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Vancouver International Film Festival Picks for the last two days: Thursday & Friday

Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin stars in Denis Villeneuve's new film Incendies

 These last two days at VIFF have few debut films but plenty of the best repeated. And watch for the post-festival repeats starting up right away at the VanCity Theatre. First up is Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives, which took the top prize at Cannes this year.


But first, all these ….

DAY 15: October 14

INCENDIES: This is a powerful film from Quebec director Denis Villeneuve. People in the audience the other night were stunned by the intense emotions it stirs up. That’s partly because it draws you so effectively into exploring a mystery that you’re open to the full impact of what it reveals. A pair of twins in Montreal (Mélissa  Désormeaux-Poulin) and Maxim Gaudette) are instructed in their mother’s will to find their father, who they had no idea was still alive, and a brother, who they had never even heard about. They have to deliver a letter to each of them, not knowing why but ultimately uncovering a painful history. The search takes them to Lebanon and in a series of chapters and locations, both grim and sunny, they learn their mother’s story. We see it played out in raw flashbacks from a time of civil war. It’s heart-wrenching but also a demonstration of human survival and of hope. No wonder it’s been picked as Canada’s official entry for the Academy Awards and won a best-Canadian award in Toronto. 4 ½ out of 5.

THE STRANGE CASE OF ANGELICA: I hope I’m still watching movies when I’m 101. Manoel de Oliveira of Portugal is still making them. His latest has some of the same melancholy and longing you find in fado music but embedded in a fantasy about love, time passing and memory. A young photographer is called to an estate one rainy night to take the last pictures of a young woman who has just died.

As he looks through the viewfinder he’s not only struck by her beauty, but sees her opening her eyes and smiling. In his darkroom, her photo also seems to come alive and then she appears to him as a ghost. Sometimes, the two fly off into the sky together and he muses about “that place of absolute love I’ve heard about.”  In the daytime, he shoots pictures of farm laborers to document tradition before farm machinery takes over and at his boarding house he listens to three academics discuss anti-matter, pure energy and “the cosmic situation”. A mysterious enchanting film. 4 out of 5   

CERTIFIED COPY: It was a hit at the Cannes Film Festival and won Juliet Binoche a best acting award. It proves in every moment and colorful scene that it deserves the accolades. It’s also unexpectedly funny. At times that is, because it rolls through a variety of moods.

Binoche plays a French antique dealer in Tuscany who agrees to show a British art expert around. He's played by William Shimell, an English opera singer, who’s OK as an actor except when he’s called on to be angry. Binoche starts pretending they’re married and badgers him to play along. Is she delusional or real? The question hovers through a series of encounters with a real bride and groom, a tourist couple and staff in a coffee shop. Married or not, the film is actually about marriage, both new and grown old. And it’s immensely entertaining and alive. 4 out of 5 

The repeats ….

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, 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. 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 lives in Vancouver. 3 ½ out of 5

THE TWO ESCOBARS: This is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. It has drama, tension,. hope, tragedy, and more. A screenwriter couldn’t do better. You’ve heard of Pablo Escobar, the one-time major drug lord in Columbia and, according to this film, a popular figure among the poor. He brought money, services and soccer fields to the slums. He also supported the national soccer team on which Andres Escobar was the star player. Their parallel rise and subsequent crash – Pablo was shot down; Andres scored the own goal that put his team out of the World Cup and paid the price soon after – is told with great momentum in this compelling film. (An extra screening has been added for tomorrow) 4 out of 5

More in New Movies

Disney wildlife times two, a blast at American politics and a traumatic teen drama

Also a couple of small but amiable comedies, one of them Canadian

More streaming ideas take you to Brazil, low-life China and two Jesse Eisenberg films

As well as a cleverly-plotted trip to Barcelona thanks to Netflix

Movie theatres are shut down, so what’s streaming?

Some modest recommendations and stay for the last one, an alarm about what has happened to the internet.
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