Saturday, October 29, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Final thoughts

The Festival du nouveau cinema came to an end last Sunday, the closing film being Monsieur Lazhar, the latest endeavour from director Philppe Falardeau. Between the Seats did not attend the screening, but no matter, the film came out this past Friday in Montréal cinemas. It’s been a while since we’ve posted a Films du fleur de lys column anyhow, so that would be a good excuse for an update, as would recent releases Café de flore and Marécages, both of which have received rave reviews and we have been too lazy to go see.

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (2011, Takashi Miike)

The measurement of a director’s strength is a tricky thing. Some directors find a comfort zone, hone their skills and run wild with ideas and talent. Greats like Sergio Leone and John Carpenter are clearly known for working within specific genres and specific actors. Their body of work is excellent, despite them rarely having told stories that were not either westerns or horror. There are other directors who can flow in and out of genres and yet consistently be at the top of their game. Names like Steven Soderbergh and Martin Scorsese come to mind. Then there are those who spend the majority of their careers in a genre or sub-genre, only to suddenly take sharp turn for something different and, despite the stigma attached to them, defy the odds and impress us. Takashi Mike, following years and years of work telling stories that mish-mashed horror, gore-fests and drama, took cinephiles by storm with his remake of 13 Assassins and takes a stab at the samourai film once more with a remake of the Kobayashi 1962 classic, Harakiri.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blogging Around

Hello readers,

Halloween fast approaches. Soon enough, the ghouls, goblins, Bobo Baggins', Mike Myers', Jason X's and Freddy Mercurys will be knocking at our doors, yelling 'trick or treat!' in unison in anticipation of our hands shelling countless amounts of chocolates, lolly pops and liquorish strings. Halloween specials of your favourite television shows are airing all week and horror films are receiving the spotlight as well. Bloggers are getting in the spirit of things too, listing and reviewing a series of their favourite scary movies. Your very own Between the Seats got in on the action by elaborating on just how horrifying Kotoko was at the FNC 2011. But this space isn't about us, it's about you, the other bloggers who do what we do too, and, as surprising and implausible as it might sound, sometimes do it even better than us. Check out these blogs to help you slip into your Frankenstein blue swayed shoes and get your monster mash groove on:

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Kotoko

Kotoko (2011, Shinya Tsukamoto)

There is nothing more infuriating and disheartening than sitting in a movie theatre and realizing that, barely halfway through the running time, the film simply is not working for them. It is at that specific moment that a big decision must be made. Does one stick around until the very end in a gesture of respect towards to filmmakers’ efforts or maybe even in the hopes that the final lap will prove worthy, or bolt out of the room in order to avoid further ocular pains? Everybody will share his or her own answer and have their own idiosyncratic reasons for behaving as such. As for the editor in chief of Between the Seats, proper conduct, certainly when one anticipates to properly review a movie, is to stay until the oh so bitter end. Despite what one feels towards a film, any film for that matter, one should not forget that ever was put into it, so show a little respect. Still, even that can be a challenge sometimes.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Hashoter

Hashoter/Policeman (2011, Nadav Lapid)

As I purchased a 6 ticket package for the FNC a couple of weeks ago (for the price of 5! What a deal!), one film among the six chosen that aroused special curiosity was Nadav Lapid’s Hashoter, or Policeman as the English translation goes. It is an Israeli film from a debutant feature-length filmmaker about a group of anti-terrorist policemen who operate in modern day Jerusalem. A propensity to enjoy cop films triggered interest to begin with, but much more about the film’s potential drew me in. Israeli cinema, while earning some respect in recent years for quality filmmaking, does not top a lot of lists of countries who produce many must-see movies. France, Germany, Korea, Great Britain, Japan are all countries, if one discounts the United States, that stir up immediate interest before Israel, and that’s just to name a few. Plus, a film about an anti-terrorist unit working in a country that currently, and what has seemed like forever, is dealing with the threat of terrorism, suddenly made me bubble with excitement.

Definitive Bond Marathon: Goldeneye (1995)

(directed by Martin Campbell)
The Goldeneye mission was a rarity in that the origins of what propelled agent 007 (Pierce Brosnan) into action dated back as far as nine years prior. During the twilight years of the U.S.S.R., agents 007 and 006, Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean) infiltrated a Soviet energy compound with the objective destroying the production facility. General Ouromov (Gottfried John) and a platoon of soldiers intercepted our men in the field before they could complete the mission. The Russian general murdered 006 in cold clood, leaving 007 to set the explosives for a quicker pace than anticipated and rush to safety in a daring plane escape. As 007 flew away, the Soviet facility erupted into a ball of flames. Little did MI6 know that this was merely the beginning.

Some nine years later. A major terrorist attack occurred on a Russian (post-Soviet Union) computer programming facility in Severnaya with a satellite weapon long since only rumoured: the Goldeneye, a space bound weapon which can emit a supremely powerful electro-magnetic device, causing incalculable damage to whatever target its users order it to focus on. M (Judi Dench) sent 007 to Saint-Petersburg for it was suspected that the Janus group, which centralizes its operation in the historic Russian city, was behind the attack and now in possession of the satellite’s control device. It was there that Bond finally caught up with the lone survivor out of Severnaya, Natalia Simonova (Izabela Scorupco), who would aid 007 for the remainder of the mission. The stakes were raised further still when the true identity of the Janus group’s leader was revealed. On old ‘friend’ from the past had re-emerged in a shocking way...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Shame

Shame (2011, Steve McQueen)

A movie about sex. What comes to mind when presented with such a topic? Often, the gut responses are pornographic films. Those movies are definitely about sex, even though the physical act is treated as gratuitous and the purpose of which is strictly immediate self-satisfaction, or stimulation, for the viewer.  Sex, the act and everything about it from genitalia, foreplay, to positions is also the butt of jokes in comedies. The American Pie movies immediately spring to mind or the countless other so-called raunchy comedies. Horror films also depict sexual intercourse in gratuitous ways. There are probably not enough films that treat the topic in a serious, honest manner. They do indeed exist, but the mere fact that raunchy comedies, slasher and pornography flicks are a dime a dozen is indicative of how the issue of sex is treated in film today. Now, how about not only treating sex seriously, but more specifically as a problem, a totally uncontrollable one? Englishmen Steve McQueen returns two years after the unforgettable Hunger with Shame,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: The Turin Horse

The Turin Horse (2011, Béla Tarr)

Béla Tarr. The name stirs the passions of many a cinephile. He is an auteur, visual poet, a storyteller who embraces the real, the gritty as well as an element of the fantastical to fully bring his vision to the screen. His reputation precedes him and among his devoted fans, Tarr is of one the best filmmakers working today, especially outside the mainstream. His films can be powerful and beautifully realized despite the often harsh subject matter. Films the likes of Werckmeister Harmonies, one of this reviewer’s all time favourites, is as grim as they come, yet balances that out with some stunning positives qualities. After all this is the man who directed the 7 hour long Satantango. Yes, a 7 hour film about a dilapidated Hungarian village. His latest, The Turin Horse, thankfully nowhere near as long, played at the FNC last weekend.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Licence to Kill (1989)

(Directed by John Glen)
In one of the darker chapters of 007’s (Timothy Dalton) career as a member of the British Secret Service, Bond went rogue to settle an intensely personal matter. The episode began when Bond travelled to Florida’s Key West region to attend the wedding of long time ally and friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter (David Hedison). In an amazing turn of events, it was learned that nefarious drug lord Sanchez (Robert Davi) was operating in the region, and thus, at long last, a prime target for arrest. Bond’s skills proved invaluable in the operation.

It quickly became obvious that Sanchez’s plentiful riches could buy off anybody, which led to his rapid escape from custody. In a shocking demonstration of rage and contempt, the villain hunted down agent Leiter and his wife, brutally murdering the latter and inhumanly injuring the former. News of this tragic event literally enraged 007, who, against orders from M (Robert Brown) himself, opted to travel south and engage Sanchez in a slippery game of wits and deception by infiltration his organization through a friendly façade. Things grew complicated by the presence of two beautiful women. The first was Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell), a CIA informant working to crack down on Sanchez (for professional reasons, though). The second was Sanchez’s own beautiful girlfriend, Lupe (Talisa Soto).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011: Oslo, August 31st

Oslo, August 31st (2011, Joachim Trier)

To look back on a period of one’s life when things were looking grim, especially if source of the ills was oneself, is never an easy proposition. To come face to face with a past one is attempting to flee can be an even taller order. Think about a former drug addict for instance.  Even despite their greatest efforts, the dark period of their lives will forever haunt them due to the stigma attached to people who have experienced drug related issues. What happens when, upon trying to re-enter the real world, old temptations resurface and ensnare one in a familiar yet frightening comforting embrace? Joachim Trier’s Oslo, August 31st, which was submitted to both the Cannes and Toronto film festivals and played this week played in Montréal at the Festival du nouveau cinema, is a raw examination of such a whirling adventure.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Festival du nouveau cinéma 2011 begins!

Hello readers,

As promised some time ago, Between the Seats will provide coverage of the 2011 Festival du nouveau cinéma from Montréal. The festival began yesterday, Thursday October 13th and runs until Sunday October 23rd.

Shaw Brothers Marathon: update

Hello readers,

Just quick note, but an important one nonetheless. Back in June when the lineup for the Shaw Brothers marathon was released, two, Shaolin Mantis and My Young Auntie, appeared on the list. Well, due to time both accessibility and time related issues, both films have unfortunately been dropped from the marathon. In their place are Golden Swallow (reviewed today) and The Avenging Eagle, both of which the editor in chief of Between the Seats owns a copy of. Sorry for the Shaolin Mantis and Young Auntie fans!

Shaw Brothers Marathon: Golden Swallow

Golden Swallow (1968, Chang Cheh)

Here is a first in the ongoing Shaw Brothers marathon: a sequel. A few months back Between the Seats produced a review for King Hu’s masterful classic, Come Drink with Me, which starred Chang Pei Pei as a Golden Swallow, codename for a sort of local government agent who was sent on a mission to rescue her brother from a gang of malicious terrorists. The colourful characters, stunning action set pieces and even the musical score struck us as sheer brilliance. The steadfast and courageous agent played by the talented and pretty Chang Pei Pei was of particular interest to us. Truth be told, the interest was to such a degree that the fantasy of a sequel ruminated in this reviewer’s mind in the many months following the discovery of said movie. Unbeknownst to the blog was indeed the existence of such a film, simply titled Golden Swallow, just recently released on DVD (only. A shame) under the famous Dragon Dynasty banner, or Alliance in Canada, and here we are.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: The Living Daylights (1987)

(directed by John Glen)

A ‘lovely girl with the cello’ as all Bond needed to follow his nose during his latest assignment. With the Russian General Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) expressing desire to defect for the West, 007 (Timothy Dalton) was tasked with protecting the general from any possible snipers lurking around the opera house in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia  where Koskov was to occur, Bond identified the only shooter in the vicinity to be the same beautiful cellist performing in the show prior to the intermission period. Unconvinced that she was a true KGB sniper specialist, Bond elected to merely fire at her weapon rather than dispatch her.

The entire affair grew immensely more complicated when General Koskov was snatched back by the Russian right under British noses from a safe-house, but not before he could divulge controversial information regarding a certain high ranking KGB official, Pushkin (Jonathan Rhys-Davies), who was apparently responsible for the ‘Smert Spionem’ assassination programme (Death to Spies). Bond was assigned to arrive in Tangier in two days time, but felt it wise to return to Bratislava and make contact with the cellist, Kara Milvoy (Maryam D’Abo) whom it turns out was Koskov’s girlfriend of sorts. 007 posed as Koskov’s friend, promising to reunite the two while in actuality he was hoping to find out what Koskov’s true role in entire affair was. At this point, 007 was convinced Pushkin was not the threat but rather Koskov. Travelling from Bratislava to Vienna, to Tangier and finally to Afghanistan, Bond and Kara learned that Koskov was a close associate of Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker), an infamous arms dealer. Through wild circumstances, 007 and Kara eventually found themselves fighting with the Mujahidin against the Soviets in the Afghan desert...

Definitive Bond Marathon: A View to a Kill (1985)

(directed by John Glen)
The ever growing popularity and importance of computers and electronics in people’s daily lives, whether at home or at work, meant the lucrative potential for such an industry had increased exponentially in a very short period of time. Some entrepreneurs had ‘made it big’ as the saying goes, while others were desperate to reach similar status. Enter Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) of Zorin Industries, whose company ensign was printed on a perfect replicate of a British made microchip found by 007 (Roger Moore) while on a mission in Siberia. Evidently troubled by news of the Soviets meddling in British technology and convinced that Max Zorin was not as clean a business man as previously thought, 007 is sent to Chantilly France where Zorin is auctioning off some of his finest horses.

It was at the stunningly beautiful estate that Bond made the acquaintance of Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts) who at the time appeared to be a business partner of Zorin’s. 007 also got up close and personal with Zorin’s right hand woman, May Day (Grace Jones) a woman as exotic as she was powerful. The clues finally led Bond to San Francisco, California, where Zorin has concocted a plan to destroy the famous Silicon Valley, source of most of the world’s microchips. He was supremely intent on being the sole supplier of microchip for the entire world, and at any necessary costs.

Shaw Brothers Marathon: King Boxer

King Boxer (1972, Chang-Hwa Jeong)

And now for something different. Hmm, that might not be entirely accurate, for 1972’s King Boxer does fit the mould of what to expect from classic Shaw Brothers fair. There is kung fu, there is a martial arts tournament, and there is a story of personal redemption and one of vengeance for the death of a beloved teacher. And yet, despite the familiarity which sets the film within the parameters of what the studio typically produced in the 60s and 70s, there is an underlying feeling that this entry is shade darker, a shade more brash, a shade more violent and a shade more accomplished than most of the catalogue.