Friday One Sheet(s): Sisters

It’s a slow and uninteresting week in movie posters this week. And did you know that the Row Three Cinecast has been doing discussions on Brian De Palma films all summer? This coming week will focus on 1973’s Siamese Twin Split-Screen Psychological Horror Picture, Sisters. So I give you some of the marvelous international posters for the film. Above is the lurid pulp novel styled one from Italy. Below the fold are some of the even more provocative and naughtier ones from Thailand, Germany and other countries.

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Hot Docs 2016 Review: De Palma

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Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s feature length interview could have easily been called “De Palma on De Palma.” It features prolific director Brian De Palma, now in his late sixties, in front of a blueish coloured fireplace mantle for its entire duration as the man, in his own casual way, walks through his filmography in order. He offers stories and offers opinions, slags a few people and ideas, and expresses varied regrets, bon mots and tangents along the way.

The experience is delightfully simple, involving cutting away to film clips to underscore what is being discussed, with the editing offering only an occasional hint that there are two younger indie directors on the other side of the camera.

De Palma’s 40 year career, from shoe-string indie pictures to Hollywood blockbusters. De Palma discovered Robert De Niro in college (and made the noteworthy pre-cursor to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Hi Mom! in 1970 – it is noteworthy in that Hi Mom! is quite excellent! In his twenties he directed a late career, quite addled, Orson Welles along with a cantankerous Tommy Smothers in a film called Get To Know Your Rabbit and would go on to direct a slew of movies both big and small with many of the biggest actors of the day: Sissy Spacek, Cliff Robertson, Geneviève Bujold, John Travolta, Melanie Griffith, Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Kirk Douglas, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Bruce Willis, Tom Hanks, Jean Reno, Tom Cruise, and a music video with The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen (yes, that music video, so you can thank De Palma or blame him for giving to the world, Courtney Cox.)

I don’t believe a lengthy review of this documentary is entirely necessary, as De Palma is a blunt man who does not mince words. Perhaps Hollywood’s most significant acolyte of Alfred Hitchcock, De Palma makes no bones about borrowing from the ‘Master of Suspense’ at every turn: from the macguffin concept, to doubles, lurid voyeurism, and a fascination with the ‘bomb that is about to go off’ style of storytelling. De Palma has always taken shots he loves (the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin for instance) and tried to build on them in modern stylish ways. It is no surprise that in kind, Quentin Tarantino happily and regularly pilfers from De Palma in a similar fashion. It is the nature of cinema, of art itself really. De Palma just did it with a bit more blood and sleaze and split screens.

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TIFF 2015 Review: Our Little Sister

I want to bundle this movie up and hug it. Tightly. For a long time.

That was my first thought after seeing Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister (also known as Umimachi Diary or “Diary Of A Seaside Town”) due to its joy, charm and humanity. I simply wanted to extend my experience with it and let all of its wonder continue to wash over me.

Don’t take that as indication that the film is slight or sickly sweet though. It’s neither. The emotions, reactions and behaviours are all very real and relatable (regardless of your cultural background) and the story of 3 sisters discovering they have a 14 year-old half-sister gets to core aspects of family – what we share, how we relate to each other and how we make assumptions about our family members. The film drifts in and out of gentle melodrama at times with musical cues denoting the prevalent emotion of the scene, but none of these moments felt forced or constructed purposely to tell the viewer what to feel. Kore-eda’s style is always there to support the story and characters. And what wonderful characters…

The three sisters (ranging from early 20s to early 30s) all live together in the old family home and have different personalities and approaches to life. Though they all fit certain templates – eldest is the maternal responsible one, middle child has bad taste in men and drinks to excess, youngest is a bit goofy – they each have fully-fleshed out characteristics that make them endearing, interesting and a bit frustrating. Kind of like everyone’s own family…Though their Dad is on his third wife by the time they attend (with little emotion) his funeral, their half-sister Suzu was actually the daughter of his second wife (who had passed away previously). This clues the older siblings into realizing that she won’t get any attention or love at all in her remaining non-blood family. Even though they have just met her, Sachi impulsively invites Suzu to live with them and the household brightens considerably with the teenager’s arrival. They share the house with their Great Aunt and the mid-section of the film is chock full of wonderful family dynamics scenes – ranging from cute to passive aggressive. Behind all of this is the spectre of the mother (Dad’s first wife) of the three adult sisters, how she fits into their lives and what might transpire when a larger family gathering will take place.

I will readily admit that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Kore-eda fanboy, so my biases are clear. I adore pretty much everything I’ve seen by him because he builds characters with whom you not only want to spend time, but also desire to discover more fully and who stay with you long afterwards. In the case of Our Little Sister, the screenplay was actually adapted from a manga by the original author Akimi Yoshida so I can’t give full credit to Kore-eda. But his ability to extract wonderfully natural performances from his actors continues here and makes the film feel “lived in”. Especially when it clearly revels in the small details of family life and traditions as the story winds its way through all the seasons of a full year. You can almost taste the plum wine they make from the fruits of their property’s trees and its oh-so-sweet. Not saccharine, but sweet.

Trailer: The Midnight Swim

Sarah Adina Smith’s debut feature, The Midnight Swim, is about the psychological ecosystem of three sisters during a visit to the family house on the lake. It subtly flirts with both the supernatural and the interpretation of captured (and being captured on) video. The film made some waves (sorry! sorry!) on the Festival circuit in 2014, I adored it when I caught it at Fantasia last year.

When their mother goes missing in Spirit Lake, three half-sisters travel home to settle her affairs. The youngest sister, June, a documentary filmmaker, captures their bittersweet homecoming. But when the sisters jokingly summon a local ghost, their relationship begins to unravel and they find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into the true mystery of the lake.

The Midnight Swim will be released both theatrical and VOD on June 26th. Have a look at the trailer below.

VIFF 09 Review: Black Field

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Two women, sisters, living on a farm in Manitoba, their closest neighbour is 18 miles away. The two are etching out a meagre living from their farm when a stranger arrives. Though Maggie, the eldest, turns him away, David refuses to leave and instead makes himself at home in the barn. She insists he only stay for a day or two but he slowly warms up to them and begins a secretive relationship with Rose, the younger of the McGregor sisters. In the cover of night, the two run off and Maggie follows after them but when she discovers that David is a wanted man, the situation becomes even more dire than before and Maggie finds herself fighting against time and her romantic feelings for David in a race to save her sister.

Danishka Esterhazy’s Black Field is a story of tragic romance, sisterly love and survival. Shot in Manitoba, Esterhazy uses the prairie setting to her full advantage, filling time and space with breathtaking visuals that immerse the viewer while mirroring the inner workings of the characters. At times we see glimpses of the barren land, a clear visualization of the emptiness in the sister’s lives and when Maggie is in transit, searching desperately for her sister, the camera follows her through creepy, tangled pathways that are constantly pushing her back.

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Cody Moves to Sweet Valley High

DiabloCodyI haven’t decided on whether this is the greatest news for teen films in a while or the worse anyone could imagine.

If you’re a girl between the ages of 15 and 35, you probably remember “Sweet Valley High.” The long running series about twins living in Sweet Valley, California, this was the series one grew into from “The Babysitters Club.” Originally created by Francine Pascal, the series eventually turned into a machine operated by ghost writers and running for 20 years before eventually calling it quits in 2003. At one point, the books even spawned a short lived TV series so it comes as little surprise that at some point it would be considered for rebirth but it never occurred to me that the birth could be so potentially unwelcome.

According to THR, Universal has picked up the rights to Pascal’s series to be adapted by none other than Diablo Cody. Cody’s track record may be full of high school drama but I simply can’t imagine what her take on the series will look like. Will Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield go from the popular girls to quirky teen outsiders who see the world through adult glasses? Sure, that could be fun but it’s not exactly “in the spirit” of the original (though if I remember correctly, the Wakefields were always bringing people together).

I’m not close enough to the source material to care either way but I would love to see another teen comedy on level with Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You. Not sure Cody with her unique brand of quirky kidspeak is the one to provide it but I’m hopeful.

The Uninvited Trailer for an Uninvited Re-Make

The Uninvited Movie StillA few years ago I had a chance to see Ji-woon Kim’s fantastic A Tale of Two Sisters on the big screen. It was (surprise!) during VIFF, in a packed house at the Vogue. I walked out of that film sore from holding the seat so bloody hard. I saw it again a few years later and the movie didn’t have the same creep factor as the first time I saw it but it was still wholly enjoyable.

Sometime back it was announced that work was underway on an American remake. I was under the impression that the remake shared a title with the original but it looks like that’s not the case. The Uninvited is being directed by English brothers Charles and Thomas Guard and stars a surprisingly good cast including Elizabeth Banks and the fantastic David Strathairn. It’s not clear how much of the story is retained from the original film but it looks like the basic idea is the same: a girl returns home after a stint in a mental hospital.

I doubt that the Guard Brothers can build the tension and mood that made Jee-Woon Kim’s film so successfully creepy but it does look like they’ve gone ahead and taken entire sequences from the original film; sequences that they’ll never get just right.

The trailer looks like your run of the mill horror remake aimed at the teen market, but I have to admit I’m curious. I actually want to see Banks and Strathairn together, plus I’d like to see if any part of this film manages to be creepy (the fact that the film was shot locally also holds some mild appeal).

The Uninvited opens on January 30th.

I’ve tucked both the trailer for the original film and the upcoming remake, under the seat. Watch them both and then go out and rent the original. I doubt the remake will be anywhere near as good (though I’m always up for being surprised).

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Adams and Blunt in Sunshine Cleaning Trailer

Sunshine Cleaning Movie StillThis has “Sundance darling” written all over it. Quirky characters, weird job, dramatic and funny; it’s all here. If this was any other movie, I wouldn’t even bother with a look at the trailer but Sunshine Cleaning happens to feature two of my favourite young actresses.

This is the all around women’s film. Written by Megan Holley, directed by Christine Jeffs and starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt in lead roles, it’s the story of two sisters in need of money. The duo discovers that there’s a whole lot of it to be made cleaning crime scenes and so Sunshine Cleaning is born.

Although the film had good buzz going into Sundance, it wasn’t picked up for distribution until late in the festival which, as Karina Longworth at Spout Blog speculates, may have something to do with the amount of gore in the film (which is certainly hinted at in the trailer).

I’m not impressed by this trailer and if this featured any other two actresses, I’d likely give it a pass but I can’t say no to Adams and Blunt together. Though Overture has released the trailer, no word yet on the distribution date.

Trailer is tucked under the seat!

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VIFF Review: I’ve Loved You So Long

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Partway through Philippe Claudel’s debut feature I’ve Loved You So Long, I found myself working hard to hold back tears. With stinging eyes and a poignant reminder to call my sister, I managed to regain my composure for the rest of the film but even after following up the screening with another fantastic film, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been thoroughly moved by Claudel’s picture.

I\'ve Loved You So Long Movie StillIt’s a simple enough premise: Kristin Scott Thomas stars as Juliette, a woman who is reunited with her sister after being away for an extended period of time. The plot works as more of a skeleton since Claudel seems more interested in the intricacies of the relationships and the nuance of the acting to move the film along than in the story itself (though that’s not to say that the story is lacking either) and the result is a quietly powerful film about friendship, family and sisterhood.

I suggest avoiding IMDb for the string of easy to find spoilers because Philippe Claudel’s script is most effective when you don’t know the details of what’s ahead. The story develops carefully, revealing each morsel of information in a slow building succession. It’s this dispersal of information that first grabs the audience but as the film develops and the characters of Juliette and Léa become more familiar, it’s their relationship that keeps the film from drowning in despair. The film would be interesting enough if it focused only on Juliette’s struggle to build a life in a new place but it was Juliette and Léa’s relationship that brought me to tears. There’s a tenderness and unspoken understanding between the two women, even when Léa is pleading for answers that never come. Their relationship seems second nature, just as one would expect from siblings, even though the two have been apart for so long. The sharing of memories and re-establishment of their relationship is joyous, if difficult, to watch.

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