A new and creepy It, perky Reese in Home Again and a contrary view of those volatile Paris suburbs
POP AYE: Here’s one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen in a while. It’s full of heart, odd twists and ironic humor. Imagine hitchiking with an elephant? Thana does, and he gets a ride too. This film from Thailand, written and directed by Kirsten Tan who was raised in Singapore, is full of wry observations about modern life and so-called progress, a longing for the simpler ways of the countryside and an unending series of setbacks that get in the way.
Thana is an architect in Bangkok but his time has passed. A celebrated building he designed years ago is about to be torn down. “The old has to make way for the new,” says a snippy young colleague. Thana’s relations with his wife are cool too but positively frosty with his next move. He spots an elephant he used to own and play with as a kid; buys it and starts a long ride back to his hometown. There are incidents in a supermarket, on the road with two cops who try to arrest him, in a glitzy bar where two prostitutes, one old (and a “ladyboy”), one young, offer themselves. Old vs young and also thoughts of death and what may or may not come after put some depth into this light comedy. There’s a Buddhist monk who accepts visa. Farmland developed for condos. And, in step with the elephant’s name, a few clips from Popeye cartoons. The spirit is similar and the film is just as enjoyable. (VanCity) 3 ½ out of 5
SWAGGER: Maybe you’ve seen them in the movies, like Dheepan, or remember them erupt in rioting 12 years ago. The images are familiar of those Paris suburbs where African and Muslim immigrants live and drug gangs roam the housing projects. Now here’s the other side. Life goes on. There are teens who aren’t in gangs but have plans to make a future for themselves. Regis wants to get into the fashion industry and already dresses like a trend-setter. Another youth has worn a suit to school ever since photo day. One wants to be a surgeon.
Olivier Babinet, best known for directing music videos, got 12 teens from the housing projects in the Aulnay-sous-Bois suburb, the scene of some of the worst rioting back in 2005, to open up about their lives, and everything from love to religion. Some arrived in France traumatized, like the girl who has dreams about killers invading her African village. They have biases. Roma are thieves, one says. “I don’t know anyone of French stock,” says another. They’re philosophical, not angry. Some appear to be echoing what they’ve been told. Others add in pure fantasy, like a warning one girl has about Mickey Mouse and Barbie.
I don’t imagine it’s a full picture. These are the good kids talking. We only see a few of the others on a rooftop doing outlook duty for drug dealers. Which side is dominant? Babinet doesn’t address that, or whether anything has improved since the riots. He just wants some optimism included in the image. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5
BLOOD HONEY: Some Canadian films manage to get only a one-night stand. This one doesn’t even deserve that. It’s got atmosphere galore, a sign of some filmmaking talent, but is undone by some shaky story points and one absolutely ridiculous scene.
Shenae Grimes-Beech stars as Jenibel who returns to the Ontario cottage-country home of her father (Gil Bellows) because he’s sick. She’s not well either, still traumatized from childhood when she witnessed her mother commit suicide. Now she’s told (by Don McKellar, as a doctor friend) that she’ll inherit a 51% share in the property and (by her father) that she must sell it to a couple of guys who’ve made an offer. It’s a hunting lodge but only a bee-keeping sideline is making any money. Dad promptly commits suicide with those bees and that’s not even the most ridiculous scene. Later Jenibel has sex with red honey dripping down her body on to the guy beneath her. That one kicks it into the bizarre stratosphere. There’s more plot. A brother objects to the will, Jenibel has delusions and a twist comes along that isn’t unexpected. Unusual cinema. (Park Theatre, Fri. Sept 8) 1 ½ out of 5