Sunday, October 09, 2005

2005 CIFF Wrap Up

Compared to last year’s festival, I only saw 14 movies this year. However, I skipped 3 complete days (either through choice or other commitments) so essentially I only saw the 14 movies over 7 days, which means an average of 2 movies per day. And last year, I saw 18 movies over 9 days (skipping only one day), so once again, an average of 2 movies per day.

Well in between the festival, I took time out for 2 offbeat movies which I include below. The 2 movies were part of a proposed SIFF, Sachin International Film Festival :)

Well on with the list:

1) Day 1, Friday, Sept 23:

The much awaited Water made its debut at a packed gala presentation but I opted for the less packed Amu. Shonali Bose wrote and directed this flick about the 1984 killing of Sikhs in Delhi following Indra Gandhi’s assassination. The story revolves around Kaju (played perfectly by Konkana Sen Sharma) visiting Delhi after a long stay in America. She is fascinated by India and wants to get in touch with her roots. But slowly, she uncovers more about her past than she had imagined. A well made movie which I quite liked.

Movie Rating: 9/10

2) Day 2, Sat, Sept 24: 4 movies on tap

a) Il Conformista (restored 1970 print of Bernardo Bertolucci)

Based on Alberto Moravia’s novel, The Conformist is a movie about sex, politics and more politics. More importantly, delighted to have seen a 35 mm print of this film.

b) Turtles Can Fly (2004 Kurdish movie by Bahman Ghobadi): Rating 9/10

A joint production between Iraq and Iran, this movie is another example of the disappearing line documentary and fiction. Movies like this feel so real that well that you can’t believe it is indeed fiction. The movie is set on the Iraqi-Turkish border on the eve of American’s invasion of Iraq. What happens when people are forced to leave their homes? What drama occurs when people are made to wait like refugees on the border? One reason why the movie leaves such a lasting impression is because it is shown from the point of view of children. Children who are forced to work as mines gatherers; they are paid on how many mines they can find. Children who are forced to bear the scars of wars committed by men who can’t comprehend humanity! Anyway, this was a movie I watched without reading anything about it before hand. That is the best way to watch this powerful movie.

c) L’ Enfant (The Child directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne): Rating 10 / 10

This Cannes winner is vintage cinema verite. We watch the lives of Bruno and Sofia as they try to make ends meet while supporting their newborn child. Bruno is a con artist who spends money as fast as he gathers it. So saving money for their newborn child is an alien concept to him. But he makes mistakes, learns from them and the camera is there capturing every moment, watching him.

d) Cellar (written and directed by Ben Hickernell)

Two men wake up in a cellar. They realize they are former friends who have not kept in touch for a long time. The only other relevant items in the cellar are canned foods and a gun with a single bullet. Why are they there? It sounds like Saw, but it isn’t. The movie's pace is slower than Saw and slackens midway through the film. Still, a decent first time effort.

3) Day 3, Sunday, Sept 25:

Skipped the festival for various reasons. Instead watching two movies from my personal collection of movies gathered from overseas.

a) Le Festin De La Mante (The Praying Mantis directed by Marc Levie): Rating 8/10

A simple erotic movie with no bloated story line or un-necessary dialogues! In fact, the images speak for themselves. Considering I had never heard of this little movie from Belgium, watching it was quite a surprise indeed. Sylvia (Lou Broclain) is a woman who is possessed by an evil force. When the evil force takes over she needs to find a prey to satisfy her inner demons.

b) Imagining Argentina (2003 movie directed by Christopher Hampton):

A good movie about the ‘disapperance’ of people during Argentina’s dictatorship during the 1970’s and 80’s. The movie stars Antonio Banderas and Emma Thompson. One day Banderas comes home and his wife is not there. She was taken away. But as it turns out that Banderas has a gift to actually see people’s past and even the future. He is able to touch a person’s belonging and find out what happened to them. This way he helps other people learn the truth about their loved ones and even manages to find some clues to help locate his wife. For a movie that I had not heard of, this was decent.

4) Day 4, Monday, Sept 26: Back to the festival

a) Sidekick (directed by Blake Van de Graaf, written and funded by Michael Sparaga): Rating 7.5/10

A true Canadian independent movie! The film-makers were all there and were happy to see a well received reception of their movie’s World Premier. Made on a shoe-string budget, Sidekick is a charming story about a modern day super hero. Norman (Perry Mucci) lives an ordinary life. He is not taken seriously at work, and is laughed at. In his spare time, he lives in a comic book world. By chance, he notices a co-worker (Victor played by David Ingram) seems to possess extraordinary powers. So secretly he goes about spying on Victor and confirms his hunch. He wants to train Victor to fully realize his super powers and offers to become his sidekick. But little does he realize that Victor might not be the kind of super hero that wants to be trained. By independent Canadian movie standards, this is a very good effort which once again highlights the motto that “with great power comes great responsibility”.

b) Rhinoceros Eyes (Directed by Aaron Woodley): Rating 9/10

David Cronenberg’s nephew makes an impressive debut with this excellent effort. I noticed shades of Donnie Darko in this visually rich flick. Chep (Michael Pitt) works in a prop house. He works by himself in the back of the shop has no friends. His favourite pastime is to watch old Hollywood movies. The owner of the prop house and his friends are a class act (hilariously acted by all). When one day, a movie designer, Fran (Paige Turco) turns up looking for rare props, Chep falls in love. He will do anything to get the rare props she requires. Gradually his sense of reality disappears and the dark forces around him start to descend upon Chep.

Easily one of the best movies I have seen this year!

5) Day 5, Tuesday, Sept 27: Surprize.

After a lot of debating, I headed out to see The Syrian Bride and C.R.A.Z.Y. But due to print transport problems, The Syrian Bride didn’t make it to the country in time and was eventually rescheduled for Thursday at 4:15 pm. Instead I was treated to my second surprise of the festival.

a) Yes (directed by Sally Porter): Rating 9/10

I had wanted to see this movie but it was conflicting with other choices on Friday. Now I got to see this movie. And what a movie it is! The entire dialogue is in iambic pentameter, meaning it rhymes. At first, it seems a bit strange but once you get used to it, it flows easily. In the first frames we are introduced to the Cleaner (Shirley Henderson) who tells us about dirt particles and no matter how much we try, we can never be free of dirt. Then the movie dives into the lives of She (Joan Allen) and Anthony (Sam Neill) whose marriage is in trouble and they are only keeping up pretences. So Allen welcomes an affair with the charming seductive Lebanese man (Simon Abkarian). And the rest of the movie debates on the important questions – methaphysics, terrorism, love, racism, life and everything in between. All the while rhyming everything. Either one hates this movie or loves it. I for one, loved it!!!

b) C.R.A.Z.Y (directed by Jean-Marc Vallee): Rating 7/10

Winner of best Canadian feature at TIFF! A sold out show at CIFF and the audience loved it. However, I was disappointed. Yes this coming of age Quebec movie is good but it is nothing special. The movie charts the life of the Beaulieu family through three decades of changing time, different music and varied values. The title stands for the first letter of each of the 5 sons.

6) Day 6, Wednesday, Sept 28:

Another skipped day.

7) Day 7, Thursday, Sept 29:

a) Alles Auf Zucker! (Go for Zucker! Directed by Dani Levy): Rating 8/10

This movie beat out Downfall at the German movie awards in 2005. This is a well made light hearted movie about a class of German and Jewish cultures. A German man is forced to revisit his Jewish way of life in order to get a slice of his mother’s inheritance. Another condition of the will is that he has to make up with his brother, who lives a very traditional Jewish life. Funny overall.

b) Amarelo Manga (Mango Yellow, 2002 movie directed by Claudio Assis): Rating 7.5/10

A day in the life of Recife! I was introduced to this colourful Brazilian port city via Peter Robbs book, Death in Brazil. Even though this movie has nothing to do with the book, it presents an interesting set of characters. The movie starts and ends with the owner of Avenida Bar. Considering this is a first time effort shot on a budget of $250,000 dollars, it is a very commendable effort. We meet different people in this city and how messed up everything is in their life. After the half-way point, the movie loses its steam and gets plain boring. Nonetheless, a worthy effort.

8) Day 8, Friday, Sept 30:

a) Cache (Hidden directed by Michael Haneke): Rating 9.5/10

How does one describe this interesting movie? A simple movie on one level but manages to hide a lot underneath. One day a regular couple Anne and Georges (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil) receive a 2 hour tape showing their house happenings. Who made this tape? Why did this person mail them the tape? Whatever the reason, this is something which unnerves the couple. And then again, they get another tape showing them leaving the house. The second tape comes with a childish drawing of a boy coughing up blood. They are afraid, but decide not to tell their teenage son. The police can’t do anything. And then the tapes become even more interesting.

On one level this movie is a thriller. On another level, the movie is about the class levels (or even race) that exist in France today. And then there is my favourite third level – this movie is an existential movie about a person’s guilt and memories. What tape? Is there a tape?

b) The Warrior (2001 movie directed by Asif Kapadia): Rating 7/10

The movie is visually gorgeous, with the desert and snow caps highlighting the moods of the warrior. Irfan Khan’s expressions are perfect; they had to be as there is not much dialogue.

9) Day 9, Saturday, Oct 1:

Another missed day.

10) Day 10, Sunday, Oct 2:

Grizzly Man was sold out and the line up for Horloge Biologique was a bit long. So instead I opted for the movie with no lineup – Protocols of Zion. This Marc Levin directed documentary tackles the myth surrounding Jews and that day in September, 2001. A very well made movie which shows the lengths and trouble people will go in their blind hatred of others. Another surprise of the festival!

Rating 8/10

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