There is a wonderful scene of the lead character Avery talking to his estranged partner on the fog shrouded upper balcony of her San Francisco house.
Editor: Saela Davis does a great job of piecing the story together and Composer: Jeremy Turner has just the right modern sounds with echoes of crime films past to evoke the right mood for this film.
Watching Americana, I was reminded of some classic films, especially the great flick: The Lost Weekend;that featured Ray Milland as the alcoholic writer being chased by his addictions and demons.
And the isolated cabin had echoes of Robert Mitchum’s hideout in Out Of The Past, and Raymond Chandlers novel: Lady In The Lake.
But these were just some threads of motifs I recognized; this is a great original story work in the Neo-Noir genre. Well-written and directed by Zachary Shedd ,this is an impressive first film for Shedd , who had previously worked as a producer on: Hiding Your Smiling Faces and A Little Closer. I’ll leave you with a peak at the films teaser/trailer and a website link.
Oh, and another cool thing, this film was a direct result of a large kick-starter campaign:) The list of names of donors scrolled for quite a few moments…
I highly recommend this film. Americana tied with the Polish feature: Demon for my pick for top film at Fantasia Fest 2016. With Train To Busan close behind:)
I’ll be updating the blog over the rest of August with some more Fantasia films that I screened in Montreal, and I also hope to write a little in September about some movies from TIFF 2016 .. Stay tuned…
I was able to sample a cross section of new cinema from Asia the last few days here in Montreal.
Lazy Hazy Crazy-d. Jody Luk Yee-Sun (HK 2015)
The debut film from director Yee-sun ,Lazy Hazy Crazy is a coming of age story about three young girls nearing their 18th birthdays in Hong Kong . A full house took in the film here at the Canadian Premiere ,and they didn’t go home disappointed.
This is a the story of girls on the verge of womanhood, struggling with the crushes, physical changes, and high school environment that is common among their peers. However these girls are more mature than they look ,and two make a common practice of dating and having sexual relations with older men.The third is sitting on the fence about whether to join them.
It makes for a very interesting dynamic ,and adds a real and raw edge to what we could envision would be a typical Hollywood style telling of a similar story.What makes the movie work so well is the excellent script and direction-at times funny and at others subtle and poignant.
A great cast of leads take the task to hand ,leaving us with a drama that takes us to places often not explored in a deep and sensitive manner.With characters we are rooting for, even though they may at times be selling themselves short.
In the end they get a moment to escape and enjoy the dawning of a new future; wherever it leads…
If Cats Disappeared From The World-d. Akira Nagai (Japan-2016)
I caught the Canadian Premiere of this new Japanese film last night; and it may just be my favourite film at Fantasia so far. I know it’s my favourite film title:)
This is the story of a slightly disenfranchised 30 yr old mailman who seems to have little interest in life ,other than his love of movies and his pet cat Cabbage. He is given a shocking medical diagnosis near the beginning of the film, leaving him with little time to live.
How will he spend his little remaining time, and can he make a Faustian deal with the Devil to gain some extra precious days? But this Devil may well be his own alter ego, and is played by the same actor: Rurouni Kenshin.
Regardless, Takeru is offered extra days to live, but must give up something for each day he gains. As he progresses, slowly losing things in his world that seem unimportant on the surface, Takuru remembers all the joy ,companionship ,and love that he has enjoyed in his life. And he realizes that these joys and friendships aren’t worth losing, they are more important than clinging to the world .
This is a great drama- at times melodramatic and sentimental,and there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience after this screening I would guess. A faithful adaptation of the bestselling novel by author Genki Kawamura, this flick is in good hands with director Nagai.
Beautiful to look at,the film unfolds with a flow matching the mood of the story. Hopefully you can get a chance to see this wonderful movie at a theatre in the near future.
And speaking of the future, I may have been inspired to go and adopt a feline friend for myself I think:) So viewer beware on this flick…
Train To Busan-d. Yeon Sang-Ho ( South Korea-2016)
A great new Korean genre film, this flick played out of competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. To a standing ovation. Here in Montreal the film had its North American premiere at Fantasia. And the crowd was almost as enthusiastic:)
A Zombie apocalypse begins to afflict modern day Korea just as our lead character Seok-woo departs Seoul on the TGV with his much neglected daughter. It is her birthday, and her one wish is to spend the day with her mother in Busan.
When the train departs the station ,an infected traveller boards at the last second, and as the journey progresses all hell breaks loose. I am not a big fan of Zombie films in general,and also feel like it is a very over-done genre at the moment. However ,I thoroughly enjoyed this flick from beginning to end. Action,love, bravery,sentimentality,and selfishness are all on display in this allegorical tale that also keeps the thrills coming.
The highlight for me was the amazing scene near the end in the Busan Cetral Station rail yards.After a narrow escape from a derailment ,our surviving characters flight to safety is endangered by a mass of infected monsters grabbing onto the rail car, and slowly bringing it to a halt. Almost:)
Commentators have made some noise about comparing this flick in some ways to the recent film Snowpiercer. My viewing companion here in Montreal seemed to think it more likely took some inspiration from Cassandras Crosing.
Regardless ,the Train To Busan is a one-way ticket to entertainment.
The Phantom Detective-d. Jo Sung-He (South Korea-2016)
South Korean noir? You bet! This slick new entry from director Sung-He is a crowd pleaser of a film that’s stars Lee Je-Hoon as private investigator Hong Gol-Dong. Dong is a crime fighting PI with a mysterious and forgotten past, except for one memory that drives him- the murder of his mother and his never ending thirst for revenge. As the film begins he is within reach of the killer , but is one step behind henchmen for a secret society bent on overthrowing the government.
They have other plans for the aged killer,as he has information that could expose their evil plot.Our hero does however find the abandoned grandchildren of his nemesis ,and becomes a reluctant caretaker as both search for the abducted old man. For very different reasons.
Equal parts Noir-Comedy-Action-and -Sentimentality-this film is a modern take on Korean literary hero Hong Gil-Dong. And I assume a tip of the hat to the original pulp magazine serial The Phantom Detective, that was published from 1933-53.
This is a great whirlwind of a story with many shifting moods, and owes a visual debt to Sin City. Great performances and visual style are on display ,and I absolutely love the final gun battle which takes place while our hero sits placidly observing justice being delivered; to those that so desperately deserve it.
Sequel in the offing? I wouldn’t be surprised. Look out for this flick it’s a keeper…
hey folks, it is a beautiful sunny day here in Montreal, QC. I am just registered and settled into the festival here in the downtown core. I have a couple showings to check out later today, and I had time to see a few screeners.
Two of the films: Embers and The Unseen I will mention more of later. I have interviews with the two directors lined up for later in the week.
The Little Sister-Zack Clarke d.USA 2016 -a great little surprise of a film. Wonderfully shot in the autumn, the story revolves around a young woman who journeys away from her cloistered life at a convent back to her family home in North Carolina. Her return is not of her own choosing, but is precipitated by the return of her older brother from the Iraq war. He is introduced slowly and cleverly and when we first see him it comes as a shock but a good surprise. As the plot unfolds out little sister must not only coax her brother from his shell but help come to terms with her own issues in dealing with her dysfunctional parents.Overall, a very nice film, good flow,editing,use of music,sound, and a nice juxtaposition of cloistered life with modern reality. A bittersweet storyline,about hardships and the strength required to prevail.The director handles the sensitive issue of war and politics, and the human cost of both . A sometimes quirky but one of a kind original story. Starring:Addison Timlin, Ally Sheedy, and Barbara Crampton.
Tank 432. Nick Gillespie d.U.K.-a nice opening montage starts this film off with a battle gone wrong in a forested area. Upon fleeing ,our troop of soldiers come across an abandoned complex where they discover a mysterious woman. After fleeing here they become trapped in an abandoned tank, where they are slowly stripped of their humanity and begin to question the real purpose of their military mission. The plot is unclear and cryptic in its details, but the interpersonal relations and reactions to an extreme and unfathonamable situation, are the focus and highlight of this action/drama…executive produced by Ben Wheatley.
Aloys-Tobias Nolle d.-Swiss/France-2016- an amazing film- part science fiction-part a meditation on rebirth and human connection in the modern world. A private investigator suffering from the death of his father, and living in an emotional shell, becomes involved with a mysterious neighbour through a series of bizarre and transcendental phone conversations. Breaking through his spiritual and psychic barriers is a challenge for our lead character, but trying to breach them in the real world is something more of a struggle. A beautifully photographed and visually conceptualized film, that also make use of a fantastical alternate universe. Wonderful performances and music make this one of the top flicks I’ve seen this year.
Seoul Station-Yeon Sang-Ho d.-South Korea-2016- an animated feature with little in the way of plot development- just straight ahead zombies attacking Seoul. The annoying characters can’t die fast enough for this reviewer. Cool synth score but a pass on this one…but speaking of South Korea and zombies, I’m just off to see: Train To Busan- hopefully a good one:)
Hey folks, hope all is well. I am just on route to Montreal to take in the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival. The festival kicked off a few days ago and they have already screened 2 of my favourite features from the 2016 EFM Berlinale: A Conspiracy of Faith (Denmark 2015) and Dark Side Of The Moon (Germany 2015).
As well the highly acclaimed Polish mermaid/zombie flick: The Lure had it’s NA premiere yesterday, and it was a definite buzz film at Berlin this past February.
I have a couple of interviews lined up already and a slate of films to try and get to, so I will update the blog every few days for the duration of Fantasia.
I just returned from a 3 day jaunt down to Motown to see a couple baseball games, and take in the Eastern Market. As an added bonus I was able to catch John Carpenter and band in concert at the Masonic Temple Auditioriun.
This is a very old and very cool old theatre that is part of a large Masonic Order complex-the largest in the USA. During the City Of Detroit’s recent bankruptcy this beautiful hall almost met the wrecking ball, but was saved by local musician and icon: Jack White. He came forward with a last minute donation of 1 Million $ to fund the restoration of the hall.
And I’m glad he did ,as it was a perfect venue for horror maestro John Carpenter to weave his synth laden themes and songs to a packed house of fans. A full house it was, and as the lights dimmed at 8 pm the screen on stage lit up with the opening of Carpenters famous film: Escape from New York.
As the opening continued however, it became clear the movie was going to continue, so we all sat back and enjoyed the show for 90 minutes. After a short intermission the house lights dimmed again and this time the concert began .
Escape From New York kicked off the show, quickly followed by the theme from: Attack on Precinct 13. Clips of the films filled out the experience as the group ran through a wide variety of movie themes and tracks including: The Fog, They Live, and Christine.
Interspersed with the film stuff where a variety of tracks from Carpenters recent LP releases: Lost Themes and Lost Themes II.
Overall a really cool and creepy show, a lot of fun as well with a really great and vocal crowd. Carpenter continues his tour through the USA and Europe, so do yourself a favour and catch a show if you can, and look for his album releases on Sacred Bones Records.
Iconic Japanese music and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has dabbled in film music throughout his long career. He is most well know for the beautiful sweeping score for : The Last Emperor, and the electronic tinged music for; Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.
This October as part of the Ghent Film Festival in Belgium, the organizers presenting the World Soundtrack Awards and their annual concert of film music highlighting tunes from a specific composer.
This years lucky recipient is Ryuichi Sakamoto and a live concert of his film music is being compiled and a recording and CD release is hoped for as well.
The fest is currently raising money to help realize this concept through crowdfunding. SO check it out and send in some $ if you can: Indie go go-Sakamoto
They have released concert CD’s of live shows featuring the music of Cliff Martinez and Alan Silvestri in the past. Check out the GFF website for more info on the events and recordings available:) oh and there is a Spotify stream of film music as well!
Hey folks, hope everyone is having a great summer. I’ve been busy hosting my film music show at CFMU ,and catching a few interesting films when I can. Things should be getting a bit busy sooner screening wise,as I’m going back to the Fantasia Film Festival again this year for 2 weeks , to see some of their cool flicks. I’m also heading down to Motown in a few days to check a live show from John Carpenter, and a short trip in the other direction is Toronto where the annual TIFF fest will be taking place in September. As well I’ve been busy with jury work for the 11th annual HFF taking place in November here in Hamilton. And an added addition is I hope a curated programme of cool new foreign features as part of a new programme at HFF curated by yours truly.
Nosferatu– I attended a screening hosted by the Toronto Outdoor Picture Show recently on beautiful summer evening under a full moon. appropriately enough it was a showing on F.W Murnaus Classic 1922 vampire flick: Nosferatu. Guelph based indie band Del Bel provided the live original music they had scored to the film…and they even had some very cool t-shirts for sale! Great night out:)
Green Room-caught this at the Westdale Theatre recently-Anton Yelchin (RIP)+punks vs skinheads and Patrick Stewart-wow! Highly recommended:)
Follow The Money-CBC is streaming this now-it’s a new Danish TV production from DR-well done Nordic Noir series starring Nikolaj Lie Kaas-from the Carl Mork films-these are the same folks who brought us The Killing…
Neon Demon-this new film from Nicholas Winding Refn is an exercise in style and a commentary on the horrors of the fashion industry-beautiful and repulsive-and hypocritical from a director that earns $ from the same said industry-don’t you think? Great score by Cliff Martinez:)) Has to be seen…
John Carpenter-the horror maestro has returned to the limelight in the last year with 2 LP’s and a couple EP’s of new tracks,and some old film score favourites re-mixed. And as an added bonus he has gone on tour with his band in Europe and the USA. I’m lucky enough to have tix to see him in Detroit July 15 , so I’ll have more on that on next weeks blog. Here’s a little taste of what he’s been up to:
Besides a review of JC’s show in Motown on next weeks CineRadioWaves, I’ll also touch on:
-a cool crowdfunding effort to record a live CD of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s upcoming concert this October in Ghent.
-Maurizio Guarini and Mark Korven at Rue Morgues Dark Carnival
-oh and a preview of Fantasia 2016-which I am going to be attending July 20-Aug 3 in Montreal,QC!
till next time here’s the new FFF 2016 poster graphic-enjoy!
Disorder– I checked out this cool new French film called Disorder(2015) at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo on the weekend.
It’s a new offering from director Alice Winocour (Augustine), that stars Matthias Schoenaerts as Vincent, an ex-soldier picking up some work doing security at a posh Riviera mansion. When the wealthy owner leaves on an out of town business trip, he hires Vincent to guard his wife Jesse (Diane Kruger) and son.
This plot twist could have led the film into the trashy/kitschy territory of The Bodyguard, but in the hands of Winocour it is a study on the effects of war on a persons psyche, and the difficulties of adapting to civilized society.
Vincent struggles to contain and live with the PTSD symptoms left from tours of duty in the Middle East, and hopes to be sent back to combat duty. As he confronts the challenges of guarding the family and his growing attachment to Jesse, his weekend begins to resemble the far away battlefields he is accustomed too.
The disorientation Vincent feels from his medical condition make it difficult for him to distinguish between real and imaginary dangers ;which is a really nice touch in this film. Combined with the outstanding performances from the lead actors, a cool cinematic look,and the unsettling and moody electronic music score from Gessaffelstein ; this a flick worth checking out.
In the end we are left to wonder if the ferocity Vincent unleashes to protect the ones he has grown to care about; is also a a force that prevents him from relizing a new life for himself.
Who Am I? No System Is Safe– Last week I took the train into Toronto for a screening at the TIFF Lightbox. They were showing a recent German cyber-thriller,as part of a programme of films put together by the Goethe Institute Toronto.
The film was directed by Baran bo Odar and features rising star Tom Schilling as Benjamin, “a socially awkward nobody who leaps to fame and recognition in the world of underground hacking and, with new-found friends, undertakes a spree of pranks and online criminal acts that have violent and, ultimately, deadly consequences.”
The film relies on the first person narration of Benjamin to tie the intricate plot together,and owes a huge debt to The Usual Suspects.The plot revolves arounda group of computer/tech nerds who join forces to hack into corporate and government facilities; and as a result gain for themselves a cult following.
As the film progresses the fun of the hacking takes on a more serious and dangerous element; and the tensions between the group members reaches the breaking point.
Detection from the authorities is only a matter of time,but can they apprehend the hackers before their tech world competitors put them in the morgue?
The ending of the film is very well constructed and leaves the viewer wondering what version of events to believe in, and what are the depths of the psychological disturbances of our main character…
Louder Than Bombs– this is a new English language film from director Joachim Triers that is a study of a family copeing with the loss of their mother ;and the circumstances surrounding her life and death. I recently caught this film in Hamilton at the AGH I Love Film Series,and was impressed by the film. I had seen Oslo,August 31 by the director and this film is a continuation of Trier’s short, but impressive ,catalogue of films. I came across a great review by Peter Debruge from Variety magazine so I thought I would share:
“Ever since Trier’s 2006 feature debut, “Reprise” (which landed him on Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” list), Hollywood has been courting the Norwegian helmer with offers to come and make a film in the States. Switching to English is no trouble for Trier, who studied at the U.K.’s National Film & Television School, although there remains something far more alien about the cinematic syntax and language he uses to express his ideas.
Strangely, “Louder Than Bombs” manages to be glaringly obvious and admirably subtle in the same breath. Consider the title, which, apart from being a reference to the Smiths’ classic compilation album, feels like false advertising for such a quiet film, which is carried along by Ola Flottum’s low, trancelike score, yet is set so far away from the front lines where Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert) is out trying to change the world. Your average picture may say a thousand words, but one of Reed’s, snapped in hot zones around the world and routinely landing on page one of the New York Times, is potentially powerful enough to have an almost nuclear effect.
Obviously, such a career can ruin a person, too, making it impossible to readjust to a society that’s not only too calm, but too far removed from the action to raise awareness, creating a domino effect where post-traumatic stress is concerned. Huppert barely appears in the film, haunting the edges like some sort of ghost, viewed slightly differently by everyone who remembered her — precisely the sort of formally intriguing challenge at which Trier excels, considering the way he shuffles chronology and perspective.
For Times colleague Richard Weissman (David Strathairn), Isabelle represents a fallen hero whose memory he seeks to honor by writing an in-depth column timed to coincide with a posthumous retrospective of her work — a story in which he intends to reveal that Isabelle’s death was almost certainly a suicide. For Isabelle’s husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), that deadline means having to re-examine his feelings toward his wife, as well as breaking the news to his sulky teenage son, Conrad (played by “Olive Kitteridge’s” promising Devin Druid). Meanwhile, older sibling Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg, once again typecast as the neurotic academic) seems more well adjusted at first, having just fathered an infant son, though he clearly has no shortage of issues to work through as well.
Frankly, the sight of these characters coping with Isabelle’s death isn’t nearly as rich or ambitious as another parallel theme that Trier and writing partner Eskil Vogt have opted to explore with the project: the issue of artistic ambition and how committing to a creative career (or abandoning it, as the case may be) shapes our lives and the relationships we maintain with loved ones. Isabelle put her work before her family, presumably using its political importance to justify the addiction she felt to the front lines. Gene, on the other hand, started his career as an actor, but put that aside at a certain point in order to focus on his wife and children, ultimately taking a non-glamorous job teaching at the local high school (where he’s struck up a covert affair with Conrad’s teacher, played by Amy Ryan).
Both of Trier’s previous features, “Reprise” and the suicide-centered “Oslo, August 31st,” concern themselves with tortured intellectuals who question their own existence, vacillating between whatever force drives them to create and the equally compelling impulse to self-destruct. Early on, the film identifies most strongly with Gene, but in time, it shifts to each of his sons before finally settling on Conrad. When we meet the kid, he seems awkward and angry, although in time, by replaying a series of events through the character’s perspective rather than his father’s, we see that he, too, has artistic talent, as a writer — a career for which Trier himself sometimes seems more suited. After all, behind the pic’s highly technical framing is a literary-minded helmer who appears to view screenwriting as an extension of the Nouveau Roman (or “new novel”) tradition, constantly bending the rules and toying with such elements as narrative continuity, structure and form in bold but always elegant ways.
In Trier’s hands, storytelling becomes a political act — not the sort that sees Isabelle’s reasons for repeatedly putting herself in harm’s way as being worthier than whatever domestic satisfaction she might take from staying home, but rather the kind that challenges the accepted modes of cinematic expression. One clue (falling on the more obvious side of things) presents itself when Conrad relays a lesson learned from his mother, who taught him how changing the framing of a photograph can completely change its meaning — which invites us to reflect on what Trier has cropped out of his own story, a contempo spin on James Agee’s “A Death in the Family,” complete with multiple re-enactments of the fatal crash and a dizzyingly modern found-footage montage.
As conceived, “Louder Than Bombs” remains a melodrama, but a curiously non-explosive one. The fuses appear to be burning on the inside here, as Trier focuses on the surviving Reeds’ almost tragic inability to connect. Conrad shuts down Gene’s every attempt at father-son communication, including a desperate workaround Gene attempts, going undercover in his son’s favorite role-playing game. At first, Johan has more encouraging words for Conrad, but then, in a horrifying conversation on the school bleachers, we realize just how scarred and cynical his older brother is. It’s as if all the trauma Isabelle took upon herself were passed on to her family, the battle scars she wears with pride internalized by those who spent every day afraid she might die in the field.
Those looking for a sexy in-the-trenches thriller would do better to track down “1,000 Times Good Night,” in which Michael Haneke’s other muse, Juliette Binoche, also plays a war photographer. Here, it hardly matters that Isabelle worked as a front-line shutterbug. That’s one of the few concrete details in a film that lacks much of the specificity that made Trier’s two previous films so fascinating — and the photos he attributes to her so arresting.
Film Review: ‘Louder Than Bombs’-Peter DeBruge-Variety Magazine
Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 17, 2015. Running time: 109 MIN.
Look Who’s Back– (the German title is “Er Ist Wieder Da”) is a new film available on Netflix here in Canada. It’s adapted from a bestselling satirical novel by German author Timur Vermes.
Th films premise is based on the fantastical scenario that Adolf Hitler materializes in modern day Berlin, 70 years after his death.A strange and off putting premise to base a comedy on I would say. Even if it is black humour. But what starts out as a Borat inspired fish out of water tale, develops into a more darker look at contemporary European politics, and the similarities between it and the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1930’s.
Here is some text from a wonderful write -up of the film by Carol Hill for PRI and a link to the main article and an audio interview with the filmmaker: PRI Interview and Article
“The book is completely fiction. You read it and it’s just like an author’s imagination. I had this idea that if you turned it into a film you could try out the main hypothesis of the book. The book is about Hitler coming back and how people react to him and whether he would have another chance today. And using documentary film means I would be able to really test that, really see actually how people would react?”
Before shooting the dramatic film, Wnendt took the actor who plays Hitler all over Germany, dressed as Hitler and in character, to find out. The result is a mockumentary that makes you laugh and then it makes you feel uncomfortable that you’re laughing.
“I think it’s good and healthy to laugh about [Hitler],” says Wnendt. “But there’s a big difference whether you laugh about him as a person or whether you would belittle his crimes or if you laugh about the victims. That’s a big difference.
Wnendt believes it’s better for Germans to laugh about Hitler than to demonize him.
“It was just normal people who elected [the Nazis], normal people who followed orders, and normal people who could’ve stopped him. And that didn’t happen,” Wnendt says. “So the responsibility and also the historical fault is with the German people, with ordinary people.”
The plot of “Look Who’s Back” is simple, sort of. It’s today’s Germany and Hitler wakes up, still in uniform. He’s lying on the grass in Berlin, on the exact spot where his bunker was, the place he spent the final days of the Third Reich and where he committed suicide with Eva Braun in April 1945.
But it’s the digital age, so someone sees him and videotapes him. It goes viral. Eventually some ambitious and craven TV producers find out about him and turn him into a star.
This Hitler is less shouty than the real one (most of the time). He speaks in a more fatherly tone, but his fascist core comes through, if Germans would realize it. But they don’t, even when an elderly Jewish woman recognizes him as the real Hitler. Nonetheless, Hitler goes on to gain a huge following.
Oliver Masucci, the actor who plays Hitler, spent nearly a year traveling around Germany completely in character. He said it was a disturbing experience.
“The first thing they did was take selfies. I took about 25,0000 selfies. First [people] laughed and asked why I was dressed as Hitler,” Masucci said.
He explained that he was Hitler and told them he was shooting a movie so people could tell him what they really think about today’s Germany. “Then people started to talk to me. This was really awful.”
Masucci says Germans told him they thought democracy wasn’t working, that Germany needed another strongman, that refugees should be sent home and the unemployed should be put in labor camps.
Wnendt acknowledges that the Germans who spoke to “Hitler” knew that they were speaking to an actor dressed as him. But there was a depth to what they said that was chilling.
“They forgot about the camera and really took him seriously. When he gave them his ideas on immigration, they thought those ideas were great. No matter where we went, there were always people who really kind of fell for him. And that’s kind of sad in a way. It was good for the film, but it’s sad for our country.”
Hitler trying to learn how to use a computer and mouse Credit: Courtesy: Constantin Film
“Look Who’s Back” is unmistakeably funny. It makes you laugh out loud. You see the Hitler character trying to learn how to use a computer and mouse. He wants the username Adolf Hitler but it’s already taken.
In the film, the TV producers are ruthless in their careerism. And the only scene in which “Hitler” gets in trouble is when an online video turns up showing him shooting an annoying dog.
As a filmgoer, it’s refreshing to see a German satirical film. The Germans aren’t exactly known for their sense of humor. Then Wnendt reminds us why this is.
“Before Hitler came to power, the Jews in Germany were a huge part of the entertainment industry. Jewish humor has a long and strong tradition. Because of the Holocaust, we still, up to today, can still feel that loss of humor and creativity because of the Third Reich.”
And that’s exactly the raw nerve that “Look Who’s Back” succeeds in touching.”
check this out on Netflix if you want a conversation starter… :Look Who’s Back
CFMU– I have been hosting a soundtrack radio programme since the late 90’s at CFMU Radio in Hamilton and have recently decided to start to post the 2 hour podcasts on Soundcloud. Check out the link here: Soundtrack on CFMU Podcast
I hope to keep posting here on a more regular basis. A couple interesting things I am hoping to see at the TIFF Lightbox soon are the Norwegian thriller:Hevn, and Nicholas Winding Refn’s new movie: The Neon Demon
Later this summer I am planning on attending the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal in July and TIFF this September as well:)
Thanks for checking out the blog and feel free to send me comments or share!
Well it is nearing the end of my European journey,as I fly home in a few days via Iceland. I have squeezed in a few more screenings in the last week, but I am limited to watching English language films here in the Netherlands as any film subtitling is in Dutch which is beyond my linguistic capabilities:)
I did get to link up with filmmaker Adrien Costello in. Paris for a film: Concussion starring Will Smith. A well done look at groundbreaking research into a brain disease affecting ex-NFL players,and the fight by the main researcher to have it recognized by the league.
In Rotterdam I checked out a very cool complex on the harbour called Lanterna Venesta-a music venue/restaurant/cinema-and checked out a new film : Beyond Sleep. It is a new Norway/Netherlands co-production and involves a small group of geologists hiking through the wilderness of remote Norway. Most are concerned with practical discoveries, but out lead character seems to be on more of a metaphysical journey. An uneven film that never quite reached or conveyed fully what it was trying express.
I did see some great photography in Rotterdam at a couple museums. The Kusnthall Museum has a very nice exhibit of photos by Phillipe Hausmann-including some very famous still is Salvador Dali, Alfred Hitchcock, and Marilyn Monroe. If you are anywhere near Rotterdan definately a must see:
Other photos were on display appropriately enough at the Netherlands Photography Museum housed in a former cruise liner terminal building. Two exhibitions were of note: Ulays installation of Polaroids, and Toon Michiels show American Neon Signs-Day & Night.Another reason to head to Rotterdam this spring:)
I headed down the road (or track as I have been travelling by train) to Amsterdam. There is a very cool ex-tram garage that is now I large food hall (FoodHallen) and within the complex is a nice 5 theatre cinema. I had heard Charlie Kaufman’s new film was really interesting-a “buzz” film. It is called Anomolisa and is all stop motion animation which give the movie a very bizarre, otherworldly look. Beyond that-the film wasn’t this viewers cup of tea. The lead character (Michael Stone) came across to me as a creep, visiting Cincinnati to give a speech at a conference, he spends most of his energy drinking, smoking, and trying to have sex. Oh,and have some sort of existential crisis or mid-life breakdown. That is supposed to make him a bit less of a jerk perhaps? The portrayal of women in the film is very poor- they are doormats with very little self esteem- no excuse for that in this day and age. Anyways obviously I didn’t care for the film-maybe you will think differently if you see it.
Today I checked out the very cool and stunning Film Eye-located on the waterfront in Amsterdam. A cool set of cinemas complement the museum and restaurant-a definately place to see in the city:) Downstairs was a permanent exhibit of old cinema memoralbia, and some very cool interactive displays and film quizzes as well as access to their archive of film that can be viewed in little viewing pods.
Upstairs was a very interesting exhibit called: Close-Up A New Generation of Film & Video Artists in the Netherlands.The highlight was a very cool short film by Amos Mulder-a visual dream sequence with the protagonist as a astronaut journeying through a mystical garden and forest; and over top of this is a 1960’s recording of a psychologist asking a patient a series of question regarding his dream after he has just brought the patient out of hypnosis:
Well that’s it for now folks, I will be back in Canada next week and back at CFMU hosting Soundtrack at the end on March:)