Monday, November 30, 2009

Hanukkah December Projections

December Listings

Bytowne Cinema
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog, 2009) 4/12 - 10/12.

The Mayfair Theatre
Bad Lieutenant (Abel Ferrara, 1992) 4/12 & 6/12.
The Inglorious Bastards (Enzo G. Castellari, 1978) 11/12 - 12/12 & 16/12 - 17/12.
Scrooged (Richard Donner, 1988) 19/12 - 20/12.
Man from Deep River (Umberto Lenzi, 1972) 26/12.

Cinéma du Parc
The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942) 2/12 - 3/12.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recommended Reading: Tom McSorley on The Adjuster

Clearing Up the Adjuster
By David Davidson

Atom Egoyan's: The Adjuster By Tom McSorley, 128 pp.,University of Toronto Press, $16.95.

Tom McSorley’s new book is a revealing examination of Atom Egoyan’s fourth feature The Adjuster (1991). McSorley describes The Adjuster as “a dark drama about the complex and intense relationships between an insurance adjuster and his clients”. As the executive director of the Canadian Film Institute in Ottawa, Tom McSorley ,in the last couple of years, has helped program screenings at the Library and Archives Canada of Atom Egoyan’s first and latest feature: Next of Kin (1984), and Adoration (2008). The Canadian Cinema series, published by the University of Toronto Press, goal is to “bring scholarly reflection on Canadian cinematic tradition and contemporary Canadian film”.

McSorley’s monograph on The Adjuster begins with a short history of Canadian cinema. The turning point is 1982 with the Capital Cost Allowance (CCA). This lead to the post-tax shelter generation of Canadian filmmakers who would spearhead a creative resurgence in national film. The Toronto Festival of Festivals - now more commonly known as the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) - emphasis on Canadian content (e.g., “The Northern Light”, “Perspective Canada”) was a launch pad for the Toronto New Wave filmmakers emerging work, with Atom Egoyan at the frontline. McSorley thematically connects The Adjuster with Egoyan’s first three films Next of Kin, Family Viewing (1987) and Speaking Parts (1989) emphasizing the formers continuity, its Cinemascope widescreen, and growing international attention. The analysis of the film is illuminating. Specifically its examination of the fire motif, Michelangelo Antonioni’s influence, the absurdist tradition, and finally pinpointing what exactly is the integral aspect of The Adjuster viewing experience. The quality of not knowing.

Tom McSorley’s monograph on The Adjuster came out in early September and feels really fresh with its references to Adoration that was just released this year. The book launch at the 2009 TIFF, programming of The Adjuster as part of the festivals “Open Vault” retrospective, and an upcoming film Chloe emphasize Atom Egoyan strong oeuvre that has consistently been getting more international attention and quality appraisals. If you have not yet seen The Adjuster, it is well worth seeing. If you want to better appreciate it and understand its role in the context of Canadian cinema, read this book.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Modern French Cinema

Un Prophète (Jacques Audiard, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)

Jacques Audiard's Un Prophète story follows 19-year-old Malik El Djebena in prison as he cunningly works his way up through the hierarchy of a Corsican crime syndicate. Audiard claims that the film aims at "creating icons, images for people who don't have images, the Arabs in France", and he does so in a gripping prison-crime-thriller. Comparing it to other recent foreign language thrillers examining the relationship between crime and business; Slumdog Millionaire (2008)and Gomorra (2008), it stands out by being more visually inovative and stylish. The length allows for a greater examination of the multifaceted issues while avoiding easy simplifcations.-David Davidson

(Canadian Film Institute, Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street, 28/11, 7:00PM)

Splendid Melancholy

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)

Wes Anderson's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox, co-written with Noah Baumbach, is a splendid and wistful yarn. Mr. Fox and Mrs. Fox unhappy marriage, with their child Ash, an annoying runt, is the catalyst for Mr. Fox's mid-life crisis. He buys a new house; that he can not afford, is unhappy as a journalist, and regresses back to an instinctual bestiality and theft. The marriage between the Foxes is underlined with regret, and their son Ash is always being devalued. The animation is well done and there is a lot of attention given to small details (e.g., decorated apples, Mrs. Fox thunderstorm landscapes etc.), but I feel that George Clooney as the voice of Mr. Fox is a terrible miscast. That guy really irks me.-David Davidson

(World Exchange Plaza, Empire 7 Cinema, 111 Albert Street)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Angry and Provoking

The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972)
**** (Masterpiece)

(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 20/11)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

On Smash Cut

A butchered "300 word" version of this capsule was published in the Volume 70, Issue 14 of the University of Ottawa student paper the Fulcrum. They were even able to cut out any mention of Sasha Grey, one of the prized eye candy of the film. However, I am happy Smash Cut is getting a lot of recognition, especially best 2009 film by a local filmmaker in the Ottawa Expres.-D.D.

Smash Cut (Lee Demarbre, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)

Lee Demarbre’s Smash Cut, from a screenplay by Ian Driscoll, is an entertaining Ottawa gore film which just had its world premiere Saturday July 18th in Montreal at the Fantasia Film Festival. Both dark and jovial, the plot follows a local filmmaker Able Whitman (David Hess), acting as a surrogate for Lee Demarbre, and its concerns are the inconveniences and compromise that filmmakers creating a collaborative art have to deal with.

The film starts off with Herschell Gordon Lewis, a low-budget gore filmmaker who spawned the genre in the 1960s, warning the viewers “that filmmaking is a blood sport” and that the content of the film is sure to shock. Herschell Gordon Lewis films Blood Feast (1963), Color Me Blood Red (1965), and The Gore Gore Girls (1972) were some direct influences on the film . His films were filled with gruesome murders, evisceration, and half-clad women victims. Blood Feast starred Connie Mason, from the centerfold of playboy magazine, which is now being paralleled with Sasha Grey who comes from the adult entertainment industry. But his style was invisible, with very little camera movement and a texture that resembled b-exploitation-movies of the era, unprofessional acting, implausible shlock stories, always bright lighting which consisted of a bursting comic-book color palette with flashy hues of blue, red, pink and orange, and moods which were more fun than morbid.

Smash Cut's camera work, by the cinematographers Jean-Denis Ménard and Karl Roeder, is intensely modern, it was shot on a high resolution RED digital camera, with steady cam shots bringing you into the action, close-ups on the dismantlement’s, intricate long shots as well as a mixing up of medias including shots from the perspective of the cameras view-finder, and a short interposition of a monochromatic silent film. The original music, and sound mixing, by Micheal Dubue creates a mood of eeriness and suspence. One scene that stays in mind occurs when the camera follows Able Whitman from his car arriving at the Bytowne Cinema on Rideau Street, past the posters, one of The Dead Sleep Easy (Lee Demarbre, 2007), up the marquee, through a window, and into the projection booth.

Smash cut begins with Abel Whitman presenting his lastest picture, the audience pans the film, denounces its artificiality of a detached eye-ball. For his next picture, Abel, will remove the eyes of a victim with a medical knife, in a sequence that is even more nauseating then the eye slicing in Un Chien Andalou. Then he goes to a bar and drinks his problems away, gets a dance from a stripper named Gigi (Jennilee Murray), and then leaves with her. Driving home, she surprises him by returning her regular fee, but an unsuspecting incoming automobile sidetracks him off of the street where he hits a tree. She dies. The accidental murder of the women, a fleeting career, and frustration towards an audience that is not receptive to his work brings him to a nervous breakdown. What unfolds is a murderous escapade; he has now an insatiable desire to murder and to use the corpses in his film. As precocious as the Nietzscheans in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948). The body parts make everything, well the gore at least, in his new film of a murdering toy all the more realistic and believable, allowing him to get more grants, a major distribution, which pleased his producer Philip Farmsworth Jr. (Michael Berryman), and awe from his peers.

One unnoted dept Smash Cut might owe would be too Warren Beatty’s Bulworth (1998). Abel Whitman’s nervous breakdown and then ravage lunacy parallels the plight of Sen. Jay Billington Bulworth where after realizing his vanishing presence as a political candidate he decides put a contract out on himself and then starts to blurt out truth’s denouncing the system hypocrisies. With every prod to the current political organization, the more powerful his following becomes. Which is similar to the aggrandizing of Abel as his film is consecutively improving.

The only potential problem the film poses is it lack of a message. What does this film have to say about the world we live in? Able Whitman while in a room preparing to get government funds is asked by an artist what kind of film is he making, her answer was that she will be using the money to decry the passivity that arise from televisions, and then he tells her his film will be a sojourn in the macabre, then knocks her out, slowly tortures her, depletes her blood into a canister and finally lashes it onto the star of his new film April Carson (Sasha Grey). April is Gigi’s sister, the murdered stripper, who is on a editorial pursuit, along with a investigator Isaac Beaumonde (Jesse Buck), to relocate her.

Ian Driscoll script has Shakespearian touches, in particular Hamlet which Abel Whitman comments as being as precursor horror film. The investigator Isaac eventually catches on to what Abel has been doing and puts on a a re-enactment of Abel Whitmans murder of the movie critic Gretchen Gregorski (Guen Douglas) paralleling the same device Hamlet uses on Claudius, though comically done with paper masks and a pretend stabbing with a knife that never makes contact.

Many simple pleasures that arise from the film are the locations and people, starting off with the Car Wash on Catherine Street, the repertoire cinema’s Bytowne and the Mayfair, the National Art Gallery of Canada setting, and alongside the Rideau Canal. This viewer’s only problem arose when Abel Whitman decides to murder one of the film’s producers with a Harpoon, he is asked where he got the Harpoon, and before plummeting him with it, he answers at the Harpoon store. For as this lifetime Ottawa, Ontario, resident knows there are no Harpoon stores here! As well there are a few cameos of a few friends that would have no other opportunity to be immortalities on film including Layla Brown, Lesley Marsland (both from the Bytowne Cinema) and Michael Dubue (In the band the Hilotrons, and Mayfair Theatre) as well as a few Ottawa Famous figures including Guen Douglas (Planet Ink Studios), Jennilee Murray and Phil Caracas (The Harry Knuckles trilogy, and Bytowne Cinema).

The communal midnight screening experience was very lively. Including a waiting line that went around the corner, a practically packed house at the Théâtre Hall at Concordia (1455 de Maisonneuve O.), loud cheers, burst of laughter, comments, and a receptive question and answer period. With popcorn, and soda everyone was in the mood for a good time. The Q & A session afterwards was very enlightening with Lee Demarbre, Ian Driscoll, Sasha Grey and David Hess. Lee Demarbre was his usual enthusiastic self, Sasha Grey, who is 21 years old, (her next film is Steven Soderbergh The Girlfriend Experience) seemed rather reserved when she was not speaking, and finally the Sanford Meisner protégé and acting veteran, David Hess (The Last Hill on the Left) seems to exert both levity and the knowledge of old age. All cohorts played off of each other like a perfect pitch tune.

During the Q & A session, David Hess contextualized the midnight movie phenomenon. He commented on how back then, New York City in the 1960’s, nobody knew who was directing the pictures. When an audience would go to see a midnight movie, their usual routine for the night would involve getting high off marijuana and then watch a lurid seedy picture. The director of the picture remained unanimous, and even though he knew personally Hershell Gordon Levis, he commented on how he still had to be re-introduced to him later through his films.

The conditions were both open and social as Lee Demarbre seemed to be an incarnation of what it means to be a film enthusiast for the people of Ottawa (Full disclosure: I am an avid enjoyer of Lee Demarbre films and with Rachel Leblanc I have made a short documentary on him, you can find it if you youtube; cult fiction lee demarbre). His flamboyant repertoire programming at the Mayfair Theatre (1074 Bank Street) got many local residents to make the pilgrimage to go see the world premiere of Smash Cut in Montreal. When the questions started, some of them were from extras from the movie, others thanking him for the great movies playing at the cinema and wannabe screenwriters asking him for advice. Make sure to go see this one when it gets its local release because this film is well worth checking out.-David Davidson

(The Mayfair Theatre, 1074 Bank Street, 20/11)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Montreal Experimental Cinema

Alchemical Illumination (Double Negative Collective, 2004-2009)
*** (A Must-See)

The Double Negative Collective has been a fluctuating group of experimental filmmakers who reside in Montreal. Scott Birdwise the programmer at the CFI organized another Café eX event of experimental cinema which was a unique experience and produced a particular state of mind in a community setting.

The collective works were very strong but I want to single out one candidate whose work had the most gloss and polish. A remarkable sight and sound virtuoso Daïchi Saïto's two of his seven short films played. They were dazzling symposiums of images and noises and their pacing left one out of breath. All That Rises (2007) a seven minute film juxtaposing footage from an alleyway with a black screen focuses on what is shown and consequently with what isn't. The manufactured and urban setting of the latter is a contrast to Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis (2009). An evolved ten minute work in a tranquil forest setting the film is both a return to nature and a colorful painting of light. With Malcolm Goldstein contrapuntal score these works were very compelling. Through Daïchi's collisions of images and rapid-fire editing these two screenings provided visceral pleasures similarly associated with other long-take deconstructionist such as Guy Maddin and Sergei Eisenstein.-David Davidson

(Club SAW, Café eX, 67 Nicholas Street, November 5th)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

DVD Watching November Confinement

November Listings

The Mayfair Theatre
Smash Cut (Lee Demarbre, 2009) 20/11.
The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972) 20/11.
The Polar Express (Robert Zemeckis, 2004) 28/11.
Double Agent 73 (Doris Wishman, 1974) 28/11.

Canadian Film Institute
Un prophète (Jacques Audiard, 2009) 28/11.