Bong Joon-Ho’s nearly perfect, nerve-rattling comedy thriller Parasite is a shock to the system. It’s outrageous, comic, deadly serious and genre-bending, precise, poetic and mathematical, symmetrical in its construction, and deeply satisfying. It won this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes, it’s South Korea’s entry for Best International Film at the Oscars and no kidding. Ki-taek Kim, his wife, son and daughter are desperately poor, with cell phones but no Wi-fi and work shabbily at folding pizza boxes. But they’re cunning, able to set in motion an undetectable scam on the wealthy Park family in order to assume their lives.
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One by one they insinuate themselves into the home as servants in a con that soon ensnares the previous housemaid and a man living in a panic room under the house left behind by the previous tenant. Snappy references that rise above the Kims’ stations in life are immediately absorbed and use. The Parks, in turn, absorb any and all references to America, the key to the Kims’ ability to get in the door, despite the fact that they all “smell poor”. But don’t count out the “lone, great housekeeper” who, too, is class climbing.
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Part social satire, class war and bloody thriller, its deliciously heightened through humour in a perfectly symmetrical framework. Scathingly brilliant, satirical and exquisitely frenzied, even the weather is funny. Holy cow, don’t miss this. One caveat, awkward repeated references to North American First Nations found in headdresses and hatchets used to scare kids at a doomed birthday party. Stars Kang Ho, Sun Kyun, Yeo Jeong, Woo Shik and So Dam.
François Ozon’s breathtaking, elegant By the Grace of God based on a true case in France examines efforts by the Roman Catholic Church to protect a priest after multiple allegations child sexual abuse isn’t for the feint of heart. It spares nothing, but its dignified treatment of victims is full of grace and respect. A family man (Melvil Poupaud) learns that Father Bernard Preynat of Lyon who abused him is still working with children thirty years after the church promised to remove him. He demands action and agrees to face his abuser. And then it all goes quietly away – until he meets another survivor and another. They form a group to fight for justice but it’s a hard path because the church refuses responsibility. Ozon gives four men chapters in which we see the varying effects of abuse and the reopening of old wounds. The victims’ responses range from suicidal to galvanised, some find new meaning and some recover their long-buried voices. It’s intense and often painful, but Ozon’s tonally on target, artistically, cinematically and in every way, meticulous and important as he reveals higher meaning. NB: Preynat’s lawyer was turned down on asking for a postponement of the film till after the case was tried. Last spring Preynat was found guilty and defrocked.
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At the other end of the spectrum is the tongue in cheek comedy Greener Grass A deliciously twisted suburban fable of a pastel-coloured universe of a neighbour living nutty lives held together by pink frosting. The precision of personal presentation, immaculate clothing, haircuts and mannerisms, straight out of a Dubble Bubble nightmare sets the stage for interactions that are as deep as a page from an Archie comic book. Written and directed by leads Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, its satiric knife-edge whips through common sense with absurd and zany enthusiasm. The moms have a European Tea and discuss the bagger/ murderer on the loose from the grocery star while they brag about their European adventures. “We went to Paris, then France”. A mom compliments another on her baby so she hands it over, then lives to regret it, having to make do with a dog child. Kids with Knives is TV’s popular new show and the Coliseum of achievement is the soccer field. Tonnes of fun, zero stress and zany to the max.
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The King starring Timothée Chalamet opens in limited theatrical release this week before moving to Netflix Nov 1. Chalamet plays England’s Prince Henry circa 1440 who abandoned royal life to live among the common people. When he is called back to assume the Crown, he faces complex palace politics and threats to his safety, while longing for his old life. The King is written and directed by David Michôd and co-written by Joel Edgerton. Co-stars Edgerton, Sean Harris and, Lily-Rose Depp with Robert Pattinson and Ben Mendelsohn.
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Keeping in the Royal Realm is HBO’s raucous historical drama series Catherine The Great, premièring Oct 21st. Helen Mirren executive produces and plays the title role of the powerful Russian ruler who in 1762 staged a military coup against her own husband who subsequently died under mysterious circumstances. The four partner stars Jason Clark as her lover Grigory Potemkin. She is unpopular because she’s a woman, she’s a woman who ended her husband’s rule and, gasp, she’s liberal, she cares for the people of Russia. Her son hates her because she killed his father so there’s no one she can trust. To save her neck, cement her rule and garner fear, Catherine orders the throat slit of the young man in prison who is the real Lord of all Russia. And the sex! Everyone’s having sex all the time. Racy, interesting and visually arresting but not especially suitable for kids and bonus – Catherine and Grigory’s liberal reforms begin to change the fabric of life in Russia.
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The Bay launches on BritBox October 22, in its North American Premiere starring Morven Christie as Detective Sergeant Lisa Armstrong, tasked with investigating a missing person report in Morecambe Bay, an English coastal town. Twin teens, Holly and Dylan went missing after being seen headed to the promenade, at the same time DS Armstrong was indulging in a one-off with a stranger outside a pub. That and the disappearance of the twins are linked and she must struggle to stay sane. She protects the status quo while investigating her one-night stand partner the kids’ adoptive father, now a suspect. DS Armstrong’s investigation uncovers a major criminal enterprise, her nerves are further shredded and she learns her daughter is in danger.
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J.J. Abrams and Stephen King’s second, 10 – episode season of Hulu Original Castle Rock premières Wednesday with a cool cast – Lizzy Caplan, Tim Robbins, Paul Sparks, Yusra Warsama and Barkhad Abdi. Annie Wilkes the crazy nurse/torturer in King’s Misery sets off a bloodbath between the clans. You want King references from 308 film and TV offerings? You’ve come to the right place. But can you get out?
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The Retro Report, airing Mondays and Tuesday nights on PBS features short satirical documentaries with Andy Borowitz, the hilarious and dead-on political columnist, all month long. Borowitz’s docs are produced by The Daily Show’s Sara Taksler.
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The 20th imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is proud to announce the full programming of works by Indigenous creators n the fest, running October 22-27, 2019 in Toronto. One Day in the Life of Noah Piugattuk by Zacharias Kunuk opens at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and The Sun Above Me Never Sets closes at TIFF Bell Lightbox Oct 27. That same evening, Michelle Thrush will be presented with the prestigious Augie award for her body of work. So many films to see, including The Incredible 25th Year of Mitzi Bearclaw, Ruthless Souls, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open .
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and an exclusive preview of Jeff Barnaby’s latest film Blood Quantum:
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More details at www.imagineNATIVE.org
And how’s this for a big weekend at TIFF Bell Lightbox!?
The Thing dir. John Carpenter | 1982 Oct 18 | 9pm
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Seven Samurai dir. Akira Kurosawa | 1954 Oct 19 | 7pm 35mm
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War and Peace Parts 1 and 2 dir. Sergei Bondarchuk | 1966 Oct 19 | 1:30 pm
War and Peace Parts 3 and 4, dir. Sergei Bondarchuk | 1966 Oct 20 | 1:30 pm
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BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI