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Recent Movies: Oslo, August 31st, Ai Weiwei Never Sorry, Take This Waltz, Old Movie: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Live Theatre: War Horse **************************

September 16, 2012

Recent Movies

Oslo August 31st

The title refers to the place and day this film takes place.  It follows a young man (Anders) on a day pass from a rehabilitation clinic for drug addiction.

This film might appear to be slow-moving at times but it pays off mainly due to its content.  The viewer gets glimpses of the life of a recovering addict trying to have a normal life but also must face the consequences of past behaviour.  The best scene is one in which he is being interviewed for a job and has to account for the years not working while he was in treatment.

The visits with an old friend, his sister’s partner, and an ex-girlfriend at a party also reveal much about the main character and life itself.

Rating (out of four stars):   * * *

 

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

The subject of this American-made documentary is Ai Weiwei, a Chinese activist and artist.  His strong convictions often get him in trouble with his government.

This film is praiseworthy for various reasons.  One is its courage in exposing government abuse in a part of the world that is rightfully notorious for its human rights abuses.  Another reason to praise the film is its fascinating human subject.

Ai is very likeable and proves to be a great example of courage in how he lives his life.  When he is praised for this courage, he gives a fascinating rebuttal to this compliment.

The film covers the period of 2008-2011 with some flashbacks when Ai lived in New York City in the 1980s.  His main concern in this film is an earthquake in the Sichuan region in 2008 where several children were killed in a badly built school.  Many of his art projects are around this subject and the government’s desire to cover up as much as possible about these events.

Considering the power of the Chinese government, it’s easy to be cynical.  The film shows by the end that there may a bit of hope while still remaining realistic.  It is also informative in that it gets into the mind of an artist.  While some works of art seem odd at first glance, the artist’s explanations make the works more understandable and even fascinating.

Rating:   * * *

Take This Waltz
 
A young married couple in Toronto (Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen) have their marriage tested when a handsome neighbour (Luke Kirby) frequently shows his interest in the woman.
The film begins well enough but falls into rather dull territory around the middle and stays there for a long while.  The performances are fine but there is not enough sexual tension between Williams and Kirby to make this film more engaging.
The film does have more meat, however, in the last twenty minutes or so when one of the main characters must learn a hard lesson and a sub-plot about a recovering alcoholic (Sarah Silverman) also reaches a tense point.  While this section of the film raised it to a higher level, it was still sadly not enough.
Director/writer Sarah Polley did a superb job with her first film “Away From Her”.  Her second film pales by comparison.  Hopefully, her next film “Stories We Tell” is up to par.
Rating:   * * 1/2

Great Old Films Seen Again
 
 
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg   (1964 – France )
 
 
From 1957-1963, two young lovers in a northern French coastal town must bear separation for two years.  All the dialogue is sung with no spoken words.
 
After a sixth viewing, I still find this to be one of the most charming and endearing films ever made.  Jacques Demy does great work as a director especially during the opening credits.  (Yes, back then, opening credits were mandatory in every film.)  He ably creates a mood of genuine melancholy especially in the end of the first of three sections as well as the finale.  He is greatly assisted with the superb music of Michel Legrand.  Some songs are brilliant especially “I Will Wait For You”.  When this song is used in the film’s saddest moments with loud orchestrations, it’s hard to restrain the emotions. 
 
The film covers many other themes including bankruptcy, terminal illness, social climbing, war drafts, and other forms of heartbreak.  With a final image of an Esso gas station on a snowy night, the film ends on a perfect note.  One to be treasured.
 
 
Rating:   * * * *
 
Notable Achievments:
 
1)     Directing by Jacques Demy
2)     Music by Michel Legrand
Live Theatre
 
 
“War Horse”  at the Princess of Wales theatre, Toronto
 
 
The play takes place before and during World War I in England .  A struggling farm family takes in a young horse who becomes a close companion to the teen-age boy in the family.  The upcoming war causes changes in this relationship.
 
This story works much better on stage than it did in the filmed version.  While many elements are praiseworthy, the greatest praise goes to the puppeteers of the various horses.  It may be obvious that humans are manipulating the movements but when watching the upper areas of the horses, they truly look like animated creatures with feelings.
 
A screen at the back of the stage was used to great effect to highlight background elements of the story especially in the second half during war scenes.  Alex Furber gives a fine leading performance while there are fine supporting performances in the second half in the roles of a British officer, a German officer, and a French farm girl.
 
Despite the occasional rudeness of some audience members talking during the performance, this was still a great experience.
 
 
Rating:   * * * 1/2

 

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