Five days left at VIFF and here are five good suggestions for Monday and Tuesday. The big event getting lots of hype meanwhile is The Green Fog, a new film by Guy Maddin (with Galen Johnson) that re-imagines Hitchcock’s classic film Vertigo. It was first seen at the San Franciso Film Festival and will repeat here as it played there, with live music accompaniment by the Kronos Quartet. That’s Tuesday at 8 pm
One highlight today is Lady Bird which got ecstatic reviews in Toronto, and a lot of Oscar talk. This is Greta Gerwig's debut as a director and stars Saoirse Ronan as a young woman much like her, growing up and clashing with her mother. It's a late addition and not in the guide. Check out viff.org.
I’m pointing to these films which I have seen:
The Party: 4 ½ stars
At the End of the Tunnel: 4
Never Steady, Never Still: 3 ½
Big Time: 3 ½
Sami Blood: 4
THE PARTY: Of the two dozen or so films I’ve seen so far at VIFF, this is my favorite. It’s British, extremely funny, performed by a great cast and full of acidic wit written by Sally Potter. She first made her mark some 25 years ago with Orlando.
Kristin Scott Thomas plays a newly-appointed cabinet minister who invites some friends over to a dinner party to celebrate. So much happens and is said and argued that they never get to eat a bite. Timothy Spall, as her husband, plays records and pessimism. Patricia Clarkson, is an American with a German husband (Bruno Ganz) with whom she spars over his annoying tendency to spout platitudes and new-age philosophy. Cillian Murphy, who’s wife is not with him (that’s not explained until later) secretly smokes an intoxicant as soon as he arrives. Emily Mortimer and Cherry Jones play a lesbian couple. One of them is an academic, “the preeminent authority on gender differentiation in American utopianism,” while the other is pregnant with triplets and soon to be shocked to learn her partner “has had a man inside her.” That and many other revelations, accusations and recriminations pop out as the evening progresses in this sly send up of bourgeois sensitivity and pretension. (Screens Mon and Fri) 4 ½ out of 5
AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL: This is my other favorite, a thriller from Argentina about a bank heist that sends you one surprise after another. A wheelchair bound man with an engineering background hears noises through the wall, drills a hole for a camera and microphone and sees that a gang is working on a bank robbery. They’re digging a tunnel, partially under his basement, arguing among themselves and taking orders from a Mr. Big (played by veteran actor Federico Luppi) who gives specific orders about one safety deposit box to take and another not to touch. The engineer (Leonardo Sbaraglia) also sees that a woman (Clara Lago) who he has just rented a room to is working with the gang.
The plot moves ahead deliberately. The engineer goes down into the tunnel himself, sets a few traps but is caught by the robbers. Then the movie flies, throwing one twist after another at us, not one of them gimmicky or artificial. Everything was carefully prepared earlier in the script to make the plot flipping not only logical, inevitable even, but also unpredictable. Rodrigo Grande, the director, also wrote the film. It’s smart, speedy and suspenseful. (Screens Mon and Thurs) 4 out of 5
NEVER STEADY, NEVER STILL: This is the film that won three big awards at VIFF’s BC Spotlight gala, all of them going to Kathleen Hepburn for her masterful writing and direction. She’s made a film that is hard to watch at times but is very affecting overall. Two stories play side by side. They seem to only parallel for much of the film but merge when it counts.