These films weren’t on my A list, but because of the crazy scheduling of industry screenings this year, I committed to either CinemaxX or Abaton, and made my choices accordingly. I was rewarded with films that I think are particularly good, and which I refer to as “sleepers”:
Rarely is the depth of personal proclivity so openly and generously portrayed as in Turning. Antony Hegarty, of New York City’s band Antony & the Johnsons, and experimental filmmaker Charles Atlas collaborate; in November 2006 Turning toured London, Rome, Madrid, Paris, and Braga, Portugal. Thirteen women appear separately onstage during a concert: standing on a round, turning pedestal, each woman’s intimate feelings are caught and projected larger than life in the background as Antony, who insists his music be played in an upbeat way regardless of the theme, sings. Behind-the-scene interviews reveal the performers fragilities and humanism. Music, art, and performance afford us this engrossing and life-affirming impression of those born under a different star. Equally poignant, Dance of the Orchids is about two people who defy their families, and Nepalese culture, with their love. But family expectations carry heavy consequences for these women. Subarna Thapa wrote and directed with sensitivity and respect; nicely executed scenes contain subtleties that deliver surprises, and a haunting film.
Gabi’s The Cutoff Man: taking care of family is the beacon guiding his life. His salary’s based on how many water cutoffs he accomplishes daily, and a lot of people don’t like Gabi. He doesn’t understand why well-off people don’t pay, which puts him in a predicament with his self-centered son’s soccer dreams. Conversely, being a good person requires civil and moral courage. Idan Hubel directs this simple story using atypical strong visuals, minimal dialog, and effective pauses. In a scene near the end, Gabi’s in his local hangout and slowly people on screen start to gaze out (the window), wherefore I almost looked over my shoulder to see what they were looking at. Overcoming my dislike of the man, I didn’t miss what turned out to be a real eye-opener of a film. You’ve been Trumped takes a penetrating look at the extent of Donald Trump’s nastiness to build the biggest and best golf resort in the world on Aberdeenshire’s pristine coastline—ecology, people, and governments be damned. Smiles and charm turn to arrogant disdain when Balmedie residents don’t capitulate; Trump’s slanderous targeting of farmer Michael Forbes culminate when bulldozers form an earthen wall around his house, blocking Forbes’s ocean view. Appallingly, police condone and the Scottish parliament acquiesces contributing to the inherent evil of greed. Politicians flagrant disregard for their constituents and country is not lost on us either in director Anthony Baxter’s documentary. Trump’s proclivity for bankruptcy may find the environment uneconomical for the egocentric billionaire’s venture, and the Scottish ministers with egg on their faces.
The Last Projectionist and Room 237 were “toss-up” choices I find memorable. Thomas Lawes’ documentary, The Last Projectionist pays homage to cinema through the vehicle we know intimately—movie theaters. Lawes bought, and with help from family and friends, revived the Electric cinema in Birmingham, England; concurrently, he takes us on a succinct journey through the history of filmmaking via archival material and three varying styles of animation. Arresting, absorbing and wonderfully imaginative, we land squarely at the center of identifying the importance of independent cinemas—they reflect our historical and cultural heritage.
Whereas director Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 has nine parts and five interviewees: each has an intriguing premise, opening vast areas for speculation and innuendo regarding Stanly Kubrik’s thinking while filming The Shining in 1980. Clips from the film are used to substantiate the multiple interpretations, and inherent hidden messages. One poses that although Barry Lyndon (1975) was wonderfully executed and acted, it’s boring because Kubrik was bored. Studying the details does tell a wider, and more provocative, story. An off-camera shot of Jack Nicholson getting into character is additionally interesting, as is background information regarding the months of research and about Stephen King’s intense dislike of Kubrik’s adaptation—in 1997 King wrote the teleplay and supervised a TV Mini-series based on his book. Their hypotheses are intriguing; perhaps they do portend to the horror The Shining imbues, and the irresistible, underlying tenseness that clutches at our primal imagination while watching.
On the other hand, I thought this might be my only chance to see the award-winning Jimmywork (2004). Although Germany’s premiere, in 2004 – 2006 the film screened in Canada, the US and Switzerland, and it is delightfully humorous, with the sometimes poorly shot footage supporting this quasi-documentary, and a story just absurd enough to be believable. A drinker, gambler, and schemer extraordinaire, facing his 50th birthday sends Jimmy into a tailspin. He pitches an advertising campaign to a small successful Quebec rodeo, but they pass on his wily plan. Not to be dissuaded, desperate to be a success at something, and owing his family money, Jimmy’s scheme evolves into a heist plot. He implicates foolish friends, and all is caught on tape by a dedicated filmmaker, Simon Sauvé—let’s hope Sauvé makes another movie—in this fun film. So do take a chance when choosing movies—one never knows when a memorable film might be lurking behind a clumsy title or ambiguous synopsis.