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Tomboy, Café de Flore, Surviving Progress, holiday movies and two festivals

There was a post-American Thanksgiving lull in big new movies this week. Good. We have more time for some worthy smaller titles. 

Here’s the list:

Tomboy  4 stars

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress

Café de Flore  3 ½

Surviving Progress  3 ½

Holiday Films at  VanCity

Whistler Film Fest

European Union Film Fest

Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

An Insignificant Harvey

TOMBOY: This is a marvelous film about children, finding your place in the world and learning who and what you are. All that and yet it’s only a short, simple tale about a few weeks in a girl’s life. She moves with her family to a new town, impulsively pretends to be a boy when asked her name and then is compelled to keep up the deception. It’s not that hard. She’s young. Her hair is short and her body hasn’t yet filled out. She picks up the fine points of soccer and plays well, although her new friend, Lisa, senses something amiss when she says: “You’re not like the others.”

The film teases us with several incidents that almost blow her cover, as when she can’t do like the other boys and just walk over to the bushes to pee. Or when she’s invited to go swimming and has to use some Play Doh to add to her image. Her little sister figures out what’s going on and will keep quiet if she’s taken along when the kids play. Ironically that leads to the biggest threat to the subterfuge.

The film is well-written and beautifully acted by the children, especially the completely natural Zoe Heran in the lead and Malonn Levana as her six-year-old sister. Adults are only minor characters and the gender identity theme is subtle, not pushed, so we can make of it ourselves what we will.  (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

Playing in tandem with … 

EL BULLI: COOKING IN PROGRESS: It was popular at the film festival but the reviews have been widely mixed. This documentary takes us inside a tiny restaurant on Spain’s Costa Brava that has been dubbed the most influential eatery on earth. Former, that is. It shut down this summer. We meet a wild man of a chef, Ferran Adria, who spent half of every year in his Barcelona food laboratory developing new, sometimes outrageous, creations. He’s driven and likes to shock, but what’s “tasty” to Variety is “plodding” to the Globe and Mail.  (VanCity Theatre)

CAFÉ DE FLORE: Quebec’s Jean-Marc Vallée, who caught everyone’s eye six years ago with the irreverent family drama C.R.A.Z.Y. and then went to England to direct the much more staid The Young Victoria, is back where he belongs. He offers dazzle and sparkle, quick editing, time and place shifts and an absorbing mood of mystery as he tells two stories at the same time and sprinkles in tiny hints that, although 40 years separate them, they may be linked.

 

 

 

In Paris, in 1969, a young mother advocates for her young son at his school. He’s got Down’s syndrome and teachers want to send him to a special class. She wants him to get stimulation and contact with regular kids and is upset when he falls in love with a little girl who also has Down’s. Vanessa Paradis, known to us as Johnny Depp’s partner and to the French as an actor, singer and model, ditches the glamour to play the single-mom with a fierce determination.

In Montreal, present day, a nightclub D.J., played by singer-songwriter Kevin Parent, feels good about his life. He’s divorced his wife and is now with a hot blonde who among other things knows the same music he loves.

 

 

 

 

 

He’s bothered by guilt feelings though, while the blonde has doubts about his commitment and the former wife is sinking into depression. What’s worse, she has nightmares that seem to point to the story in Paris. The title song is another link. It’s heard repeatedly in a middle-of-the road version back then and an upbeat club version today. We get clues about the connection, a glimpse of an Edgar Cayce book for instance, but no real answer, and not a particularly satisfying one at that, until the very end. It’s in among the closing credits, so don’t leave right away. Before that, the film gave us flash and art, stunning use of intercutting and music and some salient thoughts on different aspects of love.  (5th Avenue)  3 ½ out of 5

SURVIVING PROGRESS: Al Gore, David Suzuki and now Ronald Wright. They’ve all had lectures turned into movies to deliver an urgent environmental message. Wright, drawing on his Massey Lectures on CBC Radio, asks what exactly is progress and where is it taking us?

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