Polish Horror + Korean Crime

 

image

The 20th annual Fantasia Film Festival continues here in Montreal until August 3, and I am planning to get to a few more flicks before I have to depart early next week. I have a couple screenings slated for a later today. One is a cool looking Korean exorsicm movie called: The Priests. The other is a promising looking Spanish crime drama: Toro. I did however manage to squeeze in a couple films since my last update on the blog.

Demon-d. Martin Wrona-(Poland 2015). As he prepares for his wedding to Zaneta (Agnieszka Zulewska) in rural Poland, Peter (Italy Tiran) accidentally stumbles upon a grave on his newly acquired farm house property.

Unable to get the image of the body from his mind, Peter slowly descends into madness. Or is it a demonic possession?

Cleverly taking from old Jewish folklore, Wrona subtly ties this in with the history of the country. Is the new found modernity,and access to the EU in Poland ,also helped along by turning a blind eye to a not too distant tragic past?

All of this takes place in the context of a perfectly planned wedding that goes awry, and as our lead character slowly disappears  into another personality, and the party disintegrates into a drunken orgy.

In the morning ,all go their separate ways ,never to speak of Peter again.The closing shot of Zaneta embarking on the river ferry to take her away ,is a brilliant match for the opening shot of Peter making the trip in the reverse direction.

Overall,  I can’t say enough good things about this film. It’s a serious drama in a way masquerading as a horror film, and is brilliantly shot,acted, written and directed. And a seemingly faithful adaptation of the stage play Adherence by Piotr Rowicki

The film premiered at the 2015 TIFf film festival, and also screened at festivals in Hong Kong, Paris, and Israel. Unfortunately the director was not able to enjoy the films success to any great extent. He died tragically and suddenly in the fall of 2015 following a screening in Poland.

A great and promising director whose life ended too early, Marcin Wrona you will be missed.

image

A Violent Prosecutor- d. Lee II-hunyg (South Korea)

When a seasoned prosecutor with a rough reputation gets interested in a case involving the development of a resort, he is warned to stay away. When he insists on looking into it, he is framed for murder and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

But this won’t stop him from teaming up with a slick con man, to spring them both from behind bars ,and eventually bring those responsible for crimes and corruption to justice.

The film stars Hwang Jung-min as the surly prosecutor Byun; and Kang Dong-won as his slippery,sly comedic foil. This is the directorial debut of Lee II-hyung and he handles it film with an entertaining precision.At times tense, dramatic,and funny the movie never misses a beat ,and has you cheering by the end.

An entertaining film overall, slickly done and fun to watch. A keeper.

And star Kang Don-won graces the screen here in Montreal in 2 hours in another  Korean drama: The Priests.  I will have to take my rosary beads along to the cinema I believe:)

image

 

New Asian Cinema @ Fantasia

I was able to sample a cross section of new cinema from Asia the last few days here in Montreal.

Lazy Hazy Crazy-d. Jody Luk Yee-Sun (HK 2015)

image

The debut film from director Yee-sun ,Lazy Hazy Crazy is a coming of age story about three young girls nearing their 18th birthdays in Hong Kong . A full house took in the film here at the Canadian Premiere ,and they didn’t go home disappointed.

This is a the story of girls on the verge of womanhood, struggling with the crushes, physical changes,  and high school environment that is common among their peers. However these girls are more mature than they look ,and two make a common practice of dating and having sexual relations with older men.The third is sitting on the fence about whether to join them.

It makes for a very interesting dynamic ,and adds a real and raw edge to what we could envision would be a typical Hollywood style telling of a similar story.What makes the movie work so well is the excellent script and direction-at times funny and at others subtle and poignant.

A great cast of leads take the task to hand ,leaving us with a drama that takes us to places often not explored in a deep and sensitive manner.With characters we are rooting for, even though they may at times be selling themselves short.

In the end they get a moment to escape and enjoy the dawning of a new future; wherever it leads…

image

If Cats Disappeared From The World-d. Akira Nagai (Japan-2016)

I caught the Canadian Premiere of this new Japanese film last night; and it may just be my favourite film at Fantasia so far. I know it’s my favourite film title:)

This is the story of a slightly disenfranchised 30 yr old mailman who seems to have little interest in life ,other than his love of movies and his pet cat Cabbage. He is given a shocking medical diagnosis near the beginning of the film, leaving him with little time to live.

How will he spend his little remaining time, and can he make a Faustian deal with the Devil to gain some extra precious days? But this Devil may well be his own alter ego, and is played by the same actor: Rurouni Kenshin.

Regardless, Takeru is offered extra days to live, but must give up something for each day he gains. As he progresses, slowly losing things in his world that seem unimportant on the surface, Takuru remembers all the joy ,companionship ,and love that he has enjoyed in his life. And he realizes that these joys and friendships aren’t worth losing, they are more important than clinging to the world .

This is a great drama- at times melodramatic and sentimental,and there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience after this screening I would guess. A faithful adaptation of the bestselling novel by author Genki Kawamura, this flick is in good hands with director Nagai.

Beautiful to look at,the film unfolds with a flow matching the mood of the story. Hopefully you can get a chance to see this wonderful movie at a theatre in the near future.

And speaking of the future, I may have been inspired to go and adopt a feline friend for myself I think:) So viewer beware on this flick…

image

Train To Busan-d. Yeon Sang-Ho ( South Korea-2016)

A great new Korean genre film, this flick played out of competition at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. To a standing ovation. Here in Montreal the film had its North American premiere at Fantasia. And the crowd was almost as enthusiastic:)

A Zombie apocalypse begins to afflict modern day Korea just as our lead character Seok-woo departs Seoul on the TGV with his much neglected daughter. It is her birthday, and her one wish is to spend the day with her mother in Busan.

When the  train departs the station ,an infected traveller boards at the last second, and as the journey progresses all hell breaks loose. I am not a big fan of Zombie films in general,and also feel like it is a very over-done genre at the moment. However ,I thoroughly   enjoyed this flick from beginning to end. Action,love, bravery,sentimentality,and selfishness are all on display in this allegorical tale that also keeps the thrills coming.

The highlight for me was the amazing scene near the end in the Busan Cetral Station rail yards.After a narrow escape from a derailment ,our surviving characters flight to safety is endangered by a mass of infected monsters  grabbing onto the rail car, and slowly bringing it to a halt. Almost:)

Commentators have made some noise about comparing this flick in some ways to the recent film Snowpiercer. My viewing companion here in Montreal seemed to think it more likely took some inspiration from Cassandras Crosing.

Regardless ,the  Train To Busan is a one-way ticket to entertainment.

image

The Phantom Detective-d. Jo Sung-He (South Korea-2016)

South Korean noir? You bet! This slick new entry from director Sung-He is a crowd pleaser of a film that’s stars Lee Je-Hoon as private investigator Hong Gol-Dong. Dong is a crime fighting PI with a mysterious and forgotten past, except for one memory that drives him- the murder of his mother and his never ending thirst for revenge. As the film begins he is within reach of the killer , but is one step behind henchmen for a secret society bent on overthrowing the government.

They have other plans for the aged killer,as he has information that could expose their evil plot.Our hero does however find the abandoned grandchildren of his nemesis ,and becomes a reluctant caretaker as both search for the abducted old man. For very different reasons.

Equal parts Noir-Comedy-Action-and -Sentimentality-this film is a modern take on Korean literary hero Hong Gil-Dong. And I assume a tip of the hat to the original pulp magazine serial The Phantom Detective, that was published from 1933-53.

This is a great whirlwind of a story with many shifting moods, and owes a visual debt to Sin City. Great performances and visual style are on display ,and I absolutely love the final gun battle which takes place while our hero sits placidly observing justice being delivered; to those that so desperately deserve it.

Sequel in the offing? I wouldn’t be surprised. Look out for this flick it’s a keeper…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasia FF

hey folks, it is a beautiful sunny day here in Montreal, QC. I am just registered and settled into the festival here in the downtown core. I have a couple showings to check out later today, and I had time to see a few screeners.

Two of the films: Embers and The Unseen I will mention more of later. I have interviews with the two directors lined up for later in the week.

image

The Little Sister-Zack Clarke d.USA 2016 -a great little surprise of a film. Wonderfully shot in the autumn, the story revolves around a young woman who journeys away from her cloistered life at a convent back to her family home in North Carolina. Her return is not of her own choosing, but is precipitated by the return of her older brother from the Iraq war. He is introduced slowly and cleverly and when we first see him it comes as a shock but a good surprise. As the plot unfolds out little sister must not only coax her brother from his shell but help come to terms with her own issues in dealing with her dysfunctional parents.Overall, a very nice film, good flow,editing,use of music,sound, and a nice juxtaposition of cloistered life with modern reality. A bittersweet storyline,about hardships and the strength required to prevail.The director handles the sensitive issue of war and politics, and the human cost of both . A sometimes quirky but one of a kind original story. Starring:Addison Timlin, Ally Sheedy, and Barbara Crampton.

image

Tank 432. Nick Gillespie d.U.K.-a nice opening montage starts this film off with a battle gone wrong in a forested area. Upon fleeing ,our troop of soldiers come across an abandoned complex where they discover a mysterious woman. After fleeing here they become trapped in an abandoned tank, where they are slowly stripped of their humanity and begin to question the real purpose of their military mission. The plot is unclear and cryptic in its details, but the interpersonal relations and reactions to an extreme and unfathonamable situation, are the focus and highlight of this action/drama…executive produced by Ben Wheatley.

image

Aloys-Tobias Nolle d.-Swiss/France-2016- an amazing film- part science fiction-part a meditation on rebirth and human connection in the modern world. A private investigator suffering from the death of his father, and living in an emotional shell, becomes involved with a mysterious neighbour through a series of bizarre and transcendental phone conversations. Breaking through his spiritual and psychic barriers is a challenge for our lead character, but trying to breach them in the real world is something more of a struggle. A beautifully photographed and visually conceptualized film, that also make use of a fantastical alternate universe. Wonderful performances and music make this one of the top flicks I’ve seen this year.

Seoul Station-Yeon Sang-Ho d.-South Korea-2016-  an animated feature with little in the way of plot development- just straight ahead zombies attacking Seoul. The annoying characters can’t die fast enough for this reviewer. Cool synth score but a pass on this one…but speaking of South Korea and zombies, I’m just off to see: Train To Busan- hopefully a good one:)

image

Carpenter, Sakamoto + Montreal

Hey folks, hope all is well. I am just on route to Montreal to take in the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival. The festival kicked off a few days ago and they have already screened 2 of  my favourite features from the 2016 EFM Berlinale: A Conspiracy of Faith (Denmark 2015) and Dark Side Of The Moon (Germany 2015).

As well the highly acclaimed Polish mermaid/zombie flick: The Lure had it’s NA premiere yesterday, and it was a definite buzz film at Berlin this past February.

I have a couple of interviews lined up already and a slate of films to try and get to, so I will update the blog every few days for the duration of Fantasia.

I just returned from a 3 day jaunt down to Motown to see  a couple baseball games, and take in the Eastern Market. As an added bonus I was able to catch John Carpenter and band in concert at the Masonic Temple Auditioriun.

This is a very old and very cool old theatre that is part of a large Masonic Order complex-the largest in the USA. During the City Of Detroit’s recent bankruptcy  this beautiful hall almost met the wrecking ball, but was saved by local musician and icon: Jack White. He came forward with a last minute donation of 1 Million $ to fund the restoration of the hall.

And I’m glad he did ,as it was a perfect venue for horror maestro John Carpenter to weave his synth laden themes and songs to a packed house of fans. A full house it was, and as the lights dimmed at 8 pm the screen on stage lit up with the opening of Carpenters famous film: Escape from New York.

As the opening continued however, it became clear the movie was going to continue, so we all sat back and enjoyed the show for 90 minutes.  After a short intermission the  house lights dimmed again and this time the concert began .

Escape From New York kicked off the show, quickly followed  by the theme from: Attack on Precinct 13. Clips of the films filled out the experience as the group ran through a wide variety of movie themes and tracks including: The Fog, They Live, and Christine.

Interspersed with the film stuff where a variety of tracks from Carpenters recent LP releases: Lost Themes and Lost Themes II.

Overall a really cool and creepy show, a lot of fun as well with a really great and vocal crowd. Carpenter continues his tour through the USA and Europe, so do yourself a favour and catch a show if you can, and look for his album releases on Sacred Bones Records.

Iconic Japanese music and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has dabbled in film music throughout his long career. He is most well know for the beautiful sweeping score for : The Last Emperor, and the electronic tinged music for; Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.

This October as part of the Ghent Film Festival in Belgium, the organizers presenting the World Soundtrack Awards and their annual concert of film music highlighting tunes from a specific composer.

This years lucky  recipient is Ryuichi Sakamoto and a live concert of his film music is being compiled and a recording and CD release is hoped for as well.

The fest is currently raising money to help realize this concept through crowdfunding. SO check it out and send in some $ if you can: Indie go go-Sakamoto

They have released concert CD’s of  live shows featuring the music of Cliff Martinez and Alan Silvestri in the past. Check out the GFF website for more info on the events and recordings available:) oh and there is a Spotify stream of film music as well!

Ghent Film Fest

Ok well I’m in a post diner food-coma courtesy of Via Rail Canada, so I will ign of for now, talk to you form Montreal…

 

 

 

 

 

summer screenings+ upcoming stuff

Hey folks, hope everyone is having a great summer. I’ve been busy hosting my film music show at CFMU ,and catching a few interesting films when I can. Things should be getting a bit busy sooner screening wise,as I’m going back to the Fantasia Film Festival again this year for 2 weeks , to see some of their cool flicks. I’m also heading down to Motown in a few days to check a live show from John Carpenter, and  a short trip in the other direction is Toronto where the annual TIFF fest will be taking place in September. As well I’ve been busy with jury work for the 11th annual HFF taking place in November here in Hamilton. And an added addition is I hope a curated programme of cool new foreign features as part of a new programme at HFF curated by yours truly.

Nosferatu– I attended a screening hosted by the Toronto Outdoor Picture Show recently on beautiful summer evening under a full moon. appropriately enough it was a showing on F.W Murnaus Classic 1922 vampire flick: Nosferatu. Guelph based indie band Del Bel provided the live original music they had scored to the film…and they even had some very cool t-shirts for sale! Great night out:)

image

Green Room-caught this at the Westdale Theatre recently-Anton Yelchin (RIP)+punks vs skinheads and Patrick Stewart-wow! Highly recommended:)

Follow The Money-CBC is streaming this now-it’s a new Danish TV production from DR-well done Nordic Noir series starring Nikolaj Lie Kaas-from the Carl Mork films-these are the same folks who brought us The Killing…

Neon Demon-this new film from Nicholas Winding Refn is an exercise in style and a commentary on the horrors of the fashion industry-beautiful and repulsive-and hypocritical from a director that earns $ from the same said industry-don’t you think? Great score by Cliff Martinez:)) Has to be seen…

John Carpenter-the horror maestro has returned to the limelight in the last year with 2 LP’s and a couple EP’s of new tracks,and some old film score favourites re-mixed. And as an added bonus he has gone on tour with his band in Europe and the USA. I’m lucky enough to have tix to see him in Detroit July 15 , so I’ll have more on that on next weeks blog. Here’s a little taste of what he’s been up to:

Besides a review of JC’s show in Motown on next weeks CineRadioWaves, I’ll also touch on:

-a cool crowdfunding effort to record a live CD of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s upcoming concert this October in Ghent.

-Maurizio Guarini and Mark Korven at Rue Morgues Dark Carnival

-oh and a preview of Fantasia 2016-which I am going to be attending July 20-Aug 3 in Montreal,QC!

till next time here’s the new FFF 2016 poster graphic-enjoy!

Fantasia1

 

 

Spring Cinema Screenings….

Disorder–  I checked out this cool new French film called Disorder(2015) at the Princess Cinema in Waterloo on the weekend.

It’s a new offering from director Alice Winocour (Augustine), that stars Matthias Schoenaerts as Vincent, an ex-soldier picking up some work doing security at a posh Riviera mansion. When the wealthy owner leaves on an out of town business trip, he hires Vincent to guard his wife Jesse (Diane Kruger) and son.

This plot twist could have led the film into the trashy/kitschy territory of The Bodyguard, but in the hands of Winocour it is a study on the effects of war on a persons psyche, and the difficulties of adapting to civilized society.

Vincent struggles to contain and live with the PTSD symptoms left from tours of duty in the Middle East, and hopes to be sent back to combat duty. As he confronts the challenges of guarding the family and his growing attachment to Jesse, his weekend begins to resemble the far away battlefields he is accustomed too.

The disorientation Vincent feels from his medical condition make it difficult for him to distinguish between real and imaginary dangers ;which is a really nice touch in this film. Combined with the outstanding performances from the lead actors, a cool cinematic look,and the unsettling and moody electronic music score from Gessaffelstein ; this a flick worth checking out.

In the end we  are left to wonder if the ferocity Vincent unleashes to protect the ones he has grown to care about; is also a a force that prevents him from relizing a new life for himself.

Disorder

image

Who Am I? No System Is Safe– Last week I took the train into Toronto for a screening at the TIFF Lightbox. They were showing a recent German cyber-thriller,as part of a programme of films put together by the Goethe Institute Toronto.

The film was directed by Baran bo Odar and features  rising star Tom Schilling as Benjamin, “a socially awkward nobody who leaps to fame and recognition in the world of underground hacking and, with new-found friends, undertakes a spree of pranks and online criminal acts that have violent and, ultimately, deadly consequences.”

The film relies on the first person narration of Benjamin to tie the intricate plot together,and owes a huge debt to The Usual Suspects.The plot revolves arounda group of  computer/tech nerds who  join forces to hack into corporate and government facilities; and as a result  gain for themselves a cult following.

As the film progresses the fun of the hacking takes on a more serious and dangerous element; and the tensions between the group members reaches the breaking point.

Detection from the authorities is only a matter of time,but can they apprehend the hackers before their  tech world competitors put them in the morgue?

The ending of the film is very well constructed and leaves the viewer wondering what version of events to believe in, and what are the depths of the psychological disturbances of our main character…

Who Am I? No System Is Safe.

skjermbilde-2016-01-16-kl--11-36-25-e1452940687262-1396x602Louder Than Bombs– this is a new English language film from director Joachim Triers that is a study of a family copeing with the loss of their mother ;and the circumstances surrounding her life and death. I recently caught this film in Hamilton at the AGH I Love Film Series,and was impressed  by the film. I had seen Oslo,August 31 by the director and this film is a continuation of Trier’s short, but impressive ,catalogue of films. I came across a great review by Peter Debruge from Variety magazine so I thought I would share:

“Ever since Trier’s 2006 feature debut, “Reprise” (which landed him on Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” list), Hollywood has been courting the Norwegian helmer with offers to come and make a film in the States. Switching to English is no trouble for Trier, who studied at the U.K.’s National Film & Television School, although there remains something far more alien about the cinematic syntax and language he uses to express his ideas.

Strangely, “Louder Than Bombs” manages to be glaringly obvious and admirably subtle in the same breath. Consider the title, which, apart from being a reference to the Smiths’ classic compilation album, feels like false advertising for such a quiet film, which is carried along by Ola Flottum’s low, trancelike score, yet is set so far away from the front lines where Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert) is out trying to change the world. Your average picture may say a thousand words, but one of Reed’s, snapped in hot zones around the world and routinely landing on page one of the New York Times, is potentially powerful enough to have an almost nuclear effect.

Obviously, such a career can ruin a person, too, making it impossible to readjust to a society that’s not only too calm, but too far removed from the action to raise awareness, creating a domino effect where post-traumatic stress is concerned. Huppert barely appears in the film, haunting the edges like some sort of ghost, viewed slightly differently by everyone who remembered her — precisely the sort of formally intriguing challenge at which Trier excels, considering the way he shuffles chronology and perspective.

For Times colleague Richard Weissman (David Strathairn), Isabelle represents a fallen hero whose memory he seeks to honor by writing an in-depth column timed to coincide with a posthumous retrospective of her work — a story in which he intends to reveal that Isabelle’s death was almost certainly a suicide. For Isabelle’s husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), that deadline means having to re-examine his feelings toward his wife, as well as breaking the news to his sulky teenage son, Conrad (played by “Olive Kitteridge’s” promising Devin Druid). Meanwhile, older sibling Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg, once again typecast as the neurotic academic) seems more well adjusted at first, having just fathered an infant son, though he clearly has no shortage of issues to work through as well.

Frankly, the sight of these characters coping with Isabelle’s death isn’t nearly as rich or ambitious as another parallel theme that Trier and writing partner Eskil Vogt have opted to explore with the project: the issue of artistic ambition and how committing to a creative career (or abandoning it, as the case may be) shapes our lives and the relationships we maintain with loved ones. Isabelle put her work before her family, presumably using its political importance to justify the addiction she felt to the front lines. Gene, on the other hand, started his career as an actor, but put that aside at a certain point in order to focus on his wife and children, ultimately taking a non-glamorous job teaching at the local high school (where he’s struck up a covert affair with Conrad’s teacher, played by Amy Ryan).

Both of Trier’s previous features, “Reprise” and the suicide-centered “Oslo, August 31st,” concern themselves with tortured intellectuals who question their own existence, vacillating between whatever force drives them to create and the equally compelling impulse to self-destruct. Early on, the film identifies most strongly with Gene, but in time, it shifts to each of his sons before finally settling on Conrad. When we meet the kid, he seems awkward and angry, although in time, by replaying a series of events through the character’s perspective rather than his father’s, we see that he, too, has artistic talent, as a writer — a career for which Trier himself sometimes seems more suited. After all, behind the pic’s highly technical framing is a literary-minded helmer who appears to view screenwriting as an extension of the Nouveau Roman (or “new novel”) tradition, constantly bending the rules and toying with such elements as narrative continuity, structure and form in bold but always elegant ways.

In Trier’s hands, storytelling becomes a political act — not the sort that sees Isabelle’s reasons for repeatedly putting herself in harm’s way as being worthier than whatever domestic satisfaction she might take from staying home, but rather the kind that challenges the accepted modes of cinematic expression. One clue (falling on the more obvious side of things) presents itself when Conrad relays a lesson learned from his mother, who taught him how changing the framing of a photograph can completely change its meaning — which invites us to reflect on what Trier has cropped out of his own story, a contempo spin on James Agee’s “A Death in the Family,” complete with multiple re-enactments of the fatal crash and a dizzyingly modern found-footage montage.

As conceived, “Louder Than Bombs” remains a melodrama, but a curiously non-explosive one. The fuses appear to be burning on the inside here, as Trier focuses on the surviving Reeds’ almost tragic inability to connect. Conrad shuts down Gene’s every attempt at father-son communication, including a desperate workaround Gene attempts, going undercover in his son’s favorite role-playing game. At first, Johan has more encouraging words for Conrad, but then, in a horrifying conversation on the school bleachers, we realize just how scarred and cynical his older brother is. It’s as if all the trauma Isabelle took upon herself were passed on to her family, the battle scars she wears with pride internalized by those who spent every day afraid she might die in the field.

Those looking for a sexy in-the-trenches thriller would do better to track down “1,000 Times Good Night,” in which Michael Haneke’s other muse, Juliette Binoche, also plays a war photographer. Here, it hardly matters that Isabelle worked as a front-line shutterbug. That’s one of the few concrete details in a film that lacks much of the specificity that made Trier’s two previous films so fascinating — and the photos he attributes to her so arresting.

Film Review: ‘Louder Than Bombs’-Peter DeBruge-Variety Magazine
Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (competing), May 17, 2015. Running time: 109 MIN.

Louder Than Bombs

Hitler_EDA__Lars Rudolph_Oliver Masucci_DSC4180_bearb

Look Who’s Back– (the German title is “Er Ist Wieder Da”) is  a new film available on Netflix here in Canada. It’s adapted from a bestselling satirical novel by German author Timur Vermes.

Th films premise is based on the fantastical scenario that Adolf Hitler materializes in modern day Berlin, 70 years after his death.A strange and off putting premise to base a comedy on I would say. Even if it is black humour. But what starts out as a Borat inspired fish out of water tale, develops into a more darker look at contemporary European politics, and the similarities between it and the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1930’s.

Here is some text from a wonderful write -up of the film by Carol Hill for PRI and a link to the main article and an audio interview with the filmmaker: PRI Interview and Article

“The book is completely fiction. You read it and it’s just like an author’s imagination. I had this idea that if you turned it into a film you could try out the main hypothesis of the book. The book is about Hitler coming back and how people react to him and whether he would have another chance today. And using documentary film means I would be able to really test that, really see actually how people would react?”

Before shooting the dramatic film, Wnendt took the actor who plays Hitler all over Germany, dressed as Hitler and in character, to find out. The result is a mockumentary that makes you laugh and then it makes you feel uncomfortable that you’re laughing.

“I think it’s good and healthy to laugh about [Hitler],” says Wnendt. “But there’s a big difference whether you laugh about him as a person or whether you would belittle his crimes or if you laugh about the victims. That’s a big difference.

Wnendt believes it’s better for Germans to laugh about Hitler than to demonize him.

“It was just normal people who elected [the Nazis], normal people who followed orders, and normal people who could’ve stopped him. And that didn’t happen,” Wnendt says. “So the responsibility and also the historical fault is with the German people, with ordinary people.”

The plot of “Look Who’s Back” is simple, sort of. It’s today’s Germany and Hitler wakes up, still in uniform. He’s lying on the grass in Berlin, on the exact spot where his bunker was, the place he spent the final days of the Third Reich and where he committed suicide with Eva Braun in April 1945.

But it’s the digital age, so someone sees him and videotapes him. It goes viral. Eventually some ambitious and craven TV producers find out about him and turn him into a star.

This Hitler is less shouty than the real one (most of the time). He speaks in a more fatherly tone, but his fascist core comes through, if Germans would realize it. But they don’t, even when an elderly Jewish woman recognizes him as the real Hitler. Nonetheless, Hitler goes on to gain a huge following.

Oliver Masucci, the actor who plays Hitler, spent nearly a year traveling around Germany completely in character. He said it was a disturbing experience.

“The first thing they did was take selfies. I took about 25,0000 selfies. First [people] laughed and asked why I was dressed as Hitler,” Masucci said.

He explained that he was Hitler and told them he was shooting a movie so people could tell him what they really think about today’s Germany. “Then people started to talk to me. This was really awful.”

Masucci says Germans told him they thought democracy wasn’t working, that Germany needed another strongman, that refugees should be sent home and the unemployed should be put in labor camps.

Wnendt acknowledges that the Germans who spoke to “Hitler” knew that they were speaking to an actor dressed as him. But there was a depth to what they said that was chilling.

“They forgot about the camera and really took him seriously. When he gave them his ideas on immigration, they thought those ideas were great. No matter where we went, there were always people who really kind of fell for him. And that’s kind of sad in a way. It was good for the film, but it’s sad for our country.”

Hitler trying to learn how to use a computer and mouse Credit: Courtesy: Constantin Film
“Look Who’s Back” is unmistakeably funny. It makes you laugh out loud. You see the Hitler character trying to learn how to use a computer and mouse. He wants the username Adolf Hitler but it’s already taken.

In the film, the TV producers are ruthless in their careerism. And the only scene in which “Hitler” gets in trouble is when an online video turns up showing him shooting an annoying dog.

As a filmgoer, it’s refreshing to see a German satirical film. The Germans aren’t exactly known for their sense of humor. Then Wnendt reminds us why this is.

“Before Hitler came to power, the Jews in Germany were a huge part of the entertainment industry. Jewish humor has a long and strong tradition. Because of the Holocaust, we still, up to today, can still feel that loss of humor and creativity because of the Third Reich.”

And that’s exactly the raw nerve that “Look Who’s Back” succeeds in touching.”

check this out on Netflix if you want a conversation starter… :Look Who’s Back

IMG_3552

 

CFMU– I have been hosting a soundtrack radio programme since the late 90’s at CFMU Radio in Hamilton and have recently decided to start to post the 2 hour podcasts on Soundcloud. Check out the link here: Soundtrack on CFMU Podcast

I hope to keep posting here on a more regular basis. A couple interesting things I am hoping to see at the TIFF Lightbox soon are the Norwegian thriller:Hevn, and Nicholas Winding Refn’s new movie: The Neon Demon

 

Later this summer I am planning on attending the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal in July and TIFF this September as well:)

Thanks for checking out the blog and feel free to send me comments or share!

Cheers

Stephen

 

Film Eye

Well it is nearing the end of my European journey,as I fly home in a few days via Iceland. I have squeezed in a few more screenings in the last week, but I am limited to watching English language films here in the Netherlands as any film subtitling is in Dutch which is beyond my linguistic capabilities:)

I did get to link up with filmmaker Adrien Costello in. Paris for a film: Concussion starring Will Smith. A well done look at groundbreaking research into a brain disease affecting ex-NFL players,and the fight by the main researcher to have it recognized by the league.

In Rotterdam I checked out a very cool complex on the harbour called Lanterna Venesta-a music venue/restaurant/cinema-and checked out a new film : Beyond Sleep. It is a new Norway/Netherlands co-production and involves a small group of geologists hiking through the wilderness of remote Norway. Most are concerned with practical discoveries, but out lead character seems to be on more of a metaphysical journey. An uneven film that never quite reached or conveyed fully what it was trying express.

I did see some great photography in Rotterdam at a couple museums. The Kusnthall Museum has a very nice exhibit of photos by Phillipe Hausmann-including some very famous still is Salvador Dali, Alfred Hitchcock, and Marilyn Monroe. If you are anywhere near Rotterdan definately a must see:

http://www.kunsthal.nl/en/#tijdlijn-2016-03

image

Other photos were on display appropriately enough at the Netherlands Photography Museum housed in a former cruise liner terminal building. Two exhibitions were of note: Ulays installation of Polaroids, and Toon Michiels show American Neon Signs-Day & Night.Another reason to head to Rotterdam this spring:)

image

I headed down the road (or track as I have been travelling by train) to Amsterdam. There is a very cool ex-tram garage that is now I large food hall (FoodHallen) and within the complex is a nice 5 theatre cinema. I had heard Charlie Kaufman’s new film was really interesting-a “buzz” film. It is called Anomolisa and is all stop motion animation which give the movie a very bizarre, otherworldly look. Beyond that-the film wasn’t this viewers cup of tea. The lead character (Michael Stone) came across to me as a creep, visiting Cincinnati to give a speech at a conference, he spends most of his energy drinking, smoking, and trying to have sex. Oh,and have some sort of existential crisis or mid-life breakdown. That is supposed to make him a bit less of a jerk perhaps? The portrayal of women in the film is very poor- they are doormats with very little self esteem- no excuse for that in this day and age. Anyways obviously I didn’t care for the film-maybe you will think differently if you see it.

Today I checked out the very cool and stunning Film Eye-located on the waterfront in Amsterdam. A cool set of cinemas complement the museum and restaurant-a definately place to see in the city:) Downstairs was a permanent exhibit of old cinema memoralbia, and some very cool interactive displays and film quizzes as well as access to their archive of film that can be viewed in little viewing pods.

https://www.eyefilm.nl/en

Upstairs was a very interesting exhibit called: Close-Up A New Generation of Film & Video Artists in the Netherlands.The highlight was a very cool short film by Amos Mulder-a visual dream sequence with the protagonist as a astronaut journeying through a mystical garden and forest; and over top of this is a 1960’s recording of a psychologist asking a patient a series of question regarding his dream after he has just brought the patient out of hypnosis:

 

Well that’s it for now folks, I will be back in Canada next week and back at CFMU hosting Soundtrack at the end on March:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

European Tour continues…

Hey folks, hope you are all well. I survived the Berlinale , and the Ennio Morricone concert in Koln, and have been slowly working my way around Europe for a holiday. And I have been squeezing in a few films as well. I know that is a big surprise 🙂

I ended up in Poland in the old city of Wroclaw for a few days before heading to Bratislava in Slovakia. It was a surprisingly beautiful town,and I had met some folks from the Slovakia Film Centre in Berlin so I thought I would pop in for a few days.

I did manage to get to the very nice Slovak Film Centre where they do restoration and preservation of Slovak films. They are also involved in promoting films from the region  and have a nice  complex of cinemas and a very great Kino-Cafe as well:)

Here I was able to attend a screening of Eva Nova,which I had missed at the Berlinale. It is a new film by Martin Skop that revolves around an aging actress (Emilia Vasayova) who is down on her heels and battling alcoholism. She embarks on a mission to make amends with those she has let down in her life-primarily her son. And he has troubles of his own, and isn’t very receptive to having his long absent mother involved in his life.

A very gritty and hard-hitting story about the search for redemption for past sins, and the struggle to live an honest life. Down-beat but with a glimmer of hope at the end perhaps. This played at TIFF in 2015 before Berlinale and it may end up on the rep circuit in Canada this year. Here are some links:

http://www.sfu.sk/#

I also had a chance to  take in a screening of Alphaville in Bratislava. The very cool 1966 Jean-Luc Godard is a poetic homage to the era of Film Noir starring Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution and Anna Karina as Natasha Von Braun. Short on special effects, the film makes up for it with a cool mix of an inventive script,stark photography, strange locations, great editing, and black humour. To name a few. The closing scene is worth the price of admission itself, even with a choppy 35mm film print and Slovak subtitles which were beyond this viewers comprehension.

Leaving Bratislava, I headed to Budapest in Hungary-the Paris of Central Europe it has been called. And the city did not disappoint-I would highly recommend a visit here. And I was able to check out a few films at a collection of 5 different rep cinemas all located in central Pest.

The first film I screened was Pasolini at the Toldi Puskin cinema- a new film about the edgy Italian  Italian film director whos’career was tragically ended at the hands of a violent youth in 1970’s Rome. The film comes with high expectations-directed by Abel Ferrer and starring a well cast Willian Dafoe in the lead role-the film concerns itself with the last 24 hours of the filmmakers life.

Luckily I knew something about Pasolini and his films ,but even so I was at a loss to really understand anything about the filmmaker and his history. Maybe that was beyond the reach of this screenplay;but it made for an uneven, choppy ,and unfulfilled viewing experience-the film never really finds any coherent style or rythm and fails to really place the filmmaker and the politics in a real context other than verbal platitudes mouthed by actors in some of the more annoyingly shot  interior group scenes-all shot with a roaming camera panning from close-up to close-up and repeated in 3 or 4 scenes. However the exterior night shooting and interior travelling shots in autos where beautifully executed by cinematographer Stefano Falevene.

Overall a missed opportunity of a film-if only Pasolini had been alive to make it himself-now that would have been a movie…

Later in the week I caught up with the new film by Todd Haynes called: Carol. Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith the movie stars Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchet in a story of two women reaching across social conventions and class differences to consummate the love they feel for each other. Slow, meditative, and beautifully shot-the film evokes some of the earlier work  of the director-most notably his 2002 homage to the films of Douglas Sirk : Far From Heaven ,and the excellent 2011 HBO mini-series: Mildred Pierce.

I had a third movie to see in Budapest, the new Cohen Brothers film: Hail Caesar. I had been in Berlin when the movie had opened the Berlinale,but settled into the very friendly confines of Toldi Mozi to check out the film. A comedy with some deeper metaphors for the contemporary political climate in America, Hail Ceasar stars Josh Brolin as a hard-working Hollywood studio executive Eddie Mannix. Eddie has to keep the troubled studio he works at afloat amid series of escalating problems- the central crisis being the kidnapping of film star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) in the middle of the filming of a late 1950’s biblical epic.

This is a very funny and smart film, with good casting and some very nice recreations of the style and  production values of the so called: Golden Age Of Hollywood.

Heading to Paris via Salzburg I stopped for a look at the famous Cinematheque Francais-the brainchild of Henri Langois. Unfortunately the screenings available for viewing didn’t accomadate my limited language skills so I had to content myself with a visit to the onsite museum and cafe.

The museum is small but effective,with many displays of historic cinema cameras and projection devices. There is a nice homage to George Melies, and a recreation of his original studio. As well a costume from La Voyage De La Lune is on display.

The highlight was a section devoted to the German Exspessionist movement ,as well as the Russian cinema of Sergei Eisenstein. Original drawings and watercolours were on display from Fritz Langs film Metropolis as well as from F. W. Murnaus film Faust and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. A full size model of the robot Maria was an added bonus, as well as the prop head of Norman Bates mother from Psycho-donated by Alfred Hitchcock. Unfortunately no camera were allowed no hence no pics…

Downstairs is the nice Les 400 Coups cafe-named after the famous film by Francois Truffaut. Here you can enjoy light or hearty fare in a casual environment, surrounded by some great cinema posters:)

I did get to a couple movies in Paris however at the Publiciscinemas on the Champ de Ulysses.

The first film is a brand new British/French,comedy/action directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet called: Moon Walkers. It stars Ron Perlman as a CIA operative with a bad case of PTSD, who is enlisted to contact Stanley Kubrick in 1969 London to commission him to film a fake moon landing. The American government is concerned that the upcoming Apollo mission will not succeed in landing a man on the moon , so they want this fake footage as back-up. Things go wrong for Perlman from the beginning as he gets mixed up with a failed band manager (Rupert Grint), and his drugged out hippie roommate ( Robert Sheehan) .Then things get really strange.

Cleverly playing on the modern conspiracy theory about Kubrik having filmed a fake moon landing, the film is an entertaining mix of comedy and action ,and a nice homage and satire of the late 60’s era as well.

I also checked out a showing of Sunrise. This is a new neo-noir film by director Partho Sen-Gupta. It concerns Police Inspector Joshi who is haunted by the kidnapping of his daughter Aruna 10 years earlier, and how it ties into a current cases of dissapearances that seem to centre around a local dancehall and brothel.

Beautiful nourish night photography is further enhanced by the directors setting the action in the claustrophobic streets is Mumbai at the height of Monsoon season. What is real and what is fantasy meld together, as do past and present storylines in this work of almost pure cinema; with little assistance from dialogue.The films  epilogue states 100,00 children go missing in India every year-a heartbreaking situation grounding is film in its social setting. Recommended. Check out the trailer:

I am off the Rotterdam this week so will try and update in a couple weeks before coming back to Canada

And  speaking of Canada, my friend Stephanie Swift in Ottawa participated in a very cool concert ,and film screening ,of the classic silent film Ben Hur.

Starring silver screen heartthrob Roman Navarro in the title role,the show consisted of Kevin Reeves directing the Seventeen Voyces chamber choir, the 100+ voices of the Ottawa Choral Society, exciting soloists, the children’s choirs of St. Matthew’s Church, organ virtuoso, Matthew Larkin, and a battery of percussionists.

Steph sent a picture along from the show, and I will attach a link to more info on then silent film programmes in Ottawa:

http://www.seventeenvoyces.ca

image

So long for now, and a reminder Soundtrack continues to broadcast in my absence on 93.3 CFMU-Wednesday’s from 10-12 EST on http://cfmu.mcmaster.ca

thanks to Robyn Edgar for filling in!!

Some last words on Berlinale…

Ok I hope all is well with everyone. I wrapped up screenings at EFM-Berlinale on Wednesday, and I am just heading back to Berlin on route to Wroclaw,Poland.

I had a whirlwind trip to Cologne to catch Ennio Morricone’s 60 years of music tour. I was able to get a ticket for last nights show at the Lanxess Arena in central Cologne, just across the river from the stunning cathedral. It is worth a visit to this city just to see that magnificent structure.

The Lanxess Arena is a much more contemporary building, and probably better suited to hockey games that live orchestral performances. Be that what it may, it did facilitate a larger audience being able to attend the show. Although the sound was harsh at times, it was a strange experience as people consumed pretzels,beer, bratwurst etc, and hawkers roamed the crowd selling glasses of champagne:)

The beginning of the show was interesting. It was the first time in all the shows I have witnessed, or worked on as a stagehand with Iatse 129, that a performer was given a standing ovation before the show 🙂 The concert stage was filled with a 200+ Orchestra and choir when Ennio Morricone entered the stage to a small podium, and the show began. The first piece was a nicely arranged version on the Theme From 1900. This led into a variety of tracks from his older back catalogue including Chi Mai. The first set then ended with a powerful collection of themes from Morricone’s music for the films of Sergio Leone. The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Once Upon A Time in The West, and A Fistful Of Dynamite , where among the films that music was pulled from. The highlight being: Sean Jean from A Fistful Of Dollars, and the stupendous closing song to the first set: The Ecstasy Of Gold- featuring soprano Sussana Rigacci.

The Ecstasy Of Gold-Live

The second set opened with some new work by Morricone. Two tracks from his award-winning score for Quentin Taratino’s The Hateful Eight. Then some great tracks from The Red Tent and then a long set of music from The Mission.

The show ended, but wait…there are going to be three encores for Maestro Morricone; including, unbelievably, another version on Ecsasty Of Gold-wow!

A great show, and hopefully he can make it to North America later in the year. His schedule shows in North America had been cancelled for 2016 due to back problems. I am enroute to Wroclaw, Poland where he is performing on February 23 but that show is sold out…

I will finish off my film chat from Berlin for now, thanks everyone for reading along, and feel free to follow the blog. I will make some sporadic posts through the next few weeks before returning to Canada. I hope to check out the film institute in Bratislava, and the Cinematheque Francais in Paris, and I will see what else film related I spot on my journey.

And, my regular 2 hour film score show (Soundtrack), is still on-air weekly with a super guest host Robyn Edgar. The show airs weekly from 10:00-12:00 EST on 93.3 CFMU-FM in the Hamilton, Canada listening area. You can also listen live ,or download podcast/playlists, at : 93.3 CFMU-fm

The show has a nice Facebook page as well-with links to cool articles, playlists and more:  Soundtrack on CFMU-Facebook

The final word from Berlinale goes to an interesting article in The Guardian , exploring some of the more socially important films and issues from this years festival. Enjoy!

Refugee Crisis on display at Berlinale

 

 

 

 

 

 

EFM-Day 7

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Berlin, as I wrap up my visit. I am taking a break from screenings today for the most part. Checking out a few sights in their stead.

There was a wonderful exhibit by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who recently wrapped the exterior of  Berlins concert hall with the abandoned life jackets of thousands of Syrian refugees. Unfortunately the exhibit had been removed before I came upon the building, while strolling through the beautiful Gendarmenmarket Square.

Ai WeiWei in Berlin

Later I will head to the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum for an interesting film installation. Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett stars in Julian Rosefeldt’s “Manifesto” exhibition currently on show at the Bahnhof. The Australian star re-enacts famous manifestoes of such movements as Futurism, Dada, Minimalism, and others. The 13 short films explore the subversive potential and ambiguity of all kinds of manifesto: Manifesto Hamburger Bahnhof Museum

I’ve heard good things about it so think it’s a good idea for the afternoon.

An interesting  reto-German film is playing in the early evening, hope to get to it:

Abschied von gestern
Yesterday Girl
Anita G. is 22, from a Jewish family, and a migrant from East to West Germany. She is sentenced to probation after stealing a cardigan. Working in an office and also selling language learning LPs, she starts up a relationship with her boss and embezzles from the company. Anita tries in vain to enrol in university in Frankfurt. Her romantic liaison with a married government official also flounders. When she becomes pregnant, Anita, who by then is wanted by the police, turns herself in … With his look at the odyssey of a woman adrift, Alexander Kluge gave a clear signal to launch the “Young German Cinema”. He used the incessant running of this homeless woman to integrate numerous particles of reality into his film – up to and including a performance by Fritz Bauer, Hessen state attorney general and the initiator of the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials. Enriched with intertitles, documentary segments and third-party texts, Yesterday Girl systematically consummated the break with filmmaking conventions. In 1966, film critic Uwe Nettelbeck wrote “Kluge does not formulate solid insights, but rather incites reflection”. That approach was rewarded with the Silver Lion at the Venice film festival.
still
Federal Republic of Germany 1965/1966
88’
German

by Alexander Kluge
with Alexandra Kluge, Günter Mack, Eva Maria Meineke, Hans Korte, Ursula Dirichs
Rating R: 16

Yesterday’s screening of 2 episodes of a new Nordic crime series called Case was excellent. It charts new territory for Icelandic TV production, and closely follows the template of such TV shows as Forbrydellsan (The Killing).

In this series director Baldvin Z moves from feature film directing (Life In A Fishbowl), to the world of series television. I will attach a link to an interview here , where he talks about the development and shooting of Case-I will add that the first 2 episodes are an excellent introduction to the story and main character arc-and left me wanting more:) I will leave you with the link for the article, and hope to give a final update tomorrow enroute to Koln for a concert by Ennio Morricone.

Case

Tschuss