Montreal Film Journal

2005 LOG (7)

(1 Jul) Dil Chahta Hai (2001, Farhan Akhtar) 65
(3 Jul) Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003, Nikhil Advani) 85 [ first viewing: 75 ]
[ Part of Michael Dequina's Bollywood Starter-Kit ]

(3 Jul) Innocence (2005, Lucile Hadzihalilovic)
[ In a mysterious school in the middle of a dark forest, little girls with ribbons in their hair live and learn practically by themselves, seemingly out of thought and time. This is an intriguing premise and some tension rises from not knowing how or why these kids got there, but nothing particularly dramatic or interesting actually happens and the child actors aren't very convincing. The raincoat crowd might respond to endless scenes of little girls doing ballet, frolicking in nature and punishing each other, but it bored me to tears. ]

(3 Jul) Léolo (1992, Jean-Claude Lauzon) [ review ] 93

(4 Jul) Aurore (2005, Luc Dionne) [ review ] 0

(6 Jul) Moulin Rouge! (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 98
Eleventh viewing. I'm seriously considering upgrading the film to the almighty ‘100', only some of the most slapsticky throwaway moments still bug me a little bit. That other 98% is pure genius though, from the absinthe-trip first act to the love-lifts-us-up- where-we-belong second act to the Spectacular Spectacular last act. When is Baz gonna make another movie already?

(7 Jul) Metallic Blues (2005, Danny Verete) 65
[ When an Arab comes by their dealership desperate to sell his 1985 Lincoln Continental metallic blue limo, Israeli car salesmen Shmuel and Siso figure this is a once-in-a-lifetime profit opportunity. They buy it for five grands then take it to Germany, where they're sure they can sell it for up to 50,000 euros. Unfortunately, things turn out to be more complicated. Their Middle-Eastern complexion attracts the attention of the customs agents, and they soon realize that with the high cost of living in Europe, this business trip might end up making them poorer rather than richer. Being in Germany also awakes ghosts of the Holocaust, as the two men recall the horror stories their parents told them about their experiences during World War II. Sounds grim, but this Israel-Canada co-production is actually a rather lighthearted tragicomedy. Much of it deals with the ridiculous effect money has on people, how people spend away to feel like big shots one minute, then go nuts trying to save pennies the next. Seeing how confident and greedy the characters are at the beginning of the film, we can only smile and wait for them to fall on their face as unexpected expenses pile up and the car's condition deteriorates. Avi Kushnir and Moshe Ivgy effortlessly trade banter like the seasoned pros they are and they make this a pleasant ride. ]

(8 Jul) Undead (2005, Michael and Peter Spierig) 53
[ When thinking of movie zombies, one pictures the lumbering antagonists of George A. Romero's Living Dead series or maybe the fast raging ones seen in "28 days later" and the "Dawn of the Dead" remake. For filmmakers down under though, zombies seem to mostly be comedy props. Indeed, the Spierig brothers' debut feature is a farcical horror flick in the spirit of Peter Jackson's early New Zealand "splatstick" films ("Bad Taste", "Braindead"). Set in the Australian countryside, "Undead" follows a beauty queen, a mysterious fisherman, two cops, a bush pilot and his very pregnant girlfriend as they're forced to deal with meteor showers, acid rain, alien abductions and, yes, zombies. I couldn't make much sense of the plot, but that's a detail in a movie like this. What truly matters is getting the gore going and we definitely get served on that level. The make-up and special effects are perfectly gruesome, especially considering the filmmakers had less than $1M to work with. The performances are mostly rotten, but Mungo McKay cuts a striking figure as the badass fisherman Marion, who mows down zombies with double-fisted handguns like the hero of a John Woo movie. Felicity Mason is pretty cool too, especially when she starts chopping heads and limbs with a circular saw stuck on a broomstick! High art this is not, but it's a fun B-movie. ]

(8 Jul) Dark Water (2005, Walter Salles) 46
[ Following the successful Americanisation of "The Ring" and "The Grudge", here's another Hollywood remake of a Japanese horror film, Hideo Nakata's 2002 picture of the same name. Starring Jennifer Connelly as a divorced mother who moves in a creepy apartment building where dark and damp things await her, "Dark Water" is less a ghost story than the psychological portrait of an unravelling woman. The film is sluggishly paced and its depiction of the consequences of bad plumbing failed to scare me, but Connelly is heartbreakingly good and I loved the supporting performances by John C. Reilly, Tim Roth and Pete Postlethwaite. ]

(9 Jul) Uptown Girls (2003, Boaz Yakin) 62
[ I know, I know, why the hell am I watching this shit when I could be watching a classic, foreign or cult film. Gimme a break, I've had a long day and between "I Am Sam", "Man on Fire", "Hide and Seek" and "War of the Worlds", Dakota Fanning has proven to have a better track record than many actresses with decades more experience than her – say, Brittany Murphy. And even Brit's fun here as a dumb, superficial, skanky socialite *cough* parishilton *cough*. Except that unlike a certain real-life heiress, Murphy's character has a pet pig instead of a Chihuahua and she gets her comeuppance, running out of money and having to get a job as a nanny to Fanning's neurotic, hypochondriac 8 year old. Wait, did I say fun? The pratfalls, upbeat pop songs and zingers do give that impression but, at its core, this is a really sad film. Murphy's playing such a pathetic young woman in arrested development, desperate for attention she doesn't deserve, trying to fuck the pain away but waking up "making love to a wall" (to quote my favourite Alaskan poet). This isn't Shakespeare, but I found her to be a tragic figure nonetheless, reflective of our society of empty appearances and deadening pleasures. Then you've got the little girl popping pills, clutching unto "fundamentals" but never having fun like a kid should and... Oh, this is a Hollywood flick so things brighten up by the end, but it doesn't feel cheap, it feels like the characters are sincerely growing up. Made me cry like a baby, too. Your mileage may vary, etc. ]

(10 Jul) Rebound (2005, Steve Carr) 27
[ I hate Martin Lawrence, I simply can't stand the dumb, rude, loud moron he plays in every movie. On the other hand, I'm a sucker for sports movies in which a team of misfits somehow manage to go from a desperate losing streak to winning the state championship. Think "Mighty Ducks" but even more predictable, with unfunny slapstick, one-dimensional stereotypes passing as characters, abrasive performances and contrived sentimentality. "You know, these kids, they taught me a lot. They made me a better coach, better than I ever was." This should be unbearable, but it's actually not bad. It's not good, mind, but it's... not bad. ]

(10 Jul) Bewitched (2005, Nora Ephron) 34
[ Again, a mediocre film I can't help softballing a little. This one's like a bad sitcom, and not just in the scenes where the characters are shooting episodes of a revamp of the old Bewitched TV series; the "behind the scenes" stuff feels as phony, formulaic and cheesy as the this-show-is-filmed-in-front-of-a-live-audience sequences. The Ephron sisters (who co-wrote the movie, with Nora directing) are on autopilot, recycling romantic clichés and cutesy moments while Will Ferrell is left stranded, trying to get laughs out of vapid material. He still gets to be "idiotic but charming", and his overacting made me chuckle once in a while. Then there's Nicole Kidman, all blue-eyed wiggling-nose loveliness, and she gets to goof off too. A bad sitcom this undeniably is, but I'm kinda fond of bad sitcoms. The countless half-hours I've wasted watching According to Jim or 8 Simple Rules certainly attest to that. ]

(11 Jul) Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005, Miranda July) [ review ] 91

(12 Jul) Wedding Crashers (2005, David Dobkin) [ review ] 69

(14 Jul) Whisky (2005, Juan Pablo Rebella & Pablo Stoll) 42
[ Jacobo Köller runs a stocking factory in Uruguay, with the help of his assistant Marta. Both are reserved persons whose lives revolve only around the numbing routine of manufacturer work. Even after hours, excitement is not part of the equation; they go back to their sad little apartments, her riding the bus, he driving his piece of crap car that always stalls. One weekend, Jacobo finally organizes his mother's matzeiva, almost a year after her death. His brother Herman, who's been living in Brazil for years, comes back for the occasion. Modern, cheerful and happily married with children, Herman couldn't be more different than grumpy lonely old Jacobo. The plot kicks in when Marta is asked by her boss to pretend to be the wife he never had. Being an old maid with nothing better to do, she not only accepts but gets her hair done and volunteers to clean up his place. Could living a lie actually cheer them up, if only for a little while? "Whisky" is a grim, thoroughly morose picture. The title refers not to booze but to the word people say before being photographed (like our ‘say Cheese!') to force a smile. This is apt, because Jacobo and Marta are truly miserable folks who have to make an effort to appear to be enjoying themselves. The camera always remains static and dialogue is kept to a minimum, but actors Andrés Pazos and Mirella Pascual manage to convey a lot through their body language and when Jorge Bolani (who plays Herman) shows up, things slightly liven up. Co-directors Pablo Stoll and Juan Pablo Rebella do a great job of depicting the ennui that defines the characters' lives, so great that their film grows a little boring itself. ]

(15 Jul) Watermarks (2005, Yaron Zilberman) 67
[ I walked into this reluctantly, expecting a dull documentary about old Jewish women swimmers. How wrong I was! What I didn't know is that these ladies were champion breaststrokers and divers in their youth, dominating national competitions in their native Austria. Making their story even more dramatic is the era in which it took place, the 1930s. The film's subjects were all part of Hakoah ("The Strength" in Hebrew), the famous Vienna sports club that was founded because of the Aryan clause, which barred Jews from joining Austrian teams. While it allows the now aged and frail former athletes to recall their glory days, much of the storytelling in "Watermarks" is done visually, through striking old black & white photographs and archival footage. We hear about –and see- the Hakoah swimmers achieving great success and eventually being asked to represent Austria at the 1936 Olympics... in Nazi Berlin. They refused to go to Hitler's Olympics, were banned by the Austrian Sports Federation and, after the annexation of the country by Germany, Hakoah was shut down by the Nazis. Before things got worse, the club's president organized for his athletes to escape to other countries. Then some 65 years later, director Yaron Zilberman organized for 6 surviving swimmers to go back to Vienna and swim together again. An unexpected happy ending to a tragic tale, capping off a film full of emotion and humanity. ]

(15 Jul) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005, Tim Burton) [ review ] 60

(17 Jul) Eyes Wide Shut (1999, Stanley Kubrick) [ review ] 90

(21 Jul) Young Frankenstein (1974, Mel Brooks) 63
[ This pastiche of the classic James Whale "Frankenstein" movies nicely recreates the look and feel of 1930s B&W gothic horror, but it's not as hilarious as other Brooks/Wilder collaborations like "The Producers" or "Blazing Saddles". I still love Gene Wilder's Dr. Fron-kon-steen, Marty Feldman's wisecracking Igor and Peter Boyle's idiotic creature. Plus the Puttin' on the Ritz number alone makes "Young Frankenstein" worth the detour. ]

(22 Jul) The Island (2005, Michael Bay) [ review ] 66

(23 Jul) The Maltese Falcon (1941, John Huston) 95
[ Part of the AFI list (#23) ]

(25 Jul) Pinocchio 3000 (2005, Daniel Robichaud) 3
[ "Pinocchio 3000" is the first Canadian 3D animation movie. It was made in half the time and for a tenth of the money devoted to its Hollywood counterparts and, while it's not as technically impressive as a Pixar production, it is well designed enough. Unfortunately, everything else about it is abysmally bad. The film is a futuristic update of the Pinocchio story, with Gepetto building a robot instead a wooden puppet, a cyborg penguin playing the role of Jiminy Cricket and a villain intent not on turning children into donkeys but on covering them and the whole metropolis in metal. Did we really need another rehash of the Carlo Collodi tale? Even the sci-fi twist has been before in Spielberg's "A.I.". For a movie that wets itself over the power of imagination, it doesn't show much itself. It's 80 endless minutes of unfunny pratfalls, pointless chases and awful, awful songs. Worse, the film indulges in racial stereotypes right out of minstrel shows, from the Blue Fairy becoming a big-bootied mama to a long-limbed, thick-lipped robot slave who grimaces, does little dances and talks in a high-pitched pseudo-Negro accent. I haven't seen the English version (which features the voices of Malcolm McDowell, Howie Mandel and Whoopi Goldberg), but the French dub is particularly obnoxious, as is the whole picture. Little kids might be entertained, but they also like eating crayons so... ]

(26 Jul) To Have and Have Not (1944, Howard Hawks) 72
[ On the heels of "Casablanca", here's another movie in which Bogart plays an American (named Captain Morgan, like the rum) who doesn't give a crap about helping the French resistance but winds up doing so anyway for the love of a woman. And what a woman! Lauren Bacall is overwhelmingly sexy, with her bedroom eyes and her sultry voice. "It's even better when you help." I also got into the male bonding stuff between Bogart and a drunkard friend, not unlike the character Dean Martin would later play in Hawks' "Rio Bravo". The plot itself is not very interesting, aping "Casablanca" too closely for its own good, but Bacall and Bogart are the stuff dreams are made of. ]

(29 Jul) Hustle & Flow (2005, Craig Brewer) [ review ] 79

(30 Jul) Horloge Biologique (2005, Ricardo Trogi) [ review ] 61

(31 Jul) Sabrina (1954, Billy Wilder) 77
[ "Once upon a time, on the north shore of Long Island, some thirty miles from New York, there lived a small girl on a large estate..." How can you not love a movie that starts with storybook narration? "Sabrina" must have felt old-fashioned even back in the day, but that's part of its charm. The adorable Audrey Hepburn plays a chauffeur's daughter who's always lived in the shadows of luxury, invisible to the eyes of rich playboy William Holden. After spending 2 years in Paris, though, she returns transformed into an elegant and sophisticated woman and not only Holden but also his world-weary brother Humphrey Bogart are all over her. Who will win her heart? This is typical romantic fantasy stuff, but with grace and glamour absent from most of today's movies. This is what Woody Allen calls a "champagne comedy", where everything looks spectacular and everyone is well dressed and seemingly always drinking champagne. Silly stuff, but endlessly enjoyable. It's about "throwing open a window and letting in la vie en rose..." ]

June / August