by GREG KING.
For his Movies At Dusk program on 3WBC 94.1FM, Greg spoke to the festival director Nashen Moodley to find out more about this year’s exciting program. To hear more, click on the link below:
LAST UPDATED JUNE 2.
This award winning French-Canadian film is a moving, raw and emotionally touching tale of a young, mentally handicapped girl who just wants to find love and independence. Gabrielle (played by newcomer Gabrielle Marion-Rivard) suffers from Williams syndrome and also has diabetes. At 22 she has spent most of her life in various homes where she is cared for. and all her needs are attended to. But she grows increasingly attracted towards Martin (theatre actor Alexandre Landry), whom she meets at the recreation centre where she is part of a choir that is rehearsing for a special performance with Qubecois singer Robert Charbelois (playing himself), best known for his hit Ordinaire. The attraction between the pair is obvious and mutual, but whne the issue of sex between them raises its head, Martin’s over protective mother steps in to try and keep them apart. Gabrielle’s sister is also about to head off to India to be with her fiance, thus increasing her sense of isolation, loneliness. Gabrielle has been directed with sensitivity and compassion by Louise Archambault (Familia, etc), and she eschews overt sentimentality. Her script is frank and doesn’t shy away from exploring the problems that Gabrielle faces on a daily basis. The cast integrates actors with special needs amongst professional actors, which gives some scenes a sense of authenticity. And there is a raw and powerful performance from Marion-Rivard, who herself suffers from Williams syndrome, giving an extra edge to her performance. There is some great music here, and Gabrielle’s struggle for independence has the makings of a crowd pleasing drama.
THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY.
Adapted from a lesser known novel written by Patricia Highsmith (Strangers On A Train, The Talented Mr Ripley, etc), this is a slow burn suspense thriller in the Hitchcock mold. There is even a blonde character who is treated badly by her husband to further enhance the Hitchcock tradition. The film is set in Greece in 1962, and the central plot features an innocent man on the run from the police after becoming mixed up in murder and intrigue. Rydal (Oscar Isaac, from Balibo, Drive, etc) is a young expatriate American working as an unofficial tour guide in Athens, with a profitable side-line in conning tourists. Then he meets urbane and wealthy tourist American Chester McFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his pretty but demure wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst), and befriends them. But Chester has a dark secret that catches up with him, resulting in a dead body in their hotel bathroom. He is forced to flee Athens with Colette and Rydal in town, and enlists Rydal’s help in trying to arrange false passports to leave the country. The Two Faces Of January marks the directorial debut of screenwriter Hossein Amini (who wrote Drive, The Wings Of The Dove, etc), and he proves himself to be proficient in developing an air of suspense and slowly increasing atmosphere of mistrust, paranoia and menace. There is some gorgeous scenery as the drama plays out amongst the ruins of the Parthenon and Knossos, beautifully shot by Michael Winterbottom’s regular cinematographer Marcel Zyskind. Many elements of some of Hitchcock’s classic films permeate this suspenseful and taut thriller. Mortensen delivers a more nuanced and restrained performance than usual, while Isaac is charismatic as the hapless Rydal who quickly finds himself out of his depth in dealing with the sociopathic Chester.
The Coppolas are obviously an extremely talented family, with three generations of Oscar winners, and a younger generation of emerging filmmakers leaving their mark behind the camera. The latest exciting young filmmaker to make her directorial debut is Gia Coppola, the grand daughter of Francis Ford Coppola. She draws upon her background as a photographer to give this melancholy, sad and bleak look at troubled adolescence an almost documentary-like realism and gritty atmosphere of authenticity. Films looking at the disaffection of adolescents is almost a staple of American independent cinema, and this film dissecting the empty lives of troubled, bored teenagers trying to find their place in life ranks up there with the likes of Rebel Without A Cause and Fast Times At Ridgemont High and the films of John Hughes. Palo Alto is based on the book written by actor James Franco, and unfolds in a series of vignettes that explore the troubled lives of three teenagers who live in the upmarket Californian suburb. But money doesn’t buy happiness. Teddy (played by Val Kilmer’s son Jack, making his film debut) is a naive, fairly decent kid, but he is often led into trouble by his best friend the rebellious, hard partying and self-destructive Fred (Nat Wolff, to be seen shortly in the weepie The Fault In Our Stars, etc). Teddy is attracted to the virginal April (Emma Roberts), but she is becoming aware of her blossoming sexuality and is drawn into a dangerous flirtation with her handsome but predatory teacher and soccer coach Mr B (Franco himself). Palo Alto offers a disturbing exploration of the crumbling friendship between Teddy and Fred, who grows increasingly cruel. Coppola demonstrates an empathy for Teddy, and makes us care about these characters as they stumble through some bad choices. This is an insightful and thoughtful drama, and Coppola gets some good performances from her youthful cast. While the teens here are depicted as deeply troubled, experimenting with sex and drugs and alcohol and dangerous behaviour, the adults are also depicted as flawed.