The lunchbox (Dabba)

The lunchbox of the title is actually called a tiffin carrier. They are very popular in India. They’re made of metal to keep the food warm and have several containers placed on top of each others. In Mumbai there is an elaborate delivery system. In the film The lunchbox for instance, Ila carefully prepare for her husband a warm meal and puts it in the tiffin box. Sometime in the morning a delivery man (also called dabbawala) comes on bike to pick up the box, then takes the rail train or other means of transport and delivers the box to Ila’s husband. A caterer can also provide this service. Saajan, an accountant, uses a caterer. One day Ila’s tiffin gets delivered to Saajan who likes the food so much that he wipes it clean. When Ila finds out she writes a note and leaves it under the pita bread. He also sends a reply that the food was too salty. But he ate everything, she snaps back. They start writing about their daily lives. Ila suspects that her cold and distant husband is cheating on her. She is lonely as the only people she talk to are her aunt and her mother. ‘Auntie’ is her neighbour and they yell to each other across the courtyard (we never see her). Mother is taking care of her ailing husband. Ila has a daughter. Saajan is also lonely. A widow who misses his wife terribly. As a result of his unhappiness he has become grumpy and unapproachable to his co-workers. Close to retirement he is not too pleased about having to train his replacement. Every day Saajan awaits for not only the food but the notes. He sends back the box with notes or letters telling her about himself. When his trainee, Shaikh, sits at his table he offers him some food and they become the best of friends. There is even a possibility that Ila and Saajan could meet. The lunchbox is a breath of fresh air. We’ve seen other films where people writing to one another developed a sence of longing but not like that. This is a beautifully, delicate film. Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur approach their characters with attentions to small details so that the change we see is gradual. From every departments the film shines. Of note the sound mixing and editing is also part of the beauty. It makes the streets of Mumbai alive with vitality and excitement. Just like the film.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The lunchbox (Dabba)

 

Directed by: 
Ritesh Batra
 
Screenplay by: 
Ritesh Batra
Rutvik Oza
 
Starring: 
Irrfan Khan
Nimrat Kaur
Nwazuddin Siddiqui
Bhrati Achreker
  
106 min.
 

Rated General

In English and Hindi with English subtitles

L’ange gardien

L’ange gardien is a psychological thriller who creates a high level of tensions while at the same time creating a very grim and dark outlook. A strange relationship is establish between Normand, an ex-cop turned security guard and a young woman, Nathalie who commits  break in and entries. While neutralizing the perpetrator, Normand,  suffers a heart attack. Nathalie saves Normand’s life and he let’s her go. Not too long after, Nathalie shows up again and beg for his help. He accepts reluctantly. She needs protection from her ex, a violent delinquent and her accomplice  in the burglary attempt. Guy Nadon is reliable as ever as the night watchman who carries a heavy load, the loss of his son. Nadon is no stranger  playing such characters since he played a father whose son had disappeared in the Quebec TV series Aveux. We definitely understand that Normand and Nathalie need each other. Nathalie needs Normand for protection, and Normand needs her to fill the gap of his son’s death. They are each other’s guardian angel. Marilyn Castonguay is convincing as Nathalie and Patrick Hivon is brutal as the delinquent boyfriend. The strength of this film is the complicity between the characters and the location, a dull,  lifeless industrial complex and the winter scenery. Winter does wonders to create intimacy in cinema. The magic operates once more. The combination of intimacy, solid interpretation and complex human beings will fascinate you as it did for me.
 
André St-Jacques
 
 
L’ange gardien
 
Directed by: 
Jean-Sébastian Lord
 
Screenplay by: 
Jean-Sébastian Lord
 
Starring: 
Marilyn Castonguay
Guy Nadon
Patrick Hivon
Véronique LeFlaguais
Frédéric Pierre
Shanti Corbeil-Gauvreau
  
94 min.
 
In French
 
 
 

Le week-end

Meg and Nick get to the Paris hotel room they booked and Meg decides she wants to stay in a more expensive one because she doesn’t like the color of the wall. When they got there and nothing was available, I thought I was watching Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis in The out-of-towners. Celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary Meg and Nick are going back to the city where they spend their honeymoon. After the initial rebuttal they get offered a suite (Hotel clerk : We can offer you the suite where Tony Blair stayed. Nick :Well, as long as you’ve washed the sheets. ). They visit Paris and the historical sites like the Père Lachaise Cemetery. On one occasion they eat at an expensive restaurant and then they have to escape when they see the bill. But mostly they sit in the room, drink and fight about the past. One night Nick and Meg run into Morgan, an old student of Nick’s who invites them to a dinner party at his place. Apart from The out-of-towners, there are other movies that Le week-end seems to be channeling. Particularly the films of Woody Allen, Linklater’s Before trilogy and, since we’re in Paris, let’s throw in a little Godard. And it does not do it very well. I was really expecting better from screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (My beautiful laundrette, Sammy and Rosie get laid). As always Jim Broadbent is excellent , but as Meg, Lindsay Duncan either whispers or mumbles every lines so that in key scenes you actually have no idea what happened. And then there is Jeff Goldblum in another annoying performance. Some funny bits does not save this mess.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Le Week-end

Directed by: 
Roger Michell
 
Screenplay by: 
Hanif Kureishi
 
Starring: 
Jim Broadbent
Linsday Duncan
Jeff Goldblum
  
93 min.

 

Enemy

Enemy is a psychological thriller, the latest film of Quebec filmmaker Demis Villeneuve, the second cooperation between Villeneuve and Jake Gyllenhaal. On the first degree it’s the story of a man who meets his double. Metaphorically it is also an analysis of his subconscious. Enemy is not a conventional story, it is an enigma, a film that challenges the audience’s intellect. This movie was also a technologic challenge, having an actor play  his double and making it believable. Mission accomplished for Villeneuve and his crew. Also to mention strong interpretations by Sarah Gadon and Mélanie Laurent, the two loves of Gyllenhaal and his dual roles. And let’s not forget the performance of Isabella Rosselini as Gylenhaal bossy mother. The movie is a brilliant thriller shot in Toronto with a very grim photography that will remind you of Lynch, Kubrick and Cronenberg. A  great follow-up to Prisoners.

André St-Jacques

 

Enemy

Directed by:
Demis Villeneuve
 
Screenplay by: 
Javier Gullón
Based on The Double by José Saramago
 
Starring: 
Jake Gyllenhaal
Mélanie Laurent
Isabella Rossellini
Sarah Gadonl
Stephen R. Hart
Jane Moffat
Joshua Peace
Tim Post
  
90 min.

Oscar® nominated live action shorts 2013

The five nominees for Live-Action Shorts at this year’s Academy Awards are a better bunch than the previous years. Helium is a Danish drama about a dying boy in a hospital. A janitor helps ease the boy’s pain making up stories that heaven is full of balloons. A touching film with beautiful poetic images. Each short is introduced by interviews with filmmakers including actor/director Matthew Modine and 12 years a slave director Steve McQueen. Next is U.K.’s The Voorman problem. New prison psychiatrist meets patient Voorman who says he is God. As proof Voorman proposes he will eliminate Belgium. I can’t tell you anymore without spoiling the fun. Great screenplay and acting by Martin Freeman and Tom Hollander. Intriguing. I have spent one of the most intense half-hour ever in a cinema with Avant que de tout perdre (Just before loosing everything) from france. Done in real-time it is the story of a woman and her children trying to escape a husband she is convinced will kill her. Precise attention to details from first director Xavier Legrand makes this a genuine nail-biter and my favorite of the five films. The fourth short from Spain. In Aquél no era yo (That wasn’t me) two aid workers are abducted by a group of child soldiers and their leader. Violent and disturbing. Finland’s Do I have to take care of everything? (Pitääkö mun kaikki hoitaa?) is a very funny little 7 minutes film about a family going to a wedding. The house is a mess, they can’t find the gift, high heels breaks, ect. It worked for me! I laughed the whole time. Together those shorts make me recommend this screening.

And the Oscar went to… Helium is a good choice. But Avant que de tout perdre (Just before loosing everything) would have been mine.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Oscar® nominated live action shorts 2013

Directed by: 
Selma Vilhunen
Esteban Crespo
Xavier Legrand
Anders Walter
Mark Gill
 
111min.
 
Rated 14A
 
In English, Danish, Finnish, French and Spanish with English subtitles.

 

Non-stop

Do you remember the 70’s and the Airport movies franchise? A series of disaster movies at 40,000 feet. Well the genre is alive and well in 2014 with Non-stop. Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks a tortured alcoholic air marshal who tries to save the plane he’s aboard .A terrorist sends him texts stating that a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes unless a 150 million ransom is paid. Marks will recruit the help of Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), the only person he think he can trust among the passengers. But remember, anybody can be the terrorist he or she. The plot is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing. Neeson and Moore make a fine pair, both of them have many skeletons in their respective closets. Also to mention in the cast Lupita Nyong’o  (an Oscar winner this year) as Gwen, one of the stewardesses. It may not appeal to those with a fear of flying but Non-stop is a good action thriller.
 
André St-Jacques
 
Non-stop
 
Directed by: 
Jaume Collet-Serra
 
Screenplay by: 
John W. Richardson
Chris Roach
Ryan Engle
 
Starring: 
Liam Neeson
Julianne Moore
Michelle Dockery
Nate Parker
Linus Roache
Scoot McNairy
Corey Stoll
Lupita Nyong’o
Anson Mount
Omar Metwally
Jason Butler Harner
Corey Hawkins
Frank Deal
Shea Whigham
Bar Paly
  
106 min.
 
 Rated PG‎‎
 

7 boxes (7 cajas)

Paraguayan films are a rare thing. In my research only a handful were mentioned. 7 boxes is one of them. The movie is about Victor, a teenager making a living carrying goods with his cart in the capital of Paraguay Asunción’s marketplace. We first glimpse Victor watching a TV in a window display. He sees himself as the hero on the screen kissing the girl and winking at the camera. When his sister has a cell phone with video options to sell he becomes determined to make more money to buy it. Then a local butcher/gangster offers him 100 dollars to transport seven wooden boxes across the market. Another delivery man Nelson learns about the deal but thinks there is money is the boxes. With the help of his best friend Liz, Victor has to run away from Nelson while avoiding the police. But what is in those boxes? Meanwhile Victor’s sister has problems of her own. 7 boxes reminds me of Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva but more accessible. Here the film is darker and peopled with seedier characters. Juan Carlos Maneglia and Tana Schémbori’s debut feature film is impressive in the technical aspects and the complexities of the story. The fast pace is effectively scored by Fran Villalba. Fresh face actor Celso Franco is more than good looks. He gives the movie its likeability and its believability. This is just a fun well made film.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

7 boxes (7 cajas)

Directed by: 
Juan Carlos Maneglia
Tana Schémbori
 
Screenplay by: 
Timo Chamorro
Juan Carlos Maneglia
Tana Schémbori
 
Starring: 
Celso Franco
Lali Gonzalez
Victor Sosa
Nico García
  
100 min.

Rated 14

In Spanish and Guarani with English subtitles.

Pussy riot: A punk prayer (Pokazatelnyy protsess: Istoriya Pussy riot)

Russia and Vlademir Putin have certainly been in the news these days and any film that can inform us is welcome. The Pussy Riot is a female punk rock group who put on guerrilla performances. They do that as a protest against Putin and his regime. After a performance in a cathedral, three of them got arrested on February 21, 2012. In the film they are called Nadia, Masha and Katia. Are those young women so dangerous a threat that during their trial  they have to be put in cages surrounded by a small army of guards? What is Putin afraid of? The parents seem supportive and worried for their daughters. We also meet the lawyers from both sides and the religious leaders from Orthodox churches. Wearing black tank tops and leather coats these religious men look more like they belong to a biker gang and talk and act like rednecks. The film ends at the appeal (one of them was released) and the international outcry. Since then, the two other women were released (just in time for the Olympics games) but later suffered injury in violent attacks. People who will see the film strictly for the music may be disappointed. Instead, see it for an open window into modern of Russia and for the Pussy Riot.

You should know… Although in the film they are called Nadia, Masha and Katia, their actual names are Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yakaterna Samutsevich.

 Rémi-Serge Gratton

Pussy riot: A punk prayer (Pokazatelnyy protsess: Istoriya Pussy riot)

Directed by:
Mike Lerner
Maxim Pozdorovkin
88 min.
Rated 14A
In Russian and English with English subtitles.

Omar

Omar, a young baker from Palestine risks his life every time he climbs over the Isreali-West Bank separation wall. The wall is concrete and difficult to climb but on the other side are his friends Amjad and Tarek but also Tarek’s sister Nadia. He wants to marry Nadia a fact that Terek ignores. After the three friends kill an Israeli soldier, Omar gets arrested and tortured. Omar is fooled into a confession but gets released with the promise of assisting Israeli military intelligence. The romance between Omar and Nadia has a feeling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In their scenes together actors Adam Bakri and Leem Lubany barely touch. A delicate holding of hands, touching each other’s fingers and a soft kiss on the lips. This is real love! It contrasts with how hard the film is. The torture scenes are made harder because Bakri is so good at making us like Omar. Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad is adept at creating suspense especially those heart thumping scene when Omar is getting chased by military. The drama becomes more charged and melodramatic as the film progresses. Recommended nevertheless.

And the Oscar went to… Omar is only the second film from Palestine the get an Oscar nomination as Best Foreign Language Film. The first was Paradise now also directed by Hany Abu-Assad. Omar lost to Italy’s La grande bellezza [The great beauty]. Other nominees were: The broken circle breakdown (Belgium), Jagten [The hunt] (Denmark), L’image manquante [The missing picture] (Cambodia).

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Omar

Directed by: 
Hany Abu-Assad
 
Screenplay by: 
Hany Abu-Assad
 
Starring: 
Adam Bakri
Samer Bisharat
Eyad Hourani
Leem Lubany
Waleed Zuaitar
  
96 min.
 

Rated 14A.

In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.

Oscar® nominated animated shorts 2013

For some years the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts have been shown at the ByTowne Cinema. It’s fun to see and decide if the Academy got it wrong. And they always do. The presentation is simple. The two hosts are a giraffe and an ostrich. Animated of course. Bit players in animation films they talk about the animated stars they met and the latest gossips. The shorts are: Get a horse! A Disney film starring Mickey Mouse. The first since 1995. The look of a 16mm black-and-white animated Disney film of the past is accurately recreated. When Mickey gets run off the screen he is in color. The screen is turned upside down, flipped, pierced, ect. A funny and inventive gem. The second film is Mr. Hublot, a Luxembourg-French film. In a futuristic Paris lives Mr. Hublot (porthole in french), a man with obsessive–compulsive disorder wearing enormous glasses. He adopts a stranded robot dog. The dog gets bigger and bigger taking too much space in Hublot’s apartment. The film’s technical aspects are beautifully realized. What irks me is the inclusion of two English songs. Eleven minutes animated shorts from France do not need songs. And if French producers feel it needs some, I’m sure there would be lots of French songs to be found. Daniel Sousa’s Feral is about a boy found in the woods and brought back to civilization. But he doesn’t fit in and becomes wild and savage again. This is the most stylized film of the bunch. Certainly the work of an artist, a craftsman. Japanese Anime director Shuhei Morita’s Possessions is the fourth film. A man lost in a forest finds refuge in a cabin full of umbrellas with eyes and alive kimonos. Based on Japanese myths that after being discarded for more than one hundred years things attain souls. Like the other films this is well made. The fifth short is Room on the broom. A witch and her cat meet along their travels a bird, a dog and a frog. The witch kindly allows them to ride on her broom. The most fun of the shorts on the program with likable characters. Four other shorts complement the program including Chris Landreth’s Subconscious password.

And the Oscar went to… Mr. Hublot. My vote goes to Get a horse!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 Oscar® nominated animated shorts 2013

Directed by: 
Lauren MacMullan
Laurent Witz & Alexandre Espigares
Daniel Sousa
Max Lang & Jan Lachauer
Shuhei Morita
and others.
 
108 min.
 
Rated Parental Guidance
 
In English, Japanese and others with subtitles.