Saturday, September 08, 2007

Toronto day five.


Written and Directed
by Lee Kang-Sheng

Ah Jei(Lee Kang-Sheng), a young, penniless stock broker, is desperate. All he has left in life is his palatial, apartment, his indoor marijuana forest, and lots of women to have sex with. One of these is Shin (Ivy Yi), who sells betel nuts on the sidewalk dressed as a lingerie model or hooker. Apparently, Taipei betel stores resemble open-air strip joints. Which is the only cool factoid in this movie, which is for the most part both bizarre and boring. Most people would be more than happy with that situation except for the being penniless part. But being broke is a major thing for Ah Jei and feeling really depressed about the fact that he's going to lose his fabulous lifestyle,

So he calls the suicide hotline, where he's given to Chyi (Jane Liao) who's a bit on the zoftic side and has a pleasant telephone manner. Ah Jei falls in love immediately, and sets about stalking her, thinking that she looks like the supermodel-esque betel nut salespeople who we see in clothing that barely exists.

Chyi's husband(Dennis Nieh) likes to cook all sorts of weird dishes, and she's forced to bathe with eels, who are hanging out in the bathtub while waiting for the next fancy dinner (PeTA will love that) aside from this an a whole lot of gratuitous simulated sex, nothing much happens. Three's no character development at all, and as to the sex, there's not enough.

The whole thing's a tremendous waste of time, and it's probably not going to get a theatrical release in the “States anytime soon.


Written and Directed
by Anahi Berneri

It's an old story, hick chick goes to the big city. She becomes famous, then he goes home to no acclaim whatsoever because everyone thinks she's too big for her britches.

Aging B-list actress Encarnacion “Erni” Levier (Silvia Pérez) is getting by. Sure she's no longer Ms. Firecracker sex goddess, but she's still doing TV and commercials and getting in the gossip columns. When her niece
Ana (Martina Juncadella) sends her an invitation to her quincenera [a Hispanic bat mitzvah equivelent], she decides to pay the folks back home a visit.

Ana is thrilled, of course, and so is the guy who runs the hotel she's staying at(Luciano Cáceres). However, her sister and in-laws stick up their noses. This is a painful tale of rejection, which has a bit of genuine humor here and there, but is mostly a sad bit of business indeed. However, it will probably get the remake rights sold as a vehical for some ageing starlet who's glory days are past and needs a bit of a career boost.


Written and Directed
by Golan Rabbani

Bangladesh is one of those contries that seems cursed. Each year half the country gets inundated by floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, you name it. It's prominently depicted on commercials for missionary “adoption” programs, and is generally at the bottom of every list of prosperous countries outside of Africa. So of course, one would find filmmakers promoting the notion of money being the root of all evil, and this is about as blatant as you can possibly get.

Fazlu (Mahmuduzzaman Babu) hawks tiger balm with the help of young son Ratan (Ratan). They do okay, but not great in their land of intense poverty. One day, they get enough to get Ratan a new pair of used pants. This makes everyone in the family very happy.
But since the pants are used, Mom (Prachy) has to wash them. So she goes to the well, and empties out the pockets only to discover some strange banknotes denominated in the hundreds of thousands. There's a Black general on them, Zaire [Nowadays, the “democratic” republic of the Congo]. To be exact, which tells the foreign viewer that these things are completely worthless, but they of course don't know that.

So Dad goes to his old pal Siraj (Fazlur Rahman Babu), a local mucky-muck, who, for a slice of the proceeds, agrees to help our protagonist find out how much the bills are worth and where to have them changed into Bangladeshi rupees. The prospect of immense wealth soon begins to take it's toll on Fazlu and his family, as Siraj's gold-digging sister-in-law Rehana (Shamima Islam Tusti) starts doing her thing and Fazlu begins to fall in love, starting the local tongues wagging.

The film is reminiscent of many a tale going back to Mark Twain's “The Million Pound Note” and before, and with one or two exceptions concentrates on a gentle humor that's not all that common in south Asian cinema. It probably won't see an American release.


A documentary
by Guy Maddin

Winnipeg, Manatoba is one of those cities which has very little to recommend it, and Guy Maddin's very personal portrait of his hometown doesn't help the cause of tourism there. It is a poetic meditation - a docu-fantasia, if you will of what it was and what it is. A piece of twisted nostalgia which is both weird and unsettling, a place which has seen better days, but can't really remember when.

Madden, who's previous films have been off-the-wall explorations of defunct genres, is still adverse to color film, although he does use a clip of it or two in his otherwise black-and-white clip show. The new footage is of a person playing himself trying to escape from the town and failing, while reminiscing about multi-level swimming pools and disbanded hocky teams. There are some strange and silly reenactments of conversations between him, his siblings and their mother, but for the most part, the whole thing is rather parochial. The film was produced by the Canadian Documentary channel and is most unlikely to be seen outside Canada, which is just as well.

Chop Shop

Written and Directed
by Ramin Bahrani

HD video has revolutionized the movie business. With only an inexpensive camera, one can make a film on absolutely no budget which has the look and feel of a major Hollywood product, which is perfect for budding auteur Ramin Bahrani, who's “Man Push Cart” won great acclaim and made almost nothing at the box office. So another zero-budget feature might make the festival circuit and after that lead to a REAL movie.

Willet's Point, Queens, right near Shea stadium, where the Mets play, is a vast wasteland filled with garbage and auto repair shops. One can see why it interested Baharani, the place looks as exotic as India. Here 12-year-old Alej (Alejandro Polanco), an orphan of sorts who hustles his way through life in order to support himself and his sister Isamar (Isamar Gonzales), who also has to do a lot of things she's not proud of. They aren't homeless though, they live in a tiny apartment in Rob's (Rob Sowulski) garage, where Alej works grabbing customers. Isamar generally works selling food in a lunch wagon, while in the evenings, she has more lucrative and less savory ways of making money.

The main conflict in the film is between the siblings and the American dream. They want to get themselves their very own lunch wagon, which Alej's friend Carlos' (Carlos Zapata) uncle wants to sell them. The quest for money leads our hero to do some things he shouldn't.

This film was done, as was said before, on a zero budget and with ameture thespians. The two leads do a reletiveily decent job at it, and the script is more than adequate for something this intimate and exotic. It's worth a place on the netflix cue, but not full price, mainly because it looks like it's made for TV, and thus is better on the small screen.


Written and Directed
by Tamar van den Dop

Marie (Halina Reijn) a young albino woman struggling with her looks is hired to read books to a blind man named Ruben (Joren Seldenslachts), who's mother(Katelijne Verbeke) is very rich and is himself a violent brat. It's Marie's job to tame him. As she has low self esteem, she takes the job because she considers herself a monster and he can't see her. Thus begins an overly literary love story that's both glorious and horrible at the same time.

The glorious part is the acting. Both Reijn and Seldenslachts give bravura performances, especially after the plot twist and Marie's fleeing the mansion. But the film is itself maudlin and rather unbelievable. This is an above mediocre film, just above the “gilded turd” category. Don't expect it to play around the local arthouse anytime soon.

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