Our Screen Team weighs in on films screening as part of Festival du nouveau cinéma, which run through to October 15th.
Gabriel and the Mountain
Fellipe Barbosa’s second feature has a rather daring hook: it’s about a man who dies alone on a mountain in Africa (the discovery of his body is the very first scene), it’s based on a true story and everyone but the dead man plays themselves. Barbosa’s film doesn’t so much play like one of those tricksy meditations on real vs. fake storytelling (case in point: I did not actually realise that the majority of the characters were played by non-professionals until the credits) but stands on its own as a prickly homage to a young man who wanted to do good, even if he wasn’t quite sure what good should look like. (Barbosa was actually friends with Gabriel as a child and teenager.)
Gabriel wants for all the world to be accepted by the locals as one of them, even if he knows fundamentally that he will always stand out. Like all of us, he resents being seen as a tourist but he also knows he always will be. That performative aspect of Gabriel’s personality is the richest aspect of a compelling – if sometimes overlong – film. Barbosa has brought such care and research to retracing Gabriel’s steps that he has also chosen to include sequences that aren’t necessarily as relevant to the core story, which weighs down the film some in the long run. Regardless, Gabriel and the Mountain is a compelling and even touching eulogy for Barbosa’s old school pal.
Gabriel and the Mountain screens Friday, Oct. 6th at 6:30 p.m. at Cinéma du Parc and again on Tuesday, Oct. 10th at 2:40 p.m. at Cinéma du Parc.
In the Fade
Diane Kruger is the whole show in this chilly Euro-thriller variation on the kinds of revenge movies currently favoured by ageing action stars. She plays Katja, a German woman who loses her husband and young son in an explosion that appears to have been racially motivated (her husband was Turkish). As it becomes clearer that the attack was a random one put forth by a young couple of neo-Nazis, she sinks deeper into despondency at the approaching trial. Kruger won an award at Cannes for her role, and it’s very easy to see why: her measured, haunted performance simply carries the film.
On the flipside, however, there’s surprisingly little going on other than a career-best performance from Kruger. Fatih Akin is a talented director who’s adept at keeping the film at a low, intense boil for most of its duration, but it’s an extremely boilerplate, familiar story that brings nothing new to the table.Though it’s obviously way more naturalistic than something Liam Neeson may find himself in, the beats are more or less exactly the same. The inherent dramatic richness of the revenge movie (there’s a reason they make so many of them — they practically write themselves) isn’t quite enough to carry even a variation as classy as this one. (Alex Rose)
In the Fade screens Sunday, Oct. 8 at 3 p.m. at Cinéma Impérial and again on Sunday, Oct 15 at 3 p.m. at Quartier Latin.
Les Garçons Sauvages
A disturbed, nostalgia-soaked avant-garde film, Les Garçons Sauvages is an experimental feature about a group of badly behaved teenage boys. The film opens with their awful crime: a violent and occult-themed rape climaxing with a fairly graphic orgasmic explosion that coats the scene in honey-thick liquid. It should go without saying – this film is not for everyone. Most of the film is devoted to the reformation of the young boys who commit this crime (actually played by young adult women) at the hands of The Captain, a seafaring man who promises to turn even the most evil child into a gentle creature.
Strange, sensual and silly, the film is a freudian wet dream rippling with nightmare images of yonic fruit covered in wet matted hair, squirting phallic plants and just plain ol’ nudity. The movie feels like a lost relic of a more perverted classic Hollywood, clearly owing a lot of its charged and poetic imagery to the likes of cult-filmmaking legend Kenneth Anger. As grotesque as some of the images and scenes may be, it is difficult to say they are disturbing. The film’s tone seems dictated by an imaginative adolescent mindset, rendering the film strangely innocent in spite of its barrage of “adult” imagery.
The film may upset sensitive viewers, that is clear, but most audiences will be surprised at how light and funny the film is. Avant-garde cinema might have an image in the popular imagination as something stuffy, dull and indecipherable, but Les Garçons Sauvages is vibrant, fun and uncomfortably sexy. (Justine Smith)
Les Garçons Sauvages screens Sunday, Oct 8 at 9 p.m. at Quartier Latin and again on Wednesday, Oct 11 at 2:15 p.m. at Quartier Latin.
Let the Corpses Tan
Let The Corpses Tan is a little different from the two previous kaleidoscopic giallos made by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani – it’s more of a western, for one, and the fact that it’s based on a novel grounds it in more plot than their previous efforts. Otherwise, though, it’s still very much a part of their universe – one with both feet firmly planted in the language and imagery of 70s Italian cinema that almost makes complete abstraction of genre. Unfolding primarily in sweaty, greasy closeups, Let The Corpses Tan is a pretty singular piece of work, almost as much art installation as it is a grimy present-day spaghetti western.
The baseline of the plot follows four bank robbers who hole up in a home in the countryside after robbing a convoy of its gold bricks; as always, greed takes over and unexpected spokes get put in wheels. The last half of the film is essentially one long, carefully calibrated shootout, broken up by a constantly shifting viewpoint that also dips into some straight up hallucinatory territory. Though the genre roots suggest something like abstracted Tarantino, this is no pastiche. The closest analogue may be the way that Guy Maddin has appropriated the visual language of silent film for some of his films. Regardless of what you’d want to call it, it certainly is unique – even if it sometimes feels like a purely visceral, visual experience more than a substantive narrative one. It’s one of those movies where people who love it and hate it will cite the exact same reasons – which is a feat in itself. (Alex Rose)
Let The Corpses Tan screens Friday, Oct 6 at 9 p.m. at Cinéma Impérial and again on Sunday, Oct 8 at 1:15 p.m. at Quartier Latin.
The Florida Project
Sean Baker follows up his excellent Tangerine with the equally excellent The Florida Project, a film that explores the very fringes of society in much the same way, even if the subject matter is radically different.
Six-year-old Moonee lives with her mother Haley (Bria Vinaite) in a decrepit motel just outside of Disney World. It’s the kind of place where people live all year but pay rent a week at a time, a place full of people down on their luck that’s overseen by Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the understanding but somewhat crusty manager of the hotel. Haley’s not a bad mother (well, she does turn tricks with her kid in the immediate vicinity and hawk counterfeit perfume in parking lots), but she’s clearly got too much on her plate, and Moonee spends most of her time wandering around and playing with other kids from the hotel.
With this and Tangerine, Baker strikes me as exactly the opposite of Inarritu: he makes movies about people who live in misery that are nevertheless completely devoid of the miserabilist streak. The Florida Project is joyful and hilarious, but at the same time it’s harsh and heavy. Like Moonee, the viewer tends to forget that stuff isn’t always sunshine and roses until reality comes crashing back. Baker doesn’t linger on the easy signifiers of poverty; there’s even a kind of warped beauty in the washed-out pink facade and mismatched outfits worn by its characters. Even if the film has some moments of black comedy, it’s never exploitative or disrespectful of its characters. The performances are extremely naturalistic, and the film resembles a warped Floridian version of Truffaut’s Small Change — with a lot more spitting. (Alex Rose)
The Florida Project screens Saturday, Oct 7 at 9 p.m. at Cinéma Impérial.