The concept for György Pálfi Free Fall holds so much promise: a woman climbs the stairs of an apartment building and we get a glimpse of what’s going on behind the doors of an apartment on each floor. It’s a great set-up for an anthology film though here, Pálfi and collaborating directors Gergely Pohárnok and Zsófia Ruttkay take on all seven stories and the result is exactly what most other anthology films deliver: a mixed bag.
The set-up is interesting enough; the aforementioned old lady climbs the stairs of her apartment building to the roof, jumps off and lands on the road with a splat. Minutes later she stands up, brushes herself off and goes back into the building where’s she’s forced to walk up the stairs because the elevator is being serviced. There’s no explanation as to how or why she’s doing this but it does turn out to be one of the more interesting and entertaining aspects of Free Fall. As she climbs, we get a glimpse at what’s unfolding behind the doors and it ranges in everything form a Korean sitcom to a woman having a baby shoved back into her stomach.
A few years ago, French Canadian director Maxime Giroux appeared like a beacon of light on the radar of Canadian film. Jo for Jonathan, his second feature, a moody and sombre family drama about two brothers at odds with each other, was a standout of the year and ever since, the anticipation of the director’s follow-up has been rising. Through this expectant fog emerges Felix and Meira and though it stumbles a little, it doesn’t disappoint.
Another family drama, Felix and Meira centers on two disparate people each locked in their own familial struggles. Felix is the black sheep of the family, having run away and been disowned by his father. At the beginning of the film he is struggling with the recent passing of his estranged father – a passing that didn’t allow for Felix to make amends with his dad. Meira is a somewhat dutiful Hasidic Jewish wife and mother. Somewhat because there’s a rebellious streak to Meira: she draws, she listens to forbidden music and perhaps her most grievous offence is that she takes birth control pills. She’s unhappy but faithful to her husband until an encounter with Felix pulls her out of her shell and her quiet life.
The relationship between the two lost souls begins innocently enough. Felix gives Meira pictures he’s dawn, plays albums for her and takes her about the city. It’s a friendship that feels heavy with unspoken romance. Eventually the relationship morphs into a more typical romance but Felix and Meira is at its best when the relationship between the titular characters is budding. Hadas Yaron as Meira and Martin Dubreuil as Felix have an easy connection and the pair are wonderful together, sharing stolen moments that feel at once insignificant and like their every bit of being depends on them. Giroux captures these moments beautifully.
The eponymous image of Clouds of Sils Maria features a heavenly mist snaking its way through mountain peaks like a river, the rocks frozen in time, immutable, the clouds in perpetual motion. It is shown as shot for Olivier Assayas 2014, and the characters in the film at one point watch the 1924 Arnold Fank silent, black and white short documentary The Cloud Phenomena of Maloja. The technology and aesthetics have changed, but filmmaking keeps on rumbling chaotically along as the images captured become fixed and un-aging objects.
No matter how many films Assayas makes, he cannot help himself from being a film critic. As with many of the auteur directors of the French New Wave a generation or more before him, he wrote for Cahiers Du Cinema before becoming a hot-shot young director. Throughout his career he has often made films that examine the business, chaos and soul of filmmaking, in France and abroad. Irma Vep had New Wave icon Jean Pierre Leaud playing an addled director who casts Maggie Cheung out the Hong Kong action cinema of Johnnie To and Jackie Chan and dropped her onto a dysfunctional Parisian film set to shoot an avant-garde remake of iconic french serial Les Vampires and Demon Lover wrapped a tangled corporate thriller around the global video and web distribution rights of anime tentacle pornography.
Regardless of what subjects the director tackles, what is interesting about his cinema is that he has always favored actors and performances to allow his ideas to flow out onto the screen over cinematography and editing. His films breathe.
Lately, Assayas has been pre-occupied with age and youth, and has left behind, mostly, any genre trappings to make films about the passage of time and how it changes people. In Clouds of Sils Maria, he has Juliette Binoche playing a fictional version of herself named Maria Enders. An actress at a point in her career where she is an international movie star who did a stint in Hollywood blockbusters before returning to the European art house and stage. A young director asks her to appear in his revival of the play that made her famous, only this time she will be playing the broken-down wealthy businesswoman part instead of the aggressive and domineering young personal assistant who sexually dominates her boss and the stage. The play in the film bears remarkable similarity to Alain Corneau’s final film, Love Crime (which was recently remade by Brian DePalma as Passion).
What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow? These absurdities and more formed the basis of the first narrative theatrical feature from famous Monty Python comedy troupe. It was released today 40 years ago, and not a line of dialogue has gone stale.
I’m sure they would wholeheartedly approve of this ‘modern’ trailer cut for the film which is hilariously mis-representative of the film, and utterly appropriate in terms of self-awareness. The appropriate parties responsible for this have been sacked.
Director: George Tillman Jr. (The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, Faster, Notorious) Writer: Craig Bolotin, Nicholas Sparks (novel) Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Theresa Park, Nicholas Sparks Starring: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston, Alan Alda MPAA Rating: PG-13 Running time: 139 min.
Here’s the deal: you’ve seen this movie before. It’s not really like The Notebook but it’s as close to it as we’ve come in the adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels since. Truth: Sparks knows how to weave a good, if predictable, romantic yarn and The Longest Ride is no different.
Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood are the lovely couple this time around. She, Sophia, is a New Jersey daughter of immigrants studying art at the local college in one of the Carolinas while he, Luke, is a good ‘ole southern boy who spends his days professionally riding bulls. The pair meet at one of his events, there’s a spark and eventually they end up together though not before each is forced to confront their personal problems and put everything on the line for love. The end. Happily ever after. And yes, it is happily ever after. Sparks and Disney are the few bastions of happy endings left. Though Sparks’ usually come at the cost of a few extra tissues.
If, like me, you missed the memo, The Longest Ride also stars Alan Alda as Ira, a crotchety old man that is befriended by Sophia. He shares the story of the hardships and happiness of his relationship with his wife, a relationship he refers to as “the longest ride” and his story prompts Sophia to give Luke another go because, as we all know, true love is hard to find and can sometimes be difficult. I’m sure you can figure out how Ira’s story ends too but seriously, if your complaint about this movie is its predictability, you really need to get out more.
With the marketing engine for the long delayed Mad Max sequel/reboot hitting its peak in the last couple weeks, here comes all the outdoor and big-cinema exterior banners. This super-quad gives a fresh new feel to the typical 21st century action-movie Orange & Teal cinematography-style. The crisp bold titles with the films two stars poised and ready against the post-apocalyptic world is all one needs to know. Mad Max: Fury Road will certainly not be a movie for wide audiences, but for the core fan-base and lovers of pure action cinema, all of the marketing has been hitting the sweet spot.
Director: Caryn Waechter Writer: Marilyn Fu, Steven Millhauser (short story) Producers: Elizabeth Cuthrell, Lydia Dean Pilcher Starring: Georgie Henley, Kara Hayward, Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman, Olivia DeJonge, Kal Penn, Laura Fraser MPAA Rating: PG-13 Running time: 104 min.
The current crop of YA movies may be, for the most part, burning up the box office but the majority of them don’t feature regular, everyday kids dealing with regular, everyday problems. Yes, the messages are mostly positive but how likely is it that a girl will have to save the world from the grips of a power hungry leader with her bow and arrow?
The easy thing to do is chalk The Sisterhood of Night up to modern retelling of the Salem witch trials and it certainly is that but it’s also far more. Based on a short story from Pulitzer Prize winning author Steven Millhauser and adapted by Marilyn Fu, the story takes the concept of the witch trials and sets it in today’s highschool world complete with the perils of social media.
The grown-up Georgie Henley (of The Chronicles of Narnia fame) stars as Mary Warren, an artistic and largely independent teen girl who, after a couple of run ins with an attention hungry Emily Parris (Moonrise Kingdom’s Kara Hayward) decides to take a break from social media. She updates Facebook one last time and then turns her attention to real world connections. The teen soon befriends a pair of other girls and the trio begin the Sisterhood of Night, a by invitation-only club that sees girls getting together in the middle of the night in the woods and what they do there soon becomes the centre of a scandal.