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Reviews of Titanic 3-D, American Reunion, The Salt of Life and The Moth Diaries

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THE SALT OF LIFE: Three years ago we got a lovely gift in a charming little Italian film called Mid-August Lunch. It was prepared by an unemployed but obliging man named Gianni, played by the screenwriter-turned-director, Gianni Di Gregorio. His character back in another low-key, relaxed comedy, this time not serving food to a table of women, but fantasizing about sex.

Gianni is 60. He’s married, not apparently close to his wife, daughter or overbearing mother and worried that life is passing by too fast. A friend says chase some women like real Italian men do, take a “love pill” if you have to, do something or end up sitting with the men outside the café all day. His efforts and the results are very funny as he lunches with twins, looks up old girlfriends, flirts with a woman who’s dog he walks, even visits a brothel. A drug-fuelled dream to a Pixies song brings out his quest’s impossible appeal. Another comic gem, a bit like one of Woody Allen’s but free of self-deprecating irony and full of affection and good will. (5th Avenue Cinemas) 4 out of 5

TYRANNOSAUR: Do they still call this kitchen sink drama? It’s certainly tough and gritty and hard to take. And dark. Right at the start, Joseph (played with a chilling volatility by Peter Mullan) is cursing violently as he leaves a pub and kicks his own dog to death. He meets a woman running a Christian thrift store (Olivia Colman), resists her efforts to help him but is repeatedly drawn back to her. Gradually we grow to sympathize with him and detect some long-buried good in him. We also see her life, which is middle-class to his world of council flats, has got serious problems too, including threats, violence and even rape. It’s a bleak film but so well-acted, and so sharply written, honest and unflinching, that it grabs you from the start, cruises you past some excesses and leaves you shaken but hopeful. Quite a trick. Written and directed by actor Paddy Considine who drew on life in the council flat he grew up in. (5th Avenue Cinemas and next week on DVD).  3 ½ out of 5   

GERHARD RICHTER PAINTING: He’s one of the modern world’s most important artists and one of the biggest sellers. He’s also, it appears from this film, affable, modest and a nice guy. What he’s not is chatty or able to explain his inspiration. That’s a significant encumbrance in this rare peek inside his life.

 

It’s the first time he’s let the cameras into his studio in Cologne, Germany. At age 80, we see him at work on two wall-size abstracts, starting with a yellow field, adding streaks of other colors and using a long board to spread on more paint and texture. He doesn’t control the process, he says. The paintings do what they want. He has to know when to stop, though, and indeed he seems to mess one up by going too far. It’s a fascinating glimpse into his working methods but only a small part of this film which meanders through the business of art, gallery show creation and, with clips from an old documentary, his life story. He left East Germany because artists were too restricted. We see the immense variety of his work since then through thumbnail images that float by, including his photography, paintings from crime photos, still-lifes, portraits and abstracts. Not much context, though, to extract sense and order from it all. (VanCity Theatre) 2 ½ out of 5

Some days it plays in tandem with HOW TO MAKE A BOOK WITH STEIDEL, also a Gerhard from Germany. He’s a publisher who meticulously and artistically creates books of the works of top photographers, Robert Frank, Ed Ruscha, Robert Adams, Vancouver’s Jeff Wall and others.

Check the theatre’s website http://www.viff.org/theatre/ for showtimes.

THE MOTH DIARIES: British model and actress Lily Cole has an eerie, pasty, goth look so of course when she turns up as a new student at the tony Brangwyn school for girls she’s eyed suspiciously. Certainly by Rebecca (Sarah Bolger) who’s room is across the hall. She notices the new girl never eats, wanders out at night and sometimes disappears right before her eyes, once right after uttering “The moment of death is ecstatic.”

 

A vampire? Or just Rebecca’s delusions and trauma after her father committed suicide? As friends vanish or die and her best friend is hospitalized, she tries to tell her gothic lit prof (Scott Speedman) but he’s indifferent and tries to grope her instead of helping. She starts fingering razor blades. There’s mystery but not a lot of tension or terror in Mary Harron’s adaptation of the novel by Rachel Klein, which appeared years before Twilight. Today it just feels like a knock-off. (International Village) 

2  out of 5

NOTE: The images are stills provided by the movie studios and are therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.

 

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