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Women of various types, in Atomic Blonde, Lady Macbeth and a typical film noir

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For one thing it’s a testament to how much story you can squeeze into such a short running time. William Gargan plays a cop who’s cheating on his wife. One evening parked in a lover’s lane with his girlfriend (Janis Carter) he sees a murder. She says don’t report it. He doesn’t but gets assigned to investigate the case. He’s more concerned with hiding any sign of his presence that night but a story with turns and tricky complications emerges anyway.

The main reason for watching is Carter’s performance as the socialite girlfriend, oozing smiles but self-absorbed, callous and scheming. A classic film noir dame. She elevates this low budget flick. It’s based on a radio series in which the editor tells a story to his poker-playing reporters. Was it ever so?  3 out of 5 

The film noir series includes classics like The Maltese Falcon, The Lady From Shanghai and Gun Crazy. Check out http://www.thecinematheque.ca for more.

 

SPIRIT WEEK: The VanCity Theatre is showing a week of films about faith, religion and transcendence. If that sounds broad it’s because these seven films range widely. Tonight’s opener, Sacred is a world tour to view religious practices. On the other hand, Obit, playing Tuesday and Thursday is about obituary writing at the New York Times. Of course, at their best these are not just news stories but mini biographies and acknowledgements of achievement.

Notes on Blindness is from one man’s chronicle of losing his vision. Shadows of Paradise (featuring director David Lynch) reports on Transcendental Meditation and Following the Ninth explores the Beethoven symphony’s enduring power to inspire.

I’ve seen these two:

ICAROS: A VISION: Takes us to a remote camp in the Peruvian part of the Amazon to watch traditional medicine at work. Visitors are administered ayahuasca, a plant with hallucinogenic as well as healing properties. We see both.

 

Actors play the patients, called passengers, and real staff members play the shamans. Ana Cecilia Stieglitz plays an American woman with an unnamed affliction, possibly cancer. That’s what the director, Leonor Caraballo, had when she went there for treatment. (She died before she finished the film.) Her personal involvement may be why the film feels absolutely authentic. The camp looks spare; the hallucinations are trippy. A recurring recitation by a woman shaman lists all the medical properties of the many plants in the region. Do they really have a cancer cure? The first arrival wisely bypasses a camp called Sun Jay Miracle Healer for the more modest Anaconda Cosmick. There they watch out for too much “susto,” the disease of fear. 3 out of 5

IN PURSUIT OF SILENCE reminded me of the last time I was up Blackcomb Mountain a few summers ago. They had loudspeakers outside playing pop music, covering over the sounds of nature. What a travesty. The producers of this film would agree. They want us to turn off Fox News and traffic and leaf blowers and listen to quiet for a while. You’ll never get complete silence, as John Cage found out when he entered an anechoic chamber and could still hear two sounds. He was told later they were his nervous system and the blood flowing in his veins. He’s in the film, in old interviews, as are, among others, monks who say silence hightens spirituality, a Japanese scientist who calls it “preventive medicine,” a birdwatcher about “our natural milieu” and a hitchhiker travelling with a vow of silence. The film has lots of noise as well as quiet and is partly based on a book of the same name by George Prochnik, who also served as a consultant on the film. 3 ½ out of 5

The films get multiple screenings and Friday evening, between Sacred and Icaros, there’ll be a panel discussion with a stellar line up of guests. You can find out more at https://www.viff.org

Also now playing …

THE EMOJI MOVIE: Sony didn’t preview this one, not here anyway. They did pass along a plot line. Inside your cell phone there’s Textopolis where the emojis live and wait to be chosen. Unlike the others, Gene, voiced by T. J. Miller, has multiple expressions but wants to be normal. Pals Hi-5 (James Corden) and Jailbreaker (Anna Faris) help him on his quest.  It seems to be a third-rate Inside Out clone with a “believe in yourself” message and the early reviews in the US where it was shown to critics are horrible. The New York Times calls it “nakedly idiotic.”  

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