Montreal Film Journal

2005 LOG (5)

(1 May) Machuca (2005, Andrés Wood) 71
[ Santiago de Chile, 1973. Growing class divide has pushed the country to the brink of civil war. To young Gonzalo, this becomes a reality when a group of poor neighbouring children are allowed into his prep school. This creates conflict in the schoolyard, but Gonzalo befriends Machuca, one of the slums kids. What follows is a classic coming of age story, with the boys discovering girls and such, but the hectic socio-political backdrop makes things more dramatic. Driven by nervous camerawork and ‘70s rock, this is an intensely personal look at the context that led to Pinochet's military coup. ]

(1 May) Alias 4.16 (2005) [ review ] 69

(1 May) Histoire d'être humain (2005, Denys Desjardins) 64
[ While Céline Baril was shooting "538 fois la vie", Denys Desjardins also spent a year documenting life in a school from a poor neighbourhood. The films are similar in content, but "Histoire d'être humain" is more stylish and free-formed, following the students and teachers in the outside world and incorporating more universal ideas about language, culture and identity. École Saint-Henri is like a miniature version of Montreal and the world as a whole, increasingly heterogeneous and in need of learning to live in harmony. ]

(2 May) Le rôle de sa vie (2005, François Favrat) 20
[ Claire (Karin Viard) is a mousy girl who finds escape only in cinema, not unlike Mia Farrow in "The Purple Rose of Cairo". No one steps in or out of the screen here, but Claire does wind up entering the entourage of movie star Elisabeth Becker (Agnès Jaoui). It's not much of a dream though, because the actress reveals to be a self-centred bitch who treats everyone like servants. Neither comedy nor drama, it's not clear what we should get out of "Le rôle de sa vie". It's an elegantly dull production that neatly follows the "All About Eve"/ "Showgirls"/ "Mean Girls" pattern, except that we never care about the characters, not even enough to hate them. ]

(3 May) Kingdom of Heaven (2005, Ridley Scott) [ review ] 58

(28 Apr - 4 May) South Park – Season 6 (2002, Trey Parker) 83
[ "God, I wish Kenny was still alive, he'd put balls on his chin. He was such an awesome friend."
"It's been 22.3 years so... AIDS is finally funny!"
"Butters, I hate you with every inch of my body."
"Thank God for stupid people." "Amen."
"I've got it! We can kill Butters, then float the cows on a river of blood!"
"Oh! I thought you children took turns raping then murdered the teacher!"
"Towelie is a tough choice because, even though I can see how always having a towel around can come in handy, he's just always so high."
"What do you see as positive about toddler murder?"
"Part of being a woman is having a friend one day and calling her a slut the next."
"Maybe Mongolians aren't such crappy smelly people after all."
"I said, shut up Cartman, you blood-belching vagina!"
"What you need to do is let the parents know what kind of demented faggot you are."
"All Hail the Gerbil King!"
"I know a little Christmas miracle... Lock and load, we're going in!"

Who would have thought "South Park" could keep it up so long? At first, I honestly thought that the giggly thrill of hearing grade schoolers curse wouldn't last more than a few episodes, but that was before I realized that the great thing about the show is how it allows Trey Parker to mock whatever bugs him at the moment. Getting a movie made can take years, but Parker can put together 22 minutes of half-assed animation in only a couple of days! So you get brilliant send-ups of sensationalist talk shows, fraudulous advertisement, ‘80s teen ski movies, Russell Crowe's tendency to get into fights, random Verhoeven references, The Simpsons, reality TV, pedophile priests, aging filmmakers who "update" their classic films, how boobs turn men into apes, media-fueled paranoia, jingoistic post-9/11 attitudes, extreme gay stereotypes, fake psychic douches and more! ]

(5 May) Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005, George Lucas) [ review ] 80

(6 May) Crash (2005, Paul Haggis) [ review ] 72

(8 May) Alias 4.17 (2005) [ review ] 61

(9 May) C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005, Jean-Marc Vallée) [ review ] 85

(10 May) Soupirs d'âme (2005, Helen Doyle)
[ I just realised what's missing from most experimental docu-fiction: modern dance! Filmmaker Helen Doyle fills that void with her latest project, which combines fuzzy, bleached out video, old photographs, cloying voice-over and, yes, modern dance. Ostensibly about a woman working out issues from her childhood as an adopted kid while visiting orphans in Sarajevo, this artistic mash-up is interesting conceptually but doesn't quite succeed in the execution. I loved the Martha Wainwright songs, but that's a given. ]

(12 May) La Marche de l'empereur (2005, Luc Jacquet) [ review ] 68

(13 May) Bonzaïon (2005, Danny Gilmore & Clermont Jolicoeur) 16
[ Making dumb little movies between friends is fun, but you can't expect others to enjoy watching them – even if you and your friends are popular actors (Emmanuel Bilodeau, Jacynthe René...) and musicians (Jean Leloup, the Diouf brothers). Made with only $10 000 and a digital Betacam, "Bonzaïon" is a thoroughly amateurish crime comedy that's only sporadically amusing, generally when Leloup is on screen. The story revolves around a large stash of marijuana that keeps getting stolen, sold, stolen back, sold again, etc. Clermont Jolicoeur and Danny Gilmore are likable on screen, but they show precious little skill as writers and directors. ]

(6-14 May) South Park – Season 7 (2003, Trey Parker) 84
[ "If you don't like America, geeeet out!"
"Ohhh no no nonono! Nobody is putting their finger in my ass again! Unless it's Kyle."
"Your foetus-sucking days are over, Christopher Reeves."
"We have no choice. We have to kill Kyle."
"Mooooom! Ben Affleck is naked in my bed!"
"Who was in charge of the feminist movement in the early ‘60s?" "A bunch of fat old skanks on their period?"
"Waitaminute, I've got it, you guys. We can get Kyle infected with AIDS, and then start a charity organization that we steal money from!"
"When all the world is metrosexual, the crab people shall finally reign supreme!"
"(singing) I want to get down on my knees and start pleasing Jesus, I want to feel his salvation all over my face..."
"FUCK YOU, I DON'T EVEN WANNA GO TO YOUR FAGGOT BIRTHDAY PARTY! (...) I'm sorry Kyle, I do wanna go to your birthday party. I mean you said some things, I said some things, but it's all in the past now."
"Handle it? For two billion dollars i could handle my Grandpa's balls, dude."
"Hey Wendy, Stan says you're a cunt... cunt... continuing source of inspiration to him."
"YOU FUCKING JEWS RUINED CHRISTMAS AGAIN! It wasn't enough for you people to kill Jesus, now you have to kill Christmas too, hunh?"

Ok, past 100 episodes, you've covered a lot of ground, but "South Park" has got a knack for introducing new characters and milking them for endless laughs. I can't get enough of Jimmy the handicapped stand-up comic and Mr. Slave, for instance. In the don't fix it if it ain't broken department, Cartman remains the most hilariously screwed up rotten little bastard there is. They could just have him bust Kyle's balls through every episode and I'd be happy! ]

(15 May) Alias 4.18 (2005) [ review ] 67

(16 May) The Woodsman (2004, Nicole Kassell) 60
[ You know what this film is like? The creepy scene between Steve Buscemi and the little girl in "Con Air", but stretched to feature length and garmented with faux-Soderbergh visual flourishes. That it tries to humanize a pedophile is a difficult, daring choice, even though it cheats by never explaining in details what crimes the main character committed and providing another sexual predator on whom he and the audience can pound all their disgust. Still, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick are great as always and Mos Def and Ben Bratt provide solid support in smaller parts. This is an odd little movie, interesting but kinda inconsequential. ]

(16-19 May) Six Feet Under 3.1-3.13 (2003) [ review ]

(18 May) Le Fantôme de l'opératrice (2005, Caroline Martel) 65
[ This is a very original picture, cross-editing bits and pieces from hundreds of corporate films produced by the telecommunication industry through the 20th century. It mostly focuses on how the phone companies exploited female operators ("the voice with a smile") until they were found to be obsolete. Director Caroline Martel witnessed the last days of these invisible workers in her 2001 documentary "Dernier Appel" before Bell replaced them with those dreadful automated voice systems. For this new project, she's gone back as far as 1903, researching the history of these women through the short movies their employers produced over the years. Martel cleverly subverts this archival footage originally intended as training or promotional material. A lot of it is ridiculously sexist and dated, making it seem like spending hours in front of a switchboard connecting lines for miserable wages is oh so glamorous. We also learn that the reason they hired women was because they figured they would leave after a few years to get married and make babies, thus not having the time to unionize. "Le Fantôme de l'opératrice" has an almost sci-fi feel, the operators appearing like disembodied voices imprisoned in an increasingly complex network of machines. Adding to the surreal mood is the score played on the ondes Martenot, an early electronic musical instrument, and the phantom-like narration by local actress Pascale Montpetit. ]

(19 May) Grave Danger – Volumes 1 and 2
(2005, Quentin Tarantino)
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(22 May) Alias 4.19 (2005) [ review ] 86

(22 May) Star Wars – Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002, George Lucas) [ review ] 61

(26 May) Crustacés et coquillages (2005, Olivier Ducaster & Jacques Martineau) 49
[ This is the perfect example of what some people hate about French movies: 90 minutes of nothing but folks lying on the beach, having lunch, cruising, drinking Ricard, screwing and, naturally, talking each others' ears raw. Nightmarish memories of "Le rayon vert" threaten to return, but this is thankfully less akin to Rohmer than Ozon. Like a sunnier "Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes", this film puts a bunch of men and women in the same house and tries to find how many different sexual connections can be made. There's a married couple and their teenage children, plus the mother's lover and the father's ex-boyfriend (!) waiting in the wings. In true vaudeville fashion, misunderstandings and door-slamming abound, and there are even a few musical numbers that would be embarrassing if not for the contagious enthusiasm of the performers. The cast's charm also helps making the vacuous dialogue and postcard-thin character development less insufferable, and this ends up being an enjoyable summer romp. It's as uninspired and inconsequential as a bad Hollywood blockbuster but, instead of explosions, it coasts on nakedness. I'll leave it to someone else to rate the penises and asses of the male actors (Gilbert Melki, Jean-Marc Barr, etc.), but I can attest that Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's curves are more awesome than all the special effects in the world! ]

(27 May) Idole Instantanée (2005, Yves Desgagnés) 31
[ Between this and last year's "Camping sauvage", it's tempting to wish for a law that forbids TV personalities with zero filmmaking experience from directing big-budget movies. Yves Desgagnés' "Idole Instantanée" is nowhere near as awful as Guy A. Lepage's inexplicable blockbuster, but it's got the same kind of uninspired sitcomish humor and flashy but misguided style. The only bright spot is Claudine Mercier, who plays the four lead characters, like Michel Côté did in "Cruising Bar", and manages to make them all feel distinctive. The women she plays are the finalists of the titular talent contest, whom we follow during the last 24 hours before one winner is picked. There's Manon, a vapid big-titted blonde who's been tailored her whole life into a perfectly insipid little proto-pop star; Cat, a hard-edged single mother of three who sings in rock bars; Daphnée, a chubby girl whose unbridled enthusiasm hides her profound loneliness; and Mimi, "la ptite colonne laide" who gets all the pity-vote *cough* Marie-Élaine Thibert *cough*. The film is a satire of reality shows like Star Académie, an easy target if there's ever been one. Alas, the 4 screenwriters couldn't come up with any incisive criticism of the phenomenon. The jabs at media synergy, overzealous fans and people who'll do anything to get their 15 minutes in the spotlight are nothing that hasn't been dissected over and over in editorials. Worse, the material just isn't that funny and the switch to sentimentality doesn't fare better. But hey, what do I know, it'll probably be a big hit, etc. ]

(21-27 May) South Park – Season 8 (2004, Trey Parker) 85
[ "Hey Kenny, there's something even you can afford: a ninja shuriken for $1.99."
"How should I know, I'm retarded. Duuuuuuh!"
"Well, Eric is still supposed to be grounded for trying to exterminate the Jews two weeks ago."
"If you mess this up, so help me GOD, I will rip your balls off with my bare hands! WITH MY BARE HANDS GOD DAMN YOU!!"
"I think voting is great, but if I have to choose between a douche and a turd, I just don't see the point."
"Yeah.It's called Close-up Animals With a Wide Angle Lense,Wearing Hats!"
"Fuck you Millie! Fuck you Annie! Fuck you Bebe! Fuck you, whatever your name is! And fuck you, bitch!"

What's cool about the continuing adventures of Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny is that however extreme, the stories are always based on things most guys will remember doing or at least thinking about as little boys. Heck, maybe they still dig that stuff. I mean, pretending to be a ninja? That's so me! Seriously, the ninja episode is just about the funniest thing EVER. When they go for the half Japanese, half broken English ‘80s style theme song, I just about died of laughter! "Hey hey let's go kenkasuru. Taisestunamono protect my balls. Bokugawarui so let's fighting. Let's fighting Love!" Pretending to be a robot, pretending to be handicapped (now that's just wrong!), pretending to be firemen, pretending to be news reporters, pretending to be stupid spoiled whores, pretending to be a psychic detective... Isn't that what being a kid is all about? ]

(29 May) Alias 4.20-4.21 (2005) [ review ] 79

(30 May) Après vous... (2005, Pierre Salvadori) 12
[ Daniel Auteuil plays a maitre d' who's apparently so generous that, when he sees some poor slob (José Garcia) about to hang himself in a park, he not only saves his life but also takes him into his home, gets him a job at his restaurant and tries to reunite the suicidal stranger with his ex-wife (Sandrine Kiberlain). This preposterous premise develops in ever more contrived ways and, while all that's supposed to be humorous, it left me cold. Auteuil's character is a doormat, Garcia's is insufferable and Kiberlain's should know better than to get involved with such losers. ]

(30 May) Team America: World Police (2004, Trey Parker) [ review ] 92

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