Spike Lee takes on the KKK, McQueen reveals a fashion rebel and Summer 1993 offers a rare look at childhood

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You get a feel for the passion that drove him, although he’s usually seen joking that it was only for the money that he did it. Clearly not only so. Abuse as a child, domestic violence, anger about injustice in the world. They drove him, say to his friends. He talked about the sheer workload he took on, staging shows in both Paris and London, 10 a year. Then, when he became rich, paranoia set in and he started using drugs. And after a long-time supporter committed suicide and then his beloved mother died, he killed himself. The film by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui makes you feel the tragedy deeply. Still it’s as a factual biography that it works best. It’s light on scandal (which apparently there was) and on details of his business, but strong on the amazing story of the chubby kid who grew himself into an icon in high fashion. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

SUMMER 1993: Maybe it’s because Spanish director Carla Simón based this film on memories from her own early years, that it plays so true to life and captures the world of young children so well. We get a peek into how they see the world, how they relate to adults and we understand the fears they’re prey to. There are also scenes here that manage something almost impossible: to show real examples of how children play with each other.

Frida is six-years old and played absolutely naturally by Laia Artigas. Her parents have died; she’s sent to the countryside to live with her aunt and uncle and their 4-year-old daughter. She has trouble adjusting and has petulant moments. Life is much slower than Barcelona where she’s from. Visiting grandparents  make mysterious allusions to the illness that killed her parents. Grandmother also pushes religion as a saving philosophy. Frida acts out, once in the car and in a scary sequence when she gets the younger girl lost in the woods. Just when you think some familiar bad-child or bad stepdad happenings are coming, the film refuses to go there. It remains a fresh look at childhood psychology created with compassion, not movie tropes. Things do get tense, but it remains one of the best films about children you’ll ever see. (VanCity Theatre) 4 ½  out of 5

PUZZLE: Women are sure to like this film. It speaks to them by addressing an ongoing issue with affection and modesty. Agnes is a housewife in Connecticut. She’s a homemaker who tends to her husband and two sons, never complains and in an early scene has baked her own birthday cake. One present she receives changes everything. It’s a 1000-piece jig saw puzzle which she puts together in short time and thereby discovers a skill she didn’t know she had. A trip to a New York specialty shop gets her more puzzles and a connection to a puzzle fan looking for a partner for a competition. (I didn’t know there were such things).


She’s played winningly by Kelly Macdonald (remember her from Trainspotting?) and he’s played by the distinguished Indian actor, Irrfan Khan (Slumdog Millionaire and many others). He’s self-assured from the first time they meet; she’s reticent and unsure out there on her own. The attractive thing about this film by Marc Turtletaub is how their relationship is developed and how precisely her self-realization is set out. She dares to lie at home about the two-days a week she goes away. She’s late with dinner at times and forgets items she’s been asked to buy at the grocery. Khan is a good teacher but slow to reveal his story. There’s a misstep though. The two end up in bed at one point. That feels out of character. Through most of this gentle and leisurely film they’re just two people learning from each other about the state of the world, family life and high-level competition. It’s a heart-warming tale and a re-make of a film from Argentina. (International Village) 3 out of 5

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