Sunday, August 28, 2016

SWAYING WATERLILY (Directed by Seren Yüce) ***

 A disturbing comment on modern Turkish family malaise
A couple in their forties live in an upscale apartment with their daughter who is flirting with anorexia, and her ten-year-old boy friend.


The couple is no longer in love, and each is searching for ways to break the tedium of their seemingly purposeless lives.
 They are friends with a couple who are laid back and obviously close. The female is a writer and is enjoying some success, but jealously sets in with her richer female friend,  She tries her own hand at writing, entertains the idea of starting a cafe with her friend, who clearly is not interested.

Things are just wrong. The film immerses us so realistically into the lives of this unfortunate family who can’t move out of their stagnant loveless lives. Outside of Istanbul, its premiere international screening was at the Montreal World Film  Festival.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Lots of films for viewing variety
Ok: you’ve been reading some films I've  reviewed – a few from the FFM (World Film Festival), and in its 40th year, it may be remembered for the chaos that happened off screen and behind the scene. It was touch and go right up to opening night, as sponsors, Cineplex Forum screening venue and PR guys pulled out because festival founder/director, Serge Losique stayed on. At the age of 85, many felt it was time for him to seek younger blood to direct the festival.  

I credit him for hanging on for so many years, but not knowing all the politics behind the disorganization that affected everyone involved this year, perhaps the writing is on the wall for the festival – or in this case the screen.
I have always enjoyed the accessible factor of the festival that brings youth and energy from directors from oodles of countries. They are affable, open and eager to share their stories face to face in the Q and A (none this year – nor is there a program book).  The audience is an older bunch, and this year, seats and ticket line-ups were not exactly a problem. 

Here are some more reviews of films that are fun to watch if not enriching and curiously revealing about each country’s  distinct cultural flavour and artistic acumen via the unique films that make this festival so stimulating.

THE LAST BIRDS (Directed by Bedir Afsin) *

Slow moving, this Turkish film makes its poignant point about not respecting village customs and rules. When city-dweller, Bekir, comes to visit his parents who live in a Turkish mountain town surrounded by lush forest, he insists on hunting birds. Animals are only to be hunted during the season, but Bekir just wishes to distress and so as he pleases. When bad events ensue, Bekir becomes the patsy for the misfortunes of others. He refuses to listen to his father who repeatedly tells him to stop being arrogant and to adhere and respect to the customs. The Leif motif of a crow cawing, and the background big boom sounds that happen when something bad is about to happen becomes laughable. 

MY ITALY (Directed by Bruno Colella) ***

Hilarious and quirky, this Italian work presents a director and his assistant – who attempt to raise money for their documentary film about four international artists who love Italy. The films takes us to several cites in Italy and in other countries. It is a refreshing piece of comedia del arte – contemporary style. It really entertaining and we also get to meet some brilliant artists who have their own troubles.

LONGING FOR A KISS (Directed by Julia Ziesche) **

German filmmakers just can’t do comedy. This story about a family with a daughter and mother who get pregnant and keep it a secret for a time is light-hearted but far too light in impact. The message is an one one: searching for love, and finally attaining it no matter the conflicts that problematically prove to be the precursor to happiness.

As Far As The Eye Can See (Directed by David Franklin) **

When loner/recluse Jack Ridge consents to appear at the local piano competition as the featured performer inside the little church of the tiny Texan town  (he lives on its outskirts surrounded by acres and acres of land), not-so-jolly Jack does a stupid thing: he puts his fist through the wall of his tumble-down farm house. He has just been hit with divorce papers, and to make matters worse, Herbel Farms is trying to take over his land.


Jack’s farm has been in the family for seven generations, jack’s wounds go deeper than his injured hand. It takes Alyssa, a sassy 16-year-old country gal to start gardening on his land – against his will. Still she ends up being his best support along with old Philip, his Mexican pal. The day arrives for his playing; the town is eager for Jack to perform again. After all, it’s been 25 years since he won the Van Cliburn Competition, and because of him, their small town earned some fame.

Jack does not want to perform, but he’s able to pull off the Brahms Intermezzo in A-minor (a piece I love to play). However, as he takes his bow, a shocking moment occurs. Maybe, it is the jolt he needed to get on with his life. Jack realizes moving on might be the answer to his stagnant life, and that leaving the farm that’s been in the family for so many generations is his best performance of all.

Jason London as Jack was credible, but the film’s pace slagged slowly, and the ending was a let-down in tone and change of pace. The American director though shows promise.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Kamp Holland (Directed by Paval Conen) ****

In Afghanistan, Dutch soldiers find themselves under an unexpected attack. It's nighttime. One seemingly innocent yet sneaky member of the Taliban is slowly approaching the two-tank convoy. The Dutch commander awaits to hear orders from his sergeant: should he shoot or hold fire? But they never come; the sergeant is mute and out of sight. A decision is made with a disastrous outcome.

 One soldier ends up getting killed, and the group is devastated – each knowing that a lie is tearing them apart.

 The results pit the sergeant and the commander into a brooding conflict whose ending is more surprising than any screenwriter could imagine. This is a high action drama with a taut script matched by superb acting.

The Apprentice (Directed by Emre Konuk) **


 Alim is a mess. He suffers from terrible anxiety disorders. Working for a tailor, sitting at a desk all day only acerbates his phobias. When he meets an older woman form whom he rents a room, his life turns around, but the twist at the end adds dark humour to the non-stop amusing moments in this film. Hakan Atalay, the actor has the perfect facial expressions to convey worry, sissy-cat fear and boredom. But it drags on too long. The Turkish director though is not without original ideas, and it is his debut feature.

The Habit Of Beauty (Directed by Mirko Pincell) ***

Tragedy brings the protagonists together through happenstance.  They are: a famous Italian photographer, his ex-wife Elena, and Ian, out of jail and taken in to learn about photography. 

The film is heavy, gritty and in many ways a tragic trilogy that resonates with its viewers. Based on events close to the director himself, the plot and acting combine to create a compelling if not moving statement about human nature and how it confronts the murky mess of living.


NAME: DOBRICA; LAST NAME: UNKNOWN (Directed by Srdja Penezic) ***

This gem of a Serbian film shows us that a gentle, beautiful soul can soar way beyond the ordinary muck of life. The hero is raised by two old people, then taken away, and finally released from the orphanage, and even put in prison for criticizing the Communist government. He’s Dobrica, and he believes all people are good, and if they are not, they should be shown how to be good. Despite Dobrica’s  bad luck, he never wavers from helping people, parting with all his money and leading a contented, simple life. God rewards him for his gracious humility. This feel-good film makes you realize that goodness is a smile, a helping hand and a belief that happiness is just that. 

Never Stand Still Except When You’re Traveling

I was born with a biting need to get out of my hometown in Ontario and seek excitement elsewhere. I yearned for the unpredictable. By immersing myself in different lands, my peripatetic nature, along with my lust for getting lost in sometimes dangerous terrain, fulfilled me. Leaving home at the age of 17, I realized traveling is a type of addiction: I soon was hooked. I confess that I am an incurable travel junkie.

For me, settling down in one place – home – grass to cut and house repairs, or battling landlords who never fix anything – especially in Montreal (where I now live) – just isn’t for me.

Truth is, there’s a paradox in staying in one place. Stress beings to seep in. People begin to irritate you. The same old urban landscape burrows into your belly like an unwelcome hunk of bacteria. So, I discovered if you keep moving, you never suffer from monotony or acute stress. Fatique… maybe, but then there’s nothing to tie you down or force you into a routine that demands all kinds of automatic responses that are soul numbing.

 I’ve rambled into remote regions. Here’s a peek: I’ve endured two robberies in Mexico, been car kidnapped by a maniac in Manchester (my first day in the city as a university student), wandered the mountains of northern Spain, and gotten tangled up in a jungle in Columbia (my guide took off like a cheeta when he spotted a huge yellow snake, screaming “la amarilla”. True, it was a pretty sickeningly thick long creature that slowly slithered in front of us, but being abandoned by him was even scarier. Still, I made to make my way to the top of a mountain, found a bus stop to stand at, until a taxi driver yelled at me, “Get in”. You’re being approached by bandits.”

 While hiking  with my brother in a gorge in Crete with my borhter, we emt a woman who invited us for tea at her home: a cave!!!

I’ve been in a forest fire in Chios, Greece, gotten lost on a mountain in Crete with no water left in my bottle, and felt terribly lonely on a journalist trip in France. Ended up with my Cuba, living in the bush on a dirt floor with a well of good water to keep me company, until I nearly died from sun stroke, and though I had better walk to some  hotel in Holguin – even if the food was a cooked bull testicle.

 Still, the incredible experiences I’ve had in so many parts of the world, the stunning vistas that have hypnotized me, and the shockingly kind and giving people I’ve met – I wouldn’t change any of this to sit bored in some room staring at TV, and counting the  few bucks I have left in the bank. No, I’d prefer to walk miles, and then stop and stare at a one-of-a kind-scene before me – such as I did in Tangiers, when a bullfighter escorted me to his mansion where I was treated to a tour of looking at decapitated bull heads hanging on his wall of fame.

The only time to stand still  is when you stumble upon a moment of   beauty or magical absurdity – human or otherwise – in your adventure – when you’ve found a piece of paradise that you can open your front door to it every day, and discover that what you saw yesterday is not there today; something new is there instead. And it’s another breathtaking moment to file in your memory – to pull out when old age obliges you to stand still, and hang up the backpack.

                                 photos of Crete, Athens and Brittany taken by Nancy, except when she is in them

Thursday, August 18, 2016


 Looking at this city through a one-angled lens

                                                                          My Rant

Montréal streets look like war zones. The sidewalks are blocked off, up in pieces with rubble saddling bulldozers besides huge long tubing ready to be put underground. That’s been the eyesore for years now I’ve seen this in Verdun, downtown, Ville St laurnet, Everywhere!

Try driving anywhere, and enjoy cursing trying to get there.  Consider reaching your destination a total triumph. Thjs city is not what it used ot be.

 Moreover, smokers, cyclists and angry drivers feel no gumption about riding you over. And as for the song, smoke gets in your eyes, well, Montreal is the smoker’s capital of Canada.

Language: who cares any more? Bill 101, you’ve aged beyond your contextual historical provenance.  But try to speak English to those who work for the government, including the French schools, and you can end up in jail. It is an outcase situation here. Yes, Montreal is a fabulous festival city. There are over 500 of them in the summer, but most folk just want to leave the humidity at this time.

Snobbism, freaky-looking kids who are lost in their souls, smokers, sweaers and cell phone addicts – this is the city I now know. When I moved here in 1981, it was rather pleasant. People were civil, helpful, cordial, and the joie de vivre was wonderfully infectious. Business was booming and streets were intact.

 Immigrants now claim this place but the poor souls can’t even open up a business hanging out a street sing in their own language – unless they want to get smacked with a hefty fine from L’office québécois de la langue française. Did you know it’s illegal to show English on a sign alone  inside or outside. Oh sure you can have it, but make sure it’s smaller than the French.

Look, I moved here form stone cold Toronto, and Montreal is still a unique place but its corruption goes back too many decades, and even poutine can’t smother the fact that this city has to start educating its people, being honest and giving kids a global future.Of course secondary education wasn’t compulsory here until 1969.

Rock the boat and drown us all is Montreal’s now polluted St. Lawrence River into which  government leaders agreed to dump tons of waste material this year. Now that is a truly inspiring example of environmental leadership.

 There’s only thing la belle province won’t change is its nasty let’s hold a grudge license plate: “Je me souviens” (I remember wheat the English did to us on the plains of Montcalm). Fact is the British were fairly nice conquerors. They gave Quebec thousands and thousands of more hectares, expanding the territory to make it the largest province in Canada. They also let the French keep their language, their religion and lots more.

Trouble is, when I go to Ontario anglo-land like Ottawa and Merrickville, I miss the Quebec slantiness, the chaos and the anger that allows me to write this vitriolic piece in the first place.

You may get offended by this, but I'm allowed to offend you; I'm a Montrealer!  LOL!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Bacchus Lady (Directed by E J-yong) *****

  A killer film delicately done with heavy truths


This South Korean film introduces sixty-five-year-old So-young who serviced Korean soldiers during the war. She had a baby and gave him up for adoption – told in the narrative – but this highly compassionate woman who hangs out in the park to earn money turning old tricks ends up being an angel of death.

 She also ends up taking care of a Philippine boy whose mother is in prison. It happens quickly that the boy falls into her hands literally, and her immediate care – for a time at least. 
The ugly truths about how South Korea more or less deletes elderly from its system offers a revealing look into a sorry situation that triumphs with character brilliance and the deeply touching plight of those who wish to die. 
They find their answer in the Bacchus lady. 

The ending is sad indeed.  The slow pace offers a compelling reality whose film finale is anything but predictable or uplifting.

Receiving many Official Selections at various prestigious film festivals, it won best film and best actress accolades at Montréal’s 2016 Fantasia Film Festival.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Saving Mr Wu (Directed by Ding Sheng) **

A Hong Kong movie star is kidnapped by four explosive criminals. The events in the film actually happened. Mr Wu actually will give a lot more money to the kidnappers if they allow the second man kidnapped victim to live. (Mr Wu arrives to find another kidnapped victim). The low-life thugs are on the verge of strangling him. 

Pretty terrifying stuff. Time is of the essence, and scenes cross jump from the time just before the abduction to the event and the final arresting of the thugs.

Shoot-outs, face-to hand violence and some amusing black comedy moments that capitalize on Mr Wu’s clever acting acumen still can’t save this film from shoddy suspense tricks.


             We can all guess the predictable ending that gives away the title. 
              Maybe, this Chinese film needs some of its own saving. 
                (screened at the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival)