All is true

We are told at the start of All is true that during the first run of William Shakespeare’s Henry VIII in 1613, a special effect cannon caused a fire that destroyed the Globe theatre. Henry VIII was Shakespeare’s last play, we are told. All is true was Henry VIII‘s alternative title. Shakespeare (Branagh) retires to his house in Stratford-upon-Avon with his wife, Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench). During his long career as a playwright/actor, he ignored his family. Anne is a few years older than him. At 84, Judi Dench is a very old 57 years old woman. Judith (Kathryn Wilder), his unmarried, sharp-tongued daughter, is bitter about her father’s absence. She is still mourning the death of Hamnet, her twin brother, who died at 10 years of age. Shakespeare is sometimes visited by the ghost of his dead son. It’s a clever reversal of Hamlet, here the ghost of the son appears to the father. Susanna (Lydia Wilson), his older daughter is married to Puritan John Hall. Oh, and she may be having a scandalous affair with another man. All Shakespeare really wants is peaceful life and to work on a garden honoring Hamnet. With the coming of the Earl of Southampton (a lively but too short appearance by Ian McKellen), Anne has to question her husband. Is it true that Shakespeare and the Earl were lovers? Some of Shakespeare’s sonnets are about his love of another man. There are excellent production values (set, costumes, cinematographer) and great acting, in particular from McKellen and Wilder. All is true suffers from a lack of excitement and a slowness in the early scenes. But it later recovers to give us a touching film about the last years of a brilliant writer. I’m not sure if “all is true”, but does it really matter. Your choice.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Plays at Ottawa’s ByTowne Cinema from June 21 – 28
https://www.bytowne.ca/movie/all-is-true

All is true

Directed by:
Kenneth Branagh

Screenplay by:
Ben Elton

Starring:
Kenneth Branagh
Judi Dench
Ian McKellen
Lydia Wilson
Kathryn Wilder
Jimmy Yuill

101 min.

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Peterloo

The Peterloo massacre happened on 16 August 1819 at St Peter’s Field, Manchester. The name comes from the 1815 Battle of Waterloo. A crowd of 60,000-80,000 had gathered to hear a speech by left-wing reformer Henry Hunt (Rory Kinnear). But the film starts with Joseph (David Moorst), a young soldier coming back to his family after fighting in the Battle of Waterloo. For the rest of the film Joseph seems to be mentally impacted by his war experience. The poor lad doesn’t have anything else to wear than his soldier’s uniform and trying to get a job, for him or any body else, is almost impossible. In Manchester there is talk of political reform. There is lack of parliamentary representations, and people want universal suffrage. As it was in 1819, only men that had enough money and properties with rental values had the right to vote. And then there was the “Corn laws”. The government imposed tariffs on foreign grain, because of that the cost of food rose and there was famine and high level of unemployment. People that had the audacity to speak about reform were called “radicals”. We are shown that the judges had no mercy for any of the poor people. The sentences are severe. A woman is to be lashed because she drank her mistress’s wine. A man took his master’s coat because he didn’t one and he was cold. His sentence? To be hanged. The King was George III, but he was mentally hill and his son George (soon to be crowned King George IV the following year after his father’s death) was installed as Prince Regent. He is unflatteringly portrayed as a powdered buffoon by Tim McInnerny. As the film cleverly shows, the reformers had many points of views. A group of women demanded the right to vote. Others more extreme, receiving their cue from the French revolution, want to kill the King and the monarchy. As the population marched to the political rally, judges and the elites were talking about crushing and repressing any future demands for reforms. When St Peter’s Field was full, the judges ordered the cavalry to charge into the crowd. About 18 people (women, elders and children) were killed and up to 700 injured. The impressive task of this amazing historical reconstruction was met with brilliance by Mike Leigh and his teams. A traveling shot of the MPs at the parliament or a crowd at a political rally, and seeing the minute details of hairstyle, make up and costumes gives you just small a glimpse of the work involved. It’s one of the largest ensemble cast I’ve ever seen in films. It’s hard to pick any body, except those I already mentioned, because they are all believable. All of them are worthy of mention. It is true that Mike Leigh has politically picked a side, but his portrait of Henry Hunt as vain and pretentious, tells us a lot about Leigh’s real concerns. It’s with those poor people viciously attacked for believing in something. It’s not the image of the British Empire one usually gets from the movies. There is no Maggie Smith or Judi Dench sipping tea. Bravo to Mike Leigh for making that film without compromise, and making it a great and powerful film. And thank you for telling us about the Peterloo massacre.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Peterloo

 

Directed by:
Mike Leigh

Screenplay by:
Mike Leigh

Starring:
Rory Kinnear
David Moorst
Maxine Peake
Vincent Franklin
Tim McInnerny
Pearce Quigley

154 min.

Diamantino

Two friends are coming out of the cinema and may have that conversation. “Did you like ir?” “Oh! I loved it! I did not understand a thing, but I looooooved it!” Well, Diamantino is that type of film. You will probably like it if you are a soccer fan, but even then you may wonder “What the heck!!!”. Diamantino Matamouros (Carloto Cotta) is the star soccer player for the Portuguese team. The handsome Diamantino is an innocent soul (a polite way to say that he’s dumb) who imagines giant puppies with him on the field during the World Cup match. But during one of the matches something goes wrong and Diamantino is humiliated and disgraced on international TV. That night his father dies. Actually he is killed by Diamantino’s twin sisters, Sonia and Natasha (Anabela and Margarida Moreira). Diamantino is being investigated for money laundering by police officer Aisha Brito (Cleo Tavares) and her lover Lucia (Vargas Maria Leite). Diamantino wants to adopt a refugee boy. The lesbian cops take the opportunity. Aisha dresses as a boy and Lucia as a very conventional nun. Once Aisha is inside the house, as Diamantino’s son, she soon realizes that Diamantino has nothing to do with the money laundering. It’s the twin sisters who have been transferring money from their brother’s bank accounts into offshore tax havens. And the sisters also have signed a very lucrative contract with government Minister Ferro (Joana Barrios). Under the guise of tests, Diamantino is to be cloned. He realizes something is wrong only when he starts to grow female breasts. Beside tax havens and refugees, other political issues are thrown in the mix like the movement to leave the European Union and the importance of the soccer cup. It’s a mess. The acting is amateurish. But what isn’t amateurish in this film? Hey, but the critics love it. They do not understand a thing, but they loooooove it! Stupid!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Diamantino

 

Directed by:
Gabriel Abrantes
Daniel Schmidt

Screenplay by:
Gabriel Abrantes
Daniel Schmidt

Starring:
Carloto Cotta
Cleo Tavares
Anabela Moreira
Margarida Moreira
Carla Maciel
Vargas Maria Leite
Joana Barrios
Carla Maciel

96 min.

In Portuguese with English subtitles.

Un amour impossible (An impossible love)

What makes Un amour impossible a fairly good film is that we have never seen a character like Philippe Arnold, so perfectly and clearly defined by Franco-Canadian actor Niels Schneider. But the film’s main character is Rachel Steiner (Virginie Efira, Schneider’s partner in real life). Rachel and Philippe meet in 1958. They have sex and a daughter, Chantal, is born. That’s when Philippe becomes illusive. It seems to us that Rachel has no clue what is happening. But we’re ahead of her. Philippe Arnold is a young man from a wealthy family, would not let it be known that he had a daughter with a simple office worker. It’s all about of class. But that is OK with Rachel, who loves Philippe and is ready to love him whenever he shows up, which is not very often actually. As for their daughter, Philippe simply stays away for a few years. He really starts to try having a relationship with Chantal (Estelle Lescur) when she is a teenager. But he stays cold and distant. He is resisting to the proposition that she officially take is family name. Then he gets closer to Chantal, to the point that the young lady gets along better with her dad than her mom. A weird reversal. That’s when Rachel discovers the truth about Philippe and Chantal. Un amour impossible is very good at understanding, and making us understand, where everyone positions themselves. Like many woman of her time, Rachel let men walk all over them. Men of Philippe’s standing knew they could get away with it. And so they did. Philippe’s impositions are not violent, but he’s just a very imposing man who knows how to control people. Virginie Efira, who was playing comedy in Le grand bain a few month ago, carries the film with her raw emotions. Rachel’s frustrating paralysis is terrible to watch, but so real. Niels Schneider is so dark here that he certainly won’t win any popularity contest. But he does well for the film. At the end teenage and adult Chantal (Jehnny Beth) becomes estranged from her mom. The love that is impossible is also between Rachel and Chantal. It’s daughter against mother, woman against woman. Typically French! And it justifies this turn around by over intellectual over analysis. For sure it is a highly dysfunctional situation, but it got worse, in my opinion, when he got back into the picture. So half of a good film. Close, but no cigar!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Un amour impossible (An impossible love)

 

Directed by:
Catherine Corsini

Screenplay by:
Catherine Corsini
Laurette Polmanss
Based on the novel by Christine Angot

Starring:
Virginie Efira
Niels Schneider
Estelle Lescur
Jehnny Beth

135 min.

In French with English subtitles.

Gordon Lightfoot: If you could read my mind

This documentary about Canadian music icon Gordon Lightfoot begins with the legendary singer/songwriter listening to one of his most popular song, (That’s what you get) For loving me, and cringing because he now finds that the song’s lyrics were misogynistic. After listening to several versions by him and other singers, he’s had enough and doesn’t want to listen to it any more. Throughout the documentary other legendary musicians such as Anne Murray, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Randy Bachman, the great Steve Earle, Sarah McLachlan and Rush’s Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee are all praising his skills as a songwriter. Actor Alec Baldwin is a fan and says that Gordon Lightfoot is a poet. Born in Ontario 80 years ago, Lightfoot started his musical formation as a choirboy at a Christian church. At 12 he made his first appearance at Massey Hall in Toronto, a theatre where he would often perform. From there he joined several bands where he played piano, drums and percussion. He taught himself to play guitar. He even sang jazz with a big band orchestra, appeared on the CBC’s Country hoedown as a member of singing groups, and sang in barbershop quartets. If you could read my mind is one of Gordon Lightfoot’s biggest international hit. We see the song performed by many other singers, including some hilarious disco versions. But what we can also witness throughout the film is that Gordon Lightfoot is a great singer. A beautiful baritone voice where the emotions of his lyrics are conveyed with subtlety, clarity and a perfect diction. Gordon Lightfoot is a class act. It is wonderful to watch him sing his wonderful songs. To name them all here would be too long, but apart from the title song, the most memorable are Early morning rain, the anthem Canadian railroad trilogy and of course The wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. The music is great. After seeing this film I am now a fan. To see if you care and support Canadian culture.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Gordon Lightfoot: If you could read my mind

 

Directed by:
Joan Tosoni
Martha Kehoe

88 min.

In English.

Red Joan

This year’s vehicle for 84 years old Dame Judi Dench is spy movie Red Joan. It is loosely inspired by real spy Melita Norwood who gave nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. As the film starts it is 2000 and Joan Stanley, a retired scientist, is arrested and removed from her cozy home in a London suburb. Flashback to 1938 and young Joan (now played by Sophie Cookson) is a student at Cambridge. There she meets Sonya (Tereza Srbova), an intriguing young woman you could describe in movie terms as “the femme fatale cliché”. We just don’t know who’s femme fatale she’s supposed to be, but there she is. Then there is Leo (Tom Hughes), Sonya’s pouty brother whom Joan falls for. Sonya and Leo are part of a group of politically involved students talking with awe about the Russians. Joan attends a few meeting but decides it is not for her. During the war Joan starts working with the British intelligence on the nuclear bomb. She has an affair with her boss Max (Stephen Campbell Moore), a married man who wants to divorce his wife to be with her. But Joan questions her beliefs after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. Through Leo and Sonya’s contacts Joan begins spying for the Russians. I just wish that Red Joan could be more exciting. As it stands it’s rather a boring affair. Dench has so little screen time that she’s almost a supporting player, an afterthought, or worse an added bonus. I have not always been a great fan of Dame Judi Dench, but here what Red Joan needs is more of her. Sophie Cookson is so good at channeling Dench, that we believe that Dench could be that way in when she was younger. But Cookson is not Dench. And there is Tom Hughes, who has developed an acting style out of pouting. He was a pouting Prince Albert in TVs Victoria, and there he is again as pouting Leo. Not a very good film. Uninteresting and dreadful.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Red Joan

 

Directed by:
Trevor Nunn

Screenplay by:
Lindsay Shapero

Starring:
Judi Dench
Sophie Cookson
Stephen Campbell Moore
Tom Hughes
Tereza Srbova
Ben Miles

110 min.

The fall of the American empire (La chute de l’empire américain)

La chute de l’empire américain is Denys Arcand’s latest film. Although Arcand brings back two characters from his film Joyeux calvaire, his 1986 film Le déclin de l’empire américain, seems totally unrelated to La chute de l’empire américain. This is not a sequel or a prequel. When we first meet Pierre-Paul Daoust (Alexandre Landry), a thirtysomething doctor of philosophy, he is breaking up with his girlfriend, Linda (Florence Longpré). What’s the point?, he seems to say. He will never amount to anything. The only job he could find is as a delivery man. He’s too competent, too intelligent, he claims, to get a job in his field. Arcand puts it all out there from the first speech. Everyone is rotten, corrupted and dishonest. You name it, Pierre-Paul is a disenchanted soul with no hope but always at the ready with quotes from French philosophers. Then as he is delivering a package, he happens to witness a botched robbery at a clothing boutique. Two people are killed, and two big bags full of cash are left on the scene. Pierre-Paul grabs them and tells the cops he saw nothing, but the two detectives in charge of the case (Maxim Roy and a bland Louis Morissette) know better. We find out that the boutique was a front for illegal activities, like money laundering. The Montréal organized crime community is involved and looking for the stolen cash. But what is Pierre-Paul going to do with all that cash? First, to have a good time, he calls high class escort Aspasie AKA Camille Lafontaine (Maripier Morin, formally a Reality TV show Occupation double contestant). To find some ways to make the millions grow (translation: tax havens) Pierre-Paul gets in touch with freshly-out-of-prison Sylvan Bigras (Rémy Girard) who specializes in money matters. Pretty soon Aspasie is also involved. Just happens that Aspasie’s former client is attorney Maître Wilbrod Taschereau (Pierre Curzi) who knows a thing or two about tax havens. So there you have it. The honest doctor of philosophy becomes just as crooked as the crooks, the prostitutes, the businessmen and the lawyers. Meanwhile in the streets of Montréal there are more and more homeless people than ever. And the police? Well, they’re just incompetent fools. Arcand lays it down pretty thick. Every thing is underlined several times, with long speeches about what country is better to “invest” your money, the government being complicit. It’s a labyrinthine plot with equally labyrinthine dialogues. But it is pleasant because of Arcand’s pacing and casting choices. He always had an easy way with dialogues. Some of his earlier films were all talk fests: Le déclin de l’empire américain, Jésus de Montréal and Les invasions barbares (Best Foreign language film Oscar winner). With Arcand, verbosity can be fun. Except for the aforementioned Morissette, I enjoyed La chute de l’empire américain mostly because of the cast. The two leads, Landry and Morin have good chemistry together. Despite having had no previous film experience, Morin is cutting and precise, exactly what the part needs. And Landry serves Arcand well as he is a very likable and attractive hero. It was so much fun to see Rémy Girard and Pierre Curzi back together again from the good old days of Le déclin de l’empire américain. Curzi is particularly effective as a cynic lawyer. The only thing left to say about Rémy Girard is that he could probably play Sylvain Bigras in his sleep. And for me it is so much fun to see and recognize actors that I’ve seen and love from Quebec TV. With only a few minutes onscreen, Geneviève Schmidt is so funny and milking every second of her screen time, that you wish she had a bigger part. Maybe soon Geneviève! And a great time was had by all.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The fall of the American empire (La chute de l’empire américain)

 

Directed by:
Denys Arcand

Screenplay by:
Denys Arcand

Starring:
Alexandre Landry
Maripier Morin
Rémy Girard
Pierre Curzi
Maxim Roy
Louis Morissette
Patrick Emmanuel Abellard
Eddy King
Florence Longpré
Vincent Leclerc
Geneviève Schmidt
Paul Doucet

128 min.

In French with English subtitles.

The white crow

The white crow is a Rudolf Nureyev biopic chronicling the time the Russian dancer defected at a Paris airport. The year is 1961 and 23 years old Nureyev (Ukrainian dancer Oleg Ivenko) is touring Europe with a ballet troupe from Russia. But the dancers are given very little liberties, like being allowed to mingle with foreigners. Nureyev visits French museums, like Le Louvre, to soak up inspirations from the great sculptures and paintings. But every time he goes out, he has to be followed by KGB guards. He makes friends with a young woman called Clara Saint (Adèle Exarchopoulos), who shows him around and even go to a gay bar. He has an affair with Xenia Jurgenson (Chulpan Khamatova) the wife of his ballet instructor, Alexander Pushkin (Ralph Fiennes). But it is clear that Nureyev is interested by men. But what irks Nureyev the most, and probably a good reason for his defection, is that he feels under appreciated. Everywhere they go he is the star of the ballet company. But receiving universal acclaims doesn’t assure you better treatments from the company directors or the KGB agents. And it does not mean better contracts with more money. He was suppose to do it all for mother Russia. But he refuses to conform. At the end of The white crow, Rudolf Nureyev is at the Paris airport and he feels his life may be in danger. Yes, this scene is tense, but it is subtle and extremely well made and acted. But it’s true for the whole film. From the scenes in Le Louvre to childhood flashbacks, The white crow is a class act. Thanks to Fiennes, who does his best directorial work and David Hare’s excellent script. But the film is carried by Oleg Ivenko. I’ll let others who can better compare Ivenko’s dancing with Nureyev’s. (To my untrained eyes his dancing is beautiful to watch) Ivenko’s acting is more than competent. It’s not always true that dancers can be good actors, but Ralph Fiennes has made the good casting choice. A must see.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The white crow

 

Directed by:
Ralph Fiennes

Screenplay by:
David Hare
Inspired by the book Rudolf Nureyev: The life by Julie Kavanagh

Starring:
Oleg Ivanko
Adèle Exarchopoulos
Chulpan Khamatova
Ralph Fiennes
Raphaël Personnaz
Alexey Morozov
Louis Hofmann

127 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In Russian, French and English with English subtitles.

The biggest little farm

John and Molly Chester’s adventures started when they received an eviction notice brought on by their dog”s barking. If they wanted to keep their Los Angeles apartment, Todd, their dog, had to be put down. That brought back a long held dream of theirs: to buy a farm and cultivate it in a traditional way, as compare with an industrial operation. Friends that agreed to help them financially, so off they went. The land they bought is in California. It was so dry, and they’ll be the first one to say that they knew nothing about farming. So they hired farm consultant Alan York. I’d call him a “miracle worker”. York’s plan was so impressive (How much did it cost? Don’t know, but it looks like a lot!) and ingenious. What follows is a complete record of the next 8 year. It seems as if Chester (an Emmy winning cinematographer/director) and his crew filmed everything. There are cute animals, like Emma the pig (the star of the film) who gives the farmers more than a dozen little baby piglets. There’s a rooster who develops an unlikely friendship with Emma the pig. There are loads of problems arising. Coyotes are killing the chickens. John is against killing any animals, but changes his mind when anything they have tried to stop the coyotes failed. For every problems there seem to be a solution. And then there are other problems that pop up. Snails are eating away at the leaves of the fruit trees, endangering the crops. Ducks love eating snails. Problem solved. When small birds are feeding on fruits, and eating away at the farm’s profits, birds of prey (crows, owls and eagles) are there to rid the farm of the small birds. John calls it “equilibrium”. Soon John and Molly have realized they have built a paradise. I don’t think I have seen a more beautiful this year. Chester has made a small miracle of a film. Is it preachy? Not enough for me to care. With such beautiful and powerful images, and such a positive

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The biggest little farm

 

Directed by:
John Chester

Screenplay by:
John Chester
Mark Monroe

89 min.

Rated General

Sir

There is a terrible scene in Sir where Ratka, the main character, is escorted out of a store by the saleswoman and the security guard. That’s because of Ratka’s social class. Until then you do not get how strong the caste system in India is. It took only one look at Ratka for the saleswoman to react swiftly and call the security guard. Ratka (Tillotama Shome) is a live-in maid working in Mumbai for Ashwin (Vivek Gomber), a young and handsome professional man, who is about to get married. As the film starts, Ratka is back in her village visiting her family, when he gets a call to go back to the Mumbai apartment. Something went wrong and the wedding has been called off. All that remains for Ratka to do is to be there for her employer. Ashwin is depressed and Ratka is there to cook and serve his meal, make tea, clean and try to be a comforting presence. To help, she tells him her story: She became a young widow when her husband died shortly after their marriage, and now she’s working to send her younger sister to school. Ratka also plans to study to become a tailor, with the hope of even being a fashion designer. Ashwin admires and supports her efforts by giving her time off to study. They get closer until it is clear that Ashwin is now in love with Ratka. But for Ratka it is an impossible situation. Her family will shun her if she marries above her caste. For her he has to remain “Sir”. Sir is director Rohena Gera’s fiction feature debut. It is for the most part a two character film. The casting of the two leads is brilliant. Both Shome and Gomber give winning performances the makes you fall in love for them and make you root for Ratka and Ashwin. Gera’s uncomplicated direction is a plus, as it keeps things simple and to the point. I approve!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Sir

 

Directed by:
Rohena Gera

Screenplay by:
Rohena Gera

Starring:
Tillotama Shome
Vivek Gomber

99 min.

In Hindi, Marathi and English with English subtitles.