Rock of Ages, That's My Boy, The Artist is Present, Foreverland and more films reviewed

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MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT: She also hopes this film will help legitimize performance art for non-believers. She’s a veteran practitioner herself, originally from Serbia and apparently marked by horrors of war and the national obligations her parents stressed upon her. Also their aloof parenting style, which she says sent her searching for love. Her performances over the years have included self-mutilation, nudity and bizarre gallery installations. All these came together two years ago at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in a retrospective of her major works—mostly re-creations by performers she trained herself—and a new piece designed for her by a former lover who is now the museum’s chief curator. He calls it a self-portrait.

This work is mesmerizing even here on film. All day, every day during the three-month show, she sat in a chair dressed in a long robe, like a religious figure. One by one people from the audience sat down facing her. Initially her eyes are closed. Then she looks up and locks eyes with the person staring at her. This goes on for some indeterminate length of time.  We get several montages of these encounters for which people lined up for hours. There’s a fascinating variety in these silent interactions including a very poignant one with Ulay, her former husband and also a performance artist. (5th Avenue) 4 out of 5 

FOREVERLAND: Emotional and well-intentioned you expect in a film like this, but there’s an extra here: sardonic humor. Not that easy to do when the subject is living with the fatal genetic disease cystic fibrosis. (The great documentary 65 Red Roses showed us Eva Markvoort’s brave but ultimately losing battle with it a couple of years ago). Humor keeps this fictional film from becoming sappy and self-pitying and the director’s own experience---Max McGuire is a victim himself—gives it an authentic feel. Some of the strongest scenes show the everyday challenges. 


The story is fanciful. A 20-year-old played by Max Thieriot is terrified the disease is about to kill him. When a friend, who has died from it, asks him in a pre-recorded video to take his ashes to a shrine in Mexico, he’s not interested. He’s not one for chancy adventures but the friend’s sister (Laurence Leboeuf) talks him into it and off they both go in a restored Mustang, a birthday gift from his father. The car is stolen; they hitchhike and take buses, have a weird visit with a moralistic aunt (Juliette Lewis) and eventually reach the closed-up shrine and meet a backsliding priest, played by the Mexican star Demián Bichir. (He had an Oscar nomination this year for best actor). The message is simple: live whatever life you have left fully. The film tells it with a quiet passion and a light touch, good acting, a few story problems and great locations, most of them in B.C., including Vancouver, Tofino and the goats of Coombs. NOTE: Two producers and three actors,Matt Frewer for one, will do a Q&A after the 7:15 screening tonight, Friday.  (5th Avenue) 3 out of 5   

THE WOMAN IN THE FIFTH: This one works fairly well as both a mystery and a consideration of madness and creativity. If you can stand some hazy story elements and at least one improbability, you’ll be kept interested, entertained and then more than a bit bewildered.


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