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Silly fun with Ant-Man; off-the grid emotions in Leave No Trace and a quirky feminist western

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A young widow grows to rise above the norms of her gender in her culture. She’s visited by a greasy-haired tough guy at her remote farm house and told six more would be coming; they’ll steal her livestock and as a bonus will sleep with her. He suggests that’s a privilege and tells her to cook dinner. She poisons four of them, and when she’s raped by the leader, cuts off his head with a machete and sets out to tell the police. They’re dismissive (“Why did you let him rape you?”) and she’s under threat when the last two members of the gang return. Other signs of the controlling power of men are brought out by a very pregnant friend whose husband abuses her. The film, directed by Mouly Surya, lets the consciousness of both women develop to a satisfying end. There’s also a headless ghost that plays music. Only in her imagination, I'm sure, but adding much to the light, off-centre atmosphere. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5  

BOUNDARIES: Enjoy the variety of views of Vancouver and environs in this one. Right down to White Rock, I detect. There’s more interest with them, than with the rest of the film which is supposed to be taking place in Seattle, on the road south from there and right to California. Sausalito looks a lot like Granville Island. The story is trite, facile and not particularly well developed. The director, Shana Feste, based it on her on her own father, apparently a grifter who was out of her life much of the time and moved in when he was old and sick. Curiously, that’s not what happens in the movie.

 

Christopher Plummer plays the old man as a cheerful scamp. When he’s thrown out of his old-age home because of “side ventures” (pot growing and selling) he calls on his daughter (Vera Farmiga) to take him in. She won’t, leans on her sister to take him and agrees to drive him to her in California, in his gold-colored Rolls-Royce. The trunk is full of weed which she eventually discovers because he sells it along the way, to among others, veterans of the 1960s played by Christopher Lloyd and Peter Fonda. In a completely uncomfortable sub-plot, Vera has a special needs son who delights in creating pornographic drawings of people around him. It gets him expelled from school, so he’s free to come on the trip too. His signature motif is to comment on his subjects by the size of the penis he draws. The film could have been funny and charming. It isn’t. It’s strained. (International Village) 2 out of 5   

THE BEST FROM HOT DOCS: The annual collection of the best from the Toronto documentary festival  starts tonight at the Van City theatre and runs until Tueday. Check viff.org for details. There are five films this year; some with filmmaker talks added and several with familiar themes. They include young Afghan women challenging their repressive society by joining a national cycling team, an indigenous musician from Australia finding international success despite his blindness, the male-to-female transition of a father, weightlifter and ex-Marine and  two films that I’ve seen already.

THE SILVER BRANCH, from Ireland shows that some things are the same everywhere. You live in a neighborhood you love and with hardly a notice the government tries to destroy it. A farmer poet tells about it here; about the people who live in an idyllic valley in County Claire, at peace with themselves and intimately attached to their surroundings. They’re not “prisoners” to any modern thinking, he says. The pictures are like an Eden, with broad, rolling fields, cows grazing, birds flying gently, a baby fox peering from the bushes.

 

Almost by accident, the people hear the area government wants to turn the place into a tourist attraction. The Hitachi excavator is already on the way. Patrick McCormack, the poet, calls it “an act of arrogance” that’s “going to violate the place.” The film is lyrical in presenting its message: “We’re just a strand in the whole web of life.” It wisely spends most of its running time extolling that although I wanted to hear more about what exactly the government was thinking and how the resulting court case was decided.  (Sunday at 6:30) 3 ½  out of 5  

THE ACCOUNTANT OF AUSCHWITZ couldn’t be more different. The subject is the Holocaust and confronts questions that rise up in Germany now and then. Should very old men be prosecuted? What about men who didn’t kill but only worked in the camps? Is it ever too late? The film, about a former SS member put on trial when he was 94 years old is by Toronto director Matthew Shoychet and includes three people from his city, a legal expert and two holocaust survivors when went back to testify. Most prominent among the other speakers in the film is Alan Dershowitz, the former law professor. His words and the film are powerful. I’ll write more when it comes back for a regular booking later this month. It screens tonight (Fri.) at 6:30, followed by a filmmaker Q&A via skype. 4 out of 5

Also now playing …

THE FIRST PURGE: It started as a quirky horror movie five years ago and has now lasted into a 4th installment, a potentially very profitable one, it seems. The plot imagines one night every year on which all crimes are legal—even murder. Something in that concept appealed to a lot of people. This new version finally goes back to the beginning to explain the reasons for the purge. It was a government project, originated by an official played by Maria Tomei of all people. I haven’t seen it, it wasn’t previewed here, but I understand that a lot of current ideas and fears have been written in: deadlocked political parties, a third party rising with the promise to let you dream again, racism, economic crises, the privileged rich wielding their power. You know, if you need a break from CNN.

 

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Opening and closing VIFF films announced along with a high profile line-up

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