VIFF11 REVIEW: Inni [2011]

“We’re a very serious heavy metal band—and we worship the devil” If you go into Inni thinking you’ll receive Heima Part 2, you either be sadly disappointed or extremely grateful because it is anything but. Rather than show us Sigur Rós’ atmospherically sumptuous music against the gorgeous expanse of their Icelandic homeland, director Vincent Moriset captures the bombastic energy of one performance in a monochrome, scratchy gray. Shot with intimate compositions of abstract shapes and completely unbalanced framing, we experience the assault of being at the concert hall. Through a…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: Take This Waltz [2012]

“August 15, 2040, 2pm” Films dealing with break-ups have the trouble of easily falling into two camps. Either the work is genuine and emotionally devastating like a Blue Valentine or faux romantic and absolutely trite like The Break-Up. Having already wowed the world with her debut feature of complete authenticity dealing with Alzheimer’s destructive power on love, Away From Her, I hoped Sarah Polley had her finger on the pulse of heartache and would carry it through to her sophomore work, Take This Waltz. Unfortunately, although it is brilliantly acted…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: 倭寇的踪迹 [The Sword Identity] [2012]

“What else can we do for fun?” With his screenplay for The Grandmasters coming to the big screen next year by Wong Kar Wai, writer/director Haofeng Xu gives us the first taste of his creativity with an adaptation of his own novella, 倭寇的踪迹 [The Sword Identity]. A mix of comical playfulness and serious martial arts, the script has some impressive camera compositions to allow for intriguing visuals, acting that is consistently earnest throughout, and fight choreography that’s a joy to experience. All those things do little to help from wondering…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: Miss Bala [2011]

“Have some faith in me, Dad” If you ever have a daughter that begs you for entrance into a beauty pageant and you can’t bring yourself to comply, pop on Miss Bala and she’ll never ask again. Taking place in Mexico amidst an unwinnable war on drugs, Gerardo Naranjo’s film portrays a never-ending series of impossible situations for its star. All Laura Guerrero (Stephanie Sigman) wanted was to have fun, wear beautiful dresses, and flaunt her body. But like twenty-somethings in any culture, kids who enjoy partying get mixed up…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: Bumrush [2011]

“Make it loud; make it nasty” Not to be outdone by its New York City and Chicago counterparts, the Montreal gang wars of the past decade prove Canada isn’t the idyllic place of kindness and cleanliness some would describe it as. In Michel Jetté’s Bumrush, we’re shown how uncontrollable it can all get when the underworld is left without anyone to keep its tenuous balance intact. Learning about the inter-workings of bikers, Haitians, Italians, Jamaicans, and the bouncers caught in the middle from an inquiry made after the infamous Shark…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: Dernier étage gauche gauche [Top Floor, Left Wing] [2010]

“Hey, it’s pork. That’s provocation!” How do you turn a hostage situation concerning cocaine, eviction notices, and Algerian assassins into a stage for bureaucratic ineptitude and slum reform? Ask Angelo Cianci because his film Dernier étage gauche gauche [Top Floor, Left Wing] does it and more. A darkly comic take on generally serious circumstances, a normal day in the life of bailiff François Etcheveria (Hippolyte Girardot) becomes one he’ll never forget. The first apartment of twelve on his list to evict and catalogue property for compensation, no one could have…

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VIFF11 INTERVIEW: Prashant Bhargava, writer/director of Patang

While at the Vancouver International Film Festival this year, I had the pleasure of speaking to the writer/director of Patang [The Kite], Prashant Bhargava. A Chicago-born filmmaker of Indian descent, his first feature length work has hit screens in Berlin and Tribeca before making its way to Canada, picking up praise at every screening. A very human tale of a family in Ahmedabad rekindling during the city’s famous kite festival, Bhargava’s film will enchant and intrigue through its exotic locale and very familiar emotions. Speaking about his process, the casts’…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: Patang [The Kite] [2012]

“What do you know about true love?” For Chicago-born Indian-American Prashant Bhargava, his debut feature film Patang [The Kite] is a seven-year labor of love. Rooted in the memory of his own uncles fighting kites in the sky, the writer/director decided to fashion his tale of familial bonds around the northern Indian festival, Uttarayana. By utilizing the dueling of magnificent beauty and fierce warfare the thin paper fliers portray, Bhargava gives us a metaphorical entity to mimic the battle between brothers Umesh and Jayresh. Two boys with differing ambitions, their…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: Till det som är vackert [Pure] [2010]

“Courage is life’s only measure” What’s worse than giving sex to a married man for money? Giving it for love. It’s a tough distinction to delineate for a reformed twenty-year old prostitute whose only role model growing up was a drug-addled, suicidal mother that more or less taught her the business. Hoping for redemption and a ‘cleaner’ life, Katarina (Alicia Vikander) has vowed to never go back and instead cherish her boyfriend Mattias (Martin Wallström)—the one decent male in Sweden who doesn’t yell whore at her on the streets. Unfortunately,…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: Nevinnost [Innocence] [2011]

“That is what I’m afraid of. That is what I want.” According to the program for this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, director Jan Hrebejk and writer Petr Jarchovsky have visited many times with their collaborations. What is different this time is the type of film they have brought. Supposedly beginning a new trilogy in “blame and punishment”, this psychological thriller is new territory for their oeuvre and if the next two are as good or better than this, I say they shouldn’t stop at just three. On the surface…

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VIFF11 REVIEW: Rundskop [Bullhead] [2011]

“My dad says I wasn’t allowed to say anything” The name Michael R. Roskam may become very familiar around cinematic circles—possibly as soon as next spring. Beating out all other accomplished filmmakers from Belgium, it is this writer/director’s first feature Rundskop [Bullhead] that has won the honor of representing its country at the Oscars. You’ll understand why it prevailed quickly, earning the praise of not just being a great debut, but a great film too. Assured, intelligent, and gripping, this gangster tale isn’t necessarily unique in tone but is completely…

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