Regarded by some as the last classically-oriented filmmaker in Hollywood, writer/director James Gray delivers a period piece steeped in nice detail and less appealing schmaltz. The Immigrant is essentially a melodrama triangulated around a practical-minded woman: think the setup of The Quiet American where a poor girl …
Author Alex Griffith
A few years ago, it seemed like underground Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke was about to go mainstream. He was planning to make a big budget martial arts movie – one can assume set in the kind of apolitical historical setting that soothe Communist censors. Instead, Jia abandoned the project to make a social realism/martial arts hybrid A Touch of Sin, which premiered at Cannes in May and picked up the best screenplay award.
The film follows four protagonists on their separate journeys towards using violence as a means to right social wrongs. Inspired by real life events circulating China’s micro-blogosphere, Jia offers an anxious vision of a society in rapid transition.
Interview: Tobias Lindholm on A Hijacking and the influence of Paul Greengrass on him as a filmmaker
It’s a good time to be a Dane with a camera. The small country of five million people has punched above its weight, producing a string of top-drawer films in the last few years. While not commercial extravaganzas, dramas like A Royal Affair and The Hunt rack up awards and ride a wave of prestige into select North American cities.
Inigo Westmeier is a filmmaker’s documentarian, not= a journalist with a shakey-cam, but a cameraman, a cinematographer, someone who understands the medium first and his subjects second. I talked to him about his feature debut, an exquisite portrait of young girls training in martial arts at China’s prestigious Shaolin Tagu Kung Fu School.
Politcally-speaking, the most important Chinese film of the next year or so is probably going to be Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin. The edgy Cannes award-winner has a planned Chinese release date sometime in the fall – but it has been plagued by rumours of censorship and a recut version for domestic audiences.
Perhaps the largest show the young TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto has undertaken, the Century of Chinese Cinema (CCC) is a film programmer’s wet dream. Artistic director Noah Cowan (kind of an interviewer’s wet dream: indulgent with time and tangential questions) appears to have achieved the impossible: a magical meld of mainstream classics drawing in the civilians and obscure masterpieces fulfilling the film nut’s completist fetish.
After his latest morality tale upset P.T Anderson’s The Master at the Venice Film Festival, writer/director Ki-duk Kim faced a lot of divided praise over this chimera of a movie. If you walked out of Pieta with twenty minutes to go you might be forgiven thinking it was an exploitation film is arthouse clothing. It takes some getting into to, but the effort is well worth it. Kim soars back into top form with a multi-layered allegory of revenge, obligation, family honour, and sheer horror.
Caught somewhere between formula and freshness, Nebraska feels like a second-hand movie touched-up by a steady hand. Directing from a script by Bob Nelson, Alexander Payne (Election, Sideways) leaves his melancholic print over a slight, small-scaled story of a father and son. Like all of Payne’s films, the sadness is laced with humour, the cruelty with kindness, and the family unit with wider social implications. One just wishes Payne could have picked a script more worthy of his double vision.
A simple story enlivened by a fantastic ending, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Grisgris feels goes political too little too late. Westerners may find the Chadian setting exotic and the lead’s frenetic dance skills novel, but everything else about this plot has been done to death by arty and square directors the world over. Too bad, since it is the only African film in Competition, and will likely not get any traction beyond the Croisette.
It pays off to know Nicolas Winding Refn’s back catalogue before walking into Only God Forgives and expecting a follow-up to 2011’s Drive. Returning to the Croisette with his ninth feature, the Danish auteur reveals himself to be the obsessive, style-driven director we saw in Valhalla Rising (2009). The first press screening was greeted with cheers and boos, a measure of how divisive this is playing out among critics, and a bad sign for its commercial potential in America.