Vancouver International Film Festival Picks for Day 13: Tuesday
As the last week of VIFF unspools, the list of great films getting a repeat screening gets longer. Check it out after reading about bridal tourism in the Ukraine, a Quebec film about the Middle East and a little known (to us) atrocity in World War II.
LOVE TRANSLATED: Some call this a comedy. OK, but you'd have to be a little heartless to see it that way. The men in this documentary are on a trip of self-delusion. A cabbie says they’re being scammed. Lured by a website called Anastasiadate.com, men travel to Odessa in the Ukraine to meet women who they hope will become their brides. We see ten (including a man from Richmond) taken to functions and on mini tours over a week and a half, chatting, dining and flirting with attractive young women. Some have had bad experiences with North American women, including divorce and liberated attitudes. One has had no experience. As the days count down, it becomes urgent to make a connection. This film is briskly edited and always interesting but fairly sad too. Director Julia Ivanova, who lives in Vancouver, premiered the film in Chicago just three days ago. (Also screens Thursday) 3 ½ out of 5
INCENDIES: I haven’t seen it yet but this will be Canada’s next entry for the Oscars and has drawn praise at festivals from Venice to Toronto. Also, the director has a solid reputation. One of his films was the excellent Polytechnique based on the horrible massacre in Montreal. Here’s what the VIFF notes say about Incendies: Jeanne and Simon journey from Montreal to the Middle East hoping to fulfill their mother’s cryptic last request to deliver letters to a father believed dead and a brother unknown. Director Denis Villeneuve poetically lays bare two lives and a legacy shattered by war. (Also screens Thursday)
THE MAN WHO WILL COME: It’s taken me a while to catch up to this one, although I’ve been hearing very good things about it. This film re-creates a World War II atrocity in Italy when a German unit annihilated over 750 peasants, women and children in a mountainous region near Bologna. It was retaliation for killings carried out by partisans operating in the area. On screen, the butchery is all the more shocking because it arrives so suddenly after we’ve watched a quiet story of rural life.
We see it through the eyes of a young girl who refuses to speak because she’s already suffered a tragedy. The death of a baby brother. (Another one will be born during the course of the film). She’s a silent witness and guide to the everyday life of the farming community, the school, the church and families in their homes. It’s a peaceful, traditional world, with only brief reminders of the war. Partisans come and go and German soldiers make relatively friendly visits to buy wine and eggs. The violence, when it comes, is devastating. This is a very well-made film with a life-affirming coda after the shooting ends. 4 out of 5
The major repeats …
AFTERSHOCK: China’s biggest movie hit ever brought packed houses to tears this summer. It’s both a blockbuster and a wrenching story of human beings coping with disaster. The film dramatically recreates the aftermath of an earthquake in 1976 with classic Chinese storytelling and a let-it-all-out operatic grandeur. A highly emotional epic almost 2 ½ hours in length.
UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES: This film about re-incarnation from Thailand was the surprise winner of the top prize at this year’s Cannes film festival. It defies easy description. It includes a ghost story and a folk tale and a sex-crazed catfish.
The film tells of a tamarind farmer dying of kidney disease. When two relatives visit, two ghosts, his wife and his son, also appear. The son is now a monkey ghost. Stranger scenes happen next day. Parts are brilliant; parts are murky, both in look and in content. Still, it’s a must see. Until I see it again, it’s a 3 ½ out of 5, I think.