Given that royal weddings are presently all the rage, and that bodice-rippers have never gone out of style, Bertrand Tavernier’s The Princess of Montpensier – filled, as it is, with bodice-clad royal betrothed – has the apparent makings of a stirring period crowd-pleaser. Adapted from a 1662 novella of the same title, it’s the story of no less than an aristocratic love pentagram, set amid the on-again, off-again squabbles between French Papists and Protestants, circa 1567. Unfortunately, while its production values and swashbuckling set pieces are generally very good, its muddled, melodramatic plotting is far less so.
Black Bread begins with a familiar scene: a man leads his horse and cart through a darkened wood, glancing around with unease at the various forest sounds which break the tense silence. A fairy-tale quality hangs over the scene, the images framed in wide angles and brought to life with rich autumnal hues; perhaps this will be a fantasy parable. When an assailant attacks the traveller, binds him in the cart, and leads the now-blindfolded horse to the cliff’s edge, brutally smashing it in the face with a sledge hammer, our stomachs concomitantly fold alongside the illusion that this will be anything but sickeningly real.
The 2011 TIFF Student Film Showcase took place this past week at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. From 2D animation, stop-motion, and live action, a wide variety of short features were exhibited representing the finest student films made in Canada this past year. A particular highlight was Miles Jay’s Blink; a cautionary dystopian tale exploring the potential dangers of social media.
Owing primarily to the contemporary Hollywood paradigm, any film which demonstrates a particularly large quantity of bloodshed is automatically branded with that most unsavoury of appellations: “torture porn”. Martyrs, Pascal Laugier’s 2008 French horror film, is no stranger to this label, its brutality immediately motivating its critics to set it among the ranks of these films largely dismissed as tasteless, tactless, and tawdry satiations of modern audiences’ violent voyeurism.
Someone wiser than me once said that the best brand of humor is the kind a person or a collective group can look at, and find some identifiable truth to. It’s been several hours since I’ve left a packed theater, to have found myself cheated for a meager $10 that I spent to view Todd Phillips’ disastrously bad sequel to The Hangover. Is it the worst thing I’ve ever seen? certainly not. Is it the worst thing playing at your nearest theater, probably so.
At once a caustic political allegory and a compelling study in pathological repression, The Invisible Eye, from 35-year-old Argentine auteur Diego Lerman, bears many of the hallmarks of the brilliant Michael Haneke. Indeed, Lerman’s film – about an emotionally and sexually stifled young supervisor in an elite, junta-era Buenos Aires high school – is particularly reminiscent of Haneke’s celebrated La Pianiste. Happily, neither Lerman, nor The Invisible Eye, itself, are unduly flattered by the comparison.
It is difficult to reconcile the inquisitiveness and doubt that are intrinsic to human nature from an evolutionary perspective. Why did we develop a boundlessly curious nature? What purpose does it serve for the survival and propagation of our species? We put ourselves above all other living creatures in the hierarchy of the living world because we possess consciousness and an insatiable appetite for knowledge and discovery, but what is it exactly that we are searching for?
Johnny Depp sails the seas once again as Captain Jack Sparrow in this the fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, entitled On Stranger Tides. In his latest adventure, Sparrow finds himself on a perilous quest to locate the elusive fountain of youth. With Gore Verbinski‘s departure from the Pirates‘ franchise, producer Jerry Bruckheimer has turned to the talents of director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha) to carry this blockbuster franchise forward.
Director Kelly Reichardt is a filmmaker that is well known for executing her vision with a certain amount of palpable fervor and conviction. However minimal her films are, Reichardt’s best efforts examine the underbelly of a fractured Americana. Reichardt’s latest effort is a revisionist Western that follows a group of settlers through the Oregon desert in 1845 while they’re frequently pit against harsh conditions.
Andrei Rublev may be one of the few high water marks of cinematic achievement. It is difficult to reflect on the film while resisting the temptation to describe it with overwrought hyperbole. Its masterful use of historical context, religious overtones, and the grandiosity of its epic scale laid the framework for Tarkovsky’s deeply personal and introspective ruminations on the redemption of humanity.