Every thirty days, I like to post a list of my favorite films I’ve recently watched. Here are the best films I’ve seen throughout the month of September. This list is based on movies theatrically released here in Canada, and I do not include what I have seen at film festivals.
1: Laurence Anyways
Directed by Xavier Dolan
Screenplay by Xavier Dolan
Xavier Dolan reveals a romantic, albeit tragic side, in Laurence Anyways, a highly unconventional romance that shows the young filmmaker has matured since his sophomore effort, Les Amours Imaginaire. Putting aside the last hour of the pic, a gargantuan mess that stretches what seems like a lifetime – the first 90 minutes is by far his best work yet, proving that confidence and ambition are not something Dolan lacks.
Dolan’s imagery and dialogue is strong, with a soundtrack of handpicked 80’s and 90’s hits that service many of the film’s best moments: A party sequence set to “Fade to Grey” and the opening sequence set to Fever Ray’s “If I Had A Heart” quickly come to mind as standout moments. Even when the story is at times undercooked or overstuffed, Dolan frames almost every scene with such beauty, its like taking a tour through a modern art museum. Be it the lavish costumes or rich interiors, the heavy rain pouring on the city’s streets or the clothes falling from the sky, every frame is carefully calculated to painstaking perfection.
But the reason to see Laurence Anyways is simply for the superb performances from Melvil Poupaud and Suzanne Clement, who share such incredible onscreen chemistry, they alone justify sticking through the insane running time. In perhaps the pic’s best scene, Clement shines in a powerful, hysterical outburst when a small town waitress pokes her nose where it doesn’t belong. It is moments like these that inform us Dolan may be far from making a masterpiece, but is very much capable.
2: Headhunters (Hodejegerne)
Directed by Morten Tyldum
Screenplay by Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg
What starts out as a seemingly conventional heist film quickly changes into something that’s anything but. Headhunters is sleek, provocative and relentless, a cat-and-mouse thriller complete with bizarre twists and a dark sense of humour. If you are looking for a good caper flick than this is your ticket. The unpredictability of the plot, Hitchcockian cinematography, well-orchestrated chase sequences and bloody shootouts make Headhunters far better than most Hollywood thrillers released these days. This is a genre movie that wants to do more than just entertain; a brutal, cutting corporate satire that at times plays like the best of the Coen Brothers.
3: The Avengers
Directed by Joss Whedon
Screenplay by Joss Whedon
Ultimately, it all comes back to director/writer Joss Whedon, whose funny and well constructed script not only perfectly captures the spirit and essence of the comic, but also never forgets its heroes’ humanity amidst the action powered set pieces. His clear vision for each character elevates the chemistry between the principle leads, notably Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, while still finding enough screen time for the supporting players to shine, both in dialogue and action. Despite the nearly two and a half hour running time, the film moves at a brisk pace, and even more surprising is Whedon’s knack for action choreography. The Avengers comes complete with impressive battle scenes including one long take through the streets and skylines of New York City. Bottom line: Whedon’s obvious love for The Avengers and fandom makes for a superhero epic that’s packed with enough entertainment, one could forgive its lack of social commentary and minor plot holes.