CINEMA: Good acting around music, a remade anti-war classic and an offbeat environmental film
Movie theaters had a bad month of September and are worried that October will end better. So there’s a lot of pressure on a horror movie this weekend. Halloween Ends is set to be a box office savior with big numbers after weeks of slumping. It started last night, is playing in 3,800 theaters and is expected to be profitable. But can it revive the exhibition side of the industry? The studio did not help. He hasn’t previewed it (not widely anyway), so reviews will be few.
It is now the 13th film in the series about a neighborhood killer that began in 1978. Jamie Lee Curtis returns as Laurie Strode who fights him. This may be the last time, but she said it before and she came back. Even since the death of his character, after a movie. So, I’m not betting the title is true and the series ends there.
In the meantime, I’m glad the crowd at the Vancouver International Film Festival named The grizzly truth as the crowd favorite this year. Watch him. It’s nostalgia with depth.
And here’s what’s available now.
Tar: 4 stars
All Quiet on the Western Front: 4 stars
Debris: 3 ½
Triangle of Sadness: 3
TAR: Cate Blanchett gives an impressive performance in this film about power, as wielded by a woman, and the undoing of culture as its machinations bring it down. She is a world-renowned conductor, the first woman to conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the holder of numerous accolades, as established in an early interview with New York writer Adam Gopnik. Much of the film, especially the classical music detail, is presented so authentically by writer/director Todd Field that you might imagine you’re watching a documentary. This sense of realism strengthens him enormously and supports the personal story.
Blanchett’s Lydia Tár is a difficult taskmaster, sometimes a bully. It retains some of its best musicians from promotions and promotes others. She lives with her first violinist (Nina Hoss) but is attracted by a young cellist whom she brings into the orchestra. “Fresh Meat” grabs the headlines as Lydia’s past, particularly an adventure while on an international tour some time ago, comes back to her. Her life changes as she prepares for the highlight of her career, a live recording of Mahler’s 5e.. She’s recorded all of her symphonies and this is supposed to be the pinnacle moment. It does not work like that. The details are sketchy but the story is extremely captivating. And Blanchett’s character is one of the most memorable in cinema. (In theaters in Toronto, and next week in Vancouver and Montreal) 4 out of 5
IN THE WEST, NOTHING IS NEW: The classic anti-war novel has already been filmed twice, once in 1930 (when it won three Oscars) and again for television in 1979. It’s still as relevant as ever and that makes this Netflix release most welcome. . It’s the first time it’s been filmed in Germany and it’s that country’s submission to the Oscars. The novel was one of the first books banned by the Nazis. The realities of war it depicts are just too grim. Morale would have plummeted. Erich Maria Remarque based much of it on his own experiences fighting in the trenches of the First World War and this film greatly accentuates the shocking scenes. The mud, the bloody wounds, the gas attacks, the bullet comes out of nowhere. They are perfectly presented under the direction of Edward Berger, who also wrote the screenplay.
The story follows four young men who are told war is glorious when they join the German army. They find exactly the opposite; war transforms man into “a beast”. They get desperate when gas and flamethrower attacks come their way, they can’t tell what’s moving out there in the fields, and they sometimes have to climb over bodies to make a move. The film follows the novel quite closely, but also adds new twists, such as the ongoing negotiations to end the war. They’re intercut with some of the worst fights, likely to show that the superiors weren’t suffering. Daniel Brühl is the German negotiator and the only player I recognized. The leader among the young recruits is played by Felix Kammerer, a Viennese theater actor with a strong film debut. The entire cast is compelling in this powerful film. You really have to see it on the big screen. (Select theaters in Toronto and Vancouver now, many more cities next week and on Netflix from October 28) 4 out of 5
TO ABANDON: We are such a wasteful society. Here is an original but no less powerful repetition of this statement. It’s Canadian, directed by Stacey Tenenbaum and rephrases the statement like this: do we have to throw away so many? She takes us to a man’s collection of rusty cars in the woods behind his home in Georgia. “The oldest junkyard in the world” says a sign. Later, there is a field of old rusty airplane bodies in Thailand. People live in some of them.
In India, people in a warehouse are dismantling mobile phones. Also in India, decommissioned ships are being dismantled. The metal will be reused and as one man said: “It’s a nice way to bring something back” (from his death).
The film visits several countries to see people recycling like this. Farm machinery in South Dakota. Phone booths cleaned, repainted and displayed on a farm in England. Shipping parts incorporated into a new church in South Korea. A man creates sculptures from old metal parts and shows them in a parade. The motivation goes beyond recycling and reuse. Almost everyone in the film talks about history: we lose a lot of ours by dint of throwing away. These old objects have a lot of meaning; “they are like anchors to the past”, we should honor the people “who worked so hard to make them”. Comments like this are present throughout the film and offer a new perspective on our consumption habits. (In theaters: Guelph now, Sakatoon, Toronto, Montreal and more soon, Vancouver in a week) 3 ½ out of 5
TRIANGLE OF SAD: The big winner of the Cannes Film Festival widens this week and still leaves me a little perplexed. How did the jury choose this film as the best on their list? Sure, it’s well-written and nicely presented, but it’s also overkill (I say this after a second viewing), too long, and I don’t quite know how to end properly. Sweden’s Ruben Östlund is as sharp as ever as a writer/director and he once again pokes fun at the bourgeois with a mixture of contempt and humor.
But it gets a bit tiring before it ends. And there’s also too much vomit in it.
A young couple gets a free trip on a luxury cruise (because she’s an influencer). He’s a male model and together they’re artificial, pretenders. So do most of the people they meet: including a Russian capitalist, the American Captain (Woody Harrelson) who claims to be a Marxist, and an elderly couple from England whose livelihood comes from making hand grenades (which have been used all over the world in battles for democracy, according to the man in the duo). This is the ironic tone that Östlund uses throughout the film. It shows the ship’s personnel as underdogs, but has one that pays off when the ship explodes and the main characters end up on an island. Its elevation is welcome but vague in what it is meant to indicate. So almost missed, I would say, not Palme d’Or. (Cinemas: Toronto last week, Vancouver and Montreal added today, more next week) 3 out of 5