6/10/2019

'Mouthpiece' Takes Audiences Inside Women's Double Lives

Mouthpiece
(Canada, 91 min.)
Dir. Patricia Rozema, Writ. Amy Nostbakken, Norah Sadava, Patricia Rozema
Starring: Amy Nostbakken, Norah Sadava, Maev Beaty, Jake Epstein, Paula Boudreau
Courtesy of TIFF
Patricia Rozema delivers another winner with Mouthpiece. The film might be her most ambitious and auteurist picture since her 1987 breakthrough feature I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing. It’s an exciting reminder of why she’s one of the best voices in Canadian film. After the literary romp of Mansfield Park and the breathtaking dystopian vision of Into the Forest, Rozema looks inward with Mouthpiece, tightening the scope while pushing the boundaries. The film stars Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava, who join Rozema in adapting their play Mouthpiece, as Cassandra, a woman torn between her two selves when she learns of the sudden death of her mother, Elaine.


Interview: Chatting with 'Late Night' Director Nisha Ganatra

Director Nisha Ganatra with Late Night star/writer Mindy Kaling
New interview! I recently had the privilege to chat with Vancouver-born director Nisha Ganatra ahead of the release of her new film Late Night. The film is a whip-smart workplace comedy that stars Emma Thompson as a floundering late night talk show host who insists upon a "diversity hire," played by Mindy Kaling, to freshen up her material. Ganatra talks about her working relationship with Mindy Kaling, pushing for diversity in film and television, and drawing upon her experience as the odd one out on the set to make Late Night one of the year's most topical films.


Read the full interview here at Sharp!


6/06/2019

"The the Truth, But Tell It Slant"

Wild Nights With Emily
(USA, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Madeleine Olnek
Starring: Molly Shannon, Amy Seimetz, Susan Ziegler, Brett Gelman
Emily Dickinson at writing desk
Molly Shannon stars as Emily Dickinson in Wild Nights With Emily
Greenwich Entertainment
All these years we’ve been idolizing Emily Dickinson as a woman of quiet passion. English classes peruse her poems through the lens of loneliness and the melancholy tone of unrequited love. Emily, it turns out, was a demon in the sack with her sister in law.

5/31/2019

'Photograph': Watching Love Develop

Photograph
(India/Germany/USA, 110 min.)
Written and directed by Ritesh Batra
Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra
man and woman with polaroids
Amazon Pictures / Mongrel Media

Ritesh Batra is quietly becoming a master of the understated love story. After the crowd-pleasingly brilliant The Lunchbox and the poignantly stirring Our Souls at Night, Batra delivers another bittersweet two-hander with Photograph. The film brings Batra back to Mumbai after a few western indies—besides Our Souls at Night, Batra directed the forgettable adaptation of Julian Barnes’ regrettable Booker Prize winner The Sense of an Ending—and one might call it a return to his roots. Photograph is another romantic two-hander and Batra reclaims the magic of The Lunchbox as the love story draws upon the divides of class, religion, and gender that give the love story a deeper sting.


5/20/2019

Cardinal Takes the Lead

Falls Around Her
(Canada, 100 min.)
Written and directed by Darlene Naponse
Starring: Tantoo Cardinal, Tina Keeper, Gail Maurice, Rob Stewart, Johnny Issaluk
Tantoo Cardinal actress
Tantoo Cardinal is one of Canada’s great character actors and she finally gets her due with Falls Around Her. She has over 100 credits to her name in a career that’s spanned forty years and featured an Oscar winner for Best Picture that remains one of the defining films of the 1990s. While Dances with Wolves remains the biggest entry of Cardinal’s résumé, too few of Cardinal’s roles have offered much by way of screen time or narrative arcs, but they’re always memorable highlights of the films in which she appears. It’s astounding that her performance as Mary in Falls Around Her is the first lead role of her career. It’s the cherry on top of a recent hot streak that includes small but notable roles in films like Wind River, Through Black Spruce, and The Grizzlies.


5/12/2019

'Diane': Why Am I Here?

Diane
(USA, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Kent Jones
Starring: Mary Kay Place, Jake Lacy, Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, Deirdre O’Connell, Phyllis Somerville
woman in car
Diane might not be the best film to see with your mom on Mother’s Day. Sure, it’s a well-intentioned portrait of a devoted mother who indefatigably does all she can for her son and family, but it’s a bleak reminder that your mom will soon be buried under flowers rather than receiving them. Film critic turned director Kent Jones (Hitchcock/Truffaut) makes his feature dramatic debut with Diane and while he scores a respectable performance from Mary Kay Place, his film is a lethargic misfire. One depressing scene follows another while tinkling piano music strains on the soundtrack and Place sits sullenly with a beleaguered look on her face. The film’s existential questions ultimately inspire one to sit up in the movie theatre and wonder, “Why am I here?”

5/10/2019

'Ordinary Days' and the Rule of Three

Ordinary Days
(Canada, 82 min.)
Dir. Kris Booth, Jordan Canning, Renuka Jeyapalan; Writ. Ramona Barckert
Starring: Jacqueline Byers, Michael Xavier, Torri Higginson, Richard Clarkin, Joris Jarsky, Mena Massoud
Higginson Clarkin

The Rashômon school of filmmaking gets a new angle in Ordinary Days. This intriguing and suspenseful film plays with perspectives and narratives as three points of view come together in a fractured narrative that sees one story through the eyes of three characters. There is an extra layer to the level of interpretation since a unique director realizes each character’s story. The entirety of the script comes from the mind of a single screenwriter, Ramona Barckert, so the film poses an intriguing exercise in authorship as the directors, like the bandit, the bride, and the woodcutter, interpret a single event differently. What results is a puzzle whose pieces are assorted shades and styles, yet mostly fit together.


5/09/2019

'Non-Fiction' and High Art

Non-Fiction (Doubles vies)
(France, 108 min.)
Written and directed by Olivier Assayas
Starring: Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Nora Hamzawi, Christa Théret 
man and woman at a table
Courtesy of TIFF
Once, when I was taking a course on literary modernism, the professor asked the class a pressing question. “What is the line between high art and low art?” he queried, leaving a group of theory-versed undergraduate students surprisingly tongue-tied. The book under discussion was Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and, when unfortunately called upon by the professor, I sidestepped the answer by offering an anecdote. I said that being a thrifty student, I bought my books second-hand at various bookstores and while everything else on the reading list—Faulkner, Joyce, Woolf, etc.—appeared on the “literature” shelves, poor Rebecca and her front cover worthy of a Harlequin romance, was relegated to the general “Fiction” section. However, it was the one book on the list that got the cashier really excited. “My Cousin Rachel’s even better, dear,” was her reply.


4/19/2019

'The Grizzlies': A Film that Roars

The Grizzlies
(Canada, 104 min.)
Dir. Miranda de Pencier; Writ. Moria Walley-Beckett, Graham Yosy
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, Paul Nutarariaq, Emerald MacDonald, Anna Lambe, Fred Bailey, Tantoo Cardinal, Booboo Stewart, Will Sasso
Inuit lacrosse team
Photo by Shane Mahood
Mongrel Media

The fearless and inspiring The Grizzlies gives Canadian film the great sports drama that has long eluded it. As The Grizzlies gives its excellent young cast a chance to shine, roar, and spotlight their community, the film provides a significant call to action for the suicide crisis up North and an effective portrait of the complexity of north/south and Indigenous/settler relationships. The film begins with a heartbreaking image of an Inuit youth walking on the tundra, alone save for his faithful dog, as he takes his life. The image returns more than once in The Grizzlies as the film introduces audiences to a community in which literally everyone has lost a friend or family member to suicide.


4/10/2019

Nocturnal Animals: 'Fausto' Re-Imagines Man and Myth

Fausto
(Canada/Mexico, 70 min.)
Written and directed by Andrea Bussmann
Starring: Alberto Núñez, Victor Pueyo, Gabino Rodríguez, Fernando Renjifo, Ziad Chakaroun
If Andrea Bussmann’s previous feature was a tale for those who dreamt, her latest work is a dream realized in its most cinematic form. Bussmann’s Fausto transports the Faust myth to beaches of Oaxaca, Mexico for a loose, free-flowing, and hypnotic meditation. It’s a fleeting film that ebbs and flows in elliptical pauses. Demanding, frustrating, fascinating, and rewarding, Fausto is a richly dense exercise in active viewing. Much like a dream that only makes sense when unpacked and savoured as a metaphorical whole, it’s also a beautifully evocative film that washes over you and enriches the mind.


4/02/2019

Interview: Chatting with 'New Homeland' Director Barbara Kopple

It was an absolute thrill to get to chat with Barbara Kopple, the two-time Oscar winning director, who just happens to be my favourite filmmaker working in documentary thanks to films like Harlan County, USA, Miss Sharon Jones!, Shut Up and Sing, American Dream, and more. Over at POV, I got a chance to talk with Kopple about her latest film, New Homeland, which follows five boys--a mix of Syrian and Iraqi refugees--as they experience the Canadian wilderness for the first time. The doc is a thoughtful study about the need to open arms rather than put up walls.


3/29/2019

Interview: Chatting 'Hotel Mumbai' with Director Anthony Maras and Actors Anupam Kher, Nazanin Boniadi, and Jason Isaacs

Anupam Kher stars as Chef Oberoi in Hotel Mumbai
VVS Films
More on Hotel Mumbai! After last week's chat with Armie Hammer comes more insight on the film from director Anthony Maras and actors Anupam Kher, Nazanin Boniadi, and Jason Isaacs. The cast and director discuss their exceptionally powerful film and honouring the true heroes behind their characters and seeing the tragedy of the attacks in Mumbai as a call for unity in divisive times.


3/26/2019

"Something from the belly": Philippe Lesage's 'Genesis'

Genesis (Genèse)
(Canada, 129 min.)
Written and directed by Philippe Lesage
Starring: Théodore Pellerin, Noée Abita, Jules Roy Sicotte, Emilie Bierre, Édouard Tremblay-Grenier, Paul Ahmarani
brother sister in a car
Genesis is arguably the one truly great dramatic film in this year’s Canada’s Top Ten. It is an excitingly unfortunate reminder that the best of Canadian cinema remains largely invisible. See it if and whenever you can. Lesage jokes that it could be a sequel to his 2015 film The Demons, but he says there’s no point making a sequel to a movie that nobody saw. It’s a shame that there isn’t wider recognition for Lesage’s work in the Canadian circuit, so hopefully his new film Genesis will mobilize cinephiles to champion one of the emerging filmmakers in Canada doing new and exciting things with film form.


3/15/2019

Interview: Chatting with 'Level 16' Director Danishka Esterhazy

Sara Canning in Daniska Esterhazy's Level 16
New interview! Chatting about Level 16, feminist dystopia, fandom, Handmaid's Tale, femme fatales and Sara Canning's great Veronica Lake look with director Danishka Esterhazy at That Shelf. The film is now playing in Toronto!

3/14/2019

Vives les fantômes!

Ghost Town Anthology (Répertoire des villes disparues)
(Canada, 97 min.)
Written and directed by Denis Côté
Starring: Robert Naylor, Larissa Corriveau, Josée Deschênes, Diane Lavallée, Jocelyne Zucco, Normand Carrière, Hubert Proulx, Rachel Graton
Snow drifts are scary, but nobody has quite captured the foreboding nature of snow billowing across the road like Denis Côté does in Ghost Town Anthology. The new and (expectedly) peculiar film from Côté’s mind proves the director to be one of the most distinct voices in Canadian film today, although that trait was already proved with A Skin so Soft, Bestiaire, Carcasses, and Vic + Flo Sawa Bear. Whatever goes on inside his head is the stuff that psychologists dream about, but for those of us who prefer to probe the mind while sitting in a darkened movie theatre, Côté’s movies never cease to fascinate. Ghost Town Anthology might be Côté’s best film yet, and I say this as a passionate fan. It’s a stripped down horror flick that sends shivers to the bone like a winter chill on a February day.