Someone might want to alert Billy Dee Williams because I’m not sure if he was aware that he was in Pascal Atuma’s The Trace, nor that he received top billing for his satisfactory delivery of five lines. If he is aware that he was in the film he might want to give it a viewing and reconsider his association with the project that was executed with such ineptitude that it inflicted physical pain just to watch. I’m still not sure what the film was aspiring to accomplish, but with its non sequitur blacksploitation music cues and cutaway scenes of evil rich white guys manipulating the confusion from the comfort of their mansion lairs combined with its ham-fisted attempts at witty dialogue, one gets the impression that this is a holdover from the mid 90s when Pulp Fiction knock-offs ruled the independent film landscape.
Man and nature. Earth and sea. Life and death. Father and mother. The Desert Fish trades in these grand mythical dichotomies. The film exists in the realm of the parable, its story divorced from reality and trading instead in deeper, more mythical universal truths. The goal here is much more ambitious than telling one story of a young boy’s quest. The aim here is to tell a story of humanity at a particular moment in time.
The film follows Ahmad (Iman Afshar), a young boy living in the desert with his well-worker father Captain Toufan (Mohsen Hosseini). The Captain has sunk into despair since the loss of his wife, Mahi Khatoon, who was taken by the sea. Toufan blames himself and his increasing greed for his wife’s death; he sees himself as having fallen out of favor with the sea, and his wife’s disappearance beneath the depths as his punishment. Ahmad begins seeing visions of his mother, who appears to him in his dreams as a mermaid. Ahmad begs Toufan to return to the sea with him, where he is sure Mahi Khatoon can still be found. But when Toufan falls ill, Ahmad decides to go himself, aiming to find his mother and help his father regain his health in one fell swoop.
In times of rough circumstances, people find of way to get through while trying to get by. Then there are amazing cases like Abigail Evans. Abigail is a teenager who lives with epiderolysis bullosa (EB), a life-threatening disease that causes the skin to be so fragile, resulting in painful blisters. When we first meet Abigail, she seems like a regular 18 year old: she’s bubbly, willful, and wants to experience life to fullest. She sells merchandise for her dad’s band in bars and goes home to her attentive mother. Although her parents are separated they’re a team for her and her main support. This is the main theme of the film. Abigail has been surrounded by her parents and at home most of her life, but she’s also fiercely independent.
Opposites attract in Jason Priestley’s new film, Cas & Dylan. Cas (Richard Dreyfuss) and Dylan (Tatiana Maslany) form an unlikely friendship that delivers a terrific experience. Cas is a lonely, quiet, aging doctor diagnosed with a brain tumor and Dylan is an aspiring writer with a vibrant personality. The two meet while Dylan is studying terminally ill patients at Cas’s hospital. Against the better judgment of his peers, Cas decides to drive to the west coast, a welcome change from his home in Winnipeg. Dylan convinces Cas to allow her to tag along and the two of them bump heads, exchange laughs and go through some of the the rawest human emotions.
There is generally a fine line between the quest for knowledge and pure narcissism. Most of the greatest thinkers, explorers, and scientists in history have been massive egotists, as interested in feeding their own reputations as in growing the potential for humanity. But the two are rarely mutually exclusive, and in fact, they tend to be intertwined. When we seek to gain knowledge, are we looking to understand the world around us and to benefit others, or simply to better know ourselves? And does one necessarily preclude the other?
Far Side of the Moon attempts to address these questions head on. The film follows brothers Philippe and Andre (who are inexplicably not twins, although both played by Robert Lepage, who also wrote the film based on his own play, and directed) in the wake of their mothers’ death. Philippe is an aspiring PhD student who works at a call-center while pitching his thesis: that the USA-USSR space race of the 1960’s was driven by pure narcissism. His theory is failing to gain traction until he gets the chance to meet with a Russian cosmonaut who might be able to catapult his ideas into the conversation.
Prison films coming out of production in Ireland is a thing of plenty. As Northern Ireland’s political history tells, there’s a fair amount of fantastic locations for a production like this to set up in. It’s no surprise that the recently opened to the public Belfast Crumlin Road Jail features heavily in the sets and layout of this claustrophobic and violent drama. The developing film industry of Northern Ireland is privy to a treasure trove of amazing locations and Starred Up is certainly resourceful in its good use of the prison environment.
Darren Aronofsky has made some pretty astounding films in the past. He’s made Requiem for a Dream (2000), a film about the effects of drugs and drug addiction has on a person and a family, The Fountain (2006), a total mindbender of a film that is either loved or hated and cannot be described succinctly, The Wrestler (2008) about a past-his-prime professional wrestler and his relationship with his estranged daughter and Black Swan (2010), a psychological drama that may well be his finest film.
Then there’s Noah. For a man who has made curious entries into his directorial cannon, this is perhaps the oddest choice. There’s little point in describing the story, since it’s been told to most people in their youth and it’s difficult to forget (though Noah is often confused with Moses, for some reason) that he built the ark to carry the animals of the world to safety when God (referred to only as The Creator throughout the film) flooded the world to rid it of evil men.
Crickets and marching bands launch Pier Paolo Pasolini’s version of Sophocles’ classic tragedy as we are taken to a Victorian re-imagining of Thebes and bear witness to the birth of Oedipus Rex, a pitiable infant destined to return to the passage from whence he emerged in a film that traverses mythical realms and jarringly returns to reality to provide a contemporary subtext to one of the great Greek tragedies. We follow our tragic protagonist from hazy lensed realms of affluence and innocence, to plague-addled lands of shamanism and dark prophecies, and finally the uncaring streets of modern civilization as both Oedipus and Italy descend into inescapable darkness and are forever warped by madmen and false prophets.
Noah is a difficult film to talk about. But then again, Darren Aronofsky has never taken the easy route with any of his films. Whether it be tackling math equations, drug addiction, eternal recurrence across the cosmos, a washed up wrestler seeking redemption or a mentally fragile ballerina obsessed with perfection, every single one of these films is a passion project that have taken very long times to get made. In every cut with his editors (in this case with Andrew Weisblum), every shot framed by frequent collaborator Matthew Libatique, every note composed by Clint Mansell and every performance he’s gotten out of his incredible casts, you can always tell that he’s going for broke. That he is determined to push the medium of film as far as possible to tell his stories of broken souls who push their obsession to the brink (and in some cases over) of their demises. And it shows. Whereas the works of equally popular auteur filmmakers like P.T. Anderson and Christopher Nolan more often leave me with a sense of alienated respect, Aronofsky’s films make me feel like I need a cigarette afterwards. And I don’t smoke.
Every decision we make, from the major to the most minute, inexorably alters the course of our lives. In a theory of the multiverse, each of these decisions is more than a possibility; in fact, both will happen, just in separate universes, stranded apart from each other by a membrane we cannot visualize and thus may never be able to cross. And what if we could? Would it make us Gods, able to foresee the consequences of our every action? What would morality look like in a multiverse? Would it cease to exist entirely, or would it slowly grow to resemble the ethics we know now, on a vastly more complicated level?