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Two comedies about women at work and a stunning documentary about an Aboriginal artist lead this week

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An auctioneer, a dealer and a collector figure early on and deny his theory.  The title comes from one of them. Others speak up. A campaign that Hearn calls character assassination starts up. Imaginary connections emerge.  But a trip to Thunder Bay where Morrisseau lived for a time, and interviews with his son, other relatives, an ex-prison guard and a young woman, reveals a story you couldn’t have imagined. It goes far beyond the standard tale of oppression of Indigenous people. I’m not going to spoil it here except to caution, you’d better have a strong stomach. Jamie Kastner has made a gripping film. Locally people might remember that Morrisseau was found living homeless in Stanley Park, sold paintings in Gastown for booze and lived peacefully on the Island after he kicked a drug habit. He died in Toronto in 2007. Some called him “The Picasso of the North.”  (VanCity Theatre) 4 ½ out of 5  

HALSTON: This is a very lively documentary about a fashion industry guy I knew little about. Halston put that pillbox hat on Jackie Kennedy’s head and hot pants on other women. He challenged the formality of Paris fashion by creating a line of stylish clothes that women could wear in comfort. “He took away the cage,” one observer says and there are a lot of them in this film ranging from Liza Minnelli, Marisa Berenson and close-pal Joel Schumacher to ex-employees and associates. 

The film details his rise, his shows staged like musicals, his hands-on control of his company, his friendship with celebrities like Andy Warhol, his partying at Studio 54, and then his fall. Cocaine was part of it; conflicts within his company (“bit of a bully,” says one), his hate of being bossed, a bad contract that lost him control of even his own name (for commercial purposes) continued it and AIDS finished it. The story is like a movie and is told as well as any of the good ones. The director, Frédéric Tcheng, is also known for three other films on fashion industry people. He’s turned up a lot of old film and memories of Roy Halston Frowick for this one. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5

ECHO IN THE CANYON: It’s the “California Dreaming” era of pop music back to life. The Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds and others hung out in LA’s Laurel Canyon in the mid-196s, trading musical ideas and other things and creating a genre of music that certainly was influential but is being given just a bit too much celebration here. They’re credited with staging a rebellion against vacuous top 40 and putting words that really said something into pop music. They’re not the only ones and the folk music boom just before was also such a rebellion. However, it was a creative scene and the film includes some of the best who were there and some who weren’t, though The Beach Boys and The Beatles did influence each other, as Ringo Starr and Brian Wilson point out. 

Tom Petty (in one of his last interviews), Jackson Brown, Eric Clapton, Roger McGuinn and others tell stories. David Crosby on why he was kicked out of the Byrds, Michelle Phillips on her sleeping around and the song it inspired, Ringo on the “hallucinogenic situation” he met there, and more, as told to Jakob Dylan.

Bob’s son is a pretty good interviewer and cuts away often to performing the songs in a concert with Fiona Apple, Beck and others. He organized it with Andrew Slater, a former record company executive who also directed this film. Plenty of wonderful archival clips add to this fine salute to a key time and place in pop music. (It plays three times at the Rio—Sun, Tues and the 23rd—and twice at the VanCity Theatre, June 24 and July 8). 3½ out of 5

THE DEAD DON’T DIE: “Hipsters and their irony.” So complains a character in Jim Jarmusch’s latest film and it’s exactly right. Irony is all you get. I don’t detect any greater meaning although there are hints. Society is messed up (stronger words are used), the environment is in pain, people are gluttons for “more stuff.” Other zombie films have run hard with ideas like that. This one just hints at some and all but mocks another with a silly presentation. What’s left is the one aspect that does work:  absolutely deadpan humor. A Jarmusch specialty.

 

Bill Murray, Adam Driver and Chloë Sevigny are cops in a small American town (pop. 738, “A Real Nice Place”) where Steve Buscemi is a racist farmer (“Keep America White Again”), Tom Waits is a homeless guy in the woods and RZA of the Wu Tang Clan and Iggy Pop are featured, the former as a UPS driver, the latter as one of a horde of zombies who arise out of their graves and stumble around main street. The cause? “Polar fracking” has caused the earth’s axis to tilt, says the TV news. To stop the zombies you have to “kill the head,” says Driver. There’s a lot of that done by them and by the new coroner in town, a sword-wielding Scotswoman played by Tilda Swinton. Even then, the pace is as slow as a zombie’s walk and the only real highlight is the dry-as-dust, drawling dialogue between Murray and Driver. This was the opening film at Cannes this year.  (International Village and two suburban theatres)  2 ½ out of 5               

Also now playing …

SHAFT: Three-in-one is what you get. The original from 1971 (Richard Roundtree) has a cameo. The middle one, his nephew played by Samuel L. Jackson in a re-make 19 years ago is back and called on to help his son (Jessie T Usher) investigate the death of a junkie friend. A look at changing attitudes about masculinity over the decades? Not according to The Guardian which slams the film for “ugly homophobia.” The young Shaft has been feminized by his mother while dad has been absent and is now back, outraged and advocating guns as a corrective. I haven’t seen it. (International Village and suburban theatres)   

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