Franjo Dijak in Goran
The following films are screening as part of the Fantasia Film Festival, which ends tonight.
The Croatian film Goran contains some gorgeous landscape cinematography and is one of the most beautiful digital films shot to date. The stark beauty of the Croatian winter is made all the more attractive by the humidity in Montreal these days. It has a slow and deliberate build that pays off in spades, combining black comedy with graphic violence. It also showcases a phenomenal performance by Franjo Dijak, who captivates the viewer with his deeply moving and often silent performance as the title character.
Goran is an unsuccessful taxi driver with a beautiful blind wife, Lina, but there is palpable tension in their marriage. He seems to prefer spending his time building a sauna, drinking and watching videos with his buddy Slavko. His patriarchal father-in-law, Luka, clearly doesn’t think much of him, and focuses his attention instead on Lina and his estranged son Nico. When Nico returns home to visit Lina, with a friend named Dragan, a family dinner ensues. The subtext of the dinner reveals why Nico has become estranged, and when Lina announces her pregnancy, Goran’s world spirals out of control. His emotional rollercoaster — it is immediately clear that the child cannot be his — is laid bare upon the screen. The organization and execution of a surprise birthday party for Goran brings the tensions between him, his friends, as well as Nico and his father, to breaking points.
The film is artfully shot, with a nuanced vision. While some elements are predictable, others are utterly shocking. The depths of emotion effortlessly displayed by Dijak are captivating and heartbreaking. His is a face you won’t soon forget. (Katie Ferrar and Mark Carpenter)
Goran screens at the J.A. de Sève Cinema (1400 de Maisonneuve W.) today, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 1 p.m.
Mel Gibson makes the most convincing argument for his return to the silver screen yet with the grotty old-man thriller Blood Father, a pulpy bit of B-movie action that certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel but comes close to reinventing Gibson. It’s a redemption arc by way of an ’80s Charles Bronson movie, with an aged and tired-looking Gibson giving it his all in a character that feels uncomfortably close to home.
John Link (Gibson) has spent the majority of his life fucking up, chasing the bottom of the bottle and hanging around with unsavoury white-power and biker types. Sober for the first time after his last stint in prison, he attempts to walk the straight-and-narrow, which proves to be excessively difficult when his estranged daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) comes careening out of the woodwork with the blood of her drug-dealer boyfriend (Diego Luna) on her hands and his psychotic goons on her trace.
Link is a far cry from the crafty, steely badasses usually played by Neeson or Cage in films of this caliber; he’s violent, racist and not particularly clever, more prone to using rage than smarts to get out of any predicament. He’s a fundamentally unlikeable character, and that’s what elevates Blood Father a cut above most — Gibson is eerily believable (and 100 per cent committed) in the role. As far as the rest of the film goes, it’s serviceably punchy drive-in fare — short, effective, to the point. (Alex Rose)
Blood Father screens at the Alumni Theatre (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) tonight, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 7:20 p.m. It hits theatres on Aug. 12.
Fede Alvarez broke out with the kind of gig most first-time feature directors don’t even dare dream of: the Evil Dead remake/reboot. He managed to do a pretty good job at it, too, and now his sophomore feature Don’t Breathe proves that this was no fluke. Turning the home-invasion genre on its head, Alvarez delivers a slick, violent thriller that’s as fun as it is fucked up (sometimes simultaneously).
Rocky (Jane Levy), her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto, from It Follows) and perennial third wheel Alex (Dylan Minnette) are small-time burglars who use Alex’s father’s security-system company to case potential jobs. When they discover that an apparently feeble, blind war veteran (Stephen Lang) is sitting on a sizeable six-figure sum in his deserted Detroit neighborhood, they decide to move their criminal activities into the big leagues. But, as tends to happen in these situations, they find themselves coming up against a much bigger, much badder foe than they ever expected.
Alvarez breaks away from the heavily codified home-invasion genre to deliver something that sits in the Venn diagram between Green Room, The Last House on the Left and Wait Until Dark. It’s unapologetically nasty and ambiguous in its allegiances, toying with our expectations constantly in a way that may not exactly be novel, but certainly effective. Great performances and slick camerawork (including a significant chunk of the film that unfolds in night-vision mode) make this one of the most effective “mainstream” horror films of the year.
Tonight’s screening of Don’t Breathe is sold out. The film will hit theatres on Aug. 26.
Fantasia tickets can be purchased at Concordia’s Hall building (1455 de Maisonneuve W.) for $11 each, or online ($12 each), here.