These next two days VIFF has another hit of polite British drama for you as well as Polish corruption, Mexican farce and two powerful, must-see documentaries about Canada.
Here’s the whole list, with dramas first.
The Invisible Woman, Closed Circuit, We Are the Nobles, Cinemanovels
Documentaries: Salmon Confidential, Arctic Defenders, Chi
THE INVISIBLE WOMAN: Charles Dickens wrote about the travails of the underclass. He hardly ever meets any of them in this beautifully art-directed film. We get a fair bit of hypocrisy in these fancy living quarters and this polite Victorian society but, oddly, the film goes easy on it. It depicts an illicit affair without raising much of an issue of guilt. That’s the uncomfortable side of this second film by Ralph Fiennes, most of which comes across as safe and comfortable indeed. Also entertaining, if a bit stuffy, and extremely well-acted.
Fiennes portrays the creator of Pip and Oliver and Scrooge as a rockstar of a writer who attracts fans and, with 17-year-old Nelly Ternan, a sort of intellectual groupie. Pretty Felicity Jones portrays her as winsome, conversant with his writings but resistant to the come-on in his eyes. They do gradually sink into a long affair that ends his marriage, provokes “whisperings” in the right circles and proclamations of freedom from conventions by Dickens’ pal Wilkie Collins (Tom Hollander). It also led to a pregnancy and a stillbirth, according to the book this film is based on. All these things are on screen in the best Masterpiece Theatre manner. But little of the negative sides of his character which have been written about recently. Students of literature will have fun looking for connections, though. Did Nelly influence A Tale of Two Cities? She only acknowledges that Estella in Great Expectations was modeled on her. Seminar material, that. The film plays Thursday and comes back at Christmastime.
THE CLOSED CIRCUIT: This is a crackling story of business intrigue and chicanery from Poland, where two cases that actually happened fed the plot with ideas. A couple of young entrepreneurs celebrate the grand re-opening of a factory where they assemble modems. (It’s set in 2003, as private interests were buying up idle state industries).
Almost immediately, the two are offered a loan by a shady company and when they decline arms of the state accuse them of financial crimes and toss them in jail. A prosecutor, played superbly by Janusz Gajos, sends an underling to find some evidence. The image of the post-Communist state is of a free-for-all by greedy officials abetted by the legal system and even the media, although one young reporter dares to find the truth. The film puts all this into sharp and gripping focus although it feels cluttered at times by personal dramas. Two pregnant women? One with a miscarriage would seem enough. (Wed and Oct 8)
WE ARE THE NOBLES: A very funny, if formulaic, comedy from Mexico where it ranks as the most successful local film ever. The perks of the rich and the entitlements of their children get kicked around in fine entertaining fashion. A businessman and head of the Noble family works up a scheme to teach his grown kids a lesson. He pretends he’s bankrupt; that the government and the unions have taken everything, that he’s arrested for fraud and they have to move into a rundown house he hasn’t come around to sell or demolish. What’s worse, his three offspring have to do something they’ve never done before: get a job. Also waking up to a 6 a.m. alarm clock and other annoyances. An amusing farce with a familiar story arc but lots of nice local flavor. (Thursday afternoon)