This year’s Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) is the first massive congregating of cinephiles that I have ever attended; I guarantee you it will not be my last. What an experience of being united with fellow passionate film lovers who go to the movies to (gasp!) watch the movies! One man described it as “the church of cinema.”
The festival is a tasty cocktail blend in which one can choose to be intoxicated by award-winning Cannes premieres (Nebraska), showcases of great local and Canadian talent (Tom at the Farm) or even more mainstream genre films (All is Lost, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints).
Here are some notable entries featured at the first week of VIFF (Sept. 26 to Oct. 11).
All is Lost (rating: 2/4)
All has been lost indeed! The scenery is stunning; the realism is savage. But J.C. Chandor, the director of the vastly overpraised Margin Call, follows up that abysmal picture with yet another bore. This is the story of a nameless man (Robert Redford) whose sailboat is damaged by a steel shipping container in the middle of the ocean. Why is this man sailing there and who is he? We will never know! Chandor’s film has 30 seconds of muddled and essentially useless characterization while the rest of his film is concerned with repetitive, uninteresting and snore-inducing survivalist action sequences. There’s no tension and no stakes.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (rating: 2.5/4)
David Lowery’s second film is through and through an homage to Terrence Malick’s style of filmmaking (past and present). Ain’t Them Bodies Saints has the tone and esthetic of the master auteur down pat; now all it needs is his depth and profundity. The film’s feel and production design is artfully composed, but the storytelling and pacing seem to have been overlooked for the visuals’ searing beauty. The flaws arise as Lowery unwieldly fuses the plot from the narrative heavy 1970s Badlands (the story of two lovers who become on-the-run criminals) with the esthetic-rampant montages of Malick’s recent entries (The Tree of Life, To The Wonder) which are more cinematic poems than plot-driven movies. As a result, we never come to know the characters; we only perceive glimpses of their humanity. On style alone Lowery still manages to make a painfully romantic look at doomed love. It just could have been a lot better; it could have been Terrence Malick.
Nebraska (rating: 3.5/4)
Nebraska is simple filmmaking at its best. There is no manipulation of its audience with cheap camera tricks, overbearing music or even visual colour schemes. Instead, the actors are entrusted with mammoth ambitions — simply portray characters as if they were living out their daily lives on screen. Many will be put off by Payne’s choice to shoot his film in black and white; I was enthralled. This stylistic preference demonstrates his profound understanding of Bob Nelson’s screenplay. Nebraska is more than just a reverently hilarious comedy about an old senile man who thinks he won a million dollars through a marketing scam; it is also a dark look into the effects of greed and the necessity of living an illusion when life has been utter chaos.
Whether you like avant-garde experiments or mainstream genre films, this year’s festival cocktail has something for you — a fanatic or casual follower. The only rules are: shut off (your phone), shut up (your mouth) and shut in (your mind to the films).
Joshua Cabrita is a Grade 12 student at Riverside Secondary. He is a founding member of the school's movie club, where students meet to view old classics and discuss their meaning and significance. One of his audacious dreams is to become a full-time professional film critic. Visit Josh on Facebook for any reviews you missed or film analysis video essays.
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