New movies this week: Potter delivers

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THE GIRL FROM MONACO: The Ridge Theatre’s French Film Festival just keeps coming up with winners this year. This is a very funny and droll farce about a straight-laced lawyer with an eye for the ladies. Or maybe he’s just an unlikely magnet, even at age 60. He travels from Paris to the tiny principality on the Mediterranean to defend a society matron on a murder charge. One night he watches a blonde and sexy weather girl on TV and before you know it runs into her several times, is invited into her bed and goes out clubbing and partying with her. As he lets loose in these nighttime sprees, his daytime work suffers. Luckily there’s a bodyguard who’s always nearby to offer advice and keep him out of serious trouble. A later assignment takes a darker ironic turn. The film sparkles in the interplay between these characters. Fabrice Luchini is a solid everyman as the lawyer while real life TV weather personality, Louise Bourgoin, plays the ambitious free-spirit who loves to quote her idol, Princess Diana. The film is clever light entertainment, and very French.

KATYN: For years, Stalin blamed it on Hitler. This film opens up the real story of a wartime atrocity that the Soviet dictator personally ordered and that has only recently been confirmed by historians. People in Poland knew the truth but couldn’t talk about it. The country’s most honored director, Andrzej Wajda, waited until he was 82 to tell it, even though his own father was a victim. The event is the 1940 massacre by the Red Army of thousands of Polish military officers. They were also professors and community leaders. Stalin was trying to bust a nation as he took it over.
The film, based on a popular novel, shows the effect on four families as the men go off to war and are never heard from again. It has many well-staged moments but the story turns melodramatic and becomes scattered and fragmented as it shifts among too many characters. Still, the patriotic sentiments to preserve a free Poland come through clearly. So does the sense of outrage as the sudden discovery of one man’s diary allows the film to recreate some of the murders in a chilling final 10 minutes. (At the VanCity Theatre).

WATERLIFE: We’re hardly strangers on the west coast to concerns about pollution and clean water. So, this documentary from the east exploring those issues in the Great Lakes should find some takers. Starting with a grim result (cancerous whales) and a pleasurable ideal (people frolicking in the sun and water), the film tracks the damage being done to each of the five lakes. Toxic chemicals, agricultural and industrial run off, invasive species, residential development. The list gets scary as it goes on. One ironic image shows how much people like to be near the water. They’ve built a swimming pool right at the shore of one lake. The film is lively, has strong photography and an interesting innovation: no talking heads. It doesn’t show the people interviewed, but uses their voices like a narrator as we watch the pictures. Gordon Downie is the official narrator and not surprisingly some music from his band, The Tragically Hip, is on the soundtrack, along with many others especially Sigur Ros, Philip Glass and Brian Eno. The structure is a problem though. The film starts with Lake Superior and works its way down detailing the problems on all the other lakes as it goes. Eventually that gets to sound repetitive, and oddly Toronto gets off relatively easily. (Playing at Tinseltown)

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