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Battle of the Sexes back on the court, plus a few more VIFF picks for the weekend

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Young Saul Indian Horse is taken to the wilderness to hide by a grandmother who doesn’t want him sent to one of those schools. He ends up in one anyway where the nuns inflict strict discipline to shape obedient little Christians. One boy dies trying to escape. Saul’s escape is with the help of a kindly priest who lobbies to let him play on the school hockey team. Through three age periods, played by three different actors (Sladen Peltier, Forrest Goodluck and Ajuawak Kapashesit) he moves up to bigger teams and eventually Toronto.

He’s seen as a pioneer. Only Reggie Leach is mentioned as a model, not George Armstrong. He encounters subtle or outright racism at every level. That’s curious too because he’s a brilliant player but is still not accepted. Then, all too suddenly, the trauma inflicted by the school comes back. That I can accept but not a plot twist that arrives in the last few minutes. It’s meant to be the final blast on the agenda and does hit with chilling force. But it also undoes much of what we’ve learned previously. The film is blunt but ends with a crack. (Screens Sat and Mon) 3 out of 5    

SWALLOWS AND AMAZONS: Here’s one you can take your kids to and I wish you would. They should see how lovely children’s films used to be. This is a gem with a quaint aura but great adventure and mystery. There are idealized children co-operating with each other and getting into great play confrontations with others. Just like they still do in some lanes around our city.

 

The setting for this one is the Lakes District in England, in the 1930s. The Walker family, mom and four children are spending the summer there at Mr. Jackson’s farm, while dad is off in Hong Kong. The story is from a classic Arthur Ransome book that has already been filmed several times and inspired a series . The children vie with two local girls for control of an island in a lake. Like pirates. But this version, directed by TV veteran Philippa Lowthorpe, adds something extra. Spies, we think. There’s one on the train up to there and two asking questions and chasing him right to the houseboat her lives on. What is he and what are they all up to is part of the great adventure the film has for you. It delivers it with charm, excitement, humor and a tone that’s rare in kids film these days, innocence.  And surprisingly, quite a bit of action.  (Saturday afternoon and Wednesday evening) 4 out of 5

STILL NIGHT, STILL LIGHT: Film festivals love these artful, soulful existential meditations. Regular theatres don’t. You can’t explain the story because there isn’t much of one. It deals in atmosphere and I loved the texture of this quiet film by Sophie Goyette from Quebec. She won an emerging talent award at a festival in Europe with this elusive treatise on overcoming loss and grief with action. Life is short, it says. We must continue to dream.

It elaborates on that in three sections about three people. Eliane (Eliane Préfontaine) leaves Quebec, where she entertains at children’s parties, for Mexico where she teaches piano to a rich man’s son. The man, Romes (Gerardo Trejoluna), takes her out on his yacht and hears that she’s grieving the loss of her parents and loves the music of Rachmaninov because she identifies with the depression he felt. That prompts him to visit his own father Pablo (Felipe Casanova) and arrange to fulfill his long-time wish by taking him on a trip to China. You see in it what you want but the film is mesmerizing, fatalistic and propelled by the dreams each character relates. (Sun and Tues) 3 ½ out of 5  

BITCH: This film is typical of the b-movie (sorry, genre films) many festivals are now including. Call the series “Altered States’ and point out some social purpose in the plot and you can get away with it. Fans of off the wall entertainment will the lap up the story and the warped humor in this one.

 

A suburban soccer mom, played by Marianna Palka, who also wrote and directed the film, can’t take all the demands and pressures on her anymore. Her children are difficult and her husband (Jason Ritter) is no help. When he’s at work, he’s schtupping his secretary while a meeting is calling for him in the conference room. Mom tries suicide. That fails. Then she’s in a daze. Later she’s missing but eventually is found in the basement, but not her usual self. She’s feral like a wild dog and covered in excrement. The medical term for her behavior is said to be “behaving like a dog”. She needs therapy; her husband demands pills. So goes this hyperbolic fantasy. It’s funny, twisted and makes its points brusquely about the role of women. (Sat and again Oct 7) 2 ½  out of 5       

More in New Movies

Michael Moore's hope in the Trump era; The Wife’s marriage seems happy and Life Itself can bring tears

There’s also a muddled children’s film about a house haunted by a clock and a teen film about girls who fight back

Locally-filmed The Predator, a mommy blogger’s Simple Favor and bad blood Under the Tree

Also Nicolas Cage really flips out over Mandy and The Cakemaker romances his lover’s widow

A vengeful mom, a demonic nun and Michael Caine’s memories of the swinging 60s

Also: a tulips and Mafia fantasy in Italy and the troubling lives of three skateboarders
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