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13 Assassins
13 Assassins
Miike Takashi

Kurt’s Review

Marina’s Review [QE]

We’re in 1844, 20-odd years before the overthrow of the shogunate, when the council of elders decides to act against the cruel and depraved Lord Naritsugu (Inagaki Goro) before he rises to high political office. Retired samurai Shinzaemon (Yakusho Koji) is given the secret task of recruiting a squad of assassins to make Naritsugu “disappear” during a trip to his domain in Akashi. The first half of the film follows the Seven Samurai template, with Shinzaemon assembling his team – and admitting one gutsy peasant pretender (Iseya Yusuke in an updated version of the Mifune role) alongside the professionals. The second half, with the assassins turning the entire town of Ochiai into a giant trap for the villain, is more like a riff on the ambush in King Hu’s A Touch of Zen. Whatever its antecedents, this sets the gold standard for genre entertainment in 2010. (courtesy of VIFF)

A Film Unfinished
A Film Unfinished
Yael Hersonski

Marina’s Review

One of the most lauded of recent documentaries and an unforgettable experience on levels intellectual, aesthetic and instinctual, Yael Hersonki’s A Film Unfinished is destined to become one of the great found-footage films of this century. She uses the 1942 Nazi propaganda film Ghetto, which purported to depict the inhumanity of the Jewish community to its own. The film she “found” had no soundtrack and the footage was little more than a horrifying relic of the Third Reich’s madness, until the discovery of rare outtakes, as well as interviews with an SS cameraman, led Hersonki to reveal that the truth was even stranger than Nazi fiction. (courtesy of VIFF)

Altitude
Altitude
Kaare Andrews

Marina’s Review [QE]

On their final weekend together before college life pulls them apart, rookie pilot Sara, her boyfriend Bruce, cousin Cory and pals Mel and Sal plan the ultimate concert getaway aboard a small private plane. Just minutes into the flight, the novice aviator faces her first real emergency. The plane’s elevator jams, causing it to gradually gain altitude. Then a vast, unnatural storm envelops them, instruments mysteriously malfunction, and all contact with the ground is lost. Bruce, who has kept his pathological fear of flying a secret, panics and has to be subdued. Meanwhile tensions between Cory and Sal escalate as their rivalry for Mel’s affection boils over.

Unable to find their way out of the endless clouds, and with ice on the wings threatening to seal their fate, Cory tries to free the jammed elevator in a hair-raising tail walk. But regaining control of the plane provides only a temporary reprieve. Something in the storm is stalking them, picking them off one by one, and it won’t stop until everyone is dead.(courtesy of VIFF)

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American Grindhouse
American Grindhouse
Elijah Drenner

Marina’s Review [QE]

Come one! Come all! Step right into the grindhouse! And be sure to check your good taste at the door… Equal parts history lesson and love letter, Elijah Drenner’s edutaining romp leads us through the backwaters of sleaze cinema and celebrates some of the big screen’s greatest guilty pleasures. Narrated by cult icon Robert Forster and employing both genre filmmakers and film historians as tour guides, the documentary traces the movies’ appetite for the salacious all the way back to Thomas Edison’s early celluloid experiments. When Hollywood studios were strong-armed by the morally upstanding production code in the 1930s, underground cinema truly flourished, thanks to an environment steeped in hucksterism, sensationalism and one-upmanship. (courtesy of VIFF)

Another Year
Another Year
Mike Leigh

Mike’s Review

Kurt’s Review

This touching and beautifully nuanced drama from England’s master of cinematic improvisation, Mike Leigh, depicts a collection of lonely characters revolving around a happy middle-aged couple. The ensemble acting is of a high caliber. It has been given a rapturous welcome at the Cannes Film Festival, touted as his best work since Secrets and Lies (1996)… Leigh has a knack of making the ordinary extraordinary. Here he deals with themes of class, family and depression over a period of a year, breaking it up into seasonal chapters. (courtesy of VIFF)

Anton Chekhov's The Duel
Anton Chekhov’s The Duel
Dover Kosashvili

Marina’s Review

With his Israeli Late Marriage (VIFF 02) Dover Kosashvili announced himself as a sensual director of relationships, those alive, dying or dead. Few thought he would make an American adaptation of a celebrated novella by Chekhov, but this tale too is about such relationships, albeit at the end of the 19th century in Russia. A civil servant (Andrew Scott), his married mistress (Fiona Glascott) and a zoologist (Tobias Menzies) spend a summer together in the Caucasus. Emotional and psychological sparks fly between them amidst gorgeously photographed countryside vistas. But this is no idyllic period piece – “the film mixes bitterness and laughter with strong dramatic passages” (The New York Times) and is played to perfection by its three leads. (courtesy of VIFF)

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Bush League
Bush League
Cy Kuckenbaker

Review

The players on the Tony Bombers football team in Zokolere, Malawi, serve as a microcosm for Cy Kuckenbaker’s on-the-ground look at social progress – and the lack thereof – in that Malawian village. The team’s engaging players shed light on their issues and concerns while the film as a whole captures the frustrations faced by Westerners trying to “do good.” (courtesy of VIFF)

Carancho
Carancho
Pablo Trapero

Review

A corrupt society eventually infects even its decent, noble-minded citizens in Carancho… from Argentinean director Pablo Trapero… An expertly crafted thriller steeped in the social injustices of Buenos Aires, it combines crisp storytelling with appealingly flawed characters and moments of startling violence… Opening titles inform us that road accidents have become an epidemic in Argentina… It has become a vital part of the economy for unscrupulous lawyers and wary insurance companies plagued by compensation claims. (courtesy of VIFF)

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Carlos
Carlos
Olivier Assayas

Marina’s Review

Carlos is everything Che wanted to be and much, much more – a dynamic, convincing and revelatory account of a notorious revolutionary terrorist’s career that rivets the attention during every one of its 321 minutes. In what is certainly his best work, French director Olivier Assayas adopts a fleet, ever-propulsive style that creates an extraordinary you-are-there sense of verisimilitude, while Edgar Ramírez inhabits the title role with arrogant charisma of Brando in his prime. It’s an astonishing film. (courtesy of VIFF)

Cell 211
Cell 211
Daniel Monzón

Andrew’s Review

One of the biggest hits on Spanish screens this past year. As far as first days on the job go, they don’t come much worse than this. A trainee prison guard, Juan (newcomer Alberto Ammann in a star-making turn) becomes trapped in a cellblock that’s just been overrun by psychotic prisoner Malamadre (Luis Tosar, brimming with unhinged intensity) and his henchman. Cleverly passing himself off as a fellow convict, Juan ingratiates himself to the uprising’s ringleader and uncovers his plan to use captive Basque terrorists as leverage in his negotiations. Consequently, Juan is left to not just save his own skin but also stop a proverbial powder keg from erupting. (courtesy of VIFF)

Chicks
Chicks
Sophie Letourneur

Review

Sophie Letourneur’s fresh and vibrant dramatic-comedy captures a group of 19- and 20-year-old women in Paris as they party their way to the cusp of adulthood. Featuring a group of up-and-coming stars, Letourneur’s feature debut (she was 29 when she finished it) has the all-important ring of truth to it. These are the young adults of today – both for better and for worse. (courtesy of VIFF)

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Cold Fish
Cold Fish
Sono Sion

Bob’s Review

Marina’s Review [QE]

Sono Shion announces his outrageous thriller as being based on a true story, but you’ll have raised a skeptical eyebrow well before you’re wallowing in the first bloodbath. The factual case which inspired the one-time poet involved dog-breeders in Saitama Prefecture, but Sono sets his story in the bizarre world of tropical fish retailing. Shop-owner Shamoto is increasingly estranged from his wife and daughter (teenager Mitsuko has reached a “difficult age”) and lives for visits to his favourite planetarium. When Murata Yukio, boss of a tropical fish supermarket (a stupendous performance from former comedian Denden), steps into his life, Shamoto’s world is transformed. It’s not until he witnesses Murata murdering an investor and is forced to help with the splattery disposal of the corpse that he realizes just how much his world has been transformed. With the same irresponsible glee he showed in Exte and Love Exposure, Sono piles on the agony: several murders later, Shamoto is struggling to outwit Murata, call the cops and regain the respect of his wife and daughter. Will he succeed? What do you think? (courtesy of VIFF)

Cold Weather
Cold Weather
Aaron Katz

Marina’s Review [QE]

With Cascadian vistas crisply shot by cinematographer Andrew Reed and crackling dialogue (by the director and fellow producers Ben Stambler and Brendon McFadden), Aaron Katz’s shape-shifting feature is a delicious amalgam of family-bonding drama, mumblecore riff, and genuinely involving genre exercise. By injecting a healthy dose of plot into a well-rounded character dramedy about real people and their (mostly) real-life dilemmas, Katz jars American independent cinema out of its navel-gazing doldrums – there hasn’t been a movie this fresh and genuinely funny for what seems like ages. (courtesy of VIFF)

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Dear Prudence
Dear Prudence
Rebecca Zlotowski

Marina’s Review [QE]

The young – and soon to be very well known – Léa Seydoux gives a deceptive and deeply affecting performance as the eponymous lead in Rebecca Zlotowski’s debut drama about a teenager, at home alone after her mother’s recent death. With her mysteriously absent father only a disembodied voice on the telephone, Prudence both relishes her freedom, skipping school, hanging with kids from the wrong side of the tracks, while seeming not to care about her mother’s passing. Her family – a caring, but mostly absent sister, a cousin – seem genuinely shocked by her non-observance of mourning rituals given she’s Jewish, (something so underplayed in the film that some viewers seem to have missed it). Soon she manages to finagle herself into a thoroughly disaffected milieu: that of the underground motorbike racing culture in the Paris suburb of Rungis, where tragedy is a weekly occurrence and promiscuity a given… (courtesy of VIFF)

Down Terrace
Down Terrace

Ben Wheatley

Kurt’s Review

A blackly comic British gangster film unlike any British gangster film we have seen before, Down Terrace has been described as The Sopranos directed by Mike Leigh – but it’s more ruthless than that suggests, and funnier too. In fact, Eastenders directed by Quentin Tarantino might be nearer the mark. When Karl (co-writer Robin Hill) returns home after four months on remand, he’s greeted by his dad, Bill, and a handful of close friends – but which one grassed him out to the police? (courtesy of VIFF)

End of Animal
End of Animal
Jo Sung-Hee

Marina’s Review [QE]

One of the most striking debuts in Korean film history, End of Animal conjures up an apocalypse whose implications are out of all proportion with the film’s own scale. You could think of it as a broken-down road movie. Soon-Young is travelling by taxi to her mother’s place in Taeryung when the driver picks up a second passenger, who soon reveals that he has no money or plastic to pay his share of the fare. What the stranger does have, though, is uncanny insights into the minds of both Soon-Young and the driver (the latter’s marriage has been in trouble since he was caught with an underage girl), and he goes on to predict that all electrical power will fail any moment now… which it does. (courtesy of VIFF)

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Fathers&Sons
Fathers&Sons
Carl Bessai

Marina’s Review

From its bawdy, tender, tragic and hilarious opening scene, Carl Bessai’s film sets a tone of rueful comedy and forceful emotion that never flags. This is a comedy-drama that takes both avenues to their furthest extremes – a cathartic, bittersweet, very intimate look at love and anger across the generation gap. The film follows four different stories involving middle-aged men and their fathers, jumping between different cultures, careers, sexualities and sensibilities. (courtesy of VIFF)

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle
If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle
Florin Serban

Marina’s Review [QE]

Immediately reminiscent of VIFF 09 favourite A Prophet, Florin Serban’s “jewel of a first feature” (The Observer) documents the ordeals that a callow protagonist endures within the walls of a correctional facility. Eighteen-year-old Silviu (George Pistereanu, a newcomer with intensity to spare) has scant days remaining in his sentence. However, his wait assumes a desperate urgency after a visit from his beloved younger brother and the revelation that their estranged mother plans to immediately abscond to Italy with the youngster. Stonewalled by the prison administration in his attempts to secure an early release and subject to the emotional and physical brutality of his fellow inmates, Silviu is soon pushed to the breaking point. (courtesy of VIFF)

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In the Shadows
In the Shadows
Thomas Arslan

Marina’s Review [QE]

Hardened career criminal Trojan (a mesmerizing Mišel Maticevic) is released from jail, confronts his former boss for a share of the take from the job that landed him in the joint, and is pursued by the boss’ goons. With a dirty cop on his tail – who suspects, correctly, that Trojan is planning something big – Trojan enlists the help of his sometime lover, a corrupt lawyer, to set up an armoured-car heist… (courtesy of VIFF)

Inside Job
Inside Job
Charles Ferguson

Mike’s Review

This will probably be the most high-profile and important film on the recent financial crisis. Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight) makes the dizzying Byzantine complexities – and who’s to blame – explicitly clear in riveting and angering fashion. You will not believe what you will hear spoken. The end result of the film’s precise and careful analysis is that the financial crisis of 2007-10, a series of events that gave rise to losses in the trillions of dollars and kicked the world economy into the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression, could have been avoided. (courtesy of VIFF)

Into Eternity
Into Eternity
Michael Madsen

Marina’s Review

Finland’s Onkalo facility for nuclear waste is expected to take more than 100 years to build and to last for 100,000, with the hope that earth’s future inhabitants (who – or whatever – they may be) will never discover it. Michael Madsen’s chin-dropping documentary poses profound questions not only about the nuclear industry, but also about the very nature of human history. (courtesy of VIFF)

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King's Road
King’s Road
Valdís Óskarsdóttir

Marina’s Review [QE]

Behind the satire and outright comedy of the Valdís Óskarsdóttir’s (an award-winning editor who cut Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) end-of-the-road movie is the very genuine sense of anger that so many Icelanders feel at the way the current economic crisis has singled out their small island nation for a thorough thrashing. German heartthrob Daniel Brühl, serving as the audience’s surrogate, is Rupert, journeying to King’s Road – a “holiday resort” he’s been told – with his friend Junior (Gísli Örn Gardarsson), a former local. When they arrive, courtesy of a larcenous and very unfriendly cab driver, all Rupert sees is a bunch of motley trailers stuck in the mud, and the very eccentric people who inhabit them. Rupert is not amused… (courtesy of VIFF)

Littlerock
Littlerock
Mike Ott

Marina’s Review [QE]

“A perfect David Lynch setting,” is how filmmaker Mike Ott sums up Littlerock, California. Which is to say that it initially appears rather unexceptional. Nevertheless, Atsuko, a Japanese tourist, becomes utterly enchanted with the community and its slacker denizens while waylaid there due to car trouble. Despite not speaking a word of English, she immerses herself in the small town’s culture (such as it is). Instances of everyday surrealism slowly emerge, be it Atsuko downing beers in an abandoned house in the desert or gawking at the costumed cavalcade at a Fourth of July parade (captured guerrilla-style by Ott for full authenticity). (courtesy of VIFF)

The Man from Nowhere
The Man from Nowhere
Lee Jeong-beom

Marina’s Review [QE]

A big summer hit in Korea, The Man from Nowhere is a well-plotted action-thriller made with energy, taste and heart, a guilt-free pleasure, which marks Won Bin’s transition from “kid-brother” roles to centre-stage. (He played the son in Bong Joon-Ho’s Mother.) At the start, Cha Tae-Shik is a shadowy figure, hiding from the world as the half-hearted owner of a small pawnshop in the Yongsan district of Seoul; his only human contact is with his neighbours: a sleazy nightclub dancer and her neglected young daughter So-Mi (played by Kim Sae-Ron, the kid from orphan-drama A Brand New Life). When these neighbours are kidnapped by psychotic gangsters, on the trail of some stolen heroin, Tae-Shik rediscovers his mojo as a Bourne-like figure trained as a fearless killing machine by the Korean equivalent of the CIA. He finds himself up against some seriously nasty guys (child slave labour, organ harvesting from innocent victims, you name it) but finds the inner strengths – and the emotional drive – to keep fighting. Writer-director Lee Jeong-Beom comes up with some great characters and lines (you gotta love the tetchy drug-lord who’s nostalgic for the days of military dictatorship), but his best achievement is the blend of motion and emotion in a blur of speed. (courtesy of VIFF)

Metamorphosis
Metamorphosis
Lee Samchil

Marina’s Review [QE]

Inspired by F. Kafka’s story The Metamorphosis, Lee Samchil’s amazing experimental feature traps us inside the consciousness of a man with a deeply repressed guilty secret. The entire film is shot from this guy’s point-of-view (which adds the film to the short list of titles in film history which have gone for this formal challenge), starting on the day when he wakes to find his body changed and his mouth incapable of speech. We gradually learn some of his forlorn back-story: both parents died in a road accident; at war with his hated sister over whether or not to sell the house; out of work and increasingly reluctant to venture outdoors ever since the International Monetary Fund’s harsh intervention in the Korean economy. As the days tick by and he explores the parameters of his predicament, he slowly learns to see afresh – and we, of course, learn with him. Inexorably, though, we approach the return of the repressed… (courtesy of VIFF)

Mighty Jerome
Mighty Jerome
Charles Officer

Marina’s Review

Mighty Jerome explores the turbulent life and career of the record-setting African-Canadian track-and-field star. Inspired by Fil Fraser’s book Running Uphill, the film is directed by Charles Officer, and produced by Selwyn Jacob (Warrior Boyz, The Journey of Lesra Martin) of the NFB’s Pacific and Yukon Centre. “Twenty-seven years after his untimely death at 42, Harry Jerome’s accomplishments as an athlete and social activist embody the perseverance of the human spirit,” says Officer. “He was, at one time, the fastest man on the planet.” “Besides being a champion athlete, Harry Jerome was also a champion of equal opportunities for minorities,” Jacob says. Charles Officer, a former athlete himself, is also a champion in his own right, a visionary of the black aesthetic in Canadian cinema. (courtesy of VIFF)

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MODRA
MODRA
Ingrid Veninger

Marina’s Review [QE]

Teenagers Lina (Hallie Switzer) and Leco (Alexander Gammal) are casual acquaintances, she coming off a bitter break-up, he looking to score. Summer has begun, and Lina is already committed to a trip to her family’s homeland, Slovakia. She whimsically asks Leco to take her boyfriend’s place as a travelling companion, and he accepts. Their hopeful, slightly reckless decision is totally believable yet a bit mysterious. That’s writer-director Veninger’s game: she sticks close to her subjects without feeling the need to explain everything. (courtesy of VIFF)

Monsters
Monsters
Gareth Edwards

Kurt’s Review

Jandy’s Review

When a NASA space probe picks up a few strays and crash lands in the Gulf of Mexico, new and enormous forms of life, complete with multiple tentacles and nasty dispositions, begin to emerge and wreak havoc on the locals. Large sections of Mexico deemed to be part of an Infected Zone are cordoned off from the US by an enormous fence, leaving the Mexican people to fend for themselves. (Acidic zingers such as this are sprinkled throughout the film adding extra levels of piquancy.) A young American photographer on assignment to get images of the earth’s new inhabitants gets a side job picking up the daughter of his employer, who has missed her ferry and must be escorted back to the safety of the US through the writhing heart of the Infected Zone. As the pair journey cross-country, in the care of various mercenaries and local guides, the film veers into almost cinéma vérité-type territory. The lore of the film is that Edwards and crew shot scenes with local people and then simply slipped in some CGI creatures later on. The result is a near-seamless collision of hard-bitten reality and fantastic fiction. This is DIY filmmaking at its best and superb example of what can be done with creative ingenuity and blood and guts on the ground. (courtesy of VIFF)

Mysteries of Lisbon
Mysteries of Lisbon
Raúl Ruiz

Marina’s Review

Que grande filme! Based on the legendary (and still untranslated) Portuguese novel by Camilo Castelo Branco, Raúl Ruiz’s spectacular historical epic plunges us into a veritable whirlwind of adventures and escapades, coincidences and revelations, multiple identities within multiple identities, stories within stories, sentiments and violent passions, vengeance and love affairs—all wrapped in a rhapsodic voyage that takes us from Portugal to France, Italy, and as far as the shores of Brazil. (courtesy of VIFF)

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Of Gods and Men
Of Gods and Men
Xavier Beauvois

Marina’s Review [QE]

The thematic area of international terrorism, while deeply mined, is given close and thoughtful attention in Xavier Beavois gravely beautiful drama. Of Gods and Men is based on the 1996 Tibhirine attack, in which an order of Cicstercian monks confront Islamic fundamentalists with only the strength of their faith. Against the majesty of Algeria’s Atlas Mountains, the quotidian activity of the monks (gardening, dispensing medical help to the locals, and religious observances) proceed with humble grace. Even as the mounting threat of terrorist violence looms, the brotherhood maintain their mission. (courtesy of VIFF)

Of Love and Other Demons
Of Love and Other Demons
Hilda Hidalgo

Review

The moment young Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles rolls over in her hammock and three feet of auburn ringlets spill out onto the ground, the heated language of Gabriel García Márquez’s celebrated magical realism unfurls in overripe, luscious detail. Against the backdrop of 18th-century Cartagena, García Marquez’s sprawling narrative – full of sexually dissipated aristocrats, the Inquisition’s inquisitors, slavery – entwines one like so much jungle growth. Or, perhaps more correctly, coppery tresses. (courtesy of VIFF)

Plug & Pray
Plug & Pray
Jens Schanze

Marina’s Review [QE]

Globetrotting documentarian Jens Shanze tracks down cutting-edge inventors like Ray Kurzweil and Hiroshi Ishiguro who are hellbent on making artificial life a reality. In fact, Ishiguro has already constructed an android doppelganger of himself. Feel free to let your jaw drop as you watch “Geminoid” play a guessing game with a human opponent. While you can’t help but marvel at such ingenious creations, a chill nevertheless runs along one’s spine as these geniuses wax enthusiastic about mankind’s impending ability to meld with technology and achieve eternal life. Frighteningly, Weizenbaum’s death (a “natural end” that he welcomed) seems to have silenced the sole voice of reason amongst these brilliant minds. (courtesy of VIFF)

The Princess of Montpensier
The Princess of Montpensier
Bertrand Tavernier

Marina’s Review

During 16th-century France’s era of bloody religious strife, the cultivated soldier-scholar Chabanne (played by the brilliant Lambert Wilson, also in Of Gods and Men) grows disillusioned with the endless savagery. He is hired as an instructor for Marie, an irresistibly beautiful romantic-erotic prize sought by several young noblemen. As he experiences his own forbidden desire for Marie, Chabanne must also protect her from the dangerously corrupt court dominated by Catherine De Medici… Tavernier translates Madame de Lafayette’s novel into a brilliant evocation of the terrible conflict between duty and passion. Though the themes are classic – this is the stuff of tragedies from Racine and Corneille – Tavernier manages to make them feel passionately, urgently contemporary. (courtesy of VIFF)

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R
R
Michael Noer, Tobias Lindholm

Marina’s Review [QE]

A fitting companion to Jacques Audiard’s breakout drama A Prophet, Michael Noer and Tobias Lindholm’s R, is another suitably gritty entry to the prison film genre. The filmmakers (who hail from screenwriting and documentary backgrounds) load their debut feature with rankly authentic atmosphere and a surprising narrative conceit that packs a serious punch. R (which stands for Rune) is a blond toughie with an outsized chip on his shoulder. Consigned to one of Denmark’s oldest and meanest prisons, he is initially out-manned by older, bigger cons. Shortly after his arrival, the ultra menacing The Mason advises him that if he doesn’t do the older man’s bidding, that he will himself be subject to some extreme violence. But young R is not without resources, and he soon makes his way in this neo-Darwinian society by concocting a clever way to deal drugs (hint: there’s reason he asks his grandma to bring him Kinder Eggs). The film’s violence, predatory tactics and man-eat-man action will guarantee a cult following, but there is a sharp intelligence at work here. The camera that dogs R’s heels, and the soundtrack of muttering noise and threat creates a powerful impression. (courtesy of VIFF)

Repeaters
Repeaters
Carl Bessai

Marina’s Review [QE]

Gripping and contemplative in equal measure, Repeaters is a thriller with a philosophical twist. Three emotionally scarred addicts in a rehab clinic come to realize that they are living through the same day again and again. This predicament seems at first to be the ultimate gift for the addicts, giving them a freedom from long-term consequences that they’ve always wanted. Gradually, however, they come to realize that there’s no such thing as a life without consequences – that there’s no escaping the future or the past. The film’s story conceit is perfectly suited to the condition of addiction, with the initial promise of freedom and indulgence giving way to a maddening trap of repetition and seeming futility. The fantasy situation that these three find themselves in is a perfect metaphor for the paradoxes of dependence and personal freedom that define substance abuse. This is a dark film, but ultimately a hopeful one. Thematically ambitious, it nevertheless folds its ideas into an unpretentious thriller form, making for a challenging but totally compelling experience. Director Carl Bessai draws powerful, emotionally authentic performances from his cast, and shows a strong talent for evoking terror and warmth – often within the same scene. A powerful, life-affirming film. (courtesy of VIFF)

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The Robber
The Robber
Benjamin Heisenberg

Marina’s Review [QE]

Laconic and ultra-realistic in style, Benjamin Heisenberg’s (Sleeper) latest drama is based on the true story of one Johannes Rettenberger, a bank robber in 1980s Vienna with the nickname of Pumpgun Ronnie because of the Ronald Reagan mask he sported while committing his crimes. In jail he took up running and when he got out he alternated between his newfound passion for marathons and his old-time jones for robbing banks, trying and failing to substitute the endorphin high he got from the former for the kicks he took from the latter. Andreas Lust immerses himself in the character of Rettenberger, giving him a chilling and implacable need that can never be fulfilled. (courtesy of VIFF)

Rubber
Rubber
Quentin Dupieux

Kurt’s Review

Marina’s Review [QE]

Cronenberg meets Buñuel meets Goodyear in Rubber, an homage to the road movie, the Western, the B movie, and, last but not least, as a sheriff explains in the film’s hilarious opening sequence, to “no reason.” In the California desert, a pack of semi-eager spectators are unceremoniously dumped, binoculars in hand, to witness the show before their eyes, and provide a running commentary. A shabby tire, somewhere in the distance, wobbly stands up, tentatively exploring his newfound powers on a beer bottle and a bunny rabbit, before spying a leggy goddess (Roxane Mesquida, looking really hot) zooming by on the highway. The action soon shifts to a rundown motel, where the tire starts stalking his prey… (courtesy of VIFF)

The Sleeping Beauty
The Sleeping Beauty
Catherine Breillat

Marina’s Review

Once upon a time… In a castle somewhere in a bygone age… The fairy Carabosse cuts the umbilical cord of a newborn babe, a little girl called Anastasia. Three young scatterbrained fairies appear, their cheeks red from running… Too late, says Carabosse, at 16 the child’s hand will be pierced and she’ll die. The young fairies burst into tears! Their lateness didn’t deserve that. Now they must ward off the fatal curse… They just manage to predict that instead of dying, Anastasia will fall asleep for 100 years. Sleeping for a century is very boring, so they bestow on her the possibility of wandering far and wide in her dreams during those 100 years… (courtesy of VIFF)

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Snap
Snap
Carmel Winters

Marina’s Review

As carefully researched and work-shopped as a drama may be, the steps from life to stage to screen don’t always work. Snap does. It’s a gripping, intensely cinematic work that tells the story of how one small family has been haunted and psychologically fractured. To say more about how and why would be to rob the film of its difficult rewards. Suffice it to say that Snap is a very accomplished debut feature distinguished in its acting, cinematography, sound design, editing and direction, and by its vivid sense of being in-broad-daylight. (courtesy of VIFF)

The Strange Case of Angelica
The Strange Case of Angelica
Manoel de Oliveira

Review

The greatest film ever made by a 101-year-old, Manoel de Oliveira’s latest miracle again stars his grandson Ricardo Trepa – who’s turning into quite the actor – this time playing Isaac, an ill-at-ease Jewish photographer living in a boarding house in Régua, in the Duoro Valley. Late one night, he receives an urgent call from a wealthy Catholic family to take the last photograph of their daughter, Angelica, who died a few days after her wedding. Arriving at the house of mourning, Isaac gets his first glimpse of Angelica and is overwhelmed by her beauty. As soon as he looks at her through the camera, the young woman appears to come back to life just for him. Isaac instantly falls in love with her. From that moment on, Angelica will haunt him night and day. (courtesy of VIFF)

Surviving Life
Surviving Life
Jan Švankmajer

Review

Jan Švankmajer (auteur/animator/provocateur) brings the world of the unconscious to light through the story of Eugene, whose waking life begins unravelling when he visits a psychoanalyst to undergo dream interpretation and discovers he has impregnated his own anima… The story is drawn directly from Švankmajer’s own dreams (and if the idea of being plunged into the unconscious mind of Švankmajer doesn’t give you pause, you might want to ensure that you still have a pulse). This is rich and loamy stuff, steeped in Freudian and Jungian analysis, and injected with a healthy dose of perversity. Eugene spends his waking life in the company of his wife Miladu, but his sleeping hours are devoted to his dream girl. His dual existence is not the only double life taking place. (courtesy of VIFF)

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Tamara Drewe
Tamara Drewe
Stephen Frears

David’s Review

When journalist Tamara (Gemma Arterton) returns home to bucolic Ewedown, Dorset, having made good and having had a nose job, her arrival sets off a tsunami of gossip, lust and jealousy in admirers including local hunk Andy Cobb (Luke Evans), rock star Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper) and novelist Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam)… There’s a suitably chucklesome opening to this smart comic fable of follies–adapted by Moira Buffini from the Posy Simmonds graphic novel very loosely inspired by Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd… Tamara is a columnist for The Independent but Miss Drewe doesn’t seem to do much work, so busy is she exercising her sexual confidence and emotional confusion… While not particularly noted for mirth, director Stephen Frears is more alert than many would have been to the inherent social comment and darker aspects of the goings-on. He lets the wicked turns and dialogue do their job without semaphoring, “This bit’s going to be funny.” It’s all the wittier, and at times downright touching, for not being done too tongue-in-cheek. (courtesy of VIFF)

Transfer
Transfer
Damir Lukacevic

Marina’s Review [QE]

In this cool, cerebral sci-fi for adults, the newest form of neocolonialism comes to light. A wealthy and privileged white couple (Hermann and Anna), nearing the end of their lives, purchase the bodies of a very beautiful young African couple (Apolain and Sarah) as a new lease on life. For a million euros, Hermann and Anna can enjoy the physical pleasures afforded to the young and nubile through the technology of the “Personality Transfer” system. For 20 hours each day, they’re downloaded into the younger couple’s perfectly healthy bodies to frolic therein. Apolain and Sarah can only be themselves again for four hours each night when the elderly couple are sleeping. But when Hermann and Anna decide they would like to make the procedure permanent, an unforeseen consequence impacts on all four people. (courtesy of VIFF)

The Tree
The Tree
Julie Bertucelli

Marina’s Review

Review

Based on Judy Pascoe’s novel Our Father Who Art in the Tree, Bertuccelli’s film handles the subject of loss with sensitivity and depth. Gainsbourg is excellent, as is young Morgana Davies, whose belief in her father’s afterlife leads to some brilliantly executed special effects. (courtesy of VIFF)

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The Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling
Garri Bardin

Marina’s Review

The colour of a mud puddle, with a snaky neck, and two currant-eyes, the titular fowl of Garri Bardin’s gorgeous adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s story, has the face that only a mother could love. But unfortunately, this duckling’s adoptive parents want nothing to do with their homely offspring. What’s a duckling to do, but burst into song! (courtesy of VIFF)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Apichatpong Weerasethakul /span>

Marc’s Review

Boonmee is a farmer with failing kidneys (he has a Lao assistant, perhaps an illegal immigrant, to help with his dialysis) who comes home to his beehives and tamarind plantation to die. He is soon visited by the ghost of his late wife Huay and by his long-lost son Boonsong, whose body has changed since he had sex with a monkey spirit; supernatural beings, we learn, are attracted to those living beings they love. As his current life ebbs away, we see an episode which may be one of the past lives he recalls: a sexual encounter between an unhappy princess and a talking catfish. (courtesy of VIFF)

Uncle Brian
Uncle Brian
Nick McAnulty

Marina’s Review

Uncle Brian is a dark comedic tragedy about Brian, a teenager who blatantly disregards life’s responsibilities, and the humorous hazards and consequences that befall him for feeling that he is above them. Nick McAnulty’s debut feature stars Daniel MacLean as the least avuncular uncle ever, the kind who puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional family.” He’s not actually an uncle yet, but that’s the least of his worries. Everybody seems to be either conspiring against him or ignoring him completely. McAnulty brings a firm hand and an unblinking eye to this brutally told tale of a teenager who seizes the day by the throat, but blithely disregards the responsibility that is the flip side of freedom. His life is a hands-free ride on a broken-down roller coaster; a dirty, sloppy mess of sex, violence and alienation. When scandalous accusations and violent threats turn his whacko world further awry, Brian discovers the downside of burning bridges – and that sometimes saying you’re sorry just isn’t enough. (courtesy of VIFF)

The Woodmans
The Woodmans
C. Scott Willis

Marina’s Review

For the Woodmans, art is both a family affair and a way of life. Furthermore, it’s the smoking gun in the tragic death of Francesca Woodman, posthumously regarded as one of the leading photographers of the 20th century.

The impressive creative output of George (painter/father), Betty (ceramicist/mother) and Charles (electronic artist/brother) was quickly eclipsed by the evocative photography and video work of their “intense” and “self-possessed” daughter/sister. Fascinated with the female form, Francesca routinely served as her own model, cutting a figure simultaneously liberated and vulnerable. Alas, it was this latter attribute that eventually ceded control of the artist’s psyche, leading to her 1981 suicide. (courtesy of VIFF)

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