Le déclin de l’empire français. Films Reviewed: Run, Corbo, The Gate, Far From Men at TIFF14

Posted in Cultural Mining, Drama, France, Movies, Uncategorized, War by CulturalMining.com on September 4, 2014

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.

France was once an imperial power, with colonies in Africa, the Americas and Asia. But much of  it ended with terror, revolution, rival conquest, or all-out war. A chequered history at best, but one that makes for amazing movies. So this week I’m looking at four gripping historical dramas, all about men facing revolutions, of a sort, in former French colonies. One is set in Algeria in the 1950s, just before the Algerian War, another in Montréal in the turbulent 1960s, a third in Cambodia amidst the bombing and revolution of the 1970s, and a fourth in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, during the crises and war of the 2,000s.

Dir: Philippe Lacôte

A crazed, homeless man dressed in a burlap sack walks into a cathedral in Abidjan. He pulls out a gun and shoots the Prime Minister, pointblank. Who is he? And why did he do it? The film immediately starts on a patchwork of events in the man’s life, forward to the present, back to the past and further still to his childhood.

Run (Abdoul Karim Konaté) is an orphan who wants to apprentice himself to a k5wJD5_run_05_o3_8344690_1408549873master. He quietly observes an old man: a master of the stars, of medicine, of rainmaking and the supernatural. Later Run becomes an assistant to a Liberian woman he meets named “Super Gladys”. She is a glamorous performer with red-tipped hair and elaborate clothes, and she’s a big woman. She’s also a professional eater, a “mangeuse”. With Run as her MC, she performs on a stage, shoveling – with both hands! — massive amounts of rice oYvNO3_run_02_o3_8344550_1408549867and dripping chicken into her pie-hole. Viewers applaud and pay her for the privilege. (“Ivoirians don’t know the meaning of money” she remarks in her mixture of French and English.)

An ultra-nationalistic movement sweeps the country but Run survives again. He joins a paramilitary gang of thugs who attack foreigners. The gang becomes almost an organized crime faction, but one with great political pull. And still later he meets, Assa, a revolutionary (Isaach De Bankolé), and has to decide where his loyalties really lie.

This is a great look at contemporary Ivoirian history, its ups and its down, as seen through the eyes of an everyman; a man called Run.

Dir: Mathieu Denis

It’s 1966 in Montreal. Jean Corbo (Anthony Therrien) is a third-generation Canadian, a francophone, and the grandson of Italian immigrants who were imprisoned by the RCMP as enemy aliens in WWII. His dad’s a successful Italian-Canadian lawyer (Tony Nardi), a stalwart Liberal Party supporter, his mother Quebecoise. His family is rich – they live in Town of Mount Royal – and he’s sent to a Catholic private school, but he keeps getting kicked out for his political views. He likes jazz (jungle music, his family calls it) and doesn’t CORBOfeel connected to the Italian community.

Then he has a chance encounter with two “ruffians” leaving pamphlets in the school. He likes what they say… and especially the young woman, Julie, who works as a waitress in a diner.

Who are they? What do they want? It’s the FLQ (Quebec Liberation Front)! They want to overthrow their “colonial” rulers, seize the means of production, and scare away the Anglo oligarchs. They attempt to do this, first with anonymous posters and graffiti, later escalating to actual JZY7ol_corbo_01_o3_8285564_1408564843explosions. It spurred the first flight of nervous Anglos from Quebec. Jean is allowed into the cel, despite his class, and agrees to hide copies of their secret mimeographed publication, La Cognee, under his bed at home. (He’s only sixteen.)

But violence grows and people are killed. Jean, Julie and others wonder, is it worth dying for? Or killing for? Corbo is an fascinating look at the genesis of the FLQ by a first time director, retelling the true events of the summer of ‘66. Anthony Therrien portrays a passionate but confused 16-year-old, in deeper than he knows. He’s excellent, and so is this movie.

The Gate (Le temps des aveux)
Dir: Régis Wargnier

François Bizot (Raphaël Personnaz: Quai d’Orsay) is a French ethnologist living in the former colony of Cambodia. He is 1j9KJR__gate_01-TEMPORARY_o3__8248934__1406599843married to a Cambodian woman, has a daughter and speaks fluent Khmer. He collects material from Buddhist monasteries for safekeeping as the US war in Vietnam starts spreading to Cambodia and Laos. He embarks on a trip to a “dangerous area” beyond Angkor Wat, with his assistant and a young artist who asks to ride with them.

But they are captured by Khmer Rouge rebels led by Duch (Phoeung Kompheak). He is put in irons, nailed to the ground by child soldiers. He must confess to being a spy for the Americans. But he is French, he protests, not American. I am neutral, he insists. Spies must confess their crimes (after which they are executed) but how can he confess to a crime he didn’t commit. So Bizot and Duch enter a prolongued period of discussion. Both appear rational.

Ironically, Bizot turns to Buddhist scriptures for inspiration, while Duch quotes French political philosophers like Vigny. Bizot os Jesus-like, bearded and dressed in austere black cotton. Will he and his friends ever escape the torture-filled prison camp?

The film continues until the apocalyptic mayhem of the fall of Phnom Penh, and the closure of the French Embassy. Unspoken is the mass murder, the Killing Fields, that would follow. Though selective in its historical blame  (the film doesn’t deal with things like the US bombing of Cambodia or earlier French crimes in Indochina) It’s still an exciting and breathtaking (though darkly beautiful) look at the last days of Europeans in Cambodia.

X67Q6V__farfrommen_04_o3__8272631__1406819725Far From Men (Loin des homme)

Dir: David Oelhoffen (Based on a story by Albert Camus)

It’s 1954. Daru (Viggo Mortensen) is a school teacher in an isolated village. The map on the wall says France, but this is Algeria and the students are all Algerian. (Algeria was a French colony from the early 19th century, and fully annexed by France in 1948. It regained independence in 1962, after a harsh, protracted war with France.) He is ordered to take the prisoner Mohammed (Reda Kateb) — an accused murderer —  to appear before a French judge in a distant city. He refuses at first, but realizes he’s the only one stopping the ElZ8Dm__farfrommen_01_o3__8272418__1406819722lynch mobs, both pied noir and Algerian, from killing him. He urges him to escape and is angered when he insists on facing French justice. Why would any man willingly give up his freedom? Daru wonders. (Though he was born and raised in Algeria, Daru feels apart from both the French and the Arabs.)

So he agrees to accompany the accused on his journey on foot. they set off on a two-day journey. And on the way they both reveal truths about themselves, their desires and regrets. This movie is a classic study in existentialism set at the dawn of the Algerian War. But it’s also a classic Western. Their trip is filled with posses, soldiers — both French and rebel — horsemen, rifles, cliffs, ridges, deserts, and saloons. Even the background music is by Nick Cave (with Warren Ellis) the Sergio Leone of modern-day oaters. Camus meets the old west? An odd combination. But it works.

Run, Corbo, The Gate, and Far From Men are all playing at TIFF. 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

Daniel Garber talks with Alanis Obomsawin about her new NFB documentary Trick or Treaty? premiering at TIFF14

Posted in Canada, Clash of Cultures, Cultural Mining, documentary, Environmentalism, First Nations, Protest, Resistance by CulturalMining.com on August 30, 2014

Alanis Obomsawin 1 TIFF © Jeff HarrisHi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

In 1905, Treaty No. 9 was signed by representatives of the Canadian government and Cree and Ojibway first nations. Newly elected chiefs draped the Union Jack over their shoulders in a gesture of acceptance. The treaty59597_06 said, on paper, that the people there would cede the land around James Bay, in perpetuity, to the crown in exchange for their protection and well-being. It’s there on paper… but is this what both sides actually agreed to? A new documentary from the National Film Board of Canada says No.

The film is called TRICK OR TREATY? It examines, in depth, the issue of treaty rights, whether the 59597_10Canadian government lives up to its end of the bargain, and whether the treaties themselves were legal documents. It brings the story up-to- date with footage and interviews with the IDLE NO MORE movement, the status of first nations’ women, and other current issues. It’s filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin is the doyenne of documentaries at the NFB who for 40 years has recorded the issues and past and current history of the indigenous peoples in Canada. Trick or Treaty premiers at TIFF14, the Toronto International Film Festival and I reached Alanis Obomsawin by telephone, at NFB headquarters in Montreal. Producer, writer, director and narrator, Alanis talks about treaty rights, Crazy Horse, David Kawapit, Bill C-45, Idle No More, Tina Fontaine, Chief Theresa Spence, and more!

Stars as Commodities. Film Reviewed: The Congress PLUS TIFF14 Whiplash, Mommy, Heartbeat

Posted in Animation, Canada, Cultural Mining, LGBT, Mental Illness, Movies, Pop Art, Quebec, Queer, Science Fiction by CulturalMining.com on August 28, 2014

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.

Are movies and movie stars and their images commodities? Things that can be bought sold and traded, just like stocks and bond, like bitcoins and pork belly futures? In some ways, they are. International film festivals — like TIFF, which opens in Toronto in less than a week — are partly there to put films on the market. This week I’m going to talk about an unusual new film about movie stars as commodities, and, first, three must-see films coming to TIFF.

One movie that jumped out at me and slapped me in the face is

Dir: Damien Chazelle

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a 19-year-old drummer just starting at a prestigious music conservatory who is spotted by Fletcher a music teacher (JK Simmonds). He’s allowed to audition for their award- winning jazz band, and feels everything is turning out great. But he soon discovers that Fletcher is a cruel and twisted perfectionist, who brings his players up to the top, and then has them crash down into the dirt again. He treats them worse than the toughest marine sergeant in Full Metal Jacket. The acting, the passion and the relentless tension in this movie is just incredible… you gotta see it. Don’t want to say Oscar bells are already ringing, but… Whiplash definitely deserves one.


(Dir) Xavier Dolan

Another great movie is Quebecois director Xavier Dolan’s latest, Mommy. It’s a reworking of his first film J’ai Tue Ma Mere, but takes it to a new level. Steve-o (Antoine Olivier-Pilon) is a working-class, foul-mouthed teenager with ADHD. He’s kicked out of boarding school and sent home to his single mom Diane (Anne Dorval) who is as gutter-friendly, violent and sexually charged as her boy. It’s up to Kyla, the psychologically-damaged ex-school teacher next door, to try to fix things and keep Steve from being locked up. Dynamic, shocking and hilarious performances from all three actors, Mommy is not to be missed.

Also catch a gentle, quirky, musical story called

Dir: Andrea Dorfman

Justine (Tanya Davis) is a creative soul trapped in a boring cubicle job in Halifax. Her best friend is in babyland, her artist-boyfriend-with-benefits Ben has dumped her, and she dresses in her late grandma’s wardrobe. But when she starts jamming with Ruby (Stephanie Clattenburg) she met in a music store window, things begin tot look up. Justine starts to Esty-fy her wardrobe and arts-and-crafts her love life. Heartbeat starts slowly but toasts like a marshmallow on a stick, ending strangely shaped, but crispy, gooey, warm and delicious.

Look out for Heartbeat, Whiplash and Mommy at TIFF.
Robin Wright Congress Affiche
The Congress
Dir: Ari Forman

Robin Wright (Robin Wright) is an over-the-hill movie star who just ekes out a living. She lives beside desert airport with her jaded hollywood daughter Sarah and her innocent but ill son Aaron (Kodi Smit-McFee). She needs money to keep him safe. One day her agent (Harveyt Keitel) makes her an offer she can’t refuse.

A studio wants to buy her name, face, image, voice… basically everything, to turn her back  into a superstar. And theyre giving her a huge contract and a starring role in countless big budget action movies. The catch? She’s not allowed to act or appear in public ever again. Huh?

You see, they want to scan her to make a CGI image that will take her place in all 1233023_407824875984836_624904373_ofuture roles. A star who never ages, never gets into scandals, and never has tantrums on-set. It’s all digital.

Will she do it? 20 years in the future, they up the ante.

They invite her to give a speech at a mysterious Congress, where she — like everyone else — exists only as an animated image of herself. Sort of a Second Life only more so. With the help of Dylan (Jon Hamm), a handsome cartoon character 1048616_380428355391155_743806434_owho created her image himself, she tries to escape from this strange psychedelic cartoon version of her world, and maybe save her now-adult son.

This is a super-bizarre movie, filled with glorious animation modeled on Max Fleischer-type characters from the 1920s and 30s mixed with 1960s psychedelia. At parts I’m totally into it, but other parts have dismally awful lines. Its flawed, not perfect, but worth seeing if your into mind-stretching and super-weird fantasy epics.

The Congress opens today, check your local listings, and Heartbeat, Mommy, and Whiplash are all playing at TIFF which starts up next Thursday. Details at tiff.net.

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

Acts of God. Movies reviewed: Into the Storm, Calvary PLUS TIFF Canadian Films

Posted in Action, Adventure, Catholicism, Christianity, Cultural Mining, Death, Disaster, Drama, Ireland, Movies, Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on August 8, 2014

TIFF14 Rising Stars © Jeff Harris Sophie Desmarais, Alexandre LandryHi, 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 names of the Canadian films opening this fall at the Toronto International Film Festival were announced this week, and they look really good. Haven’t seen any yet, but a few caught my eye. From Quebec, there’s a drama about a young man in Montreal who joins the nascent FLQ in the 1960s. It’s called Corbo, directed by TIFF14 CorboMatthieu Denis. Xavier Dolan’s movies are always worth seeing. His fifth one, called, simply, Mommy, revisits the themes of his first film (J’ai tue ma mere) about a mother/son relationship and all its perils. With Anne Dorval back as the mom. And Master filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin is bringing another NFB TIFF14  Alanis Obomsawin, NFB director of Trick or Treatydoc on First Nations issues. This one, Trick or Treaty, covers the battle for treaty rights. There are many other too, including a new one from Cronenberg, a remastered film by Atom Egoyan, and movies from Jean Marc Valee, and Phillipe Felardeau, both starring Reese Witherspoon for some reason. Go to tiff.net for more info.

This week, I’m looking at two movies about The Imp and the Angels Sally de Frehn 1946brave people facing “acts of God”. One’s an American disaster-adventure about the danger brought to a family by unstoppable winds; the other’s an Irish drama about the dangers brought to a priest by an emotional loose cannon.

INTO THE STORM afficheInto the Storm
Dir: Steven Quale

On graduation day in Silverton, a single dad (Richard Armitage) and his two sons, Donnie and Trey (Max Deacon, Nathan Kress), are making a time capsule on video. 25 years from now they’ll look back in wonder — or so they think. Instead, a series of unusually powerful, super – tornadoes strike their town during the graduation ceremony, wreaking havoc in its path. Donnie is trapped with a classmate in an abandoned paper mill on the outskirts of town. (He skipped graduation to help a girl he has a crush on get some footage for her Into the Storm 1environmental film.)

Dad and Trey set out to find them but encounter another group on the way. It’s a team of storm chasers — people who make their living by pursuing tornadoes and capturing it all on video. Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) is a scientist, while Pete (Matt Walsh) is her boss. It’s Pete’s dream to pass through the eye of a tornado and live to tell the tale — and this is the biggest twister he’s ever seen. With the help of his tank-like car (called Titus) he treats the storm as his great white whale.

But when Dad rescues Allison from blowing away – literally! A manly man relying on the brute strength of his handgrip to overcome the tornado and save her from blowing away like a leaf — she decides to help him. They drive off to save his son; she chooses people’s lives over fame and fortune.

Into the Storm 2But can anyone beat this Grandmother of a superstorm? While there are some nice shots of huge objects bring blown away, and some wicked “flame-nadoes”, it wasn’t enough. Where are the sharks?

Terrific special effects don’t excuse the mediocre plot and script, and ho-hum acting. And it’s dripping with Tea Party subtexts: The school principal is an Obama surrogate. A good speech-maker but it’s the Paul Ryan-type Dad who can save the day. It’s also a movie about irregular weather systems that never talks about climate change. But the biggest problem is you can’t have a disaster movie that’s also an adventure flick; the two types are diametrically opposed. Disaster movies are all about sadness and braveness in the face of terrible disaster. Adventure movies are all about fun and excitement. This movie doesn’t know which way to turn. Into The Storm, while diverting, will disappear as fast as a tornado.

Wri/Dir: John Michael McDonagh

Father James (Brendan Gleeson) is a priest in a small, isolated village in Ireland. A husky bearded man in his 60s, he still wears the traditional black cassock. He’s attended by a novice priest and a Machievellian altar boy who steals bottles of sacramental wine. The movie begins in confession where a disembodied man’s voice says he was savagely raped as a child – repeatedly, over many years – by a priest. That priest is now dead, but the man declares he will kill this good priest, Father James, in his stead. And he tells him he has one week to make peace with the world, and to show up next Sunday on the beach outside town to die. Quelle Calvaire!

From there the movie follows Father James as he visits his parishioners to make amends, offer forgiveness, and maybe discover who plans to kill him. But the people’s problems are not what might be expected in small-town Ireland. There’s a woman who cheats on her husband (Chris O’Dowd) with a Senegalese mechanic. The local policeman is gay, the priest’s novice is a toady, a local lad says he wants to join the army so he can murder people, and the arrogant local millionaire tosses his money around like toilet paper.62997-Calvary_013

Father James also has a beautiful grown daughter. (Not what you think – he joined the priesthood after his wife died.) They were estranged can they get along again? Everyone knows he’s a good man, but not many of them still carries the faith like he does. He’s a combination social worker, therapist, enforcer and drinking buddy, and, well, priest. Surrounded by such unrelenting cynicism, he’s beginning to question it all, too. Does he have the strength to face his upcoming Calvary?

This is a very good movie from Ireland. It has a large cast, but each character, each part seems perfectly played. Visually, it’s fantastic, with huge, aerial shots of mammoth, grass-covered rocky plateaus and beaches. And jarring images, like a discussion inside the grocer’s freezer played against an oddly beautiful background of cow carcasses. Father James is a tough, Jesus-y character facing a troubling fate even as he tries to do good and forgive the worst sins of others. Calvary challenges our perceptions of traditional Irish life and the role of the Catholic Church there — warts and all.

Into the Storm and Calvary both open 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

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