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Great films to watch in the last days of VIFF

A majestic view from documentary The Summit. Photo from

A controversial French drama about lesbian love and a documentary about the fatal 2008 tragedy at the K2 mountain in Pakistan are among the movies to watch today and tomorrow at the VIFF. 

Blue is the warmest colour 
This epic three-hour lesbian love story (inspired by the graphic novel by Julie Maroh) was the big winner at Cannes. It took the Palm D’Or, while Tunisian-French director Abdellatif Kechiche and leading actors Adèle Exarchopoulos  and Lea Seydoux won honours or their work.

A 15-year old school girl, Adele (Exarchopoulos) is experiencing a sexual awakening as she transitions to adulthood. Giving in to peer pressure, she has her first sexual encounter with the boy, but the relationship fizzles out quickly, since Adele doesn't feel right with the boy.
In fact, she had fallen in love at first sight with an older girl, a  mysterious blue-haired arts student named Emma  (Seydoux ) when they crossed paths while walking on the street.

They two finally meet at a lesbian bar, and embark on a passionate, troubled relationship that ends in heartbreak. 

The film’s storytelling is captivating and keeps the audiences engaged, even after three hours viewing. As the title suggests, the colour blue is prevalent -- Kechiche's meticulous mise-en-scene includes different shades of blue strategically planted in many frames. 

Exarchopoulous and Seydoux took on the gruelling challenge to work with the director to enact a 10-minute sex scene, which was the cause of much controversy at Canes. Even though the experience led to both actors refusing to work with Kechiche ever again,  the film itself is a masterpiece infused with realism in every scene. (Screening today at the Playhouse, 8.30)


Autumn's Spring Photo: VIFF

Autumn’s Spring (France, 2013) Directors:Denis Sneguirev and Philippe Chevallier.  The word “inspirational” has become quite a cliché, but this documentary truly merits it. 

Autumn’s Spring features a unique French troupe of 30 dancers over the age of sixty, from every walk of life from Marseille, who recreate Igor Stravinsky’s masterpiece The Rite of Spring. This dance is the result of  seven-year effort  by noted choreographer Thierry Thieû Niang.  

The dance is not strictly choreographed. In fact, most of the “dance” is free movement – including plenty of running -- but it's done with soul and purpose. ”This is not much about art; this is about life,” Niang explains in the film. The performance has been garnering rave reviews from the press in Paris and beyond.

 The show is minimalistic and simple, but it reminds onlookers that life doesn't end after retirement, and can be just as dynamic for the elderly as it is for youth. One of the subjects interviewed puts it best: “This was the beginning of the spring in my autumn.”  The film plays today at The Cinemateque. There will be an encore presentation on Saturday, October 12 at the Vancity Theatre at 3:00 pm)

Preceded By: Dawn of a Memory (Colombia, 2013) Director:Camila Rodríguez Triana.  This is a melancholic, but powerful portrait of a 75 year-old Colombian woman, Alba as she remembers her daughter, who was taken away as a young girl by her brothers after she gets sick.


A shot during the making of The Summit. Photo from

The Summit (Ireland, UK, 2013)  In the summer of 2008, twenty four climbers were set to reach the summit of the K2 mountain, but 11 never made it back. 

Director Nick Ryan tries to shed a light on what really happened that awful summer, and put together the puzzle through interviews with surviving climbers, family members of deceased climber Ger McDonnell, as well as sherpas who accompanied the climb.  

The testimonies are imbued with drama and tension, and shot amid beautiful Swiss mountain landscape. 

There are many questions that remain unanswered about the climb, and some of the survivors offer contradictory testimonies. This unflinching documentary was a winner for Best Editing at the Sundance Film Festival, and shows how peoples' desire to conquer new heights can lead to tragic consequences.

Screening October 11. Theatrical release expected by October 26. 

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