Thursday, October 08, 2015

Into the Forest plus Anomalisa (a late entry in the VIFF - attention Tom Noonan fans)

Finally caught up with Into The Forest today, which screened just in time for me to make it to work by 1pm. Nice film. It's kind of understated, but has all sorts of likeable things in it - from beautiful images of the Pacific Northwest to a politically sympathetic story of two sisters surviving after the lights go out, apparently for good. Ellen Page gives a strong performance, and gets to disembowel a pig (it's going to be fun for the interviewer who gets to ask her to tell that story; apparently it was a real dead pig, and she actually learned how to butcher it for the film, which takes... guts). Callum Keith Rennie is always welcome, too, though he basically is just a nice-guy dad, an easy enough role to play. I can see why the film has had underwhelming reviews, however; there's something about it that failed to engage me as deeply as I would have liked, a bit of an odd lack of impact, given how dramatic the subject matter is. There was nothing much to think about in regard to either of the main characters, who are quite straightforward and somewhat thinly-drawn; there was nothing much new or provocative said about environmental crises; and in key scenes, some of the music seemed to be overstating the emotions of its characters in ways that actually ended up flattening the effect (the most powerful scene takes place solely to the ticking of a metronome, but that's soon replaced by lush, melancholic strings... though the cover of Bowie's "Wild is the Wind" was pleasant enough to hear, I admit). My girlfriend loved it, but I can only say it was okay, a feminist-friendly, very Canadian end of the modern world movie. The best moment for me, in terms of appreciating the storytelling, was the "Pumpkin" envelope. Otherwise, well... it was merely okay.

Sorry, Ms. Rozema!

More intriguing is a late addition to the film festival, an animated (but not kid-oriented) feature directed by Charlie Kaufman where all voices, male and female, save that of the leads (David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh), are performed by... Tom Noonan? What?

I mean, I love Tom Noonan. I actually interacted with him briefly by email a long time ago, asking him about his more-or-less unscreened film Wang Dang and discussing a possible interview. It never happened. Both his films as director that you can see - What Happened Was and The Wife - are really worth it; and he's always interesting when he turns up as an actor, from Wolfen through Manhunter through recent genre fare like House of the Devil and Late Phases (where he's the best thing in either film). I believe there's even a direct Cassavetes connection, that Noonan acted in Gloria, but it's been a really long time since I've seen that film...

Anyhow, I'm probably not going to see Anomalisa, described above, since I have dental surgery tomorrow - and possibly a complex procedure,  at that, involving the removal of a tooth that I a) had filled decades ago; b) lost a big chunk of to an unpopped popcorn kernel last year; c) had, when the infection flared up anew, filled by a dentist I will never see again, who thought he had solved the problem (wrong!); and d) since have discovered is infected anew, with soft pus-filled swollen gums and a definite heat/cold sensitivity. I've taken far too many antibiotics in the hopes of taming the inflammation before getting it pulled. Hopefully I don't end up with septicemia or something. But it's there as an option for people looking for a VIFF film, at the Playhouse at 4pm. And you have one more chance to see the terrific Green Room, too.

That's probably it for me and the VIFF - but I was really glad to see a few films this year. Thanks to the VIFF people, to Tom Charity, and to all the volunteers and partners and supporters.

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