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by Stuart Henderson

18 Sep 2009

The end is nigh. Tomorrow, it’s one last film (Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done) and then it’s no TV for a month. 27 films in 8 days is pushing it, even for a genuine film fanatic such as myself. Plus: I can’t straighten my legs.

Highlights this week are clear: A Serious Man was my favourite, for sure, but I am predisposed to a certain reverence for anything those Coen Brothers do. Still, I do believe it’s their most rewarding film since The Big Lebowski. And, yes, I am including No Country for Old Men when I say that. Alongside it, Partir, The Disappearance of Alice Creed and I Am Love (see below) were both top flight films (for totally different reasons). Guy Maddin’s short Night Mayor was indelible and mysterious.The Road was good, but does not need to exist. Up in the Air was almost great. And, Jennifer’s Body was just plain awful. See you next year?

Cracks (dir. Jordan Scott, 2009)
After 80 minutes or so, what appears to be a perfectly pleasant (if a bit dull) coming of age tale turns so abruptly into something else that one’s head is given to spin. Where on earth did this come from? Set in a remote all-girls boarding school in 1930s England, seven teens practice diving under the watchful eye of an encouraging, modern, and poetic free spirit named Miss G (Eva Green, doing an Anne Hathaway impression). “The most important thing in life”, she counsels, “is desire”. But, before you can say Dead Poets Society, a new student appears: a beautiful Spanish countess (Maria Valverde) with the whiff of scandal following her across the sea. The erstwhile leader of the dive team (Juno Temple) is immediately jealous (especially after the new girl performs a complex dive, suggesting that all young women in the 1930s just happened to be adept at high dives, something that is news to me) and sets about a plot to destroy her. This would have made for an agreeable enough film, but all of a sudden Eva Green’s character begins to break apart, her armour showing (ahem) cracks. She is not who she says she is, you see. And, worse, she has fallen in love. Forbidden love. From then on, first-time director Jordan Scott (daughter of Sir Ridley) relies entirely on the goodwill of her audience as characters begin to do things she hasn’t prepared us for, culminating in shocking violence and frustrating ambiguity.

by Thomas Hauner

17 Sep 2009

Jay Farrar leads Son Volt at the Fillmore, Thursday night in New York.

“Hard times come again no more,” sang Jay Farrar Thursday night.  The sympathetic lament echoed through Irving Plaza as the rest of Son Volt took a break, this time Farrar conveying his dejected sonorities solo.  Though taken from an 1854 Stephen Foster tune, Farrar’s incarnation, “Hard Times,” paralleled the original’s depressed tone.  That dejected but introspective sentiment was something Farrar, with his band Son Volt, returned to frequently—usually over a foundation of good ‘ole American alt-rock.

by Stuart Henderson

17 Sep 2009

Things I overheard while eavesdropping during the festival so far include:

(Some film student-looking guy): He has more than… double my knowledge of international cinema!

(Some jaded and quite famous film reviewer): One year, I swear, I’m going to get a button that reads: “It’s just a fucking movie!”

(Some industry guy, talking loudly on his cell phone while in line ahead of me): I saw Roger Moore’s [sic] film last night. Well, you know I agree with his politics, I mean totally. But he can be so childish. This one was good though, not too didratic [double sic].

(Some local film reviewer with perhaps ironic facial hair, regarding the popular midnight madness public showings of horror films): I cannot watch a movie with that audience. (His friend): What, you mean like real people? (Mustache man): Yeah.

(Industry guy, looking a bit peaked, as we exited The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus): Oh, what a horrible mess. (Weird looking lady behind him): Yeah! Didn’t you just fucking love it?

(Reviewer from some obscure website unavailable outside of the mighty U.S. of A., to a helpful unpaid festival volunteer): So, am I to understand that no one in Canada has ever heard of the Huffington Post?

(Some serious film fanatic, as he sat down in front of me at a 9 a.m. screening): Only for Herzog would I do this. I was up till like three in the morning.

by Stuart Henderson

16 Sep 2009

Life During Wartime (dir. Todd Solondz, 2009)

Todd Solondz’ new movie often feels like it is little more than a mash-up of his previous films. It even opens with a scene that is lifted almost wholesale from Happiness (1998). And, just like they did in virtually everything he has done before, pedophiles and other “perverts”, unhappy middle class white people, sexually confused children, and a generally mocking tone abound. At his best, Solondz is a real auteur, a singular observer of an alienated America, of an America filled with weirdos and lonely souls, longing for comfort and finding little. Certainly, the characters he explores in his latest represent some of the darkest he has yet drawn up: an incestuous father fresh out of jail (Ciarán Hinds), a lonely drug-addicted mother (a startlingly good Allison Janney), a curious and desperate dork of a kid (Dylan Riley Snyder), a pathetic barfly searching for escape through sex (a startling Charlotte Rampling), and a mousy woman (Shirley Henderson) who’s haunted by the men she has driven to suicide (Michael K. Williams, Paul Reubens). But, at his worst, Solondz relies on mockery, poking fun at these unfortunate characters without ever allowing us to fall in love with them. With each passing minute in this frightening little film, one finds oneself disliking the characters more and more, and finding the script to be uninterested in changing our view. This has the bizarre effect of leaving little reason for us to try to make sense of their predicaments, or to empathize with their despair. Throughout, the ostensible theme of forgiveness runs through everything like a bulldozer: can we forgive a terrorist, or a pedophile? Should we? And even if we do, can we/should we ever forget? Solondz may be a lot of things, but he is never subtle. This should have been enough to work with, but he muddies the waters with a hamfisted attempt to connect this “forgive and forget” theme to the issue of US troop withdrawal from Iraq, confusingly suggesting that if you do a bad thing and then steal away (“cut and run”) you make things worse. Well, maybe. But, really?

by Rory O'Connor

15 Sep 2009

Cedric Bixler-Zavala feels the love at the Congress Theatre in Chicago.

It was from in front of amps draped with Mexican flags and an enormous psychedelic mural, which encompassed the entire back of the stage, that the Mars Volta unleashed their sonic fury on Friday night at Chicago’s Congress Theater.  The band stood six members strong on stage, but the brunt of the performance fell on the shoulders of the band’s founders and chief songwriters, guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala.  This was just fine by them.

//Mixed media

Notes, Hoaxes, and Jokes: Silkworm's 'Lifestyle' - "Ooh La La"

// Sound Affects

"Lifestyle's penultimate track eases the pace and finds fresh nuance and depth in a rock classic, as Silkworm offer their take on the Faces' "Ooh La La".

READ the article