Latest Features

A Look Inside David Cronenberg’s Debut Novel ‘Consumed’

Written by Nick Newman, September 30, 2014 at 3:30 pm 

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If David Cronenberg‘s acolytes are irate with the ever-shifting release strategy plaguing his latest film, they might take solace in knowing a different, more significant option is now available: Consumed, the filmmaker’s inaugural foray into literature. Although this release has been strangely underplayed, with only a recent short film and a couple of stray interviews promoting the occasion, cognizant parties have understandably high expectations. The notion of auteur becoming author is both a rare and curious enough event to warrant some drumming-up from Scribner, yet this auteur, in particular, stands right at the nexus point of the literature-cinema convergence. He has, after all, been deemed a “literary” filmmaker time and again — this title earned not only by an occasionally expressed preference for books over films, but screen adaptations that transpose William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, and Don DeLillo with the utmost care — all while cinephiles across the planet revere his oeuvre for just how “cinematic”  it is. How do the sensibilities of one so adept at visual communication — speaking for both the most extreme (bugs with talking-asshole backs) and subtle (razor-sharp contrasts in shot-reverse-shot dynamics) ends of the spectrum — conform to the page?

That those expecting a major work should keep most of their expectations tempered is not necessarily a warning against the text itself, but rather a comment on how we perceive Cronenberg’s work. As one who’s fairy set in preferring the “late Cronenberg” pictures over ickier, sleazier stylings inherent to most of his pre-Dead Ringers catalog, Consumed’s closer kinship with the earlier titles – narrative, thematic, and, to some extent, stylistic (consider passages in relation to images) components are much more in league with Videodrome than, say, Cosmopolis — can only bring with it a sense of artistic regression. One need not elaborate too fully on why that’s disappointing. This, however, is not to say we’re not looking at a failure: the book is about as pleasurable as it is breezy, thanks mostly to its easily processed prose — think closer to “airport thriller,” further from his professed literary heroes: Milan Kundera, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Burroughs, and Vladimir Nabokov — and, some major structural issues notwithstanding, a decent yarn practically engineered to earn the title of “page-turner.”

consumedEarn that title it often does. Consumed’s narrative is split between Naomi and Nathan, “stylish and camera-obsessed” yellow photojournalists in search of lurid, fascinating stories that will earn hits for whatever outlet takes their latest report. (The occasional digs at Vice-like networks can hardly go unnoticed or unappreciated.) When a French-Marxist philosopher by the name of Aristide Arosteguy (side note: this book is a bit dumb) disappears soon after the murder and cannibalization of of his wife, Célestine, Naomi begins tracking the man’s whereabouts in Tokyo. Nathan, meanwhile, journeys to Toronto for the guidance of Barry Roiphe, a physician after whom a gonorrhea-like STD, recently contracted by Nathan, was named. (A disease that, it should be noted, was picked up from the patient of a shady Hungarian doctor from whose perspective we see in Cronenberg’s filmic companion piece, The Nest.) Both reach their desired subject, only to discover that obsessive, Internet-fueled investigations were hardly any primer for what’s truly going on, which is itself to say nothing of the particularly bizarre ways their assignments are connected.

Here’s the thing: Consumed would still be trashy if Cronenberg had immaculately weaved these loosely connected narratives, in his alternating-by-chapter structure finding a justifiable way to ricochet from one side of the world to the next. He doesn’t, though, which leaves us with a juicy bit of 21st-century horror and some auteurist interest in how frequently these characters employ cell phones, tablets, and laptops while the narrator describes their screens as something of a separate physical space (Videodrome again). Yet the novel’s greatest fault is in its pretense to have illuminated much on the social-media age, with reams of sentences fumbling to make acceptable its tiresome “we’re all connected” theme. (At least a specific angle sometimes distracts from his tendency to stick an adverb into every other sentence.) If Cronenberg can hardly maintain a solid structure — sticking with Nathan’s storyline almost always feels obligatory, for one thing; he’s clearly more interested in Naomi and the philosopher — the social commentary might be best left by the wayside.

No matter how tired half this story may become and regardless of how flat its social commentary might prove, things begin to loosen up the deeper into this story we’re taken. Either through acknowledgement of or, more likely, forced surrender to what it ultimately is, I found myself embracing the book as its narrative escaped the confines of Toronto and Tokyo apartments, pulling back a curtain on the Cannes Film Festival (not that this shift makes much more sense with 200 pages of context) and, willingly or not, turning a bit dumber. If Consumed was created solely to allow the existence of a line that manages to reasonably cohere insects, a woman’s breast, and North Korean cinema, the effort was not a folly. (Ambivalent though I might be toward what sort of specter the nation eventually casts over this narrative — “North Korean nonsense,” I wrote in my notes — I’m also keen on a Burn After Reading-esque final scene, which gleefully leaves many threads hanging while providing the book’s biggest jolt.) When there’s the glut of lesser material to work through? You’ll wonder why this was the story Cronenberg decided to tell after decades of professing his love for literature, but that curiosity might also fuel worthwhile afterthoughts concerning the text itself.

Fellow admirers are thus bound to be fascinated by the experience, if not, like myself, also a smidge disheartened that our most overwhelming peek inside his creative process does little to affirm his genius. It’s fascinating to peek inside his perspectives on marital life and aging; of significantly less interest is his obsession in cataloging various camera models and lenses, which are discussed in some detail whenever (and this is often) someone picks up or shoots. I’ll take the mixed bag over nothing when going inside his head for an extended period of time, practically hearing the words in his own voice, and experiencing a story almost exactly as he must’ve felt is worth the price of admission. Barring the decent chance that this is his only foray into extended writing, there should be little hesitation in giving his next book a glance.

Consumed is now available from major book retailers.

Recommended Discs & Deals of the Week: ‘Once Upon a Time in America,’ ‘Ali: Fear Eats the Soul,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, September 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm 

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Every week we dive into the cream of the crop when it comes to home releases, including Blu-ray and DVDs, as well as recommended deals of the week. If we were provided screener copies, we’ll have our own write-up, but if that’s not the case, one can find official descriptions from the distributors. Check out our rundown below and return every Tuesday for the best films one can take home. Note that if you’re looking to support the site, every purchase you make through the links below helps us and is greatly appreciated.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

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The most intimate film from Rainer Werner Fassbinder‘s massive catalog arrives in its greatest home-video presentation yet. What’s not to like? Although its preaching the virtue of acceptance and patience will resonate for as long as there are moving pictures, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul goes deeper than just about anything else you could call a “message movie,” its compassion only empowered by exacting formalism that milks as much as possible from every cut and frame. If now’s your first time experiencing it, be prepared – some 40 years later, this film still has the ability to shock. – Nick N.

Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone)

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The New York-set Sergio Leone classic is not only celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, but, fittingly, it’s now in its finest form yet: fully restored, with the help of Martin Scorsese no less, and featuring 22 minutes of additional footage never before seen in the United States. After stopping by New York Film Festival last weekend, it has now arriving on a must-own Blu-ray, also including commentary by Richard Schickel and a making-of documentary on the epic production.  - Jordan R.

Rent:

chef cold_in_july  hellion_1  sundays

Recommended Deals of the Week

(Note: new additions are in red)

The American (Blu-ray) – $6.00

Amelie (Blu-ray) - $6.94

Animal Kingdom (Blu-ray) – $7.08

The Big Lebowski (Blu-ray) – $8.99

The Cabin in the Woods (Blu-ray) - $7.88

Casino (Blu-ray) – $9.68

Drag Me To Hell (Blu-ray) – $8.49

Gangs of New York (Blu-ray) – $7.88

Goodfellas (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Gone Baby Gone (Blu-ray) – $6.00

Greenberg (Blu-ray) – $5.42

The Grey (Blu-ray) – $9.49

Hanna (Blu-ray) – $7.88

Heat (Blu-ray) – $8.48

High Plains Drifter (Blu-ray) – $9.96

Hot Fuzz (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Hugo (Blu-ray) – $9.16

Inglorious Basterds (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Jackie Brown (Blu-ray) – $5.00

Killing Them Softly (Blu-ray) – $9.91

Knocked Up (Blu-ray) – $8.83

Looper (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Lost In Translation (Blu-ray) – $9.63

MacGruber (Blu-ray) – $7.69

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Blu-ray) – $8.43

No Country For Old Men (Blu-ray) – $4.50

Observe & Report (Blu-ray) – $6.74

Office Space (Blu-ray) – $9.99

One Hour Photo (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Pain & Gain (Blu-ray) – $9.00

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Persepolis (Blu-ray) – $7.93

The Place Beyond the Pines (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Pineapple Express (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Proposition (Blu-ray) – $9.60

Public Enemies (Blu-ray) – $9.49

Prisoners (Blu-ray) – $12.98

Reality Bites (Blu-ray) – $9.96

The Secret In Their Eyes (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Seven (Blu-ray) – $7.25

Shame (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Shutter Island (Blu-ray) – $7.99

A Single Man (Blu-ray) – $7.49

Snowpiercer (Blu-ray pre-order) – $14.96

The Spectacular Now (Blu-ray) – $12.74

Spring Breakers (Blu-ray) - $9.96

Source Code (Blu-ray) – $5.00

Take This Waltz (Blu-ray) – $9.99

There Will Be Blood (Blu-ray) – $8.98

Vanilla Sky (Blu-ray pre-order) – $8.64

Waltz With Bashir (Blu-ray) – $6.15

The Wolf of Wall Street (Blu-ray) – $13.23

The Wrestler (Blu-ray) – $7.86

Zero Dark Thirty (Blu-ray) – $11.49

What are you picking up this week?

New to Streaming: ‘White Bird in a Blizzard,’ ‘Obvious Child,’ ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, September 26, 2014 at 1:00 pm 

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With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below, and shoot over suggestions to @TheFilmStage

The Double (Richard Ayoade)

Comically dry like director Richard Ayoade‘s debut, Submarine, his sophomore effort takes more than a few steps towards an even more arid realm of complete existentialist surrealism. As adapted by the helmer and Avi KorineThe Double brings Fyodor Dostoyevsky‘s novella to the big screen with a surefire confidence in its visual form and an eccentric comedy that should go a long way towards securing the IT Crowd star as a permanent, unique voice in contemporary cinema. There is a definite stylistic kinship to his first film, pairing it well with this one’s descent into a psychological conflict of identity: every waking second of Simon James’ (Jesse Eisenberg) entire existence shatters with the introduction of a confidently superior doppelgänger named James Simon. – Jared M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Life After Beth (Jeff Baena)

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In 2013 we got a romance-tinged take on the zombie genre with Warm Bodies and this year brings a smaller-scale, independent effort also attempting to explore the horrors of love with Life After Beth. Following our title character (Aubrey Plaza) who unexpectedly dies, her boyfriend Zach (Dane DeHaan) is considerably freaked out when he learns that she has risen from the dead. While her condition is slowly revealed, a few amusing jokes on the zombie myth are crafted, but unfortunately it’s an undercooked, blandly directed film that doesn’t use its premise to its full potential. - Jordan R. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Obvious Child (Gillian Robespierre)

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Obvious Child does well in tackling big issues that all women face without a wink or a shrug. And while writer/director Gillian Robespierre offers some political views throughout, she thankfully avoids the soapbox. Small in stature but big in laughs, this film announces comedian leading lady Jenny Slate, a talent we will hopefully see much more of in the near future. – Dan M. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer)

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The world that opens X-Men: Days of Future Past is a dismal, barren wasteland, stacked tall with the bones and corpses of extinguished super-beings while chameleon-like robotic warriors steal their impressive powers. This is the future segment of Bryan Singer’s new X-Men adventure, and if you’ve achieved comic-book movie fatigue, as I have, it’s hard not to see it as a kind of metaphor for the current blockbuster landscape. Into this, come Dr. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellan), those patriarchal mutant warhorses, who plan to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to the 1970’s via the powers of Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from killing Dr. Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), which will start a chain reaction unleashing an army of Sentinels equipped with the blue-skinned shape-shifter’s abilities. – Nathan B. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

White Bird in a Blizzard (Gregg Araki)

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During White Bird in a Blizzard, our lead Kat Connors (Shailene Woodley), is browsing records with a friend (Gabourey Sidibe) and a poster for David Lynch‘s debut Eraserhead lines the wall. A clear nod to the auteur that director Gregg Araki (Mysterious Skin, Kaboom) is inspired by, his latest feature could have used a bit more of that brand of strange in this surprisingly standard, but engaging coming-of-age story. – Jordan R. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Also New to Streaming

Amazon

Space Station 76

Netflix

The Firm
Grigris
Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

What are you streaming this weekend?

Discover more titles that are now available to stream.

25 Films to See at the 52nd New York Film Festival

Written by TFS Staff, September 24, 2014 at 1:20 pm 

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The finest-curated festival in North America — and perhaps the world — kicks off this week with the world premiere of David Fincher‘s latest film. What the 52nd New York Film Festival brings from that point forward is two weeks of cinephile heaven, with additional premieres (one being our most-anticipated film of the year) and a selection of the most-acclaimed festival titles from the last year all stopping by — not to mention restored revivals, speaking engagements, and even more.

So when it comes to narrowing down what’s on our radar, we could just direct one to the full line-up, but we’ve done our best to highlight the 25 specific titles of greatest interest. Check out the rundown below, make sure to stay tuned for our coverage, and let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments. One can also get tickets for the below films, if available, on NYFF’s official site.

The 50 Year Argument (Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi)

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While documentaries such as Stray Dog, Red Army, Seymour: An Introduction, and Tales of the Grim Sleeper round out an excellent-looking non-fiction line-up at this edition of NYFF, one that has captured our attention is the latest work from Martin Scorsese. The film stops by before an HBO bow next week, and chronicles the 50-year history of The New York Review of Books with Scorsese’s frequent documentary editor David Tedeschi making his co-directing debut. – Jordan R.

Beloved Sisters (Dominik Graf)

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While it might not be on your radar just yet, the latest drama from Dominik Graf will surely earn attention soon. Germany’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at next year’s Oscars — and a picture set for release next year by Music Box Films — the period romantic drama follows an 18th-century love triangle. Clocking in at nearly three hours makes it one of the longest in the line-up and it looks to be well worth it, as our friend David Ehrlichcalls it “sophisticated” and striking “a perfect balance between Resnais and the renaissance.” – Jordan R.

Birdman (Alejandro González Iñárritu)

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Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s Birdman has all the markings of a great festival title: it represents a departure in style from a controversial director, a good four years after Biutiful; it’s got a juicy cast of actors, all testing themselves in different ways, and it comes wrapped in that crazy cinephile mystique that leaves people speculating for months about a continuous long take that may or may not make up the whole film. Well, Birdman is certainly all that, down to the jazzy, vibrant single-take effect employed by Iñárritu and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki to chronicle the early days of a Broadway adaptation of Raymond Carvers What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.Tommaso T. (full review)

Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas)

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There are so many self-interpretations and meta moments in Clouds of Sils Maria, a puzzler that shows director Olivier Assayas evolving into a director of refinement, that it can seem exhausting. As actress Maria and personal assistant Val rehearse scenes from an upcoming play, it’s clear that the dialogue itself mimics their own relationship. Their sharing of interpretations bluntly address their own feelings, as if the text is almost falling over itself to tell you how to approach everything you need to know. It’s less a Rosetta Stone than reading an undergraduate thesis written about the film as it unfolds. – Peter L. (full review)

Citizenfour (Laura Poitras)

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A late addition to the line-up, the timely Citizenfour will be making its debut at NYFF. Set for a release next month, the documentary follows director Laura Poitras, who had intimate access to Edward Snowden and captured their encounters in the days surrounding the major events that would follow. Promises to be a riveting behind-the-scenes look at the life of the critical whistleblower.  - Jordan R.

Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve)

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Less the neon-strewn, beat-driven epic its descriptions would’ve suggested and closer to… well, a Mia Hansen-Løve film, Eden has lodged itself in my brain for its quiet — and I do mean “quiet”; even the music isn’t played to high-decibel levels — drift through a weirdly uneventful, decades-long experience that ended, to my surprise, on a discomfiting bit of text-image superimposition that suggests our lives are a bit more finite than we’d like to admit. Inside Llewyn Davis comparisons will undoubtedly spring up, which is fair, but this is closer in spirit to David Chase’s Not Fade Away — a film that’s just as good, to my mind. Those who were fans of that picture have some idea of what’s in store, both for its slightly sudden cutting through time and, through the use of that temporal strategy, evoking the experience of being just outside truly great things. Big impressions are left elsewhere: it doesn’t hurt that even if you, like me, don’t care much for the House scene as a whole, its soundtrack will be stuck in your head for a good long while. – Nick N.

Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller)

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There is an unspoken emptiness that hangs boldly over Foxcatcher, which is sure to be one of the subtly darkest films made by a major Hollywood studio this year. The film’s Pennsylvania ranch initially appears like a gorgeous emblem of American society, sparkling with the country’s ideological symbols of majestic plains, galloping horses, and sizable, but not elegant, mansions. But there also seems to be a totalitarianism hanging over these as well, a kind that makes one second guess the images presented onscreen. The dread that sits over Bennett Miller’s superbly directed, bleakly dystopic view of American life is palatable in every moment without ever feeling overwhelming, simply sitting in the empty spaces that separate the physical bodies. Miller is a director of these spaces — spaces that have been hollowed out, leaving characters to need to sit, look, and think, as we often see with Channing Tatum’s Mark Schultz. Mark desires something, but never has the words to articulate it. – Peter L. (full review)

Gone Girl (David Fincher)

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Few (perhaps no) contemporary filmmakers do pulp with the same formal precision as David Fincher, putting such significant emphasis on every possible impact of each new cut, camera angle, and music cue. Gone Girl, pretty much “pulpy” right from the title on down, thus brings with it more credentials than any airport-thriller adaptation should wield. His increasing interest in the importance of perspective — either through court depositions, boxes of files, or a fairy tale told to one’s own child — may find new life in Gillian Flynn’s best-seller. Judging by the Fincher-approved marketing campaign, one gets the impression it’s through a collision of our overbearing media-saturated age and a frightened woman’s diaries, all filtered through crisp Cronenweth cinematography and overwhelming paranoia. – Nick N.

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Recommended Discs & Deals of the Week: ‘Ida,’ John Wayne, ‘The Rover,’ ‘We Are the Best!,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, September 23, 2014 at 11:45 am 

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Every week we dive into the cream of the crop when it comes to home releases, including Blu-ray and DVDs, as well as recommended deals of the week. If we were provided screener copies, we’ll have our own write-up, but if that’s not the case, one can find official descriptions from the distributors. Check out our rundown below and return every Tuesday for the best films one can take home. Note that if you’re looking to support the site, every purchase you make through the links below helps us and is greatly appreciated.

Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski)

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A black-and-white film about an orphan nun trying to find out about her family sounds like the kind of clichéd awards bait which could easily fall flat on its face. Pawel Pawlikowski manages to undermine those dire possibilities by making a subtle, affecting picture about long-buried secrets, as well as the conflicted dialogue between virtue and vice. The film is buoyed by the strong performances of its two leads, Agata Trzebuchowska and Agata Kulesza, both of whom manage to bring real humanity to characters who begin as archetypes. Add to this base the way in which Ida delves deep into horrors wrought by war and attempts to construct some greater peace, and a film that sounds like a didactic one-act play becomes a moving, resonant glimpse into a very human profound in two people’s lives. - Brian R.

The Rover (David Michôd)

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In crafting a series of gripping, mature dramas, the releases from Australia’s Blue-Tongue Films have certainly left a stamp on independent cinema in recent years, with those involved – from Ben Mendelsohn to Joel Edgerton — seeing their careers buoyed. Their latest production, The Rover, comes from David Michôd, and retains certain stylistic sensibilities of his debut, the Shakespearean crime drama Animal Kingdom, while crafting something vastly different. The Rover immediately succeeds in planting one in the downtrodden world it’s created: ten years after an economic collapse and, needless to say, Australia. By keeping the scale small and the minute details abundant, Michôd effectively sells a barren wasteland full of spare, secluded inhabitants. Leaving the rest of the world’s fate to our own imagination, it’s a far more powerful in approach than anything a fabricated news broadcast or prologue could attempt to convey. – Jordan R. (full review)

We Are the Best! (Lukas Moodysson)

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The opening title card to Lukas Moodysson’s joyous and vibrant film We Are the Best! reads, “Stockholm 1982″ while early scenes consist of idle discussions about taxes and arguments about the laundry. These opening minutes suggest that “Stockholm 1982” is a city populated with older residents entrenched in rigorous domesticity. Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), our thirteen-year-old heroines, want no part of this world. They sport botched mohawks and hide their femininity behind thick glasses and baggy clothing. Their greatest act of defiance is their affinity for punk music — a trend, they are promptly reminded by their angelic-looking classmate, that’s long been dead. – Zade C.

Rent:

the_innocents  macbeth  neighbors  the_signal

Recommended Deals of the Week

(Note: new additions are in red)

The American (Blu-ray) – $6.00

Amelie (Blu-ray) - $6.94

The Big Lebowski (Blu-ray) – $8.99

The Cabin in the Woods (Blu-ray) - $7.88

Casino (Blu-ray) – $9.68

Drag Me To Hell (Blu-ray) – $8.49

Gangs of New York (Blu-ray) – $7.88

Goodfellas (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Gone Baby Gone (Blu-ray) – $6.00

The Grey (Blu-ray) – $9.49

Hanna (Blu-ray) – $7.88

Heat (Blu-ray) – $8.48

High Plains Drifter (Blu-ray) – $9.96

Hot Fuzz (Blu-ray) – $7.29

Hugo (Blu-ray) – $9.78

Inglorious Basterds (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Inside Llewyn Davis (Blu-ray) – $12.98

Jackie Brown (Blu-ray) – $5.00

John Wayne: The Epic Collection (DVD) – $68.99

Killing Them Softly (Blu-ray) – $10.24

Knocked Up (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Looper (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Lost In Translation (Blu-ray) – $9.68

MacGruber (Blu-ray) – $7.91

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Blu-ray) – $8.54

Mud (Blu-ray) – $9.96

Observe & Report (Blu-ray) – $6.74

Office Space (Blu-ray) – $9.99

One Hour Photo (Blu-ray) – $7.87

Pain & Gain (Blu-ray) – $9.50

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Place Beyond the Pines (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Pineapple Express (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Proposition (Blu-ray) – $9.60

Public Enemies (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Reality Bites (Blu-ray) – $9.96

Seven (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Shame (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Shutter Island (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Snowpiercer (Blu-ray pre-order) – $14.96

The Spectacular Now (Blu-ray) – $12.74

Spring Breakers (Blu-ray) - $9.96

Source Code (Blu-ray) – $5.00

Stoker (Blu-ray) – $9.98

Take This Waltz (Blu-ray) – $9.99

There Will Be Blood (Blu-ray) – $9.49

Vanilla Sky (Blu-ray pre-order) – $8.64

The Wolf of Wall Street (Blu-ray) – $13.23

The Wrestler (Blu-ray) – $7.86

Zero Dark Thirty (Blu-ray) – $11.49

Zodiac (Blu-ray) – $9.99

What are you picking up this week?

New to Streaming: ‘Scanners,’ ‘Tess,’ ‘Cold In July,’ ‘A Single Man,’ ‘Chef,’ ‘Felony,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, September 19, 2014 at 1:00 pm 

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With a seemingly endless amount of streaming options — not only the titles at our disposal, but services themselves — we’ve taken it upon ourselves to highlight the titles that have recently hit the interwebs. Every week, one will be able to see the cream of the crop (or perhaps some simply interesting picks) of streaming titles (new and old) across platforms such as Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and more (note: U.S. only). Check out our rundown for this week’s selections below, and shoot over suggestions to @TheFilmStage

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case (Andreas Johnsen)

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Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case is a rare and intimate perspective on the artist and political figure. Directed by Andreas Johnsen, the documentary follows the globally renowned artist upon his release from a Chinese prison after being held for 81 days. On house arrest, Weiwei receives support from his wife, young son and mother, numerous friends in the art and entertainment industry, and his legions of fans. As the film unfolds, he continues to fight the Chinese government on the falsified tax-evasion charges that supposedly lead to his imprisonment. With his phone tapped and his every move watched over by the authorities, Weiwei never abandons his crusade against the Chinese government. More concerned with the maintenance of his freedom of speech than his reputation, Weiwei presses onward speaking out in the hopes that personal victory will spawn revolt against national governmental oppression. – Jordan C. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier)

What remains Lars von Trier‘s best film is, somewhat unsurprisingly, also his most emotionally grueling, a work that strikes its emotional center with such force because it never feels like anything other than straight documentation. (Take thatDancer in the Dark!) For as miserable as the experience will prove, what some will take / have taken as misery porn is really a journey that, despite all else, concludes with a spiritual awakening worthy of Dreyer. Pair it with Nymphomaniac if you’re looking for a great six hours of cinema. – Nick N.

Where to Stream: Hulu+

Chef (Jon Favreau)

How close is too close to home? That has to be the question going through the mind of anyone familiar with the last decade of Jon Favreau’s career while watching his latest film, Chef. Smartly made and richly told, the film follows the life of a chef that is miserable working for someone else making the “greatest hits,” and finds solace, freedom, and the ability to express himself again through the independence of running his own food truck. – Bill G. (full review)

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

Cold In July (Jim Mickle)

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Far removed from his cold, clean serial killer character in Dexter, Michael C. Hall‘s first role following the series’ conclusion finds him as a family man put in a distressing situation, complete with an abiding mullet and mustache. Waking up in the middle of night to an intruder in his home, Richard Dane (Hall) retrieves a gun currently occupying a dusty box in his closet, and approaches the stranger. Although the trespasser is unarmed, the tick of a clock on his mantle startles Dane, resulting in a shot going off, fatally connecting with the unwelcome visitor. – Jordan R. (full review)

Where to Stream: iTunes

Felony (Matthew Saville)

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Following The Rover‘s release, Australia’s Blue-Tongue Films’ next project is Felony, which bowed at Toronto International Film Festival last fall and is now available to watch. Coming from screenwriter Joel Edgerton (starring in the film as well) and director Matthew Saville, the story follows three detectives who become embroiled in a tense struggle after a tragic accident that leaves a child in critical condition. One is guilty of a crime, one will try to cover it up, and the other attempts to expose it. Also starring Jai Courtney, Melissa George and Tom Wilkinson it looks like a compelling drama and will hit theaters next month. – Jordan R.

Where to Stream: Amazon, iTunes, Google

The Final Member (Jonah Bekhor and Zach Math)

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The latest cockumentary, The Final Member has somewhat grander ambitions than Brian Spitz’s quest UnHung Hero, where a size-conscious fellow attempts to unzip global and cultural fascinations with penis size. The Final Member celebrates penises of all sizes, shapes and life forms at Sigurour “Siggi” Hjartarson’s Icelandic Phallological Museum in Husavik, Iceland. While UnHung Hero reminded me of the kind of inquiry Sal and Richard of The Howard Stern Show might engage in, The Final Member could have been presented by the Twitter feed What The F*** Facts, as each revelation is stranger and more fascinating than the next. – John F. (full review)

Where to Stream: Netflix

Manakamana (Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez)

Manakamana

While it’ll easily end up being one of the lowest-grossing features on this list, the latest work from the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab is also one of the most powerful, transformative experiences one is bound to experience this year. Taking a different approach than Sweetgrass and Leviathan, Manakamana places us as a passenger on twelve separate trips to and from the titular sacred temple in Nepal. While some may consider it an endurance test, I found it to be a warm, vulnerable exploration of humanity, stripping down barriers which even the vast majority of documentaries can’t help but produce. – Jordan R.

Where to Stream: Netflix

See more new to streaming titles this week >>

The Best of Toronto International Film Festival 2014

Written by TFS Staff, September 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm 

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When a few hundred films stop by 2014′s Toronto International Film Festival, it’s certainly impossible to cover everything, but we were able to catch about 80 features — and, with that, it’s time to conclude our experience. We’ve rounded up our top ten films, followed by a list of the complete coverage, and stay tuned over the next months (or years) as we bring updates on features as they make their way to screens. One can also click here for a link to all of our coverage, including news, trailers, reviews and much more. As always, thanks for reading, and let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments below.

Alive (Park Jung-bum)

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The trend towards the narrative of the victim in cinema has hit critical mass lately, with all manner of films delving into stories of people who are abused and subjugated by life, astonished and blameless victims of a world wrought from chance and cruelty. In most cases the plots of these films form a kind of endurance test, taking a character and ladling on the weight until they either bend, break, or are given a reprieve. Given the state of the world today, it is not hard to see why these narratives strike a chord with us, but it is disheartening to realize that in a bulk of these films the protagonist is does not so much act as they are acted upon. Alive, the newest film from writer/director and star Park Jung-bum, stands in stark contrast to the majority of these films in that it’s protagonist, Jeong-cheol (Park), is the primary acting force in his own life. – Brian R. (full review)

Confession (Lee Do-yun)

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When someone says that they will do their best, the expression is meant as a kind of assurance. No matter what, it seems to say, you can rest easy knowing that you have my full energy and intention towards a favorable outcome. The problem inherent in this statement is that one’s best will always be tempered by whatever failings they possess, and in some cases their best effort and intentions may be poisoned by their shortcomings. Confession, the debut film by South Korean writer/director Lee Do-yun, looks at the way in which intention and character collide, painting a portrait of human interaction that is at once generous in spirit while unflinching in observation. It creates a harrowing, twisted situation in which no one ever intended to do wrong by their friends, and yet still managed to harm the people closest to them. – Brian R. (full review)

Far From Men (David Oelhoffen)

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Writer/director David Oelhoffen has a special film on his hands because it’s powerful tale begs audience members to learn more about the subject. I’m not talking about the fictional character of Daru (Viggo Mortensen) secluding himself in the mountains to teach young Arab children how to read while civil war wages on or his unwitting ward of the state Mohamed (Reda Kateb) awaiting trial in Tinguit for murdering his cousin. I’m referencing the backdrop—where those mountains are and the “why” of the ongoing rebellion amidst them that spans two ethnicities, two languages, multiple races, and one common goal of freedom. – Jared M. (full review)

Haemoo (Shim Sung-Bo)

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Haemoo is an effective moral thriller that immediately mirrors the best work of its co-writer and producer Bong Joon-ho. What starts as slow and straight-forward goes south quickly, raising the stakes drastically as difficult decisions are made — first for profit, and secondly for survival. Opening with a near-fatal, yet tone-setting accident on a fishing boat, Kang (Kim Yoon-seok) is a captain in a very difficult position. After a series of bad luck and poor financial decisions he finds himself over extended, unable to secure a bank loan to sail the ship as a legitimate cargo operation. Turning to the mob, Kang quickly finds himself in a moral dilemma: rather than leave his crew high and dry he reluctantly agrees to smuggle a group of Koreans leaving China with the promise of asylum in South Korea. - John F. (full review)

Horse Money (Pedro Costa)

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Often, when defining the auteur, one of the first things we go to is the consistency of location — that through a certain booming metropolis, quaint small town, or secluded countryside, we can surmise autobiographical details or even the utopian fantasies of the director at hand. All of this is easy in the case of Pedro Costa, coming off his Fontainhas trilogy, which depicted the struggles of the poor and drug-addicted denizens of Lisbon’s housing projects. – Ethan V. (full review)

See the remaining five >>

Recommended Discs & Deals of the Week: ‘Eraserhead,’ ‘Godzilla,’ ‘MacGruber,’ and More

Written by TFS Staff, September 16, 2014 at 1:32 pm 

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Every week we dive into the cream of the crop when it comes to home releases, including Blu-ray and DVDs, as well as recommended deals of the week. If we were provided screener copies, we’ll have our own write-up, but if that’s not the case, one can find official descriptions from the distributors. Check out our rundown below and return every Tuesday for the best films one can take home. Note that if you’re looking to support the site, every purchase you make through the links below helps us and is greatly appreciated.

Eraserhead (David Lynch)

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Nearly 40 years after its release, David Lynch‘s feature continues to haunt audiences like few other debuts — or films, in general. Courtesy of The Criterion Collection, it’s time to see it in a whole new black-and-white light as it recently underwent a 4K restoration supervised by the director himself. Add in a documentary on the making of the film, six restored shorts by Lynch, interviews with the cast and crew, and much more, and this is one of the must-owns of the year.  - Jordan R.

Godzilla (Gareth Edwards)

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Whoa. What else can one say about this film? The taste of the prior American remake of Godzilla hadn’t yet been completely washed out of our mouths, but, thanks to a stellar marketing campaign that favored mood and atmosphere over bald spectacle, the anticipation for this new incarnation was high. Somehow, Gareth Edwards not only cleared the set bar, but did so with room enough to fit a 300-foot lizard. Thanks to his bold-for-the-time decision to keep the monster in the shadows, Edwards built up a level of heated anticipation and awe before unleashing a final-act climax that had audiences cheering and left people staggering out of the film still vibrating with excitement. This is old-school monster-movie making, the likes of which we all feared had been lost. – Brian R.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper)

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After screening at SXSW and stopping by Cannes (with an introduction from Nicolas Winding Refn), a restoration of one of the scariest, most grisly films ever made is arriving at home. Tobe Hooper‘s 1974 classic recently went under a five-month process of digitally scanning and correcting Hooper’s original 16mm A/B rolls, thanks to NOLO Digital Film in Chicago. For its 40th anniversary Hooper stated it’s “absolutely the best the film has ever looked,” and with a 4K scan and a newly re-mastered 7.1 soundtrack it’s available today on Blu-ray, just in time for a perfect viewing in the month of Halloween. – Jordan R.

Recommended Deals of the Week

(Note: new additions are in red)

The American (Blu-ray) – $6.00

Amelie (Blu-ray) - $6.94

The Big Lebowski (Blu-ray) – $9.96

The Cabin in the Woods (Blu-ray) - $7.88

Casino (Blu-ray) – $9.68

The Counselor (Director’s Cut Blu-ray) – $9.99

Drag Me To Hell (Blu-ray) – $8.49

Gangs of New York (Blu-ray) – $7.88

Goodfellas (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Gone Baby Gone (Blu-ray) – $6.00

The Grey (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Hanna (Blu-ray) – $7.88

Heat (Blu-ray) – $8.48

High Plains Drifter (Blu-ray) – $9.96

Hot Fuzz (Blu-ray) – $7.29

Hugo (Blu-ray) – $9.78

Inglorious Basterds (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Inside Llewyn Davis (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Jackie Brown (Blu-ray) – $5.00

Killing Them Softly (Blu-ray) – $9.91

Knocked Up (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Looper (Blu-ray) – $9.99

Lost In Translation (Blu-ray) – $9.68

MacGruber (Blu-ray) – $7.69

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Blu-ray) – $8.58

Observe & Report (Blu-ray) – $6.74

Office Space (Blu-ray) – $9.99

One Hour Photo (Blu-ray) – $6.99

Pain & Gain (Blu-ray) – $8.99

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Place Beyond the Pines (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Pineapple Express (Blu-ray) – $7.99

The Proposition (Blu-ray) – $9.60

Public Enemies (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Reality Bites (Blu-ray) – $9.96

Seven (Blu-ray) – $7.50

Shame (Blu-ray) – $7.99

Shutter Island (Blu-ray) – $8.48

Snowpiercer (Blu-ray pre-order) – $14.96

The Spectacular Now (Blu-ray) – $12.74

Spring Breakers (Blu-ray) - $9.96

Stoker (Blu-ray) – $9.98

Take This Waltz (Blu-ray) – $9.99

There Will Be Blood (Blu-ray) – $9.49

Vanilla Sky (Blu-ray pre-order) – $8.64

The Wolf of Wall Street (Blu-ray) – $13.23

The Wrestler (Blu-ray) – $7.49

Zero Dark Thirty (Blu-ray) – $9.99

What are you picking up this week?

TIFF Short Cuts Canada Capsules: ‘Me and My Moulton’, ‘Entangled’, ‘Liompa’ & More

Written by Jared Mobarak, September 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm 


Forty-two short films were selected as part of the Toronto International Film Festivals 2014 iteration of Short Cuts Canada. Showcasing a slew of up-and-coming talent residing within the titular nation, each block exposes you to animated, documentary, and fiction work with faces familiar and new. Who knows, a future year’s festival may end up screening a feature from one of these writers/directors that you can say you saw greatness in way back when.

Programme 1
Premiering Friday, September 5th at 9:15pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2

An Apartment, dir. Sarah Galea-Davis, 17 min.
Around is Around, dir. Norman McLaren, 7 min.
CODA, dir. Denis Poulin, Martine Époque, 11 min.
A Delusion of Grandeur, dir. Vincent Biron, 14 min.
Mynarski Death Plummet, dir. Matthew Rankin, 8 min.

Pilot Officer Andrew Mynarski is a bit of a legend in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba and it would appear his country of Canada as well. The last World War II airman recipient of the Victorian Cross—the British and Commonwealth forces’ most prestigious award for bravery—this hero valiantly attempted to save the life of fellow soldier Pat Brophy before succumbing to the flames of their crashing aircraft. Brophy would survive the ordeal and eventually relay the story of Mynarski’s selflessness, cementing a legacy of numerous honors donning his name such as a Junior High School where he was born, an Avro Lancaster in Hamilton, Ontario, and a bronze statue at RAF Middleton St. George. Now, seventy years after his death, Matthew Rankin commemorates the event with an electric avant-garde short.

Entitled Mynarski Death Plummet, what begins as homage to old silent newsreel footage of the war quickly pulsates into a strobe of crude white lines before centering on the ill-fated hero seated in his plane’s gun turret. Utilizing live actors (Alek Rzeszowski plays Mynarski), stop-motion, painting, and celluloid destruction, Rankin delivers a Stan Brakhage-like memorial that cuts to the discharge of bullets and Patrick Keenan‘s bombastic score. We watch in fast-paced collage every last soul on the plane grab his parachute and jump, leaving Mynarski at the door. Glimpsing another pack labeled Brophy, he simply couldn’t descend without first finding his brother at arms—no matter the cost. Silent film aesthetics ratchet up the melodrama until meticulously rendered, colorful scratched animations takeover like fireworks in the sky.

The result is an invigorating piece that captures both the subject matter’s severity and its capacity to be told as more than another sullen piece of history. Mynarski already has the usual posthumous honors: the stuffy rank and file medals along with government-sanctioned locations housing his name. So it’s a delight to watch a unique piece like this turn his heroism into a work of art that’s able to educate those in the dark without merely directing them to a book of canned, impersonal entries. Mynarski Death Plummet has life and character, immortalizing this event with kinetic energy and tactful humor. If only more tributes could shed the conservative need for solemnity and replace it with celebration. An acid bath of perfectly placed crackling swirls on film is just as good as reenacted flames on set.

B

 

O Canada, dir. Evelyn Lambart, 2 min.
Sleeping Giant, dir. Andrew Cividino, 16 min.
Zero Recognition, dir. Ben Lewis, 10 min.


Programme 2
Premiering Saturday, September 6th at 10:00pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 3

Bison, dir. Kevan Funk, 14 min.
CHAINREACTION, dir. Dana Gingras, 12 min.
Liompa, dir. Elizabeth Lazebnik, 16 min.

Adapted from the 1928 short story by Yuri Olesha, Elizabeth Lazebnik‘s Liompa gives us a glimpse at the differing stages of life. We may only hear from the dying Ponomarev (Aleksey Serebryakov) as he refuses to cope with the fact he’s lost all control over the world around him, but there are also two more characters one could see as stepping stones of evolution still caught in the hold of reality’s grip. Alexander (Stepan Serebryakov)—for example—has just come of the age where doing and creating are all he can see. He wants to give names to everything around him so as to know them while Ponomarev hopes to forget all labels in his mind and wish to once more experience them unencumbered by man-made convention: fresh, wondrous, and new like a newborn.

The short is therefore a philosophically cinematic interpretation of René Magritte‘s Ceci n’est pas une pipe. It begs us to ask what life is: the world itself available to us if we’re willing to meet it, the limitless possibilities of transformation into whatever our imaginations conjure, or the encyclopedic notion of understanding above seeing. For each of these characters—the “newborn” being a young wide-eyed boy roaming the house with unfiltered glee at things possessing nuanced meaning that his innocent mind is unaware of comprehending (Sasha Romanov)—one’s idea of life is another’s undoing. The boy seeks fun, Alexander strives for meaning, and Ponomarev simply wants experience in a circle of life folding back onto itself with desire always peering forward until progress loops back to the beginning.

Shot with a stillness that allows every tiny noise from the scrap of wood, the chopping of an onion, or the cough of a sick man to roar with energy, Liompa becomes a catalog itself hovering on seemingly innocuous items that mean the world to some. A piece of wood is simultaneously a noise-making toy, a building block of technology, and a concept that doesn’t exist unless in our hands. Everything Lazebnik lingers on has a visceral, physical, and emotional charge we alternatingly embrace and abhor as we grow nearer to our oblivion. In the end all we know and see survives inside us and us alone. Their intrinsic meanings gradually disappear as our ability to understand dissipates until we’re left only with memory. Memories of life we no longer have, soon evaporated to make room for future generations to create their own.

A-

 

On Cement, dir. Robin Aubert, 14 min.
The Sands, dir. Marie-Ève Juste, 21 min.
Take Me, dir. André Turpin, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, 10 min.

Short film collaborators Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette and André Turpin-this is their third work as a duo-focus Prends-moi [Take Me] on a job very few are fit to complete. I’ve volunteered with handicapped people as a bowling scorekeeper and have seen a wide variety of group home workers come and go with differing levels of compassion and care towards those in their ward. For every companion sitting down on the lane to watch, cheer on, and engage there were three roaming around on their phones as though it was break time until the game completed. To most it is a thankless job and you cannot necessarily blame many for not quite cutting it. But to others the act of caring for a less fortunate soul is a gift of grace in itself.

While they and I lent support, facilitated safety, and helped the athletes have fun, Barbeau-Lavalette and Turpin’s sights turn towards a much different and more specific aspect of providing the infirm the opportunity to partake in what we unencumbered take for granted. At the beginning, Sami the aid (Sami Soleymanlou) accepts his job with a clinical detachment devoid of issue. We watch him bring a nameless young man (Alexandre Vallerand) physically unable to walk or truly maneuver his body into a clean bed. He places him gently, removes his underwear, and pushes the mattress towards another off-screen revealed to contain the young man’s wife (Maxime D. Pomerleau) awaiting him with a smile. This is the intimacy room and Sami treats assisting them in their endeavor as he would another patient in need of lunch.

But it isn’t truly the same and this particular instance is uncomfortably unorthodox to complete without questioning his boss. On the surface he’s asked to do something totally unaligned with society’s “normal” thought process towards intimacy due to it being the only way these two lovers can satisfy their carnal desire. We can’t help but sympathize with Sami’s plight and wonder what we’d do in the same situation. While you might say he puts himself into a position for this situation to arise, it’s not like he’d ever think he’d have to go as far as he’s asked in the film. In the end, though, someone willing to provide all things humans need to survive can’t easily ignore physical interaction’s place in the equation.

It’s amazing how powerful a simple “thank you” can be towards making it justifiably pure and immeasurably empathetic.

B+

 


Programme 3
Premiering Sunday, September 7th at 9:45pm | Scotiabank Theatre 14

Chamber Drama, dir. Jeffrey Zablotny, 11 min.
Father, dir. Jordan Tannahill, 10 min.
Hole, dir. Martin Edralin, 15 min.
Indigo, dir. Amanda Strong, 9 min.
Light, dir. Yassmina Karajah, 13 min.
Luk’Luk’I: Mother, dir. Wayne Wapeemukwa, 19 min.

I’m lost and it’s not a feeling I want to have when the TIFF Short Cuts Canada programmer calls Wayne Wapeemukwa‘s debut short Luk’Luk’I: Mother “narratively sophisticated”. That’s a description that will either boost your ego when the work speaks to you clearly or demoralize your intellect when you find comprehension is completely absent. Those words are doing the latter for me now as I unsuccessfully try to reconcile the synopsis with what I saw. Just the idea that a “full-time mother and part-time sex worker goes missing on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside during the 2010 Winter Olympics” has me scratching my head because if Stoney (Angel Gates) ever went missing, it wasn’t until the moment before the end credits began to roll.

My best guess is that the film portrays the moments before this likely real-life event. If that’s the case, maybe it will have an amazing emotional worth to viewers aware of what happened. I’m not one of those people and being ignorant to the situation confuses me because I never felt Stoney was anywhere she didn’t want to be until that final second. Instead I saw it as a day in the life piece following her travels; cross-cutting in her daughter Star (Lilianna Lagreca) playing with her grandmother (the credits say it’s the girl’s foster mother but I didn’t get that at all); and sharing a glimpse of Eric (Eric Buurman). He’s interesting because he may be playing himself considering he breaks the fourth wall to ask the director what to do next—a singular moment of fabrication starkly contrasting the rest.

The title Luk’Luk’I is Squamish for “Grove of Sacred Trees”, a place located in Crab Park, Vancouver. I’ll infer this is where the woman who went missing disappeared as her city celebrated Ice Hockey gold. Rather than truly describe that incident, however, the film shows us surreal musical interludes that play more as isolated vignettes than pieces of a coherent whole. We watch Gates take a shower in slomotion, witness Buurman singing karaoke, and later examine his complete process for shooting heroin with the gold-winning goal being scored the instant he presses his syringe’s plunger down. It’s therefore a powerful piece on poverty, drug addiction, and the lengths parents go to support their children, but I feel there’s more I cannot see as an outsider. I guess I’m simply not one of its specific commentary’s targeted viewers.

C-

 

The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer, dir. Randall Okita, 10 min.


Programme 4
Premiering Monday, September 8th at 6:15pm | Scotiabank Theatre 14

Broken Face, dir. Alain Fournier, 16 min.
Entangled, dir. Tony Elliott, 15 min.

Anyone willing to dive down the rabbit hole of quantum entanglement to exist in two places simultaneously is doing so for a reason. You may delude yourself into believing its for science or the simple fact of proving it can be done, but there’s a personal secret hiding beneath any ideas of social application. Why else wouldn’t the experimenter let his girlfriend in on the challenge? Why would he (Aaron Abrams‘ Malcolm) allow her (Christine Horne‘s Erin) to witness the incoherent, institutionalized ramblings of a brain-dead boyfriend in the aftermath without explanation? You cannot therefore blame her for doing all she can to discover the truth in an attempt to make him whole again.

In a year full of great science fiction, Orphan Black scribe Tony Elliott‘s short film Entangled is yet another worthwhile addition. Dealing more with the ramifications of such an invention—a laser that can sever you into two identical beings coexisting miles away from the other—than the technology itself, the film becomes a hubristic document of one man’s efforts to conceal being the exact cause of his exposure. But even at Malcolm’s worst, love prevails in bittersweet tragedy. Both he and Erin discover how the strain of being in two places at once is too much to bear and they look at their life together before making the sacrificial decision to rip off the Band-Aid and end their suffering.

Abrams and Horne give emotively captivating performances as layers are revealed to show the flawed and very human reasoning for their characters’ predicament. We watch her Erin and their colleague Cameron (Joey Klein) rush headfirst into the path of this laser as Elliott splits his screen in a burst of light. Showing her simultaneously in the basement of Malcolm’s laboratory and an unknown barn is invigorating; the steps necessary to prove what’s happened concisely lain out so we can focus on the inevitable confrontation with their not so vegetative patient. Whether you read it at face value as the brain’s inability to sustain two concurrent lives or a metaphor for a liar’s conscience sabotaging his deception, Entangled is a delightfully inventive gem.

A-

 

Kajutaijuq: The Spirit That Comes, dir. Scott Brachmayer, 15 min.
Sahar, dir. Alexander Farah, 14 min.
A Tomb with a View, dir. Ryan J. Noth, 7 min.
What Doesn’t Kill You, dir. Rob Grant, 12 min.


Programme 5
Premiering Wednesday, September 10th at 9:30pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2

Day 40, dir. Sol Friedman, 6 min.

Who doesn’t like a little revisionist history? Especially when it concerns the sanctity of the Bible—I think that’s my favorite kind. Because why did that book become this whole end-all/be-all document of our existence, morality, sin, and promise? Who the hell were Peter, Paul, and Mary besides 1960s folk singers with some kick-ass songs? Why can’t director Sol Friedman and writer Evan Morgan‘s voices be just as important when it comes to describing how we humans came to be?

The answer is: they can. And thankfully for us they will while also having fun in the process. When you think about it, a story like Noah and his ark is pretty crazy—a children’s book notion of mankind’s capacity for purity to inspire and God’s vengeful wrath to frighten. Centuries from now when science allows us to become Gods ourselves, who’s going to really care about having a dude like Noah be seen as a hero? As a self-proclaimed vessel hearing the word of God, wouldn’t it make more sense that he would be a few screws light of a full deck? That’s the kind of guy a ship full of animals could really mess up if given the opportunity.

Enter Freidman and Morgan’s hilariously subversive Day 40, a tale of Noah’s Ark to end all versions ever told. It has all the trappings of a fun Disney cartoon with anthropomorphized animals and—no that’s about it. Crudely animated in stark black and white lines, this R-rated account is purely the result of 21st century irreverence with a welcome desire to poke fun at cherished faith-based fact for the fantastical nonsense it is on paper. With a left-face turn of events ending the journey—how it goes from the animals’ horror movie-esque discovery on land to our existence at present is anyone’s guess—we find ourselves hoping new takes on other Biblical yarns will follow.

B+

 

Del Ciego Desert, dir. François Leduc, 12 min.
The Encounter, dir. Frieda Luk, 10 min.
Intruders, dir. Santiago Menghini, 9 min.
Last Night, dir. Arlen Konopaki, 6 min.

Sometimes you have to wonder where an artist’s head was when coming up with the idea for their latest work. I can see Arlen Konopaki and Christian Capozzoli giggling over a couple beers about how funny it would be if two roommates were engaged in a debate about whether one masturbated on the face of the other while he was sleeping the night before. It’s kind of a brilliant conceit when you think about it too because the situation is so absurd that no one would really question the filmmakers’ decision to escalate their victim’s means of proving the trickster was culpable to an extremely nonsensical level. And honestly, if you were warped enough to cum on your friend’s face, why wouldn’t you still deny it when caught red-handed?

This is the rapid-fire comedy short Last Night. Taking place almost entirely on a living room couch—with the occasional visit to the bedroom in question in order to display the facts—the duo masterfully traverse their argument with straight faces. I mean Arlen isn’t even really that mad the incident happened as long as Christian finally cops to it. Think an argument you had with whomever you live/lived with about whether or not he/she left a glass of water on the coffee table without a coaster. It’s the stupidest thing to argue about and yet it happens with the utmost severity to simply assert your inflated sense of superiority. Now switch the glass of water to a semen-filled penis and the table to your face and let the laughter commence.

B

 

Running Season, dir. Grayson Moore, 20 min.
Still, dir. Slater Jewell-Kemker, 16 min.


Programme 6
Premiering Thursday, September 11th at 6:15pm | Scotiabank Theatre 3

The Barnhouse, dir. Caroline Mailloux, 19 min.
Burnt Grass, dir. Ray Wong, 11 min.
Fire, dir. Raha Shirazi, 12 min.
Godhead, dir. Connor Gaston, 11 min.
Me and My Moulton, dir. Torill Kove, 14 min.

An Oscar-winner for Best Animated Short in 2007 with The Danish Poet and nominated in 2000 for My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts, writer/director Torill Kove returns to the medium with Me and My Moulton. It’s a brightly colored line drawing cartoon about a young girl and her family in Norway during the spring of 1967 that deals with themes of envy, embarrassment, and empathy to make it relatable for children and adults alike. We all go through phases of wanting to be just like everyone else and conversely completely original at some point in our lives. And whichever we hope to accomplish usually finds opposition—intentionally or not—very close to home.

For the seven-year old girl at the film’s center, those preventing her from being a “regular” kid in a “regular” family are her parents. She sees her best friend’s life in the apartment below her with a mother who stays home and makes snacks and a father who does yard work without a shirt before heading to military training as ideal. Her own mom and dad’s careers as contemporary architects make them stick out like sore thumbs instead. So she yearns for a generic living to escape from constantly being the people in their neighborhood that everyone knows and her solution—along with sisters aged five and seven—is to ask for a bike to both fit in and get away whenever necessary.

Her parents obviously find a way to ruin those plans. Rather than be a brat about it, however, the girl finds understanding and thanks. She improvises joy after realizing the perfection she believed in may not have been as perfect as what she has. Kove therefore injects some nice children’s book morality to the proceedings amidst humor (a three-legged chair gag is great) and artistry (I loved the translucency of the tree leaves to denote their lack of opaqueness even as a whole). The aesthetic is very much two-dimensional Flash animation-esque, but the content helps render any unfair thoughts about it not being Pixar-quality moot. There is a charm to the look that recalls stories from my own childhood—the simplicity of quality many forget in lieu of life-like animated spectacle.

B

 

Migration, dir. Fluorescent Hill, 6 min.
The Underground, dir. Michelle Latimer, 13 min.

TIFF Short Cuts International Capsules: ‘Chop My Money’, ‘Growing Pains’, ‘Ice Cream’ & More

Written by Jared Mobarak, September 6, 2014 at 1:00 pm 


Thirty-six short films were selected as part of the Toronto International Film Festivals 2014 brand new Short Cuts International. Expanding their slate of shorts to encompass work from all over the world is a logical progression that I’m surprised hadn’t happened before now. Much like TIFF showcases many features placed on the shortlist for Oscar glory, the pool of shorts has increased to do the same.

Programme 1
Premiering Friday, September 5th at 7:30pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 3

Chop My Money, dir. Theo Anthony, 13 min.

Give a street kid in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo some attention with a camera and he’s going to provide you the type of footage perfectly suited for rockstar treatment. Is Theo Anthony glorifying the deeds of Manu Bahiti “Patient” Jean Christophe, warning us outsiders of the hard life children live hustling, or simply giving an unfiltered glimpse of this new Wild West? Chop My Money is a little of all three in descending order because you know Patient and his crew consisting of Guillain Paluku and David Muhindo are reveling in every second they’re given attention. Of all the kid gangsters stealing and brawling, they’re the ones that the Western world is going to meet. So they might as well make it look good.

This is a gorgeous documentary with some stunningly composed shots cut against music by Dirty Beaches. Think Romain Gavras‘ video for Justice‘s “Stress” only completely real and without the senseless violence unto innocent bystanders along the way. We receive a little boxing between adolescent warriors towards the end in a kinetic strobe of physicality, but besides that it’s mostly about showing the confidence and swagger they possess in excess. You know everything Patient says is true, though. This isn’t hyperbole. He’s probably killed before and will kill again somewhere in the pauses from cruising the streets with his boys, smoking and drinking, and grooving to the songs and naked girls his phone’s internet supplies.

And honestly, you get the feeling that if this trio wasn’t out taking for themselves and damning the consequences, they more than likely wouldn’t have been alive to be the subjects of a short film. It’s survival of the fittest and it begins straight out of the womb.

B

 

Discipline, dir. Christophe M. Saber, 12 min.
everything & everything & everything, dir. Alberto Roldan, 15 min.
Playing With Balls, dir. Nanna Kristín Magnúsdóttir, 8 min.
A Single Body, dir. Sotiris Dounoukos, 19 min.
A Spark at Darkest Night, dir. Paul De Silva, 3 min.
Tatuapé Mahal Tower, dir. Carolina Markowicz, Fernanda Salloum, 10 min.
The Warren, dir. James Adolphus, 11 min.


Programme 2
Premiering Saturday, September 6th at 4:45pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 4

A Ceremony for a Friend, dir. Kaveh Ebrahimpour, 14 min.
GROWING PAINS, dir. Tor Fruergaard, 21 min.

There is no subtly in the animal instinct category of metaphor where Tor Fruergaard‘s Growing Pains is concerned. Centering on a teenage boy (Elliott Crosse Hove‘s Fabian), this R-rated cartoon compares an adolescent’s sexual urges with that of a dog ready and willing to mount every female in heat he can find. What do we do to quell such a storm in man’s best friend? Castration. Luckily for newcomer in town Felicia (Amalie Lindegård), Fabian’s veterinarian mother Birte (Iben Hjejle) specializes in just that. But when the boy finds his desire for Felicia turning him into a werewolf whenever he’s the least bit horny, you have to wonder when Mommy will step in with her scissors there as well.

Fruergaard and screenwriter Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen pull no punches in their depiction of puberty’s effect on child and parent alike. Whether the over-arching juxtaposition of a lustful teen unable to control himself as though he’s transforming into a monster or the comically disturbing visual queues like Felicia sitting with her dog between her legs in a way that can only be described as provocative, this is far from Disney fare. Subject matter aside, however, you cannot deny the effectiveness of its message of teaching young men they don’t need to feel shame as a result of lust, young girls that being sexually active doesn’t make them a slut, and prudish parents to wake up to the fact they can’t psychologically neuter their kids.

It’s a very funny and poignant coming-of-age story with twisted sensibilities, one that everyone watching can relate to on both sides of the coin. The short may be animated—brilliantly too I might add with what appear to be sets constructed out of paper for the cartoon characters to walk through—but that doesn’t mean watching a dog’s testicles get snipped is any easier to watch. While that may be the most jarring scene, don’t think it’s necessarily as far as Fruergaard and Thomsen will go. They are fearless in taking their parable to the extreme until Fabian and Felicia’s dog are barely distinguishable from one another. We simply must hope she’ll provide the patience and compassion to undo the damage his mother’s Puritanical mentality already inflicted.

B

 

I’m in the Corner with the Bluebells, dir. Ako Mitchell, 20 min.
Ice Cream, dir. Serhat Karaaslan, 16 min.

Instead of Scott Joplin‘s “The Entertainer” signifying an oncoming ice cream truck here in the States, Turkish children must keep an ear open for the whir of a motorcycle. No matter how engaged in a game of soccer the young village boys are, they are off to the races as soon as the prospect of this rarity of sweets arrives. Being that they have no money—and that the visiting purveyor knows this to be true—the barter system comes into effect in order for iron pipes, loose eggs, and plastic to serve as legal tender in exchange for a melting cone of vanilla. And just like here in America, there’s nothing that’s going to stop a child from ensuring he isn’t left without a treat.

Written and directed by Serhat Karaaslan, Ice Cream depicts this universal struggle for dessert against a parent’s wishes and without remorse. Rojhat (Rojhat Deli) shouldn’t have even been playing soccer let alone running around for something to trade since his mother (Ebru Ojen Sahin) needed his help to give the baby a bath. Like any reasonably intelligent boy, however, he knows she cannot go chase after him with his sibling out in the sun. Unfortunately for him, anything of value the Ice Cream Man (Ubeydullah Hakan) might want is back home. So he must traverse Mom’s yelling to collect whatever he can all the while demanding she buy him a treat despite not doing anything to earn it.

The result is a cute film that goes a bit long thanks to numerous tracking shots following Rojhat as he journeys for sugar. There is a reasonable amount of suspense with the mother intermittently chasing him as well as the threat that the seller could leave at any time, but ultimately you know little is bound to get in his way for too long. I’m not sure about Turkish customs but Rojhat deserved a good slap for his insubordination and I can’t help looking at the film as a how-not-to parent because he doesn’t get one. Hakan provides some nice humor with his Korean War anecdotes and Rojhat is a semi-likeable anti-hero. Being the killjoy that I am, I only wish the latter wasn’t rewarded for his deplorable actions.

B-

 

Papa Machete, dir. Jonathan David Kane, 10 min.
Seven Boats, dir. Hlynur Pálmason, 10 min.


Programme 3
Premiering Sunday, September 7th at 7:00pm | Scotiabank Theatre 14

Eye & Mermaid, dir. Shahad Ameen, 14 min.
An Immortal Man, dir. Josh Koury, Myles Kane, 15 min.
The Last Day of Summer, dir. Feike Santbergen, 18 min.
A Single Life, dir. Job, Joris & Marieke, 2 min.
Tricycle Thief, dir. Maxim Bessmertnyi, 18 min.

With a title like Tricycle Thief, Maxim Bessmertnyi‘s film could go two ways. Is it about someone who steals a tricycle or about a thief that rides one? There is also a third option: a hybrid of both. This is the direction the writer/director chooses with his Macau-set tale of a desperate man about to be evicted from his home. He lives in a city rich and vibrant with mainlanders coming in all the time to win big and leave with smiles on their faces, but for residents on the poverty line like he such success is nothing more than a pipe dream. Rather than sit back and let bad luck pile up, Ah Leong (Sam Leung) decides to take matters into his own hands.

The evening didn’t start out this way, though. In fact, Ah Leong was in great spirits riding his tricycle taxi home to his wife (Chu Wing Mui) with dinner. It’s only when he sits to read the mail while she and some friends play Mahjong that the night turns sour. Clueless as to what to do about the eviction notice, he leaves for the casino. Maybe he’ll play, maybe he’ll wait for a rich fare, or perhaps he simply wants to wallow in silence as his coworkers play chess on break. It isn’t until a nicely dressed gentleman saunters over asking for a ride that Ah Leong bursts into action. Rather than accept the tricycle drivers’ “No, go hail a taxi”, Charles Ho (Aeson Lei) takes the one on the end (Ah Leong’s) and drives away.

You’d assume what follows will be a run-of-the-mill chase through Macau of Ah Leong retrieving his only means of salary at a time when he cannot support his family, but all that gets rectified rather quickly. The two men are therefore left together in a situation that’s completely up in the air. It’s the good-natured stranger versus the tired citizen with a briefcase potentially housing the answer to Ah Leong’s prayers between them. Bessmertnyi isn’t interested in happily ever after or just deserts, though. He instead wishes to simultaneously show humanity’s flaws and grace when one’s back is against the wall. To him the contents of the case are inconsequential. It’s what Ah Leong is willing to do that matters as victims turn to thieves, thieves to victims, and unexplained actions remain mysteries.

B+

 

Voila L’Enchainement, dir. Claire Denis, 30 min.


Programme 4
Premiering Monday, September 8th at 9:45pm | Scotiabank Theatre 9

(NULL), dir. David Gesslbauer, Michael Lange, 4 min.
8 Bullets, dir. Frank Ternier, 13 min.
Aïssa, dir. Clément Trehin-Lalanne, 8 min.
Boogaloo & Graham, dir. Michael Lennox, 14 min.
Newborns, dir. Megha Ramaswamy, 8 min.
Persefone, dir. Grazia Tricarico, 18 min.
The Shove, dir. My Sandström, 14 min.

With an opening credit sequence recalling a 70s vibe via Quentin Tarantino, My Sandström‘s surrealist take on the paranoia of uncertainty delivers humor rather than the pulpy drama you may expect from the grainy picture and thick yellow text. There is a lot of this sort of playing with expectation involved right down to Tobbe’s (Magnus Sundberg) giant of a man being crippled by the absurdist “sentence” given to him by an inspector (Annafrida Bengtsson) of unknown origins walking the streets with a clipboard and authority. Here he is—a bar bouncer ensuring the safety of his patrons by refusing to let a drunk inside—being told that his shoving a belligerent guest has earned him one in return.

The Shove is therefore a gritty take on the brilliantly hilarious How I Met You Mother thread that went by the name “Slapsgiving”. If Martina the inspector told him his victim would be able to get right up and push him in retribution, all would be fine. Instead she tells him his penance will be fulfilled some time in the next two weeks—a sentence meant to be psychologically overwhelming rather than physically. He now must walk with head on a swivel, constantly wondering who will suddenly break free from the periphery to wind up and push him as hard as they can with two hands. This means he has to consciously avoid cliffs, railings, or anywhere else the fall might cause lasting damage or death.

Driven batty, a wedge forms between he and girlfriend Sandra (Hanna Ullerstam) until he cannot take the waiting anymore. In great subtle fashion, however, Sandström ensures the torment provides exponentially greater punishment than any shove ever could. It’s an existential conundrum making us wonder about our own lives and how procrastination or leaving things in the hands of others ultimately wrecks our psyches to the point of being unable to move. There are consequences to our actions and things we do to others have a way of coming back around karmically if we aren’t careful. Nevertheless, nothing anyone does in response to those acts can ever compete with the number our own guilt performs on us in the interim.

B+

 

Skinner, dir. Gábor Fabricius, 12 min.


Programme 5
Premiering Wednesday, September 10th at 6:30pm | TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 4

130919 • A Portrait of Marina Abramovic, dir. Matthu Placek, 7 min.
German Shepherd, dir. Nils Bergendal, 10 min.
The Goat, dir. John Trengove, 13 min.
LAVA, dir. James Ford Murphy, 7 min.
Listen, dir. Hamy Ramezan, Rungano Nyoni, 13 min.

There is no more apt title for Hamy Ramezan and Rungano Nyoni‘s Listen except maybe Comprehend. A 13-minute gut punch dealing with the disparity of culture, language, and religion, to say too much would ruin the perfectly orchestrated dissemination of information from start to finish.

It asks questions like: What do we do when we cannot ask for help? What can we do if those meant to help start reacting subjectively rather than with the victim’s wellbeing at heart? Our world has become so flat so quickly that we haven’t quite been able to keep up. It’s one thing to reside somewhere foreign, but it’s another completely to actually live there.

Centered on a devout Muslim mother (Zeinab Rahal) covered head to toe, we witness her plea for help to get away from an abusive husband. She states her case, explains what he did, and relays the fact that she took her son (Yusuf Kamal El-Ali) with her and cannot return. The filmmakers use a static shot to show this, solely focused on the woman as another voice is heard. From here it cuts to that second voice—a Muslim translator (Amira Helene Larsen) interpreting the Arabic into Danish for the authorities also present (Nanna Bøttcher and Alexandre Willaume). We watch it a third time from the police officers’ perspective and finally understand exactly what’s happening.

Add in the boy’s reaction as a secondary translator and you cannot help but feel sick. One believes a move out of a bad situation will be helpful, but just because the new home’s freedoms are beneficial doesn’t mean your accessibility to them is. Everyone we encounter is going to be possessed by his/her own prejudices and ideals above true altruism. So, tragically those ill-equipped to stand on their own may have no one left to turn to—not even those they love.

A

 

Midfield, dir. Pedro Amorim, 5 min.
Oh Lucy!, dir. Atsuko Hirayanagi, 22 min.

You know you’re in a rut when your sister calls to tell you not to talk to your niece and you do everything you can to do just that in the hopes of some semblance of excitement—or at the very least change. So chain-smoking Setsuko (Kaori Momoi) ditches work at the much younger Yu’s (Rian Nagashima) request to grab dinner and hear her proposition despite the warning. Needing money, Yu is looking for someone to take her place in an English course so she may recuperate the non-refundable six grand she shelled out. Knowing her aunt always talked about learning the language better, she seems the best choice to buy the class. Cautious about spending the money, it only takes one session with unorthodox instructor John (Billy Scott) to say yes.

Fifty-five, cynical, and alone, there’s little that wouldn’t provide more stimulation than sitting at her computer all day inputting data, but John infuses an infectious excitement she of which she can’t get enough. Once the quiet office wallflower, Setsuko—renamed Lucy inside the English-Only classroom—begins to find her voice. It’s one with a very sharp edge that’s devoid of patience, allowing her to no longer get trampled over in silence. But just as she starts to emerge from her shell, the catalyst of this transformation begins changing course. First he brings another student named Tom (Keiichi Tsuda) and then he cancels class. Now without a release, Setsuko’s newfound candor begins to trickle out in public with her peers.

Perfectly titled with the whimsical Oh Lucy!, Atsuko Hirayanagi‘s short feels like a sitcom where the final frame freezes on its star shrugging with a smile after someone lets out the phrase. Donning a blonde wig and nametag in class, the whole thing is somewhat absurd from the beginning. Yu’s proposal eventually proves more surreptitious than originally anticipated, the reasoning behind the class’ steady decline less than coincidental, and Setsuko’s transformation wholesale rather than merely behind closed doors. Just as the things that make her more fun also start rubbing people the wrong way, however, she must decide whether it’s worth going back to pushover status or if she’s come too far. It may result from a despicable ploy, but Setsuko is finally afforded the opportunity to live if only she allows herself the space.

B

 

Pineapple Calamari, dir. Kasia Nalewajka, 9 min.

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