Film Review: INTO INVISIBLE LIGHT (Canada 2017) ***

Into Invisible Light Poster
After her husband dies, a woman reconnects with an old boyfriend who is now married.

Director:

Shelagh Carter

Everything spells art movie in the new and third feature by Winnipeg director Shelagh Carter.  It is also a strong feminine film with all the film creators, writer, director protagonist all being female.  Not that all these elements spell a good thing, but they do not necessary spell a bad thing either.

The film begins with image of a performance – a piece that expresses some torment.  The film returns to his scene and it is clear that the dance bookends the film.  What occurs in between revisits the situation of this dance.  The dancer happens to be the daughter of the main protagonist, Helena Grayson (Jennifer Dale) who has a problem to sort out with not only her daughter but with others as well .

For one thing the film’s title is ambiguous and demands some thought.  Is light invisible or is that not possible at all?  And what happens when one veers into invisible light?  And what does it all mean?  And is this a metaphor?  If all this sounds a bit too much to take in, the film actually is quite interesting.

There are segments in the darken interior of a house where a figure lingers.  The wind blows the curtains and haunting music is heard on the piano.  If the close captioning in seen, as I had it on when watching the streaming screening link, the title ‘thoughtful music ‘ is seen at the bottom of the screen as what is heard appears to be true to the titles.  There is also playful music to be heard later on in the film.

And if all this sounds amusing, it actually is.  And quite funny too.  Director Carter and lead actress Jennifer Dale (both these ladies wrote the script) have a sense of humour.  The total artistic atmosphere which suits the theme of the film plays well together.  The film is a jigsaw puzzle of life as Helena Grayson (Dale) tries to fit her life pieces made up of dreams, desires hope and despair, together while falling in love along the way.

The story concerns Helena.  Her husband, who she apparently married but not love has passed away.  Helena is given a huge artistic endowment by her late husband that she feels unworthy to fulfill.  She feels unqualified to walk in her husband’s footsteps.  Her enforced engagement with art, sculpture, dance, writing, picking and choosing the candidates for consideration, brings up old ambitions, and memories of her own writing, done long ago before marriage and its complications seemingly obliterated all that. She had thought she “put away childish things”. Michael (Peter Keleghan) teaches literature at a local university, and is married to a woman who protects her independence ferociously, going off on hiking trips for weeks on end.  Michael and Helena rekindle their relationship that they had broken up in the past.

One problem with the film is the prejudiced script that treats the female as always right and the man otherwise.  In all the arguments that Helena and Michale have in the film, she has the right things to say.  Michael is always in the wrong and constantly apologizing.  The script also treats Helena as the perfect person, intellectually and physically.  One look at her makes it clear to the audience that the actress is past her prime and the script, partly written by her, serves as an ego trip.

Still, INTO INVISIBLE LIGHT, well directed and acted. is entertaining in its own way with impressive production value.  The film works when it is less self-conscious and less pretentious abuts subject matter.

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

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Film Review: WONDERS OF THE SEA (UK/France 2017) ***1/2

Wonders of the Sea 3D Poster

This wonderful documentary about the sea is from the family of the famous French diver, filmmaker and explorer Jacques Cousteau.  The voiceover at the film’s start acknowledges Jacques’ contribution to the human race – the invention of camera equipment that allows underwater footage to be seen clearly.  WONDERS OF THE SEA, screened in 3-D is proof.

The narration of the film is largely done by bodybuilder/actor/governor/environmentalist 

Arnold Schwarzenegger who has a special appearance at the start of the film touting the wonders of the doc.  The other narrators are the members of the Cousteau family.

The film can be divided roughly into four equal parts as the camera takes the audience to different parts of the world to observe, examine and study:

  • the coral reefs
  • the California kelps
  • the sandy bottoms
  • the mangroves

It is difficult to say which section is the best or most interesting.  The film begins with he smaller creatures in the coral reefs moving up to larger and larger creatures of the sea.

The first journey takes the audience all the way to the topical Fiji Islands where the coral reefs are featured.  Again, the target of these reefs dying are mentioned.  The reef is alive, and an animal.  The many creatures big and especially small thrive on the reefs, which if dead or dying will adversely affect the eco system.  It is fascinating to watch the small creatures that move around – creatures like the  Christmas Tree world and the different varieties of colourful flat worms that make their way across the reefs.  Clams are also shown from the very small to the enormous  500 pound ones that hardly move and live for a century or more.  The shrimps are equally intriguing especially in the scene where two approach each other, the voiceover teasing the audience to decide it it is a fight or mating that is about to occur.

Like other films on nature, the same goes for survival.  The one survival rule is emphasized: to eat and not to get eaten.

The film then moves from the coral reef to the cooler California kelps.  And from there the sandy bottoms and finally the mangroves of sea water.  Descriptions of each of these are set not provided so that the entertainment of all the wonders can be revealed on film as it was meant to be.

The directors cannot help but play with he 3-D as evident in the bubbles ejected from the oxygen tank blowing right out of the screen at the audience.  Or the fish that suddenly appear out of nowhere from behind or sides of the audience. These are cheap tricks which can be forgiven.

The film’s best scenes are the one that take place in the dead of night under the deepest waters where the divers can only see where their light points.  The creators observed look like alien invaders.  

WONDERS OF THE SEA is a remarkable educational and visible feast for the eyes.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWtQqyg0TTc

Film Review: THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA (USA 2018) ***

The Gospel of Eureka Poster
Trailer

Love, faith, and civil rights collide in the south as evangelical Christians and drag queens step into the spotlight to explore the meaning of belief. Gospel drag shows and passion plays set the stage for one hell of a show.

Writer:

Donal Mosher

The film begins with an image of the gay coloured rainbow flag.  Then there is the Passion Play put on by the people of Eureka Springs, Arkansas in the Bible Belt of America.  I first wondered whether I did see the rainbow flag as it would be strange that a film that propagates Christianity and born-gain Christians would also advocate gay rights.  Thankfully, the film, a doc about both Christianity and gay rights proves that these two entities can live happily together ever after.  Thus, it is a feel-good documentary that everyone can learn from – tolerance and the respect for every prison’s rights and beliefs.

Eureka Springs is a small town in Arkansas that is the home of about two thousand residents, as the city welcome sign proudly proclaims.  Yet the town attracts thousands of visitors annually to a Passion Play.  The Passion Play depicts the entirety of the life of Jesus from his birth to his resurrection and his ascension to heaven, which is shown in the climax of the movie, happening at night with the actor playing the Messiah rising up into the sky with the appropriate Christian music and lighting.  It sounds tacky but it works and there is a certain sanctity about it that everyone should respect.

Other parts of the Passion Play are also shown on screen.  The betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross and the rolling away of the stone of Jesus tomb after Jesus’ burial at Easter.  These scenes are intercut with performances in a local gay club where drag queens strut their stuff much to the amusement of the spectators.  But many of the performers are Christians themselves.  The directors emphasize in these intercutting of scenes that Christianity and the gay lifestyle can reside by each other comfortably.  These drag performances are also lively and fun to watch.

THE GOSPEL OF EUREKA is a simply made doc,  There is not much research required and not much approval and copyrights needed for the doc’s making.  But the carefully placed segments and well thought-up interviews more than make up for the film’s effectiveness.

The best interview on display appears to be taken at random with a driver in a car who resides in Eureka Springs.  He speaks against gays and says that he will never have one invited to his house.  He cannot give any concrete reason for this behaviour except for his sexual discrimination.  He clearly says that the one interviewing him would be welcome to his home, obviously not realizing that he would likely be gay.  This clearly shows prejudice and stereotyping on his part.  The interviewer clearly states that the driver is welcome in his home, implying that he is gay.

The film is set at Christmas when the Passon Play is played.  Spend Christmas with Jesus and the Queens…. goes the film’s ad.  Yes, audiences will have a Merry time at that!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3bMqOo0owc

Film Review: LE LIVRE D’IMAGE (THE IMAGE BOOK) (Switzerland/France 2018) ***

The Image Book Poster
Trailer

Nothing but silence. Nothing but a revolutionary song. A story in five chapters like the five fingers of a hand.

Director:

Jean-Luc Godard

It is what it is.  LE LIVRE D’IMAGE (THE IMAGE BOOK) is a Godard film.  So, one would know what to expect.

When Godard was speaking at the Q & A after the screening of his film LE COLEUR DE LANGUE at the Toronto International Film Festival, he described the transition of one scene in the film to another.  The description made no sense at all and no one would, in his or her right sense of  mind even guess the intention of the director. The same can be said for Godard’s LE LIVRE D’IMAGE.  Nothing much makes sense in the film and there it is pointless to try even to make some sense of the images.

The film can be described as a Swiss avant-garde horror essay film. Initially titled Tentative de bleu and Image et parole, Godard had started shooting the film for almost two years “in various Arab countries, including Tunisia”.  It is supposedly an examination of the modern Arabic world.  Godard told Séance magazine that he was shooting without actors but the film would have a storyteller. The Image Book is composed of a series of films, paintings and pieces of music tied together with narration and additional original footage by Godard and his partner, Anne-Marie Miéville

Godard’s film contains plenty of clips from films through the decades with a clip even from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s THE LAST DAYS OF SODOM.  How these films are connectedly to for example the Joan Crawford classic, JOHNNY GUITAR is anybody’s guess.  There is a spill of a complaint  on human’s lies being told when the JOHNNY GUITAR clip was played, so one can guess at Godard’s dissatisfaction on human’s and likely politician’s speeches.

Still, there are pleasures derived from a Godard film.  Godard is inventive and has disregard for the rules of the cinema (his jump cuts in  A BOUT DE SOUFFLE or BREATLESS, the film’s English title, put him instantly in filmmaking Nouvelle Vague fame).  So best thing is to sit back and to enjoy the collage of images (many in over-saturated colours, which appear to be his favourite from his past two films; cinematography is by Fabric Aragno) that flash on the screen, the assemblage of classic films over the decades of filmmaking and his own philosophical sayings.  It does not matter if much sense or continuity can be made.

THE IMAGE BOOK was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.   Although it did not win the official prize, the jury awarded it the first “Special Palme d’Or” in the festival’s history.

LE LIVRE D’IMAGE has a special engagement run at the Bell Lightbox.  Venture to see Godard’s latest film if you dare.  Remember it is a avant-garde horror essay – the best words (taken from Wikipedia) that best describes the film.

According to Godard, the film is intended to be shown on TV screen with speakers at a distance in small spaces rather than in regular cinemas.  It was shown in this way during its first run at the Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne in November 2018.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcXn1LRyNq8

Film Review: NAPPILY EVER AFTER (USA 2018)

Nappily Ever After Poster
Trailer

Violet Jones tired of waiting for her longtime boyfriend to propose, breaks up with him. But old feelings, and heaps of jealousy, no doubt, arise when he promptly begins dating another woman.

NAPPILY EVER AFTER is a romantic comedy involving  hair.  The titles that divide the film tell the different stages of the main character life as she changes her hair – for example from straight to weave to blonde and even to bald when the female protagonist hysterically shaves her head in despair on being ditched by her man.

There are good and bad things about this Netflix original romantic comedy.  The writers are quick to have hair as a niche in the story.  Anything and everything that concern hair is in. 

When Violet was a little girl, Violet was always hair-perfect, as dictated by her mother.  Where other kids could get dirty and not comb their hair, Violet had to get her hair done by her mother and kept that way throughout the rest of the day or till mother grooms her hair again.  When Violet grows up, she is still 100% concerned that she must look good with her hair.  She insists that she has her hair done just right for her birthday when she expects to be proposed to by her boyfriend, Clint of two years.  Violet depicts that kind of girl (black or any other race for that matter).  The story therefore can connect with a large part of the audience, the target audience obviously being female between the ages of 20 and 40), who are largely concerned about getting married and bear children (unless they are too career oriented or non-breeders).  The bad thing about the rom-com is that it is full of cliches. 

There is one contradicting scene set at a sports bar in the middle of the film when Violet sits with her two friends and discuss beer commercials.  They complain that beer commercials are so sexist as they are always geared towards men.  Yet when they see the men cheer a game on the TV screen drinking beer, they claim it to be latent homosexuality.  This is clearly selected minority prejudice.

The one annoying thing about this film is its insistence on making hair an all important factor into the story.  Hair, here used as a metaphor for vanity is too obvious.  The climatic scene ends with a song about hair.

It is midway through the film that Violet encounters group therapy.  She tells the group that she shaved off her hair to be bald after her boyfriend failed to propose to her.  This problem  is minuscule compared to the other problems of the group who suffer worst of life’s problems like cancer.  The film also puts a great deal about its subject shaving off their hair.  It is quite commonplace right now with many celebrities like Grace Jones sporting the look.  In fact, I would say I would see at least two ladies sporting that look at my gym, on average.

Violet comes across as a character, spoilt, not getting what she wants, then getting really annoying when doing what she can.  As a result, not everyone in the audience might be rooting for this annoying character which might pose a problem for the film.

As is what would be expected, director Al-mansour steers her film towards an overdone Hollywood rom-com ending – cliched as the film already is.  But what is unforgivable is the film’s preaching at the end about women of colour embracing their natural beauty. Ugh!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xh9XFxo2Hg

Film Review: SERENITY (USA 2018) ***

Serenity Poster
Trailer

The mysterious past of a fishing boat captain comes back to haunt him, when his ex-wife tracks him down with a desperate plea for help, ensnaring his life in a new reality that may not be all that it seems.

Director:

Steven Knight

Writer:

Steven Knight

The film’s opening offers a hint of what is to be expected of the new psychological noir thriller called SERENITY.  The eyes of a woman fill the screen as the camera enters the eyes as if the eyes are the entrance to the soul.  The audience is taken under water and gradually to the surface where a fishing boat named SERENITY is seen and the radio is heard.  The radio is broadcast from Radio Plymouth of Plymouth Island.  The audience will surely ask themselves where the hell on earth is Plymouth Island.  The closest link is the port of Plymouth in the south coast of England.  But is there a such a place called Plymouth Island?

The film could be described as FATAL ATTRACTION meets OLD MAN AND THE SEA, Hemmingway style, in a sort of screwed up David Lynch world.  Whether the film succeeds is dependent on the audience but SERENITY offers trashy fun with Matthew McConaughey in what is a typical Nicholas Cage role.

The subject of the story of Baker Dill (Matthew McConaughey), an out on his luck boatman who earns a living by taking tourists fishing at Plymouth Island.  He works with a caring hand (Djimon Hounsou), who he has an often fond/hate relationship with.  Baker appears obsessed with  capturing an elusive tuna he nicknames ‘Justice’.  He has never come close to catching Justice though he has caught many sharks instead.  Enters one obnoxious tourist (Jason Clarke) whose wife (Anne Hathaway) is willing to pay $10 million to Baker to see her husband dead.  Apparently, the husband’s son wishes the same.  The husband tells Baker: “My son is in his basement all day and when I finally find out what he was doing – playing a video game, his reply was: “Would you rather me be doing something else like killing you?”  This line is a clue as to where the story is leading.  It is all very intriguing at this point in this strange but absorbing mystery movie.

The script, also written by director Steven Knight, keeps the audience guessing as to what is really happening.  The dialogue often has two meanings. Strange characters like Reid Miller (Jeremy Strong), always in a suit, appeal out of nowhere.  Reid says he is the rules of the game and does not care whether he lives or dies or who he is.

The film is enlivened by McConaughey’s crazed performance.  But it is Jason Clarke, the mean obnoxious tourist who steals the show.  Knight includes some very hot sex senes with McConaughey.

The film works before the audience is clued as to what is happening.  After what has been made clear, expectations seem to dwindle.  A sort of ah-ha, so this is what the film is all about.  Nothing more can be that interesting and the film then ends with a disappointing Hollywood ending.  For all that is worth, SERENITY is trashy fun while it works, and fortunately, it works for a majority of its running time.

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

Full Review: COLD WAR (ZIMNA WOJNA) (Poland 2018) ****

Cold War Poster
Trailer

A passionate love story between two people of different backgrounds and temperaments, who are fatefully mismatched and yet condemned to each other. Set against the background of the Cold … See full summary »

Writers:

Pawel Pawlikowski (story), Pawel Pawlikowski (screenplay) | 2 more credits »

The director of the Best Foreign Film Oscar winner IDA three years ago, Pawel Pawlikowski returns with a new film, dedicated to his parents (as stated at the end of the film) and based loosely on their lives. 

The film is set in Poland in the year 1949, just after the War.  The film is a period love story.  The film begins with several songs accompanied by various musical instruments played by assorted villagers.  Director Pawlikowski slowly but surely brings the audience to the subject of his film.  A musical scout is impressed with one rural dancer that begins a tempestuous romantic relationship that survives through time, trails and tribulations.  The film traces the remarkable journey of a troubled love relationship that survived the cold war.   But the lovers endure a cold war of their own where nothing is black and white.  

What is black and white, however, is the film’s stunning cinematography (Director of Photography is Łukasz Żal), capturing the atmosphere of the period after the war where Poland indulged in popular propaganda.  The exterior shots of the peasant farms and village amidst the trees and snow combined with the the interiors of the old buildings create the atmosphere.

Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) the musical director of a dance tripe falls in love with a recruited rural dancer, Zula (Joanna Kulig).  Wiktor is warned that Zula is serving time for murdering her father.  Her feisty nature is shown when questioned on the incident: “My father mistook me for my mother and I used a knife to show him the difference.”

They travel together to different cities.  She fails to show up when he decides to defect, while in Paris.  They meet again at different times in different cities proving that their love is true – though plagued with jealousy.  The intensity of the love is vividly portrayed by the two actors and the setting of the dance troupe (with some excellent dances) add a super backdrop to the story.  Lots of metaphors in the film including the hilarious ‘pendulum that kills’ metaphor that got those watching the preview screening at TIFF (where I first saw the film) laughing.

As mentioned, the film is lovingly dedicated to the director’s parents.  Pawlikowski is quoted here from a Hollywood daily, Deadline: “I dedicated it to my parents, because it’s somewhat inspired by their tempestuous relationship—they had [both] a great love and a great war. Their separations, betrayals, getting together again, moving countries, changing partners, getting together again—that story has always been in the back of my head, as a kind of a matrix of all love stories. So I knew I had to do it.”

COLD WAR that premiered at Cannes last year has received universal acclaim.  It competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, where Pawlikowski won the award for Best Director.  Other awards include: the Golden Lions Award at the 43rd Gdynia Film Festival, five 2018 European Film Awards, and was selected as the Polish entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 91st Academy Awards, making the December shortlist. At the 72nd British Academy Film Awards the film earned four nominations, including Best Direction and Best Film Not in the English Language.  

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvPkDdFeTk8