TIFF13: Films About Women. Movies Reviewed: Empire of Dirt, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Young and Beautiful, The Lunchbox
When an entity with the mammoth, the monumental proportions of TIFF comes to town, it cannot help but affect the city. Shopping, books, music, art, parties… It bleeds far beyond the boundaries of the cinema screens. I’ve noticed pubic libraries cross the city with displays of movie related books. The department stores and boutiques dress up their windows to bring in the movies. There’s a Young Lions Music Club party on Friday all about Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. There’s a major art launch at MOCCA and the TIFF Bell Lightbox show of art related David Cronenberg. The Cronenberg Project that promises a digital-experience extension! And I’d be very surprised not to see a new type of TIIF-themed poutine or burger somewhere in this city.
This week I’m looking at some more movies coming to TIFF. I’m going to concentrate on movies about women from Canada, France and India. One’s a long-distance romance between strangers; one’s a family reunion involving strangers; one’s a passionate coming-of-age drama; and one’s a dispassionate coming-of-age drama
Dir: Peter Stebbings
Lena (Cara Gee) is a beautiful young woman with a rebellious teenage daughter in downtown Toronto. A former model, she cleans houses for a living. She devotes herself to the native circle she runs at a community centre. But her own home life is a shambles. She worries when her daughter Peeka (Shay Eyre) gets kicked out of school and starts hanging with a bad crowd. But when Peeka OD’s huffing spray paint, mom is shocked. She grabs her daughter and heads due north. Peeka knows nothing about her mom’s past, but she discovers she’s from a reserve. She has a gruff, widowed grandmother (Jennifer Podemsky) who sells fishing bait, and possibly even a father somewhere.
Will Lena and her mom learn to love one another? Can Peeka adjust to life up north? Will she embrace her native heritage? And will the ghosts of Lena’s past force her out again? Or will three generations of strong stubborn women manage to co-exist? A nice, touching movie, Empire of Dirt is part family drama, part rural romance. It lets three actresses explore and expand on their characters — of kid, mom and grandmother – to make something bigger than the sum of the parts.
Dir: Abdellatif Kechiche
Adele (Adèle Exarchopoulos) is an ordinary French girl, finishing high school in Lille. She likes spaghetti, reading books and hanging with her friends. She doesn’t know how beautiful she is with strands of hair falling over her face. But on a first date with some guy, it’s a woman –with punky looks and blue hair – who catches her eye in a random glance. She is smitten. Soon enough, she meets gap-toothed Emma (Léa Seydoux), a fine arts student at the local university. They become first flirty friends, then torrid, romantic lovers. Emma has high ambitions: she aims for success as a realist painter; she sketches Adele’s nude body obsessively. Can working-class Adele survive such a highly sexualized life and Emma’s sometimes cruel, domineering nature?
This is a three-hour-long look at Adele’s transition from highschool to adulthood. It’s full of explicit, extended sex scenes – and I don’t mean rolling around in dark shadows behind lacy curtains. It’s not porn but there is a lot of sex. Their romance is very dramatic: Adele’s passionate and obsessive first love. (I just wish they didn’t have quite so much of the colour blue, blue, blue popping up in every scene; it gets distracting.)
Dir: Francois Ozon
Isabelle (Marine Vacth) is teenaged girl from a middle class family. She loses her virginity to a boy she meets on a summer seaside holiday. But the sex is not good. She feels detached, literally, from the experience. Back in the city, she decides to explore that mental split. In the fall, she creates a nighttime personality – with a different makeup, clothes and hairstyle – and sets up an online presence. Her nighttime persona secretly works in the sex trade, meeting much older men in posh hotels. Sometimes dangerous, sometimes eye-opening, occasionally an emotional connection. She doesn’t spend the money. Only her gay-ish little brother suspects something is up. Her daytime-self goes to school studies, chats with her friends about dates. But come wintertime, she is shocked by an unexpected turn of events. Can Isabelle’s emotional maturity ever catch up to her sexual maturity?
Young and Beautiful follows the two sides of the model-like Isabelle as she navigates growing up and her troubled relationship with her own mom. Simple in form – it’s divided into four parts, following the four seasons – the movie is psychologically and emotionally complex.
Finally, I cannot not mention:
Dir: Ritesh Batra
Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a young Bombay housewife whose marriage is not going well – he doesn’t eat her food, and they have little connection in bed. To spark things up, she decides to make her husband a delicious lunch. It’s sent out each day, along with millions of others, by a complex hand-delivery system connecting her kitchen to her husband’s desk. So she gets her upstair’s neighbour “Auntie” to shout down cooking advice based on what spices she smells through the window. (You never actually see her neighbour.) Later, it comes back completely empty – he loves it! But her husband doesn’t mention anything. Didn’t he like it? He says the cauliflower was good. But she didn’t make cauliflower. So begins a complicated relationship long-distance with a Saajan Fernandez (Irrfan Khan), an unknown, older man, somewhere in Bombay, who loves her cooking. They exchange handwritten messages back and forth under the chapattis in the metal stacked lunch box. Will they meet? Are they meant for each other? Or will Ilo’s husband learn to love his young wife?
The Lunch Box is a must-see, a simple, perfect film.
Empire of Dirt, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Young and Beautiful, and the Lunchbox are all showing at TIFF, and will be released in Canada over the next year. Go to tiff.net for tickets.
This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com