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.

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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.

Theatre Review: Don’t miss Empire of The Son at the Centaur Theatre

Playwright and performer Tetsuro Shigematsu, left, talks to Marc Montgonery of Radio Canada International. You can watch the video below this review.
Playwright and performer Tetsuro Shigematsu, left, talks to Marc Montgonery of Radio Canada International. You can watch the video below this review.

Montrealers, do yourself a big favour and catch Tetsuro Shigematsu’s Empire of The Son at the Centaur Theatre. Saturday, Jan 14, 2017 is the last day you can see this tour-de-force. It’s storytelling at its best. The Vancouver Sun and the Georgia Straight said it was that city’s best show in 2015. I’m going to watch it again, myself.

This one-man show reminds me, in a very good way, of the work of the late monologue artist Spalding Gray, though Shigematsu is more animated, and doesn’t sit at a desk.

Shigematsu begins by telling us that he did not cry when his father died in 2015. Since crying seems to be the natural and expected thing for the modern, evolved man to do in our society, he wonders why he did not and could not? What’s wrong with him, anyway? Is it a guy thing? Is it a Japanese thing? (The Shigematsu family is descended from samurai, he says.)

He also feels regret for all the things that he did not say when he had the chance. His father had been sick for several years, but on the night when Shigematsu said “Why don’t you get some sleep, Dad,” he had no way of knowing that father would not regain consciousness again before he died.

Empire of The Son explores Shigematsu’s relationship with his father, and his father’s life before and after his own birth. (Shigematsu and his twin sister Hana are the youngest of five children.)

The Shigematsu family in London, before the birth of Tetsuro and his twin sister, Hana.
The Shigematsu family in London, before the birth of Tetsuro and his twin sister, Hana.

Ironies abound. Shigematsu’s father, Akira, was an announcer for the BBC in London, then for the CBC in Montreal. He explained current events to his listeners all over the world, but was extremely taciturn at home. Shigematsu’s father survived the horrors of the bombing of Hiroshima, had tea with Queen Elizabeth, and saw Marilyn Monroe sing Happy Birthday to John F Kennedy, but when Tetsuro asked him about any of those events he got short answers that indicated his father didn’t think any of it was that big a deal.

I was sad to learn that (Don’t-Call-Me-Akira) Shigematsu lost his position behind the microphone and spent his last days at the CBC delivering the mail, because of cutbacks initiated by the government of Brian Mulroney. But feelings of anger and outrage were even stronger than my sadness. Bah, Mulroney, Harper, good riddance to them! (Shigematsu did not make any kind of editorial comment about Mulroney, he didn’t say we should be angry, I came to that conclusion all by myself.)

Akira Shigematsu worked for the BBC in London before he moved to Montreal with his family.
Akira Shigematsu worked for the BBC in London before he moved to Montreal with his family.

Tetsuro, the son of a radio man, became a radio man himself, to his own surprise and amazement. How did that even happen? Fate? Osmosis? He doesn’t pose that question, but we can, if we like. (Tetsuro did want to use his father’s cool-looking, leather CBC satchel, but he hadn’t thought of doing his dad’s job.) Shigematsu shares some anecdotes about various CBC efforts to make his voice sound more “manly.”

Like much great art, Empire of The Son is both universal and particular. You might well cringe when Shigematsu relates some of the snarky, flippant things he said to his father in his teenage years. Did you say similar things yourself? Did someone say such things to you?

Chances are, viewers will be able to relate to many incidents, they will recognize themslves and their own family dynamics.

Years ago, I saw Rising Son, in which a younger Shigematsu talked about his father, his family, himself, experiences at school, stupid stereotypes about Asians, and a trip he took to Japan. It was a good show with lots of laughs, but Empire of The Son is on a whole other level of artistry. Is it corny and clichéd if it compare one to grape juice and one to wine? Yeah, probably. But it will have to do for now.

While death, dying and crying might sound sad and depressing Empire of The Son contains many light moments. While the show is mostly about Shigematsu and his father, he has some heartwarming, truly poetic things to say about his three sisters. You should hear them for yourself, I won’t spoil them.

Empire of The Son has some clever props that help to tell the story, something that Rising Son did not have. There’s a fascinating combination of high tech and low tech happening there. Shigematsu manipulates a digital camera to project images of a little bathtub, a tiny boat made from a paper and a toothpick, a miniature skateboard, or the destruction of Hiroshima itself, onto a screen behind him.

You might want to see Empire of The Son with parents, siblings or friends, depending on who might be available to you. If all your friends and family members are busy, do not hesitate, go by yourself. Don’t miss Empire of The Son. You will thank me later!

Budding writers and actors would appreciate it, too, I think.

Finally, I must point out that at a mere $16 tickets to Empire of The Son are a real steal. Theatre can be expensive, and tickets for this show cost $50 elsewhere. (In Vancouver, the entire run sold out before the show even opened.)

Empire of The Son of the Son will be at the Centaur Theatre Thursday, Jan. 12, Friday, Jan. 13, and Saturday Jan. 14, at 7:30.

The Centaur Theatre is in Old Montreal at 453 St. François-Xavier. Place d’Armes is the nearest metro station. At another time of year, I could say “run, don’t walk,” but that might be unwise, with the weather and the state of the sidewalks being unpredictable.

You can buy tickets online, though there is a $2 service charge.

 

Empire of the Sun is a touring production of the Vancouver Asian Theatre. It will be at the Factory Theatre, in Toronto from Wednesday, Jan. 18, until Sunday, Jan 29, 2017.

 

Sommets du cinéma d’animation 2016: Review of the documentary Oscar

A screen grab from Oscar, an NFB/ONF documentary about jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. The film was directed by Marie-JosŽe Saint-Pierre.
A screen grab from Oscar, an NFB/ONF documentary about jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. The film was directed by Marie-JosŽe Saint-Pierre.

In the 12-minute NFB/ONF documentary Oscar, filmmaker Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre uses animated sequences, archival footage, photos, news clippings and other documents, radio and TV interviews with Montreal-born jazz pianist Oscar Peterson to chart his career and to depict the loneliness of life on the road and the toll it takes on a marriage, on the relationship between a father and his children and on musical performance, too. (Peterson was only 19 when he married for the first time. He tells an unseen interviewer that he should have waited until he was at least 40.)

A telegram reads: “I miss you Daddy. When are you coming home?” We also see a divorce document – genuine or recreated, I don’t know – that lists the respective parties as “Oscar Peterson” and “Mrs. Peterson.” That’s how it was in those days, married women didn’t even have a name of their own. More cringe inducing is a radio segment from 1944 in which announcer Jeff Davis calls 18-year-old Peterson a “coloured boy with amazing fingers.”

Oscar Peterson had a regular gig at Montreal's Alberta Lounge.
Oscar Peterson had a regular gig at Montreal’s Alberta Lounge.

In addition to talk about the hardships of touring, we see daytime and night-time photos of Montreal back in the 1940s, are reminded how popular our city was with U.S. tourists, and revisit the tale of how U.S. impresario Norman Granz was riding in a Montreal taxi when he heard Peterson on a live radio broadcast from the Alberta Lounge. Granz instructed the driver to take him there right away.

When he was still a young man, Oscar Peterson shared a bill at Carnegia Hall with his idols Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Ray Brown.
When he was still a young man, Oscar Peterson shared a bill at Carnegia Hall with his idols Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Ray Brown.

In the next sequence, Granz has taken Peterson to Carnegie Hall, where he plays on a bill that includes Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. (Granz was Peterson’s manager for most of his life; a New York Times obituary for Granz says that Peterson named one of his sons after him. Google tells me that late in life Peterson had a daughter named Celine. Was she named for our national songbird? Anybody know?)

An animated depiction of CBC radio host Peter Gzowski is astounded when Peterson tells him that he thinks ahead while he’s playing, or more precisely, that he plays behind his thinking.

Needless to say, Oscar contains lots of Peterson’s music, too, a bonus for old fans and newly created ones.

Oscar is part of a three-film selection called Animating Reality 1: Familiar Faces, that will be shown on Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1:15 p.m., as part of the Sommets du cinéma d’animation film festival, at the Cinémathèque Québecoise, 335, de Maisonneuve Blvd. E.

NOTE: Casino, a 4-minute film by Montreal director Steven Woloshen, uses music by Oscar Peterson. Casino is among the films in the International Competition – Programme 3, that will be shown at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 27, at 1:15 p.m., at the Sommets du cinéma d’animation.

 

Sommets du cinema d’animation: ‘If you scan an octopus, be sure you really clean your scanner well afterwards’

joan-gratz-blue-clay

You don’t hear about scanning tentacles everyday; neither do you get to talk to an Oscar winner. But some of us did both yesterday (Friday, Nov. 25, 2016) when filmmaker Joan Gratz gave a master class at the Les Sommets du cinéma d’animation here in Montreal. We learned a lot and laughed a lot, too.

Gratz’s Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase won Best Animated Short at the 65th Annual Academy Awards in 1993. (Snow White announced the award. Seriously! Gratz did not mention this herself, but I saw it on YouTube.)

I had seen it before, but did not realize that she had created the images with clay. Gratz explained how she does that, and showed us many of her other films, including Kubla Khan, Puffer Girl, and Pro and Con.

An image from the animated film Puffer Girl, by Joan Gratz.

 

Animator Joan Gratz has written and illustrated books, too.

Meanwhile, you can see her latest film Primal Flux, as part of the International Competition 3 selection, at Sommets du cinéma d’animation, on Saturday Nov. 26 at 5p.m. and Sunday Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. Both screenings will be in the Salle Principale of the Cinémathèque Québecoise.

Cinémathèque Québecoise
335, de Maisonneuve Blvd. E.
Montréal, Québec, H2X 1K1
Berri-UQAM Metro

FNC 2016: Festival du nouveau cinéma brings us quality and quirkiness

Claude Chamberlan, left, co-founder of the Festival du nouveau cinŽma, and programmers Philippe Gajan and Julien Fonfrde introduce the festival's 45th edition at a press conference. (Liz Ferguson photo)
Claude Chamberlan, left, co-founder of the Festival du nouveau cinŽma, and programmers Philippe Gajan and Julien Fonfrde introduce the festival’s 45th edition at a press conference. (Liz Ferguson photo)

Autumn brings us crisper days, falling leaves, pumpkins, turkey and the 45th edition of the Festival du nouveau cinéma. There will be 138 features and 170 shorts from 62 countries, from Afghanistan to Yemen. On the festival’s web site you can search for films alphabetically, by type of work, genre, or country. (Read about the films here; consult the schedule here.)

The festival opens Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016 with Kim Nguyen’s Two Lovers and a Bear, set in the snowy Arctic. (The closing film, Maliglutit (Searchers) from Zacharias Kunuk is an Arctic film, too.) While the opening and closing events are “invitation-only,” the two films will have other screenings during the festival.

There will be some well-known names among the directors and stars, along with many talents that might be new to us. The well-known directors include “friends of the festival” Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch, along with 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.

Retrospectives will look at the works of Michael Cimino and Krzysztof Kieslowski, among others.

Documentaries will cover many topics, including music (French electronic music, Iggy Pop) actors (Toshiro Mifune) and filmmakers (Abbas Kiarostami, Sion Sono).

The festival is blessed by its place on the calendar it can nab hits from other festivals, from Sundance in January right up to the very recent ones in Toronto and Venice.

Those hits include Toni Erdmann, a German-Austrian co-production about a very serious businesswoman who is miffed that her prankster father is more popular with her friends and colleagues than she is. At one point he disguises himself as a Kukeri, a Sasquatch-like creature of Bulgarian folk legend.

In Aquarius, from Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho, Sonia Braga plays a retired music critic who resists ruthless developers who want to tear down the beach-front apartment she’s lived in for decades. The film was expected to be Brazil’s Oscar contender, but it fell victim to politicial wrangling.

The festival will present The Handmaiden, Park Chan-wook’s tale of love and deception, with French subtitles. That version is called Mademoiselle.

These critters are the stars of the French TV show Le Ball Trap.
These critters are the stars of the French TV show Le Ball Trap.

The festival will also present episodes from TV series that were made in Argentina, Belgium, France, Poland, and the U.S. One of the more bizarre selections is Le Ball Trap, a French production featuring stuffed animals. Not the kind of stuffed animals you buy in a toy store – stuffed as in taxidermy. Formerly living creatures which are now looking somewhat worse for wear.

The P’tits Loups section offers films for “children of all ages.” They’re mostly animated shorts, but there is a 100-minute live action film called Les Malheurs De Sophie, and a 53-minute presentation of classic Wallace and Gromit films Grand Day Out and The Wrong Trousers.

There will be master classes with directors Ulrich Seidl of Austria, Félix Van Groeningen of Belgium, Nadav Lapid of Israel and Jennifer Reeder of the U.S.

Other events include a cinema quiz and musical evenings. Read about them on the festival’s web site under “All Events.”

In the last few years, many local film festivals have featured virtual reality components and FNC 2016 has lots of them. Read more about virtual reality at FNC here.

This year, locations for films and other events include: Cinema Imperial; Cinema Du Parc; Theatre Maisonneuve; Pavillon Judith-Jasmin Annexe (the former NFB/ONF Cinema); Cineplex Odéon Quartier Latin; Theatre Saint-Denis.

The Festival du nouveau cinema runs from Oct. 5 to Oct. 16. Tickets can be bought online; prices range between $8 and $13. Passes and booklets are available, too. (Click here for FNC ticket information.)

Spike Lee’s Michael Jackson film, a Black Lives Matter documentary, comedies, dramas and shorts on menu at Montreal International Black Film Festival

Singer Michael Jackson in his younger days.
Singer Michael Jackson in his younger days.

The Montreal International Black Film Festival (Sept 28 to Oct 2, 2016) is already underway. (Sorry. Mea culpa that I did not write about it sooner.)

Among the highlights is Spike Lee’s documentary, Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall, which will be presented by the director himself on Saturday night at Concordia University.

Spike Lee was a guest of the Montreal International Black Film Festival in 2014 and he's back again this year. That's festival founder Fabienne Colas next to Spike Lee. (Liz Ferguson photo)
Spike Lee was a guest of the Montreal International Black Film Festival in 2014 and he’s back again this year. That’s festival founder Fabienne Colas next to Spike Lee. (Liz Ferguson photo)

Or, you could opt for Sembene! a documentary about the Sengalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene. A favourable review by Matt Zoller Seitz of rogerebert.com says the film makes “the director, who died in 2007, sound not just like a great artist and relentless person, but a figure out of a legend or folktale: an invincible juggernaut of a storyteller; the man who gave voice to African stories that, until the early post-colonial period, had been largely voiceless on film.” “One of the recurring points made by various witnesses is that until Sembene burst onto the scene, images of Africa were mainly about pretty scenery with exotic wildlife that visiting American and English movie stars could have adventures in front of. In other words, the continuation of colonialism through cinema. Sembene did much to counter that tendency, although he never enjoyed the kind of widespread acclaim that other international directors, including Chinese and Japanese masters, have sometimes enjoyed in Western nations.”

A Sunday afternoon screening of the documentary Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement will be presented by the director Laurens Grant and followed by a panel discussion.

The documentary Poverty Inc. looks at how efforts to help people in other countries often make things worse than they already were A Variety review says the film is ”an easy-to-understand docu-essay with a tough-to-accept message, especially as it implies that some aid organizations may actually be cashing in on their concern.” “The problem, “Poverty Inc.” cautions, is that few pause to think what happens after they’ve written the check, never fathoming that the mere act of giving can actually have have a detrimental effect.” “Poverty Inc. treads a delicate line between condemning NGOs and encouraging otherwise generous-minded souls to think twice about the sort of support they provide to societies in need — the key advantage here being Miller’s solution-oriented focus on the “right” kind of aid.”

In the film Ben & Ara, Joseph Baird plays Ben and Constance Ejuma is Ara.
In the film Ben & Ara, Joseph Baird plays Ben and Constance Ejuma is Ara.

Canadian connection: U.S. actress Constance Ejuma, female lead in the film Ben & Ara, studied theatre at the University of Toronto.

The films mentioned above are just a sampling. The festival is showing shorts and features, comedies, dramas and documentaries. The films were shot in Belgium, France, Martinique, Senegal, the U.S. and elsewhere. In addition to Concordia University, screening venues include Cinema du Parc and the former NFB/ONF cinema on St. Denis.

Tickets can be bought online. Click to consult the Montreal Black Film schedule.