The Festival du nouveau cinéma continues through Oct. 15. Here are our reviews of films playing over the next few days:
Noel Mitrani’s Après coup has a fairly banal slugline: it’s about a man (Laurent Lucas) who becomes greatly disturbed after witnessing the accidental death of his daughter’s friend. That’s a premise that could go a lot of ways: some heart-wrenching, some nihilistic, most of them pretty dark. I have to say that I could not have predicted that the film was instead going to take me through a solid hour of therapeutic new-age mumbo-jumbo designed, it seems, to promote a particularly off-the-wall brand of therapy that helps disturbed, grieving individuals enter into contact with the dead to get closure.
There are hints early on: Lucas’s character is fervently anti-medicine, even refusing aspirin for an aching back. He’s a job counsellor, which means he inherently trusts counsellors of all stripes. But nothing can truly laid the groundwork for the 45-minute chunk of the movie that is spent watching dull, repetitive therapy scenes that finally lead to the film bandying about this IADC therapy.
It feels like Mitrani is somehow conning us into watching a sales pitch for rejuvenating crystals or some shit, deliberately glossing over the actual disturbing event (which plays on-screen like something from an after-school special) to focus on this dubious (and even more dubiously presented) therapy. Everything falls away: the characters, the grief, any and all relationships. It all becomes about this miraculous form of inexplicable therapy that the film shrouds in mystery (even though the therapist himself assures Lucas that it has nothing to do with mysticism).
If there is indeed some sort of therapy that can put us in contact with the dead, then there is certainly an interesting film that can be made from it. But it won’t be this dull, manipulative and – frankly – enraging stealth infomercial. (Alex Rose)
Après coup screens at Quartier Latin (350 Emery) today, Oct. 12,1 p.m.
Losing Harry Dean Stanton is only ever-so-slightly cushioned by the poetry of his last feature-film performance as the titular Lucky. In the film, he plays a 90-year-old who has a brush with death and is confronted with a deep spiritual crisis where he questions the meaning of life. A simple and poetic film, above all else, Lucky is an ode to Stanton’s talents and a sweet send-off to one of American cinema’s greatest icons.
The film’s bittersweet effect is largely tied to the fact that the line between Lucky and the real Stanton is blurred. In crafting the film, much of who Lucky is is drawn from Stanton’s own quirks, from his impossible chain-smoking to his reputation as a loner betraying a sensitive heart. Director John Carroll Lynch peels away nearly all pretense and lets the movie be about Stanton himself, which is why it has been rightfully pinned as one of the year’s must-see-films. There are so few actors who could command a film this absolutely, it almost makes you yearn for an alternative universe where Stanton was able to achieve some kind of long-term leading man status.
Lucky is not a show-stopper and it does not take any great risks, but it is an effective portrait of aging and facing mortality. It has endearing quirks, including a supporting performance by David Lynch as Lucky’s best friend, who is faced with his own spiritual crisis: his pet tortoise ran away. The movie does not aspire to be groundbreaking or boundary-pushing and that’s not a bad thing. It is a precise and illuminating portrait of living your best life because, in the end, we all die. (Justine Smith)
Lucky screens at Quartier Latin (350 Emery) on Saturday, Oct. 14, 5:30 p.m.
Though Quebec genre films are more common than they once were, they do still feel somewhat novel. Robin Aubert’s Les affamés is a zombie movie, but not exactly a self-reflexive or self-aware, post-Shaun of the Dead one. It exists very much in the heightened world of Aubert’s work, cognizant of the rules of the genre without ever really tipping the hat.
Les affamés follows a handful of survivors – including a wisecracking farmer played by Marc-André Grondin, a traumatised visitor played by Monia Chokri and a young girl played by Charlotte St-Martin – as they attempt to stave off the inevitable zombie apocalypse in small-town Quebec.
Aubert’s approach is moody and still, whipping out the gore sparingly and the dialogue even less frequently. It’s bleakly funny at times but mostly despairing in its approach, suggesting that the zombie apocalypse is a way for the Earth to finally rid itself of the cancer we call humanity. Aubert does prove to be adept at carnage, delivering a zombie film that has nothing to envy of the best horror films of the last decade. (For zombie purists, these are “fast” zombies – but they’re also never clearly defined as zombies.) It’s, believe it or not, the lightest of Aubert’s films – which suits him just fine. (AR)
Les affamés screens at Cinéma Impérial (1430 Bleury) today, Oct 12, 8 p.m.
Call Me By Your Name
Is it possible to be moved by a story without actually being moved by its telling? I think Call Me By Your Name tells a moving and profoundly human story, even if the movie itself doesn’t strike me as particularly moving.
Luca Guadagnino directs this tale of young love set in Northern Italy in the ’80s. Elio is the 17-year-old son of an American academic (Michael Stuhlbarg) and his Italian wife (Amira Casar). They spend their summers in a villa that has been in the family for centuries, and each year, Elio’s father hosts a grad student to help him with his research. Elio is immediately smitten with Oliver (Armie Hammer), a handsome and gregarious American who immediately takes a shine to the boy. Their feelings for each other eventually come out in a passionate but secretive way — but only one of them knows that whatever they have won’t last.
Guadagnino brings plenty of charm and beauty to this story, but that’s kind of the problem. For how well observed and ostensibly moving the film is, it has a polite, placid airlessness that consistently keeps the film’s emotions below a simmer. (It’s more Rohmer than Visconti, nevertheless.) It’s by design, I think — halting, silenced emotions inside and out — but it keeps the viewer at arm’s length, forced to watch a beautifully mounted, stunningly acted bauble from a distance.
It’s telling that the film was written and produced by James Ivory (of Merchant-Ivory fame); Call Me By Your Name has the same museum-y quality to its storytelling as even the most acclaimed Merchant-Ivory productions. It’s a beautiful movie that I found easy to admire, but more difficult to love. (AR)
Call Me By Your Name screens at Quartier Latin (350 Emery) on Friday, Oct. 13, 6:45 p.m. and again on Sunday, Oct. 15, 3:30 p.m.
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos’s films have always been, if not exactly comedic, imbued with a dark absurdity that made their seriously fucked-up worldview easier to swallow. Lanthimos now moves into full despairing Haneke territory with the profoundly disturbing and extremely effective The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Though predicated on a similarly fable-like premise, it proves to be much closer to a straight-up horror film.
Colin Farrell stars as a successful surgeon who has become friendly with the son (Barry Keoghan) of a patient who died on the operating table. As their relationship grows, the boy’s twisted motivations become clearer, roping in the surgeon’s wife (Nicole Kidman) and children in a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t raising of the stakes that has no real positive outcome.
It’s difficult to talk about the film without revealing details — Lanthimos peels back the layers of the onion slowly and methodically, keeping the film’s antiseptic and oppressive atmosphere at a fever pitch throughout. It’s an unbelievably fucked-up movie even when it’s not explicit (don’t worry — it gets there and then some), which places it snugly within Lanthimos’s oeuvre no matter what you may feel about its hopelessness. (AR) ■
The Killing of a Sacred Deer screens at Imperial (1430 Bleury) on Sunday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m.