Ten New Movies Open & Richter's Pick Is: The Hangover
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O’HORTEN: If it’s dry, deadpan humor you’re after, this film from Norway is for you. It’s a funny and whimsical tale of a train engineer and how retirement changes his life. He gets to his union’s goodbye ceremony, but manages to miss the party afterward and even his final trip the next morning. He hasn’t prepared for life without work and comes to feel irrelevant. Not long though, as he stumbles into a series of small reviving adventures. Bard Owe communicates a lot with few words as the suitably-named Odd Horten and manages to make this essentially slight material resonate….quietly. (Tinseltown)
The documentaries ...
THE ENGLISH SURGEON: The tone is calm, relaxed. The impact though, is potent in this portrait of a neurosurgeon who shuns career advancement in “a completely broken down, bankrupt medical system” and just wants to be a good doctor. The film documents one of a series of visits Dr. Henry Marsh has made to a small town in the Ukraine to help a friend in an overloaded and under-resourced practice. He has to advise for or against surgery and then how to tell the patients. The camera is there for some highly emotional scenes and also a couple of operations. They’re a bit hard to take even though Marsh assures us the brain feels no pain. A swiftly-paced, elevating film about a true humanitarian. (VanCity Theatre)
THEATRE OF WAR: Students and fans of theatre should enjoy this, even though it tries to do too much. Initially it’s a film about staging a new version of Mother Courage and Her Children, Bertolt Brecht’s scathing attack on war profiteers, in New York three years ago. The highlight is seeing Meryl Streep at work from a first read-through to the final stage. Before you know it, through interviews with a drama professor, several people working on the production and Tony Kushner, who wrote a new translation of the play, the film also takes on the Iraq and Vietnam wars, street demonstrations, politics, Marxism and the power of art to affect change. Alongside that, there’s a detailed biography of Brecht (including some hilarious clips of his testimony before the Un-American Activities). It’s all good stuff, although a bit ponderous in its sprawling field of interest. (VanCity Theatre).
ACT OF GOD: A young boy in Virginia dies and another is injured as a lightning strikes them on a baseball field. That happened just two days ago. This film is full of stories like that, from people who survived that mammoth jolt of electricity. One describes a “storm ripped from the pages of the Bible”. Others proclaim their life changed profoundly. A religious cult in Cuba venerates a lightning spirit called Shango. There are seven stories in all. Each is interesting in itself, but they remain stand-alone items, without an overview to bring them together. Director Jennifer Baichwal, does open with and periodically return to some sharply-edited and eerie weather footage. She’s Victoria-born and now based in Toronto. Her last film was the award-winning Manufactured Landscapes. (Tinseltown).
The gem ...
GOODBYE SOLO: Save a bit of time for a down-to-earth celebration of friendship. There’s no pretense in this small film. Just a perfectly plausible connection growing between two very different people. Souleymane Sy Savane is remarkable as an endlessly optimistic immigrant from Africa stuck driving cab in North Carolina. One night, a real grump of a man gets in and offers a big down payment for a ride in two weeks. The driver suspects the guy is suicidal and sets out to learn why. The stories of both men are gradually revealed. We learn just enough to be satisfied. The film is often tense but stays far away from dreary despair. And you’ll long remember the cranky yet dignified performance of Red West, as the passenger. Trivia fans will remember he first came to Hollywood in the 1960s as part of Elvis Presley’s entourage. (The Ridge Theatre).
Also opening ....
THE MAGIC FLUTE: Kenneth Branagh got both praise ("inventive" "daring") and censure ("kitschy catastrophe") for his film version of the Mozart opera. No dreamy land of fairies for him, or his collaborator, Stephen Fry. They set it in the trenches of World War 1. So, Tamino isn't injured by a dragon but chokes in a cloud of mustard gas. The Queen of the Night appears to be absolutely mad. Computer animation and lots of cinematic tricks make the film an hallucinatory experience. Or so I've read. At least they don't mess with the music. (Granville Theatre).