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Friday, January 4, 2008

Unopened Presents

Posted on Fri, Jan 4, 2008 at 4:53 PM

I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of days between Christmas and New Years in Toronto and sucked up all the End of Year lists I could find, especially in the competing weeklies, Eye and Now Magazines. Today Julien Schnabel’s The Diving Bell & The Butterfly opened in Halifax, one of the films that made at least a couple of those Best of 2007 lists. It occurred to me that there were a few very well reviewed pictures on those lists that we haven’t seen here. That can mean two things: 1) it isn’t coming and 2) it is, but just hasn’t gotten here due to inscrutable distribution systems. Keep your eyes open at the cinema (and DVD outlets) for these titles:

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 DaysI understand the picture is a dark drama about a woman helping a friend get an abortion in Communist-era Romania. Having won the Golden Palm at Cannes, it has that gritty, depressing, hyper-realistic European vibe. If you like that sort of thing. AFCOOP will be bringing it in for their Monday Night movies on January 14.

RedactedWritten and directed by exploitation king-turned mainstream maverick Brian De Palma (Carrie, The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible, The Black Dahlia), this wowed them at the Venice Film Festival with its based-on-real-events tale of an American army unit massacre of Iraqi civilians. De Palma also directed the Vietnam drama Casualties of War and probably not coincidentally, the tagline for this one is “Truth is the first casualty of war.”

The Savages The first feature film from director Tamara Jenkins since her comedy/drama The Slums of Beverly Hills in 1998, the story of estranged siblings forced to care for a father with dementia is both funny and cutting, with the siblings played by never-a-bad-performance-actors Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I managed to see in Toronto, and it’s laced with the kind of realism that is bracing to experience, but makes you want to have a stiff drink after the screening. Unlike…

Margot At The Wedding…which just made me want to open my wrists. Anything to get away from those manipulative assholes. Another one from writer-director Noah Baumbach (The Squid & The Whale). The humour to be gleaned from the circumstances of self-involved adults mistreating their children was there in the earlier film. In this one, Nicole Kidman is so nasty and fucked-up and treats her son with such contempt that I wanted to yell at the screen: "Shut the hell up, you unhappy, entitled bitch!" Jack Black and Jennifer Jason Leigh are somewhat more appealling, but the film just annoyed me. Though I may be in the minority in this, as I know former Coast arts editor Tara Thorne loved it. In fact, she wrote about it here a couple of weeks back. It has been delayed in our theatres, perhaps indefinitely.

I’m Not ThereThe Dylan biopic from Todd Haynes. It’s funny, very post-modern (Dylan is played by six different actors, including Cate Blanchett and Heath Ledger, whose characters all have different names), with a great soundtrack, of course. It does some great things to mess with the dull structures of the biopic genre but I wasn’t moved. Maybe it’s because I’m getting sick of these boomer icons being lionized, and this vision even supports Bobby Zimmerman's personal mystery, the conceit that one actor couldn’t fully portray the man’s contradictions. What-EVAH.

Black BookDutch sensualist director Paul Verhoven (Robocop, Basic Instinct) returns to the screen in his native tongue with a World War 2 thriller. I haven’t heard too much about it but that it sports the typical Verhoven glossy, bloody violence and plenty of sex. Bring it on. I gather it’s available on DVD now.

The HostThe most recent in a wave of well-received South Korean films, this is a well-reviewed, old-fashioned monster movie. Love to see it on the big screen. But then, I was hoping to see another great South Korean picture, Oldboy, at The Oxford, where they had posters up for awhile. It never opened.

Rescue DawnRenegade German filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) returns to material he’s worked with before. In the ’90s he made a documentary on Dieter Dengler, a US pilot shot down and captured in Laos during the Vietnam War. Here he dramatizes the story, with Christian Bale in the lead, with what I gather is sterling work in support from Steve Zahn. Also out on DVD now.

There Will Be BloodThis has every chance to open here. The posters lining the inside of Park Lane aren’t a guarantee, but the press around it is helping: it just opened in a limited run in places like Toronto. It's the newest film from California filmmaker PT Anderson (Punch Drunk Love, Boogie Nights), a historical epic based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil. They’re calling it Anderson’s Citizen Kane. I can’t wait.

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