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Waste Land, Vision and a Festival of new films from Europe

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EUROPEAN FILM FESTIVAL (EUFF): For 13 years now, the Pacific Cinémathèque on Howe Street has organized a late-year showcase of interesting new films from Europe. This year they come from 23 countries and include several that played earlier at the Vancouver International Film Festival, including EDEN (an elderly couple tries to rekindle their romance), OF GODS AND MEN (the film that’s become a runaway hit in France) and  KAWASAKI’S ROSE (collaboration in Communist Czechoslovakia).

THE STORM, getting a Vancouver premiere, was a huge hit in Holland because it’s an exciting and at times edge-of-your-seat film about a disaster. It’s the first major film depicting a 1953 flood in which 1,800 people died. The early scenes re-create it with a stunning impact. You can’t avoid comparing them to what you saw from New Orleans.

 

Then it becomes a personal story. A single mother and her baby are separated when the house she’s in literally breaks in two.  She’s shunned by her family and neighbors. Now, all alone, except for the help of a sympathetic military man, she travels washed out roads, wades and rows in deep waters and searches among hostile patrons at a cut-off hotel. There’s a devastating emotional aftermath years later. The film features a wonderful performance by Sylvia Hoeks. In flashbacks she’s sunny. In the main part she’s very good at portraying shock, then anger, determination and obsession. Some people familiar with Holland have complained the actors’ accents are all over the place. Even they praise the power of the special effects though. (The film plays Thurs. Dec 2).  3 ½ out of 5

For the full schedule and film notes go to www.eufilmfestival.com.

NUTCRACKER 3D: Let me list the things wrong with this movie. First, and foremost, with a title like that, parents are going to expect the popular Christmas ballet with Tchaikovsky’s music and E.T.A. Hoffman’s story about the wooden nutcracker that comes to life in a little girl’s dream.

 

It starts that way, alright. Elle Fanning is the Viennese girl given the toy by her ever-smiling uncle (Nathan Lane, putting on an Albert Einstein accent). When she’s transported up the Christmas tree there’s a magical glitter for a brief while,  and then the world of the rat king which is beyond colorless. It seems to be inspired by images of the Warsaw Ghetto. The rat soldiers wear German helmets from World War II and when the slaves revolt, it looks like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The king is played by John Turturro channeling a bit of Andy Warhol and a lot of Phil Spector. 

Instead of ballet, we get a few modern dance numbers and just one classical piece that’s meant to be a nod to a legendary choreographer. We also get eight dull songs. The lyrics are by Sir Tim Rice set to well-known themes from two symphonies and a piano concerto by Tchaikovsky. None of these antecedents do much to spark this leaden production, a joint British-Hungarian project, which cost $90 million to make. A lot of talented people fussed over details (like the Gustav Klimt print in the family home) but the overall result went astray. So did the 3D. It’s shoddy. The worst thing wrong though: bringing this film out the same week as the far superior Tangled. (Only playing the Colossus in Langley). 1 out of 5

NOTE: The photos were supplied by the movie studios and are thefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

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Also Denys Arcand’s rant about the evils of money, a compassionate court dealing with sex trade workers and a series coming soon to showcase a celebrated woman filmmaker from France
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