17th annual Kamloops Film Festival

The 17th annual Kamloops Film Festival got under way March 7, 2012, and The Omega was there as it kicked off. Check back frequently for reviews of the films and highlights of ancillary events.

The World Before Her

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief  Ω

Image courtesy Storyline Entertainment

Image courtesy Storyline Entertainment

Prachi, an angry, militant-style drill leader at a right wing camp where she helps teach violence and resistance to westernization to young girls, says her dad beats her, but only when she’s done something wrong. It’s okay, because he let her live instead of killing her when she was born a girl.

Ruhi, one of a select few who made it to the finals of the annual Miss India pageant, is a progressive, modern young woman who embraces western culture, because blending cultures has always happened, she says, it’s just happening easier and faster now that we have the means to share it more efficiently.

She wants to make her parents proud of her by winning the pageant, because, like Prachi, she realizes that many parents would have killed her at birth and her being physically beautiful proves that they made the right decision.

A story of “old world” versus “new world,” perception of progression versus regression and inherent generational conflict, The World Before Her opened the 17th annual Kamloops Film Festival at the Paramount Theatre March 7.

The documentary’s writer/director/producer Nisha Pahuja was in attendance and spoke briefly before the film saying she hoped that people would get something out of it — that people would “feel something.”

One can’t help but feel something watching this film. It is visually brilliant, contrasting a military-style camp in the desert with the ritz and glamour of a televised event viewed internationally by more than one billion people, but also emotionally powerful and conflicting.

You don’t know who you’re cheering for as this film progresses — but finally realize you were cheering for everyone, even if you don’t want to because you don’t share their beliefs.

The story bounces between the two girls’ lives and that of their families. At first glance you would think they had nothing in common, but soon come to realize that they are each in a similar battle for identity with their own families, despite their individual identities being starkly different.

“Now that I step back from it,” said Pahuja after the film, when the audience was invited across the street to a question and answer session, “I realize that all they are is a reflection of their country. [India is] a country undergoing tremendous political, cultural, and economic change…and so naturally they are going to be a mirror of that complexity.”

Ruhi’s world of pageantry is one of conformity and surface value. Many scenes in the film are simply following the contestants as they prepare for the event, being taught how to walk the same, pose the same and more or less look the same. They are subjected to “beauty” treatments such as Botox shots and skin lightening procedures, there are frank discussions about how faces should be “properly proportioned,” diction lessons and runway sessions where the young women are covered from head to waist in white sheets and judged on their lower-halfs only.

Prachi’s world is also about conformity, however, it’s more about a spiritual sameness. The girls in the camp run drills in formation, and their lives are all about being a good Hindu woman and rejecting — by physical force if need be — any outside concepts such as other religions or nationalities.

2012 winner of the Best Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York (where the film made its debut), this is a must-see for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the genre.

Or anyone who finds cultural differences and the differences within cultures themselves as fascinating as I do.

Holy Motors

Brendan Kergin, Art & Entertainment Editor Ω

Holy Motors was the Kamloops Film Festivals evening feature Saturday, March 9.French cinema is often portrayed as over-the-top and pretentious. Holy Motors doesn’t do anything to dissuade that opinion. In fact, it seems to have been built with that type of attitude.

To describe the plot of the 2012 French fantasy-drama one has to understand that the plot doesn’t seem to be especially central to the film at times. The audience starts off in a confusing surrealistic scene where a man living next to an airport opens a secret door in his bedroom which leads into a hallway. At the end of the hallways is a balcony overlooking a crowded theatre while a film plays and a child (in little-to-no clothing) and a large black dog walk up and down the aisles. This sets the tone of the film as more of an arts-y festival film than a wide release feature.

We then move to the real story line, which is fairly straight forward chronologically. We follow a man (Monsieur Oscar played by Denis Lavant) and his female chauffeur (Celine played by Edith Scob) as they drive around Paris in a white limousine. Throughout the day Oscar transforms himself into different characters, taking on different lives and becoming each person in the film’s reality. Some characters seem to be part performance art, others he could have been hired as some sort of criminal plot or for someone’s personal reflection of their own life. There does seem to be some sort of large organization behind the scenes running the operation.

Lavant takes on the difficult role with great skill, as he applies make-up to Oscar’s face and transforms himself into a beggar lady, a dying uncle, a gangster and many others. Scob is solid as well and as they are the only two actors we see over the entire film, their portrayals are the thread which carries the film.

However the rest of the film is difficult to submerge into. It takes awhile to get a hold of what exactly is going on and it’s very difficult to find anything that would draw the audience in for any length of time. It often feels like a series of scenes from other films, based on Lavant’s rotating roster, strung together, using the limo driving duo as the plot’s connective tissue.

For North American audiences, Eva Mendes’s and Kylie Minogue’s involvement were highly touted, though they appear in one segment each. Mendes is nothing special as she plays a completely emotionless model more akin to a Barbie doll with fully flexible limbs than a character, though the scene relies much more heavily on Lavant’s crazy hobo leprechaun-like character. Minogue’s scene is much more involved and actually includes the most character development for Oscar as he and Minogue’s Kay M. discuss their vague past.

Overall the film seems to have a subtext discussing how we live our lives, though it’s difficult to discern what the message is exactly. It could be saying that all the world is a stage, or commentary on our unique perspectives of the world or pointing out how we all have roles in each other’s lives that we play as characters despite being individual people. Maybe it’s all three. Maybe it’s just a weird bit of French cinema.

Ernest & Célestine 

Oriol Salvador, Contributor Ω

Ernest_Et_CelestineThis is not the first time that anthropomorphized animals are used to show the glories and miseries of our society. The technique is as old as humanity and is tied close to a little mouse that became the icon for a major animation film company (and for the 20th century in general) or even further, with the earliest fairy tales.

In the traditionally crafted animated film Ernest & Célestine, it is shown through two main characters, a little mouse and a big bear, outsiders of their respective societies, living in parallel worlds on the surface and in the underground.

Célestine is a little orphan mouse that grew up in her own world full of paintings and not as afraid as her peers when told tales of the frightening story about the Big Bad Bear. She found a way to make a living stealing teeth in the bear’s world which rodent dentists use as implants.

Ernest is a solitary bear, an artist and a street musician who refuses to be a lawyer like his father was and instead, is starving, seeking food to feed his belly. He is an old acquaintance for the village’s policebears, as an outlaw.

Coincidences cause their lives to intersect on a cold winter day when Célestine is trapped in a bin and Ernest finds her and as is established in the foundations of their society, wants to eat her. However, the stubborn Célestine changes his mind. Instead, they cooperate to satisfy their hunger. This provides the basis for a strong friendship later on.

By questioning the foundations of their societies in acts of self-expression, they become prosecutable by the established rules and in parallel situations, their worlds question their attitudes.

This is an emotional animated feature, entertaining and thought-provoking both for children and adults, who would find different levels of interpretation – from the power of societies’ established rules to shape our behavior on a daily basis to the benefits of a good oral hygiene and the power of friendship.

The film is based on a series of books under the same title, created by the Belgian author and illustrator Gabrielle Vincent in the 1980s. The transfer of the book to the big screen was the duty of animation and short film directors Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner.  It was a co-production of Les Armateurs, StudioCanal, Maybe Movies, France 3 Cinéma, La Parti Production and Melusine Productions, with the economic support of the European MEDIA program; the movie was released in France in December 2012.

Among other accolades, it won the César Award for Best Animated Feature in 2013 (award from the French Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinema), a special mention for the Director’s Fortnight prize in Cannes Film Festival 2012, recognitions in BFI London Film Festival 2012 and Seville European Film Festival 2012, the Muhr Award & People’s Choice Award at Dubai International Film Festival also in 2012 and the Cinekid Film Award International Film in 2011.

Smashed

Courtney Dickson, Roving Editor Ω

Smashed_(film)Kate and Charlie Hannah are a carefree, happily married couple. They work nine-to-five jobs and play croquet in their backyard.

They’re also alcoholics.

The Kamloops Film Society showed the 2005 comedy-drama Smashed, directed by Jake Schreier, on the second night of the Kamloops Film Festival. Smashed explores the consequences of becoming sober when the foundation of one’s marriage is alcohol.

The degree of Kate’s problem is magnified when she vomits in front of her first grade students. In an attempt to save her job, she lies to her students and her principal, telling them she’s pregnant, which later backfires.

Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman plays the vice principal of the school where Kate teaches. He’s the only one who sympathizes with her, as he was an alcoholic at one time.  He invites Kate to an alcoholics anonymous meeting where she meets her sponsor, Jenny, played by the talented Octavia Spencer.

“I think I need to slow down. And I might need help,” Kate tells her inebriated husband after she wakes up outside on a duct-taped couch.

Smashed successfully depicted the life of an alcoholic as less than glamorous.  Between wetting the bed, peeing on the floor of the general store and falling asleep during sex, this couple could sway anyone away from such a lifestyle.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead gave an outstanding performance, especially during Kate’s relapse after being fired from her job.  Winstead disturbed the audience when she portrayed Kate’s alcohol-soaked desperation and recklessness during a drunken argument with her at-the-time sober husband.

“Love is the easy part. It’s the rest of this shit that’s hard,” Kate tells Charlie. “I can’t be sober and be with you.”

Fade to black. The next scene takes place one year later, at an AA celebration of Kate’s one-year sobriety. She is now separated from Charlie and has a new job.

“I’m so thankful for this boring new life of mine.”

In his own fit of desperation, Charlie calls Kate and asks to see her. She reluctantly visits him at what was once her home and they have a game of croquet in the yard. The film comes to an abrupt end when Charlie asks Kate to stay and the screen turns to black. It is up to viewers to interpret what Kate chose to do.

Smashed was filmed in only 19 days and on a noticeably low budget, which added authenticity to the mediocre lifestyle the Hannah’s were living.

Smashed is filled with truth and emotion. It will leave viewers with something to discuss, which is exactly what the film industry needs nowadays.

Camera Shy

Mason Buettner, Contributor Ω

CameraShyCamera Shy’s co-writer Doug Barber introduced the film to the audience, describing the film as a micro-budget project shot over 18 days in different areas of the lower mainland, in and around Vancouver. The film was made with a budget of only $300,000, but it is not noticeable in the slightest when viewing the film. Director and co-writer Mark Sawers was able to create a captivating original concept within the well-known genre of dark comedy, making this film worth seeing.

The film’s dark comedy is established within the first minutes and the witty humour doesn’t relent until the final scene fades into the credits. Screenwriters Barber and Sawers wrote a brilliant screenplay forcing the audience to pay close attention to keep up with the numerous plot twists throughout. As the plot develops, Camera Shy turns into a movie within a movie through the eyes of the narcissistic main character Larry Coyle, played by Nicolas Wright.

Coyle is a corrupt Vancouver city councilor doing anything he can to pursue his dream of becoming a federal cabinet minister, including using his adopted orphan kids to get himself out of numerous sticky situations. He consistently does worse things and commits more crimes to achieve his dreams. Coyle seems perfectly fine with what he has done until he starts being followed by a cameraman who films his every incriminating move, but it turns out Coyle is the only one who can see him. Wright plays the character of Coyle perfectly as he bounces back and forth between the imaginary cameraman and the actual cameraman shooting the movie.

Coyle reluctantly seeks the help of a psychiatrist, which eventually leads him to believe that he is a character in a movie of his own life after refusing to take the advice of the psychiatrist. Things really get interesting when Coyle realizes he is responsible for moving the plot forward as the main character of the movie. He takes things into his own hands, but nothing goes as planned. Coyle keeps digging himself deeper into a pit of crime and corruption. It’s a new take on the common movie-within-a-movie and Sawers pulls it off well.

Sawers and Barber weren’t afraid to tackle taboo topics in their dark humour either, causing uproarious laughter each time. They even go as far as poking fun at the film industry itself. The film provides different intertextual references to other popular movies as well, leading into their movie-within-a-movie scenes. It could be described as a movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie. It’s nice to see some original ideas and Camera Shy is a movie worthy of another viewing.

Lunarcy!

Sean Brady, Contributor Ω

Documentary film Lunarcy! follows a variety of characters in their moon based quests.

Documentary film Lunarcy! follows a variety of characters in their moon based quests.

What can we say about those in society who operate on the fringe? Most of the time we ignore what they have to say simply because of how they’re going about spreading their message. There’s the doomsayer on the sidewalk, the zealous conspiracy theorist or even the homeless man convinced someone is tracking his every move. A lot of the time we have good reasons to dismiss fringe behavior. Sometimes we don’t.

Lunarcy documents the dreams and obsessions of its subjects, six in all, who share a common interest in the moon and space travel. The documentary’s main focus is Christopher Carson, who wants to travel to the moon. He insists that after he receives the billions in funding he requires, it would be a mere 18 months until he was on the moon himself.

Carson takes his own ideas very seriously and struggles to deal with the reality of how people respond to him. Carson is obviously different. His obsession with the moon is a full-time endeavour that takes him around the United States to trade shows and speaking engagements. He describes himself as “a person who tries to find the next reality.”

In one scene, Carson is trying to hand out leaflets on the streets of New York, petitioning people to return to the moon, but he’s met with “no thanks,” ignored or worse. Meanwhile we learn more about Carson’s dreams than his street audience ever would.

The film’s style is a playful one and at times it straddles the line between making fun of its subjects and telling their stories, as they unveil ideas like selling property on the moon, building elaborate off-planet colonies or establishing a galactic-level government in conjunction with the United Nations.

Ultimately the film is a collection of light-hearted tales and ideas we might normally roll our eyes at. The packing is what makes it work. The ideas of these people aren’t forced upon us. Instead, they’re told through each of the subjects’ lives in a way that conveys both their ideas and a biographical sketch. We get a real sense of how these characters relate to this (and other) world(s).

Particularly endearing are the film’s titles that it uses to divide the documentary into segments relating to one particular subject or idea. This is where director Simon Ennis’ humour comes through the most. He manages to stay respectful to his subjects while also framing their obsessions in a creative way that accentuates their peculiarity.

Although there’s a supporting cast, Lunarcy is wholly the tale of Christopher Carson’s ignored passion to travel to the moon. As the film progresses, Carson’s obsessions become ours and we’re left excited, wondrous and hopeful for the future of space travel. He embodies a side of the space exploration debate we should probably examine more frequently: why aren’t we satisfying our wonder?

A Royal Affair

Mark Hendricks, Contributor Ω

Sunday evening's film included former Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen.

Sunday evening’s film included former Bond villain Mads Mikkelsen.

As a mother nears the end of her life she writes to the children she never had a chance to know to both seek forgiveness from being absent from their lives and to tell her children the truth of her exile.

This is the stage that marks the beginning of director Nikolaj Arcel’s drama — based on a true period of Danish history — A Royal Affair.

A Royal Affair is a story told on two fronts. It is a story of a nation in the midst of change from its theocratic origins to the free thinking ideals of the Enlightenment. It is also a story about a growing affair between the queen of Denmark Caroline Mathilde, played by Alicia Vikander and the king’s personal physician Johann Friedrich Struensee, played by Mads Mikkelsen.

An affair within a royal court is a popular movie trope, but rarely is it done as well as this. The relationship between Struensee and Mathilde blossoms naturally. This isn’t love at first sight, nor is it a sudden change of heart.

Mathilde is initially distrustful of Struensee’s relationship with the mentally ill King Christian VII, played by Mikkel Boe Følsgaard, with whom she has grown distant. It isn’t until Mathilde discovers Struensee’s enlightenment ideals that their relationship begins to grow.

Struensee has his own motives for getting close to Christian. Once he has Christian’s trust, Struensee begins to use him to attempt to enact a wide series of social changes.

The writing is well done and the actors portray their roles well, from the eccentricities of Christian to the serious nature of Struensee. Følsgaard’s portrayal of the king is masterful, at times aloof, at other times furious and at other times simply seeming like a child in need of a friend.

Christian is a complex character; he is simultaneously the most powerful man in the movie and also the one with the least control. His childish nature is directly at odds with the weighty power that he wields. Although he is king, his mental condition causes him to constantly be taken advantage of by all sides.

During the latter half of the movie this relegates Christian to little more than a tragic plot device as competing interests use him as a mouthpiece for their own agendas.

Despite the aristocratic nature of the film, Arcel manages a good balance of shots. The scenes vary from the lavish gold bedecked interior of the Danish castle in Copenhagen, to the green livery of the royal summer home and to the drab greys and browns of the surrounding cities where the peasantry live in squalor.

The use of music is subtle yet effective. In one scene, during a masquerade ball, the music seamlessly and un-dramatically changes from a royal waltz to a track with more tension, changing the mood without saying a word and in a manner that isn’t jarring to the audience.

A Royal Affair is a movie that uses the backdrop of Danish history to tell an intensely personal story about forbidden love and a country in the midst of change that is worth experiencing.

Amour

Kassandra Mitchell, Contributor  Ω

Amour reminds us even "Happily ever after" has to end sometime.

Amour reminds us even “Happily ever after” has to end sometime.

On Monday, March 11, the Kamloops Film Festival featured the French film Amour, written and directed by Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke. Set in Paris, it tells the story of Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), two retired music teachers enjoying their elderly years together as a married couple.

The film begins with the pair taking in a night of theatre, an event they’ve probably shared together on many occasions. Afterwards, as they make their way home, they discover thieves have tampered with the locks on their front door, leaving Anne frightened and uneasy.

As they lay in bed, Georges can sense his wife’s preoccupation, even with barely a word exchanged between the two of them. The scene is subtle and unhurried, yet reveals the connection they share in an obvious way.

While enjoying breakfast the following morning, Anne suffers a stroke that paralyzes the right side of her body and ultimately restrains her to a wheelchair. She makes her husband promise that no matter what happens, he is never to bring her to a hospital again. As time progresses she becomes fragile and tired, eventually suffering from a second stroke. Georges then hires a nurse to help him take care of his now-immobile wife.

As the film progresses, we play witness to the burdened journey of a man losing his soul mate, slowly, vexingly before his eyes. Haneke brilliantly contrasts moments of incredible sadness with small, tender glimpses of joy. It’s a film that is measured and deliberate, mirroring a woman’s external battle with body and a husband’s internal war of heart — a heart unwilling to break a promise.

At its very core, Amour is a haunting and beautiful love story. For many it echoes the lives of grandparents and parents, family and friends. For myself, it offered thoughts of my senior years, still far from reality but fated, none-the-less. I left the theatre hoping that I, like Anne, will one day be blessed enough to have someone who loves me enough to take care of me should I ever fall sick. I also left hoping that neither my future partner nor I will ever have to endure the agony of losing one another in such a slow and painful way.

Hollywood often depicts tales of romance and chooses to tell the journey rather than the destination. Most of us hope to find love in our lifetime. We hold in our hearts dreams of romance, idealizing a relationship with our perfect match. Not often however, do stories remind us that life-long love is, in actuality, only as long as time allows. Haneke bravely reminds us of the painful caveat in the phrase “happily ever after.”

Amour is a gorgeous tale of love that will linger in your thoughts long after the credits roll. Trintignant delivers a powerful performance as the adoring, yet helpless husband and Riva helps you understand how Anne feels — trapped and isolated by her body. Although a dark, and at certain points depressing, story, in the end Haneke leaves you with a few moments of happiness that might just be enough.

Stories We Tell

Mike Davies, Editor-in-Chief  Ω

A story about stories, told through the telling of one story from many perspectives.

A story about stories, told through the telling of one story from many perspectives. Yeah – it’s complicated.

Stories are what connect us.

But stories are also what allow us to connect.

Sarah Polley, one of the most iconic figures in Canadian film, has woven a tale about a story, and told it using one story as told from multiple perspectives. Confused yet? Let’s try to break it down.

The story of the film, Stories We Tell, is the story of the making of a documentary. That part is relatively straightforward. The documentary being produced in the story is Polley examining her family history from the multiple viewpoints of the members within that family.

Now, it’s not a groundbreaking idea that the same series of events — or even one individual person — will be remembered very differently by those observing them, even when those people are directly involved in (or related to) the events and people themselves. What Polley has done, however, is highlight those differences by having the various members of her immediate family tell the story of her deceased mother and how Sarah came to find out who her real biological father is.

Subtle differences in the recounting of the tale are used to expose the aspect of memory and identity, as the audience finds itself finding different “characters” more or less trustworthy than the others as the tale unravels.

As if that isn’t complex enough, the aesthetic of the film is such that modern, high-definition camera work is intermingled with eight-millimetre camera, archive-style clips (spoiler alert: These are actually re-enactments) to bounce back and forth between the interviews being done with her family members as they recollect the past, the narration from her father in a sound booth and “historic” footage of her parents in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

Love is explored in a way that most don’t consider. It’s discussed in degrees at times and at others examined from certain emotional, and sociological angles that some choose to ignore when discussing this sometimes-ideological emotion.

It’s not the type of movie that you escape into to forget the world around you for a couple of hours — but then again, that’s not why you attend a film festival (or generally engage in a documentary, either, for that matter) — but it certainly is an interesting examination of the human condition.

It can be hard to follow (which of these adult children being interviewed are the biological result of which two other humans?) and slow in progressing, but you won’t be able to say it’s not engaging.

It’s also impossible to ignore the emotion of the subjects themselves as they tell the tale(s) that will make up the story that is their lives.

It’s not depressing or uplifting, but there are tears to be shed and belly-laughs induced.

As I said — it’s complicated.

But it’s worth your time to sift through, just as I’m sure it was worth Polley’s time to produce.

War Witch

Jessica Klymchuk, Contributor Ω

War Witch was Wednesday's Kamloops Film Festival film.

War Witch was Wednesday’s Kamloops Film Festival film.

Canadian director Kim Nguyen presents a culturally authentic depiction of the devastation faced by youth rebels in War Witch. Rachel Mwanza makes her screen debut as Komona, a 14-year-old girl who plainly narrates the film, telling her story to her unborn child. Komona’s simple narration is mirrored by the blunt horrors of her life as a child soldier in Africa.

Komona is 12 when rebel soldiers ambush her village and force her to kill her parents. She is adopted into the rebel army where she is given an AK-47 and taught to kill. The rebels drink white tree sap, “magic milk,” with seemingly hallucinogenic side effects and Komona begins seeing ghosts that warn her when government soldiers are near, earning her the name “war witch” from Great Tiger, the rebel leader. Among the ghosts of past soldiers are her parents, who continuously haunt her.

Amidst the terror of war, however, blossoms a love story between Komona and fellow youth rebel Magician, played by Serge Kanyinda. When Magician convinces Komona that eventually Great Tiger will kill them, like he has others, they run away together.

This is where War Witch takes an unexpected lighter, even humorous, tone as Magician searches for the white rooster Komona tells him he needs to find in order to marry her, like her father used to say. He is laughed at by villagers and told the white rooster is a myth but he searches until he finds one, proving his love through his relentless determination.

When the young married couple returns to Magician’s uncle, a world of order is restored and rebellion seems further away than ever. This proves to be a short-lived fantasy and the grip of war once again becomes their grim reality.

In a film so plagued by death it is remarkable how the subject is dealt with delicately and without the gore that is typically presumed. There is very little blood, but poignant images of violence still resonate from the scenes. It is not sensationalistic, but genuine.

There are several aspects of the film that build its authentic nature; sorcery is an unexpected cultural element.  At one point Magician presents Komona with a grigri, an amulet meant to protect the wearer from evil.  There is also a ceremonious style to the way the rebel children are first presented with their weapons. The sorcery adds a religious layer that intensifies the reality of each situation.

The ghosts Komona sees are uniquely realistic. They are the dead themselves covered in white clay or paint with zombie-glazed eyes. They parallel well with the blunt nature of the film, while still incorporating the haunting aspect of the paranormal that play a key role in Komona’s suffering.

The use of contemporary African music tops off the genuine depiction while it was filmed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

War Witch is a refreshing portrayal of the devastating story of child warriors. Its string of awards and nominations are well earned, including its Academy Award nomination for Canada’s entry into the Foreign Language Film category.

Rust and Bones

Jessica Duncan, Contributor  Ω

Image courtesy Mongrel Media

Image courtesy Mongrel Media

Rust and Bone (De rouille et d’os) was among the bigger titles at this year’s Kamloops Film Festival. Gaining recognition worldwide, the 2012 film has received 13 awards. At the 2013 César Awards (the national film awards of France) it won four awards alone, including Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Rust and Bone is based on Craig Davidson’s short story of the same name. Featuring breathtaking cinematography of the southern France setting shot by Stéphane Fontaine along with a remarkable original score composed by Alexandre Desplat, this film is likely to entice.

Marion Cotillard brilliantly stars as Stéphanie, a former whale trainer who suffers the loss of both her legs in a brutal work accident. Matthias Schoenaerts portrays Alain, an unemployed father who has recently moved in with his sister Anna (Corinne Masiero) who helps with his son, Sam (Armand Verdure). Alain starts working security at a nightclub where he meets Stéphanie prior to her accident. Alain and Stéphanie eventually build a friendship as he slowly helps her deal with the loss of her limbs.

Alain has a deep-seeded interest in kickboxing and is approached by a co-worker to partake in underground boxing matches. The thrill of the fight draws him in and the steady flow of money that comes along with seems to only be a plus. Alain’s love for fighting seems to overpower his interest in his son Sam. Schoenaerts magnificently portrays Alain as an animalistic and wildly sexual being

Stéphanie spends countless hours at the beach with Alain as he teaches her how to swim again. Eventually their relationship includes occasional sexual encounters. Despite Stéphanie’s condition Alain is not afraid to be rough during these encounters. This oddly demonstrates the respectful dynamic of their relationship. Alain also hooks up with other women but doesn’t hesitate to tell her.

Cotillard gives an emotionally raw performance as Stéphanie. She receives prosthetic legs and begins to literally get back on her feet. She begins to accompany Alain to fights, working as his agent as she negotiates the fights for him.

Rust and Bone turns out to be a beautiful, unlikely romance. Although the film is a tad predictable, the struggles each character faces feel genuine and honest. The film ties together a little too perfectly, but anyone who is a sucker for a happy ending will appreciate this. Cotillard and Schoenaerts’s performances alone make this film worth watching.

Parisian Jacques Audiard produced and directed the French-Belgian production. His other works include, Read My Lips (2001) and A Prophet (2009), the winner of the Grand Prix at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Mason Buettner, Contributor  Ω

perks-of-being-a-wallflowerStephen Chbosky, director and writer, has an instant classic with both the novel and film versions of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Chbosky’s screenplay for the film is an improvement on the novel he wrote 13 years earlier. The film’s natural flow is something only the original author of the novel could achieve. Chbosky leaves out just enough details to keep the audience wanting more as the movie unfolds, but some of the details are left for the audience to figure out for themselves.

The film is narrated by the main character Charlie, played by Logan Lerman, who is entering into his first year of high school. It is made clear in the opening scene that Charlie is a loner. He writes revealing letters throughout the duration of the film to an unknown receiver just so someone is listening to what is going on in his life. Charlie had a hard time in middle school and is frightened about entering into his freshman year of high school. After his first day, he admits that high school is even worse than middle school, but he did connect with his advanced English teacher, Mr. Anderson, played by Paul Rudd.

Charlie eventually takes a risk at a school football game by talking to a classmate named Patrick, played by Ezra Miller, who invites Charlie to sit with him. This leads to Charlie meeting Patrick’s stepsister Sam, played by Emma Watson, a beautiful and free-spirited senior. The trio become close friends effectively bringing Charlie out of his shell into the inner circle of the school.

Even though Charlie is focusing on participating in society more, he still cannot escape his past. Chbosky does not reveal to the audience until the end what is haunting Charlie and even then it is not completely clear. Charlie slowly learns how to participate with others throughout the film, but often slips up providing many humorous moments. Chbosky is able to trigger a wide array of emotions in the audience.

The film’s well-rounded cast brings everything together in the film. Lerman appears comfortable acting the numerous uncomfortable situations Charlie puts himself in. Watson sells the American accent well and the audience falls in love with her as Charlie does in the film. Lerman and Watson were both nominated for multiple awards for their performances. Miller is perfect as the eccentric and at times highly emotional Patrick, winning numerous awards for his performance.

Chbosky’s directing and well-written screenplay combined with the all-star cast make The Perks of Being a Wallflower a must see. Even though the film is based in 1991, it is truly a film that speaks to the generation of youth today, touching on many current topics of discussion.

Boy

Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor  Ω

Boy

Boy

The sunny seemingly eternally village of Waihau Bay in 1984 New Zealand plays a warm backdrop for the coming-of-age story of Boy. The story centres on the world of 11-year-old Boy (James Rolleston). It’s a world that starts off happy and simple, despite the fact that, if viewed by an outsider, it seems to be in tatters. His mother passed away during childbirth, his father is in prison (Alamein, played by writer-director Taika Waititi) and he lives with his paternal grandmother, helping take care of his younger brother, Rocky (Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu) and a few cousins.

At school he has friends, but is also bullied. However, Boy is a naturally positive kid with a bright outlook and has hopes for the future that only a child can have. The return of his father is central to these hopes, as Boy idolizes him, openly talking about him as a hero. When his grandmother leaves for a week, leaving Boy in charge, his father returns with two friends and Boy’s world is turned around. It had been so long since they had seen each other Alamein must ask who his own son is, while Rocky, who has only heard stories of his father, must be introduced.

It is here where the varnish starts to come off of Boy’s life. He’s immediately enamoured by his father, the leader of a “gang” (really it’s Alamein and his two friends) and tough guy. As children do, he imitates his father and spends as much time as he can with the man he’s looked up to for so long. However, as the days go by, his father’s true nature, apparent to the audience early on, begins to leak into Boy’s reality, leading to Boy’s realization about his father and Alamein’s first step towards truly filling the role as father.

The film, while simple and humorous on the surface, is more complex with layers to characters’ backstories and relationships. There is very little which is black-and-white and like in real life, the relationships are multi-dimensional. Waititi has done an excellent job writing these complexities into the story and pulling the portrayals from the actors. This was probably somewhat more difficult as much of the film relies on children, especially Rolliston and Eketone-Whitu. The two are able to take on much of the films heavy lifting. However, Waititi didn’t give himself an easy role, playing a deadbeat dad too young for the responsibility of a single father, too immature to realize the realness of that responsibility and still wounded by his love’s death.

It’s easy to see how this became one of New Zealand’s biggest films ever. Waititi has created an incredibly watchable film with more depth than trailers or the first 10 minutes might suggest. While the ending might wrap up a bit neat for some and it’s one of the rare few films that could stand to be longer (to allow for more exploration of Boy’s friends), these are quibbles about an otherwise completely engrossing film.