This Week in Film: We Need to Talk About Kevin, Star Wars 3D, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Black Venus, James Diamond, and what's new in DVD and BluRay
This Week in Film rounds up noteworthy new releases in theatres, as well as key DVD / Blu-Ray releases, festivals, and other cinema-related events happening in Toronto.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Varsity)
We also need to talk about character development, apparently. One of the most anticipated projects of the last few years — mostly due to the typically brilliant Lynne Ramsay's decade-long absence after Morvern Callar, protracted to this point after she was detached from that The Lovely Bones debacle — is also one of the most earnest failures of the millennium. It's not for a lack of trying. Ramsay does her best to abstract and fracture this Columbine-esque tale of an evil son who does evil things at his high school, but when it coalesces into a recognizable narrative, she fatally forgot to do one thing: direct. As a result, Tilda Swinton — playing the role of "ramen noodle" — gives the worst performance of her career, while the three actors who play the problem child do no more than glare and stare at the non-parenting around them, effectively convincing audiences that the word "nuance" no longer exists.
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D (Scotiabank)
Everyone's favourite prequel is back, and the Force has compelled us all to drain our wallets once again on this nth edition of the classic sci-fi/fantasy sextet. So basically, a la Titanic and Beauty and the Beast and countless others to follow, the entire Star Wars saga is going to be re-released in cinemas over the next few years in converted faux-3D versions. Beginning with the middle, err, the first episode, the first couple of these will unfortunately be rather insufferable (Jar Jar in 3D! Hayden Christensen's acting gets another dimension!), but in a year or so it might actually be kind of cool to see the original trilogy given the 'upgrade.' It's all in good fun anyway, right?
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (The Royal)
In 1952, Henry King adapted Hemingway's novel The Snows of Kilimanjaro to the screen in a film that is looked back upon as something of a classic; this new film by Robert GuÃ©diguian, which premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes last May, is based on neither the novel nor the film. Instead, we have a film in which a happily married bourgeois couple are tied up, beaten and robbed senselessly. Knowledge is gained that one of the men involved in the assault is the brother of a pair of adorable orphans. Of course, he only did what he did because he had no choice; how else will he be able to care for them? If it all sounds like a rather pat and cloying bit of readymade humanism, that's because it is a little bit. As Le Havre showed us last Fall, though, that's not always a bad thing.
Also in theatres this week:
IN REP CINEMA
For recommendations on what to catch at Toronto's rep cinema's this week, check out This Week in Rep Cinema.
Black Venus (Saturday, February 11 at 7PM)
In 2007, actor-turned-director Abdellatif Kechiche captured the full attention of the arthouse world with his epic, belly dancing-infused concoction known as The Secret of the Grain (or Couscous, for those who don't have the time), a film that even went so far as to land on legendary French publication Cahiers du CinÃ©ma's Top 10 of the Decade list. We were all gung-ho for his follow-up, and when it finally got made in 2010 in the form of Black Venus, Torontonians got the dissatisfaction of watching it skip from Venice to New York, bypassing TIFF (as well as the Cinematheque in the 18 months since).
Well, the time has come to take a look, and the wait was worth it. Kechiche's latest shows the harrowing final years of Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman, AKA Hottentot Venus, AKA Black Venus. The South African's physical 'eccentricities' baffled European scientists; the rest, as wrenchingly portrayed in the film, is indeed history, but history is so much better when viewed through the lens of an auteur. This screening will take pace at the NFB Mediatheque as part of their French-Language Black History Month Program for Adults, and is being preceded by Nicolas Brault's 9-minute short film Hungu. Tickets are $10.
Stepping Between Projections - video work by James Diamond (Sunday, February 12 at 4PM)
Pleasure Dome and the Rhubarb Festival (an experimental performance festival) are co-presenting the video works of award-winning director, producer and writer James Diamond. Diamond's rÃ©sumÃ© is perhaps best known for his 2006 film Mars Womb-Man, winner of the Best Experimental Work award at imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. This programme, in addition to screening that film, will include pretty much all of the work that he has made over the last decade. After the films, Diamond will speak with Ananya Ohri (an artist, activist and curator) before opening up for a Q&A. This event is being sponsored by Vtape, and takes place at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander St.). Pay what you can.
DVD & BluRay
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