The selfish giant

In Oscar Wilde’s fable The selfish giant, as the children are chased from the giant’s garden, winter comes in. Killing life. No more flowers. No more tree leaves. No more birds singing. Documentary filmmaker Clio Barnard’s The selfish giant is said to be loosely based on Wilde’s  so ‘loosely’ in fact that it is impossible to find something resembling the story except some vague symbolism and metaphors. Purists beware! Arbor and Swifty are two teenage boys living in the impoverished area of Bradford, England. Thirteen-years-old Arbor is a hyperactive boy who always seems to be raging about somebody or something. The ‘f-word’ is used a lot here: children to adults, adults to children. Taller, gentler Swifty is Arbor’s best friend. When they are both expelled from school,  the lads find a way to make money selling scrap-metal at the local scrapyard. Kitten, the owner, is far from a positive influence but the boys are attracted by the wads of cash they witness other people collect. Kitten exploits their interests pushing them towards more dangerous tasks. Meanwhile Swifty finds comfort in taking care of Kitten’s horse. This film may remind you of the cinema of Ken Loach (Kes Family life and more recently The angel’s share). Like Loach, Barnard’s film is about the lower class. The characters speak with a heavy Yorkshire accent that is at times difficult to understand. The film may be shown with english subtitles. The ultra realism of the direction and milieu described sometimes clash with a manipulating screenplay pulling at the heartstrings. But the non-professional leads Conner Chapman and Shaun Thomas give emotionally wrenching performances. Recommended.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The selfish giant

Directed by: 
Clio Barnard
 
Screenplay by: 
Clio Barnard
Loosely based on Oscar Wilde
 
Starring: 
Conner Chapman
Shaun Thomas
Sean Gilder 

91 min.

Rated 14A

In Yorkshire-accented English  but may be shown with English subtitles

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La grande bellezza (The great beauty)

Italian cinema is not what it used to be, but in La grande bellezza director Paolo Sorrentino is attempting to channel Fellini films like La dolce vita8 ½, and others.  It tells the story of Jep Gambardella, a  best-selling author whose last novel was  40 years ago, now an occasional journalist. The film opens at his 65th birthday party. Then he learns that the first girl he loved at 18 is dead, and that she never stopped loving him. Jep is going from parties to parties, to funerals and receptions. In one scene we find him going to a plastic surgeon for Botox. In one of his bitchy rant he tells a friend her husband has been unfaithful… with a man.  He feels depressed and finds his life has been a failure.  Sorrentino puts together such a wide variety of type of people and bodies (Jep’s female agent is a dwarf) that we feel we are watching a Fellini film.   Visually stunning but the film talks too much.  Best moments are when people are dancing (disco and line-dancing).  La Grande Bellezza then comes alive. But not enough here to recommend. Not for all.

And the Oscar went to… La grande bellezza (The great beauty) from Italy was the winner for Best Foreign Language Film. The other nominees were: The broken circle breakdown (Belgium), Jagten [The hunt] (Denmark), L’image manquante [The missing picture] (Cambodia), Omar (Palestine). When accepting his Oscar director Paolo Sorrentino thanked Federico Fellini an obvious inspiration for the film. On stage with him was lead actor Toni Servillo. 

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

La grande bellezza (The great beauty)

Directed by: 
Paolo Sorrentino
 
Screenplay by: 
Paolo Sorrentino
Umberto Contarello
 
Starring: 
Toni Servillo
Carlo Verdone
Sabrina Ferilli
Carlo Buccirosso
  
142 min.
 

Rated 14A.

CinemaScope.

In Italian with some Japanese, Spanish, and Chinese with English subtitles.

Visitors

What is important here is whether you accept Visitors as it is , or are not able get it.   American director Godfrey Reggio uses slow motion and time-lapse techniques here and in some of his previous films: Koyaanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi .   In the time-lapse sequences, for instance, Reggio films a high-rise building or a landscape for what seems a very  long time.  Hours.  He shows it at a much faster speed. We see clouds come and go, daytime becoming nighttime.  But Visitors  is really a study of the human face.  Sometimes looking at us, other times they walk together, the camera focussing on one then another. At one point people are sitting watching a sport event , their reactions shown in slow motion.  But most of the times we don’t know what they’re thinking. They are all ages, sex, race. There is no dialogue.  It is beautifully filmed in stunning black-and-white (the film has three cinematographer). A pulsating score by minimalist composer  Phillip Glass helps (as in the qatsi  films) complete the picture. This a not to be missed. A fine work of art.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Visitors

Directed by:

Godfrey Reggio

 Screenplay by: 
Godfrey Reggio
 
87 min.
 
No dialogue.

Sagrada: Mystery of creation (Sagrada – El misteri de la creació)

Sagrada: Mystery of creation is a documentary exploring the story of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This gigantic unfinished cathedral has been under construction since 1882 when architect Antoni Gaudi imagined a structure unlike anything else ever. The cathedral is only half completed, the film looks at the story of the church. The film also takes a look at the architects artists and workers who contributed on this masterpiece for over 120 years. The film takes a contemporary look at the project, overshadowing Antoni Gaudi, the original designer. Director Stefan Haupt resolutely concentrated himself more on the modern challenges such as the passage of a high-speed train Paris-Barcelona rather than a complex historic look at the enterprise. He rather talked  recently to past architects, and workers todays and yesterdays. The documentary is classic, well done not overly audacious, PBS like respectful of the genre . For me it was like an 89 minutes crash course on architecture. Director Haupt also explored the ways in which the various artists implicated in this monument envisioned what Antoni Gaudi wanted to express. There is an esthetic effort all through the film showing us the completed sections of the church, the beautiful various sculptures, enormous stainless windows, gigantic pillars and unique structure. Esthetically the movie is a feast.

André St-Jacques

  

Sagrada: Mystery of creation (Sagrada – El misteri de la creació)

 
Directed by: 
Stefan Haupt
 
89 min. 

Rated Parental Guidance.

In Spanish and English with English subtitles.
 

Gloria

Gloria Cumplido is a 58-year-old divorcée with no intention of staying home and wait for the phone to ring.  She goes to parties to  dance, drink and meet men. One night she meets Rodolfo also recently divorced.  They start a passionate relationship.  But Rodolfo seems unable to ignore the demands made by his children and the ex-wife.  This  was the Chilean entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscar but it failed to get the nomination.  What makes this film stand out is the frank exploration of the sexual life of the middle-aged main character.  Gloria and Rodolfo are seen in bed naked (both frontal at times).  Actress Paulina Garcia in an amazing performance, seems unafraid to explore her character’s failings.  We see Gloria dance, drink, smoke pot, have sex, laugh, cry and bungee-jumping.  It’s no wonder Garcia won best actress at the Berlin film festival.  She is well supported by Sergio Hernández as Rodolfo.  Thanks must be given to Sebastián Lelio for a strong screenplay and an assured hand as director.  Recommended.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Gloria

 

Directed by:
Sebastián Lelio

Screenplay by:
Sebastián Lelio
Gonzalo Maza

Starring:
Paulina García
Sergio Hernández
Diego Fontelcilla

110 min.
Rated 18A

In Spanish with English subtitles.

Bettie Page reveals all

Bettie Page (1923-2008) was an American model also known as the “Queen of Pinups”.  As shown in this new documentary,  her work influenced fashion, artists (Beyoncé, Quentin Tarantino, Madonna, ect) and the start of the sexual revolution.  In an audio interview she did for director Mori she tells the story of her life.  Abused as a child, put in an orphanage after parents’ divorce, her relationships with men and failed marriage.  Modeling in bikinis graduating to partial nudity, then frontal, even did bondage and light S&M.  Quit the business in 1957, becomes a born-again Christian then spends 10 years in a mental hospital.  In other word a full life.  The film interviews people who knew her including Playboy’s Hugh Hefner.  Classic documentary techniques.  Nothing new.  Lacks a bit of distance.  Seems that all the people in the film liked her. She was perfect they say.  It is what it  is. Lots of erotic images. Not for prudes.
 
Rémi-Serge Gratton
 
 
Bettie Page reveals all
 
 
Directed by: 
Mark Mori
 
Screenplay by: 
Doug Miller
 
101 min.

Le passé (The past)

Is Iranian director Asghar Farhadi among the best screenwriters of his generation? I would think so.  After winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011 for A separation, his new film Le passé  is yet another brilliant film. The story is that of Ahmad(Ali Mosaffa) travelling from Tehran to Paris to finalize his divorce from Marie (Cannes best actress winner Bérénice Bejo).  Marie lives with her new boyfriend Samir (Un prophète‘s Tahar Rahim), his son, Fouad, and her two daughters, young Léa and teenage Lucie. Ahmad maintains a good relation with his ex-wife but soon finds out something is troubling the family.  After a suicide attempt, Samir’s wife is comatose in the hospital.  What happened? Ahmad tries to find out why everybody’s on edge. This makes him the central character.  Iranian actor Ali Mosaffa plays a gentle, and kind man seeking to make the people he loves happy.  It’s a delicate and subtle performance.  Marie is a woman trying to navigate a sinking ship and Bejo does the character justice to the assertive but overwhelmed woman.  Only her diction can be at times problematic. Tahar Rahim plays well with his partners, and at the end shines when Samir takes centre stage.  Elyes Aguis’ Fouad is a little monster/distraught little boy.  What was impressive about A separation’s screenplay was its structure.  Let me call it Hitchcockian.  A typical Hitchcock film constantly changes focus, follows one character, then switches to others, choosing what to hide or reveal.  This concept is what make A separation exciting and fresh and, yes, suspenseful.  A few times in Le Passé , Farhadi uses the point of view of a character as a storytelling device just as Hitchcock did.  Le passé is dialogue driven. This is Farhadi’s first French film.  With the help of Massoumeh Lahidji for the French language, he creates beautiful conversations laying out the characters fears and sence of helplessness. Every word, it seems, is written with much care and love.  By the film’s end, we feel and share the characters’ emotions and pains. To see!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Le passé (The past)

Directed by:
Asghar Farhadi

Screenplay by:
Asghar Farhadi
Massoumeh Lahidji

Starring:
Bérénice Bejo
Ali Mosaffa
Tahar Rahim
Pauline Burlet
Elyes Aguis
Jeanne Jestin
Sabrina Ouazani

130 min.

In French and Persian with English subtitles.