If the new showings at the 2014 Windsor International Film Festival are a true mirror of current Canadian film, the Francophone options are amazing while the Anglophone options are cute.
Mommy will get the most consideration, given its accolades at the Cannes Film Festival and being Canada's entry into the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. If Mommy makes the cut for the Top 5, you will hear a lot more about the film, including here at CanadianCrossing.com.
Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clement, two actresses that work well with Xavier Dolan, are incredible in this film. The two worked together in Dolan's debut film, I Killed My Mother. Dorval is outstanding in Mommy but Clement deserves a Golden Globes and/or Academy Awards nomination for her role. She will make you cry in a good way.
If you have seen Dolan's debut film, these are some similarities but Mommy has more complex layers. Parts of the film are harsh where the teenage son acts out his ADHD and lack of social skills.
Most of the film is in a 1:1 ratio where Dolan plays with the concept of film — just one of the beautiful details Mommy offers.
Felix and Meira was a film with huge anticipation, given its win as Best Canadian Film at TIFF this year. We were crushed about missing its really sneaky preview at the Chicago International Film Festival. Though we had to wait a few weeks, the film was worth the wait.
The story is about a Quebecois man and a Hassidic Jewish woman who form a friendship. The film shows us an otherwise hidden world but also lets us know that we suffer through similar problems, regardless of our background.
This is a beautiful film with an intriguing story. This film might be easy or difficult to find, but find this film.
Two sleepers (pun intended on the first film) were Tu Dors Nicole and Miraculum. Both films made me think about them long after the credits rolled.
Religion was a major point in Felix and Meira and Miraculum. The Italian immigrant experience in Montreal was common in Corbo and 1987, though the films are very different yet both take place in the past.
There wasn't a bad film in the bunch. I'm always afraid that I will overlike a film because of being Canadian, but this year's batch held its own. There were a couple of films that I wasn't quite sure how I felt about them, even now.
Here are my thoughts on the rest of the Canadian film class of WIFF 2014:
Tu Dors Nicole could be a sleeper (pun intended). Nicole is a young woman who is trying to find her way and has trouble sleeping in a hot summer in Quebec. While the summer is boring, the experience is anything but for the viewer. Small details flutter throughout the film.
Shot in black and white, the film spotlights Nicole as adrift surrounded by people who are trying to do something.
Options south of the border: This film would be limited to art houses in the United States, but would have a good choice of enjoying moderate success.
Miraculum is an engrossing film about several lives meeting at the apex of a plane crash. Religion plays a crucial role in the main story, starring Dolan as an actor. Though Quebec was dominated by Catholicism, this film centers on Jehovah Witness followers and their stance on blood.
The individual stories hold on their own, but they do tie together above and beyond the obvious plot point. This film made me think about it for days in a good way. I saw the film at a last-minute switch with a 9:15 am start. This is a good film but is too heavy for a early morning screening.
Options south of the border: As for the States, the film won't get much of a look. Too complex and religion goes over differently south of the border. Too bad since an audience would appreciate the film.
Corbo touches on the FLQ in Quebec in 1966 but also copes with youth, alienation, and the options and consequences involved. Our protagonist is Italian from the good side of the tracks yet lends himself to a cause that isn't his own.
A powerful and quiet film, Corbo could stand on its own south of the border. Those looking for a historical perspective would be drawn to the film.
Options south of the border:
1987 is an all-too painful look at when "you have to choose a career at 17 but can't get into bars until 18."
Our protagonist lives with his loud immigrant Italian family in Sainte Foy just outside Montréal. He wants to open a teen disco with no money and no job.
The film is filled with exaggerated realism with very human moments that are tragically funny.
Options south of the border: A world where high school ends at 17 and legal drinking starts at 18 would be labeled science fiction south of the border. Quebecois dramas do better in the States.
Tom at the Farm is the fourth film from director Xavier Dolan. Casting himself in the lead as Tom, Dolan takes us to a world atypical from his usual urban settings. This is a psychological thriller that promises a lot but doesn't always deliver.
The film is deliberately uncomfortable at times, so while the film is well-made, you aren't always entertained.
Watching the film is a must for Dolan fans, but casual viewers (unless intrigued by the genre) would be better off sampling his other films.
One highlight: Evelyne Brochu does a delightful job in this film. You might recognize Brochu as Delphine Cormier — Cosima's ma petite ami — on Orphan Black. She has also starred in recent classic Canadian films as Inch'Allah, Cafe de Flore, and Polytechnique. Brochu is someone to keep an eye on in Canadian film.
Options south of the border: As far as potential in the States, much of that depends on Dolan's continued success. If "Mommy" does well, that will help. The film played at TIFF in 2013, so the length of time is a negative factor.
An Eye for Beauty got better after a second screening. The symbolism of surface beauty became more prevalent after seeing the film again.
The more films you see, good and bad, the more you realize that even a "lesser" Denys Arcand film is still better than most films.
Options south of the border: The Denys Arcand name should be enough to open a few doors. The film is much more accessible than his other work, and parts of the film are in English. A visually beautiful film has a better chance than a dark film.
Sarah Prefers to Run was supposed to run in the 2013 Windsor International Film Festival, but the film ran into technical difficulties. I was able to watch the film online recently. This film title really sums up the film: blocking everything else out, Sarah's motivations center around her desire to keep running, even as she runs away metaphorically from everything else. This is a quiet film that mostly gives us a peek into a character for 90 minutes as opposed to "doing something."
Options south of the border: The film still could find a limited release, but its subtlety will easily get lost in the spectrum of available films.
Big News at Grand Rock takes on the issue of how to make the news more interesting for a small town newspaper.
The film is sweet in a way that many English Canadian films (especially from Ontario) easily pull off. Peter Keleghan and Gordon Pinsent are recognizable faces, even to those south of the border, who are two of the many who hit just the right tone in this film.
The film pokes fun at the quaintness of what makes news in a small town, but celebrates that small town at the same time.
Options south of the border: The film's future in the States is highly slim. The audience that would best enjoy the film is also the least likely to see a film that isn't delivered like a cheap pizza into a multi-screen theatre in a mall.
Altman is a nice straight ahead look at the story of the amazing director, warts and all. Even if you think you know this legendary film icon, you soon discover you don't. Home movies and interviews with friends and family add a nice touch. There are a few mentions of Canada — this is a Canadian documentary — but also notes Altman's time in France.
Options south of the border: This film is very likely to cross over though only in art film circles.
Preggoland mixes a Canadian sensibility with a farcicial premise of a mid-30s woman pretending to be pregnant. The authenticity is helped by the fact that Sonja Bennett wrote the film and stars as the protagonist. Without giving away key plot points, we should note that the film covers some delicate subjects with breathtaking honesty.
The film mixes in well-known actors from south of the border in James Caan and Danny Trejo. Caan does a fine job in a limited role, but Trejo steals the show in his moments.
Bennett starred in a film we saw in Toronto in 2007 called YPF. She handles with great physical comedic ease the difficult task of appearing pregnant in various stages. When you hear American actresses complain about not getting parts past a certain age, a partial solution is to write the role for yourself.
The film was shot in Bennett's hometown of Vancouver.
Options south of the border: Caan and Trejo add a certain appeal in the U.S. market. The film is a smarter look at a subject that was draw in an American audience. Preggoland is likely destined for a cable movie run and/or a Netflix slot.
And then there is this film
Gerontophilia is not for most audiences, perhaps including me. The subject matter — a young man who discovers that he is into older men — is a bit off-putting but the film itself is well-done. Katie Boland plays the young man's girlfriend and does well in a complex role (full disclosure: Boland attended the screening and was a delight to meet). The film also does a nice job of mixing in English and French well; the young man is francohpone while Boland's character is Anglophone.
Options south of the border: If you find this film south of the border outside of a gay/lesbian film festival, we will officially be shocked. But sometimes we are wrong.
Full disclosure: Unlike last year, I paid my way for the entire 2014 Windsor International Film Festival. Still worth every penny.
video credit: "Mommy" film