Evokative’s Food for Thought: American and Canadian Fans of Upscale Foreign Cinema

 

Here is a worthy discussion for those of you who spend your money at film festivals, or like to watch foreign cinema of all stripes and colours. American (and Canadian) exhibition of foreign language cinema (outside of Japanese genre flicks, Bollywood imports and the occasional break out Euro-hits like The Millennium Trilogy films, Downfall, Tell No One or Cache) has been taking a nose dive for years. Some blame the ever expanding festival market which cannibalizes art-house releases, others blame a glut of product on the domestic and foreign markets and an overall decline in importance of film with so many other entertainment distractions. For that matter, subscription packages like Netflix and overall apathy with the theatrical experience are contributors as well. Well Stephanie Trapanier, founder and owner of Evokative Films, put out a clarion plea for the very survival of the few boutique distributors that want to give quality and unique foreign cinema a go on this side of the pond. A motivator? A guilt trip? A State of the Union? Either way, a worthy discussion for film lovers. Stephanie’s entire note is below:

“Hey there friends and cinephiles,

Today I’d like to exchange on a very important subject with you, one directly related to Evokative’s very existence: Let’s talk about your interest in International films. It’s a bit of a long read, but I promise I get to a point.

For a long time, mostly when I was lining up for films at Fantasia and later on when I became part of the staff, I kept hearing the film fans complain about the lack of decent releases for International films, dissing the Bad Big Distributors who didn’t give the proper love to the titles they did pick-up and deploring all the great films that had been left on the side of the road after festival acclaim, because they had been deemed “Not Commercial Enough” by the Bad Big Distributors. I totally agreed on the discourse.

I thought, “Hey, isn’t there a market right here, film fans who are passionate about the art and want to see someone go out there and nurture these films? Wouldn’t they be happy about that and support that company that would go against the mentality of the Bad Big Distributors to be a Nice Small Distributor?”. Then I started out in the business and more seasoned folks would tell me how “courageous” I was to venture out in this type of film, and I would always reply with confidence that I knew that the audience was out there, it just never had been properly listened to.

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: Gus Van Sant’s Restless

 

He is a funeral crashing drop-out with a ghost friend. Gus Van Sant embraces ‘feel-good quirk’ for the first time since his dada-ist prank that was the Psycho remake. How will Restless turn out in the end? Will it be on the bombastic, glossy-schlock side that includes his Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester? It certainly does not appear to be Van Sant in ‘meditative death mode’ even though that is the obsession of the main character, and very likely the fate of his soul-mate. Then there is Milk which seemed to sort of straddle the line between his two filmmaker personalities, a middle-brow, but still solid affair. Perhaps that is where Restless will end up in darker yet still narrative Drug Store Cowboy territory, but I fear that phase of Van Sant’s career is long gone. All filmographic musing aside, I really hope that the director does interesting things with materials that may have its drama overshadowed by quirk.

Oh yea, I’m a more than a week late to this trailer, everyone else around here has skipped or dismissed it for some reason. I quite like the recent ubiquitousness of Mia Wasikowska (In Treatment, Alice in Wonderland) and it looks as if 20 year old Henry Hopper (Dennis Hopper’s son) has more than his share of screen presence, and all pictures are benefited from the presence of Jane Adams (Little Children, Happiness).

Restless is to be release sometime in 2011. The Trailer is tucked under the seat.

Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: Rabbit Hole

 

One of the films I regret missing at TIFF this year, particularly because everyone who saw it had nothing but good things to say about it. Certainly Rabbit Hole is going to be a challenging film as it deals with the loss of an only child to a car accident by young(ish) parents. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play the parents and if a trailer and word of mouth are to be judged, both are in top form. Rabbit Hole seems to takes advantage of Ms. Kidman’s distant-ness on screen, although by the end (and the trailer has a quite uplifting tone) it does seem that Kidman melts a bit on camera. Bonus has Sandra Oh and the always fabulous Dianne Weist in supporting rolls. I expect this to be a fair bit better than the Canadian made similar (but still different) film Beautiful Boy (Kurt’s Review), maybe because the concept behind Rabbit Hole is a bit more basic, and a bit less, edgy. Still, I also expect a lot of crying on screen. Director John Cameron Mitchell detours from gay and highly sexuality feel-good cinema (Hedgwig and the Angry Inch, Short Bus) in directing David Lindsay-Abaire’s Pulitzer-winning play for the big screen.

Becca and Howie Corbett are returning to their everyday existence in the wake of a shocking, sudden loss. Just eight months ago, they were a happy suburban family with everything they wanted. Now, they are caught in a maze of memory, longing, guilt, recrimination, sarcasm and tightly controlled rage from which they cannot escape. While Becca finds pain in the familiar, Howie finds comfort. The shifts come in abrupt, unforeseen moments. Becca hesitantly opens up to her opinionated, loving mother and secretly reaches out to the teenager involved in the accident that changed everything; while Howie lashes out and imagines solace with another woman. Yet, as off track as they are, the couple keeps trying to find their way back to a life that still holds the potential for beauty, laughter and happiness. The resulting journey is an intimate glimpse into two people learning to re-engage with each other and a world that has been tilted off its axis.

Rabbit Hole is very much one of my more anticipated films for the remainder of the year.

The trailer is tucked under the seat.

Would you like to know more…?

Shorts Program: Morgan and Destiny’s Eleventeeth Date

 

It looks like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and those awesome folks over at hitRECord have put together a sequel to the collaborative Sundance short film hit Morgansen’s Date with Destiny. It’s been finished for some time, but I just stumbled across it as it was posted on Joe’s official collaborative filmmaking site. This time, Morgan and Destiny are apparently on their eleventeenth date – and where else but the Zeppelin Zoo? Co-starring his Stop Loss co-star Channing Tatum, we see Morgan battle Lionel in the most gentlemanly of ways.

These collaborative shorts are awesome – and both were received warmly at this past year’s SXSW in Austin, Texas. Let’s hope the continued success of Joe’s passion projects can help bring a smile to his face after the recent tragic death of his older brother, Burning Dan.

DVD Review: The Trotsky

The Trotsky Movie Poster

Director: Jacob Tierney
Writer: Jacob Tierney
Producer: Kevin Tierney
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Geneviève Bujold, Emily Hampshire, Colm Feore, Saul Rubinek, Kaniehtiio Horn, Ricky Mabe
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 120 min.

Leon Bronstein is a visionary, a revolutionary and a high school student. He also thinks he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky.

That’s the basic premise of Jacob Tierney’s The Trotsky which stars Jay Baruchel as Leon, the high school student that goes around causing all sorts of trouble for himself by trying to make the world a more equal place. It starts with a hunger strike gone wrong at his father’s factory which lands him in, gasp!, public school where he teams up with the ineffective student union to start a mini revolution. After all, the school administration, particularly Mrs. Danvers (who Leon has quite a selection of wicked nick names for) and Principal Berkhoff (played by the illustrious and always fabulous Colm Feore, seem to be gunning for a few specific students.

With the help of his student union members Caroline and Tony (played by The Wild Hunt duo (Kaniehtiio Horn and Ricky Mabe), his new friend Skip, his soon to be wife Alexandra and a former lawyer and leader of the Canadian Communist Party, Leon sets in motion a series of events in support of the forming of a student union at Montreal West. Each of Leon’s attempts are more outlandish than the last with the final stand taking the proverbial cake.

Would you like to know more…?

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead,” the music video

Last year, director Jordan Galland unleashed Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead on the world. I still haven’t seen the movie (which is now out on DVD) and it had completely fallen off my radar until earlier today when a reader shared this great little video with me.

Gallant has cut together a very humorous little music video featuring some cool little beats, a few sound bites (ah!) from the film and some clips, delivering a delicious little package that makes a great appetizer for Halloween. Makes me want to see the movie.

Celebrate World Animation Day with the NFB – FREE!

For the last few years, the National Film Board has been celebrating International Animation Day with a series of free screenings, workshops and master classes aimed at celebrating the long running tradition of award winning Canadian animation.

This year’s events run between October 28th and November 7th with the roadshow making a pitstops in Toronto (October 26–31), Montreal (October 28–31), Winnipeg (October 28–31), Edmonton (October 28), Halifax (October 28–29, November 6–7), Moncton (October 31) and Calgary (November 6–7).

The Vancouver screenings are taking place at the Vancity theatre (three screenings in all), with master classes (the Vancouver class is hosted by Matthew Talbot-Kelly, the director of The Trembling Veil of Bones) and presentations taking place at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design on Granville Island and best of all, it’s all free!

There’s loads of information on both the Vancouver and other screenings taking place across the country at the official Get Animated website.

DVD Review: The Last Rites of Ransom Pride

The Last Rites of Ransom Pride Poster

Director: Tiller Russell
Writer: Tiller Russell, Ray Wylie Hubbard
Producers: Michael Frislev, Duncan Montgomery, Chad Oakes
Starring: Dwight Yoakam, Jon Foster, Peter Dinklage, Scott Speedman, Kris Kristofferson, Lizzy Caplan, Cote de Pablo
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 82 min.

Though westerns have been making a small come back since the release of 2005’s The Proposition, few outside of John Hillcoat and Andrew Dominik have managed to bring anything new to the table. You can add Tiller Russell’s name to that short list though whether his additions to the genre are anywhere on the same level of Hillcoat and Dominik is disputable (even I can’t go that far), he is bringing something new to the well worn chaps.

Admittedly, Russell’s The Last Rites of Ransom Pride is batshit crazy and I can’t even begin to comprehend how the production team can explain the usage of modern weapons, a car and even a motorcycle but it works with the zaniness of the rest of the production.

The film stars Scott Speedman as the titular Ransom Pride, a lawbreaker who gets killed in Mexico. His girlfriend Juliette Flowers (the fabulous Lizzy Caplan) has promised to return Ransom home and lay him to rest with his mother and so begins the adventure. Flowers turns up at the Pride home where Reverend (Dwight Yoakam) isn’t much interested in Flowers’ quest and he certainly doesn’t want his “good” son involved but Champ (Jon Foster) has other plans and he takes off with Flowers. The story soon gets ugly when Champ turns into more of a gunslinger than his brother ever was and all the while, he and Flowers are fighting off the bad guys of the wild wild west, including a group on orders from his father.

Would you like to know more…?

Flyway Film Fest Dispatch #5: Documentarian Howard Reich

 

 

One of the most intriguing films to come to Pepin this year is the documentary Prisoner of Her Past. Chicago Tribune Jazz critic Howard Reich sits down with us to talk about how and why his mother of 69 years one day decided to flee her Chicago home in the middle of the night insisting to police later that people were trying to kill her. After an evaluation we learn that Sonia actually has a rare form of delusion: Late Onset Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

During World War II, it turns out that as a ten year-old child, Sonia was forced to go on the run and into hiding through the German occupation of her country and witnessed unspeakable atrocities. These tragic events are now rearing their ugly head all these years later within Sonia’s psyche. After writing an article about the ordeal for the Chicago Tribune, he’s decided to investigate further and document the entire personal journey on film that takes him across the globe and chance encounters with other war survivors and people who actually knew his mother as a child. It’s an absolutely fascinating journey of discovery that’s both heart warming and heart wrenching at the same time.

Howard was gracious enough to sit down with us and discuss how he went about making the film and his discoveries and feelings as he progressed through this trek over the past few months/years.

 

 

 

LINKS:
Prisoner of Her Past Official film site
Purchase the DVD
Sonia’s story in Book form written by Howard himself
Howard’s Blog documenting screenings and events since the making of the film