Thursday, December 31, 2009

End-of-Decade, End-of-Year, Best Blah-Blah-Blah Listapalooza Post

Well, not only is the end of the year upon us, but the end of a decade - the first that this not-so-new-any-more millennium had to offer. Seeing as how this is the very last day of the whole kit and kaboodle, now's as ideal a time as ever for me to post my personal favorite films of both 2009 and the 2000s overall (I'm still not quite sure how to refer to this decade - the zeroes? The noughts? The two-thousands? Ugh, certainly not that last one).

I'll start off with my top ten favorite films (so, not necessarily the best) of 2009. There are still some that I have yet to see (Fantastic Mr. Fox, The White Ribbon, Avatar, Moon and Antichrist being a few), but of the ones I did see, I picked these ten, in ascending order (though the order isn't necessarily carved in stone).

Marc's Top Ten Films of 2009

10) Freeter's Distress (Hiroki Iwabuchi)

Technically, this is a 2007 release, but since no one in North America really had a chance to see it before Chris MaGee and Jasper Sharp brought it over to Toronto for the first annual Shinsedai Cinema Festival this past summer, it definitely qualifies for me as a 2009 film. I saw many great Japanese independent films this year thanks to Shinsedai (among them Yoshihiro Ito's collection of imaginative shorts, collectively titled Vortex & Others, Yasutomo Chikuma's Now I..., Touru Hano's noirish Thunderfish and Masahide Ichii's Naked of Defenses), but there was something about this stark, honest effort that made me choose it above the others for this list. Shot with a simple camcorder, it chronicles Hiroki Iwabuchi's experiences and adventures as a part-timer constantly on the brink of poverty. This is easily one of the strongest examples of personal, first-person filmmaking I've seen, and I hope it brings Iwabuchi-san better luck in the future.

9) Up (Pete Docter, Bob Peterson)

Yup, it's all true: Pixar has hit another home run with Up. While not as strong as some of their previous efforts, it still certainly exceeds expectations for a simple kid's movie. Now, I'd hesitate to proclaim it as "high art," like some other folks have done. After all, let's not kid ourselves - a well-made children's film is still a children's film with all the limitations of the genre, and shouldn't be compared with other, more legitimate "art films" like, say, There Will Be Blood or Caché (a matter discussed by Jason Bellamy and Ed Howard over at The House Next Door). Don't even try it. Worlds of difference separate them. But what Up and the other Pixar triumphs do, they do very, very well. The opening sequence of Up is just as touching and beautiful as everyone says, and it alone will keep me very interested in what the Pixar dream factory will come up with next.

8) Star Trek (J.J. Abrams)

As with Christopher Nolan's Batman films, it was so good to have a childhood franchise mature along with me. Rewriting the rule book in a way that seems to have pleased even the most rabid of Trekkies, J.J. Abrams has successfully brought the fun back to Star Trek. He has done justice to the original characters and actors with a well-chosen crop of fresh faces (with Karl Urban clearly stealing the show like a bandit) and injected plenty of action and adventure in just the right way. Plus, the flick looks gorgeous - phasers, starships, monsters and lens flares (yep, lens flares, probably exceeding the amount Paul Thomas Anderson used in Punch-Drunk Love) all virtually pop off the screen. Job well done.

7) (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb)

It was so nice to see a light-hearted yet brutally honest film about relationships. Marc Webb's debut film is very much of the same spirit as Truffaut's delightful humanist dramas, not needing to look any further than the web of daily life and ordinary people to tell a good story in a fun, stylish manner. For me, this film might be better than Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in that it tackles the same subject matter with a similar, non-linear structure, but without requiring the contrivance of a mind-erasure company. I still like Eternal Sunshine a lot, but this one earns extra points in my book for just diving in and approaching the subject head on. Oh yes, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are excellent.

6) Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)

A very mature piece of work from Jason Reitman. Extremely relevant, it serves as a well-articulated call to consider what should be truly cherished in your life. George Clooney's commitment-dodging, self-made philosopher Ryan Bingham makes for one interesting protagonist who embarks on a gradual, episodic process of reevaluation and renewal. Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are both great to watch in their respective roles, as are J.K. Simmons, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Bateman, Danny McBride and Melanie Lynskey in their smaller parts. Very sincere, and more fresh and original than some may expect going in.

5) Visage (Tsai Ming-liang)

Easily the most rewardingly mystifying film on this list. This one I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival, so it hasn't really gotten a wide North American release yet...but I'll be waiting patiently until it does, and is released on DVD afterwards. Meditating on death, time, the French New Wave, filmmaking, sexuality, myths and so much more, Tsai Ming-liang's latest is opaque, difficult and often bizarre, but I can't get it out of my head. It's a riddle that I long to revisit and ponder very soon in the future; a cinematic poem of snow, darkness and space.

4) Micmacs à tire-larigot (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

Another film I previously saw at TIFF and still has yet to be distributed across North America. You can read my glowing review of it here, but I'll repeat that this is yet another of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's satisfying cinematic treats. Colorful, funny, creative and highly entertaining, it seems to work in all the ways one would expect from the director of Amélie and Delicatessen.

3) A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen)

After the minor work (but, I think, unjustly underrated) Burn After Reading, the Coen brothers made yet another solid film. Not as wall-to-wall entertaining as The Big Lebowski (but really, what is?) or accessible as Fargo, A Serious Man keeps some of the ambiguous spirit of No Country for Old Men, but in a completely different story. Michael Stuhlbarg's physics professor Larry Gopnik is forced to deal with one spot of bad luck after another while vainly searching for understanding and guidance (most memorably from three very different rabbis). A Midwestern fable loosely based on the Book of Job, it certainly warrants repeated viewings.

2) The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)

As many are saying, this is possibly the best Iraq war film made yet, precisely because its main focus isn't the war or its politics, but the people who are caught in the center of it all. Jeremy Renner is compelling to watch as a hotshot adrenaline junkie bomb defuser who gets caught up in one white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat sequence after another. That's the secret of The Hurt Locker's success: not only is it insightful and important, but it's also damned entertaining to boot.

1) Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)

After years of rumors and anticipation, Quentin Tarantino finally delivered his long-gestating World War II movie. But it's not quite the movie everyone was expecting. While it contains a fair amount of action, it doesn't feature the massive, epic battles I was originally envisioning, opting instead for a series of expertly devised, deliciously executed lessons in screen suspense. Also, I'm pretty sure nobody was expecting anything like Christoph Waltz, who makes a villain for the ages with his Colonel Hans Landa. Ultimately, this film is of the same breed as Kill Bill in Tarantino's filmography: both are focused on nothing less than delivering a rollicking good story, rummaging through a vast tool box of cinematic devices with visible glee, serving up character after fascinating character, revelling in the various cultures (Japanese, Chinese, French, German, British) and films that make up Quentin's distinct, exhilarating movie-verse. Without a doubt, this one will be getting many repeated viewings over the course of the new year. Rock on, Tarantino.

Now, here is The Big One: my favorite films of the 2000s. Some may look at this list and write me off as a lunatic for not including a Pixar film or In the Mood for Love, but I don't care. I did consider both for my list of finalists (In the Mood is easily one of Wong Kar-Wai's most perfect films, and I simply adore Ratatouille), but these picks consist of films that lingered in my head the most and struck me as the most well-rounded, well-made and emotionally resonant films I saw this decade. Again, the order isn't absolutely fixed, and could very easily change a little bit depending on my mood on any given day...except for my number-one pick, which remains absolute.

Read 'em and weep/cheer/agree/disagree:

Marc's Top Ten Films of the 2000s

10) No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)

There's no doubt that the Coens' Cormac McCarthy adaptation is an eloquent, handsomely crafted exploration of corruption and the unstoppable force of human evil. But I found this film to be a little too tidy, its messages a little too clearly decipherable within the tale - almost as if the finished film came with a little tag that read, "Shelve under M for Masterpiece." This sense of cold calculation is the reason why it's only number 10 here, but the excellent performances from Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly Macdonald, Woody Harrelson and, yes, Javier Bardem and its dark, powerful vision at least guaranteed it a spot here somewhere.

9) Yi Yi (Edward Yang, 2000)

Made at the very start of the new millennium, Edward Yang's superb three-hour family drama has persisted thus far as one of its best - and will probably remain as such for some time to come. Sadly, it turned out to be his swan song when he passed away in 2007, but he still remains one of Taiwan's most highly acclaimed filmmakers. I love Yi Yi for the calm, quiet way in which it handles the personal crises and challenges of its characters, whether they're reconnecting with old loves, trying to forge bonds with new ones, dealing with painful revelations, upholding friendships or simply showing people what they miss out on every day with only a camera. In addition to its profound insights and powerful yet controlled emotional content, the film also provides an insightful look at city life, with the bright, urban spaces of Taipei front and center (though Tokyo makes a welcome guest appearance).

8) The Tracey Fragments (Bruce McDonald, 2007)

A clever, innovative coming-of-age film that manages to be stylistically revolutionary AND deeply moving? And Canadian (more precisely, English-Canadian)? It's got a place here. This amazing film hasn't really received the amount of praise or even attention that I believe it deserves - and that's truly a crime. For with its complex multi-frame techniques that provides such an intimate look into the mind of Tracey Berkowitz (Ellen Page in her best role yet), The Tracey Fragments pushes the medium of film to a new level, telling a story with images in a way that has never really been seen before - or since, really. The various combinations of shots and the many ways in which they appear on the screen (different patterns, quick and slow cuts, vast and limited numbers, thematic linkages and clashes) give a taste of the creative possibilities and poetic effectiveness of such methods. For more of my thoughts on this bold new branch of filmmaking, do check out my original review for The Tracey Fragments here and the one for Edmund Yeo's similarly stylized film Kingyo here.

7) Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)

One of the finest fantasy films ever made, Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is just about perfect. From the gorgeous colors and design of its worlds to the double-pronged story of a little girl's imagination during the fascist era of 1940s Spain, it just casts a spell over you, seizing your attention with expert skill. Smartly, del Toro keeps things a smidge ambiguous regarding the girl's adventures with fairies and monsters, never directly linking them with the goings-on of the real world and its ugly bursts of violence, but instead linking the two areas thematically and symbolically. While giving the eyes and the mind plenty to feast on, Pan's Labyrinth still leaves room for its viewers to dream, ponder and speculate, which is what makes it so wise, seductive and bloody good.

6) Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)

I know we've come to expect great things from David Fincher, but this one simply took the cake. Doing so much more than recreating the actual events of the Zodiac case that rocked San Francisco in the 1960s and '70s, Zodiac guides us through its intricacies and details in such a way that you want to discover the truth just as much as Jake Gyllenhaal's Robert Graysmith. Be it through the lens of journalism or police work, Fincher effectively illustrates the allure of investigation, of discovering the facts and uncovering the truth. It makes the process of dry research as suspenseful as the quest for the Holy Grail, and certainly did much to rekindle my taste for mystery stories. This one's brains easily outweigh The Curious Case of Benjamin Button's heart.

5) The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)

It's perfectly safe to say that Wes Anderson hasn't made a bad film yet. True, I haven't had the pleasure of seeing Fantastic Mr. Fox yet, but I'm more than willing to trust that it's just as good as people are saying it is. And while The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is definitely his weakest effort to date, I wouldn't write it off as a complete failure. My favorite of his tends to go back and forth between Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. The former has a ton of heart, wonderful characters and a wicked sense of humor, but in terms of artistic maturity and the scope of Anderson's unique, highly fashionable vision, Tenenbaums emerges as the more accomplished film. It is exactly as long as it should be, and is trimmed, tailored and fine-tuned in all the right places. It is extremely witty and provides plenty to marvel at on its surface, but contains a sincere emotional core beneath it all. Of the many "Best of the Decade" lists I've seen so far, this is the Anderson that keeps popping up. That's because it is the quintessential Anderson film, serving as both a mascot for everything Wes-Andersonian, and a solid testament to his talent.

4) Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)

Amélie is every bit as magical and special as people say it is. I myself was actually promised that when my buddy Shaun loaned it to me a few years back - and boy was he right. Balancing Jean-Pierre Jeunet's wacky, delirious sensibility with a plot plucked straight from the New Wave (the Parisian love story is far more grounded in reality than the post-apocalyptic dystopias Jeunet cooked up with Marc Caro in Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children), Amélie is the very definition of a modern-day fairy tale. It introduced the adorable Audrey Tautou to the world and showcases a slew of quirky characters who fill out the mousy young waitress' world. Not least of all, the film comes packed with stories and treasures, delving into the delights of childhood, everyday life and love with truckloads of style. Visually, stylistically, narratively, emotionally, Amélie is wonderful.

3) Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003-4)

Kill Bill occupies quite a special place in my heart. I first saw the tantalizing teaser trailer for it and, a short time later, Vol. 1 when I was first beginning to think of movies as more than just movies. It was around when Apocalypse Now first blew my mind, and I was gradually discovering the films of Stanley Kubrick. I was starting to recognize directors as artists, with their own unique tastes, styles and attitudes. When I saw the above trailer, I recognized the name Tarantino, and had certainly heard of his films, but had never really discovered him or them fully. So I sought out Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, promptly fell in love with them, then saw Kill Bill: Vol. 1, which exploded like an overstuffed pinata all over my little brain. I couldn't have hoped for a better crash course in style, technique, genre and cinematic storytelling than that particular film. What's more, even though I had certainly seen my share of screen violence at that point, there was something different about that which was contained in Vol. 1. It was sneaky and hard-hitting, and felt dangerous to behold. The opening fight between the Bride and Vernita Green, the bloody animé sequence, the House of Blue Leaves - all brutal, unapologetic, cunningly planned assaults on both you and the characters. Though Vol. 2 isn't as entertaining as Vol. 1, it serves as a fitting second half to Tarantino's epic tale, and when considered as one film, they are nothing short of a masterpiece.

2) Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)

Park Chan-wook is easily one of my favorite filmmakers of the Noughts. Every time I think I have my favorite film of his definitively picked out, I am reminded of his other ones. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is so uncompromisingly bleak and poetic - but what about the compelling mystery-turned-friendship fable of Joint Security Area? Or the decadence of Lady Vengeance? But just as The Royal Tenenbaums sticks out as Wes Anderson's finest work, Oldboy does the same as Park's. It is just so incredibly well done, balancing a thriller's lure with a classic tale of revenge, fantastic stylistic flourishes and moments of genuine emotional poignancy. Oh Dae-su's quest of vengeance is heartbreaking and scary to behold, and it's not even the only one in motion throughout the whole film. Awesomely cool, wicked smart and moving all in one package: what more do you need?

1) There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)

Hands down THE masterpiece of the millennium thus far. I remember a time when Paul Thomas Anderson said that he would never be able to top Magnolia, and I, a fully-fledged member of the Magnolia fan club, agreed with him. And then he made There Will Be Blood. Wow. This is a movie I saw four times in the theatre - including once when I was in Paris, of all places, just because I wanted to see it again. There are so many things contained within this story of oil, greed, religion and family. There is the fascinating individual at its heart, Daniel Plainview, and the simply amazing job Daniel Day-Lewis does bringing him to life. There are the many messages about family bonds that it communicates in ways both apparent and subtle. There is the steady, bubbling torrent of emotion that builds up throughout the whole thing, released at certain key moments in terrifying bursts of blood and thunder. And then there is the way in which it is all pulled off: with patience and restraint, never showing any more than what needs to be shown. The cinematography assembles a careful palette of oily blacks, dull browns, fiery orange glows and the rich sheen of polished wood. Jonny Greenwood's music gives voice to the dark, twisted psyche of Plainview and offers a silent film score-like commentary on the events of the film with, in all the right places, appropriate gusto, jarring abrasiveness and immeasurable sadness. The film, quite simply, tells the story of a man who is driven by his ambitions and methodical strategies, mapping it out in linear fashion from his origins and following him point by hard-won point along his climb upwards all the way to the well-furnished mansion he has built around himself. Offering a hypnotic vision of capitalism's rise in America and a character study like no other, There Will Be Blood is artistic brilliance itself.

Happy New Year (and Decade) everyone.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Directory of World Cinema: Japan

Hello all. I hope the holiday season has been treating everyone well.

In about two and a half months, Intellect Books will be releasing the maiden volume in a new series of books that is very much of the same culture-sampling spirit as this blog: the Directory of World Cinema. Each book will look at a different area of world cinema, providing reviews and essays from a variety of scholars and writers.

The first book, which will be hitting shelves on February 15th, 2010, will be the Japan volume, edited by John Berra. I'm pretty excited about it - partly because I contributed a few reviews myself, as did my Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow colleagues Bob Turnbull and Matthew Hardstaff. But besides that, it's a pretty comprehensive guide with a nice layout and plenty of material on the main areas and key films and figures of Japanese cinema (one of my favorite pieces that I've read so far is John's essay on Takeshi Kitano's Achilles and the Tortoise, which he presents as the "Film of the Year"). But don't take my word for it - you can download the entire book in a PDF file right here.

If you like what you see and want an actual copy of the book, here are the book's listings for and Happy reading!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Micmacs à tire-larigot (2009)

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Country: France

Previously posted at Row Three.

After a lengthy hiatus, Micmacs à tire-larigot marks a refreshing return for Jean-Pierre Jeunet, one of French cinema’s most consistently fascinating filmmakers. He first dazzled audiences alongside partner-in-crime Marc Caro with a slew of shorts, the beloved dark comedy Delicatessen and the fairy tale The City of Lost Children, then took a detour through Hollywood with Alien: Resurrection before delivering the one-and-only Amélie and A Very Long Engagement, which manages to be at once a sweeping romance, potent anti-war piece and splendidly Gothic mystery worthy of comparison to Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s novels. Now, devotees of his fantasy-laced work can safely add Micmacs, which screened at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, to his ever-growing résumé of cinematic triumphs.

Comedic actor Dany Boon (Bievenue chez les Ch’tis, Joyeux Noël) stars as endearing hero Bazil, whose father is killed when he steps on a landmine in Morocco. Many years later, a chance incident ends with him receiving a bullet in his skull that doesn’t kill him, but threatens the possibility of death at any moment. Rendered homeless by the accident, Bazil decides to seek vengeance against the two arms manufacturers responsible for the fateful mine and bullet, soon acquiring assistance in the form of a surrogate family of oddballs. They include Julie Ferrier as a talented contortionist, Omar Sy as an avid collector of expressions, Jean-Pierre Marielle as a veteran con man, Marie-Julie Baup as resident brainiac Calculette, Michel Crémadès as a gnomish inventor and familiar Jeunet collaborators Yolande Moreau and Dominique Pinon as, respectively, the group’s cook and a human cannonball record-holder.

Micmacs’ prologue contains the same sober tone and golden color scheme of Engagement, but from there, with the witty appearance of a title card reading “The End” and the flip of a coin, the film takes off on a deliriously funny and incredibly inventive joy ride. With help from his frequent co-writer Guillaume Laurent and an ingenious army of artists and technicians, Jeunet constructs yet another of his magpie nests of oddities and wonders, this one resembling a feature-length episode of Mission: Impossible as seen through the funhouse mirror of his imagination. As in Amélie and Engagement, the camera journeys through Paris with visible affection, highlighting a traveler’s must-visit list of locations like the Moulin Rouge, Pont de Bir-Hakeim (the bridge prominently featured in Last Tango in Paris and many other films) and distinctive St. Christopher’s hostel situated alongside the Bassin de la Villette. However, during the Q&A session after the TIFF screening, Jeunet said that after having made three films set in Paris, he was “done” with the city and would like to choose a different one for his next project, with San Francisco, where his wife hails from, being a possible contender (though one audience member enthusiastically shouted “Toronto!”).

Micmacs bears many of the elements that make its director’s work so unique and well-loved: his trademark cartoonish humor; frank approach to sex and violence; reverence of nostalgia and childlike sense of wonder and joy. When Bazil is taken to his new friends’ home, the film arrives at the perfect Jeunet setting: a junkyard filled with forgotten relics that are rediscovered and assembled into marvelous contraptions. But besides Jeunet himself, the filmmaker whose work Micmacs most brings to mind is Jacques Tati. Like the Monsieur Hulot creator’s commentary on modern alienation in films like Playtime and Trafic, the film’s sharp, satirical attack on the arms trade employs comedy as a means of social critique. The sleek, antiseptic homes of the fat cat weapons tycoons (André Dussollier and Nicolas Marié) are updated versions of the one at the center of Mon Oncle. There are the numerous gags littered throughout the film, some of which involving a clapper-activated fireplace, the microphone repeatedly lowered down its chimney (at one point allowing Jeunet to indulge himself with a sly reference to Delicatessen), a stream of urine pouring from behind a small dog and the tycoons’ individual methods of eating shrimp. Finally, there are the small, quiet moments that Tati would’ve smiled at in approval, like the nice little scene between Bazil and a serving lady that plays out like one from a silent comedy. Yet it isn’t all fun and games, as the film dutifully allots some attention to the real-world issue of war- and weapons-related tragedies and the careless entities responsible for them.

However, even as Micmacs ventures into serious territory, it remains packed with delights from beginning to end. The elaborate schemes, cons and plans of sabotage carried out by the team of misfits are the stuff of a first-rate caper movie. As usual, Jeunet keeps the stylistic flourishes coming strong, including great little animated segments that illustrate the random questions Bazil forces himself to ponder whenever his bullet-addled brain acts up. Cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata provides a flood of lush colors and striking images such as the one showing blood trickling down a recently-shot, wide-eyed Bazil’s face. There are these plus countless other things ripe for discovery, including the funniest Travis Bickle impersonation since Vincent Cassel hammed it up in front of a mirror in La Haine.

Micmacs à tire-larigot is currently playing in France and will be released in the UK on February 26th, 2010. While the official release date for Canada is still currently undetermined (though Sony Pictures Classics has acquired it for U.S. and Latin American distribution), hopefully audiences won’t have to wait too long to dig into the latest feast to come out of Monsieur Jeunet’s kitchen.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Hello everyone. I'm here to let you all know about a recent development for the author of this humble little blog: I have been very generously invited to serve as a contributor for the film site Row Three. Essentially, I'll be writing the same kinds of pieces that I've been posting on this site. For notable pieces (e.g. full reviews), I'll cross-publish them here after they've appeared on Row Three, but I'll still put in an original post here every now and then.

So that's what's happening at the moment, among many other things this busy December. Click the link above to check out Row Three, and don't forget that I'll still be regularly contributing to the one and only Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow!

Stay tuned for my Top Ten Films of the 2000s list!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thirst; Vampyr

Hello all. With New Moon madness now upon us here in North America, I thought the best way to put an end to my recent hiatus would be a fresh attack against the Stephenie Meyer-penned, dreamy teen boyhunk vampires 'n' werewolves phenomenon, hitting it with a double-shot of alternatives for the jaded, sick and tired vampire fans of the world. Of course, avoiding vampires altogether is an effective option that many have probably taken at this point - and I don't blame you. But reconsider giving up the fanged figures completely if only to give these interesting works a chance. Without further ado...

Thirst (2009)
Director: Park Chan-wook
Country: South Korea

I'm a huge admirer of Park Chan-wook's work. He is one of those filmmakers who truly knows how to use and develop his own cinematic style, resulting in films that are visually splendid, thematically fascinating and quite often downright brilliant. Ever since Cut, his segment of the Asian horror omnibus film Three...Extremes which opens with a film crew shooting a vampire film, fans have been teased with hints and rumors of his full-length, fully-fledged horror film. Now we have Thirst, which just recently came out on DVD (in Region 1) and tells the tale of a priest (Park regular Song Kang-ho) who volunteers for a medical experiment and ends up receiving blood from a transfusion that turns him into a vampire. As he adapts to his new "condition," he meets the sexually provocative Tae-joo (Kim Ok-vin), with whom he forms a complex and dangerous relationship while grappling with feelings of guilt from the evil deeds he is driven to do.

I have yet to see Park's eccentric comedy I'm a Cyborg, But That's Okay, so this was essentially the first new film of his I was seeing since the excellent Lady Vengeance - and boy was it good to come back to his world. All of his recognizable visual trademarks are there - creative transitions and camerawork, vivid colors, beautifully grotesque displays of violence. However, the mood of the film was something that occasionally threw me. There are, of course, moments of real dramatic weight and horror, but every so often, Park takes a swerve into comedy, the most obvious (and disappointing) example being Tae-joo's husband who, after being drowned by the vampire-priest, haunts the couple by appearing on their bed, sopping wet, grinning a huge, dopey grin. It's hard to believe this is from the same Park who used another drowned ghost - that of a little girl - to such chilling effect in Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, a film so stark and hard-hitting that one wouldn't imagine there being any room for visiting spirits. Thirst also sports some of the dark, deadpan humor that Park used so well in certain moments of his Vengeance trilogy, but it ultimately lacks the driving focus that anchored his previous explorations of the dark side of the soul, instead going from intriguing to sexy to funny and back again.

While not one of Park's best, Thirst still has plenty to good stuff to sink your teeth into (pun not intended), including sumptuous visuals (the film is a blue- and white-hued wonderland), an excellent performance by Kim Ok-vin and a quite satisfying conclusion.

Vampyr (1932)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Country: France/Germany

I'm now jumping from 2009 all the way back to the last days of silent cinema for one of the very first vampire films ever made - and still one of the finest. For what better filmmaker is there to combat the wave of inept filmmaking that the Twilight film series is producing so far (I'm hoping David Slade doesn't hit strike three with Eclipse, if only because I like Hard Candy so much) than Carl Theodor Dreyer, the Danish master who gave us The Passion of Joan of Arc? For Vampyr, he applied his unique style to the horror genre for the first time - are you detecting a pattern here? But unlike Chan-wook Park, Dreyer just about pulls it off flawlessly, producing a truly eerie atmosphere of misty fields, isolated houses and shifting shadows.

The narrative follows a young student of the occult named Allan Grey (Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg AKA Julian West, who also helped finance the film) who becomes enmeshed in sinister goings-on surrounding an old man and his two daughters Gisèle and Léone who are tormented by a vampire named Marguerite Chopin and her servant. Yet the plot is only secondary (and in fact leaves a number of things unexplained) compared to the mesmerizing realm into which Dreyer draws his audience. Just in the opening moments, with Grey's arrival at his strange inn and the sight of an old ferry rider carrying a scythe, the film begins casting a spell through its imagery alone. The cinematography by Rudolph Maté seems to carve the shapes and figures out of pure ebony, and Dreyer, with a barrage of wallpaper patterns, silhouettes that move on their own and painting-inspired compositions, fashions a purely Gothic visual scheme (helped along by Rena Mandel's black dress-clad, heavily eyeshadowed Gisèle). The film's events are brilliantly accentuated by Wolfgang Zeller's ominous score.

While containing certain elements that anyone familiar with vampire movies should recognize, Vampyr certainly belongs in a class of its own, not a film so much as a strange, surreal fever dream bound to linger in viewers' minds.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn Sonata (1978)

Director: Ingmar Bergman
Country: Sweden

The other day, I finally got around to sitting down and revisiting Autumn Sonata. The film is one of Ingmar Bergman's later color triumphs, an elegant chamber drama clearly made by a mature artist. But there is another figure who attracts just as much of the audience's attention in front of the camera: acting legend Ingrid Bergman (no relation) in, unfortunately, her only collaboration with the great filmmaker. But perhaps the rarity of this collaboration makes it all the more special - or perhaps we should be thankful that it happened at all, as its result is truly something to be experienced.

Autumn Sonata mostly takes place over the course of one day and night in the home of Liv Ullmann's Eva and her husband Viktor (Halvar Björk). Eva's mother Charlotte (Bergman), a renowned pianist, comes to stay with them for a few days, her visit at first starting off with a friendly reception, but soon giving way to more painful confrontations. Among the sources of tension between mother and daughter is Helena (Lena Nyman), Eva's sister who is stricken with a crippling illness and whose presence makes Charlotte very uncomfortable, and buried feelings of resentment that stem from Eva's neglected childhood.

Autumn Sonata, as well known as it is for its two headliners, is remarkable for so much more than the meeting of the Bergmans, serving as a perfect convergence of several artistic forces. Liv Ullmann is at her typical best here, giving a both powerful and subtle performance that ranks among the most memorable of her many collaborations with Ingmar. In similar fashion, the great cinematographer Sven Nykvist produces absolutely gorgeous imagery, suitably making good use of autumnal colors all throughout the film. Especially worth noting are the beautiful stylized flashbacks theatrically portrayed with isolated shots that stand out as miniature masterpieces of lighting, set design and composition. Also, keep an eye open for Bergman regulars Erland Josephson and Gunnar Björnstrand in minor roles.

While Eva's husband and sister serve as interesting and important characters in the narrative, it'd be a joke to place any relationship in the film above that of the mother and daughter. The entire "sonata" of the film is built around their inevitable conflict, even when the two of them greet each other warmly enough when Charlotte first arrives at the remote house. A precursor for what is to come is presented in a scene in which Eva practices one of Chopin's preludes on the piano for her mother, after which Charlotte performs her own rendition of the piece. In a way, the scene is a variation of the double monologue scene in Persona, as the camera lingers on each woman's face as the other plays the Chopin piece, recording every subtle flicker of emotion as she regards her opposite in quiet contemplation. However, unlike the Persona scene, Bergman now no longer needs the device of direct repetition nor the aid of dialogue - wisely, he lets Chopin's music do all the talking (though before her turn to play, Charlotte does offer a rather brilliant analysis of the composer, his character and how it should be reflected in his music).

Then all of the elegant exposition soon gives way to the middle portion of the film, a veritable emotional tempest as the two women reveal their pain and anger towards one another. At first, one could call Ingrid's character a monster based on her authoritative, confrontational nature - one could easily draw that assumption from her decision to wear a flowing red dress so soon after her partner Leonardo's death, which she does mainly to thwart her daughter's expectations of her. However, the long nighttime dispute sequence and the way it shows both Eva's and Charlotte's perspectives towards one another simply makes it impossible to conduct so simple a reading. Each woman takes turns as both victim and antagonist, digging up bitter memories of sacrifices made and regrets long harbored.

While an often bleak affair, Autumn Sonata is also an irrefutably brilliant work of art, and upon this recent viewing, I'm fully prepared to list it among such other Bergman favorites of mine as Persona, Cries and Whispers and Fanny and Alexander.

Along with this review, I thought I'd include a topic- and season-appropriate treat: a gallery of photos I took of some of the wonderful autumnal sights around my home town of Oakville, Ontario that can be seen around this time of year. I hope you enjoy 'em.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Let The Right One In; Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Let the Right One In (2008)
Director: Thomas Alfredson
Country: Sweden

Better late to the party than never. Quite a few months ago, I read the novel upon which this film is based by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who served as the screenwriter in its adaptation to the screen. Simply, the book was great - a well-written, slow-burning, character-based horror novel worthy of comparison to Stephen King's excellent 'Salem's Lot. Of course, positive word-of-mouth aside, I should have known I was in for a treat - because a vampire story that gets its title from a Morrissey song ("Let the Right One Slip In") can't possibly be bad.

I was most pleased to discover that what people were saying about the film were also true, and that it is very much its own animal while remaining faithful to the book. The Swedish setting is shot as an otherworldly, desolate, nocturnal, snow-laden realm of darkness and isolated islands of light provided by streetlamps - the perfect atmosphere for a horror yarn. But while there is a fair share of grisly tension-filled scenes, the best part of the story remains the touching relationship that grows between the lonely boy Oskar and his new neighbor Eli, who, yes, turns out to be a vampire. Young actors Kåre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson do a simply superb job of portraying the tentative, awkward steps towards mutual respect, understanding and love that their characters take while dealing with the complications and horrific truths of Eli's "condition." Their meetings at the snow-covered playground outside their apartment building, their mutual love of puzzles, their connection as fellow outsiders and kindred spirits - they all give the film a real emotional weight, elevating it above regular genre fare more concerned with creative kills and jump-in-your-seat shocks.

I'll shun the American remake, Let Me In, and continue to scoff at Stephenie Meyer and all things related to Twilight - well, except for the good songs I've been hearing from the bafflingly impressive New Moon soundtrack, including the stellar contributions by the Killers and Thom Yorke. But a shirtless Robert Pattinson, vampire Dakota Fanning and glittering skin? You can take 'em, Twi-hards - especially that last one, which seems dumber than ever when one thinks of the hospital bed scene in Let the Right One In. That's what's supposed to happen when sunlight hits the unholy flesh of a vampire. But I digress. No, instead I'll take the conflict between Oskar and his bullying tormentors, complex relationship between Eli and her "guardian" Håkan (simplified in the film - ah well; one can't have everything) and strange yet sweet bond that forms between the two young (or, in Eli's case, seemingly young) characters. It's all true: this one's a winner.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)
Director: Park Chan-wook
Country: South Korea

Now, in a perfect world, I'd be following up the above review with one for the great Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook's recent vampire film Thirst, which I shamefully missed seeing in theatres. But the Region 1 DVD for it won't be out until November 17th (which, thankfully, is still surprisingly soon). So, I instead decided to fish out from my collection Park's first film in his "revenge trilogy," Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. Like a good bottle of wine, the film had aged incredibly well since I last saw it (which was some years ago), and it proved to be quite a rewarding watch. However, that doesn't mean it was an easy one - though excellent, this is one uncompromisingly cruel film, especially when considered next to its counterparts Oldboy and Lady Vengeance. Those films are also quite hard-going in their explorations of revenge and its damaging effects, but at least they offered some solace in their moments of stylistic flair and visual beauty (especially the baroque, decadent, operatic Lady Vengeance). Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance offers no such escape, telling the sad tale of Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun), a deaf factory worker desperately trying to find a new kidney for his dying sister, and Park (Song Kang-ho), the company president responsible for firing him whose daughter is kidnapped in a scheme to get money for the kidney transplant, in a cold, detatched manner that leaves no room whatsoever for romanticism. Park makes it very clear: revenge is a terrible, ugly business that only brings about similarly terrible, ugly results. In fact, so clear and effective is Park here that one almost wonders if he even should have bothered with two more films about revenge. All in all, Mr. Vengeance could be considered the true horror film being reviewed here, as its horrors stem not from ghosts or vampires, but from people caught in a destructive cycle of hatred and desperation. While hard to watch, every minute of it is brilliant.

Now that I've revisited Mr. Vengeance, I'll probably get around to reviewing the other two films in the revenge trilogy before too long - if anything, I just know Lady Vengeance will be a most welcome and fitting treat right around Christmas.

Heads Up for the Brazil Film Fest

Hello all. This is a heads-up for a pretty cool looking film festival that'll be hitting Toronto in the next few days: the Brazil Film Fest. Brazilian cinema is one of those areas that I could definitely learn more about, and an event like this is one effective way to do that. Starting on October 22nd, the Fest will be presenting a wide variety of films from Brazil. Among them is This is Pelé, a 1974 documentary on the world-famous soccer player; Madame Satã, a fictional portrait of the real-life, cross-dressing performer João Francisco dos Santos who strove to make it to the big time in the 1930s; The Mystery of Samba, which provides a close look at the people and culture of samba; and This Is It, about two young people talking over their relationship just as it is coming to an end.

The full schedule and list of films for the festival can be found here. It will be running from October 22nd to the 25th at the Royal Cinema at 608 College St. in Toronto, and will be featuring singer and songwriter Adriana Calcanhotto making her Canadian debut on the festival's closing night.

All in all, this looks like a great way to expand your view of Brazilian cinema beyond City of God. Details about the Brazil Film Fest can be found at its main website.

Friday, October 9, 2009

House; Dogville

Hello all. I'm reporting here on a couple of interesting films I've seen over the past few weeks. Without further ado:

House (1977)
Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Country: Japan

Wow. I don't think words can do this thing of beauty justice, but dammit, I'm going to try anyways. I sat down to see House on October 3rd with the J-Film Pow-Wow crew. I set out to experience Nuit Blanche in Toronto that very same night, but nothing I saw throughout the city (which really wasn't all that impressive) could even begin to hold a candle to House, or as it's known in Japanese, Hausu. It's one of those films that at once makes you feel like you are on hallucinogenic drugs and believe that the filmmakers themselves were on them while they were making it. Using a formulaic plot involving seven generically-named girlfriends (e.g. the musician Melody, the tough chick Kung Fu, the constantly hungry Mac, as in sto-Mac-h) visiting one of their aunts and her big, spooky house, the film catapults itself into a surreal, hilarious and downright nutso ride of cinematic experimentation and absurdist comedy. It is something that might appear to be a trash genre flick on first sight, but there are too many wonderful and visually stunning things packed into it to call it anything other than brilliant. I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just leave you with this valuable advice: House will apparently be doing a theatrical tour through the rest of 2009 and some of 2010 before it is eventually released by the Criterion Collection(!) sometime next year. If you can, go see this thing in a full house, and expect a great night at the movies. If you can't do that (or even if you can), wait patiently until the Criterion DVD comes out, then pick it up and have a few friends over with a case of beer. You won't be disappointed.

Dogville (2003)
Director: Lars von Trier
Country: Denmark

And then there's Dogville, which I saw the day before Nuit Blanche and deserves a different sort of "wow." I'm usually somewhat skeptical of Lars von Trier due to his frequent pompous qualities, but I've always regarded him as a unique and truly fascinating artist. Dogville proves that in spades within its first few minutes, with John Hurt's eloquent voiceover resonating on the soundtrack and the camera lingering on the small township of Dogville from above. Just as Hurt's narration evokes a novelistic mode of storytelling (emphasized by the film's division into chapters), so too does von Trier's choice of presenting the town as merely a dark stage with drawn and labeled tracings of buildings and landmarks with a few props positioned among them put one in the mind of a stage play. As a result, you simply can't help but be drawn into the story purely through the performances being given onscreen (and onstage) as the actors bring to life their individual characters, adhering to the story being unravelled by von Trier. There certainly is an impressive cast to see this duty through, most prominent among them an impressive Nicole Kidman as the runaway girl Grace who seeks safety from the township of Dogville and gradually learns the costs of such a favor. The other fantastic actors who strut their stuff include Paul Bettany, Patricia Clarkson, Ben Gazzara, Philip Baker Hall, Chloë Sevigny, Stellan Skarsgård, James Caan, Siobhan Fallon and, to round things off with a couple of classic screen legends, Lauren Bacall and Harriet Andersson. As well as being another of von Trier's testaments to the importance of the actor and acting in film, Dogville is a beautifully written, brilliantly constructed morality tale; a fable both simple and complex that runs in the same vein as George Orwell's Animal Farm - as well as a remarkable portrait of Americana. Surely enough, Dogville gave me much to think about after its three hour running time had expired, and I very much look forward to a return visit.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Toronto International Film Festival 2009 + Fall Rumblings

A few weeks have passed since the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival came to a close, meaning it’s high time I posted some reviews of the films I saw. Now, as I have mentioned before, I only made it out to a few of the many films that were featured (a mere six), but I enjoyed each one and, overall, was not disappointed. At the very least, I can safely say that while my picks for this year were small in quantity, I was certainly compensated by both their variety and quality. Proceed below to read more about the grab-bag of flicks I sampled this year.

Micmacs à tire-larigot (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2009)

A fuzzy but still-decipherable pic of Jean-Pierre Jeunet at the Q&A after Micmacs

As some can fairly guess from the trailers that are popping up online these days, and as my buddy Bob Turnbull states on his own blog, Jean-Pierre Jeunet delivers in his latest film, Micmacs à tire-larigot, everything you’d expect from his wonderfully unique vision. With Dany Boon leading the way as Bazil, a man who decides to take on the two weapons manufacturers that robbed him of his father and life as he once knew it (the latter via a bullet lodged in his brain), the film is packed with a checklist of classic Jeunet ingredients: quirky characters, screwball situations, mesmerizing visuals, creative cleverness and splashes of stylistic glee. I’d say those anticipating a mix of Delicatessen and Amélie will be fairly satisfied, as Micmacs channels the weirdness, wackiness and dark humor of the earlier Marc Caro-assisted work along with the vibrant color palette (from cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata, admirably meeting the high level of quality set by Bruno Delbonnel and Darius Khondji) and whirlwind tour of Paris of the Audrey Tautou-starring phenomenon. Propelling the film along with boundless energy and crowd-pleasing appeal is a fantastic ensemble cast, most of which comprising the makeshift family of inventors and misfits who help Bazil carry out his payback plan. Each of the actors is a joy to watch, some of them familiar faces from previous Jeunet outings like André Dussollier, Yolande Moreau and, of course, Dominique Pinon; others new faces like Boon, Julie Ferrier as a spunky contortionist and Omar Sy as the perpetually enthusiastic, proverb-spouting Remington. Micmacs sees Jeunet returning to his comedic roots with a vengeance while keeping his recognizable brand of magic flowing strong. It is yet another slam dunk for the filmmaker, and is easily the most satisfying one of the six films reviewed here.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (Werner Herzog, 2009)

Michael Shannon and Willem Dafoe

One of the two Werner Herzog films shown this year at TIFF (the other being his already much talked-about reimagining of Bad Lieutenant), My Son, My Son was executive produced by David Lynch, and it somewhat shows, as if he was on the set whispering ideas to everyone’s favorite German wild man. While Michael Shannon’s impressive portrayal of the haunted, obsessive Brad McCullum fits neatly within the gallery of mad men that populate Herzog’s films, there are also several strange Lynchian touches like the many moments of agonizing awkwardness (hello, Grace Zabriskie), Brad Dourif as the foul-mouthed, ostrich-farming Uncle Ted and such memorable lines as “Razzle them. Dazzle them. Razzle dazzle them!” – inspired by the words on McCullum’s special coffee cup, no less. While it’ll most likely be remembered as a minor work in Herzog’s filmography, My Son, My Son is still an interesting, if ambiguous, character study wrapped in a suitably off-kilter vision of America.

Visage (Face) (Tsai Ming-liang, 2009)

Model and actress Laetitia Casta with Lee Kang-sheng

Not a love letter to the French New Wave so much as a solemn prayer, Tsai Ming-liang’s latest is a bizarre but constantly fascinating work of art – and this is certainly a case where Art with a capital “a” would be warranted. Face seems to tell a story about a (skeleton) film crew struggling to realize a project about the Salomé myth, but its actors play characters that very closely resemble their real-life personae, and there is no doubt that the presence of such legends as Fanny Ardant, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Jeanne Moreau and Nathalie Baye is meant to contribute to the film’s post-modern motif. Sure enough, the shadow of François Truffaut looms over much of the film, and the time that has passed since his death (and the glorious days when the New Wave was still in full swing) is all too strongly felt as Ardant, Léaud and others wander through mazes of mirrors and dark, subterranean passages, playing out a Day for Night relocated to Hades. The assortment of coldly beautiful images and reoccurring elements (reflections, animals, ghosts, water, sexual desire and, of course, faces) certainly give the viewer plenty to savor and ponder in equal measure. Face is definitely not for everyone, but those brave enough to seek it out just may become ensnared by all the enigmas contained within this spellbinding fever dream of a film. I myself am curious to see how it will hold up on a second viewing. Also, it has inspired me to check out another Taiwanese director’s ode to French cinema – Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon. Had Edward Yang lived long enough to make one of his own, I wonder which French filmmaker he might have tipped his hat to.

Les derniers jours du monde (Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu, 2009)

Mathieu Amalric and Sergi López

Based on a novel by Dominique Noguez, this film by brothers Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu follows Mathieu Amalric’s Robinson as he searches for Lae (Omahyra Mota), the woman he loves, amidst the end of the world. Through flashbacks, we learn how he met her while on vacation, became estranged from his wife and lost his arm while the “present day” sequences detail one episode (and erotic encounter) after another as Robinson calmly journeys through a world falling apart at the seams. Unlike most movie apocalypses, some traces of normalcy stubbornly remain: people still go to nightclubs, operas and restaurants as resources become scarcer, mass evacuations are carried out and armed troops become more prominent in the streets. The exact cause of the meltdown is never quite determined; instead, we are shown several of its effects such as disease outbreaks, air bombings and, at one point, a perpetually dark Parisian sky. The hysterical behavior that soon overtakes people (suicides, betrayals, anarchy) is truly disturbing to behold, and like Robinson, we can only watch helplessly before moving on to a fresh horror. This unique take on “the end,” captivating story and superb performances by Amalric, Catherine Frot, Karin Viard and Sergi López (who played the contemptible Captain Vidal in Pan’s Labyrinth) are all thoroughly fascinating to watch.

The Last Days of Emma Blank (Alex van Warmerdam, 2009)

Gene Bervoets and Marlies Heuer

This Netherlandish dark comedy has some of the same quirky vibes that run rampant through Napoleon Dynamite, only here they are thankfully put to far, far better use. The Last Days of Emma Blank is centered on a family seemingly trapped in their own micro-universe – a quality emphasized by their house’s situation amid a desolate landscape made up of shrubs, sand and a nearby beach. The titular character (Marlies Heuer) is a merciless tyrant suffering the final stages of a terminal illness. She enforces her will over the rest of the household with an iron fist and the promise of an inheritance, seeing that her every wish is carried out. This makes for an unbearable existence for her designated minions, which include her husband Haneveld (Gene Bervoets) and daughter Gonnie (Eva van de Wijdeven). A prominent subplot involves Gonnie’s cousin Meijer (Gijs Naber), who is romantically attracted to her while she seeks more realistic means of distraction and escape. The rest of the small cast is filled out by Annet Malherbe as Bella, Meijer’s mother and the family cook, Marwan Kenzari as a stranger pulled into the family’s madness and the director Alex van Warmerdam himself as the hilariously deadpan Uncle Theo, who spends the majority of the film acting like a dog. Smoothly adapted from van Warmerdam's own play Adel Blank, Emma Blank is made a great delight by the actors’ chemistry with each other as they make their way through the twisted story scene by barbed, terrifically hilarious scene. This is one well worth keeping an eye open (and praying, if need be,) for a wider North American release in the future.

Toad’s Oil (Kôji Yakusho, 2009)

Eita and Kôji Yakusho

My full review for well-known Japanese actor Kôji Yakusho’s directorial debut can be found at the Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow; here, I’ll simply say that it’s a whimsically concocted tale that dances between over-the-top humor and thoughtful seriousness while packing in everything in-between from heartfelt tributes to childhood to an impromptu road trip across Japan to a showdown with a black bear.

Well, that was TIFF for me this year – and it seems as soon as the fest ended, things shifted into autumn mode in one big hurry over here in the Greater Toronto Area. But even though I’m not a big fan of the cold, I’m digging fall so far this year – the leaves turning and falling, Halloween drawing steadily closer, the yearning for season-appropriate drinks like cider and dark specialty beers (like Hobgoblin, a delicious favorite of mine). Of course, that means my film tastes are also being affected, as I anticipate revisiting Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata and dig the fall color scheme of the trailers for Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, which looks, well, fantastic. I’ll also be delving into some horror films before the 31st, including Let the Right One In – a film I know I’m late in getting to, but now that one of my sisters has given it to me for my birthday, I can finally see if it compliments the excellent novel by John Ajivide Lindqvist. Plus, the growing rumblings about Lars von Trier’s latest film Antichrist (which will apparently be coming out in the GTA a little after Halloween – boo) have inspired me to check out Dogville, which I’m very excited about finally seeing and should keep me in the dark, brooding, European and autumn season spirit I seem to have entered. I’ll get to the next entry in my Classic French Cinema Triple Bill series of ramblings soon, but I figure I should venture into some other areas of world cinema first, unless I want to re-name this site Marc’s Big French Film Blog. So, something else – and not French, for a change – will be featured here before too long. As always, stay tuned.