The Montreal World Film Festival

From our reporter, Giantweed, cinema expert: The Montreal World Film Festival is getting underway with the usual media bitch-up about the lack of big name stars and major studio films. The hacks are just in knots because now they don't have any easy-oven Hollywood Press Kits to stuff the entertainment sections and now, heaven-forbid, when they're schmoozing at the hotel suite booze-ups they might be forced to interview actual commoners.

It's the end of August and we are burnt out from dancing in the streets at the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Franco-Folies and our ears are ringing from the Grand Prix and we're feeling really out of shape after watching the Tennis Tournament and probably couldn't stomach one more whiff of the Patchouli Oil blowing at the Sunday Tam Tam. To top it all off the city is crawling with tourists crowding us locals off of the cobblestones at the Old Port while they weave their way into the bars on St Catherines street looking for escorts and lap dances!

The safest place to escape and find air-conditioning and a cool mood is the World Film Festival. Sitting back in the Imperial Theater's comfy new seats and go on a trip around the world with the other well dressed cine-maniacs flipping through notebooks and redlining on caffeine! Plus it's so much fun telling the usher you are "the Director" and getting one of the reserved seats!

As usual, I decided to ignore any and all media hype about what were the "must see" films at the festival and tried a completely random approach In fact I decided to just spend my coffee and croissant money on the Official Catalogue and fifteen tickets and go see the pictures that had sexy titles and cool promo shots...sometimes it worked but a couple of times I got treated to some totally pathetic droovel! I'm a gambler...a real Kenny Rogers risk taker!

This was strictly a "sandwich in the knapsack" affair, there were no limos, or dangling gold visa media passes, or midnight parties. I raced my three speed bicycle to and from the cinemas, refueling along the way with potent high test espresso, and wrote the reviews on my 34 year-old typewriter with the torn ribbon.

Below you will find my film reviews of the movies I saw. The reviews are from memory and my rambling scrawled "journalistic" notes, which were tough to read under the Dijon and licorice juice! My dream is that someday I'll have full media accreditation and proper elbow room at the buffet table! Official montreal world film festival website

Reviews from previous years of the Film Festival

Directed by Andreas Dresen GERMANY
Film synopsis:
Anne, fresh out of the police academy, is assigned to a port city in eastern Germany. She is posted to a neighborhood of drab high-rise apartment buildings, shopping malls and gray streets. Single, 27, no beauty but not unattractive, Anne has no ties; it's a new town and she's hoping to make a fresh start. It doesn't take her long to learn that the life of a police officer is a daily struggle with bureaucracy, not to mention criminals of all varieties and degrees of seriousness. Anne finds herself affected by her encounters with people struggling to survive and she doesn't find it easy to keep the emotional distance that her profession might require. THE POLICEWOMAN is a portrait of police work that eschews car chases and sensational murders in favor of grit and realism, the true heart of inner city law enforcement. Review: The grainy film stock and handheld camera give it a real documentary feel which suits this drama perfectly. The lead actress delivered a stellar portrayal of a strong yet vulnerable character. A simple "story" but nonetheless gripping due mostly to our heroine's big heart, clumsiness, and her humanity with others. Recommended: 7 Stars! More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Rainer Kaufmann GERMANY
Film synopsis: Charlotte has waited almost a whole lifetime for the man she always knew was the right one for her: Hugo, her sister's husband. In the meantime she has lived her own life, survived the war, a husband and a lover, given birth to three children, and all the while kept a skeleton in her closet. Now, over 80 and her days clearly diminishing, she meets the love of her life again. This obsessive passion is fulfilled when Hugo confirms that he has also realized that there was only one true love in his life. Charlotte has no regrets: "It may take a whole lifetime to have just five minutes of happiness." Narrated in a series of flashbacks, the film is a love story and a family drama. The basic theme — the impossibility of having the love of one's life and yet be united a whole life long — is profoundly romantic and universal.
Review: A fantastic cast and a story richer than dark chocolate. I laughed and I cried! Packed full of symbolism and universal truths. An amazing film that covers the spectrum of emotions because of the eccentric characters and immense scope of the story. It had love, loss, murder and dummies dressed in dresses. Wow! Highly Recommended: 8 Stars!
More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Dominik Moll FRANCE
Film synopsis: Michel and Claire are facing a tough vacation. They're in a heatwave and their three small girls are cranky and always in their hair. The work on the rickety farmhouse they've been restoring for the past three years is still unfinished and they're stressed out all day. Enter Harry. At a highway rest stop, while washing his hands, Michel encounters an ofd classmate he really doesn't remember. But Michel obviously made a major impact on Harry, he can not only recite poetry Michel wrote for the school newspaper, he also used to date his ex-girlfriends. Before Michel has a chance to object, Harry manages to invite himself and his voluptuous, dimwitted girlfriend Plum over to their vacation home. Harry is troubled that Michel, overwhelmed by the tasks of daily life, has stopped writing. He decides to help. But Harry's notion of help is a bit peculiar.
Review: The characters were well played and I was really intrigued initially by the unfolding events but when the tone of the film abruptly changed it lost me. Suddenly things didn't quite work for me...some may call the twist Hitchcockian but I just call it unsatisfying. Marks for the performance of the actor who plays Harry and the overall pace, albeit a slightly uneven one. 6 Stars More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Eric Styles UNITED KINGDOM
Film synopsis: France, 1954. The Earl of Marshwood romances beautiful Hollywood star Miranda Frayle, unaware of the consternation their impending marriage is causing both his mother, Felicity, the Countess of Marshwood, and Don Lucas, one of Hollywood's most attractive but highly-strung stars and Miranda's former love — both on screen and off. Back at the family's stately pile, it turns out that Felicity's maid Moxie is actually the long-lost sister of Miranda. The family sets about concocting a story to remake Moxie's image. But Moxie is distraught when her sister fails to recognize her, and tells terrible lies about her childhood. Adding fuel to the fire, Don has pursued Miranda and arrives at Marshwood desperate to reclaim his "gal", who is both flattered and mortified to see him. Felicity realizes that Don fits perfectly into her own little plan...
Review: A terrific comedy! Some hilarious characters and the actors played the stereotypical high society set in over-the-top perfection. I laughed out loud and it seemed to end way to fast due to the nonstop action. It was nice to see Julie Andrews again too! This film is an almost perfect little package. It's light but it's too fun, the 50's were great! Recommended: 7 Stars! More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Gianluca Maria Tavarelli ITALY
Film synopsis: Renato Sapienza drives an armoured truck for the postal service, every day collecting valuables from the regional branches and transporting them to the main post office. He makes his rounds accompanied by his good friend Walter Taranto and an escort of two police cars. One day eight billion lire disappear. Inspector Lucidi, an honest, hardworking cop, is determined to find the guilty party. All clues point to Sapienza, who has disappeared into thin air. We flashback into the memories of the main protagonists; Renato Sapienza, luckless, a dreamer who sees himself as a vagabond poet; Claudia, a young waitress who falls in love with him; Walter , Sapienza's best friend, who would never say no to him, even at the risk of going to jail. The plan is set. Nothing can derail it...but the truth is sometimes not what we think it is, and reality not what we dream.
Review: You can't help liking everyone in this well crafted drama; both the good guys and the bad guys are given such identifiable qualities. I like the way we progress day by day into a police investigation and as the plot twists it doesn't ever seem implausible. I was really tensed up throughout this unexpected thriller about the dream of breaking out from life's monotony. Recommended: 7 Stars! More information on the filmmaker

Directed by David Mamet UNITED STATES
Film synopsis: When a film production company invades a quaint New Hampshire town to make a film , the town's inhabitants are all too ready to jettison its pastoral grace for a taste of showbiz glitz. Part Hollywood satire, part comedy, STATE AND MAIN follows screenwriter Joe White whose values are put to task when he witnesses a heartthrob movie star's indiscretion with a local teenage girl. The movie's smooth-talking director and aggressive producer pressure Joe to put aside his convictions for the sake of the film and his future writing career. Meanwhile, Joe falls for a local bookseller who challenges him to stand up for the truth. Adding to the writer's troubles are the hard-to-resist temptations posed by the sexiest member of the cast and constant hassling from the town's starstruck mayor and his wife.
Review: This had such potential but I found the jokes were a bit too obvious at times. The relationship between the two main characters didn't seem plausible to me. Having said that I must give credit to the fact that there was always something going on, it never dragged, but some of the motivations seemed a bit unclear. It did have some real choice moments though! 5 Stars More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Otto Alexander Jahrreiss GERMANY
Film synopsis: Wanda is a call girl living in Berlin. Though she doesn't know it, her shy neighbour Waller is constantly watching her through the viewfinder of his video camera. Waller uses the tapes to blackmail her customers, and regularly slips part of the proceeds into Wanda's mailbox. One day Wanda and Waller meet, by chance, in the hallway. When Waller tries to pry into her life, Wanda turns him away. She has enough problems of her own. Her husband is blackmailing her, using their son as a hostage to force her to turn tricks for him. But Waller persists, and when he finds out her story, he proclaims himself her guardian angel. He promises her a new, better life. The first thing he does is break her out other life as a prostitute — against her own will. Then he takes her on one final trip...
Review: Great editing and a super lush film stock made this a visual feast with the deep colours and unusual transitions setting an intense mood. The story could have been exploited alot better; the deadpan delivery of the actors kind of made me stop caring and some situations weren't adequately explained. A bit long in parts but for the visuals you might want a peek. 6 Stars More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Mark Lamprell AUSTRALIA
Film synopsis: Fifty-one-year-old Frank has created a safe, secure, somewhat bizarre, world for herself — and it's boring her to death. She's an eccentric, dry-witted, overprotective mother with a bad memory, living her life through her grown-up children. Everyone thinks Frank should get a life — from her friend Jean who wants her to open a dress shop, to her mentors/tormentors, two 80-year-old nuns. Her son David tries to get her to enroll in a course somewhere. After initial resistance, Frank decides to go the same university that David attends. Soon the two separate worlds of mother and son collide. When Frank is temporarily ejected from the university for inadvertently cheating, it seems things can't get any worse. And then they do.
Review: This is a real winner! It's got an amazing cast working with a super script and every character was well played and marvelously cast. It has so many truly funny moments that are completely off-the-wall and then in a flash turns around and hits you with an unexpected dose of reality making this one fantastic ride. I'm still feeling good from it! Highly Recommended: 8 Stars! More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Ben Hopkins UNITED KINGDOM
Film synopsis: A man crawls out of a hole near a London expressway wearing clothes from another century. His name is Tomas Katz. He hails a taxi and after a brief conversation with the driver, something odd happens — Tomas Katz is now wearing the driver's clothes and is driving the cab. The taxi driver is now dressed as Tomas Katz and is standing on the shoulder of the highway. Katz-as-taxi driver heads into London and picks up the Minister of Fisheries and takes him to a press conference. By the time they arrive at their destination, the Minister has been transformed into the taxi driver and Katz has become the Minister. On it goes, a sequence of character exchanges in which the Tomas Katz takes on the appearances of the people he encounters. A gradually increasing chain of anarchy and chaos begins to engulf the city.
Review: This film completely blew me out of my mind! Saying that it is like Monty Python meets Brazil doesn't do it justice. This is the most refreshing work I've seen in ages. Fabulous characters with surreal dialogue, poetic charm, a mesmerizing soundtrack, innovative visuals, a story that is chillingly dark and hilarious make this my choice for Festival Highlight! Absolutely unbelievable. Imagination beyond the beyondo! Very Highly Recommended! 9 Stars! More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Rolando Stefanelli ITALY
Film synopsis: Romano and Alba are traveling across Europe headed for Amsterdam. Once a literature teacher, Romano is now an alcoholic and a desperate man, living off his girlfriend Arianna. Driven by pride he accepted a Job smuggling a large quantity of hashish from Amsterdam to Rome by car. Arianna refused to accompany him so, needing a convincing cover, he recruited his former girlfriend Alba,who knows nothing about the real reason for his invitation. She believes he has recovered from his personal problems and this is their chance to start over. At last they leave; France, Germany, Austria, Holland. It doesn't take long for Alba to realize that this isn't going to be a second honeymoon...
Review: This didn't do it for me. We only touch the surface of the characters and their reactions to situations seem unrealistic. There were alot of unnecessary scenes and it got stagnant and convoluted at times. The tension level was way underdone and this turned an interesting premise into a rather pale show. 5 Stars More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Benjamin Cann MEXICO
Film synopsis: A theatre-of-the-absurd portrait of a Mexican family at the end of the millennium. The father, back home after a long stay in the United States, remains locked in his room while his meek wife is subject to anxiety attacks and would like nothing better than to drop everything and move away. No wonder. Their daughter is suffering from some secret pain, their oldest son is a transsexual who dreams of beating his father, the middle son suffers bouts of paranoia and the youngest and most normal is still stuck with childish dreams of dragons. Then there's the girl next door, the taxi driver who travels nowhere, a would-be suicide and a breakfast that isn't ready...
Review: This takes twisted insanity to a new level! The acting in this is awesome; it's not easy to portray crazy twisted psychos but the cast scored big. Definitely not for the feint of heart or stomach (some violence) this is a surreal whirlwind that was so intense and imaginative it completely stunned me. Suffering and mental disorder never looked so good! Very Highly Recommended! 9 Stars! More information on the filmmaker

Directed by Fina Torres BRAZIL-UNITED STATES
Film synopsis: Beautiful Isabella possesses extraordinary culinary talents that melt the palates and hearts of men wherever she goes. When she meets the handsome Tonino, Isabella puts aside her dreams of becoming a famous chef abroad, to cook at his Brazilian restaurant. But Isabella has a physical handicap. Since birth she has been plagued by motion sickness and she can only manage its symptoms by being in control of her motion. This proves too much for her macho husband and Isabella decides to join her childhood friend in San Francisco. Before long, through a series of miraculous events she becomes an overnight sensation as the sexy host of a television cooking show. But Tonino hasn't given up on Isabella...
Review: A great comedy with the magical qualities of a fairy-tale! It's a mystical musical love story with some quirky characters and alot of delicious food and spicy relationships. By no means profound the film still manages to underline the importance of faith and integrity in our lives. It reminded me of the song-filled feel-good films from a generation ago when people were motivated by their hearts. Charming. Highly Recommended: 8 Stars!
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Directed by Harriet Marin FRANCE
Film synopsis: Oriane's marriage with Hadrien had gotten off on the wrong foot when she chose him over her previous boyfriend, who just happened to be Hadrien's best friend. The jilted boyfriend didn't take it well and jumped out of a window. Now the marriage is on the rocks and Oriane is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. At wit's end after the latest argument with Hadrien, she consults a fortune teller, hoping to hear that all's not lost between them. But the only things the crystal ball can see is infidelity and separation. Oriane won't hear any of it. She wants a happy ending. The soothsayer consults his ball again and the same prediction shows up. Oriane rejects this vision of the future as well. Destiny, shmestiny; she's going to shape her own future the way she wants to.
Review: A neat little comedy with refreshing, realistic performances from a unique and atypical cast who were able to deliver a great mix of dark emotional highs and lows. Some really unexpected humour here and it was nice to see the older woman getting the younger guys for a change. It took me on a trip from the city of big laughs to the town of teary eyes more than once.
Highly Recommended: 8 Stars!
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Directed by Karim Dridi FRANCE-CUBA
Film synopsis: El Gallo, is a street singer. He has a dream, and he pursues it across Cuba. This is the land of musical legends: salsa stars, rappers from the poor urban districts, extravagant old-time orchestras, bolero singers, jamming jazzmen, mystical drummers, village merrymakers. On the road, in trains, backyards and bustling streets, music blends with his errant life as El Gallo translates these moments into songs he knows by heart. In the course of his wandering through Cuba, Santiago, Guantanamo, Camaguey and Trinidad, the singer meets a musical people who welcome him as a brother and play with him at the drop of a hat. When his trip is over, the dream ends and El Gallo finds himself back where he started, with a cigarette in his mouth, watching the freighters come and go in the port of Havana.
Review: I desperately wanted to like this film, and maybe I wasn't in the right mood, but it seemed like a documentary film where you don't really learn anything. I really wanted to know the story behind all these wild musicians but instead all we get is a document of the music. Still, the scenery was great, the people were real characters, and the tunes were sweet. Could be worth a look though. 4 Stars More information on the filmmaker

Directed by José Alvaro Morais PORTUGAL-FRANCE
Film synopsis: Early one morning in the summer of 1999, a week before her wedding, Joao realizes that she doesn't want to get married after all. The preparations are well under way, the invitations have been sent out long ago and to top it all Joao thinks she's pregnant. Faced with this dilemma, she does what she always does when she needs time to think — she drinks. In all other respects, Joao is a good girl, despite having been neglected. Her mother died years ago and her two brothers have left home. The father is a vet with political ambitions, who has little time for his daughter. When Joao drinks, things tend to happen quickly, and not always for the best. So she does what she always does when things are going badly: she runs to Gabriel, the "family friend", who finds it hard to say no.
Review: The most un-likeable people gathered together on screen in a totally incomprehensible story that somehow manages to completely ignore devices like plot, continuity, and reason. What's with the guys dancing in blue pyjamas? I cannot fathom how this film was actually in the Official Competition of the festival. It got one star because the film didn't break in the projector... otherwise it would have gotten two stars.
1 Star: Pee-yewww
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Official montreal world film festival website

© 2004