TIFF 2017 Movie Review: LOVELESS (Russia/France/Germany/Belgium 2017) ****

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

 loveless.jpgA couple going through a divorce must team up to find their son who has disappeared during one of their bitter arguments.

Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Writers: Oleg Negin, Andrey Zvyagintsev
Stars: Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Yanina Hope

Review by Gilbert Seah

Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s latest film of a boy gone missing, is one that appears simple on the surface but is in reality an extremely powerful film on the tragedy that emerges from the result of a lovelessness. When the film begins, Boris and Zhenya are in the midst of a nasty divorce.

They still live together which makes matters worse. In one of their fights, they argue that their 12-year old boy, Alyosh was a mistake. Neither one wants custody of the boy and the father remarks that he best be sent to boarding school, in preparation for the army afterwards.

She says she never wanted him in the first place. The boy, meanwhile, in the film’s most moving scene is shown crying his eyes out, after hearing what has been said by his parents. He is clearly, in his opinion unloved. He disappears. Boris and Zhenya are forced to come together to search for their missing son.

One can only wonder where their love (if ever they had any) had gone. Zvyagintsev explains in one scene that this love never existed in the first place. Meanwhile Zhenya has another man while Boris another woman. They do not find the boy but life must go on.

LOVELESS is a powerful film that instead of showing the power of love, shows the opposite, how life cannot survive with love.

A terrific movie that won the Jury Prize at Cannes!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLegoO4NdD8

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Indigogo Campaign Interview: Dana Fradkin and Karen Knox on their film The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripper

the_case.jpgInterview by Kierston Drier

The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripper Indiegogo Campaign

Are you searching for groundbreaking cinema? The untold stories given voice by trailblazers? Concepts ambitiously challenged by unique craftsmanship? Also comedy? This reporter is.

 

It is true that excellent stories come in all forms- from the smallest micro-budget indie to the grandest blockbuster- but more times than not, an audience is subtly led towards the tropes and stereotypes that society is unconsciously comfortable with. But not this time.

 

This time I was connected with two fearless and talented Toronto-based content creators, Dana Fradkin and Karen Knox. Fradkin, a writer/producer/performer has worked all over Canada, the United States and Europe and has teamed up with Knox, writer/director and creator of her own production company Boss & Co to bring startling fresh life to an overused industry trope in their new short film The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping.

 

What trope are they aiming to break down? An ambitious and intense one- the issue of Rape, as convention in film. I dive in with these two talented creators to dissect their motives behind making their piece The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping, a piece that tackles the tropes of violence against women through the lense of satirized murder mystery comedy.

 

  1. To begin, tell me a bit about the synopsis of the piece.

Dana: The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping, written in the style of the murder mystery genre, takes a look at our uneven portrayal of murder vs. rape in contemporary media. While we freely satirize murder to the extent of writing Broadway musicals on the subject, the issue of rape has been relegated to stories of broken women, sensational crime drama or hackneyed plot device excused as historical accuracy.

 

The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping is a parody/satire on the classic murder mystery genre.  It’s 1932, the Massey family has gathered together at Helen Massey’s estate up north for their annual hunting weekend.  But the whole weekend goes awry, when, on the first night, Lara Massey (Helen’s daughter), is raped.  Female Detective Tracy Halt zooms in to solve the case.  With an array of neurotic characters including Helen’s drunk brother, her French lover, the young polish gardener, the British butler and the flirty maid; Detective Tracy uncovers many family secrets before finding the sexual predator.  The film is both quirky like the movie Clue while also focusing genuinely on Lara’s traumatic event, her experience and the after effects.  

 

  1. What sparked the genesis of your project? What was the initial inspiration or motivation behind this piece?

 

Karen:  The idea of creating this film was born of a conversation Dana and I had while discussing society’s treatment of murder vs. rape. How we are able to freely satirize murder and violence, but not rape. Even saying the word full volume in a coffee shop is difficult to do. Why is this? Does our inability to explore the subject matter except from a limited artistic milieu contribute to the perpetuation of rehashed tropes and bad stereotypes furthering ideas propping up rape culture? These are questions we are trying to answer through the making of this film. By working closely with the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre, and speaking with survivors we are attempting to create a film that is insightful, sensitive, and above all else a paradigm shift in our thinking with regards to how we tell stories of sexual assault.

 

After years of watching primetime drama consistently churn out half baked stories, romanticizing, sexualizing, helping to promote hateful stereotypes, and adding to the perpetuation of rape culture I along with co-writer Dana Fradkin created a script dealing with the rape of a young woman that:

 

  1. Doesn’t romanticize/sexualize rape

 

  1. Does not credit rape as a “backstory” for female revenge

 

  1. Doesn’t use rape to further the development of a male character

 

  1. Does not use rape to turn a female character into a superhero

 

  1. Is told from the survivor’s perspective

 

  1. Does not use rape as an excuse for a woman to be “broken”

 

  1. Is a comedy. Highlighting the absurdity/ubiquitousness of sexual assault in “Period Pieces” especially in the particularly grim rape factories of primetime dramas.

 

  The kind of film we are making has never been made before. We want to change the conversation. While acknowledging that one cannot change the world with a short film, we do hope to help the slow reconstruction of how the media deals with the story of sexual assault and violence. We are a team made up almost entirely of women. With more women telling stories, and more female directors translating those stories into images that impact viewers’ emotions and attitudes, we can at least convey one giant truth: That rape culture – founded on the belief that women are less valuable, less deserving, less believable – is based on a lie.

 

  1. Tell me a little more about the piece itself. It sounds like you are tackling a difficult subject matter with deep sensitivity and also a bit of humor, as you mentioned your short is also a comedy.

 

Karen: I am a firm believer in the ability of satire to change the world. I can acknowledge the difficult nature of watching media about the subject of rape. It is one of the most horrific acts of human violence and unlike murder, leaves us with survivor, a human being who can speak to the experience, the trauma and its effects. It then seems perhaps counterintuitive to try to create a film on the subject that includes elements of comedy. The satire in Case of the Massey Bodice Ripping is more a commentary on our oft too passive acceptance of rape culture. Truth though satire is piercingly clear in that in allows us to be self critical without turning us off with a too violent or vitriolic reprimand.

 

4.Tell me about the process of building your film right now?

 

We have an incredible team behind us, cast, creative, and an amazing team of producers. Everyone who has come onto this project has generously donated their time to the cause. With the philanthropic help of the Kellet foundation we have been able to secure a lot of our filming essentials, including the incredible location, a 1930’s Tudor period mansion, we will be filming at. After about two years of on again off again script development, we are ready to bring this film into the world, but we need the community’s help to make it happen!

 

  1. You are currently running an Indiegogo Campaign. Can you elaborate on exactly what the funds are being raised for?

 

– Equipment rentals (some of these have been donated, but there a few vital pieces we still need to cover the cost of).

– A fair wage for essential crew members

– Post production (editing, composition, sound mixing, colouring,)

– Festival submissions and publicity

– Craft services! We will have a team of 30 for three days on set working ten to twelve hour days! In order to keep everyone happy it is so vital to keep them well fed and well caffeinated!

 

  1. You film aims to do some incredible things, both on a small and large scale in media. Talk to me about how helping you with this Indiegogo Campaign creates meaningful change, on a small and large scale. (For the record, this reporter is already sold!)

 

On a small scale you’re helping a team of Canadian artists create meaningful content that can contribute to changing the way we deal with the rape trope in TV and Cinema. On a larger scale, we’re taking on nearly a century of cinema and TV that has refused to tell survivors’ stories in a way that offers ownership of perspective.

 

  1. If you had one message to send out to people are passionate about this industry, what would it be?

 

We are making something that no one has ever seen before. This story is vital, this message is vital, let’s bury the rape trope ONCE AND FOR ALL!

 

  1. Anything you’d like to add?

 

While we do need to raise $6000 in order to cover basic filming costs, there are other ways in which you can easily donate to this project other than with financial support. Do you have experience working in the film industry? Is this a project you can get behind? The donation of your time as a member of our crew is HUGELY valuable. Join us for one day, or join us for all three! Get in touch with us and we can most likely find a position for you on this shoot!

 

If you have any other ideas/skills you feel might be able to contribute to this project, we would love to hear from you. Maybe you run a catering business and would like to donate catering to our project? Maybe you run a costume rental house and would like to help us out with rentals?

 

  1. Please link me to your campaign! (and basic campaign details, rewards, etc)

 

The Case of the Massey Bodice Ripper Indiegogo Campaign

 

How utterly refreshing? How exceptionally brave and admirable? How badly do you want to see a comedy like this get made?  I do. I want to see this piece succeed because what is film if it does not take on a challenge? What is film if it doesn’t make us ask ourselves (and our society) hard questions? Tired tropes must be retired, and creators must rise to the challenge of retiring them. Knox and Fradkin are two of these creators- challenging the status quo, making a difference and making us laugh. For that alone, I tip my hat and head on over to their amazing Campaign. (And when you do check out their Campaign, watch the video! It’s a comedy in and of itself!)

TIFF 2017 Movie Review: THE RIDER

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

THERIDER.jpgAfter suffering a near fatal head injury, a young cowboy undertakes a search for new identity and what it means to be a man in the heartland of America.

Director: Chloé Zhao
Writer: Chloé Zhao
Stars: Brady Jandreau, Tim Jandreau, Lilly Jandreau

Review by Gilbert Seah

The film centres on a rodeo hopeful’s life after his dreams are dashed following a serious rodeo accident.

The audience sees the pain right at the very start when Brady Blackburn, a South Dakota cowboy (Brady Jandreau) manually takes off the medical staples from his wounds. Zhao emphasizes the claustrophobic life of Brady, despite having the open ranges.

He lives with his often drunk and gambling father and mentally challenged sister, Lilly (Lilly Jandreau). His few friends provide him a drinking outlet but it is the rodeo that makes Brady, the man.

If a cowboy cannot ride, then what good is he? These be Brady’s own words. With his injury his brain is sensitive and riding rodeo might be the end of him. Zhao builds good characterizations. The father is not a one sided cardboard has been.

Despite his constant arguments with his son, it is shown at the end that he understands Brady and his decisions. Brady’s anguish, anger and decisions are also well displayed. The horse training and rodeo segments are effectively shot and exciting enough.

Joshua James Richards captures the landscape of the open areas of the west, where horses run free. Simple storytelling, a good human story and one dealing with nature always make a good film.

Cannes Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbhO6MkO78U

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TV REVIEW: TWIN PEAKS – SEASON 03 – EPISODE 16

twin_peaks_13“Part 16: No Knock, No Doorbell”

Big Ed and Norma have a relationship breakthrough. Evil Cooper tries to reconnect with an old friend, while Dougie Jones reaches an electrifying discovery.

Director: David Lynch
Writers: Mark Frost, David Lynch
Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Jay Aaseng, Joe Adler

Review by Gilbert Seah

Cooper’s back! After almost an entire season of the stumbling adventures of Dougie Coop, our beloved FBI agent is awake and back in action. However, Dougie’s departure from the world leaves a few loose ends. This episode was Biore pore strip levels of satisfying.

This season has had a running theme of family relationships, like in “Part 12” when absent fathers were a major theme. “Part 16” seems to focus again on fathers leaving their families in different ways.

Biologically speaking, Cooper technically has (or had, in Richard’s case) two sons: Sonny Jim and Richard Horne. Lynch likes to play with the idea of parallels and opposites, so it’s no surprise to see both Bad Coop and Real Coop departing from their children in drastically separate ways. Real Coop did save the “seed” that is apparently required to create a new tulpa, so it’s possible that he’s going to manufacture a brand new Dougie to take his place.

Speaking of tulpas: Diane wasn’t really Diane! Does that mean that all tulpas are aware that they are manufactured beings on some level? Did Dougie know he wasn’t real? And is the real Diane alive somewhere? After that long, slow look at Gordon Cole in his computer room, I was terrified that Diane was going to kill him before his reunion with Cooper. Unfairness is out of character in Lynch’s work, but anything can happen this close to the end of the series.

Audrey is officially confirmed to exist in some kind of alternate reality! I’m still banking on this being a coma or a mental health thing, possibly attributed to her being raped and impregnated by Bad Coop while she was in the hospital. That can’t possibly be good for you. I’m relieved that Audrey didn’t actually end up as a trampled version of her former self, trapped in a toxic relationship with a tiny egg man, but it’s clear that she’s still unable to escape from whatever is holding her hostage. It might be a Josie Packard thing where Audrey’s soul is physically stuck inside of an object. Maybe it’s that one
booth we keep seeing at The Roadhouse?

There is one thread that’s been dangling all season. Way back in “Part 1,” the Fireman told Lodge Coop to remember Richard and Linda. The prior of these names has already been identified in Richard Horne, but Linda’s identity still remains a mystery. It could possibly be that Linda is the wheelchairbound resident of the New Fat Trout Trailer Park that we see referenced in “Part 6,” but even if that’s the case, we still haven’t physically seen this character appear.

Next week is the two-part series finale, and things seem to be coming to a head.

Twin Peaks is the kind of series that has a ton of rewatching potential as Lynch’s work is heavily layered and tied together, so definitely consider revisiting the entire series before the finale next Sunday night

Part 16 No Knock, No Doorbell.jpg

******
“Mary Cox is an entertainment writer from the United States. Her hobbies include making good beer and bad decisions, watching drag queens fight on the internet, and overanalyzing everything. Mary one day hopes to be the person shouting “World Star” in the back of a Waffle House brawl video. She is currently tolerating life in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_K_Cox”t

TV REVIEW: RICK AND MORTY – SEASON 03 – EPISODE 06

rest and ricklaxation.jpg“Rest and Ricklaxation”

Rick and Morty need a break.

Directors: Anthony Chun, Wesley Archer
Writers: Tom Kauffman
Stars: Justin Roiland, Chris Parnell, Melique Berger

Review by Gilbert Seah

This week’s episode gave an answer to the question of whether or not Rick actually cares for Morty. We learn that the detoxifying machine only removes parts of your being that you yourself view as a negative attribute. The fact that Rick’s love for Morty was removed along with his alcoholism and nihilism really reveals the extent to which the Sanchez family is emotionally messed up.

Rick and Morty is a show that’s made in it’s funny little moments, like Detox Rick’s apology for burping and Beth taping a horse’s face over Jerry in her wedding picture. The series isn’t too big on running jokes in the way that some Adult Swim shows can be, but one of the weirder recurring motifs of this show seems to be about urination. This is a little offbeat, but hear me out: in “Rest and Ricklaxation,” one of Morty’s classmates makes a passing comment about being into golden showers.

Summer peeing her pants was referenced three times in Season 2 in “A Rickle in Time,” “Total Rickall,” and “Look Who’s Purging Now.” Not to mention, Summer’s invisible best friend is called Tinkles, another allusion to her childhood bed-wetting.

Rick and Morty is a show where the writer’s hangups and anxieties are on full display, so their obsessions and “interests” will obviously come through as well. I’m not directly saying Justin Roiland or Dan Hammond necessarily have a “yellow” fixation, but there’s been a suspiciously high number of references made to women peeing for this to be a mere coincidence.

Rick and Morty will be back in two weeks because of the Labor Day holiday break, but that will give you enough time to mull over the idea that this series is a window into it’s writers souls. What else can we learn about Roiland and Hammond if we take a closer look at this series

******
“Mary Cox is an entertainment writer from the United States. Her hobbies include making good beer and bad decisions, watching drag queens fight on the internet, and overanalyzing everything. Mary one day hopes to be the person shouting “World Star” in the back of a Waffle House brawl video. She is currently tolerating life in Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @M_K_Cox”t

TIFF 2017 Movie Review: BLACK KITE (Canada/Afghanistan 2017)

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

BLACK KITE.jpgAgainst oppression, change, and seismic political shifts, a father and his daughter find solace in the seemingly clandestine act of kite flying, in the latest by Afghan filmmaker Tarique Qayumi.

Director: Tarique Qayumi
Writer: Tarique Qayumi

Review by Gilbert Seah

When Taique Oayunmi’s film, BLACK KITE opens, the audience witnesses a a political judgment/verdict of the violent chopping off of his hands of Arian (Haji Gul) which is then expanded to an execution the next morning.

In the prison that night, Arian almost dies of thirst but offers to tell his story in exchange for a drink of water from his fellow inmate. But the story that unfolds is a different one. The next scene is one with a little boy fascinating with kite flying.

The boy is Arian who learns both how to make and fly kites from his uneducated father. It is never clear exactly the reason Arian is to be executed in the morning. The only hint is that the enemy suspects him of sending messages to the resistance by his kites, but then why offer him pardon at the end of the film instead of execution.

The film incorporates some animation that appear at various points throughout the film for no apparent reason. As a result the animation appears out of place and totally unnecessary. It also tends to become a distraction of the events that are taking place.

Instead of a political tale, Qayumi’s film ends up trivializing the events to the story of a man in love of the flying of kites.

Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8odaf9TqC8

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TIFF 2017 Movie Review: HAPPY END (France/Germany/Austria 2017) ****

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2017. Go to TIFF 2017 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

HAPPY END.jpgA drama about a family set in Calais with the European refugee crisis as the backdrop.

Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke
Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz

Review by Gilbert Seah

HAPPY END can be seen as a film that infuses many of the traits of Haneke’s previous films. When the film opens, the audience sees what is happening though the recording on a cell phone, the routine of a 12-year old (Fantine Harduin) similar to the video surveillance in Haneke’s film CACHE (HIDDEN).

This 12-year old is not one to be tampered with. She has a mean streak, spying on her father’s (Matthieu Kassovitz) computer and discovering his affair. This is reminiscent of the power of children in Haneke’s THE WHITE RIBBON. The family is held together by Anne Laurent (Isabelle Huppert), the father’s sister. But suicide is in the mind of Anne’s father, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant).

In Hanake’s first film, THE SEVENTH CONTINENT, the whole family committed mass suicide after a banquet meal. The dysfunctional family is all reminiscent of FUNNY GAMES in which a family is disrupted by a home invasion. All the events are seen from the point of view of the 12-year old, which brings the film to a good focus.

The ending is just as funny and shows that life goes on, happy or not. What constitutes a HAPPY END, is the question Haneke poses.

Trailer (en Francais): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0hv8I9YbDk