A popular topic amongst many of the films at VIFF this year is mental health. Whether characters are learning to live with the complications of specific diagnoses or coming to grips with the realities of mental health in general, filmmakers are creating substantial narratives that represent the complexities of being human. Kevin Funk’s tense pseudo-thriller Hello Destroyer, is a prime example of an authentic and powerful portrayal of the impacts of one’s social environment on mental health.
Victoria is many things: high-octane heist-thriller, transnational drama, triumphant experiment in technique, and a 'True Berliner' wunderkind. None of these qualities stood out to me when the credits flashed across the screen at its wind-down conclusion. None mattered at the end, save for the titular character and the fates of the Berliner bunch themselves.
Room puts us into the mindset of five-year-old Jack, providing us a keyhole into his limited worldview as he leaves the room in which he's been trapped in all his life for the first time. What begins as an exciting premise on the exploration of the outside world through the alluring eyes of a child starts to lose its magic on us once the film dwells in melodrama, shifting its focus from thought-provokingly nuanced moments towards those driveling with superfluous sentiment.
Fractured Land follows a young Caleb Behn, a First Nations leader in the making, who is deeply disturbed by the environmental destruction caused by the oil and gas industry in the land he calls home.
Nowadays, National Lampoon is a brand that has for the most part faded from popular culture. You might remember National Lampoon as part of the title of late 70's and 80's classic comedies like National Lampoon's Animal House or National Lampoon's Family Vacation films (those family road trip movies with Chevy Chase in them). But the name started as a satire magazine (like MAD Magazine for adults) and in its heyday, it was the epicenter of the hottest talent in the American comedy scene.
A true artist’s expression is not merely their motif, but their sanctuary. It’s the only way to co-exist with their demons. They do not seek fame; rather they have an intrinsic need to express their pain and suffering. Moreover, fame often compromises and puts restrictions on how they express themselves through art. They are coerced to project an image that sells. Gradually they succumb to the pressure of record label’s corporate mission statements and the constant hounding by the media. Amy Whinehouse had a very devoted, pure and sincere relationship to her music.
September 30th was Canadian triumph, with screening of two Canadian films written and directed by creative Quebecers. The screening I attended opened with the Canadian short film, The Chaperone by Fraser Munden and Neil Rathbone and was followed by Ricardo Trogi’s 1987.
The short, The Chaperone, is about an African-American schoolteacher fighting off a drugged-up motorcycle gang in '80s Francophone Canada after they invaded the student dance he was chaperoning.
Seemingly with a vendetta to be the most heart-wrenching film you’ve ever seen, Xavier Dolan’s fifth feature film Mommy (2014) plays out like the most twisted Freudian melodrama, whilst still maintaining a tone of sincerity, hope, and sweet nostalgia.
Susan Sontag was an American writer known for many works, including On Photography, Illness as a Metaphor, and The Way We Live Now. I had heard of Susan Sontag and read snippets of her work prior to attending Regarding Susan Sontag on September 30th, which is being shown as part of VIFF. From what little familiarity I had, my interest in Susan was initially tied to her relationship with photographer Annie Lebowitz, an iconic American portrait photographer.
I am not going to lie; sometimes I wonder why an aspiring filmmaker would choose to do delve into the art-house genre. Is it the appeal of ambiguity? The cool, leitmotif filled imagery, the all-encompassing realism that embodies the genre? Regardless, with the current trends of “twee”, superhero movies, and dark-realist postmodern comedies taking the stage amongst the modern audience, art-house should be the equivalent of social-suicide.