Thursday, 2 September 2010

TIFF 2010 Reviews #1: Crying Out/À l’origine d’un cri, Jaloux

Crying Out/À l’origine d’un cri, Robin Aubert, (Contemporary World Cinema)In this film by Québécois director, Robin Aubert, the grandfather is dealing with his pending mortality; the father is mad with grief over the death of his second wife (“the love of his life”); and the son is an angry out-of control mess who fills his life with alcohol and one-night stands. When the father takes off after his wife’s funeral, the son is ordered by his army of aunties to go get his grandfather from the retirement home and go looking for the father. It seems the grandfather is the only one that has a chance of convincing the runaway father to come home.

There is the expected series of misadventures that take place during the search, some funny, some sad, but it’s the small, unusual facts dropped into this film that makes it seem so real (despite the magic realism that is part of this film). The fact that there are two sets of children (a daughter from the first marriage takes care of her younger step-siblings); that the first wife is a psychic who never really wanted children (but loves them); that the son, who works in a toilet paper factory writes poetry; and that the grandfather is a war veteran are all touches that make the characters seem like real people. There is a wonderful scene with aunties that speaks to shared familial characteristics and temperaments that will resonate with everyone. It’s not a major scene in the film, but its inclusion adds to our belief that we are watching the story of a particular family.

The unaffected acting, the script that finds the right balance between guttural expulsions of grief and rage, and love and humour combined with well-photographed interiors and exteriors of the gorgeous Québec countryside results in an exceptional cinematic experience.

WARNING: I absolutely loved this film and highly recommend it, but I must caution that the film starts with a brief scene of child molestation that is disturbing. The camera never shows the act itself, and the scene is relevant to the development of one of the male characters, but I know too many survivors not to share this fact about the film.

Jaloux, Patrick Demers, (Canada First)Just when I thought Québec only let its best work out of the province, I encountered Jaloux. Yep, they let a bad one out, and TIFF captured it. Since many of my favourite Canadian films come from la belle province, and I want you to join my I Love Canadian Films Fan Club, I thought I’d better steer you away from this acting and storytelling mess.

The story sounds really good on paper: a couple decide to see whether or not their eight-year relationship can be salvaged by heading off to cottage country to spend some time together to see if they still work as a couple. As circumstances would have it, they get to the cottage and are greeted by a man they think is the next-door neighbour. We know he’s not the neighbour, but they are so busy fighting and sulking in silence that they miss all the clues. Sounds good, right? Well, perhaps, director, Patrick Demers should have spent some time making sure the storytelling worked, and that he had really good actors before he went off into the woods to shoot this sixteen-day improvised film.

From beginning to end, this film felt like an acting exercise rather than a well-plotted thriller. I don’t want to see the acting in a movie; I want to escape into the world of the characters. I don’t want to hear dialogue cues that are supposed to forward the plot; I want to hear a real conversation. The fact that I didn’t care for the couple in the film made me care even less whether or not they worked out their relationship; she was a screeching banshee and he was a passive aggressive knucklehead. As for the neighbour, he is of the “smell the fart” school of acting where flared nostrils indicate are his way of announcing his evil thoughts. Skip it!

What will you see at TIFF 2010?

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