Selma, Inherent Vice plus Canada’s 10 Best and a festival of Italian films

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ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL:  One of our newest festivals is in its second year and again brings a nice mixture of classics and new titles. The big names are here:  Federico Fellini (8 ½), Michelangelo Antonioni (L’Eclisse),  Vittorio De Sica (Marriage Italian Style), Pietro Germi (Divorce Italian Style).

Interesting among the newcomers is a film about the Mafia, another about a small winery (which will naturally be accompanied by a wine tasting) and the one I’ve seen so far.   

A FIVE STAR LIFE: For at least two reasons, this one fits perfectly into a modern Italian film festival. Pedigree is one. The director, Maria Sole Tognazzi, and her brother, Gianmarco, who has a small role, are children of the legendary Ugo Tognazzi, who was a star in Italian movies for over 40 years. Second: this film was a big hit over there a couple of years ago. It managed to be that with a slow-brewing contemplation of what’s important in women’s lives. Marriage, feminism, luxury, independence, loneliness are all considered.


Margherita Buy, who looks more than a bit like Meg Ryan, plays a woman with a dream job. She travels as a “mystery guest” to the top hotels to evaluate them. Mostly that means finding fault, wine that’s two degrees too warm, a concierge who won’t make eye contact, servers who play favorites, those sorts of things. She figures she’s an ideal inspector because she doesn’t have a life. “This is a job for somebody without husbands, family or boyfriends” she proclaims. How long before that is tested, eh? Not before sparkling wanderings into seven fancy hotels and an evening at the Adlon in Berlin. There she meets an English woman (Leslie Manville) who has things to say about luxury (“a form of deceit”), feminism (‘hasn’t worked”) and intimacy (“obsolete”.) Gradually what looked like a light comedy has become a serious meditation. It jumps around too much but is colorful and well-acted.  (VanCity Theatre)  3 out of 5     

Check the website  for times, descriptions of the films and special pricing.

CANADA’S TOP 10: It’s not easy seeing Canadian films. Blink and they’re gone, if they get here at all. But over the next week and a half, thanks to the Toronto International Film Festival, you can catch the 10 best in a special series at the Cinematheque.

They’re all TIFF choices. Four have not played here at all as far as I know and three have only played festivals. The three that have had regular bookings, though short, are Mommy, which unfortunately didn’t make the Academy Awards short list but has been highly praised everywhere; Maps to the Stars, the Cronenberg dissection of Hollywood that I didn’t much care for and You’re Sleeping Nicole (Tu Dors Nicole), the touching evocation of a time in life when we’re allowed to be aimless.


 Violent is a film by Vancouver musician Andrew Huculiak but made and set in Norway. It starts slow and ephemeral but stick with it. It will draw you in firmly into a young woman’s musings on life, death and through her memories, the key people in her life. “I have accepted what has happened,” says one. “I am what I am.” No such peace yet for the young woman. Named best B.C. film and best Canadian film at the Vancouver festival, it also won two awards from the local critics’ circle. Huculiak and others will be at Saturday’s screening for a Q&A. 3 out of 5

The ones I haven’t seen include Corbo, about the long ago days of the FLQ in Quebec, Monsoon, Sturla Gunnarsson’s reflections on weather and chaos in India,  Felix and Meira, an unusual romance that was voted the most popular film at the Toronto festival, and The Price We Pay. That one looks into off-shore tax havens and sounds most interesting.

There are also two programs of short films and TIFF’s Artistic Director Cameron Bailey chatting with  actress Sandra Oh and filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming about the animated feature they’re working on.

There’s more at


Also now playing …

TAKEN 3: Ready for more justified homicide by Liam Neeson? He’s playing Bryan Mills for a third time, once again going after the bad guys. It’s become a habit. In 1, his daughter was kidnapped. In 2, it was his wife. In a major innovation, the story and location in 3 are different. Not Europe; now the U.S.A. No kidnap; now a false murder accusation. By who?  Is it the Albanian Muslims he so violently went after in the previous films? I haven’t seen it. These films are French creations (although in English) by Luc Besson and director Oliver Megaton. The first two were huge hits; this one is expected to be also. A copy-cat film with Neeson, A Walk Among the Tombstones, did well only with critics, not with the ticket buyers. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres)  

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