My favourite VIFF films

Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin in Gainsbourg by Gainsbourg: An Intimate Self-Portrait

1. Gainsbourg by Gainsbourg: An Intimate Self-Portrait (France)

There is plenty of footage of the French icon Serge Gainsbourg who, through his own words, unveils his inner feelings beyond that of a showman and a celebrity.

For director Pierre-Henry Salfati to travel through his successful career and tumultuous personal life and to craft not only an aesthetically innovative, compelling film but also one with poetry and frankness is truly amazing.

Gainsbourg, who is of Jewish-Russian descent but is “intellectually French” and was, admittedly, a "misogynist and a cynic", recalls his early days, recounting, subtly, the horrors of World War II as a youngster and the severity of his father, and how he abandoned "major arts" (painting) to favour "minor arts" (music) when he spotted musician Boris Vian.

Although he was considered a major crooner, Gainsbourg felt self-conscious of his “mug”. Media was critical of his physical appearance. Salfati explores Gainsbourg's complicated relationships with famous women: extramarital tryst with French legend Brigitte Bardot, who was married at the time, and his family life with singer Jane Birkin.

There is plenty of photographic and video footage, re-enacment of Gainsbourg's dreams and thoughts. Undoubtedly, Gainsbourg by Gainsbourg is one remarkable documentary and not to be missed.

Showing at Empire Granville 6 on October 6 at 7:30 p.m.

2. Like Someone in Love (France, Iran, Japan)

Director Abbas Kiarostami’s new flick is the second cinematic undertaking outside his native Iran, following his 2010 hit Certified Copy, which was shot in Italy.

Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is a young university student who makes extra money as a prostitute. To make things worse, she has a complicated relationship with a mechanic (Rio Kase). Her insecure and controlling boyfriend is oblivious of her double life. Her pimp (Denden), sends Akiko for a date with an old man, Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno), a retired university professor and translator––who seems to be more interested in having an intellectually stimulating conversation over homemade dinner than sex. Meanwhile, Akiko just wants to be done with it, but, in waiting, she falls sleep. Next day, Watanabe meets Akiko’s beau, who thinks he is Akiko’s grandfather. Role play ensues (a nod to Certified Copy where Juliette Binoche's unnamed character and James, the writer she meets, pretended to act like husband and wife in Tuscany).

Kiarostami artfully makes use of the non-formal narrative as the slow-building drama turns more obscure. Watanabe’s obsessed neighbour––thinking Akiko is his granddaughter––hints to familial troubles in his life.

Someone In Love, title taken from the namesake song interpreted by Ella Fitzgerald (part of the diegetic soundtrack), captures Tokyo’s urban, vibrant landscapes (bringing to memory Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation), adding to the well-rounded cast's performances. The end–– actually, this was the original production title––is furious and sudden. It might leave you with more questions than answers once the credits start rolling.

Showing at Vogue Theatre on October 4 at 6:30 p.m., October 10 at 3 p.m. and October 12 at 11:30 a.m.

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