Monday, December 24, 2012

Marc's Reads of 2012

Hello all. In this most recent post, I wanted to list the books I read throughout 2012. While I attempted to fulfill my personal "50 Book Pledge," I sadly still came up woefully short at just twenty-four - an improvement over 2011's seventeen, but I still could have picked up the pace a bit with my reading habits. Still, the past year in books was a very enjoyable one for me, as I kept hitting one satisfying volume after the next (I love it when you hit a chain of good reads like that) - overall, a fantastic selection of talented authors and compelling subjects.

Since so many of my reading experiences this year were positive ones, I thought I'd present them here not in any ordered list, but instead in special categories that both compliment the books themselves and illuminate some of the thematic and stylistic similarities certain books shared with each other.

So, without further ado...

Peering Across History and Lifetimes
· The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa
· Fire in the Blood by Irène Némirovsky
· Touch by Alexi Zentner
· The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Worthwhile Rereads
· A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
· A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

The Film Books
· Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room by Geoff Dyer
· Robert Bresson (Revised) edited by James Quandt
· Olivier Assayas edited by Kent Jones

*For a more detailed write-up on these film books, head over to my guest post at Toronto Film Review.

Most Disappointing Film Book
· Jean Renoir: Projections of Paradise by Ronald Bergan

Japanese Literature
· Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima
· 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (read my capsule review at

Existential Literature
· Point Omega by Don DeLillo

· The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton
· The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home by Pico Iyer

D.H. Lawrence 101
· Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer
· Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

Literary Paris
· The Emperor of Paris by C.S. Richardson
· The Belly of Paris by Emile Zola

Ecstatic Wordcraft
· Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
· Lisey's Story by Stephen King
· Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (read my capsule review at

Most Life-Affirming
· Looking for Alaska by John Green
· The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Thursday, December 20, 2012

New Experimental Film by Chris MaGee

One of the highlights of my final year as an undergrad at the University of Toronto was Professor Bart Testa's course on avant-garde and experimental cinema. Every week, he would take us a few steps further into a strange yet incredible realm of cinema that felt rich with possibility and imagination. Sure, I loved my Truffaut, Bergman, Fellini, and Wong (I still do), but those artists who decided to leave the frameworks of narrative behind completely did things that seemed to really dig into the true capabilities of cinema, taking their viewers to remarkable places where the contrivances of character and plot would only get in the way of the pure psychological experiences they achieved.

Sadly, in recent years I've somewhat neglected to keep exploring avant-garde cinema as I had promised myself I would do after finishing Professor Testa's course, but last night I saw a film that made me want to catch up on my Brakhage, Baillie, Anger, and Frampton. Entitled NOXLUX, it is a ten minute-long minimalist piece that slowly, mesmerizingly shifts from one pattern to the next, all of which viewed through a vertically striped frame that, as the image swells and flows, plays strange tricks on the eyes not unlike those old 3D posters we all had as kids. The film was made by none other than my good friend Chris MaGee, editor-in-chief of the Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow and programmer of the Shinsedai Cinema Festival. I think he has made something pretty cool here - not to mention refreshingly different from his other substantial pursuits in the world of film - and I really hope he continues to forge ahead in this new direction.

For now, though, you can enjoy the film below - which, I'd recommend, works best with the video switched to full screen, the lights turned off, and the headphones on. Settle in and enjoy...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

November / December 2012 Activity

Hello all. In this post, I thought I'd bring you up to date on my recent goings-on in film writing. Firstly, a few months ago I announced the start of a new column over at Row Three called Cinephilia Française that, I'll freely admit, has recently been somewhat dormant. This is due to a few things, namely my family's move away from the Greater Toronto Area and the emergence of some new writing projects. Right now, between those new projects, related travel plans for 2013, and a readjustment of a few personal goals of mine for the new year, I'm thinking that French film column may continue to remain dormant - sorry if I got anyone's hopes up. I'll still certainly be writing about and maintaining my interest in French cinema; just not in the form of that weekly column.

Now, as for what I have been up to recently:

· Issue 65 of Senses of Cinema is now online. Among the impressive selection of fresh pieces on filmmakers like Michael Haneke, Marcel Hanoun, Nicolas Rey, James Gray, and the late Koji Wakamatsu, there is my essay on one of my favourite films, Ingmar Bergman's Fanny and Alexander, written in honor of its thirtieth anniversary (it was first released theatrically in Sweden on December 17th, 1982). Now's probably the best time of the year to revisit this fantastic masterpiece (which boasts one of the best Christmas sequences ever filmed) - I know I'll be re-watching it within the week.

· Over at my friend David Davidson's blog Toronto Film Review, I talk about the film books I read this past year, including James Quandt's impressive Robert Bresson (Revised).

· At Row Three, I posted my dream triple bill of European arthouse classics dedicated to the Nazi Occupation of Italy and France.

· Finally, I've been busy tending to some other business for Senses of Cinema: come January and February, I will be traveling to the Netherlands to cover for them the 42nd International Film Festival Rotterdam. I'm pretty excited about both the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands for the first time and the festival itself, which has a great reputation. Stay tuned for my report after the festival, which should be included in the journal's first issue of the new year.

Until then, cheers and happy holidays!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October 2012 Activity

Hello all. As some might have noticed, things have been relatively quiet over here - this is mainly due to a few things I've been tackling recently on my end, not least of all an upcoming move. While I have been working on a few assignments for certain publications, they're all currently still in the pipeline, but will hopefully emerge before too long. But I did manage to make it out to a couple of Toronto events in the past month, both of which I reported on over at Row Three. For your convenience, they are gathered below:

· The latest edition of James McNally's Shorts That Are Not Pants screening series was a fantastic success on all fronts - audience turnout, quality of films, overall enjoyment of the evening. If this bunch of hugely enjoyable shorts is any indication of things to come (in addition to STANP's already firmly-established and steadily growing reputation), Toronto audiences are going to want to stay tuned for the series' next edition, due for January 2013.

· Charles de Lauzirika's debut film, Crave, made its Toronto premiere at the 2012 Toronto After Dark Film Festival. While I had some issues with certain aspects of its story (mainly its main character, a not-quite-all-there crime scene photographer with an overactive imagination), I still found plenty to enjoy about this very well-made crime/relationship drama.

That's all for now, folks - cheers, and happy Halloween!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cinephilia Française: September

Hello all. I hope the month of September has been kind to you. For myself, it saw the official launch of my new little French film review column over at Row Three, Cinephilia Française. Covering a new Olivier Assayas film featured at TIFF and three certified classics from before 1950, I think the column got off to a good start - I at least certainly enjoyed writing about all the chosen films, and I'm looking forward to keeping it up with more interesting picks. Likewise, I hope there are some readers out there who are inspired to check out some of these.

Anyways, September's Cinephilia Française reviews are gathered below. Thank you for reading, and stay tuned for more pieces throughout October over at Row Three!

·Zero for Conduct (Jean Vigo, 1933)
·Something in the Air (Olivier Assayas, 2012)
·Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné, 1945)
·The Lower Depths (Jean Renoir, 1936)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Introducing my New French Film Column, Cinephilia Française

Hello all. Over the past week, I've been busy launching a new review column over at the film site Row Three that should prove to be of particular interest if you're a fan of French cinema. Essentially, every week I'll be posting a fresh review of a film that is either affiliated with or can be considered part of France's filmmaking culture. Through this column, titled Cinephilia Française, I hope to re-charge my film reviewing batteries while conducting a fun and far-reaching tour of the rich cache of artistic diversity that has stemmed from France throughout film history.

I've recently posted the first couple of reviews for the column, which cover Jean Vigo's classic rebel yell Zero for Conduct (1933) and Claire Denis' lovely homage to Yasujiro Ozu 35 Shots of Rum (2008). Click here to check out all the French film reviews that have been (and, in the future, will be) filed under the Cinephilia Française category tab, and check back regularly at Row Three to see what films I'll be tackling in the weeks ahead. For the next little bit, I'll be bouncing off of Zero for Conduct and exploring certain films that provide a not-so-sunny vision of revolutionary spirit, including a new title being shown at this year's Toronto International Film Festival from one of the finest French filmmakers working today. Stay tuned!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Olive Films to Release Region 1 DVD of Robert Bresson's "The Devil, Probably"

Hello all. A few days ago, I stumbled upon a pretty great piece of news for anyone who is at all keen on French cinema and one of its most significant figures, Robert Bresson. One of the filmmaker's last and most important films, 1977's The Devil, Probably (Le diable probablement), is finally going to be getting a release on Region One DVD on September 18th courtesy of Olive Films. Now, I had the chance to see this as well as a few other Bresson films earlier in the year at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, which ran a special retrospective of his work, and I will say that I'm not entirely enamoured with the film. However, its engaging narrative regarding a disillusioned young man who grows increasingly disturbed by the harmful forces around him and unusual craftsmanship as chosen by the ever-meticulous Bresson have certainly compelled me to think about it over time, and I am all too eager to give the film a second viewing. I've also read a number of illuminating pieces on it within the excellent volume Robert Bresson (Revised) edited by James Quandt, which only further stress The Devil, Probably's importance within both Bresson's body of work and world cinema (it had a great impact on Olivier Assayas, among other filmmakers). Thank you, Olive Films, for making it more readily available to us.

Shortly after the DVD is released, I will likely be writing a piece on the film that will be posted both here and at Row Three. Until then, I will leave you with a trailer below. Be warned - like the film itself, it is fairly chilly, dissonant, and ends on some real downer notes.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Members of Toronto's Film Community Put Forth Their Greatest/Favorite Film Picks

In one of the most recent reactions to Sight and Sound's newest list of the greatest films ever made according to a poll of filmmakers, programmers, critics, and writers (you know, the one that, among other interesting variations from past results, replaced Citizen Kane with Vertigo in the #1 spot), David Davidson of Toronto Film Review took it upon himself to collect personal film selections from a healthy selection of Toronto's own filmmakers, critics, bloggers, and all-around cinema enthusiasts. I was most pleased to be able to contribute my own picks, which I simply chose according to what my gut and heart told me. Overall I'm very content with each of the ten films I put forth, which I think make up a good selection from the vast history of cinema.

You can check out my list as well as those of David, his girlfriend Arielle, filmmakers Kazik Radwanski, Igor Drljaca, Antoine Bourges, and Simon Ennis, film critics Adam Nayman, Christopher Heron, and Kiva Reardon, and many, many more right here at Toronto Film Review. As always with lists of this sort, diversity and discovery are the names of the game here...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Coasting Onwards

April 2011 - Frankfurt, Germany

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Pickpocket" by Bresson & Burial

Robert Bresson and dubstep: two great tastes that taste great together? I think so.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


From Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice (1986)

"In the spring we made a boat
Out of feathers, out of bones.
We set fire to our homes,
Walking barefoot in the snow."

-from Of Monsters and Men's "Your Bones"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


From Andrei Tarkovsky's Nostalghia (1983)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Path

April 2011 - Frankfurt, Germany

Wish in an Iron Tree

January 2011 - Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Saturday, July 7, 2012

"The Sacrifice" Art by Michał Karcz

Keeping up the Tarkovsky theme with a stunning piece of art inspired by The Sacrifice by graphic designer and artist Michał Karcz - perfect for your desktop!

Full desktop wallpaper source here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


July 2012 - Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Monday, July 2, 2012

Heroes of Idiosyncratic Non-Fiction

Hello all. Today, I want to share three episodes of a podcast that I listen to fairly regularly: Colin Marshall's Notebook on Cities and Culture, formerly The Marketplace of Ideas. I love this podcast for many reasons, mainly the fascinating range of guests Colin sits down with, the deeply intelligent questions he asks them, and the winding conversations that spring from them.

Three interviews in particular have been getting regular play on my iPod over the past few months, one being with Geoff Dyer; the other two with Pico Iyer. Geoff Dyer is known for writing books on a variety of subjects, among them Andrei Tarkovsky (Zona: A Book About a Film About a Journey to a Room), D.H. Lawrence (Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence), jazz (But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz), and more. But what I love about him is how he approaches such subjects from a personal, level-headed, often funny perspective that specifically avoids stuffy academic over-analysis, opting for a highly relatable and open form of cultural commentary.

Pico Iyer, author of books like Video Night in Kathmandu and Other Reports From the Not-So-Far East, The Lady and the Monk: Four Seasons in Kyoto, and The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home, has a more specific area of interest in his writing (travel and world cultures), but like Dyer, he also pulls readers along on unpredictable journeys of ideas, thoughts and observations. His points on the ever-intensifying dialogue between cultures are among the most insightful I've ever come across.

Being committed to a large-scale writing project of my own at the moment, which I hope to make good progress on during this summer and, with luck, I'll be able to talk more about before too long, it is extremely inspiring to read and learn about writers like Dyer and Iyer, who are guided by their own passions, interests, and personal experiences over any other factors, and who make a point of incorporating these very personal components into their non-fiction work. Listening to them discuss such things is just as rewarding, and whether you're a writer or not, the interviews gathered below will surely charge your imagination and get you thinking about how we look at culture, art, and travel. Happy listening!

*Note: Notebook on Cities and Culture is also available on iTunes.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Day's Dying Embers

Summer 2011 - Northern Ontario, Canada

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kaurismäki Mania!

On July 31st, the Criterion Collection will be releasing on Blu-ray and DVD Le Havre, Aki Kaurismäki's delightful French fairy tale from last year. I can't wait.

-Here is a wonderful interview that Simon Hattenstone conducted with the dour, funny Finn in London's Soho House.

-And finally, here is Kaurismäki paying tribute to one of his artistic heroes, the great Yasujiro Ozu:

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fresh Goodies from Joe

A little over two years ago, I was quite thrilled when one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, was awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes for his marvelous Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. During this year's festival in the sunny south of France, I was likely not alone in my joy at hearing of the Thai filmmaker's newest projects. Apichatpong is known for being a fairly productive artist; aside from the six feature film projects to his name, he has also created a large number of short films and installation pieces, testing his unique, experimental sensibilities in various ways. The recent news of his two latest short films come as a welcome assurance that he will be continuing to maintain his productive, curious work methods even with a Palme d'Or on his shelf.

-The first of the two films that were screened at Cannes is Mekong Hotel, which clocks in at a little over an hour. Daniel Kasman wrote about the film over at MUBI Notebook in an enticing piece.

-The other film, Ashes, can actually be viewed for free online. Jittery and primitive in its visual quality, it was created with the LomoKino camera as part of a collaboration between Apichatpong, LomoKino and MUBI. Disorienting and beautiful.

-Also over at the Notebook is a wonderful interview with Apichatpong by Kasman about these new pieces and his work methods.

A jungle straight out of Apichatpong's Northern Ontario.

Friday, June 8, 2012

"I discovered ME in the library."

Hello all. To kick off a return to the habit of posting links to cool stuff here again, here is a fascinating Paris Review interview with beloved science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, who passed away this past Tuesday at the age of 91. Conducted by Sam Weller, the interview completed a previously unpublished interview conducted by William Plummer in the late 1970s. It's wonderful stuff, especially if you're at all interested in the crafts of storytelling and writing. Enjoy.

The Paris Review: Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203


August 2011 - Northern Ontario, Canada

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

By the River

April 2010 - Paris, France

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Goings-On in Asian Film: Nippon Connection, Tsai Ming-Liang and Shinsedai!

Hello all. I just wanted to gather together a few of the exciting things I've been involved with recently in the Asian film community. First of all, Chris MaGee of the J-Film Pow-Wow and I recently returned from our annual trip out to Frankfurt, Germany, for the Nippon Connection Japanese film festival. While Chris had his hands full as one of the jurors for the Nippon Visions program, I took up press coverage duties. My report on my festival experience is now posted over at the Pow-Wow, along with links to individual film reviews for some of the works that were shown.

Shortly before I left for that trip, I took some time to once again pop up as a guest host on the VCinema Show. Concluding the three-part mini-series of podcasts focusing on Taiwanese filmmakers, I spoke with Jon Jung (AKA Coffin Jon), Josh Samford and Dr. Stan Glick about the divisive and (in my eyes) mesmerizing Tsai Ming-Liang film Goodbye, Dragon Inn. Click on the picture below to access the episode, or get it through VCinema's subscription channel on iTunes.

Finally, things are really gearing up here in Toronto for the 4th annual Shinsedai Cinema Festival, which will be happening from July 12th-15th at the Revue Cinema. The full lineup of independent Japanese films has been revealed; click here to check it out and follow the above link for further details on the festival. There is a lot of fascinating stuff lined up for that week that should amount to a great time for Toronto film-goers and fans of Asian cinema.

Have a look at the festival trailer below, edited together by Pow-Wow writer Matthew Hardstaff, for a peek at the films that will be shown in July: