- Listening to:even if by 平井 堅
Thanks to the Montreal FilmFest I've seen 7 movies in 6 days, including 3 in a row today. As per usual I'll provide my own capsule review on each film I saw. Before I do that though I'd just like to voice my approval on the venue changes that happened this year. This year the majority of the films were shown in 3 theatres (mainly the Cinema Quartier Latin) all within a block of each other. Not only are the theatres themselves better than the Parisian/Eaton Centre venues downtown, but the atmosphere on St-Denis was much better than downtown St-Catherine (especially since the Parisien is basically right by a piss-soaked ally). I'm not sure how the venue affects attendance, but I hope they go back there next year.
On with the reviews!!!
Little Miss Sunshine: Not really a filmfest entry but I did see it last Friday with Alex. Good (what I call) adult comedy, great cast playing an interesting assortment of characters. The story was a bit too on the nose and was a tad predictable, but in the end still very enjoyable.
Now for the real reviews...
9.15-8.15 日本心中 (9.11-8.15 NIPPON SUICIDE PACT): An avant-garde documentary examining, at least on the surface, the events of 9/11 through the lens of Japan's defeat in WWII on August 15, 1945. I'll say right off the top that most of the film went over my head, most of the Japanese was a level too high for me and the subtitles a level too low to help me understand what was really being said at times. The film basically combines discussions between intellectuals (filmed using unconventional lighting/angles) interspersed with "avant-garde" images. One of the intellectuals featured is one of my favorite contemporary philosophers Shunsuke Tsurumi. I also greatly enjoyed Mei Shigenobu, daughter of Japanese Red Army terrorist Fusako Shigenobu. I think the very basic problem I had was that I didn't know how all the discussions tied together (the previously mentioned theme is only directly addressed one or two times), and I didn't really know how to interpret all the non-discussion segments. I also got a huge kick out of the fact the film featured Kunitachi (where my grandmother lives). I was able to see some familiar scenes that I'm sure no one else in the theatre got a kick out. I wouldn't really recommend this film, but because of the Kunitachi thing, combined with the appearances by Tsurumi and Shigenobu, I can't say it was bad. To put it simply, I enjoyed bits, but didn't get the whole.
カモメ食堂 (KAMOME DINER): Set in Finland, the film follows the life of a woman named Sachie who is trying to run a Japanese diner. It's set in an idealized world where nothing bad really ends up happening. Sachie meets a number of interesting characters by chance, and the film proceeds to show Sachie and her new friends go through various mini-adventures. The movie is a perfect example of what I call Slice O'Life films featuring no great conflicts just characters having a number of experiences the viewer is allowed to share. The movie features quirky characters/situations, beautiful Finnish scenery, great fixed camera shots, and wonderfully simple humor. The word that best summarizes the film is 'cute'. It was probably the tightest light film I've seen at the filmfest, a slight cut above The Man Who Wipes Mirrors which I saw 2-3 years ago.
Fuck: The film examines the titular word by gathering the opinions of numerous famous/smart people on both sides of the debate interspersed with humorous animated segments. The film was funny, and doesn't really try to take itself too seriously. The only thing that really stood out for me was that Ice-T was fucking hilarious. Also I'll give the film props for busting the stupid "Fornication Under the Consent of the King" myth. Check it out once it hits a P2P network near you.
男たちの大和 (OTOKOTACHI NO YAMATO): Think Saving Private Ryan in Japan. The film starts with a woman asking to be taken to the site of the wreck of the great Japanese battleship Yamato to spread her father's ashes. The only fisherman who will go served on the Yamato with the woman's father and the flashbacks begin as they head for the site of the wreck. Unlike many Japanese war movies the film focuses on the lower ranked soldiers of the war, and also shows a bit of life in Japan during the war. The first half of the film shows the day-to-day life on the big ship, the soldier's first shore leave and their first battle. The latter half of the movie deals with the soldiers dealing with their almost certain death (due to key American victories in the Pacific theatre) first through their final shore leave and in the days on the ship prior to the final battle. The film doesn't glorify violence, and really reinforces my disgust of war. Probably the best mainstream Japanese drama film I've seen at the filmfest. Definitely worth a look, especially since it's a perspective of the war seldom seen in North America.
La Bicicleta (THE BICYCLE): This Spanish film shows the life of three different people who owned a particular bicycle in three different point in time. Their lives are presented at the same time (IOW the film is not presented sequentially), as the bicycle plays various roles in their life. This film is also a slice o'life film showing various experiences in each character's life. Unfortunately since I literally ran from Yamato to catch the beginning of this fim (I still missed the first 15 minutes), the emotional heaviness of the previous film probably affected my enjoyment of the film. In fact, I didn't even catch the fact that each character's story was being told in a different timeline until after the film. I enjoyed the film but I missed a lot of the subtle points that I'm sort of remembering in hindsight. I wish I could go see it again.
Strength and Honour: Cycling Canada Coast to Coast: A documentary of 9 amateur riders riding from Vancouver to Moncton over 7 weeks. The film was shot on MiniDV by one of the cyclists with interviews taken after the ride. The film was originally just supposed to be a little memory piece for all the participants but as the director worked on it he decided to submit it to film festivals. Sinced the film was never supposed to be a full blown show piece the film lacks some of the footage and quality you might expect in a documentary. The doc comes across as an elaborate home movie more than a documentary, which isn't a bad thing. The strength of the pieces comes from the diverse cast of characters who appear in the film. Definitely inspiring stuff, and it's a trip I'd like to do one day. A definite go see for any cyclist.
Definitely a much better filmfest experience compared to last year, and is probably the best string of films I've seen at the filmfest in the 4-5 years I've been attending seriously.