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Deadpool jokes again; Jane Fonda reads in Book Club, and two modern icons explain their missions

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In between those segments we see him travel the world. He addresses the U.S. Congress, proclaims “Never again” at a Holocaust memorial, visits a Brazilian favela and migrant camps, washes a poor man’s feet and kisses them. Some recent controversies aren’t mentioned but his primary aim of helping the poor and living with nature is. He’s adopted the ideals as well as the name of St. Francis, a connection that’s underlined with a series of black and white film clips of an actor portraying the Saint. They feel odd but they do make the points that Wim Wenders, the director, wants. He also did the interview with the Pope and speaks the narration. He’s brought us Cuban music and an innovative dancer in previous documentaries. This one is illuminating but not quite stirring. (International Village) 3 out of 5

KUSAMA INFINITY: There’s an amazing story in this life of Yayoi Kusama. She’s one of the most successful artists in the world, top 10 according to one source I consulted, #1 according to this film. She’s Japanese, was discouraged by her mother who ripped up her drawings, but was encouraged by Georgia O’Keeffe, to whom she dared to write a letter. On her advice she moved to New York and struggled to build a career with her intricately drawn pop art, her installations, a film and her activism against the Viet Nam War. 

 

The best she could do was inspire Andy Warhol and others to copy her ideas. Even a suicide attempt failed and she went back to Japan where she’s been in a mental institution for decades. But still producing art and finally getting recognition. In New York, according to one art critic seen in the film, she was “blatant, aggressive, overt.” Now she comes across as humble and thankful.  The film by American Heather Lenz shows a great deal of her work in sharp glorious color and inspires with her tenacity. “I just kept trying to create my own world,” she says. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

DISOBEDIENCE: We’ve seen gay stories before set in strict, conservative societies. Muslim for instance. This one is in an Orthodox Jewish community in London England and more subtly presented than usual. It’s not just local conventions at stake here but the religion’s deepest beliefs. They’re invoked right at the start when a respected rabbi talks about choosing between the angels and the beast in how you conduct your life. You have free will he says and then falls dead. His daughter (Rachel Weisz) rushes back from New York to where she had escaped sometime in the past, and an apparently tense atmosphere re-establishes. She’s been disowned; not even mentioned in his obituary and shunned by the community.

 

Not the rabbi’s protégé though (Alessandro Nivola) or his wife (Rachel McAdams) who let her stay with them. The three were long-time friends, and, we gradually sense, the two Rachels were lovers. They re-ignite that passion in a tentative kiss in an alley and then a hot hotel room tryst. That throws all the questions up for debate: who wanted this? Will it continue? Is the future rabbi insulted? What of his maxim that “Honor is the most important thing.” The rather somber film turns vibrant and Sebastian Lelio gets sharp but nuanced performances out of his three lead actors. It’s an English language debut for the Chilean director of the Oscar winner A Fantastic Woman. (International Village) 3 ½ out of 5  

VENUS: No, not the Peter O’Toole film from 12 years ago but a Canadian film from Montreal about a man on his way to becoming a woman having to deal with what life sends his way. He, played by New York actor Debargo Sanyal, says he feels he’s from out of this world, maybe from the planet of the title. He’s already dressing as a woman, is soon to start the hormone therapy and is visited one day by his past. A 14-year-old boy (Jamie Mayers) says he’s his son, conceived during a one-night stand and verified with a quick read of his mother’s diary.

 

That sets up a charming cross-cultural, cross-sexual comedy as this new father has to deal with the boy’s needs, memories of his past life and how they relate to where he’s heading, the gay relationship he’s in with a white friend  (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) and  the reactions of his own parents (south Asians both, mom supportive, dad not). It’s complicated but crisply-written and well-acted. Sanyal looks too young to have a teenage son but otherwise connects with a believable and natural performance. Eisha Marjara has directed a warm, sometimes funny and ultimately moving look at an off-beat but ultimately very possible modern family state of affairs. The film’s been winning awards at festivals, including Whistler. (VanCity Theatre 3 out of 5 

SHOW DOGS: I could recommend this film if it: was funny, made sense, showed some intelligence, was good for children, wasn’t so talky, didn’t rip off images from better films like Lady and The Tramp, had an ounce of the charm of films like Babe and skipped cheesy doggy dialogue like ”who do I have the pleasure of smelling.”  It does none of that and so I can’t. The one plus it does have is the special effects work that moves the various dogs’ jaws believably to the words. Will Arnett is the main human star and Ludacris, Stanley Tucci, Alan Cumming and Shaquille O'Neal are among the voice actors. The plot involves a search for rare-animal thieves at a dog show in Las Vegas, which adds another level of crass atmosphere. The director, Raja Gosnell, has done Smurfs and Scooby Doo movies as well as Beverly Hills Chihuahua. (International Village, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 1 ½ out of 5

 

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