Fantasia 2017: Spoor (Poland – 2017)

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for Cinetalk.net

Director Agnieszka Holland learned her trade with Krzysztof Zanussi and Andrzej Wajda. The Polish director is a three times Oscar Nominee, for Angry Harvest, In Darkness (both in the Best foreign language film category)and Europa, Europa (Best screenplay category, 1990).

Spoor, Holland’s new film (co-directed by, Kasia Adamik, her daughter)is based upon the book by Olga Tokarczuk.

A strange series of killings occur in Poland’s beautiful Kłodzko Valley (Near Czech Republic border). Animal rights activist Janina (played by Agnieszka Mandat) regularly confronts the local corrupted power (which share link with poachers) and befriend the outcasts of the village. Soon, poachers and officials are dying, one after another, and she tries to convince authorities it is animal vengeance. Could it be that she is right? Continue reading

Fantasia 2017: Rage (Lee Sang-il, 2016)

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DARIA GAMLIEL for Cinetalk.net

Without knowing in advance about the premise or plot, Rage throws at-first disjointed events and characters at the viewer. The connections slowly unfurl with a manhunt revealing three possible identities of a murderer. If however, the viewer goes into this 142-minute drama cum suspense thriller with the notion that it is a horror film, this isn’t the case. Perhaps by design, the mis-typing of Lee Sang-il’s film gives it the advantage of surprising its audience. It is Shunji Iwai-esque in its epic-length and treatment of subject matter. It follows multiple characters – misfits – whose confusion and grief propel their coming-of-age. Scenic Okinawan locations are juxtaposed against the neons of Tokyo, and the viewer is drawn into the relation between characters and environment.

Rarely seen in Japanese film, the gay community is surprisingly well showcased. Rage tackles several still-taboo subjects in this area, such as online hookups, what constitutes a ‘family’, and how to deal with chosen-family burial. The exchanges between characters in this story arc are Continue reading

The Postman’s White Nights (Konchalovsky, 2014)

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DARIA GAMLIEL for Cinetalk.net

Words like banal, uneventful and repetitive are normally viewed as having negative connotations. However, in Andrei Konchalovsky’s The Postman’s White Nights, they describe a life most modern iPhone and Android addicts wouldn’t understand. There are no game consoles; no fidget spinners. On these small Russian islands, one would be hard pressed to find a vehicle other than a fishing boat. Life by Kenozero Lake has its own rhythm and routine. As much as there are mundane daily tasks, there are also warm camaraderie and a familiarity between neighbors and colleagues that modern society lacks.

The region’s postman (Aleksey Tryapitsyn) deals with personal demons (or, more specifically, a mysterious grey cat) as he tends to his daily chores. Not only does he deliver mail to the villagers, but also checks in on them and brings them groceries. He even temporarily adopts a young boy to keep him entertained and enriched. Otherwise what would the child do all day while his mother takes secret lovers in the back room of their house? Possibly the best parts of The Postman are the Continue reading

Chuck (US – 2016) – Short Review

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Chuck (it was titled the The Bleeder when shown at TIFF in September)is based upon the real life story of heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner who had a shot at glory in 1975 facing Muhammad Ali in the ring and making it to the 15th round.

Directed by Philippe Falardeau (The good lie) it stars Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, X-Men), Naomi Watts and Ron Perlman (Hellboy). It is said that Wepner’s story was influential in the Making of Rocky (1976). At least that is what he wants us to believe.

We are witnesses to the preceding, then the fight and the ensuing downfall. The depiction of 1970’s era is honest, the performances are enjoyable, especially Perlman as the manager. A colorful manager is a must to any boxing film.

Chuck is a pedestrian ride narrated with with a great dose of narcissism, but in such a self-deprecating way it ultimately becomes sympathetic. Chuck is much about trusting the word of the one telling the story…

I, Daniel Blake (UK – 2016) – Short Review

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for Cinetalk.net

When I, Daniel Blake won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, Ken Loach entered a highly select group of directors who took home the award twice. Much has been written about it since (it comes late on our Canadian screens as Cannes 2017 edition is already at the Gates) people even suggesting the jury’s top recognition had more to do with the overall body of work – Loach is already 80 – than the film itself.

So what?

I, Daniel Blake  bears Ken Loach (and screenwriter’s Paul Laverty) signature all along. It depicts the despair of a 59-year-old worker, Blake, who, after a heart attack, must apply for social care. Mr Blake contributed a whole life to a system soon to discover it doesn’t really work both ways as Continue reading