TIFF Cinematheque Presents: INDEPENDENT WOMEN: Films of Ida Lupino


ida lupino.jpg

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TIFF Cinematheque Presents – The Films of Kathryn Bigelow

kathryn bigelow.jpgThe TIFF Cinematheque first retrospective on Kathryn Bigelow entitled KATHRYN BIGELOW: ON THE EDGE begins July 21.

Bigelow’s first film was the low-budget debut THE LOVELESS (an arty, hipster spin on ’50s biker movies, co-directed with Monty Montgomery and starring Willem Dafoe)  Following that, she  made her critical (but commercial unsuccessful) breakthrough with NEAR DARK, a grimy yet wickedly stylish tale of a pack of vampires traversing the American Southwest.  This was followed by a slew of films including POINT BREAK, STRANGE DAYS and others culminating with her glorious Oscar winner THE HURT LOCKER.  The retrospective arrives in time with the release of her new film DETROIT.

Bigelow was married to and divorced from director James Cameron.  Their collaboration can be seen in his script of STRANGE DAYS which Bigelow directed.

Bigelow’s best films are NEAR DARK, BLUE STEEL and STRANGE DAYS, all three of which oddly enough, did not do well at the box-office.

In April 2010, Bigelow was named to the Time 100 list of most influential people of the year.

For the complete program of the retrospective with screening dates and times, please check the TIFF website at:


BLUE STEEL (USA 1990) ****
Directed by Kathryn Boggle

BLUE STEEL is yet a another really awesome Bigelow film that flopped at the box-office.  She wrote this film with Eric Red after their collaboration NEAR DARK and marks another very human emotional script with a female cop character.  Just as Bigelow functions as a female action director BLUE STEEL is set in a man’s world.  Jamie Lee Curtis plays a rookie cop who foils a grocery store hold-hp shooting the robber (Tom Sizemore) who pulls a gun on her.  But she does not notice the robber’s gun stolen by a customer, who turns out to be a psychopath (Ron Silver) who uses the gun on a killing spree around NYC.  Detective Turner (Curtis) engages in a cat-and-mouse game with the killer that consists of a series of actions set-pieces.  The only problem is the sudden appearance of the killer shooting at Turner in a subway station for no reason except to provide the climax for the movie.  Still, this is Bigelow at her exciting best, and BLUE STEEL is an absorbing watch from start to end.  Ron Silver is the creepiest villain I have seen for a long time in a movie.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJTOmShc9E0

NEAR DARK (USA 1987) ***** Top 10
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

NEAR DARK is Kathryn Bigelow’s second and arguably BEST movie feature that mixes the western and vampire horror genres based on a script written by Bigelow and Eric Red.  The story follows a young man, Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) in a small midwestern town who becomes involved with a family of nomadic American vampires.  It all starts one night, when Caleb meets an attractive young drifter named Mae (Jenny Wright).  Just before sunrise, she bites him on the neck and runs off.  The rising sun causes Caleb’s flesh to smoke and burn.  Mae arrives with a group of roaming vampires in an RV and takes him away.  The film plays like a male victim basically in a female victim role which makes sense since Bigelow is a female action director.  NEAR DARK is one action set piece after another, the top two being the bar segment where the vampires terrorize a local biker bar, killing everyone before burning it down followed by a police takedown at a motel.  The only problem with the film is Bigelow’s Hollywood ending where Mae, the vampire becomes human again with the couple living happily ever after.

Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiYSirEHS5E

ZERO DARK THIRTY (USA 2012) ***1/2

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow

ZERO DARK THIRTY (referring to the period of time 30 minutes past midnight) is the story of perhaps the greatest American manhunt in history – the search and capture of Osama Bin Laden.  The story centres on the character of naïve CIA agent who goes by the name of Maya (Jessica Chastain) who supposedly masterminded the discovery of the whereabouts of OBL.  The navy seals were called in to attack the fort with the result of him being killed.  But not after Maya has given out all that she has got.  The script has her undergo the typical coming-of-age growing up to maturity as she accomplishes her goal.  Initially, shocked but accepting the torture by the American military, she gradually grows from soft to hardened in order to get the job done.  Maya finally reaches her angry peak when she confidently says to the Navy Seals, “You go and kill Bin Laden for me,” as if it is her own private vendetta.  The script and director keeps the film moving fast from start to finish keeping the audience’s attention.  The climatic segment of the raid on the fort in the dark of night is brilliantly executed.   

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxC_JNz5Vbg

TIFF Cinematheque Presents – Les films de Jean-Pierre Melville

TIFF Cinematheque’s SUMMER IN FRANCE takes a different look this year with a Jen-Pierre Melville tribute.


Jean-Pierre Grumbach was born in 1917 in Paris, France, the son of Berthe and Jules Grumbach.  He took the name of Melville after the war, after his favourite American author Herman Melville.   His family were Alsatian Jews.  After the fall of France in 1940 during World War II, Grumbach entered the French Resistance to oppose the German Nazis who occupied the country. 


After the war, Melville entered film directing, opening his own studio and initially making minimalist films.  His films are known for featuring thee great name French stars -Alain Delon, Lino Ventura and Jean-Paul Belmondo.


His films have a characteristic look and bear common themes.  His themes are often gangster capers where double-crosses and prison (escaped convicts or gangsters coming out after serving their sentences) are tied into the story. Melville’s films are rich in film noir atmosphere and more than often a delight to watch.


For more information of the series, venue and ticket pricing, check the Cinematheque website at:



CAPSULE REVIEWS of Selected Films:



Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville 


Based on real experiences in the French Resistance, Joseph Kessel’s fiction novel is given worthy treatment in Melville’s 150 minutes film adaptation.  The centre of the piece is civil engineer Resistance Fighter Philippe Gerbier (Lino Ventura) who at the beginning of the film is captured by the Vichy police and put in a prison camp.  A violent escape and other adventures allow the audience to be treated to the detailed exploits of the Resistance fighters.  Though not short of action and suspense (the best bit with the audience waiting almost two minutes waiting for Gerbier to execute his second escape), Melville effectively creates the mood of the desperation of the fighters and the atmosphere of the dangers of the times.  Simone Signoret steals the show as Mathilde, one of the chief organizers of the Resistance.  The film is well paced and flows smoothly from start to finish with the Arc de Triomphe in the initial and final shots.  ARMY OF SHADOWS is as meticulously plotted as one of Melville’s heist movies. 


LE DEUXINEME SOUFFLE (THE SECOND WIND) (SECOND BREATH) (France 1966) **** Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

Melville shows in this crime caper about and scaled criminal Gustave Minda (Lino Ventura) that there is honour among thieves.  Gu (short for Gustave) is well respected in the criminal world for his expertise and loyalty.  He is given a job to do which he needs the money in order to escape to Italy via Marseilles where he can live the rest of his life.  But Inspector Blot (Paul Meurisse) is a cunning sleuth who eventually  puts all the clues together to fps out Gu.  As is most of Melville films, the elements of betrayal, prison, cop vs. crook, heist execution are all present.  his is one of the longer melville films running close to 2 hours and 20 minutes but with really a dull moment.  Both Meurisse and Ventura are excellent in their respective roles of cop and criminal.  It is hard to take sides of either.  This was Melville’s most successful film commercially.



Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

There are three reasons to watch Melville’s TWO MEN IN MANHATTAN.  The first is that it is a rare screening of the film, which is largely unavailable in other forms.  Second, this is the only film that is both directed and star Melville.  Melville plays Maurice, a French journalist in NYC, one of the two men in Manhattan.  He and Pierre Grasset play two French journalists in New York City searching for a missing United Nations diplomat.  In the process, they uncover some nasty bits on the diplomat, but decide to do the right thing.  The third reason to se the film is to experience the rich film noir atmosphere of this piece. Ironically, it’s is not a general crime caper, but there the typical crime element such as is – hunt for a missing person, dead bodes and coloured characters like the women in the life of the diplomat – an actress, a prostitute, a stripper and a jazz singer.


UN FLIC (France 1972) ****

Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

Deliciously wicked Melville.  The film begins with a quotation by Eugène-François Vidocq which is repeated by Alain Delon’s character in the film:  “The only feelings mankind has ever inspired in policemen are those of indifference and derision…”   Then Melville attempts and succeeds in proving the saying with his crime tale centring on flic, Edouard Coleman, played by Alain Delon in his first cop role for Melville after playing criminals in LE SAMOURAI and LE CERCLE ROUGE.  Alain Delon’s is just as violent and cool if not more than Clint Eastwood’s DIRTY HARRY.  This can be observed in the hilarious scene where he gets a classic trio of pickpockets to speak up.  There are lots to enjoy in this crime caper, the best of which is a suspenseful bank robbery at the Banque National de Paris in the suburbs of Paris in which one of the robbers is wounded by a bullet.  Melville includes nice bits like a Santa Claus informer, a common love interest (Catherine Deneuve) between flic and crook and American actor Richard Crenna speaking perfect French.  As expected, Melville’s film is rich in film noir atmosphere complete with wicked details like the crooked laid out lit windows of police station building.  More story and easier to follow than the usual Melville film and even more entertaining as a result!  p.s.  Is there a sexier couple than Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve?



Jean-Pierre Melville
Jean-Pierre Melville
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TIFF Cinematheque Presents – ON THE ROAD – The Films of Wim Wenders

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

TIFF Cinematheque Presents – ON THE ROAD – The Films of Wim Wenders

by Gilbert Seah

The On the Road – the films of Wim Wenders” retrospective is devoted to German director Wim Wenders and features new digital restorations of his essential early works.

Born Ernst Wilhelm, Wim Wenders, alongside Fassbinder and Herzog, is a major German director of the ‘New’ German cinema.  Besides being a filmmaker, Wenders, still working at present in film is a playwright, author and photographer.  Wenders works with the medium of photography, emphasizing images of desolate landscapes which resulted in his second latest film THE SALT OF THE EARTH featuring Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado.

Wenders has gone on to win many awards including prizes at Cannes, Venice as well 3 Oscar nominations.  His most famous film is arguably WINGS OF DESIRE that won him Best Director at Cannes in 1987.  

Wenders’ favourite collaborators include author Peter Handke whose directorial debut THE LEFT-HANDED WOMAN will also be screened.

Wenders’ films have encompassed different genres that include detective film noire, documentary and personal drama.  This is the chance for the public to appreciate a whole range of films by Wenders,

Fo complete program, showtimes, venue and ticket ricing, please check the Cinematheque website at: 


The series runs from Jan 28th to March 6th.  Films are screened at The TIFF Bell Lightbox.  

TIFF Cinematheque also presents a sidebar to the retrospective, Wim’s Films: American Friends & Foreign Influences, running from January 30 to March 17.  Curated by James Quandt, Senior Programmer, TIFF Cinematheque, it spotlights fifteen of “Wim’s Films”—road movies and noirs, venerated classics and films maudits—gathered both from evidence (Wenders’ own list of favourites) and inference (of his obvious influences and affinities).  Again check the Cinematheque website above for the complete sidebar program.

Selected films are capsule reviewed below.  Films were provided courtesy of TIFF Cinematheque.  Dates of screenings of the selected films listed below the reviews.



Directed by Wim Wenders

Considered one of the best but little seen Wenders film that almost never got made when the director found his film too similar to Peter Bogdanovic’s PAPER MOON.  ALICE  is the first part of Wenders’ “Road Movie Trilogy” which included The Wrong Move (1975) and Kings of the Road (1976).  The film is shot in black and white by Robby Müller with several long scenes without dialogue, also used by other directors like Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch.  The story concerns a writer Philip Winter (Rüdiger Vogler) who has missed his publisher’s deadline for writing an article about the United States.  He decides to return to Germany, and encounters a German woman, Lisa (Lisa Kreuzer), and her daughter, Alice (Yella Rottländer), who are both doing the same thing.   Lisa leaves Alice temporarily in Phil’s care with Phil stuck with Alice, (like father and daunter in PAPER MOON) searching various cities of Germany for her grandmother.  But it is more the story of Phil, who needs to find himself and some meaning in life.  Phil does not feel his own existence and Alice is his saviour.  A seemingly simple film with deeper undertones and a profound message.

(Screening: Jan 29)

THE AMERICAN FRIEND (W Germany 1977) ***

Directed by Wim Wenders

Wenders who has an obsession with Patricia Highsmith crime novels get his chance to film one of her stories.  Unfortunately, the film fails as a crime thriller and barely succeeds as film detective noir.  The plot concerns Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper), who deals in forged art, suggesting a picture framer he knows who would make a good hit man for a mysterious Frenchman (Gerard Blain).  It is this farmer, Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz) who is the film’s lead character.  Wenders treats him just as in his other films.  It is a character study of a lonely man, suffering from fear of his death from leukaemia, wanting to provide for his family.  So, he takes his job as a hit man.  Wenders does provide surprisingly suspenseful scenes, like the ones in the subway when Jonathan executes his first hit and the train sequence.  But there are too many loose ends in the story and the story lacks coherency.

(Screening: Feb 5)

BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (USA/UK/France/Germany/Cuba 1999) ****
Directed by Wim Wenders

The film that shows Americans more about Cuba than any other, while celebrating Cuban music at its best!  The BUENA VIISTA SOCIAL CLUB is an old meeting of band musicians and singers in a building that does not exist any longer.  The musicians used to meet weekly to perform band music while people listened and danced.  In this delight tribute to these Cuban musicians, Ry Cooder assembled talents like Compay Segundo, Joachi Cooder, Omara Portoundo, Ruben Gonzale among others to perform together at NYC’s Carnegie Hall.  The result is a reunion of friends and music.  Just go with the flow, sit back and enjoy this free flowing tribute to times gone by and thankfully, not yet lost.  The documentary also won Wim Wenders (a  lover of music, as evident in all his film where music plays a large part) an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary.

(Screening: Feb 27)

THE GOALKEEPER’S ANXIETY AT THE PENALTY KICK (Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (West Germany/Austria 1971) ****

Directed by Wim Wenders

Wender’s second feature is an assured piece that follows the lines of many of his similar films.  As in PARIS TEXAS, the opening line was “this river looks just like any other river.”  In GOALKEEPER’S ANXIETY, the lead character (Arthur Brauss) is again a brooding nobody that resembles the nobody in his other films.  This nobody is a hot tempered goalie who ends up killing a cinema ticket seller, Gloria (Erika Pluhar) he follows home.  There is no real reason for him to do so.  Based on the novel by Peter Handke, Wender’s often collaborator, the slow moving non-film is nevertheless a captivating one.  The acting is nothing short of absorbing and the audience is drawn into the boring yet absorbing world of the man who keeps having his way with women.  In his defence, he is quite a good looking fellow.  The atmosphere of the 70’s is certainly well presented, understandably as the film was made in 1971, but the music (mainly American rock and roll from the likes of Van Morrison, The Troggs, Roy Orbison) from jukeboxes and an eerie score helps.  Wenders was supposed to be unable to pay royalties for all the songs, so this restored version has had some of the songs replaced.  Still, this is a simple film, told by a Master who utilizes the medium to the maximum.

(Screening: Jan 28)

THE LEFT HANDED WOMAN (West Germany 1978) **

Directed by Peter Handke

Wenders’ writing collaborator Peter Handke gets to direct his own film from his novel and script in THE LEFT HANDED WOMAN.  Wenders’ influence is clearly apparent from the camera shots particular the wide pa moving shots that Handke also uses.   The film follows the lonely and sad life of the woman in the tile, Marianne (Edith Clever) who dishes her husband to live alone with her son, for no apparent reason except to rediscover herself.  The film then plods on and on and on.  It is a slow film not helped by the fact that the reason is left for the audience to surmise and that Marianne is quite an annoying creature.  It is not surprising that her husband Bruno (Bruno Ganz) ends up slapping her around.  (I am saying this despite being opposed to female abuse.)  Her life and her husband’s lives are in tatters.  But consolation arrives later in the film with the visit of her father and Bruno’s final acceptance of her absence.  The film is pensive, and pretty – the images being crisp and clear, but this is one slow film that is difficult to be absorbed into.  Maybe the film would have been different if directed by Wenders, who produced the film.

(Screening: Feb 5)

TOKYO-DA (USA/West Germany 1984) ****

Directed by Wim Wenders

A Master’s tribute to another Master.  The late Japanese director Yasujio Ozu’s work from the silent to present featured the city of Tokyo in all his films.  The film begins with the credits of Ozu’s TOKYO STORY.  Director Wenders travels to Tokyo in search of Ozu and to get a feel of the Master as well as his works.  The result is marvellous.  The audience, given a perspective of Ozu from Wender’s voiceover get to experience Tokyo as never before.  From golf, baseball, restaurants with artificial food (there is a section of how this is made) on display and arcade games, the film feels occasionally surreal.  The best parts of the film deal with his reminiscing of the Ozu films, especially in the one in which Ozu’s regular actor Chishu Ryu gets to have his say.   From the bird that flies across an image, to the shadow that a cloud casts to the gesture of a child, all those make up the wonder and power of an Ozu film – all of which are captured in this wonderfully inspiring Wenders  documentary.

(Screening: Feb 7)

PARIS, TEXAS (UK/West Germany/France 1984) ****

Directed by Wim Wenders

Touted as many’s favourite Wenders’ film, PARIS, TEXAS is a sprawling desert epic about a man discovering and re-discovering himself in a desert landscape.  This allows stunning cinematography by Robby Miller aided with music by Ry Cooder, the musician featured in Wenders’ BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB.  Written by L.M. Kit Carson and playwright Sam Shepard, the story follows an amnesiac, Travis (Harry Dean Stanton) wandering and lost in the desert.  His long-suffering brother Walt (Dean Stockwell) finds and brings him home where it takes a while before he re-connects with his 7-year old son, Hunter (Hunter Carson) after his 3-year disappearance.   The two bond and take off to find the wife/mother (Nastassja Kinski) leaving Walt and his wife Anne (Aurore Clement) puzzled.  The film is as pensive as the best of Wenders’ films and Wenders allows his audience to go deep into the thoughts of his main character.  A bit puzzling is the casting of French actresses Clement and Kinski as the two wives, who speak with a strong French accent.  The film unanimously won the Palme d’Or (Golden Palm) at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival from the official jury, as well as the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.

(Screening: Feb 6)

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com