FNC 2017: Review of Hong Sang-soo’s The Day After (Geu-hu)

In this scene from Korean film The Day After, Song Ah-reum (Kim Min-hee) is ready to begin her first day working at a small publishing house. The Day After is directed by Hong Sang-soo.

On her first day at a new job, Song Ah-reum (Kim Min-hee ) is insulted and slapped by the wife of her boss, Kim Bong-wan (Kwon Hae-hyo). Kim runs a small publishing house and Song is his only employee. Song had no way of knowing that Kim had been having an affair with her predecessor, Lee Chang-sook (Kim Sae-byeok). Now that she does know, is she seeing the “getting-acquainted” lunch she just had with him in a new light? Was he grooming her to be his next conquest?

Kim keeps saying “it’s not her!” but his wife, Song Haejoo (Jo Yoon-hee) does not believe him. Song Ah-reum’s forehead is wrinkled in thought as she watches the two of them bicker. Their marriage might be in trouble, but they still have a bond of sorts, after all, while she is the true outsider. As a woman, she might naturally sympathize with Song Haejoo, but not after being hit several times and being called a shameless hussy (or the equivalent.) Her boss HAD seemed like a nice guy (though maybe a bit condescending). Obviously, he isn’t so nice, after all.

“A man behaving badly” would describe most of the Hong Sang-soo films that I’ve seen, and it certainly fits The Day After. While Kim’s wife frequently calls him a liar, he usually just clams up and says nothing at all, or asks “Are you serious?” rather than answer her questions directly.

Confrontation! In this scene from HongSang-soo’s film The Day After, Song Ah-reum (Kim Min-hee) left, watches her boss, Kim Bong-wan (Kwon Hae-hyo) argue with his rightfully suspicious wife, Song Haejoo (Jo Yoon-hee).

The film is shot in black and white, and moves around in time, as Hong’s films usually do, showing Kim Bong-wan at home (not very often!) in his office, and in restaurants eating and drinking (drinking a lot!) with Chang-sook or Ah-reum. We see Kim on the streets, too, walking with one of the women or by himself. He walks a lot, because he’s trying to figure things out, because he lives far from his office, because he has a guilty conscience? Could be any and all of those. Much of this walking takes place in darkness, at night, or in the very early morning hours; it’s not always clear which. At one point he tries to jog, seemingly confirming his wife’s suspicion that he is trying to improve his appearance for someone other than her.

Sometimes Kim Bong-wan even cries on his solitary walks, but I’m not at all convinced that this means he loved Lee Chang-sook, maybe he just misses having someone, other than his wife, to be with. And drink with.

Lee Chang-sook and Song Ah-reum are both young and pretty and Song Ah-reum seems quite brainy, too. While Song does tell Kim that he is one of the best critics in Korea, he doesn’t come across as exceptional in any way. That did lead me to wonder, why did Chang-sook fall for him? Does proximity breed affection? Was she bored? Very lonely, far from home, with no friends in Seoul? Can Kim be really charming when he puts his mind to it? (If Hong had chosen from among my fave actors for this part, I might not wonder as much. Probably that’s exactly why he did not choose them. Sorry, no offence is intended toward actor Kwon Hae-hyo.)

I wonder: Does Hong Sang-soo know about U.S. comedian Stan Freberg? At one point, the two lovers are locked in a passionate embrace while they exclaim “Bong-wan!” “Chang-sook!” over and over. Do a Google search on “John and Marsha,” you’ll see what I mean.

Things I found amusing: When Kwon Hae-hyo eats with his wife, he slurps his soup and munches his kimchi very noisily. He is much more restrained when eating with his assistants.

Meta or gossipy aspect: Director Hong Sang-soo left his wife of many years for actress Kim Min-hee, who has now appeared in four of his films. You might know her from Park Chan-wook’s film The Handmaiden.

Montrealers can see The Day After at the Festival du nouveau cinéma on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 at 5:30, in Salle 17 of Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin, 360 rue Emery, métro Berri-UQAM.

 

The Day After (Geu-hu, 그 후)
92 minutes long
In Korean with English subtitles
Written and directed by Hong Sang-soo
Cast: Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-hee, Kim Sae-byeok, Jo Yoon-hee

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FNC 2017: What to see Thursday, Oct. 12 at the Festival du nouveau cinéma

Anne Gruwez is an examining magistrate in Belgium. She’s smart, funny, sarcastic and many other things, too, as revealed in the Franco-Belgian documentary Ni Juge, Ni Soumise. (The film is being marketed with the English title So Help Me God.)

I was a bit disappointed that I only had time to see two films at the Festival du nouveau cinéma yesterday (Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017). On the other hand, I liked those two very much. In fact, they were among my favourites so far, so things worked out pretty well in the end.

Both films will be shown again on Thursday, so, if you live in Montreal, maybe you can enjoy them, too. Luckily for potential viewers, the two films will not be shown at the same time (I hate when that happens!) though they follow each other quite closely.

I hope to review them properly soon, but for now, here are the synopses and screening times, from the FNC web site.

Ni Juge, Ni Soumise

This documentary is a France-Belgium co-production. Co-directors Jean Libon and Yves Hinant will take part in a Q&A after the film.

“The cult documentary series Strip-Tease adapted for the big screen. Deadpan Belgian humour that pokes at sensitive places. Uneasy laughter abounds. A judge who’s seen all the evil there is to see reopens a deeply sordid cold case. At the same time, a string of cases crosses her desk, reflecting the ills of an entire society and the absurdity of a world where sometimes all you can do is laugh. A relentless exercise in voyeurism, set as a trap for the viewer, who is left with no choice but to question himself.”

Ni Juge, Ni Soumise
Directed by Jean Libon, Yves Hinant
With judge Anne Gruwez and assorted Belgian residents and citizens
In French, with English subtitles
99 minutes
Thursday. Oct. 12, 2017
Program #243 17:00
Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin Salle 17
350 rue Émery, Metro Berri-UQAM

Nyokabi Gethaiga in the Kenyan film Kati Kati, part of the selection at the Festival du nouveau cinéma in Montreal.

Kati Kati

Kenyan film Kati Kati won the FIPRESCI prize at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s also Kenya’s entry in the foreign language Oscar race.

“Tormented souls caught in limbo must face their demons and come to terms with their guilt in this poetic, unsettling film from Kenya. For his debut feature, Masya serves up a meditative storyline about spirits stranded in an odd village. A sort of No Man’s Land, the site is really a purgatory where each soul must confront past shame and regrets. A singularly inventive film that’s galaxies away from the more familiar representations of the African continent.”

Don’t let the words “tormented” and “unsettling” in that synopsis scare you. Concentrate on the “poetic” and “singularly inventive” aspects. And feel free to complain to me if you don’t like it. Seriously! It’s quite special, though, so I think audiences will like it very much.

Much of the dialogue is in English. When people speak Swahili or Sheng (Swahili-based slang) there are English subtitles.

Kati Kati
Written and directed by Mbithi Masya
Cast: Nyokabi Gethaiga, Elsaphan Njora, Paul Ogola
75 minutes long
Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017
Program #239 19:15
Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin Salle 16
350 rue Émery, Metro Berri-UQAM

The Festival du nouveau cinéma continues until Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. Visit the festival’s web site for more information about the films, events and ticket prices. You can buy tickets online.

FNC 2017: Review of Thai film Samui Song

In the Thai film Samui Song, Vi (Chermarn Boonyasak) is a troubled sopa-opera star.

Samui Song is a Thai film noir from Pen-ek Ratanaruang, the director of Last Life in the Universe, Invisible Waves, Ploy, and Headshot. At least one reviewer has compared it to The Postman Always Rings Twice, but it’s much twistier than that.

Vi (Chermarn Boonyasak) is a soap-opera actress married to French millionaire Jerome (Stéphane Sednaoui, who is a director himself). Their marriage is in trouble because Jerome has fallen under the influence of a sinister cult leader he calls The Holy One. Jerome is outraged that Vi will not swear allegiance to The Holy One (Vithaya Pansringarm), or at least attend some of his events. Vi thinks the monk is a fraud and doesn’t hesitate to say so. This alleged holy man is usually seen in the company of guys who look even more sinister than he does. Assistants? Bodyguards? Thugs or henchmen would be a better description.

In a hospital parking lot, a mysterious man who calls himself Guy Spencer (David Asavanond) asks Vi for a cigarette. Ah, classic move! What will happen if the world ever gives up smoking altogether? Is Spencer just trying to pick her up, or does he have something else in mind? Does he sense that she might need help with something, from a man like himself? Spencer does not have a TV show, but he’s an actor of sorts, too. Soon enough, Vi will be sorry that she met him. “Out of the frying pan, into the fire,” might come to mind.

Things don’t always play out in chronological order in Samui Song. Sometimes we see an event more than once, with extra details added the second time. There are funny bits, too, as when Vi tells her agent she’d like to work with “that weird director” a nudge-nudge reference to Ratanaruang himself. When Vi goes out at a very late hour and tells her husband she’s “getting milk,” it seemed very unlikely, and therefore hilarious to me. And the details of a particular fight scene had me wondering if director Ratanaruang has watched A Clockwork Orange.

Samui Song (Mai Mee Samui Samrab Ter)
Thailand, Germany, Norway
108 minutes
Original version in Thai
Subtitled in English
Directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
Cast: Chermarn Boonyasak, David Asavanond, Vithaya Pansringarm, Stéphane Sednaoui

Samui Song
Tuesday, Oct, 10, 2017
Program #176 4:00 p.m.
Cineplex Odeon Quartier SALLE 10

Samui Song is being shown at the 2017 Festival du nouveau cinéma. Visit the festival’s web site for more information about the films, events and ticket prices.

 

2017 Festival du nouveau cinéma: Cosmonauts and cowboys, zombies, yakuza and Vincent van Gogh

Loving Vincent, about the artist Vincent Van Gogh, is the closing film at the 2017 Festival du nouveau cinéma, in Montreal.

 

The 46th edition of Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinéma began Wednesday, Oct. 4 with an invitation-only screening of Blade Runner 2049 at Place des Arts.

Things really begin in earnest on Thursday; from then until Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, 167 features and 181 short films from 68 countries will be shown. There are 35 events, with at least 25 of them being free ones. Films will be shown at Cinéma du Parc, Cinéma Impérial, Cinémathèque québécoise, Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin Agora Hydro-Quebec du Coeur des sciences de l’UQAM / Chaufferie, L’Espace Jeunes de la Grande Bibliothèque, Société des arts technologiques, la Grande Place du Complexe Desjardins.

Man of Iron is one of several films by Polish director Andrzej Wajda that will be shown at the 2017 Festival du nouveau cinema, in Montreal.

In addition to new films from Fatih Akin, Jane Campion, Denis Cote, Todd Haynes, Hong Sang-soo (two of them!) Aki Kaurismaki, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Yorgos Lanthimos, Claude Lanzmann, and Barbet Schroeder (just to name a few) there will be retrospectives and homages featuring the work of Polish director Andrzej Wajda – Le Terre de la Grande Promesse (1975), Man of Iron (1981), Korczak (1990), Katyn (2007) Walesa, Man of Hope (2013); Japanese director Seijun Suzuki – Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards (1963), Gate of Flesh (1964), Tokyo Drifter (1966), Branded to Kill (1967). Takeshi Kitano brings his modern-day yakuza trilogy to an end with Outrage Coda.

There will be Westerns, old and new, from France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, and Spain, including Lonesome Cowboys (1968) from Andy Warhol, El Topo (1970) from Alejandro Jodorowsky, Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) from Takashi Miike, and The Good, The Bad And The Weird (2008) from Kim Jee-Woon.

Korean film The Good, The Bad and The Weird takes the Western genre to Manchuria in the 1930s. It’s one of several Westerns that will be shown at the 2017 Festival du nouveau cinema in Montreal.

Co-directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani will show their latest film Laisser bronzer les cadavres, Amer (2009), L’etrange couleur des larmes de ton corps (2013), some shorts, and give a master class.

There have been several dramatic films made about the U.S. space program, but when did you last see one from Russia? Salyut 7 will show us how two Soviet cosmonauts brought an unresponsive space station back to life in 1985.

Sports fans might enjoy Borg/McEnroe, a drama about the tennis rivals, fresh from screenings at TIFF and the San Sebastian International Film Festival. Black and White Stripes: The Juventus Story is a documentary about the Italian soccer team.

Black and White Stripes: The Juventus Story is one of the films being shown at the 2017 Festival du nouveau cinéma in Montreal.

In Robin Aubert’s Les Affamés, residents of a small Quebec town defend themselves from zombies.

Virtual reality films of various lengths can be seen at Société des arts technologiques and la Grande Place du Complexe Desjardins.

On Friday, Oct. 13, in association with the Montreal Zombie Walk, there will be a dance party at the Agora, starting at the rather unusual time of 9:13 p.m.

The closing film, Loving Vincent, is a feature-length painted animation based on the works of Vincent Van Gogh. The trailer looked great! The screening on Saturday, Oct. 14 is by invitation only, but it will be shown again on Sunday, Oct. 15.

While many films will be shown twice, some will only have one screening. It’s best not to wait until the last minute to buy tickets. The one and only screening of Swedish satire The Square, on Tuesday, Oct. 10, is already sold out.

 

The descriptions above barely scratch the surface of the FNC offerings. Visit the festival’s web site for more information about the films, events and ticket prices.

The early-bird pass from the 2017 Festival du nouveau cinema is a great deal!

The Festival du nouveau cinéma will run from Oct. 5 to Oct. 15, 2017 in Montreal.

Big film fan? Got time to see lots of films? Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinéma has got a deal for you! Several deals, really. You’ll have to move fast though, because Monday, Sept. 25, 2017 is the last day to take advantage of some extra-special prices.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, the film lineup and schedule will be made public. But until then, you can get an early-bird pass for $150. Students (with a student ID card) and seniors (65 and older) will pay $125. The pass is good for all films except the opening one (Blade Runner 2049!) the closing one, and the Stereoscopic – Dear Criminals 3D show.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26 the price of the regular pass will increase to $200. Students and seniors will pay $160. A single, regular ticket, will cost $13; a student or senior ticket will be $9. A booklet of 6 tickets will be $66. (There is also a discount for films shown before 4 pm. It can get a bit complicated.)

Is it a gamble to buy a pass without knowing which films will be shown? Based on my past experience, I would say, not at all! Last year, the festival showed 138 features and 170 shorts from 62 countries, including works from Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, Andrea Arnold, Lav Diaz, Werner Herzog, Hong Sang-soo, Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Bruce McDonald, Kim Nguyen, Park Chan-wook, Ulrich Seidl, Sion Sono, and Bertrand Tavernier.

There were dramas, comedies, fantasies, documentaries, European TV episodes and films suitable for children. There were two interactive films where audience members made decisions for onscreen characters via apps on their smart phones or tablets.

Blade Runner 20149 is the opening fim of the 2017 Festival du nouveau cinema. Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling are the stars; the film was directed by Montreal’s own Denis Villeneuve.

Apart from Blade Runner 20149, we also know that the zombie flick Les Affamés, from Québécois director Robin Aubert is on the schedule. It won the award for Best Canadian Feature Film at the recent Toronto International Film Festival. Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri and Micheline Lanctôt are among the stars.

I’ve never had a problem at the Festival du nouveau cinéma finding enough films that appealed to me, my only difficulty was making a schedule that included as many of them as possible. I have a friend who is a true film festival fiend. He often sees 60 to 70 films at a typical Montreal festival. If he did see 70 films at FNC, each one would cost him a mere $2.14 with the $150 pass or $2.86 with the $200 pass. If he only saw 30 films, that would work out to $5 or $6.66 each. Still a great deal!

The Festival du nouveau cinéma will run from Oct. 5 to Oct. 15, 2017 in Montreal.

Films will be shown at Cinéma du Parc, Cinéma Impérial, Cinémathèque québécoise, Cineplex Odeon Quartier Latin.

Buy early bird passes here.

Visit the FNC ticket information page for more ticket options.

FFM 2017: Free entry to the closing film, Monday night

The Awards Ceremony for the Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde will be at 7 pm. Monday, Sept 4, 2017, at the Imperial Cinema, 1430 Bleury St. When the ceremony is over, around 7:30, there will be a free closing film.

Film fans can watch the closing film of the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde free of charge tonight, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017.

The as-yet-unnamed film will be shown after the awards ceremony. That ceremony will begin at 7 pm, and last for about 30 minutes, or so I am told.

Surprises can be nice, but not naming the film in advance does not seem very wise to me. Who will venture downtown for a film if they know nothing about it?

It might make sense to show the winning film, but I have no idea if that is what will happen.

FFM 2017: My prediction for best film – Y de Pronto el Amanecer

Chilean director Silvio Caiozzi, right, instructs child actors in his film Y de Pronto el Amanecer (And The the Dawn.) The film ran in competition at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde. The winner will be announced tonight, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017.

UPDATE: Y de Pronto el Amanecer did indeed win the Grand Prix of the Americas, for Best Film.

I predict that Y de Pronto el Amanecer (And Then the Dawn) will win the competition for best film at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde tonight.

I did not even see all the films in competition, but I really liked The Hidden Sword, from China; Upstream, from Taiwan, was very well done, and friends who saw it told me Anna Karenina: Vronsky’s story was spectacular.

Given all that, it might be rash to predict a win for Y de Pronto el Amanecer, but the story, the acting and the scenery in this Chilean film from director Silvio Caiozzi were all so very impressive. The film is 195 minutes long, but I was never bored for even one second.

A few hours from now I’ll either be saying “Ooops!” or “I told you so!”

The awards ceremony will be at 7 p.m., at the Imperial Cinema, 1430 Bleury St. When it is over, at approximately 7:30 (so I am told) there will be a free, closing film. The name of the closing film will only be announced at the ceremony.

These are the films in competition:

41ST MONTREAL WORLD FILM FESTIVAL
18 films in WORLD COMPETITION

A PROMINENT PATIENT / MASARYK by Julius Ševcík (Czech Republic / Slovakia)
100min; anglais s.t.f & s.t.a

AND SUDDENLY THE DAWN / Y DE PRONTO EL AMANECER by Silvio Caiozzi (Chile)
195min; espagnol s.t.f & s.t.a

ANNA KARENINA. VRONSKY’S STORY / ANNA KARENINA. ISTORIYA VRONSKOGO by Karen Shakhnazarov (Russia)
138min; russe s.t.f & s.t.a

APPENDIX by Hossein Namazi (Iran)
83min; farsi s.t.f & s.t.a

CARDINAL X by Angie Wang (USA)
98 min; anglais s.t.f

DEAR ETRANGER / OSANAGO WARERA NI UMARE by Yukiko Mishima (Japan)
127min; japonais s.t.f & s.t.a

ELVIS WALKS HOME by Fatmir Koçi (Albania / UK)
94min; anglais s.t.f

FALLING IN /OUT OF LOVE by Dominic Bachy (France)
95min; français s.t.a

FOOTPRINTS by Wong Wai (Hong Kong, China)
120min; mandarin s.t.f & s.t.a

FROZEN IGNAT / CINE A UCIS CRACIUNUL? by Dinu Tãnase (Romania)
81min; roumain s.t.f & s.t.a

PATH OF MARYAM by Atia Aldaraji (Iraq / Germany)
76min; arabe s.t.f & s.t.a

RECONCILIATION / ZGODA by Maciej Sobieszczanski (Poland)
87min; polonais s.t.f & s.t.a

SAYAKBAY – HOMER OF 20TH CENTURY by Ernest Abdyjaparov (Kyrgyzstan)
82min; kyrgyz s.t.f & s.t.a

THE BASICS OF KILLING / DRUŽINICA by Jan Cvitkovic (Slovenia / Serbia)
99min; slovène s.t.f & s.t.a

THE HIDDEN SWORD by Xu Haofeng (China)
137min; chinois s.t.f & s.t.a

UNAWARE CONTROL / HUA SE by Xiaoyan Xu (China)
94min; chinois s.t.f & s.t.a

UNSUNG HEROES / NOI ERAVAMO by Leonardo Tiberi (Italy)
90min; italien s.t.f & s.t.a

UPSTREAM by David Chuang (Taiwan)
80min; mandarin s.t.f & s.t.a

The Awards Ceremony for the Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde will be at 7 pm. Monday, Sept 4, 2017, at the Imperial Cinema, 1430 Bleury St. When the ceremony is over, around 7:30, there will be a free closing film.

FFM 2017: The Montreal World Film Festival is not dead yet, thanks to volunteers!

MONTREAL- Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 – Film fans stretch to catch a glimpse of director Xu Haofeng and his actors before a screening of Chinese film, The Hidden Sword, at the Imperial Cinema. The Hidden Sword is in competition at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des films du monde. Photo by Liz Ferguson.

This year, like last year, the Montreal World Film Festival/Festival des films du monde is a shadow of its former self. The festival doesn’t seem to be getting any money from any level of government. All the same, it IS still alive, thanks to some wonderful volunteers! I doff my metaphorical hat to them!

You’ll see them selling tickets, working as ushers etc., but there are more unseen workers behind the scenes, as well. Without their work, the cinemas would be dark.

Many of the volunteers don’t even know festival founder Serge Losique, but they do follow his maxim: “It’s all about the films!”

While I didn’t formally interview any of them, I can see that the volunteers range in age from their early 20s to 60s, maybe even 70s. While some of the older volunteers are retirees, others are giving up precious vacation days. They are film fans have enjoyed the festival for decades and they don’t want to see it die. Several people now working for free were on the festival payroll for many years.

The volunteers and the people who are still buying tickets truly appreciate the festival’s dedication to films from the far corners of the globe that are not made in the familiar Hollywood mold. (If I had a nickel for every time I heard that over the years. . .seriously, I really would be rich.)

(Do you care about those film fans, government people? While most of them are tax-paying citizens, some of them are tourists, from other parts of Canada, and the U.S., who have been coming to Montreal for the festival for years.)

Check out the festival this long holiday weekend. Many directors are here with their films, and some brought their actors, too. Sometimes there are Q&As in the cinema right after the screening, but even if there isn’t one, you can usually ask questions in the lobby. At the very least, if you liked the film, you can thank and congratulate the director. They seem quite willing to have their pictures taken with fans, too. A nice souvenir of the festival! Fans are quite friendly, too. If you ask nicely, most will be happy to tell you what they have seen and what they thought of it.

MONTREAL- Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017 – Chinese director Xu Haofeng, second from right, with actors and others associated with his film, The Hidden Sword. The Hidden Sword is in competition at the 2017 Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des films du monde. Photo by Liz Ferguson.

Films are being shown at the Imperial Cinema, Cinéma du Parc and the Dollar Cinema. From my own experience I can say that some of them are very good! And people I trust have said the same about other films. So far, I haven’t seen anything that I regret. I particularly liked The Hidden Sword, from China, directed by Xu Haofeng, and Y de Pronto el Amanecer, from Chile. It was directed by Silvio Caiozzi. Both films are playing in competition.

Links to schedules are below. Unfortunately, there isn’t a fancy printed program this year, nor is there the “big book” of yesteryear, but at Cinéma du Parc, you can pick up a schedule, with synopses, of the films that are being shown there.

The Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des films du monde continues until Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. Tickets are $11 each, or you can buy a booklet of 10 coupons, which must be exchanged for tickets, for $85.

The Imperial schedule is here.
Cinéma du Parc schedule is here.
The Dollar Cinema schedule is here.
To read a film’s synopsis, click on its category, which will be in blue on your screen.

For example, REG is Regards sur les cinémas du monde / Focus on World Cinema, and DOC is Documentaires du monde / Documentaries of the world. (I won’t list all the categories here.)

FFM 2017: Martial arts director Xu Haofeng is in Montreal to show his latest film, The Hidden Sword

Director Xu Haofeng instructs actors in fighting techniques on the set of his film The Final Master. Xu is in Montreal to show his latest film, The Hidden Sword and to meet with film fans.

Xu Haofeng practices martial arts, writes books and film scripts about martial arts, makes martial-arts films AND does the fight choreography, too! Impressive, right? That would be a dream life for some aficionados!

Xu’s previous films are The Sword Identity, Judge Archer and The Final Master. The latter was shown to appreciative audiences here at the Fantasia International Film Festival just a few weeks ago.

Now Xu himself is here in Montreal, at The Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde to present his latest work, The Hidden Sword.

 The Hidden Sword will be shown at 7 p.m., Sunday Aug. 27, 2017 at the Cinema Imperial, 1430 Bleury St. (H3A 2J1).  Here’s a plot synopsis from an article in Screen Daily: “Based on Xu’s own novella, the film is set in the 1930s when a special sword has helped the Chinese army win the war against Japan. The old man who developed the sword tries to go into hiding with his family, when his martial techniques start to attract too much attention, but eventually the outside world starts to intrude.”

A scene from Xu Haofeng’s film The Hidden Sword.

A few hours before the film, Xu will give a master class at the nearby L’Astral, 305 Ste. Catherine St. W. (QC H2X 2A3). Admission to the master class is free of charge and open to anyone.

Xu will also give a press conference at 4 p.m, on Monday, Aug. 28, 2017 at the Intercontinental Hotel, 360 St. Antoine W. (QC H2Y 3X4). That is free and open to all, as well.

Tickets to the film are $11. You can buy them online or at the cinema.

The Montreal World Film Festival / Festival des film du monde is running until Sept. 4, 2017.  Films are being shown at Cinema Imperial. Cinema du Parc and the Dollar Cinema. Consult the FFM/MWFF schedule on the Internet. Tickets are $11, a booklet of 10 coupons, which must be exchanged for tickets, is $85.

The Hidden Sword, 7 p.m., Sunday Aug. 27, 2017 at the Cinema Imperial, 1430 Bleury St.

Fantasia 2017 Review: Estonian film November (Rehepapp)

In the Estonian film November (Rehepapp), Liina’s mother is waiting for her daughter in the graveyard.

November (Rehepapp) is a black-and-white film that draws upon Estonian history and folklore. It plays out like a timeless, definitely-not-Disney fairy tale – almost everybody is dressed in rags and has a very dirty face, even though they DO have saunas. As far as we can see, those saunas are used more by the dead than by the living. Every autumn, villagers await their deceased relatives in the local graveyard, then take them home for food, gossip and a sauna. Rumour has it that the dead are somehow transformed into giant chickens while using the sauna.

Even more fantastical than those ideas, for me, was the concept of the kratt – a sometimes cranky, sarcastic creature made from odds and ends (branches, pitchforks, hay) who serves his master by stealing things and doing chores around the farm. A kratt does not come cheaply, though – a person has to sell his soul to the devil to make his kratt come alive. Where does one meet the devil? At the crossroads, in the dead of night, of course.

There’s nothing bucolic about life in the countryside – the peasants face hunger, poverty and the plague. There is conflict between parent and child, Christianity and paganism. Co-operation seems like an unknown concept; greed and selfishness abound. People are willing to betray family, friends, and neighbours for any small advantage. Many hope to get their hands on a legendary cache of hidden silver.

In the Estonian film November (Rehepapp) Liina (Rea Lest) watches in dismay as Hans (Jöšrgen Liik) stares at the baron’s daughter.

Young Liina (Rea Lest) lives with her father, who wants to marry her off to his gross old drinking buddy, Endel. Liina will have none of it; she wants to marry Hans (Jörgen Liik), her friend and contemporary. But Hans is smitten by the sleep-walking daughter of the German baron who rules the area from his imposing manor house. (Unlike the others, the baron and his daughter have clean faces and clean clothes. At home, the baron wears a fancy embroidered coat that makes him look the Liberace of his day. German actor Dieter Laser plays the baron; Imdb.com says he was also in the Human Centipede films.)

The baron (Dieter Laser) and his daughter (Katariina Unt) are among the few clean, well-fed people in November(Rehepapp). Just how tall is that hat, anyway?

Google tells me that Estonia was among the last European countries to be Christianized, and the last to abolish serfdom, as well. Though the characters in the film are nominally Christian, that doesn’t stop them from stealing things from the church, nor does it stop Liina from asking a witch to help her win Hans over. If they are still serfs, that would go far in explaining their miserable circumstances.

I saw November (Rehepapp) at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal. Both screenings were sold out, so I was very lucky to see it at all. Unlike some of the other popular films at the festival, November is not full of laughs, or action, but it’s well worth seeking out.

Oscilloscope Films has the North American distribution rights and will give the film a theatrical release in the fall.  Watch out for it! An article on the Deadline.com web site has a very apt quote from Oscilloscope’s Dan Berger: “November is one of the most unique and stunning films to come along in some time. It’s equal measures beautiful love story and balls-to-wall bonkers-ass folk tale. It keeps you rapt, guessing and intrigued from its first frame to its last.” Yeah, what he said!

Some films are quite entertaining while we’re watching, but once they’re over we move on. After  watching November the first thing I looked up was the kratt – was it the author’s invention or was it part of folklore? Folklore it was! Then I wanted to know about Estonian history, its rulers, serfdom, paganism and Christianity, saunas for the dead, the ravages of the plague, etc., etc. I really like it when that happens, though such exploration delays my reviews a bit.

November’s cinematographer Mart Taniel won the Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature award at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. I can’t find photos of one of the more stunning images in the film – a lake surrounded by trees with white leaves.

November is based on the novel Rehepapp, by Andrus Kivirähk. There doesn’t seem to be an English translation yet, but it has been translated into French, as Les Groseilles de novembre: Chronique de quelques détraquements dans la contrée des kratts. Another book by Andrus Kivirähk has been translated into French as Homme qui savait la langue des serpents. In English it is called The Man Who Spoke Snakish. Kivirähk’s books are available at Amazon and Indigo; Indigo has German and Spanish translations of the “Snakish” book, as well.

The film November is based on Andrus KivirŠahk’s book Rehepapp. It has been translated into French as Les Groseilles de novembre: Chronique de quelques dŽétraquements dans la contrŽée des kratts. There is no English translation. Another one of his books is available in French and English translations as L’homme qui savait la langue des serpents and The Man Who Spoke Snakish.

November (Rehepapp) is an Estonia, Poland, Netherlands co-production, in Estonian and German, with English subtitles.
Written and directed by Rainer Sarnet
Cast: Rea Lest, Jörgen Liik, Dieter Laser, Katariina Unt, Taavi Eelmaa, Arvo Kukumägi, Heino Kalm, Meelis Rämmeld
Cinematographer: Mart Taniel
Production company: Homeless Bob Production, PRPL, Opus Film
North American distribution by Oscilloscope.