Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Film Festivals, Film Reviews

VIFF 2016: Con artists, poets, and life on the streets

viff_signature-01I still marvel at how the Vancouver International Film Festival seems to be one of the best-kept secrets on the West Coast. Opening a few weeks after Toronto, it is almost concurrent with the New York Film Festival, which makes headlines with the official American premieres of some of the season’s most anticipated films. Many of those very same films are screening across the country in Vancouver, often a day or two before NYFF, and it is a mere 2 ½ hours away from my Seattle domicile. It’s one of the quirks of the festival circuit: the films that made their respective North American premieres in Toronto (after a possible “unofficial” screening at Telluride) vie for a spot at NYFF, where it gets the media spotlight, while Vancouver quietly slips somewhere around half of those into their line-up.

Here are a few titles snagged by VIFF this year: Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, Pedro Almodóvar’s Julieta, Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s The Unknown Girl, Hong Sang-soo’s Yourself and Yours, Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, Pablo Larraín’s Neruda, Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation, Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada, Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis XIV, Paul Verhoeven’s Elle…. There are other films playing both fests, and plenty of films screening at Vancouver that are nowhere to be seen on the NYFF schedule, but that should give you a taste of a few of the delights that Vancouver offers over 16 days and eight venues (seven of them within walking distance of one another). It’s why I go every year that I am able.

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Posted in: by Robert Horton, Contributors, Film Reviews

Film Review: Two Days, One Night

Marion Cotillard

There is only one situation in Two Days, One Night—no subplots, no vast canvas. But filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (The Kid With the Bike) need only this one situation to somehow speak of the entire world and what it means to be human in the early 21st century. The situation is this: Sandra (Marion Cotillard) has been on medical leave from her workplace, owing to depression. She has a low-level job in a manufacturing plant in Belgium. She’s ready to go back to work, but management has decided to cut her position. According to labor laws, her 16 fellow employees can vote to keep her on the job—but the boss has offered them each a 1,000-euro bonus if they agree to lay off Sandra. She has a weekend to plead her case to each co-worker.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

Blu-ray/DVD: ‘La Promesse’

La promesse, the austere, urgent, uncompromising 1996 feature from brothers and filmmaking partners Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, was not their first feature, but it might have well have been. It introduced the Dardennes — and their immediate, engaged approach to telling stories about people on margins — to the world and it announced the arrival of a vital new filmmaking talent. It was their third narrative feature and it followed a career honing their skills and concerns in years of documentary filmmaking.

Jérémie Renier

La promesse opens on young, blond, very boyish Jérémie Renier as Igor, a teenage kid ostensibly apprenticing as a mechanic in a gas station / garage. The apprenticeship excuses him from school but he’s clearly more interested in scamming the customers (his initial act of benevolence turns out to be merely a distraction for a little purse snatching) and more committed to helping his father, Roger (Olivier Gourmet), when he calls. Roger’s business is smuggling illegal aliens into Belgium, or rather taking care of the final leg of the business. He rents them rooms, sells them papers, and finds them jobs, taking his cut on every transaction. Igor is his collector, bookkeeper, and secretary, so to speak, and he’s thoroughly at ease with their captive clients without ever getting personally attached.

That all changes when the young wife of Amidou (Rasmane Ouedraogo), a middle-aged African from Burkino Faso paying off his debt by working (off the books) on Roger’s home, arrives. Igor is fascinated and more than a little interested in the exotic, superstitious, thoroughly practical Assita (Assita Ouedraogo), a young mother with an infant who immediately goes about turning their hovel into a home. When Amidou suffers a fatal accident, Igor makes a promise to take care of his family, unaware of just how it will force him to defy everything his father stands for. It’s not just attraction but it’s also much more complicated than simple guilt over his participation in covering up the death (no need to draw attention to themselves by letting anyone find the corpse of an illegal alien). Forced to confront the inevitable morality of their business, he doesn’t like what he sees once his eyes are opened to his complicity.

Continue reading at Turner Classic Movies