Sunday, September 11, 2011

3 Canadian Films at TIFF 2011 - Capsule Reviews of the New Maddin, Veninger and Cronenberg



Keyhole (2011) dir. Guy Maddin

Starring: Jason Patric, Isabella Rossellini, Louis Negin, Udo Kier

RATING: (out of ****) ****

By Greg Klymkiw

Blending Warner Brothers gangster styling of the 30s, film noir of the 40s and 50s, Greek tragedy, Sirk-like melodrama and odd dapplings of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame and Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit, Keyhole is, like all of Guy Maddin’s work, best designed to experience as a dream on film. Closer to the likes of Terence Davies than most will acknowledge, Maddin is one of the few living filmmakers who understands the poetic properties of cinema, and this, frankly, is to be cherished. The elements concocted by mad genius George E. Toles allow for full experiential mind-fucking and involve gangster Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric), who drags his kids (one dead, but miraculously sprung to life, the other seemingly alive, but not remembered by his Dad) into a haunted house surrounded by guns-a-blazing. Populated with a variety of toughs and babes, Ulysses is faced with ghosts of the living and dead variety. These include his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini), her frequently nude father (the brilliant Louis Negin – perhaps one of the world’s greatest living character actors, who frankly should be cast in every movie ever made), chained to his bed, uttering the richly ripe Toles dialogue and Udo Kier (the greatest fucking actor in the world), whose appearance in this movie is so inspired I’ll let you discover for yourself the greatness of both the role and Udo himself. Beneath the surface of its mad inspiration lurks a melancholy and thematic richness. Strongly evoking that sense of how our lives are inextricably linked to so many places (or a place) and how they in turn are populated with things – inanimate objects that become more animate once we project our memories upon them – or how said places inspire reminiscence of said objects which, in turn, inspire further memories, Keyhole is as profound and sad as it’s a perversely funny and crazed laugh riot. The overwhelming theme of place and the spirit of all those THINGS that live and breathe in our minds has seldom been approached in the movies – and, for my money – NO MORE POIGNANTLY AND BRILLIANTLY than rendered by Maddin, Toles and their visionary young producer Jody Shapiro.



i am a good person/i am a bad person
(2011) dir. Ingrid Veninger

Starring: Ingrid Veninger, Hallie Switzer

RATING (out of ****) ***1/2

By Greg Klymkiw

Ingrid Veninger might well be cinema’s only living equivalent to a whirling dervish. Like a dervish, she honours her Creator (cinema), her prophets (John Cassavetes, Mike Leigh and others of a very noble tradition), then whips her imaginary concoctions into a frenzy – literally living and breathing cinema – producing work from within herself, her devotion and life in all its joy and sadness. The movie marketplace is replete with father-son pictures, but mother-daughter relationships – in terms of numbers and quality – pale in comparison. This is a film that contributes admirably to this relatively rare tradition. While on the film festival circuit last year for her hit film Modra, Veninger's dervish whirled out a script about a filmmaker taking a trip to Europe to present her film on an identical tour. She cast herself as the filmmaker Ruby, and her own real-life daughter, talented young actress Hallie Switzer as daughter Sara. Ruby is a loveable scatterbrain. Her film is a crazed, seemingly political avant-garde celebration of – ahem – the penis. Sara is decidedly serious – in general, but especially on this trip – and Mom’s carefree spirit is driving her up the wall. Mom, not totally oblivious to this, is still intent on having a good time. While in the UK, it’s eventually decided that Sara will go to Paris on her own to visit with relatives and Ruby will forge on to a screening at the Arsenal Cinema in Berlin. As mother and daughter each face personal challenges, it also becomes glaringly apparent how much they need and love each other. i am a good person/i am a bad person is full of humour – gentle bits of human comedy and (surprisingly) full-on Bridesmaids-style blowjob and scatological knee-slappers. This doesn’t temper any of the sentiment or emotion, but in fact, enhances it. And unlike Bridesmaids, i am a good person/i am a bad person NEVER overstays its welcome. The picture is taut, trim, hypnotic and passionate. Kind of like a whirling dervish.



A Dangerous Method (2011) dir. David Cronenberg

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen

RATING (out of ****) *

By Greg Klymkiw

When David Cronenberg is good, he is very, very good. When he is bad, he’s cerebral. A Dangerous Method is dour, dull and decidedly humourless, though the first few minutes do suggest we’re in for a hootenanny of the highest order. The score, oozing with portent over a twitching, howling, clearly bonkers Keira Knightley, thrashing about in a horse-drawn carriage as it hurtles towards Carl Jung’s Swiss nuthouse, initially suggested a belly flop into the maw first pried open by such Cold War wacko-fests like The Snake Pit or Shock Corridor. Alas, Cronenberg seems to have abandoned his pulp sensibilities and instead delivers a Masterpiece Theatre-styled period chamber drama with Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) jousting with his mentor-rival Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) betwixt spanking sessions Keira Knightley, a daft want-to-be-psychiatrist with Daddy issues. Sadly, no proper views of open palms connecting with buttocks or slap imprints on said buttocks are afforded to us.

"Keyhole", "i am a good person/i am a bad person" and "A Dangerous Method" were showcased during TIFF 2011 and will open theatrically."






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