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Vancouver International Film Festival Picks for Day 12: Monday

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Edgar Ramirez plays the Venezuelan terrorist dubbed Carlos the Jackal through two decades of direct action, from his early links to Palestinians, his famous attack on an OPEC meeting in Vienna, his freelance work for Moscow, Syria and Libya and his fall after the U.S.S.R. collapsed and Arab countries shunned him. Apparently we’ll get to see a real man behind those political actions, sexy, vain and gaining weight as the years move on.

TAMARA DREWE: Not Stephen Frears best work but amusing anyway. Essentially this is a bedroom face played out in a rural English village and based on a Thomas Hardy novel via a comic graphic novel. Britain’s current “it girl” (Gemma Arterton) is Tamara, back in town and no longer an “ugly duckling” dubbed “Beaky,” but pixie cute after a nose-job. That starts the sap running in a former boyfriend who dumped her, a philandering crime writer and a rock drummer Tamara brings home ostensibly to interview. She’s a celebrity journalist.

That sets the gossip flying at a writer’s retreat and ignites jealousy in a swooning teen girl who idolizes the drummer through fan magazines. A modern touch Hardy wouldn’t recognize, namely an e-mail that she sends with a cell phone picture, triggers multiple reactions, break-ups and crises. That part of the film is like most any broad English comedy. It’s the talk, debate and pontificating among the various writers at dinner, in the sitting room and in the garden that is the most entertaining element in this film and produces the best lines.  2 ½ out of 5  

CERTIFIED COPY: It was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival and won Juliet Binoche a best acting award. That's made it a big draw at VIFF. Binoche plays a French antique dealer in Tuscany who agrees to drive a British art expert around the region. He's played by William Shimell, an English opera singer. As they drive they discuss art criticism and how to detect fakes, about which he wrote a book. Then, although they've just met, they start pretending that they are married. Or is it pretending? A classic film festival scenario from Abbas Kiarostami, the noted writer/director (and activist) from Iran. One wag after the first screening the other night dubbed it the bi-polar “Before Sunrise.”   (Also screens Thursday).

MY WORDS, MY LIES: Cumbersome title; sprightly film. This comedy from Germany has great fun satirizing the book business. A young waiter becomes a literary sensation through fraud. He didn’t write the book credited to him but the literati love him; publicists promote him and he’s put before huge audiences to read. All he had been trying to do was impress a young woman who moves in intellectual circles. Things get dicey when the real author shows up, wants to take over the publicity machine for the book and has ideas for another. It’s not a great comedy but it’s charming and amusing. Plus  you get to see two of Germany’s best young actors: Hannah Herzsprung as the girlfriend and Daniel Bruhl as the waiter cum literary darling. He starred in Goodbye Lenin, the big hit of a few years back and had a showy role in Inglourious Basterds.   3 1/2 out of 5

THE INFIDEL: The English comedy that had a sold-out screening aborted, then sold two more  has this second of two extra screenings. This is a very funny look at the animosity between Muslims and Jews concluding, of course, with a message of tolerance. A London cabbie discovers he is not a Muslim as he was raised. He’s a Jew who was adopted. That triggers a comic meltdown  because a radical imam is already on his case for his non-observing ways. He sets out to find out what being Jewish is all about. A series of culture-clash gags follow. The humor is uneven, often brash and sometimes obvious and low-class but a terrific performance by Omid Djalili makes it work. 3 out of 5

RUHR: Here’s a film I wanted to include because so many people say it’s a masterpiece. It’s a series of seven scenes in Germany’s industrial heartland captured by the American filmmaker, James Benning. They call it a monumental mediation, but I must admit I don’t have the patience to watch a tunnel for eight minutes as very few cars and only one bicycle come through. It’s a great still photo, though. You can also watch some trees near an airport for 16 minutes, a mosque full of worshippers (from the back) for eight minutes and other such scenes. The capper though is the final section, a full hour watching a coking plant standing against a cloudy sky like some unfinished high-rise apartment building and belching smoke and steam five or six times. The film carries a fine soundscape which will help your meditation. I’m not going to rate this film. 

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