Another year, another film festival goes by. The 34th Vancouver International Film Festival was 16 days of intense film watching, as I tried to immerse myself in a fleeting atmosphere celebrating the some of the best of contemporary world cinema. And even though VIFF may not boast the prestige or media frenzy of Cannes, TIFF, …
O,Brazen Age was one of my favourite discoveries at VIFF 2015 (and one of the best Canadian films of the year), so it was a pleasure to sit down and talk with its writer/director, Alexander Carson, about his approach to filmmaking, literature, the role of indie filmmaking, and postmodernism. The film is Carson’s first feature, although he has made several shorts as well as producing The Valley Below (2014), which was directed by fellow North Country Cinema member Kyle Thomas.
Civeyrac’s adaptation of Doris Lessing’s short story Victoria and the Staveneys has a soft charm to its story but finds itself hampered by its comparison to the source material.
While unlikely to find much success outside the festival circuit, since there is little on the surface level to distinguish it from dozens of other minor films, The Last Hammer Blow has a surprisingly subtlety and open ended approach to the nebulous gray area between childhood and adulthood. Instead of chronicling a teenager struggling to take up the mantle of manhood, the film shifts the narrative to allow him to remove the world from his shoulders and learn to live and smile as a child again.
A voyage beyond reality, constructing an alien atmosphere of indiscernible sounds and sights, Dead Slow Ahead is a new masterpiece of mood, and almost approaches the ever ambiguous concept of “pure cinema”.
Grief, depression, and loneliness. Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s first foray into English language film is rife with subject matter suited for a dour art house affair. Yet Louder Than Bombs is infused with a vibrant humanism that cares for its characters and has a firm grasp of cinematic language and exceptional editing which ratchets it up a notch past a typical prestige drama. It’s too subtle, too bold, too willing to reach into a grab bag of visual styles and character set pieces to care about falling into the right Hollywood genre.
Sleeping Giant should be a crowdpleaser, especially in Canada, since it is always an auspicious occasion when a new Canadian director’s feature is well received at Cannes and TIFF. Sleeping Giant is well written, technically proficient and kinetically paced.
O, Brazen Age is one of those films that requires a secondary viewing. An intriguing blend of narrative, literature, self-reflection, and friendship, all bound together with a loose, silver cord of time, it’s an incredibly unique, personal debut feature from Alexander Carson.
This documentary centred around the Frank Furko, an odd octogenerian whose now deceased cat, Pudgie Wudgie, was a local celebrity in their hometown of Pittsburgh, manages to break the mold of imitative, stagnating docs that festivals often attract in droves. Massil and Alvarez-Mesa have found a perfect subject in Frank, and approach him with a natural, easy going camera: no talking heads and barely a shot of stock footage, just a wondering frame following Frank as he tells his stories to whoever will listen, and a sense of time travel via VHS footage Frank himself shot throughout his life.
Nick Citton’s low key dramedy feels all too familiar. Two siblings, Joni and Wes Carver, travel from Los Angeles to the tiny town of Story, Arkansas, when their estranged father passes away. While there, they make new friends, push each other to their emotional breaking points, and perhaps discover a new approach to life. It feels like a mainstay of the American indie scene, complete with quirky townsfolk, repressed emotional baggage revealed through unsurprising plot twists, and a heartfelt, bittersweet ending.
A crowd pleasing blend of humour, drama, and romance, all awash in a lush and vivid world of kings, queens, fashion, and Machiavellian intrigue, it is no surprise that The Royal Tailor is one of South Korea’s most successful period films. Yet for all its bright qualities, the final third of the film slowly begins to unravel the pattern it spent the first two-thirds stitching.
Hadwin’s Judgement Directed by Sasha Snow Documentaries are one of the veins through which VIFF’s lifeblood flows. Attracting large crowds of socially conscientious viewers, they are usually among the first films to sell out. Unfortunately, given their commercial appeal, many of them begin to mirror each other, turning into dull affairs filled with “talking heads”, bland …
A film which tugs on heartstrings like a puppeteer, The Devout is an emotionally resonant film which doesn’t fully connect its script with the finished product. Set in the bible belt of British Columbia, the narrative is nestled around a Christian teacher, Darryl, his wife Jan, and their daughter Abigail, who is dying of cancer. By itself, The Devout’s exploration of family dynamics amidst a slowly unfurling tragedy is compelling cinema