Thursday, October 16, 2008

Black Sheep @ the 2008 Festival Nouveau Cinema

The festival continues swimmingly. Screenings are sold out. Reactions to the films are enthusiastic. And there’s still more to come. In fact, I have three films to see today alone. Hence my having to be brief with you so I can get out there and continue devouring everything the festival has to offer … including tonight’s surprise premiere of Kevin Smith’s ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO.

Little known French painter, Seraphine de Senlis, has found a fresh admirer in French director, Martin Provost. His hopes are that his admiration will spread. Provost’s third feature film sheds a light on not only an underrated painter but leaves the viewer with provocative questions about art, who can create it and what actually makes it art. And while Provost’s sensitive style makes for an insightful look at one woman’s slow descent into madness, it is Yolande Moreau’s eerily innocent performance that makes SERAPHINE so engaging. The manner in which she operates in her own naïve world and mind makes her such a sympathetic character and adds so much value to the art she creates.

Samira Makhmalbaf’s TWO-LEGGED HORSE is not for the casual filmgoer. It is the story of two boys, one who comes from wealth and another who lives in a hole in the ground. The boy with nothing is hired to carry around the other, as he lost his legs in an explosion. Ordinarily, your heart would go out to the young invalid but it’s pretty hard when he treats a boy who could be his friend literally like a horse. This is a movie that drags you across the jagged rocks of Iran and leaves you there to bleed. I have to say, this was not for me. While it was effective, it was also too trying. I don’t need to have things sugar coated in order to be able to enjoy them but this was so dire that I couldn’t focus on it all the way through in fear of losing it.

French director, Remi Bezancon’s newest film has all its bases covered. It’s got an intriguing premise – a family history as told through five specific days that permanently altered the family’s dynamic. It’s got a pimped out soundtrack to catch the mood of the vast period of time it covers and the editing is equally tricked out to give the film a hip look to match the soundtrack. But does it have enough emotional depth to fill the rest of the stylized space? Mostly. Thanks to a great cast, including Montreal’s Marc-Andre Grondin (C.R.A.Z.Y.), the film is engaging and enjoyable. It only falters beneath its actual concept. Given that we are only focusing on life-changing days, they are always dramatic events. We are left with the impression that this family had very little calm in their house.

And, now I must be off to catch another film. More festival coverage to come this weekend.

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