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A new and splendid Beauty and the Beast plus two contrasting Canadian films, the Goon sequel and Weirdos

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CALL OF THE FOREST: THE FORGOTTEN WISDOM OF TREES: Don’t be misled by the rather twee sound of the narration in this documentary. The Irish/Canadian botanist and conservationist Diana Beresford-Kroeger has a powerful message and a batch of important information for you about how valuable, heck, essential, trees are to us. The Japanese go forest bathing. She tells you exactly and simply what hormones and chemicals trees give off, including anti-cancer and anti-biotic agents. Ireland has cut its forests down to about 1% of what they used to be but Germany, one of the most industrialized countries on earth, is preserving as much as 30%. The film makes the case for protecting Canada’s boreal forest.

Vancouver politicians and staff should also be made to watch. They allow us to cut down one tree a year (more if we’re building something). Beresford-Kroeger argues we could fight climate change if we all planted one a year. In Japan she found a professor who says every available space, even tiny plots, should be planted to create urban forests. All in all, provocative stuff. The film has two more screenings, tonight and again Saturday, which she’ll attend to answer questions. (The Cinematheque    4 ½ out of 5

THE SKYJACKER’S TALE: The story is brand new to me but it’s gripping as it unfolds in this documentary by Jamie Kastner of Toronto. He found and got an extended interview in Cuba with Ishmael Muslim Ali, a self-styled political revolutionary who was known as Ronald LaBeet when he was a petty thief. What changed him is fascinating.

He and his buddies used to rob the tourists at a luxury golf course in the American Virgin Islands. One robbery in 1972, which he says he was not part of, broke out into a shooting massacre. Eight people died. He was arrested and not even star defense lawyer William Kunstler could prevent a conviction.  He spent 12 years in prison and then amazingly managed to escape by highjacking a plane to Cuba. We see it all in brief re-creations as he and others recount the events in thrilling detail. During the end credits, you’ll hear how he got a gun on to that plane. You’ll also hear how he was radicalized in Viet Nam, a cop who all but admits he tortured him and Ali’s fear that he’ll be sent back to the US as relations with Cuba improve. All true? Can’t tell. But it’s a great yarn. (The Cinematheque) 3 out of 5

WEIRDOS: Bruce McDonald’s latest won two big awards at the recent Canadian Screen Awards. One was for best screenplay which on second viewing (after VIFF last fall) feels entirely deserved. The dialogue is bright and natural, even when the story gets a bit wonky. This is a casual bit of Canadiana about two young lovers on the run back in 1976 with the US on TV and lots of CanCon on the radio. They’re not yet lovers and it’s nothing major they’re running from, except maybe boredom.

Dylan Authors and Julia Sarah Stone are the two teens travelling from Antigonish to Sydney in Nova Scotia for a beach party and for him to reconnect with his mother, a nutty and flamboyantly welcoming artist played by Molly Parker. (She won the second CSA award).  Authors is new to me; but Stone is carving out a career as the fresh-faced young girl with an adventurous urge. He’s not sure if he’s gay and is visited by a vision of Andy Warhol at key points with bland advice and analysis. For instance, he likes Canada. “You’re all kind weirdoes,” he says.  
The script by playwright Daniel MacIvor skips lightly through a number of themes. The movie is pleasant, entertaining and evocative.(Cinematheque) 3 ½ out of 5

THE SENSE OF AN ENDING:  Maybe if the film had kept the structure of the Booker Prize-winning novel by Julian Barnes it would have worked better. It came in two parts, a story of college-age students in England competing for love, followed by one man’s recollections 50 years later. Movies naturally combine the two with lots of flashbacks. This time it doesn’t quite work causing confusion at times and undercutting the subtleties of what Barnes was trying to get across. The man’s memories are unreliable and so the flashbacks are too. At one point I wasn’t sure who had committed suicide or what another character was really up. The classy performances of the actors are a delight though.

 

Jim Broadbent is the man forced to mentally relive his past when a letter arrives announcing a friend’s death and promising a diary. But the woman who has it (Charlotte Rampling), a former love of his, refuses to give it up. He sets out to find why and that triggers the flashbacks. More importantly it explores the idea of selective memory, which a novel can do better than film, and then exposes his own role in past events, which he’s been trying to forget. Billy Howle and Freya Mavor play their younger versions, Harriet Walter (terrific) plays his ex-wife and Andrew Buckley and Joe Alwyn play two ages of a college friend. They’re well-known from British dramas. Indian director Ritesh Batra, who had a hit four years ago with The Lunchbox, has this one moving along well but uneasy in its nuances. (International Village) 3 out of 5 

 

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