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.