Editor’s Notes: The following capsule reviews are part of our coverage of the 2014 Vancouver International Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit viff.org and follow VIFF on Twitter at @viffest.
You’re Sleeping Nicole
Dir. Stéphane Lafleur
Shot with a 60s aesthetic resembling the French New Wave, but conveying circumstances present only in the 21st century, this absurdly comedic Quebec film puts together art and satire to decent at best ends. In 35mm black and white, a young girl careens through a life of purposelessness and ennui. She displays an evident complex of self-entitlement and naiveté, as one may expect of a middle class 21st century teenager. In spite of this, her mundane existence is underlined with moments of great poignancy, as if relishing in the lack of meaning it at once presents.
The result of this is a rather frustrating experience. You’re Sleeping Nicole depicts an aimless existence tantamount to the aimlessness of the film itself, and yet it is executed so masterfully that moments of natural aesthetics and sentimental dramatics create a moving picture in spite of the film’s lack of substance. Nicole’s inability of self-expression is absurdly contrasted with the phrasings of a wise pre-pubescent child with the voice of a charming forty year old. While entertaining at times, this hokum, as well as much of the film’s schlock, becomes quite tired by the end of the film, providing it little to no replay value.
The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir
Dir. Mike Fleiss
In this well-paced, informative, and most importantly entertaining documentary of Bob Weir, rhythm guitarist of the Grateful Dead, Cinema Verité, home video, and concert footage come together to create a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing portrait of a man and the 60s renaissance which bred his genius.
Often overlooked because of Jerry Garcia’s prominence, Bob “the other one” Weir provided the Grateful Dead with much of its driving impulse, especially after Garcia’s death. The most handsome man of the group, Weir was known for his promiscuity, and, according to his much younger wife, his ability to be present.
Referring much of his demeanour to the acid culture of the 60s, Weir explains that his life has always been a search for timelessness. This idea could be identified with a search for form, or a search for grace, something which the music of the Grateful Dead has always inspired. The film provides much insight to support philosophies adopted by the 60s counter-culture movement. Ultimately, it is as thoughtful as it is engaging. At the least, it is replete with psychedelic visuals and music to delight all those interested in mind-expanding music and art.
Dir. Lou Ye
Winner of the Best Cinematography category at the 2014 Berlin International Film Festival, Blind Massage is a remarkable visual journey through the lives of a group of blind masseurs and masseuses. Exceptionally shot with an active hand-held camera, obfuscated images and focal blur visually approximate the sights or lack thereof the characters it observes. Further to this cinematic approach is a mise-en-scene influenced by smoke, rain, and opaque glass. The result is a beautifully intimate portrayal of life in the shadows. In some ways, the cinematography resembles the work of Christopher Doyle, known especially for his collaborations with the renowned Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai.
Philosophical insights about the sighted and unsighted come in the form of voice-over narration. The commentary is quite profound and arresting, drawing a deep understanding of blindness as a social and personal struggle. Ye insightfully compares the inferiority and ignorance of the blind to the sighted with the inferiority and ignorance of the sighted to the Gods. The characters, depicted intimately by the brilliant ensemble cast, thus display a crisis of identity, a struggle to understand the world around them, and a desperation to connect with others. This struggle becomes tantamount to a quest for dignity in a world of inferiority.
Ending with an awe-striking panning shot, wherein the camera evolves from an in focus shot of Xiao-ma (a blind protagonist) to an out-of-focus point of view shot of his newfound love, Blind Massage affirms its powerful visual comparison of the sighted and unsighted division.