The Masters of Suspense is a comedy farce attempting to talk about writers and their sources of inspiration. Exploring the tensions between reality, fiction and ego, it sprints along at a brisk 100 minutes, respecting your time. While it is funny moment to moment, this brevity is to the film’s benefit…
Browsing: Made in Canada Review
When one thinks of a gypsy, one thinks of the stereotyped romantic, mysterious, nomadic wanderer portrayed in film and television. The Romani are an ethnic group who trace back their roots to the Indian Subcontinent and then spread about Europe. Roma are a subgroup of the Romani people who live throughout Europe and…
For a certain form of documentarian, the art of making a documentary is to some extent about learning to roll with the punches. Some documentary filmmakers create their works after the fact, using archival footage, reenactments, and interviews where the subjects can look back on the story from a distance. Others, though, follow a story as it unfolds before them, catching hold of a subject and following it through to its fruition. It’s hard not to think of this latter format as somehow braver—it is, after all, taking the greater risk that nothing particularly interesting will happen—and it certainly adds an element of suspense that is sometimes lacking in retrospective documentaries. There’s something almost magical to watching this kind of film unfold, as if the filmmakers just stumbled upon a great story as it was unspooling and decided to follow it through.
Friendship is the heart and soul of the fake documentary film shot in the spirit of found footage from Clif Prowse and Derek Lee. The two grew up together and made home movies that made their way into the opening of their film. Clif runs a travel blog, “Ends of the Earth.” Derek agrees to join Clif on a one-year journey across the globe while documenting everything for the travel blog. The major concern leading into the trip is a brain condition that threatens Derek’s life.
A problem arises early on in Sex After Kids because of its instant quality of shooting. Digital may be the future but cinematographers often speak about how they have to use filters to dim down the quality of the shots otherwise they look too colourful, too crude, almost cartoonish. That problem is apparent here. The camera’s cleanliness and all too polished look makes it seem amateur, with no colour palette used for a consistency throughout the shoot. There seems to be no colouring, no grading, instead the lights are on full and every detail is on show in a sadly distracting fashion.
As Vic + Flo Saw a Bear opens, a little boy is playing the trumpet…poorly. He is told that, if he ever wants to make any money doing so, he will need to practice. In order to be worthwhile, he needs to improve. In order to improve, he will have to put in the time. Though it seems inconsequential at first, this scene forms the background of the film, a quiet, internal story about two women trying to better themselves after lives full of mistakes. Vic + Flo Saw a Bear is a detailed, layered character study that leaves much of the particulars up to the audience. Through moments of quiet contemplation and half-confessed histories, its central characters become fully formed individuals searching for their place in the world and struggling to accept their limitations.
Empire of Dirt tackles issues that haunt many First Nations communities across Canada. A few issues that are taken head-on: substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and broken homes. You can find these issues in any region and culture but these issues are not uncommon on “the rez.” The film opens with Lena (Cara Gee) working as a maid. She’s fired shortly after bringing her daughter Peeka (Shay Eyre) to work. There’s an unspoken history of poor work habits and/or tardy issues. Lena also works at a youth centre as a support worker. She does everything she can to support her daughter but not all is well at home. Peeka runs with the wrong crowd and is hospitalized after inhaling spray paint fumes. The audience learns that Lena had substance abuse problems and was an under age prostitute. Under the threat of a social worker, the two flee to Lena’s hometown, an unnamed rural town in Ontario.
“It’s all gonna be brown soon,” muses a character of the greenery adorning the riverbank on which he and his travelling companion sit at a key point in Hills Green, unwittingly invoking the film’s central idea of inevitable decay. They are Shawn and Erin, long-time platonic friends whose week-long camping trip together represents a chance to escape the modern mania of Torontonian life and reconnect both with nature and each other. Opaque opening scenes suggest a mutual romantic interest between the pair, only furthered in the affectionate yet awkward manner in which they interact along the road. How strange it is, the way in which our fear deprives us of the pleasures we desire; here are characters too wary of the decay that might be to enjoy the verdant blossom that is.
Antisocial is a well-made little thriller that keeps its thriller tone throughout the entirety of the film until abandoning it for a more stock horror ending. The story is simple: five college students gather at a house for a New Year’s Eve party. Three of the five are constantly updating their statuses on The Social Redroom, this film’s version of Facebook of FriendFace or whatever. Sam (Michelle Mylett), the main protagonist, deleted her account earlier in the day when her boyfriend broke up with her. She makes her way over to Mark (Cody Thompson)’s house for the party at dusk after her cram-session class ended (apparently she did poorly on her mid-term or final and had to continue to go to class to improve her grade). When she arrives, she encounters Steve (Romaine Waite) and his girlfriend (and new acquaintance of Sam’s) Kaitlin (Ana Alic) along with Jed (Adam Christie). Jed gets excited when he learns Sam deleted her Social Redroom account, because he had done so months ago, giving him a small amount of company since everyone on campus and around the world is on the thing.
Greatness can be a gift as well as a curse. To be truly great, one must invest oneself fully in their work, must give up a large part of their soul for what they do. Selfishness is a negative trait, but in many ways it is an inherent aspect of greatness. The annals of cinema are full to the brim of “great man” stories that focus on the triumphs and downplay the collateral damage left in the wake of titanic achievements. Looking Is The Original Sin is a rare gem then, distinct in two ways: This is a story of a “great woman” and one focused intently, almost exclusively on the damage that strive for excellence can cause. Based heavily on the life of Diane Arbus, the film follows Helene (Maria Del Mar), a photographer dealing with depression and instability, and her tumultuous relationship with her daughter Anna (Katie Boland, Del Mar’s real-life daughter), who also finds herself adrift. The two ruin each other even as they strive to save each other, and the film is smart about the compromises they make and the validity of their choices.