Some early Film Festival picks, including my #1
David Thewlis, as a restaurant health inspector, is at the centre, though only in flashbacks. His daughter (Laysla De Oliveira) tells his story to a priest (Luke Wilson) who needs something to say about him at his funeral. He, and we, learn that he was a nit-picker and a menacing bureaucrat, casually corrupt and haunted by events in his past. That’s where it gets complicated. His daughter was in jail, blaming both herself and him. “What’s wrong with you?” he asks her. “You are, dad.” She had been a teacher, got involved with a student, was betrayed by a jealous bus driver and somehow prompted her dad to get ever more intimidating with the owners of the family-run restaurants he visited and threatened to shut down. How these things are connected is obscure. But while the overview is vague, individual scenes are highly engrossing because of strong acting and precise direction. (Thurs and Mon evening at the Centre). 3 out of 5
THE REALM: I can’t imagine the European Union policy wonks in Brussels are too happy about this film. It shows one their members, Spain, a top recipient of both scolding and financial aid, as being run by exceedingly corrupt politicians. The money sent there gets skimmed off and mixed into fraudulent schemes, money laundering and, in this story, a crooked re-zoning and development project. The film tells its story with a pulsating urgency that’s as exciting as anything Hollywood puts out. In fact it was a big winner at Spain’s top movie awards, The Goyas.
Antonio de la Torre (best actor at the Goyas) plays a rising star in the political hierarchy but when a scandal threatens to burst open because of a leaked tape, his colleagues turn on him and try to put all the blame on him. He won’t take it though and becomes a whistleblower and thereby a threat to the whole cabal, locally and right up to the national level. The film delivers a variety of expertly crafted scenes, a lot of tension, paranoia, speedy pursuits, a comically-ironic sequence when he interrupts a teen girl’s clandestine party to find evidence and a final scene that says exactly what the film intends. It blasts both the perpetrators and the news media owners who bury the truth. Committed and entertaining filmmaking from director Rodrigo Sorogoyen. (Thurs late and Sat afternoon)
BABYSPLITTERS: Here’s a super comedy, completely of the time, yet polite enough to ditch the obscenities and let people talk like real people … and about real concerns. Starting a family is the subject here. He’s not ready, she’s feeling her biological clock pressuring her. Bigger problem: they can’t conceive (low egg and sperm counts or something). Artificial insemination is expensive and a rather hip doctor suggests a “new alternative.” It requires a couple of friends to help. The guy, a hearty gym rat, will impregnate her while his wife will be understanding about it and all four will share raising the baby.
Doesn’t quite work out that way. The impregnating sequence is very funny, brilliantly directed and paced. Her husband is fretting in the other room; jealousy can’t be eliminated just like that. Later there are disagreements about gender preferences, names and should they all live together. Earlier parenting matters included misbehaving kids, a whole flock of them attacking with water guns in the back yard, and a mother’s belief in “Collaborative Constructive Permissive Parenting.” It’s incisive commentary directed by Sam Friedlander and starring four sharp actors: Danny Pudi and Emily Chang as one couple and Maiara Walsh and Eddie Alfano as the other. It’s a small but perceptive film. (It plays Fri late and Wed afternoon)
HUMAN NATURE: This documentary is both bracing and informative. Much so, in both respects. It burrows into the brave new world that’s coming and the bad experiences that have already been perpetrated in its name. Genetic engineering, it points out, has taken a momentous leap forward and now promises great advances. Eliminating inherited disease? Who wouldn’t want the young boy featured early on to be rid of his sickle cell anemia? Designer babies? That’s more problematic isn’t it? Would every parent want a blonde, slim, highly intelligent child?
The film asks them all, states the pros and cons (some with references back to the eugenics movement and its perversion by the Nazis) and in its best sections gives us a clearly understood explanation of the science. Animation is used to very good effect to show it. Gene splicing was not an option until a breakthrough called CRISPER and a “programmable protein” called CAS9 (both well defined in the film) opened every possibility. How about soldiers who don’t feel pain? There’s lots to think about and presented with rigor in this film. (Fri and Sat morning and Thurs Oct 10 evening)