VIFF picks for this Monday and Tuesday: a lavish drama and four documentaries

The future Mad King Ludwig, patron of Richard Wagner, rules in today’s most opulent VIFF movie


BC films have always had support at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Saturday night they received their own awards.

The judges named The Dick Knost Show by Bruce Sweeney as the best BC film. I’ll write about it next time, towards its Wed. and Fri. screening.

Lawrence and Holloman, the wacky adaptation of a Morris Panych play, won Matthew Kowalchuk cash, credit and the Emerging Filmmaker Award. He was cited for “distinctive visual style and effective handling of an adaptation", I recommended the film last week. It screens again Wednesday.

Today, I’ve got four documentaries and only one drama, although it’s a great looking one. So, notice a few other choices that I haven’t seen yet: Like Father Like Son, Blind Detective and especially, Wadjda. They all play Tuesday.

My picks (from films I have seen) are …


LUDWIG II: The mad king of Bavaria gets another cinematic treatment (Luchino Visconti's 1972 version is the most celebrated) and while this one has problems they’re overcome in a couple of ways. First, there’s the opulent look of the sets, the costumes and the locations, some of which are the same castles Ludwig built in a binge of public construction late in his life. That helped gain him that “mad” reputation.


 The second saving grace is the story itself, both the bare facts, interesting enough, and the interpretation offered in this German-Austrian film. It seeks to show he wasn’t all that mad, not early on anyway. He was an idealist who didn’t want to be king but when compelled to take the throne thought art could lead to a better society. He brought Richard Wagner to his court and followed his radical ideas. That included staying out of the wars that periodically broke out. Debates and deceptions over that issue rattled his regime, as did his spending on architecture and rumors of suppressed homosexuality. The film deals with too much of all this and becomes scattered. The actors are convincing though,  especially  Dan Laustsen as Wagner. Ludwig is played by two men, stage actor Sabin Tambrea, and after a 14-year jump in time, Sebastian Schipper.  (Screens Mon. and Fri.)

GORE VIDAL: THE UNITED STATES OF AMNESIA: Ready for a film that’s bristling with intellectual vigor and mischievous wit? You can’t go wrong with this. Vidal knew everybody; argued with most of them and here analyzes everything that’s happened in the U.S.A. with an acerbic tongue. He liked John F. Kennedy as a person but says he was a bad president, his chief contributions being a failed attack on Cuba and starting the Vietnam War.  George W. Bush is “Junior.” He only wanted to play with guns, hence Iraq. It was Truman who turned the U.S. into a world military power.

Vidal has a continuous output of these observations delivered in an interview near the end of his life, old interviews  (there’s a classic argument with a surly Norman Mailer on the Dick Cavett Show) and other archival footage. Two debates with William F. Buckley around the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago are scintillating and politely nasty. We get his views on anything (“Never have children; only grandchildren.” “Art is not a democracy.”) visit his home in Italy and learn all about his books, his script work in Hollywood and his attempts to get into politics. Brilliant and entertaining.  (Tues. and Fri., an extra  showing recently added)

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