Wim Wenders directs Alicia Vikander and James McAvoy in Submergence romantic tragedy of two who meet in a French seaside hotel. She’s a bio mathematician contemplating a deep sea submergence dive in waters off Greenland to collect samples from the ocean floor. It’s perilous and unnerves her but she must fulfill her mission. He is an MI5 spy focusing on terrorists in Nairobi while posing as a water systems engineer. They fall in love and plan to meet in Africa after her dive but he stops texting. He’s been captured and sentenced to death by jihadist soldiers while she is submerged as deep as it gets; thoughts of one another help them cope. Beautifully shot by the German auteur and accompanied by a stunning score reminiscent of Hitchcock’s. This is old fashioned romantic yearning set in painful modern worlds. In select theatres and Ultra VOD Release.
Kim Nguyen follows Two Lovers and a Bear with the extraordinary romantic drama Eye on Juliet. Joe Cole plays a security officer stationed in Detroit guarding an oil pipeline in North Africa via robots, drones and multi camera digital coverage. He wonders why a Muslim girl played by Lina El Arabi is smoking alone in the desert at night and follows her via bot; he speaks to her and over time gains her trust and feels a true bond. She is to be married off by her strict parents and plans a getaway with her boyfriend and the guard wants to help. He wires her enough money for them to escape, and then watches helplessly as the lover is killed in a pipeline fire. It’s an off-beat contemporary take on Romeo and Juliet with depth, inevitability and kindness and good will as a healing power. A moving and intriguing experience.
English actors Imogen Poots and Callum Turner play a homeless couple in Niagara Falls in Mobile Homes. They depend on cons to get by with her eight year old son often taking part. It’s an unstable and dangerous life and inescapable. Theft, cock fighting, gun play, drugs are everyday matters; they aren’t convinced there is anything out there so they grab what they can. The boy sees things a child should never see and he’s aware his mother tried unsuccessfully to dump him with social services. Mother and son stowaway on a moving mobile home and find a community that seems appealing; gets works as a handyperson and life eases up under the care of the superintendent (Callum Keith Rennie). Inexplicably, the man she ran from shows up and burns down her unit. It’s a sobering slice of certain life buoyed by a hopeful ending from Vladimir de Fontenay.
Scent of Rain & Lightning, based on the NY Times bestselling novel by Nancy Pickard stars Maika Monroe as a young woman who investigates the murder of her parents years earlier, now that the man convicted is out of prison. He threatens her family with deadly violence swearing he didn’t do it. She interviews those who were around at the time, law enforcement, farmhands and family and stirs up a wasps’ nest and murder. The drama unfolds against a wide open, picturesque ranch in Oklahoma, performances are solid with a heavy representation of Canadian actors, but excessive use of flashback and a shaky structure diminish this otherwise interesting mystery. Co-stars Maggie Grace, Justin Chatwin, Mark Webber and Aaron Paul.
Mongol hordes are bearing down on Russia in a violent expansionist war in Dzhanik Fayziev and Ivan Shurkhovetskiy’s historical spectacle Furious. Set in medieval times when battles were fought without rules or regard for human suffering, we see weapons and methods of killing we don’t want to see again. A peaceful kingdom prepares itself for the horde, attempts negotiation but is decimated; families are torn apart and loyalties tested, no one, no matter how pure of heart, is safe. Its visually stunning, with great attention to detail on every level, special effects, practical sets, jaw dropping wardrobe, many gleaned from flea markets in the Middle East.
Shakespeare’s tragicomedy and “problem play” Timon of Athens, first published in 1653 is adapted for contemporary movie audiences in the Cineplex co-pro with the Stratford Festival. Timon is a popular and generous man in Athens, a patron who gives his entire fortune- horses, jewels, money, and his daughter to those he believes are his friends. He loses everything and soon, the creditors some to collect; he asks his friends for help they all turn him down. Timon leaves for the wilderness and finds gold and uses it to bring unhappiness to others. Once a lover of mankind, he is now a misanthrope. But his dramatic journey’s not over yet.
Sundance presents Prisoners, the most watched series in Icelandic TV history, about a privileged young woman imprisoned for a brutal assault on her father. Linda faces up to 14 years if he father dies. The family dynamic is difficult as her sister wants to cut her loose and refuses to provide a lawyer; the state provides a tabloid star. Her sister a Member of Parliament, and a bully, cuts her loose as she adjust to life in the clink. A misunderstanding over a chocolate bar puts her in danger as her mother throws away flowers from her husband’s mistress. Linda may be holding a secret that threatens her powerful family. The multi-award winning Prisoners is another example of the hugely popular Nordic noir genre – a crime story that’s dispassionate, plain spoken, dark and critical of society. Directed and written by Ragnar Bragason and starring Thora Bjorg Helga as Linda.
Antonio Banderas plays Pablo Picasso in his final years in National Geographic’s second instalment of its anthology series Genius. The Spanish born, French by choice revolutionary changed the face of culture founding the Cubist movement and other forms in painting, sculpture and collage, rejecting entirely the classic rules of art. The series traces his visual sense to the bullfights he attended as a child; he was fascinated by blood spatter and the fighter’s brilliant colours. Picasso led an intense and turbulent life and counted as his muses and lovers Françoise Gilot, who stayed with him ten years and bore two children, Marie-Thérèse Walter a daughter, and Fernande Olivier whose portrait he painted 60 times. We meet Coco Chanel, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque and Jean Cocteau. Ten one hour episodes begin April 24. Ron Howard produces.
Steven Spielberg’s excellent historical thriller The Post screams old fashioned elegance, intelligence and grit. Competition was strong at the Oscars this year; its shame it didn’t win but overall scored 96 nominations during awards season. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks run the Washington Post and fight to publish the Pentagon Papers which revealed forty years of government obfuscation regarding the Vietnam War. President Richard Nixon and his henchmen threaten them but they carry on this intense, powerful and elegant look at government criminality and the heroism of those who stepped up. Available now on DVD.
TIFF Bell Lightbox screens Lucrecia Martel’s Zama on April 20, the final film of its retrospective on the Argentinian filmmaker. It describes life in Latin America under Spanish rule with an anti-colonial tone, classism and racism. Martel worked on the film after years battling cancer, buoyed by help from fans Danny Glover, Joslyn Barnes, Gael Garcia Bernal, and the Almodovar brothers who produced the film, keen to have her work free of state interference. It is her biggest production to date, and stunningly sensual, set in the late 1700’s its haunting, and often dreamlike, a study of a Spanish military officer stranded on the coast of primitive Asuncion awaiting transfer. Over time, he begins to deteriorate psychologically, becoming fearful and paranoid.
by @annebrodie, BFCA BTJA AWFJ TFCA FIPRESCI