The loopy trailer for the feature film Lake Michigan Monster is enough to make me want to see it, and several enthusiastic reviews on the Internet further seal the deal.
In the Detroit Free Press, John Monaghan writes: “The entire budget would barely pay for one of Captain America’s boots, but that doesn’t stop the Milwaukee-made horror comedy “Lake Michigan Monster” from delivering more crazy and clever visual tricks than the last 10 Marvel superhero blockbusters put together.”
On the Film Threat web site Joshua Speiser writes: “Self-winking parody is one of the hardest genres to pull off. So, my hat is off to Tews and his band of merry pranksters. The films’ ridiculously limited budget, anemic/scenery chewing acting, grainy 16mm film stock, Dollar Store special effects and weaponry, and chop-socky editing all work to the film’s advantage to create an aesthetic that would make Ed Wood proud. . . I encourage you to follow the filmmaker’s lead — grab a bottle of rum (or two), gather together some of your idiot friends, cast off your high-brow cinematic pretensions, and cue up this 78 minutes of nonsensical nautical mayhem.”
At Isthmus, Josh Heath writes: “The black-and-white aesthetic, along with hand-crafted sets, digital special effects, and kinetic camera work make this film stand out. Its bonkers comedy, constant barrage of humor, and reliance on meta-humor, in particular, may leave some viewers a little overwhelmed, however.”
No worries, Josh, the Fantasia audience can handle it!
He goes on to say “It’s not necessarily a movie you’ll want to watch casually on a Sunday afternoon. You need friends on Friday night for something this ridiculous.”
Fantasia is showing Lake Michigan Monster at 5 pm on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Close enough? Anyway, everyone says the weekend starts on Thursday, right?
To top it all off, there will be FOUR (4!!!) guests at the screening – director Ryland Tews, screenwriter and editor Mike Cheslick, actor Daniel Long and producer Louis Schultz. I’m sure that they will share some cool stories. We can ask questions – that’s always fun! Let me save everybody some time here. The film was shot for a mere $7,000 and it took two years to make.
(At an after-screening Q&A someone ALWAYS asks”how long did it take” to shoot and “how much did it cost,” instead of the things *I* would like to know, such as “How did you DO THAT?” “How did you EVER get permission to. . .?” “How on Earth did you convince X to take part?”)
Read more about the film and the Fantasia Film Festival in general on the Fantasia web site.
Lake Michigan Monster (2018) Written and Directed by Ryland Brickson Cole Tews. Starring Ryland Brickson, Cole Tews, Erick West, and Beulah Peters
Thursday, July 25, 2019
5:00 pm Salle J.A. De Sève
1400 de Maisonneuve Blvd W,
RIDM documentary film festival has announced an additional screening of Hale County This Morning, This Evening by RaMell Ross.
The film just won the festival’s Grand Prize for best international feature. It will be shown Sunday, Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. at the Cinémathèque Québécoise
Here is the film’s synopsis from the RIDM web site: “This first documentary feature by photographer RaMell Ross radically redefines the on-screen representation of African Americans. Filmed over nearly five years in a small Alabama town, Hale County This Morning, This Evening rejects documentary conventions in favour of a sensory, lyrical approach centred on capturing moments of everyday life. Alternating between the mundane and the sublime, the sociological and the metaphysical, Hale County takes us to the heart of a community without ever squeezing it into a utilitarian grand narrative. While some of the protagonists break away, they are just one element of the sensitive reality conveyed by the filmmaker through bold editing reminiscent of poetic writing. (BD)”
Here is a quote from by Bilge Ebiri in the Village Voice: “It’s not every day that you witness a new cinematic language being born, but watching RaMell Ross’s evocatively titled documentary Hale County, This Morning, This Evening qualifies. The director, a photographer and teacher who was coaching basketball in the middle of the Black Belt region of the American South, knew the subjects of his documentary for several years before deciding to create a film around them. The finished work, a half decade in the making, is informed by his deep familiarity with its characters, which might be one reason why he has the confidence to abandon traditional narrative structures and strike out on his own lyrical path.”
“By sticking to his impressionistic perspective, by fracturing his narrative, Ross achieves something genuinely poetic — a film whose very lightness is the key to its depth. Hale County traverses years, encompasses tragedy and beauty, all in just 78 minutes. His is an empathetic camera, focusing on the kinds of details that pull us into this world, with a photographer’s eye for taking everyday moments and finding transcendence in them.”
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: ‘It wasn’t just anywhere in Alabama that the filmmaker had moved to. Hale County, at one point largely white, was where photographer Walker Evans and writer James Agee went in the 1930s to do the work that became the legendary collaboration “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.”
“. . .Though words can describe what “Hale County” shows, they really can’t convey how involving this visual symphony is. As much as anything else, the film is a tribute to the mystical power of the moving image, and to Ross’ keen and empathetic eye.”
Hale County, This Morning, This Evening has 22 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Only one review is negative – the critic thinks that there are too many basketball scenes and not enough women in the film. Check out those reviews to see if Hale County, This Morning, This Evening is for you!
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Country : United States
Year : 2018
V.O : English
Duration : 76 minutes
Cinematography : RaMell Ross
Editing : RaMell Ross
Production : Ramell Ross, Joslyn Barnes, Su Kim
Sound Design : Dan Timmons, Tony Volante
Presented In Collaboration With The Montreal International Black Film Festival
Sunday, Nov. 18 at 9 p.m. in the Salle Canal D of the Cinémathèque Québécoise, 335, de Maisonneuve E. Montréal, Québec,
UPDATE: After watching the first half of this documentary I can say that it did not seem long at all, and it certainly was not boring.
Dead Souls (Ames Mortes for the version with French subtitles) is a documentary by acclaimed Chinese cineaste Wang Bing. Here’s an extract from the synopsis on the RIDM web site: “Wang Bing’s latest work is more than just a film. A painstaking compilation of testimonials, as precise as they are devastating, Dead Souls is a crucially important historical document. . .Wang Bing looks back at China’s post-war reeducation camps. Through survivors’ chilling stories, Wang exposes the cruelty inmates experienced and, especially, the workings of the implacable and terrifying political machine that set out, in the mid-1950s, to crush all opposition both real and imagined. The remains abandoned in the Gobi Desert remind us of the staggering death toll. . .”
A long story, with many victims, takes a long time to tell. RIDM is presenting Dead Souls in two parts, over two days, Saturday Nov. 17 and Sunday Nov. 18, 2018. Each part is 250 minutes long. A ticket for Saturday’s screening is good for Sunday’s as well.
Dead Souls has a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You can read 13 favourable reviews there.
Here is a quote from Variety: “Wang Bing’s ‘Dead Souls’ is a powerfully sobering and clear-eyed investigation that justifies its length through the gravity and presence of its testimony. Wang. . . isn’t just making a historical documentary; he’s using oral memoir to forge an artifact of history. . . it does just what a movie that’s this long should: It uses its intimate sprawl to catalyze your view of something — in this case, how the totalitarianism of the 20th century actually worked. (One is tempted to say: quite well.)
And one from Toronto’s NOW: “it’s an overwhelming and damning portrait, but the film’s power lies in heartbreaking, idiosyncratic and overlapping details.”
I will watch this on Saturday and report back. I imagine that one COULD watch Part 2 without seeing Part 1.
Nov. 17, 2018 6:30 p.m.
Cinémathèque Québécoise – Salle Fernand-Seguin
Screening presented with English Subtitles
Nov. 18, 2018 6:00 p.m.
Cinémathèque Québécoise – Salle Fernand-Seguin
Screening presented with English Subtitles
Kazuhiro Soda’s documentary Oyster Factory was shown at Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinéma in 2015. If you missed it then you have another chance to see it now, at the documentary festival RIDM. Kazuhiro Soda who is here for a retrospective of his films will introduce Oyster Factory and answer questions abut it after the screening.
I did not see Oyster Factory at FNC, so I will quote some reviews below. I DID see Soda’s Campaign 1 and Campaign 2 at RIDM, so I can attest to his filmmaking and editing skills and his ability to get along with most people. (There WERE a few cranky people in the Campaign films.) The Campaign films were long but not boring; I did not see anyone leave the cinema. So don’t be frightened by Oyster Factory’s 145 minute running time.
Now, here are those review excerpts: Clarence Tsui of the Hollywood Reporter wrote:
“Oyster Factory. . .bears testament to the filmmaker’s skills in wringing out big issues from the “little people.” Edited out of 90 hours of footage shot over three weeks in one seaside community in southwestern Japan, the film slowly and successfully teases out the country’s clammed-up anxiety about a new, globalized economy through the struggle of workers in mom-and-pop shellfish process businesses.
“Engaging as always with his settings and subjects, Soda demonstrates an instinct in capturing fears and doubts when they come to the fore, while also carefully putting these emotional implosions in context. . .
“Combining a pervasive sense of grit and offering odd moments of grace – the town is part of what is dubbed “Japan’s Aegean Sea” after all – Oyster Factory slowly cracks its settings of provincial serenity open and leaves the viewer to reflect on the future.”
On PardoLive, a section of the Locarno Film Festival’s web site, Aurélie Godet wrote: “Who would have thought that fishing and shucking oysters could be so engaging to a film audience? It is, though. And for many reasons beyond the mollusk itself. Sôda’s new observational documentary depicts the world of small oyster factories in Japan’s southern province of Okayama. . .
“Viewers familiar with Sôda’s previous documentaries (Mental, the Campaign and Theatre diptychs) will recognize the filmmaker’s talent for recording people’s unconscious behaviors and welcoming unpredictability. An open attitude rewarded again by a surge of strange or comical events.
“Films may not change the world, but Kazuhiro Sôda’s films can certainly show us how to look and truly see our changing world.”
In the Japan Times, Mark Schilling explained that the film “about oyster harvesting in the port of Ushimado on the picturesque Seto Inland Sea was shot in only three weeks, minus the usual sort of advance work to smooth the way. This is not laziness but rather Soda’s standard way of staying fresher to new situations than filmmakers who arrive on location with all their expert interviews neatly scheduled.”
Schilling further stated: “As a film, Oyster Factory may not be slick, but it is warm, insightful and human.”
Director: Kazuhiro Soda
Producer: Kiyoko Kashiwagi
Cinematographer: Kazuhiro Soda
Editor: Kazuhiro Soda
International Sales: Laboratory X
In Japanese, with English subtitles
145 minutes long
Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 4:30 p.m. Cinéma du Parc – Salle 3 3575 Park Ave, Montreal, QC H2X 3P9
Men with guns, shouting crowds, inflamed rhetoric about immigrants, demand for their deportation – that sounds like the daily newscasts, right?
It also describes the trailer for the documentary film Bisbee ’17. You can see that trailer below. Montrealers can watch the entire film on Monday, Nov. 12 or Friday Nov. 16, 2018 as part of documentary film festival RIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal).
The film is described as follows on the RIDM web site:
“In July 2017, the town of Bisbee, Arizona marked a sad centennial: in 1917, the town was the site of the violent deportation of more than 1,000 striking copper miners, who were abandoned in the desert by an armed posse hired by the mining company and led by the sheriff.
As a way to reflect on the causes and horrific consequences of the tragedy, (director) Robert Greene did more than interview Bisbee residents or record the western shows in nearby Tombstone. Instead, he enlisted the residents to perform a re-enactment of the deportation. Between the performance and past and present testimonials, Bisbee’17 is an unforgettable film that cuts straight to America’s dark heart, the better to examine the present and envision the future.”
Robert Greene’s previous films are: Owning the Weather (2009); Kati with an I (2010); Fake It So Real (2011); Actress (2014); Kate Plays Christine (2016)
Monday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.
Université Concordia – Auditorium Des Diplômés de la Sgwu (H-110)
1455 de Maisonneuve W., Montréal, QC H3G 1M8
Screening presented with English subtitles
Robert Greene (filmmaker), Fernando Serrano (protagonist) and Bennett Elliott (producer) will be there to take part in a Q&A after the film. Presented in collaboration with Cinema Politica.
Friday, Nov. 16, 9 at p.m.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal – Cinéma du Musée
1380 Sherbrooke St. W, Montreal, QC H3G 1J5
Screening presented with English subtitles
The Festival du nouveau cinéma has nabbed Alfonso Cuaron’s new film Roma. Roma won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was also shown to great acclaim at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival.
According to an email from FNC “the film follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City. Delivering an artful love letter to the women who raised him, Cuarón draws on his own childhood to create a vivid and emotional portrait of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil of the 1970s.”
Roma will be shown on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, at 6 p.m. at the Imperial Cinema, 1430 Bleury, Montréal, QC H3A 2J1
Roma will be available in theatres and on Netflix in December. But why not see it this month? And of course, a theatre would be the best place to see it.
Black comedy, dark comedy, parody, spoof, all those words are suitable to describe the Iranian film Pig (Khook).
I don’t know how a script that includes murders, adultery and dancing was approved by Iranian censors, but it was, and I enjoyed it a lot. Check it out for laugh and surprises!
Acclaimed actress Leila Hatami gets to show her lighter side. You can read my review here.
Directed and written by Mani Haghighi
Cast: Hasan Majuni; Leila Hatami; Leili Rashidi; Parinaz Izadyar; Mina Jafarzadeh; Aynaz Azarhoosh; Ali Bagheri; Siamak Ansari; Ali Mosaffa
Language: Farsi with English subtitles
Length: 107 minutes
You can see Pig on Tuesday, Oct 9, 2018, at 9:30 p.m. at Cinémathèque Québécoise (355 de Maisonneuve E.) as part of the Festival du nouveau cinéma.
A Taxi Driver is the closing film of the 2017 edition of the Fantasia International Film Festival. It’s a dramatization of chilling, real-life events from South Korea’s tumultuous history.
In May of 1980, Jurgen Hinzpeter, a German reporter, stationed in Tokyo, hears rumours about government violence against citizens in Gwangju South Korea. News is not getting out because phone lines have been cut and roads into and out of the city are blocked. The country is under martial law; many schools are closed and news reports are censored.
Hinzpeter (played by Thomas Kretschmann) flies to Seoul and hires a taxi driver named Mr. Kim (Song Kang-ho) to drive the 300 km to Gwangju. (In those days, the city’s named was rendered as Kwangju in English.) With advice form local farmers, the two men manage to bypass the barricades and enter the city using tiny back roads.
Once in the city they see a real spirit of solidarity among the citizens, who are hungry for democracy and an end to military rule. Then they see soldiers shooting the protestors, young and old, along with people who try to help the wounded. They capture these events on film while trying to avoid arrest, injuries or their own deaths.
The film’s only screening, today, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017, is sold out, but if you are among the lucky people who have a ticket, here are some links to recent articles and ones written at the time, that will give you some background information to the events depicted in the film.
An article in today’s New York Times says: “With the Korean news media muzzled by martial law, only the handful of foreign correspondents present could publish reports on what was happening in Gwangju. . .Mr. Hinzpeter was one of the few foreign correspondents to document the carnage, and his footage was seen around the globe.”
“Mr. Hinzpeter, who died last year at 78, has long been celebrated in South Korea for his part in exposing Mr. Chun’s atrocities. A memorial to the journalist stands in Gwangju. . . Behind a hospital, ‘relatives and friends showed me their loved ones, opening many of the coffins that had been placed in rows,’ Mr. Hinzpeter wrote. ‘Never in my life, even filming in Vietnam, had I seen anything like this.’ “
This article from The Hankyoreh calls the massacre Korea’s Tiananmen, referring to the 1989 massacre of students in Beijing, China. Lee Gang-jun lost his twin brother Lee Gang-su. “When he asked a forensic pathologist to determine the cause of death in 1997, just before the body was moved from a cemetery in Gwangju’s Mangwol neighborhood to the May 18th National Cemetery, it was because he wanted the truth to come out. ‘My brother’s skull was caved in, and even the specialists couldn’t figure out what the marks were caused by,’ (Lee) said. Gang-jun believes that his brother died during torture at the Sangmudae military base. After his death, soldiers shot him to create the impression that he died from a bullet would instead of complications suffered during torture.”
This article from ThoughtCo. says “Troops shot dead twenty girls at Gwangju’s Central High School. Ambulance and cab drivers who tried to take the wounded to hospitals were shot. One hundred students who sheltered in the Catholic Center were slaughtered. Captured high school and university students had their hands tied behind them with barbed wire; many were then summarily executed.”
An article in The Korea Observer includes quotes from Na Byung-un, who was there in Gwangju. “In those days, South Korea’s GDP per capita was just under $4,000 per person, or less than one-sixth than that of the United States, according to World Bank data. As a country with few natural resources recovered from Japanese colonization, it struggled to find its footing politically, economically, and socially. This was especially true in Gwangju, a city nestled in the one of the poorest regions of South Korea, agricultural South Jeolla Province. ‘People were very, very poor, and they led miserable lives.’ Na recalls. ‘They didn’t even have one dollar.’ “
“According to Na, there was a rumor that those who criticized the government would be kidnapped and murdered in secret. . . .Na recounts, “People had been uprising and protesting against dictatorship continuously under Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan. They put innocent people into prison and oppressed the masses by force of arms. So people all rose up. . . All Gwangju citizens were involved in the protests, because all of us were together as one. Everyone thought we had to stand against injustice,’ says Na. ‘Even the police were on our side. They changed into normal clothes at night and joined us.’ “
Tim Shorrock of The Nation has reported extensively on Korea. In this article he says that the Korean troops who injured and killed civilians were “sent with the approval of the U.S. commander of the US-Korea Joint Command, Gen. John Wickham.”
“That decision, made at the highest levels of the US government, forever stained the relationship between the United States and the South. For the people of Gwangju, many of whom believed that the US military would side with the forces of democracy, it was a deep betrayal that they’ve never forgotten. And once the rest of Korea knew the truth about the rebellion and understood that the United States had helped throttle it, anti-American sentiment spread like wildfire.”
(U.S. president Jimmy) “Carter decided that the Gwangju uprising—despite the US knowledge that it had been sparked by the slaughter of unarmed civilian protesters—had to be crushed militarily. Five days after the meeting, South Korea’s crack 9th Army Division rolled into the city and killed the remaining rebels holed up in the provincial capital building.”
Shorrock’s article contains links to many, many others.
A Taxi Driver is distributed by Well Go USA. Perhaps it will return to Montreal for a general run in the future.
Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival showed Nacho Vigalondo’s quirky first feature film Timecrimes (Cronocrimenes) way back in 2008, so it’s highly appropriate that the festival show Colossal.
Though most of Colossal is set in the U.S. (actually, British Columbia, for the small town parts) there is also a giant monster attacking Seoul, South Korea. So it REALLY fits in the Fantasia lineup.
In fact, it’s so appropriate, that when I first heard about Colossal, I thought that it might have its premiere at Fantasia. But, no, it was released months ago.
Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, and Dan Stevens are among the stars.
It will be shown on a terrace behind the Hall Building, at 1445 de Maisonneuve West. Enter by Mackay St.
The French film Django presents the life of renowned jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt during the last years of World War II in Occupied France. The music is wonderful, but the plot is disappointing. It features a fictional, generic, femme fatale while all but ignoring Dietrich Schulz-Koehn, a real-life Luftwaffe officer who loved the very music that the Nazis criticized as degenerate. Schulz-Koehn wrote about jazz and even supervised recording sessions under the name Dr. Jazz. More than once he helped Reinhardt and other musicians get out of trouble. Wouldn’t you want to know more about such a conundrum? (Director Stanley Kubrick had hoped to make a film about Schulz-Koehn. The Atlantic wrote an article about that.)
Many German officers attend jazz concerts in Paris, despite that degenerate label. (Signs warn that they’d better not try any dancing, though.) Django (played by Reda Kateb) does not mind playing for Nazis. Music is all he knows and he has to make a living, after all. He also declares “It’s not my war.” On the other hand, he’s in no rush to leave the familiarity of France for an extensive tour of Germany, and the idea of playing for Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels and other bigwigs holds no appeal at all, especially since solos, syncopation, quick tempos and other musical flourishes are strictly controlled, when not banned altogether. (Does that fall under the “banality of evil?”)
Django’s manager reminds Django and his bandmates that saying “No” to the Germans is a very dangerous thing to do. The fictional femme fatale, Louise de Klerk (Cécile de France) points out that travelling into the heart of Nazi darkness would also be dangerous. There’s no happy solution to this problem.
After a certain amount of dithering in Paris, Django and his entourage head for the border in hopes of crossing into neutral Switzerland. It’s a closely watched border, though, so they must wait (and wait and wait) while hoping that members of the Resistance will deign to help them eventually. The film pretty much grinds to a halt at this point. Django plays in local bars to earn some food money, sometimes hiding his face under a hat, sometimes not. It seems extremely foolhardy considering his fame and unique style.
(SPOILER!) In one laughably silly scene Django is being chased by tracking dogs, so he lies down in the snow and sprinkles a few handfuls of the white stuff on top of himself. Somehow, I don’t think that would fool the dogs at all.
As many viewers will already know, Django did indeed survive the war, but as far as I can tell, the film fudges his escape attempt. The implication is that he made it into Switzerland and presumably stayed there until the war was over, but in fact, the Swiss border guards would not let him in.
What I did not know before seeing this film: Django Reinhardt could also play huge honking church organs and compose for them, too.
Things I learned later from Google: Django Reinhardt was touring England with his Quintette du Hot-Club de France when England declared war on Germany on Sept. 3, 1939. Django returned to France immediately, but the Quintette’s violinist, Stéphane Grappelli, stayed in England until the war was over.
In regard to spending the war in France, Django said: “It is better to be frightened in your own country than in another one.”
In France during the war you could trade a Django Reinhardt record for two kg of butter on the black market. Django Reinhardt died May 16, 1953 at the relatively young age of 43.
Django is 115 minutes long
Director: Étienne Comar.
Screenplay: Étienne Comar and Alexis Salatko, based on the novel Folles de Django by Alexis Salatko.
With: Reda Kateb, Cécile de France, Beata Balya, BimBam Merstein, Gabriel Mirété, Vincent Frade, Johnny Montreuil, Raphaël Dever, Patrick Mille, Xavier Beauvois (In French, German, English, Romani dialogue)
Music by the Rosenberg Trio.
In Montreal, Django is playing, with English subtitles, at the Quartier Latin Cinema, 350 rue Emery, H2X 1J1.
Django Reinhardt’s music, as performed by Nomad O Swing, Eclectic Django and Denis Chang, can often by heard at Montreal Jazz Bar Diese Onze, 4115-A, rue St. Denis, H2W 2M7.