In Transit. Films reviewed: Mirai, A Private War, Transit

Posted in 1940s, Animation, France, Germany, Japan, Journalism, Refugees, Time Travel, War, WWII by CulturalMining.com on November 9, 2018

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com.

Toronto Fall festival season continues with EU festival on now – free movies at the Royal every night! Ekran Polish film festival, and ReelAsian paving new ground, with everything from a doc on gourmet Filipino cuisine, to an intriguing and moving Virtual Reality narrative by Paisley Smith called Homestay.

This week, I’m looking at three movies about people in transit. There’s a WWII refugee running away from the Nazis; a female war journalist rushing toward the battlefront; and a little boy in Japan jumping back and forth between the past and the future.

Mirai

Wri/Dir: Hosoda Mamoru

Kun-chan is a little kid in Japan who lives with his parents and his dog Yukko. He likes drawing and playing with trains. His mom and dad dote on him, until they have a new baby, a girl named Mirai (which means the future). Suddenly, the baby is the centre of attention. His dad works freelance at home now, while mom goes to work. When they’re not working, they’re taking care of Mirai. But who’s paying attention to Kun-chan? Nobody! He seeks refuge in their yard, an enclosed courtyard around an old oak tree. And that’s where strange things start to happen whenever he’s alone. His dog turns into a prince. And then Mirai appears as a teenaged version of herself – it’s future Mirai, there to advise Kunchan on how to treat his little sister. This opens the door to other figures from his family’s past and future to help him handle his problems.

Mirai is a good example of watchable Japanese anime. Lots of flying, some scary parts, and time travel. It’s clearly aimed at kids — with tame content and characters – but it does handle issues like gender roles and family matters. I like Hosoda’s films because they navigate where the supernatural interacts with the ordinary – like Wolf Children from 2012. But in Mirai you can never be sure if the supernatural scenes are real or just in the little boy’s head.

A Private War

Dir: Matthew Heineman

It’s 21st century London. Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), originally from Oyster Bay Long Island is now a star reporter for the Sunday Times. She smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish and curses like a sailor. And for good reason: she’s at the front lines of the bloodiest wars of the century. She lost her left eye in a gun battle in Sri Lanka, and now wears a black patch, pirate-style. Why does she do it? So she can tell the world what’s really going on the death, starvation and horribleness of war. A mass grave in Faluja, starvation in Homs, Syria. She travels with Paul (Jamie Dornan) a young freelance photographer in awe at Marie’s bravery, always the first one when the bombs are falling. She’s been in more battles than the average soldier. And She keeps sexually satisfied with an array of lovers in every port, including her ex-husband and a London financier named Tony (Stanley Tucci). But you can’t live on th edge without suffering blowback, including PTSD and deppression. Is Marie a hero or an alcoholic with a death wish?

A Private War is a gripping and thrilling drama. The director, Heineman, is known for documentaries, not movies, which gives this film a “you are there” immediacy rarely scene in war movies. Very realistic. The movie doesn’t delve very deeply into the politics of war – it never asks why Bush and Blair were in Iraq or NATO in Libya; instead it concentrates on how war really affects ordinary people. Rosamund Pike is amazing as Marie Colvin and opened my eyes about war journalism.

I liked this movie.

Transit

Dir: Christian Petzold

It’s WWII. Georg (Franz Rogowski) is a German refugee living in Paris when the Nazi’s are about to march in. And the French police are doing their work, rounding up immigrants and sending them to a transit camp inside the Velodrome. Georg knows he has to get out of their, fast. And he needs money. So he accepts a paid job: bring a sealed letter to a stranger – a writer – holed up in a paris hotel room. But he gets there too late, the man has killed himself in desperation. If only he had waited one more day – the letter promised money, visas, and tickets on a ship to Mexico. Thinking quickly, Georg pockets the letter, grabs the man’s manuscript and heads south with his friend as stowaways on a freight train. Once in Marseilles, he establishes himself as a person in transit – just stopping over – to avoid arrest, andtakes on the identity of the dead man. And he keeps encountering a beautiful woman, Marie (Paula Beer), who is searching for her husband. She knows he’s in Marseilles, but she can’t find him. But what neither of them realize is the phantom husband she keeps missing is Georg himself, in his new identity.

Transit is a great new movie about the precarious lives of refugees and undocumented migrants running for their lives. The movieis based on a novel written during the WWII, but Christian Petzold tries something I’ve never seen before. It’s the 1940s but it’s also right now. It’s shot in present-day France, with modern cars and clothing, an ethnically diverse population, and police dressed in current riot gear. Paula Beer (amazing in Frantz) and the distinctive-looking Rogowski (terrific in Happy End and Victoria) perfectly capture the alienation and uncertainty of present-day Europe. And – no spoilers – but, as usual, Petzold saves some of the biggest and best surprises for the end… with a one-two punch to the gut.

Great movie.

Mirai is playing tomorrow at the ReelAsian film festival. Look for A Private War opening next Friday and Transit starting today in Toronto; check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com.

Holy or Hollow? Films reviewed: Black Hollow Cage, The Holy Girl

Posted in Argentina, Coming of Age, Family, Fantasy, Sex, Spain, Thriller, Time Travel by CulturalMining.com on February 16, 2018

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

After a slow period, February is busting out all over. After Valentine’s Day, films and documentaries are showing at Toronto’s Black Film Festval, Next Wave – with free movies if you’re under 25 — is on this weekend, you can catch a lion dance for Chinese New Year, or just spend time with significant others on  Family Day. So there’s tons of stuff going on out there.

This week I’m looking at movies about young women from Spain and Argentina. There’s a house in the woods with a girl in a cube, and a hotel in the mountains with a girl in a pool.

Black Hollow Cage

Wri/Dir: Sadrac González-Perellón

Alice (Lowena McDonell) is a young teenager with brown hair and huge limpid eyes. She lives with her parents in an isolated, minimalist house, built of glass wood and steel. Her father Adam (Julian Nicholson) takes care of her, while her mother Beatrice is always by her side to offer advice. Sounds like a nice, simple life… but it’s not. Her mother is dead; Beatrice is actually a fluffy white husky with a device strapped to her collar that speaks in her mother’s voice. Alice lost an arm in the same accident that killed her mother. She’s been fitted with a prosthetic arm that looks like it was taken off a star wars storm trooper: shiny, bulky and white. Alice hates the arm and the exercises the physiotherapist tells her to do. One day, Alice is walking Beatrice in the woods near her home and comes across a large, matte-black box, just sitting there. What is it and where does it come from? When she approaches it it opens, revealing a handwritten note – they are not to be trusted. The note is in her own handwriting. Spooky! And a murderous ninja dressed in black is stalking the halls of her house.

Later her dad brings home Erika and Paul (Haydée Lysander and Marc Puiggener), a teenaged sister and brother in trouble. Paul is mute, but Erika talks for the two of them. They were badly beaten so Adam lets them spend the night. Can they be trusted? A voice tells Alice to kill them, but she hesitates. Can she kill innocent children in cold blood? But when she hesitates others end up dead.

How can she fix her errors? She finds that by climbing into the black cube she can emerge and revisit her day to set things straight. But by setting in motion parallel universes she risks upsetting everything and possibly killing her father, beatrice and maybe even herself.

Black Hollow Cage is an extremely strange movie based on a fascinating concept. Some of the strangers things become clear later on, but most of it is left unexplained. So you’re never sure if Alice is insane, whether time travel is actually possible, and who is actually good or bad. It’s one of these movies with strange concepts and beautiful minimalist settings but totally devoid of real life. I couldn’t make heads or tails of this confusing picture. It surprised and shocked me… but didn’t move me.

The Holy Girl (2004)

Dir: Lucrecia Martel

Helena (Mercedes Moran) is a beautiful divorcee who lives in a remote resort in Argentina. It’s a grand hotel, the same one she grew up in with her brother, but is gradually inching from splendid to seedy. The whole hotel is preparing for an influx of Ear-Nose-and-Throat doctors in town for a convention. Under the eagle-eyed manager Mirta,The masseuse is put to work chopping chickens in the kitchen and a nervous maid rushes from room to room spraying disenfectant on everything. Helena herself was once known for her high diving skills but now just dog-paddles in the hot pool worrying about tinnitus. When Helena encounters Dr Jano (Carlos Belloso) who remembers her in her glory days, he invites her to grace the stage at the closing night presentation at the convention. The convention organizer wants to end things with a bang.

Meanwhile her daughter Amalia (María Alché) attends church classes and is on a mission to serve God by saving men. She’s into memorizing catechisms and religious tracts and is looking for a sign. But most lessons are spent listening to her best friend Josefina (Julieta Zylberberg) whispering lascivious comments in her ear. She’s looking for a sign – does a naked man falling out a second story window outside her class count? One day, when standing in a crowd listening to a Theramin player, Amalia feels a man pushing against her from behind. She turns around and sees a clean shaven middle aged man rushing away. Maybe this is her sign?

Dr Jano is married with children who join him at the hotel, even as both Helena and Amalia pursue him, but for different reasons. Whose secrets will be revealed?

The Holy Girl is a wonderfully, Byzantine drama told through the eyes of both a mother and a daughter and the dozens of other characters swarming around them. It functions both as a coming-of-age story of a religiously engaged but sexually curious teen, and the drama of a middle aged woman trying to juggle work, family, and personal rivalries with chance sexual encounters. This is a lush, detailed film with great acting. I had never seen Lucrecia Martel’s movies before (never heard of her, in fact) but now I want to see everything she’s done.

Black Hollow Cage opens today in Toronto; check your local listings. The Holy Girl is part of the retrospective Argentine Genius: The Films of Lucrecia Martel playng at TIFF Cinematheque Feb 23-27. Go to tiff.net for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com.

A French Connection? Movies reviewed: Finding Vivian Maier, L’autre vie de Richard Kemp, Triptyque

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-Montreal Flight two Canada ladybird Booksbrow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

With Quebec elections coming up, this week I’m looking at movies with a “French connection” (francophone, that is.) These movies all share a dark, mysterious and introspective mood.

There’s a doc about an artist who never showed her art, a Quebec drama about two sisters – one loses her voice, the other writing; and a French thriller about a detective thwarted from catching a serial killer… by himself!

FVM_WomanHatNYPublicLibrary_RavinePicturesLLCFinding Vivian Maier
Dir: John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

When John, a third generation Flea Marketeer, buys a box of negatives at an auction, he doesn’t realize at first what he has. It’s a vast collection of never-printed negatives taken by an unknown photographer named Vivian Maier. She plied the streets of Chicago for decades documenting street life. Her shots are beautiful, poignant, the black and white photos aesthetically astute.

But who was she? Where did she come from? And why is she unknown to theFVM_YoungWomaninCar_RavinePicturesLLC2013 world?

Turns out the photographer, Vivian Maier, died recently. She left behind over 100,000 photos, plus audio tapes and some super-8 reels. But none of the photos had ever been professionally printed, and almost no one had seen them but the photographer herself. Maier was a very tall woman with a mannish haircut and a vaguely French accent. She wore heavy boots, old-fashioned hats, and always carried a rolleiflex camera. An eccentric, she was given to hording any items she found. Most surprising is how she earned her living… as a nanny and a maid.

This is a fascinating and intriguing documentary that pieces together parts of her life – though most is left unknown – while showing lots of her incredible photographs. We hear from her former bosses, the grown-up kids she had nannied, even a few Alpine relatives.

FVM_COLORVMSelfPortraitMirrorRedClothinShop_Ravine PicturesLLC2013Her story is similar to the case of Henry Darger, another eccentric artist (who worked as a janitor) who hoarded his own intricate drawings that were only discovered after death. And, as in that case, the filmmakers are tied to the one who owns all the art. There’s an ulterior motive: to get rich from the work of a previously unknown artist.

Still, this doesn’t detract from the beauty and mystery of her story or of the appeal of the street photos themselves. It does make you wonder, though. Is a photographer who never selects which photos to show and who never successfully prints the pictures she took – an artist? Or is the posthumous curator the real artist here? Either way, Finding Vivian Maier is a great story.

Lautre vie de richard kemp poster affiche cinefrancoL’autre vie de Richard Kemp (Back in Crime)
Dir: Germinal Alvarez

Helene, (Mélanie Thierry), an elegant psychologist out for a morning run, finds a dead body washed up on shore. She’s questioned by a scruffy police detective named Richard Kemp. She is cold and dismissive. Kemp (Jean-Hugues Anglade) is troubled because it shares the M.O. with a case, never solved, from early in his career. An unknown killer – known only as the earwig — kidnaps his victims, punctures their ears, and throws them autre-vie-de-richard-kemp-jean-hugues-anglade-melanie-thierry-unifranceinto the ocean. Was the killer back again?

Though their first meeting is frosty, eventually Helene and Richard hit it off. (She’s a widow with a son, he’s divorced.) But while investigating the case on a bridge, he is struck from behind and thrown into the water. When he climbs out things have changed. The streetcar driver won’t accept his Euros: they’re “foreign” money. At home he sees a stranger autre-vie-de-richard-kemp-jean-hugues-anglade-unifrancewith a key to his modernistic apartment. He soon discovers the truth: it’s 25 years earlier, and the man he saw – is himself!

He rents a room in a highrise across from the curvy building his younger self rents. Maybe young Richard will do it right this time. But he makes the same mistakes again. So he decides to follow the earwig’s trail himself – he knows the MO, maybe he’ll catch him or at least save the autre-vie-de-richard-kemp-melanie-thierry - unifrancevictims. But he ends up as a suspect being chased by his younger self.

So he turns to the only one he can trust: Helene. Can he win her to his side, convince her his plight is true, and will they rekindle their future romance? This is a neat, dark detective story with a bit of a time travel twist. I like this one.

triptyque-afficheTriptyque
Dir: Robert Lepage

Marie and Michelle Lavallee are two Montreal sisters, the crème de la crème of Quebec culture. Marie (Frédérike Bédard) is an internationally-known singer. Michelle (Lise Castonguay) is a noted poet and author. But fame does not shield them from tragedy. Marie discovers she has a brain tumour. She seeks the help of Austrian brain surgeon Thomas (Hans Piesbergen) who, secretly, suffers from a hand tremor.

Michelle, diagnosed with schizophrenia, is committed to a mental hospital triptych_eOne_02_largeand kept on medication. Once released, she seeks solace in a Montreal bookstore. No coffee, no WiFi, just actual books by Quebecois artists and intellectuals. But, inhibited by her medication, she finds herself unable to write.

After her surgery, Marie is left with aphasia – she can’t recall words. She can triptych_eOne_01_largesing the notes but not the lyrics. And her memory is faulty: she can’t remember her own father’s voice. But she has found love. All three characters in Triptique have to work through their losses, fill the gaps, and right the wrongs.

This film is an abbreviated version of part of Lepage’s epic stage drama Lipsynch which played in Toronto two years ago. It trades the intricate stage design for which he’s so famous, for an intimacy and closeness you can’t get on a stage. And it captures Montreal’s bitterly elegant winter cityscapes as only a movie can.

Triptyque and Lepage’s other films are now playing in a retrospective at TIFF; for details, go to tiff.net; l’Autre Vie de Richard Kemp (a.k.a. Back in Crime) is having its North American premier and is one of many great pics at CineFranco, Toronto’s francophone film fest (go to cinefranco.com for tickets); and Finding Vivian Maier opens today in Toronto, check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

September 28, 2012. Intractable Situations. Movies Reviewed: Arbitrage, Looper.

Posted in Cultural Mining, Movies, Science Fiction, Telekinesis, Thriller, TIFF, Time Travel, Uncategorized, US, Wall Street by CulturalMining.com on October 6, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

The summer blockbusters are over now — it’s fall season, where they start playing real movies they hope will win academy awards. And TIFF has ushered in Toronto’s fall festival season, as well. Toronto’s Palestine Film Festival starts tomorrow, followed quickly by Planet in Focus (environmental films), ReelAsian, ImagineNative, European (sponsored by EU embassies), Rendezvous with Madness (about addiction and mental health), and some new ones like Ekran – a Polish movie festival. So, boys and girls, hold onto your hats in the weeks to come for more info about those.

In the mean time, I’m looking at two American thrillers, both about men caught in seemingly intractable situations. One’s a dramatic thriller set in the world of high finance, the other’s a futuristic action thriller about time travel… and murder!

Arbitrage

Dir: Nicholas Jarecki

Robert (Richard Gere) in the financial sector, who runs a gazillion dollar Wall Street investment firm. He has a beautiful French artist as a mistress, a dignified philanthropist wife (Susan Sarandon) at home in the mansion, and a daughter who works for the company. He drives the right car, wears the perfect suit, perfect hair – c’mon, he’s Richard Gere — and he looks like a big financier. Anyway, he’s ready to retire, so he’s going to sell the firm. But… he has to borrow a bit of money (like a few hundred mil) just for a couple weeks, while the independent auditor goes through his books. But his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) notices something fishy in the books, the other wall street dude who lent him the money wants it back, his wife suspects there might be a mistress… and then, to top it all off, this one-percenter gets in a Chappaquiddick-type accident on a country road with his mistress who doesn’t survive. Any legal investigation could spoil his deal, reveal his questionable business, and maybe even send him to jail for murder! So in a panic, he decides to keep it all hush-hush Luckily he gets help from a mysterious young black guy, Jimmy (Nate Parker) to help him out of this mess. Jimmy drives him out of there before the detectives show up. Then the movie flips into an investigation that could lead to a murder trial, even as the financial deal is pending.

Will the detective (Tim Roth) nail him in court? Will Robert end up as a Bernie Madoff or a Warren Buffet: will he sell the company or will it all collapse like a house of cards? And who is this Jimmy guy anyway, and what’s his connection with Robert, and what will he do if the pressure comes down on him?

This is a good, simple thriller with lots of twists and an excellent cast. Most of the characters range from detestable to not very nice (except Jimmy, who it’s easier to sympathize with). And it’s the 25 year old director’s first movie, which is pretty impressive. It doesn’t have any moral story or political points or special dramatic elements… it’s just a financial thriller, but that’s good enough for me. So if you liked last year’s Margin Call, you might like this one, too.

Looper (Opening Night Film at TIFF)

Dir: Rian Johnson

It’s 50 years into the future – people still live in farmhouses on cornfields, and organized crime is all-powerful in a somewhat familiar distopia. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is learning French for a future retirement near the Eiffel Tower. But he’s not such a nice guy: he’s a hitman who shoots people for a living with his blunderbuss gun in a cornfield beside an old-school diner. His victims are all men sent back in time from the future – no evidence – and he keeps the silver bars taped to their vests as payment. But then one day they send him… himself! Well, his old self (Bruce Willis) and Old Joe is packed with gold bars – sort of severance pay. It also means Joe’s a looper who’s out of the loop, stuck in the past. Old Joe escapes and is intent on tracking down “the Rainmaker” an X-Men type child with special powers who could grow up into the cruel crime boss that ordered him killed. Get it? It’s up to young Joe to kill his old self and to save the child. He’s staying in a nearby farmhouse with a mom (a thoroughly convincing Emily Blunt as the middle-America farmer) and a little kid who or may not be the kid he’s looking for. So who will win this fight: Old Joe, young Joe, farm wife, angry little X-Men child or the future gangsters?

Looper is directed by Rian Johnson who did that cool low-budget film-noir-in-highschool detective movie called Brick, and the truly awful The Brothers Bloom. This one’s a good action/thriller with some interesting time-warp twists. Like to send an instant message to your future self you have to cut-up your arm with a knife – since the scar will remain there for decades. And there’s the run-of-the- mill telekinesis stuff. But here’s the big problem (or at least what bugs me): Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis are supposed to be the same person, so they constructed weirdly prosthetic facial features that will make them look similar. Why did they have to be so literal? Why couldn’t they just say: This guy’s thirty years older than his other self is – but that’s how he’ll look in the future. Would that be so hard? Whatever happened to the suspension of disbelief? Anyway, it means you have to watch two otherwise appealing actors with weirdly deformed faces for the entire length of the film. Still, not a bad science fiction film.

Looper and Arbitrage both open today – check your local listings. And two good movies that I recently reviewed, Lawrence Anyways and Rebelle — both from Quebec — are now playing at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

August 17th, 2012. Carpe Diem. Movies Reviewed: And If We All Lived Together?, Dimensions, This Space Available

Posted in 1920s, 1930s, Advertising, Anthropology, comedy, Cultural Mining, documentary, Drama, France, TIFF, Time Travel, UK, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on August 17, 2012

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Carpe diem: seize the day. Sometimes, when facing seemingly insurmountable odds, you just have to face the problem head-on, and go ahead with your outrageous plans. This week I’m looking at three films; a French social comedy about a group of elderly friends don’t want to live in old-age homes; a documentary about activists confronting the proliferation of public advertising; and a British historical meta-drama about a group of young scientists in Cambridge who want to go back in time.

And If We All Lived Together?

Dir: Stéphane Robelin

A group of middle-class friends have held onto their bonds even in old age. But one of their number, Albert (Pierre Richard), seems to be slipping. He keeps an exquisite daily journal to keep track of events, but he’s never sure what year it is. And his wife, Jeanne (Jane Fonda), may be facing terminal cancer, but she’d rather pick out the most fashionable coffin she can find than to worry about surgery. So what will happen to Albert when she’s gone?

With the help of a leftist activist, Claude, and a couple, photographer Jean and Annie (Geraldine Chaplin), they decide to move in together, like college students in their first home. Meanwhile, after Albert hires Dirk, an anthro PhD student from Berlin, as a dog walker, he soon changes his ethnological thesis to look at the real lives of a distinct population: aging, white Europeans. So we get a birds-eye view of their sex lives, social lives, politics, and their long-buried secrets… which come to life again in their new close quarters.

What can I say? This is a sweet, gentle French comedy with excellent acting and realistic characters, including the sexuality of seniors. And you get to see Americans, Germans, and others happily acting in lovely, accented French.

Dimensions

Dir: Sloan U’Ren

Three children – Conrad, Steven and Victoria – are best friends, living in Cambridge in the 20s. They play by racing around willow trees, and dropping things into an extremely deep well. At a lawn party, they encounter a fascinating old professor who explains to them that time is not just something linear, like a piece of string, but also bendable, something that can be looped back again. He puts paper masks over their eyes with little slits in it to show what it’s like to live in two dimensions. We only have to learn to look outside our own restrictive masks, that trap humans in three dimensions. The three of them find it fascinating.

But when something terrible happens to Victoria, Conrad and Stephen become bitter rivals, riven with guilt.

The movie then jumps to the 1930s where they are working together again, with another woman, Annie, to build a functional time machine so they can stop history, and the tragic loss of their friend. If, as they suppose, in parallel universes all possible events might exist, then they should be able to escape the flawed one they live in. One of them must dive right in and change time. But who will it be? And might Victoria already be with them?

This is a fascinating and intricate meditation shaped into a meta-narrative, where the characters end up wondering whether they are emperors dreaming they’re butterflies or butterflies dreaming they’re emperors. It’s part drama, and part puzzle, filmed in period costume beside the University on the banks of the river Cam.

This Space Available
Dir: Gwenaëlle Gobé

Are billboards taking over the world? Sometimes it seems that way. Experts estimate that in 1984 Americans saw 2000 advertising images a day. And it’s tripled since then. Billboards, online banner ads, posters, pop-ups, and traditional commercials. Apparently Japanese advertisers have come up with urban digital screens that read your age and sex and change to target the viewer of the moment. And their ever growing sizes – sometimes illegally wrapping entire 30-storey buildings and turning them into city-sized ads – are becoming more and more common.

But what can we do to counter this? The documentary takes a look at activists around the world and what they’re doing to stop this. It was shot around the world, in Tokyo, Bombay, Moscow, Sao Paolo and across North America.

Graffiti artists slightly alter messages to change them from ads to dire statements. In Toronto, artist activists are replacing crass paper posters on kiosks and in bus shelters with beautiful, translucent prints, paintings and conceptual installations. And local politicians – in places like Houston and Sao Paolo – ban billboards altogether, exposing long hidden parks, spectacular architecture, and breathtaking urban vistas, lost for decades.

But what about freedom of speech? US court rulings have stated, you have no right to illegally post billboards; just the right to post what you want once given legal permission to use the space. But in reality, the bigger the company, the less likely to be fined for illegal postings.

This is a good introduction both to the value and the harm of outdoor visual and sound advertising and how it has changed our lives.

And If We All Lived Together and This Space Available open today in Toronto, And Dimensions will be showing for one night only, August 18th. check your local listings. And it’s only three weeks until TIFF — North America’s biggest film festival and one of the most important ones in the world. Ticket packages are still available, including ones for students and seniors.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com .

June 16, 2012. Indie Music, Indie Films. Movies Reviewed: Jobriath A.D., My Father and the Man in Black, KMS: Jewish Negroes, Safety Not Guaranteed

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies, for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, genre and mainstream movies, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Gruff, screech, pitta-patta, swoosh, grind, boom, buzz, scratch… (thank God I’m not a music writer) these are some of the sounds you hear at a club, on stage or under the open sky. And it’s what NXNE brings to you.

NXNE is Toronto’s monumental indie music festival, but it’s also a film festival, playing movies, videos, documentaries and feature films — all with a musical element to them: this means the good movies always have amazing soundtracks.

So this week I’m talking about two documentaries on famous musicians and their managers; another one about a hiphop team with zero turntables and a microphone; and an indie comic-drama about a would-be journalist meeting a would-be time-traveller.

Jobriath A.D.
Dir: Kieran Turner

Who the hell is Jobriath? I vaguely remember seeing the name on covers in record delete bins, but that’s it. But it turns out he was this openly gay pop-rock performer in the 60’s and 70’s, who had a tumultuous rise and fall. This amazing documentary — with a wicked glam-rock soundtrack – delves into his history as a small town boy, who moves to LA, stars as the sexual character Woof in the famous hippie musical HAIR, records orchestral folk/pop songs, composes music, and then, under the wing of bigtime promoter Jerry Brandt, launches as a glam rock superstar. He imagines a Parisian extravaganza with him climbing the empire state building on stage in a King Kong suit, fighting off airplanes and transforming into Marlene Dietricht. His rise and fall and rise again – as a moustachioed Cole Porter-like piano player in Manhattan – is documented in this very cool biography of a little-known musician ahead of his time. Maybe there are too many clips of other musicians giving their opinions on hiom, but its more than made up for with vintage TV and film recordings and very cool animation sequences that illustrate each stage of his life.

While there are a few too many talking heads for my taste, this is a really great documentary about an otherwise forgotten pop/rock legend.

My Father and the Man in Black
Dir: Jonathan Holiff

When London, Ontario promoter / manager Saul Holiff committed suicide, he left behind a storage locker packed with transcripts and recordings of his day-to-day life with Johnny Cash. He was the guy who got the singer out of jail, who booked him to play in Folsom prison, who introduced him to June Carter – who made him a superstar and turned his life around.

But he’s also the guy who more or less abandoned his wife and kids as he travelled around North America with the C&W singer. This fascinating and unusual documentary was made by his son Jonathan, and it delves into the strange and sometimes bitter relationship between the drug-addicted and later born-again Johnny and the hard-driven, pragmatic Saul. The film uses beautifully-shot, silent re-enactments with recorded voice-overs, along with period footage, snapshots and documents, and filmclips taken from the director’s dad’s collection, to give a behind-the-scenes perspective on Johnny Cash.

KMS: Jewish Negroes
Dir: Moran Ifergan

In the news a lot these days is the plight of East African migrants and refugees living in Israel, some of who are facing discrimination, violent attacks or forcible removal.

This movie is about a different group, a largely ignored population – Israeli-born citizens of Ethiopean background who have fallen by the wayside. It concentrates on three hiphop artists, “KMS” band, rappers living in a grim, run-down housing project in Rehovot. This is a raw documentary that follows the three of them through impromptu performances with just an ipod and a microphone, their travels to the big city, and encounters with police, and their largely hostile neighbours. Very interesting movie.

Safety Not Guaranteed
Dir: Colin Trevorrow

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is fairly miserable. Her dad says she’s carried a black cloud around with her since her mom died when she was 14. Now she’s in her 20s, struggling with her unpaid internship at a Seattle magazine. Then she gets her big chance to follow a story – a newspaper classified ad asking for a companion to travel through time: “This is not a joke!”

So Jeff (Jake M Johnson), a douche-y magazine writer, Darius, and the other intern Arnau — a meek, sexually repressed nerd – climb into a car and drive out to the small town to find the guy who placed the ad and write a story about him.

Darius poses as the companion but soon becomes a real friend with the paranoid conspiracy-theorist Kenneth (Mark Duplass). He works in a Big Box store, but claims he has found the secret to time travel – and that’s why the feds are chasing him. Well, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you: turns out there really are men in trench coats following him around!

The story wavers between adventure/comedy and simple romance: Kenneth and Darius may become more than just time travelers; obnoxious Jeff may find love with a woman he had sex with in highschool; and meek Arnau might come out of his shell when he meets some small-town Goths looking for fun. And what about the time travel? Is this science fiction or the newly popular genre faux-science fiction? Well, you’ll have to watch the movie to find out.

Aubrey Plaza and Marc Duplass are a great team. Safety Not Guarateed is a good, cute very low-budget film – much more fun than the average rom-com.

Safety Not Guaranteed, and the great art documentary I reviewed last week, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present both open today, check your local listings; Jobriath, My Father and the Man in Black, and KMS: Jewish Negroes, (plus the wonderful Slaughter Nick for President) are all playing at NXNE straight through the weekend and are included with festival passes or bracelets – go to NXNE.com for details. And Ingrid Veninger, the Toronto director of the sweet romance Modra and the biting art satire I am a good person I am a bad person, is showing her films at the Royal, and is holding a $1000 dollar feature film challenge for prospective low-budget filmmakers! Go to punkfilms.ca for details.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM, with podcasts and complete reviews available on my web site CulturalMining. com.

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