Posts Tagged ‘Canadian indie’

MS Slavic 7 (2019) ***

Dir.: Sofia Bohdanowiez; Cast: Deragh Campbell/co-dir, Aaron Danby, Elizabeth Rucker; Canada 2019, 64 min.

MS Slavic 7 is an intriguing title for a film. It refers to the catalogue number of a collection of 25 letters archived in Harvard University’s Houghton Library, and written by the director’s great-grandmother, the Polish poet Zofia Bohdanowieczowa, to her fellow poet Jozef Wittlin during their exile after the Second World War.

This melancholic essay film is a paean to poetry and displacement, and the filmmaker Sofia Bohdanowiez and co-director/lead actor Deragh Campbell do their best to bring the correspondence  to life. Wittlin (who lived in NY City) wrote between 1957 and 1964, first from Penrhos in Wales, then later from Toronto, Canada. Sofia is the literary executor of her great-grandmother’s output, and in this function she visits Houghton Library, meets a Polish scholar (Danby) and has a few contretemps with a Polish lady (Rucker), whom she has meets at a get-together of elderly Polish exiles. 

The trauma of permanent exile is documented in Zofia’s letter to Wittlin after she arrives in Toronto: “I still don’t write, I am still exhausted by the change, and feel like a fish out of water. I have always been terribly provincial and sedentary. Even in Poland, each trip to Warsaw terrified me, and only when coming back to Grodno where the crew changed and a train inspector had asked me melodiously: ‘tickets, please’, it felt like home”. In another letter she thanks him for sending her a photo comparing his gesture “with Polish bees”. Late she sends him “a hastily and confused letter” after the sudden death of her husband; with hopes that Wittlin “would be spared from parting and loneliness”. Later, she still complains about alienation in Toronto: “I sense a hostility in the grey city. The movement of the people and the traffic feels at once absent and menacing. Still, I hope that my stupid and sterile period is going to end soon”. When they meet for the first time “it is like an apocalypse”. 

Sofia is rather less expressive when it comes dealing with her great-great grandmother’s letters, her discussions with the scholar (who ends up in her bed – both of them reading the letters) show her difficulty in grasping the poet’s personality – Sofia can only imagine what exile meant for ‘Zofia’.

One of Zofia’s last letters to Wittlin is very much like a testament: “Still, you are right indeed. There was a veil of sadness over our meeting. That might have been because Toronto (in my opinion) is a sad city. Or even because everyone has sadness in themselves – how could it be otherwise for people without their homeland nor families?. And then came this meeting along with the uncertainty if we would ever see each other again”.  

Although the director’s own input is somehow hit-and-miss, Zofia’s letters provide compulsive reading with their thoughts from one permanently displaced person to another, piecing together their musings on a new place that is alien to both of them. Their homeland becomes a distant and poignant fading memory as they waste away slowly in the cold climate of exile. A valuable and worthwhile film that will offer comfort and context to all those living forced to live away from their families or in exile.AS




The Green Fog (2018) **** Now on Vimeo

Dir.: Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, Galen Johnson; USA 2017,63 min.

Guy Maddin’s’ love letter to San Francisco and Hitchcock’s Vertigo is a montage of clips from features shot in around the Californian coastal city: around one hundred or so – no new material was filmed. Aesthetically, Green Fog settles somewhere in between Christian Marclay’s The Clock (2010) and another Maddin/Johnson collaboration, Forbidden Room from 2015. There’s no real narrative to speak of, but Green Fog will appeal to those who like their film history served with a dizzy twist of the insane.

Oblique and opaque, Green Fog shows an overbearing obsession with Hitchcock: morbid and melancholy, we follow Scottie and Judy on a drive through the city, morphing into a hell-raising ride, where love turns to disillusionment. Novak and Stewart are played by various actors: Faye Dunaway, Susan Saint James, Gina Lolabrigida; Anthony Franciosa and Dean Martin. As one actor melds into another, one forgets that they look different in this headlong rush, on foot and in automobiles, as they’re drawn to the Golden Gate Bridge and oblivion.The film’s quotes range from the thrilling (The Lady from Shanghai, 1947) to the downright bizarre (Confessions of an Opium Eater of 1962 and So I married an Axe Murderer of 1993), via obscure gems such as Obayashi’s Take Me Away! 1978, and Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil (1983). The common thread is their Vertigo locations; if not directly then metaphorically. The titular fog, which saturates Judy from the neon street sign, re-appears throughout: under water, most menacingly in a hospital corridor. And there are even in the clips from The Great Fire, – which was started by a film fan no less.

Hitchcock’s obsession with voyeurism is celebrated in many scenes, from surveillance rooms, to men gazing at the screens, unsure of their targets – rather like Rock Hudson, on being quizzed “what are we looking for, Sir?” by a tape operator, to which Rock retorted: “I don’t know, but at this point I’ll take anything”. Karl Malden and Michael Douglas from The Streets of San Francisco are frequently found in their search for more contemporary perpetrators. Green Fog is a ghost story, a collage of landscapes and rooms (echoing Un Chien Andalou) which are haunted by loss and death, their doom underpinned by a Hermannesque score from Jacob Gavchik. Despite of the gravity of it all, Maddin still manages to be playful and impish throughout. AS



Canada Now | 3-6 May 2018

CANADA NOW 2018 is a showcase of New Canadian Cinema in the UK, beginning with a weekend of screenings and events from the 3rd – 6th May at the Curzon Soho, featuring outstanding new pieces of filmmaking alongside a brand new digital restoration of a repertory classic. From Sunday July 1st 2018, in celebration of Canada Day, the films will begin a nationwide tour of cinemas and venues across the UK. Here is the line-up in full. 

ALL YOU CAN EAT BUDDHA | Ian Lagarde, 2017 85′

This oddball vacation comedy curio starts off well but rapidly goes pear-shaped, largely due to the flaccid pacing and increasingly imploding narrative that follows a holidaying man who develops a mysterious appetite and supernatural powers in an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean.


BLACK COP  | Cory Bowles, 2017 – 91′

A black police officer turns activist and seeks revenge on his own colleagues after  being egregiously profiled and assaulted by them, in this stylish and intermittently engaging political satire by actor-director Cory Bowles (Trailer Park Boys). 


CARDINALS | Grayson Moore & Aidan Shipley, 2017 – 84 mins

Years after murdering her neighbour under the guise of drink driving, Valerie returns home from prison to find that the son of the deceased has lingering suspicions. An impressive, well-acted debut despite its tonally uneven denouement.



Oscar winner François Girard (The Red Violin), returns with an ambitious time-travelling fantasy spanning eight centuries of layered indigenous, colonial, and contemporary histories. Starring Vincent Perez and Linus Roache, this works best as an intriguing piece of historical voyeurism rather than as a cogent drama exploring the aftermath of a sinkhole opening up in a downtown Montreal football stadium causing the city’s past and present to intersect.


*Touring programme only

I’VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING  | Patricia Rozema, 1987 – 81′

Patricia Rozema’s Cannes-awarded debut feature – a charming, whimsical story about a waifish daydreamer with artistic aspirations – is now an arthouse classic and one of the most profitable Canadian films ever made, and an important milestone in both queer cinema and the development of Canadian film industry.


LET THERE BE LIGHT  | Mila Aung-Thwin, Van Royko, 2017 – 80′

Directed by Mila Aung-Thwin (The Vote) and Van Royko (Kodeline), this unconvincing documentary attempts to explore fusion research and how it may help solve the global energy crisis.


MARY GOES ROUND  – Molly McGlynn, 2017 – 87′ 

Establishing Molly McGlynn as a talent in the making, her debut feature centres on a substance abuse counsellor (Mary/Aya Cash) with a drinking problem. After getting arrested for drink driving and losing her job, Mary returns to her hometown where she is forced to come to terms with her estranged father and form a bond with her teenage half-sister whom she’s never met. Although over-melodramatic at times, Mary Goes Round has its heart in the right place. 


MEDITATION PARK | Mina Shum, 2017 – 94′

The reason to see this upbeat relationship drama is for Cheng Pei Pei’s superb turn as a devoted wife and mother, who questions her marriage when she discovers an orange thong in her husband’s pocket. Her efforts to find out the truth send her on an unexpected journey of liberation. Sandrah Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) is also terrific.


RUMBLE: THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD | Catherine Bainbridge & Alfonso Maiorana, 2017 – 103′

RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World is a well-structured, resonant music biopic to light a profound and missing chapter in the history of American music: the Indigenous influence. Featuring music icons Charley Patton, Mildred Bailey, Link Wray, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Buffy Saint-Marie, Robbie Robertson, Randy Castillo and Taboo, RUMBLE shows how these pioneering Native musicians helped shape the soundtracks of our lives.


VENUS | Eisha Marjara, 2017 *

Eisha Marjara’s articulate, absorbing, and lively gender shifting comedy, Venus, is the witty tale of Sid (featuring New York-based actor Debargo Sanyal in a brilliant performance), a transitioning woman whose life takes a surprising turn when a 14-year-old boy named Ralph arrives at her door with the surprising announcement that he is her son.


*Touring programme only


Canada Now Festival | 3-6 May 2018

CANADA NOW festival brings the best of new Canadian cinema to the Curzon Soho London, before a ten-film national tour of the UK .

The festival opens with the London premiere of RUMBLE: THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD, a searingly entertaining feature documentary exploring the Indigenous influence on blues, folk, jazz, rock, rap and metal. The Festival will close with LET THERE BE LIGHT, a documentary based on the true story of how scientists from 37 countries have come together in the south of France in an attempt to build the most complex machine ever attempted: An artificial sun.

Alongside seven premieres, CANADA NOW also includes a repertory screening of Patricia Rozema’s 1987 masterpiece I’VE HEARD THE MERMAIDS SINGING. 

This second edition tackles a broad range of stories, from issues of race in BLACK COP, to matters of the heart in MEDITATION PARK and from addiction drama in MARY GOES ROUND to matters of divine intervention in ALL YOU CAN EAT BUDDHA.


First Stripes | Premieres Armes * * * (2018) | Berlinale 2018

Dir.: Jean-Francois Caissy; Documentary; Canada 208, 106 min.

After visiting a care home for the elderly (La Belle Visite), Canadian documentarian Jean-Francois Caissy turns his camera on those starting out in life: young recruits embarking on a 12-week training course for the Canadian Army share their hopes and aims with the director in this informative film.

Some have joined up personal reasons – one young man had promised his father on his dead bed that he would join the Army – but most men are looking for a new challenge. In common with other armies, the Canadian Force is not just about combat training, soldiers can train in engineering and and medicine. Women recruits are still a minority in the challenging male dominated environment, and men are kept firmly under control, although one female recruit talks about the verbal “disrespect”, she encountered. Most of the training is spent teaching males basic hygiene. They don’t seemed to have learnt how to wash their bed linen or clothes. They also lie blatantly about the use of their mobiles outside the prescribed hours. All in all, they come over as immature and hopelessly egocentric. The instructors constantly adopt new ways of making them grow up – but it’s a difficult task.

The women are, on the whole, very serious. One phones her young child regularly, telling the father how privileged he is to be spending every day with his son. Another is delighted to be told  “that she is ready for a great adventure”, at the end of the course. Her instructor also mentions -bizarrely – how ‘inanely’ suited she is to a military career. One man gives combat training the thumbs down and does not want to be talked into joining the fighting unit, although he is eminently suited – he prefers to stay with the non-combat unit he had chosen at the start. There is a plan amongst some of the instructors to “turn back to the 80s style of training”. But by the end it’s clear that the Canadian Army is at home in the 21st century; most of the conflict is banal and the overall tone is very civilised – like Canadian society as a whole.

Caissy mixes training drills with close-up camerawork, and DoP Nicolas Canniccioni familiarises us with the recruits’ faces, with lingering shots and clear framing. First Stripes is a sober but absorbing portrait of modern army training that avoids any sensationalism. AS


In the Name of All Canadians (2017) | Hot Docs 24 – 26 September 2017


Portrait of a Serial Monogamist (2015) | UKJFF 7 – 22 November 2015

Director: John Mitchell | Christina Zeidler

Cast: Carolyn Taylor, Diane Flacks, Grace Lynn Kung, Robin Duke, Raoul Bhaneja

90min  Drama  Canada

An upbeat sparky romcom about a Jewish woman looking for love in her 40s. Making great use of its downtown Toronto setting, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL MONOGAMIST has Diane Flacks as Elsie, an extremely likeable but restless soul at odds with her traditional mother and unsatisfied with her long-term relationship with Robin (Carolyn Taylor). But things don’t improve when she leaves Robin to pursue a new girlfriend (Grace Lynn Kung).  Elsie starts to realize that perhaps she has thrown away the love of her life.

Mitchell and Zeidler get the best out of a talented cast and a whipsmart script laced with some fine Jewish sarcasm that makes this observational comedy fun and entertaining, despite its minor flaws. Elsie eventually becomes the narrator in her hilarious  deteriorating situation where she acknowledges  the pain of moving on to find true love, with wit and wisecracking humour. What emerges is that love and relationships are the same irrespective of our sexual  orientation. MT


Mommy (2014) | dvd blu

10903909_1550750168496369_6539403438326329238_oDirector: Xavier Dolan

Cast: Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon, Suzanne Clément, Patrick Huard

139min  Drama  Canadian/French

The prolific outpourings of Canadian wild child Xavier Dolan continue here with a searingly emotional mother/son melodrama that way outstays its welcome at over two hours. MOMMY is a reverse thrust of his debut J’Ai Tué Ma Mère that had the young Dolan at odds with his mother (made when he was only 20). Here it’s Mummy that’s mean and ready to kill but with love as the weapon.

Based on a plotline relating to Canadian Juvenile Law in an imagined near future in Quebec, raunchy single mother – played by regular collaborator Anne Dorval – decides to take her ADHD-suffering teenage son out of the place that was treating him for delinquency. In order to avoid more draconian institutionalisation, she elects to work from home, compromising her cleaning job, to care for him ‘inhouse’. Diane loves her only son Steve with a passion in this gut-wrenching saga that plays out in a series of expletive-ridden exchanges and violent outbursts. Needy and attention-seeking Steve resents her interactions with other males but their lives are changed collectively and individually by two neighbours. The first is Paul, who is sexually attracted to Diane as he tries to help Steve through the complex legal arena. Kyla (Suzanne Clément), the second, is a lonely married mother on sabbatical while she deals with her own emotional issues, and the trio engage in a co-dependent friendship, that is particularly beneficial to Steve, with some unexpected consequences for all concerned.

Filmed in an aspect ratio that makes the screen “portrait” shaped – intended by Dolan to enhance the restricted outlooks of its protagonists – MOMMY feels at times over-intimate and ‘in yer face’ with its close-ups, occasionally making you desperate to gain arms length from its brilliantly visceral yet uncomfortable perspective. At times poignantly funny, this is a chaotic drama and Antoine Olivier Pilon’s turn as Steve is dynamite – if you can take it, this is cinema at its most raw. MT



Corbo (2014) | Berlinale 2015 | Generation 14plus

Director: Mathieu Denis,

Cat: Anthony Therrien, Antoine L’Ecuyer, Karelle Tremblay, Tony Nardi, Marie Brassard

110mins  Drama  Canada

Montreal in the late sixties: the French-speaking minority are being repressed by the Anglophone majority in the rest of the county – English rules, not only in parliament. The “Liberation Front of Quebec” (FLQ) also holds sway in the region of Quebec. It’s a radical underground organisation, not unlike the “Baader Meinhof” Group in Germany and the “Red Brigades” in Italy, which followed in their footsteps by the end of the decade. The FLQ are using violence in the pursuit of their target: they want to bomb their way to independence from the rest of the country. Like the European groups that followed, the movement attracted, disaffected young people, mainly romantics from middle class backgrounds. Corbo is one of these young men.

Quebecois director, Mathieu Denis’s observational and linear narrative drives his elegantly-styled, classicly-framed drama forward. Jean Corbo (Anthony Therrien) is a shy boy who felt alienated even in his own family and persecuted in school, were he is a misfit due to his Italian origin. At home, Jean’s father is a Liberal careerist lawyer who does not want to be reminded by his son the Italian population of Canada were put in camps after the outbreak of WWIII. His older brother agitates for the “Quebec Independence Party”, a very tame outfit, compared with the FLQ. As is happened so often in “revolutionary” circles, alliances are often the result of love affairs (successful and failed ones), and Jean also falls first for Juliet (Tremblay), and joins the FLQ to impress her. Unfortunately for him, Jean has to prove to himself and the leading theorists of the movement that he is not a pampered result of middle class upbringing. And whilst Juliet and another comrade are not ready to use violence any more, after a woman is accidentally killed in a bombing, Jean develops a radical mindset that leads to tragic consequences.

Denis is careful in his characterisation of Jean, making him neither a hero nor a villain – just a mixed-up kid who wanted to impress his girl fr show his family that he was their equal, not the baby. His politics were immature, his longing to be a revolutionary founded on sentiments alone. CORBO shows the leaders of the FLQ (who, in 1970 would kidnap and kill a minister of the Quebec government and a British diplomat), as manipulative and remote. Therrien is convincing as Jean, showing youthful vulnerability and daredevil tendances. Denis and his cinematographer, Steve Asselin, capture the details sensitively, crafting the oppression of the secure, middle-class world Jean is desperate to escape. CORBO is a powerful and truthful portrait of a romantic soul lost in power games that lead to drastic consequences for all concerned. AS



Copyright © 2024 Filmuforia