Friday, October 14, 2011

Midnight In Paris

It took me a while to write about this film but sure enough here I am discussing Woody Allen's frothy, latest picture. A small delight really. It actually pains me to think that this film could get an Oscar Nomination for Best Picture because it really does it an injustice. Midnight In Paris IS in fact Allen's best film since .. I'm not sure when but it's such a small treat that awards seem such a distance away. The present day setting is a dud but the middle is such a transporting treat, in fact I'd go as far as to say that its middle -which has our main protagonist time travelling to a Paris of the 20s and meeting such iconic figures as Gertrude Stein and Hemingway- is the most transporting hour and change of film I've seen all year. Really, Allen just dazzles us with the period setting and he seems much more at home than in the present day sequences, which feel forced and almost trivial. I think this says a lot about Allen's output of late. He has struggled to find a comfort in the present day stories he has presented to us over the past 15-20 years . It seems that it is only when he goes back in time that he actually finds his niche and musings. Allen has played with the past before, his 1985 gem The Purple Rose Of Cairo -part of his incredible run of great movies in the 1980s- was a heartfelt tribute to cinema and its power. Midnight In Paris is Allen back at home and in familiar ground, looking to the past just like he did in Cairo and Radio Days to bring his own self referential humor and grace. I wouldn't out this one near any "Best Picture" category but it's a light and fluff treat at the theatres. I think one of the reasons many critics have gone gaga over this one is because it is Woody and it is an actualy "Good" movie. However, I'd look at his 2001 underrated gem The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion which represents good, modern day Woody and is just as good as this one.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Festival De Nouveau Cinema - Entry # 1

It's always a blast to cover this film fest and just like I did last year, I'll be updating this blog many times in the next few days with my take on some of the hottest titles playing in Canada's oldest film fest, Montreal's Le Festival De Nouveau Cinema. In fact the film fest hasn't even started yet but I was given a few screener DVDs to wet my appetite. At this year's fest I hope to get the same treats as I got last year. Every film fest has its fair share of surprises and this year's edition should be no exception.

The first film I saw was Nadav Lapid's Policeman, an Israeli film that knocked me out for a loop. The film tells of two stories. The first half has to do with Yaron, a hard working Israeli Police Officer with a pregnant wife and a sense of unequivocal fraternity amongst his unit. The second half of the movie is more political - a group of five young Left wing radicals decide to start a revolution to protest the vast difference between Israel's Rich and Poor societies. They want to create a new order in a country they see decimated by poverty. Both stories come together and converge into a thoughtfully carried out finale that consequentially ups the tension a notch. Also showing at the prestigious New York Film Festival, Lapid's film is one like no other. He shoots it with a bracing poet's eye, choosing the right shots and experimenting with the style a little. Here's a small budget movie made into a grandiose cinematic statement, I wouldn't be surprised if more people hear about it in the months to come.

Actress turned director Sarah Polley's followup to her -in my books overrated but- critically acclaimed 2006 debut Away From Here starts off in the same vein as her previous picture, simplistic storytelling and a narrative that doesn't really give us anything new but .. it changes in its last third into a kind of vision I never thought Polley had in her. Take This Waltz is a flawed picture that takes more than its fair share of chances as it goes along. Michelle Williams' Margo is married to a lovable shlub played by Seth Rogen yet she's not contently happy and almost taken aback when she meets the next door neighbour on a business trip and strikes a forbidden chord with him. You know a movie is doing something right when you can relate to some of its characters. The questions Polley raises are valid. Is love enough and worth keeping more than isolated sexual pleasure? Does desire trump love? Williams gives her usual impeccable performance and Rogen is not bad in one of his first dramatic roles. It's a film at war with itself, a kind of schizo mess that doesn't always work but takes chances that make it worth checking out. I think Polley is headed into the right direction but she's still a work in progress.

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