Author Kamran Ahmed

Kamran's areas of interest include formalism, realism & reality, affect, and notions of the aesthetic. With experiences as a TA, an event panelist, a presenter at conferences from UofT to Harvard, and a writer of a self-authored film blog, Kamran would like to share with others his profound interest in the profilmic in the hopes of inspiring, in them, a similar love for film.

NP Approved animalhouse5

Having just attended the Animal House Reunion, I was excited to see this cult-classic college comedy which I hadn’t seen since I was a child. I was full of energy—like everyone else in the near-sold-out theatre—and prepared for hilarity to ensue. The guests certainly shored up some of the great ideas behind the film, as well as provided some interpretation and analysis themselves. I went into the film highly prepared to look for those moments mentioned during the Reunion. I think this definitely made my experience better that it would have been otherwise; however, I’ll be sure, in this post, to review the film itself.

Special Edition Animal-House-Reunion

Courtesy of Next Projection and TIFF, last night I witnessed a unique and exciting cinema panel with some of the makers and cast members of the cult college classic Animal House (1978). This reunion really set the tone for Toga! The Reinvention of American Comedy—a series TIFF is currently programming. In fact, it is this very film that inspired the title. Since TIFF’s mandate speaks to accessibility, it was nice to see this series distance itself from the others, particularly the highly ambitious A Century of Chinese Cinema program. Here, the demographic is certainly different, and TIFF does an admirable job of providing panel sessions that are appropriate for the given audience. In line with the sense of humour of the films, the panel was hilarious, the conversations were lively, and hearing stories from the making of the film were almost as funny as the film itself!

NP Approved Ryan-Glosing-Drive

On first impression, and for good reason, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) reminds me of Melville’s Le Samourai (1967), with Ryan Gosling—the driver—sporting a similar role to Jef Costello, Alain Delon’s infamously cool and mysterious lead character. In fact, before even seeing the film, the trailers and info had me thinking about Le Samourai—a minimalist and artistic crime/action/thriller film with a mysterious, quiet, lead character who is an expert of his craft? This could easily describe either film.

NP Approved jacquot-de-nantes

Varda’s Jacquot de Nantes (1991), a biopic of her filmmaking husband, Jacques Demy, is not simply about a man who makes films but about how films make an impression on the man who made them. Unlike a typical biography of a filmmaker, which would contextualize the films by showing the viewer the filmmaker’s personality, this film contextualizes the filmmaker by showing the viewer how the films affected his personality. In view of this, a new idea is formed: the man didn’t make the films; the films made the man.

Reviews piedpiper_01

In Jacques Demy’s fairy-tale musical The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1972), the socio-political underpinnings—far too overt and aggressive—unfortunately do a disservice to the whimsy and sentiment expectant of a fairy tale and even found in Demy’s other, less fantasy driven, pieces. As a result, the film becomes quite unsound structurally, as one’s enjoyment of the fairy-tale is constantly bogged down by metaphorical dialogue that alludes to a social and political stance against capitalism—represented by the leaders of the town. While the film, rich with the music of folk-singer Donovan, could have been a romantic tale with subtle political hints, Demy’s wife, Agnes Varda, was all too right when she warned him that it was “too political”. While I loved it in the beginning, as the film continued I kept thinking to myself, “Okay, I get it!!! Move on with the story.” It’s a little disappointing, to say the least, since I love both Demy and Donovan.

Reviews Donkey-Skin_1

Donkey Skin (Peau d’ane, 1970) perhaps most illustratively displays Demy’s unique approach to the whimsical, the fantastical, and the serendipitous. While nearly all his films are filtered with a romantic touch that would make even the likes of Frank Capra take a bow of respect, Demy’s Donkey Skin, with its fairy-tale romance, is quite clearly the sweetest and most sensational of them all. Rather than putting his characters through difficult trials that make the audience question whether a happy ending is in store for them, Donkey Skin acknowledges its role as a ‘once upon a time’ story with its unquestionable and expected happily-ever-after ending. Despite this relatively cliché narrative arc, the plot points are incredibly unique, the mise-en-scene is phenomenal, and the film is chalk-full of Demy’s brand of wit-driven humour.

Reviews The-Story-of-a-discharged-prisoner

John Woo’s bullet ballet A Better Tomorrow (1986) was inspired by Patrick Lung Kong’s Story of a Discharged Prisoner, which involves crime, drama, and martial arts all in the same film—a hybrid of genres not typically seen in China at the time. Lung Kong, who was also an actor and a stockbroker, tells the story of a former thief whose 15 year stay in prison leaves a dishonourable mark on himself and his family upon his release. Unwilling to let his brother’s success be tarnished by his reputation, Lee Cheuk-Hung (Patrick Tse) stays with a friend, and attempts to find a job and a simple life. This could not be. Action unfolds as Lee is threatened by a triad leader nicknamed One-Eyed Jack; he wants Lee’s help in opening a safe, and once he finds out that Lee is brothers with the left hand man of the company he wishes to rob, everyone becomes involved in a dramatic turn of events.

TIFF Film Series The-Arch-1969

Besides its setbacks—low grade film stock, repetitious music, narrative imbalance—Cecile Tang Shu Shuen’s The Arch (1969) remains a visual masterpiece, whose formal rhetoric profoundly speaks to the inner dimensions of human existence. A film, in her words, about the “interior feeling of woman,” The Arch uses techniques and special effects, such as zooms and superimpositions/dissolves, to express the ineffable qualities of experiencing life as an isolated and repressed young woman in China during the difficult times of the Cultural Revolution.

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