My five film plan for Saturday started with the first screening offered at noon. Here's how my day shook down:
The Necessities of Life (2008) directed by Benoit PilonNecessities of Life got four stars from Daniel over at Getafilm, and I took that recommendation to heart and made the film a priority. The drama takes place in 1957. Tivii (played by Natar Ungalaaq from The Fast Runner) is an Inuit stricken with tuberculosis. He is suddenly taken from his Baffin Island home to Quebec where he can be treated for his illness. They take his clothes, they cut his hair and they speak French to him even though they know he can't understand. Tivii is both culturally and socially isolated. Necessity underlines not only an absurd cultural insensitivity, but also a general lack of human kindness that I would cynically say doesn't just exist in 1957. When Tivii stops eating, a nurse takes him under her wing. Although her concern is initially sparked by duty, she eventually forms a bond of understanding with Tivii. The Necessities of Life (seals, caribou, and geese, if you are wondering) is a somber and often painful film that cherishes our differences while emphasizing our similarities as human beings. Ungalaaq's performance is played with a fierce dignity that never wavers. And although the narrative follows a predictable trajectory, Necessities is incredibly moving. It was a sobering way to start my day, but I'm glad I caught this film while I could. The Necessities of Life screens again Monday, April 25 at 4:00pm. Recommended.
Teddy Bear (2007) directed by Jan HrebejkAs I approach mid-life (or maybe I'm already there) I get more and more annoyed by the whole mid-life crisis myth. Isn't life just one big crisis, mid-life or otherwise? Who cares if it is half over? Teddy Bear is full of the mid-life crisis types. If their career isn't failing then their marriage is. (Hmmm, maybe that's it - I don't have either one of those things...) Six friends/three couples find themselves at a crossroads. The men are jerks and the women, well, they just carry on. As much as I wanted to not like this film, I didn't hate it. The characters are well drawn and the film doesn't bow to easy answers and pat endings. No other screenings at MSPIFF. Take it or leave it.
The Window (2008) directed by Carlos SorinCarlos Sorin's Historias Minimas (released in the US as Intimate Stories) was a film that stuck with me for some time, and I could kick myself for missing it on the big screen. I wasn't about to let the opportunity pass once again with Sorin's new film, and I am glad I didn't. The Window is full of big screen moments of silent beauty. The aesthetic reminded me of Carlos Reygadas' Silent Light, with its silences, horizons, stillness and elegance. The simple story is about Don Antonio in the waining hours of his life. Bedridden from illness, he waits for the arrival of his son, a famous pianist living in Europe. His preparations are less for his son than they are for himself. Although I'm getting sick of hearing myself calling films poetic, The Window is nonetheless very poetic. The Window screens again Sunday, April 19 at 1:15pm. Highly Recommended.
Rumba (2008) directed by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno RomyGiven the overall somber theme of the day, the ridiculous Rumba was kind of the film I needed to do a little cleansing. I'll take the evidence that the two leads are also credited as directors as proof that this spoofy film is a little self-indulgent. The absurdist tragi-comedy relies on the physical comedic abilities of Gordon and Romy. The introduction was a hoot and the crazy blue screen driving was pretty hilarious, but after about 45 minutes, I was a little tired of the skit that wanted to be a movie. Rumba screens again Monday, April 20 at 9:00pm. Take it or leave it.
Lion's Den (2008) directed by Pablo Trapero
Put a woman in jail and she is either a victim or a martyr. The brilliance of Lion's Den is that Julia is neither. Julia was one of three people involved in a violent incident that leaves one person dead. With one person's word against another, Julia, for whatever reason, ends up taking the guilt for the dead man (who happens to be the father of her unborn child.) Julia is sent to jail and must learn how to survive by completely different rules. Trapero cunningly leaves the audience in the dark about the actual goings-on at the time of the murder. The fact that pieces do not fit together, leaves Julia's guilt hanging in the air, even to the sympathetic viewer. Martina Gusman give a gut-wrenching portrayal of a woman refusing to give up. Treading unknown waters, Julia has to navigate not only her new life as a prisoner but also as a mother. Except for a strange segue involving a music montage, this film was perfect. Lion's Den screens again Sunday, April 19 at 9:30pm. Highly recommended.