#FNC2016

FNC 2016 Review of Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph)

Victor Ezenfis, Natacha Regnier, Fabrizio Rongione in Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph).

Victor Ezenfis, Natacha Regnier, Fabrizio Rongione in Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph).

Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph) opens with scenes of Paris, people walking around, etc. Then we see two boys trying to torture a caged rat. I did wonder what kind of film I’d walked into. But those guys are just the idiotic classmates of Vincent, one of the main characters, and we don’t see much of them again. Just as well.

Teenage Vincent (Victor Ezenfis) lives in Paris with his single mother (Natacha Regnier), who’s an almost saintly nurse. In his bedroom he has a poster of Caravaggio’s 1603 painting, The Sacrifice of Isaac. Kinda gruesome!

Vincent’s mother has always refused to tell him who his father is, and on this particular day he is so enraged about it one wonders how his mother put up with him for so many  years.

After rummaging through a rolltop desk, Vincent finds a letter that reveals his father’s identity. You’d think, if he was so determined to know, that he would have found that letter years ago, but never mind, I won’t argue about it.

Vincent bluffs his way into a book-launch party, meets some ditzy and pretentious characters on the literary scene, and gets a glimpse of his father, Oscar Pormenor (Mathieu Amalric) a man so monstrous he can’t even remember how many children he had with his wife. “Details bore me,” he says.

With his red tie, red scarf, wealth, scorn and libidinous attitude, Oscar Pormenor made me think of Donald Trump. (Sorry!) The more Vincent learns about him, the more horrified he becomes. He hatches a plan which is unwise, not to mention illegal, immoral, etc.

On the plus side, Vincent meets Joseph (Fabrizio Rongione), Oscar’s brother and pretty much his polar opposite. Joseph is a really great guy, even if he’s not a success in the business world. More likely he’s a great guy precisely because he’s not a success in the business world.

The people in Son of Joseph speak in a very stilted, serious and unnatural way, almost like. . .inexperienced actors. Of course, the actors are not inexperienced at all, declamation is just part of director Eugène Green’s style. (Apparently, Green has a cult following, just like Hong Sang-soo, whose film Yourself and Yours will be playing at the same time today, just a few blocks away. Both films are on the schedule of the Festival du nouveau cinéma.) At first I found this way of talking rather strange. I got used to it, though I never stopped noticing it, and it made the funny parts funnier still.

Son of Joseph is about serious things, like how to be a good person, the longing for family, connection, and acceptance, but it also offers beautiful Parisian scenery and many laughs as well.

Almost all the interior scenes take place in very old buildings with creaky wooden floors. My congratulations to the sound people for picking up (or maybe recreating) all those creaks.

Coffee and Films was the production company for Son of Joseph. Isn’t Coffee and Films a great name?

Son of Joseph (Le Fils de Joseph)
France, Belgium | 115 Minutes
In French with English subtitles
Written and directed by Eugène Green
With Victor Ezenfis, Natacha Regnier, Fabrizio Rongione, Mathieu Amalric, Maria de Medeiros, Julia de Gasquet, Jacques Bonnaffe

Sunday, Oct.16, 2016
Program #281 15:15
Cinéma du Parc 2, as part of the Festival du nouveau cinéma.

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FNC 2016: Review of Hong Sang-soo film Yourself and Yours

Lee You-young, centre, as Minjung, with two of her drinking buddies, in the Hong Sang-soo film Yourself and Yours.

Lee You-young, centre, as Minjung, with two of her drinking buddies, in the Hong Sang-soo film Yourself and Yours.

Yourself and Yours, the latest film from Korean director Hong Sang-soo, looks at relationships in a way that’s insightful and hilarious. (Well, I thought it was hilarious.) I guess someone who has recently broken up with a significant other might feel differently.

After hearing gossip from a friend, Youngsoo (Kim Joo-hyuck) accuses his girlfriend Minjung (Lee You-young) of drinking with other men. Quite apart from the jealousy angle, he is upset because she had promised him to cut way back on her drinking.

An offended Minjung denies the accusations and suggests “taking a break.” Self-righteous Youngsoo replies (approximately) “You’re in the wrong and you’re upset with ME?”

Later, Youngsoo regrets his behaviour; he misses Minjung and when he can’t reach her, he fears that “taking a break” is her way of saying “break up.”

Youngsoo starts moping around pathetically. He tells his friends how much he loves Minjung, how special she is, that others don’t understand her, etc. All this might come from genuine love and regret, though I suspect it comes from loneliness or a feeling of having lost control of this situation, and his life in general. Who knows, really? Seeing her had  probably become a habit for him, as well, and habits are notoriously hard to break.

There are several scenes of Minjung, or someone who looks just like Minjung, drinking with other men. When they first speak to her, they claim to know her from some other occasion. Some of them are rather agressive in their insistence that they know her; it verges on creepy. She says that she never saw them before, but does agree to drink with them now.

Minjung seems more humourous and interesting to know than Youngsoo is. Her daring, if slightly rude habit of telling men exactly what she thinks of them is not something we see too often in Korean films; it’s still a patriarchal place.

It’s likely that many of these scenes, maybe all of them, only take place in Youngsoo’s unsettled dreams or waking imagination. That would be consistent with Hong Sang-soo’s style, but I have other reasons for thinking so, too. Sharing those reasons might constitute “spoilers,” though, so I’ll keep them to myself for now.

You could have lots of fun dissecting those scenes, and the film in general, with friends after the film, maybe over a meal at a Korean restaurant. Have some soju! Sadly, you aren’t likely to find the milky alcoholic beverage ( 막걸리 makgeolli, makkoli, makgeoli, etc.) in Montreal restaurants. That’s the stuff that the characters in Yourself and Yours drink from metal bowls, when they’re not having beer or soju.

A little laugh of recognition for people who follow Korean pop culture: At some point, Minjung talks about her “ideal type.” In interviews, Korean singers and actors are always being asked about their ideal type. They usually name other singers and actors and then their fans have fun discussing these choices on the Internet.

I’d read several enthusiastic reviews before seeing Yourself and Yours, and assumed that I would enjoy it, but It actually surpassed my expectations. For those who have heard of Hong Sang-soo, but haven’t seen his work yet, Yourself and Yours would be an excellent place to start. His Montreal fans have probably bought their tickets already.

http://www.nouveaucinema.ca/en/films/yourself-and-yours

Yourself and Yours, directed by Hong Sang-soo, with Kim Joo-hyuck, Lee You-young, Kim Eui-sung.

At the 2016 Festival du nouveau cinéma,
Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016
Program #284 15:00
Cinéma Impérial
1430 Bleury

FNC 2016: Review of French sketch-comedy film Apnée

Thomas Scimeca and Céline Fuhrer in the French comedy Apnee.

Thomas Scimeca and Céline Fuhrer in the French comedy Apnée.

Apnée begins with two men and a woman, each wearing strapless wedding dresses, flouncing into an elegant town hall and asking the mayor to marry them to each other. The mayor explains the available options in a polite and friendly manner. He tells them with regret that they can’t marry each other “yet.” The implication is clear: have some patience and your day will come. But the three don’t want to wait and they begin a collective rant about their rights. Then it’s time for the mayor to express his many frustrations with his job and his family. You had to be there. It was funny!

Apnée is a collection of loosely connected sketches, a bit like the old Monty Python show, though there isn’t any animation and the Spanish Inquisition doesn’t show up, either. In the press notes, director Jean-Christophe Meurisse calls it a road-trip and a “comédie socialo-mélancolique.”

A few of the subjects include: dealing with bankers; the ridiculous price of housing ($1755. for less than 200 square feet!) and the hoops people still have to leap through for the privilege of paying for a tiny, overpriced dump; parent-child relations, expectations and disappointments; a mock job interview at an employment centre that gets stuck at the handshaking part and just gets sillier and sillier (in a good way).

Some outdoor scenes in Apnée were shot in lovely parts of Corsica. That might give the tourist industry a boost.

DirectorMeurisse and the three main actors, Céline Fuhrer, Thomas Scimeca and Maxence Tual, are part of the popular French theatrical troupe Les Chiens de Navarre. (The group presented its latest play, Les armoires normandes, here in Montreal last month.)

I enjoyed some sketches more than others, and the driving scenes went on too long for my taste, but I thought Apnée was pretty damn funny. The description in the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma catalogue already sounded appealing, but then a friend recommended it to me, and that clinched the deal. I’m glad I went!

The English subtitles are a blessing because the actors speak very quickly and sometimes everyone is talking at once. Serge, the friend who suggested Apnée to me, is a francophone, but even he appreciated the English subtitles.

Not sure if I should even mention this but. . .I’m also very glad that I did not see Jay Weissberg’s review in Variety before I went. He called it an “insufferable improvised madcap comedy.”

Of course, people have different tastes, experiences, backgrounds and expectations, but I feel like we did not watch the same film. Maybe he was suffering form “film-festival burnout.” I’ve had that happen right here in Montreal, on my home turf. Imagine the stress and pressures of the Cannes Film Festival. Variety is a very powerful publication, so I hope his negative review does not scare people away from Apnée.

Apnée (or Apnea)
Directed by Jean-Christophe Meurisse
With: Céline Fuhrer, Thomas Scimeca, Maxence Tual, Thomas de Pourquery, Olivier Saladin, Claire Nadeau, Jean-Luc Vincent, Nicolas Bouchaud, Pascal Sangla, Robert Hatisi, Solal Bouloudnine.
88 minutes long, in French with English subtitles.

Seen at the 2016 Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal.

FNC 2016: El Gusto review

Chaabi orchestra El Gusto in concert.

Chaabi orchestra El Gusto in concert.

Two-sentence review: There is some fantastic music in the documentary El Gusto. I heartily suggest that you watch it!

Longer review: The documentary El Gusto is about Algerian chaabi music in general, and some musicians who used to play it, who came together to play it again, after many years apart. The film has been called the Algerian version of the Buena Vista Social Club.

The film has three main elements – a tour through the narrow, twisty streets of old Algiers, anecdotes about chaabi and life in Algeria, before and after the country’s independence from France, and musical performances.

Chaabi music has roots in Arab, Berber and Andalusian music. It was heard at weddings, parties and in the bars and cafés of the Casbah. Have you heard Rachid Taha sing Ya Rayah? That’s a chaabi tune, though Taha is usually described as someone who sings rai.

Chaabi orchestras include piano, violins, lutes, ouds, mandoles, banjos, zithers, accordions, drums and tambourines. People had already been playing it for decades when El Hadj Mohammed El Anka began teaching formal classes at the Municipal Conservatory of Algiers in the 1950s. Back then Muslims and Jews were neighbours and friends who partied together and made music together.

Safinez Bousbia, the film’s director, was studying architecture in Ireland in 2003 when she took a vacation trip to Algiers, the city where she was born. While discussing a purchase in Mohamed Ferkioui’s mirror shop, she learned about his earlier life as a chaabi musician. He was among the first graduates of the El Anka’s course at the conservatory.

Bousbia was so fascinated by his story that she wanted to find out what had happened to the other musicians, and to help them re-connect with one another. It took her several years to locate them. Some were still in Algeria while others had moved to Paris or Marseille long ago. Once the connections were made, they wanted to meet and they also wanted to play together again. They did so under the name El Gusto Orchestra of Algiers. The film includes footage from rehearsals and concerts in Algeria and France. An audience in France enthusiastically sings along to Ya Rayah. (The group went on to perform in the U.S. and the U.K., as well.)

You can preview and buy the group’s two albums, Abdel Hadi Halo & The El Gusto Orchestra of Algiers, and Orchestre El Gusto on iTunes.

El Gusto, directed by Safinez Bousbia, In French and Arabic with French subtitles, 93 minutes long.

With Mamad Haïder Benchaouch, Rachid Berkani, Ahmed Bernaoui,  Robert Castel, Abdelkader Chercham, Luc Cherki, Maurice El Medioni, Abdelrahmane Guellat, Joseph Hadjaj,  Liamine Haimoun (and many more).

El Gusto will be shown Monday Oct, 10, 2016, at 13:30, at Cinéma du Parc as part of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal.

Read more about the film and buy tickets on the FNC web site.

FNC 2016: My Short Report From Day 2

In this screen grab from the French documentary Merci Patron!, director Franois Ruffin reads a Robin Hood story to his children. Merci Patron is being shown at the Festival du nouveau cinŽma in Montreal.

In this screen grab from the French documentary Merci Patron!, director Francois Ruffin reads a Robin Hood story to his children. Merci Patron is being shown at the Festival du nouveau cinŽema in Montreal.

Thursday Oct. 6 was the second day of Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinéma. (It was Day 1 for me though, because I did not attend the opening film Two Lovers and a Bear.)

I saw four films on Thursday and liked three of them. That’s quite decent. Here are very brief descriptions of the films. Real reviews will follow.

In the morning I attended a press screening of the French documentary Merci Patron! Director François Ruffin, who is also the editor-in-chief of alternative news outlet Fakir, put a lot of effort into trying to get Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVHM and the richest man in France, to do the right thing for at least some of the thousands of workers who lost their jobs when he closed their factories and moved the jobs elsewhere.

Merci Patron! is a great film, I’m glad I saw it and I’d certainly recommend it to my friends. It will only be shown once at FNC, and that will be on Sat. Oct. 8, at 5 p.m. at Quartier Latin.  You can read more about it here on the festival’s web site. There’s a link for buying tickets online, too.

Next, I saw Welcome to Iceland. In this black comedy from Swiss director Felix Tissi,  a suicidal man, a couple and a family of four on a trekking holiday meet each other in an inhospitable Icelandic landscape. They are all German-speaking tourists.

I’m glad I saw it and I’d certainly recommend Welcome to Iceland to my friends. Welcome to Iceland  will be shown again on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 9:30 pm at Cinéma du Parc. Read more about it, buy tickets, on the FNC web site.

Then I saw The Death of J.P. Cuenca. This falls between documentary and mock doc. Writer, director and star J.P. Cuenca is a highly praised Brazilian author. One day he finds out that he is officially dead, because a dead man’s companion gave the authorities Cuenca’s birth certificate. He sets out to find out who the man really was, how and why he had his birth certificate, etc.

The film got off to an OK start, but it lost my goodwill before it was over. Obviously some people like it, or it would not be in the FNC lineup, or at other festivals, either. But I’m NOT glad I saw it, and I would not recommend The Death of J.P. Cuenca to my friends. I wish that I had watched something else, or gone for a walk in the sunshine.

If you want to see it anyway, The Death of J.P. Cuenca will be shown again on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 9:15 pm at Cinéma du Parc.

Read more about The Death of J.P. Cuenca on the FNC website.

Next, I watched Late Shift, an interactive film from England. (Before the film started audience members were invited to download an app to their smart phone or tablets.) Matt is a university student who works the night shift in a parking garage. He is kidnapped and forced to take part in a robbery at an auction house. Every few minutes audience members were invited to make a choice for Matt. Help the tourist in the subway, or ignore him and jump on the train? Do what the kidnapper says, or try to run away? The film has seven possible endings. Directors Tobias Weber and Caroline Feder were here for a Q&A.

I enjoyed Late Shift very much and would certainly recommend it, but sadly, it will not have a second screening at FNC. The filmmakers hope to release a non-interactive version in North America within the next few months. They already have distribution deals for several European countries. Keep your eyes and ears open for this one! Read more about Late Shift on the FNC site.

I saw all of the above films at Cinema du Parc. I was hoping to end the evening with 76 Minutes & 15 Seconds With Abbas Kiarostami, over at the Quartier Latin, just off St. Denis. Well. . .

Staying for the Late Shift Q&A ate into my available travelling time, but I don’t regret doing that. In retrospect, taking the 24 bus on Sherbrooke, instead of continuing down the street to the Place des Arts metro, was a bad decision, though. There is so much construction on Sherbrooke that I could not get off the bus anywhere near St. Denis. Since I was already running quite late, I decided to abandon the attempt. So, don’t take the 24 to go to Quartier Latin.

76 Minutes & 15 Seconds With Abbas Kiarostami will be shown again on Wednesday, Oct. 12, at 9 pm at the Pavillon Judith-Jasmin Annexe (former NFB/ONF on St. Denis). With luck I will see it then.

The Festival du nouveau cinéma runs from Oct. 5 to Oct. 16, 2016.