Wednesday, November 3, 2010

MDFF Reviews (Green Crayons, Woman Waiting)

“In my opinion, there aren’t big or small subjects [for film], because the smaller the subject is, the more we can treat them with grandeur. In truth, there is only truth.” – Claude Chabrol

Kazik Radwanski’s Green Crayons is the captivating story of two elementary school children, an Indian Canadian kid Xavier (Raj Manav) and his Caucasian friend Liam (Kaiden Wiliams), who have to deal with the consequences of spitting on each other in class. At first glance the story appears sweet as the two children are in a classroom; in the background there is one of those inspirational posters that says “Be Generous” and they are browsing through books with cute titles like “Dog” and “Big Cats”. It unexpectedly takes a turn towards an impromptu spiting battle between the two until this catches the attention of the teacher who only sees Liam spitting and sends him to the principal’s office. The rest of the ten-minute short film deals with Liam's shame due to that the principal is going to have to call his parents and Xavier’s guilt of getting his friend in trouble. The green crayon of the title refers to the Crayola writing instrument used by Liam to fill in the third square on his notebook, which means that the principal will have to call his parents. He is asked to fill in the square several times before he does so reluctantly. The grandeur of how this scene is treated reaffirms the above Claude Chabrol quote and has the intensity of the young Jean-Pierre Léaud police interrogation in Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959). The films emotional core comes from Xavier realization that he should look out for his friend. During recess, Xavier plays slapsies with this girl in the playground. He twists her arm, and slaps her in the face. You can tell there is something else eating him up. He spies through the crack of the door at the principal office to see how Liam is doing. Back in class, he rubs Cheez Whiz all over his face as a ploy to go to the washroom. On the way back in the hallway he looks at his notebook and only sees the one green square on it and afterwards he walks up to the main office door. His friend pulls him away. And when he fesses up to his teacher, her verdict is to give them both green squares; “I don’t want to give you a green square, how does that make you feel?” she says. There is no resolution, it ends with each student being more divided and a worst situation then they started. Similar to the mute elementary school children who at such a young age can define atrocities in Michael Haneke’s Code inconnu (2000), the problem facing the kids in Green Crayons is not intrinsic within the children but with the teachers and principals, especially their method of regulating the children’s behavior through a three-strikes-and-your-out approach to anti-social behavior and a one-sided approach to communication. Who knows what is next for these two little boys, outside there is a birch tree with its green leaves blowing in the wind.

Kazik Radwanski is the writer and director of four short films: Green Crayons (2010), Out in That Deep Blue Sea (2009), Princess Margaret Blvd. (2008), and Assault (2007). Film critic Jason Anderson in the Toronto star wrote “[Kazik Radwanski is] one of the most exciting local filmmakers yet to make a feature…”.
Antoine Bourges’ Woman Waiting is the story of a middle age woman, Jane (Carmen Casanova), who is searching for assisted housing in Vancouver, British Columbia in the month of January 2010. During the day she runs into many complications but what is truly generous of the storytelling are the few moments of well-deserved relief and humanity. Jane gets to relax with a coffee, a nice gym receptionist gets her a free one-week membership, and she runs into a friendly woman in a buildings waiting room. Woman Waiting is Beckettian fable that hawks back to Waiting for Godot as the new apartment is always beyond Jane’s grasp and the absurdist touches like toenail clipping episode, desolate grey apartment, and the distinct looking actors further emphasize the films strangeness. There is something about Jane that is similar to Orn (Jenjira Jansuda), the old woman in Apitchatpong’s Blissfully Yours (2002), as the two women are old, express loss and frailty through their physical appearance and dress, and both movies showcases them in fat two-piece bathing suits while swimming. The cinematography by William Fritzberg frames the actors to best showoff their individual characteristics and the swimming pool scenes gleam as a place of solace. It is no surprise I saw Antoine during TIFF 2010 leaving a Kelly Reichardt Maverick Series as Woman Waiting closest antecedent is Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy (2008) as they are both about marginal women, grim social realities, and a constant feeling of displacement.

Antoine Bourges’ is the writer and director of two short films: Woman Waiting (2010), and Hello Goodbye (2008).

The company Medium Density Fibreboard Films (MDFF) was founded in 2007 by the producer Daniel Montgomery and the director Kazik Radwanski;

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