The 47th edition of Festival du Nouveau Cinéma (FNC) ran Oct. 3-14, gracing Montreal’s silver screens with an eclectic program of films ranging from festival-circuit fare to micro-budget Québecois features. The McGill Tribune team was there in full force.
Thunder Road—Jim Cummings
Gabe Nisker, Sports Editor
Based on his 2016 short film and one-man-show of the same name, with Thunder Road, writer-director-star Jim Cummings has managed to upstage even his own source material. Thunder Road tells the story of police officer Jimmy Arnaud, played by Jim Cummings, and his difficulty with coping in the immediate aftermath of his mother’s death. Citing Alfonso Cuaron’s Children Of Men as an influence, Cummings allows his scenes to develop over time; he favours long takes and his writing relies largely on monologues. Cummings surrounds his lead performance with a wonderful ensemble cast, and, together, they beautifully transform the one-man-show into so much more.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night—Bi Gan
Dylan Adamson, Features Editor
As someone who craves structure and instructions, I wasn’t going to miss Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Halfway through the movie, I had read, viewers are told to don the 3D glasses that they were given upon entering. How would they tell us? Would the movie pause? Would a Cineplex employee stride out with instructions? Would they be in English or French? The cue was implicit, to my disappointment, but the film’s remaining hour-long, 3D single take was more than enough to compensate. Bi’s neo-noir odyssey is thematically dense and visually brilliant. There’s no telling how, if, or when this will reach North American cinemas, but if it ever does, it is not to be missed.
If Beale Street Could Talk—Barry Jenkins
Barry Jenkins makes good movies. If Moonlight’s Academy Award for Best Picture wasn’t enough to prove that, then Beale Street should suffice. Based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, the film could very well win Jenkins a second Academy Award. It’s a gorgeous period piece tracking two timelines—the initial romance between Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), and their present-day tragedy that occurs when Fonny is wrongfully imprisoned for rape. Nicholas Britell adds a suave, jazzy score to complement James Laxton’s beautiful cinematography. If everyone saw faces the way Jenkins and Laxton do, the world would be a better place.
Shoplifters —Hirozaku Kore-eda
When audiences are first introduced to Osamu (Lily Franky) and his son Shota (Jyo Kairi) in the grocery store, stuffing backpacks with stolen non-perishables, it’s clear that Kore-Eda is not going to shy away from the difficult questions concerning family relationships. In the opening scene alone, Kore-Eda questions Shota’s wide-eyed reverence for Osamu, Osamu’s involvement of Shota in the family business, how the need for sustenance has become a father-son bonding ritual—as in the rest of the film, Kore-eda weaves the tapestry of a family unit bound by necessity and love—in that order. As we meet the other family members, we see how hard they all must work to keep their musty, cobbled-together house of cards standing. Shoplifters has little narrative information to disclose, but as the truth eventually finds its way to the surface, it is shattering.
The Sisters Brothers—Jacques Audiard
The Western genre provides countless opportunities for incredible cinematography, and The Sisters Brothers is no exception. Director Jacques Audiard’s English-language debut is a sight to behold. Based on Patrick deWitt’s 2011 novel, The Sisters Brothers also features an impressive ensemble cast. John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix star as the titular Sisters brothers—Reilly proves his dramatic chops with a nuanced performance and Phoenix follows Reilly’s lead on comedy, providing relief from the otherwise tense script. When Riz Ahmed and Jake Gyllenhaal reunite on screen as Hermann Kermit Warm and John Morris, the chemistry is undeniable. This movie is the epitome of calm and collected, even when its characters are not.
Gaspar Noé is the enfant terrible of indie cinema. He’s all about disruption. Narrative structure means nothing to him. His movies are hard to watch. Sometimes he’ll show a pregnant woman getting beat up because he doesn’t care what you think, loser. Despite this generally obnoxious, extreme approach, Noé is newly self-reflexive in Climax, a film squarely focused on the youthful drive to live in and make the most of each individual moment. When someone spikes the punch with LSD at a modern dance troupe’s year-end party, fun, kinetic dance-offs give way to a nightmarish soiree of hedonistic violence and cruelty. It’s the best execution of Noé’s bad-boy approach to filmmaking yet, largely because of its focused, 90-minute runtime, the entirety of which may be spent alternatingly gasping and clapping.
Seeing Roma is an experience, one that is difficult to shake. Scheduled for release on Netflix by mid-December, Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film is best seen on the big-screen. It is an ode to Cuaron’s childhood in 1970s Mexico, and, specifically, to the caretaker central to his complicated family. The film features deep shots, rich with detail, and a lead performance from soon-to-be-star Yalitza Aparicio, who brings strong emotion to the role of Cleo. Sadly, what might be lost in the translation from the big to the small screen is the sound design. For viewers at home: It’s worth investing in a good speaker. Roma is most definitely not to be missed, regardless of the platform on which you watch.
Happy New Year, Colin Burstead—Ben Wheatley
Sophie Brzozowski, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Writer and director Ben Wheatley’s latest film, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead is, in a word, boring. The story follows the Burstead family, all piled into an ostentatious and gaudy rental mansion over the course of one long, dreary New Year’s Eve. The micro-dramas that ensue are predictable and clichéd, as are the characters themselves. The shaky, handheld camera work and pithy dialogue provide the tense, uneasy atmosphere necessary for a successful family dramedy to unfold, but the humour falls short of resolving said tension, contributing instead to the overall phoniness of the whole production.
Filmmaker Lee Chang-dong and novelist Haruki Murakami share fascinations common to many auteur-type artists—isolation, and futility. What distinguishes them from their similarly-minded peers, however, is their insistent doubling back. Characters in Murakami’s novels will spend multiple chapters trapped in wells by their own volition. The murky isolation is frightening and disorienting, but, when the sun hits the right spot in the sky, the climactic moment of warmth and light is impossible to match. Burning, Lee’s masterful adaptation of Murakami’s short story, Barn Burning, plays out with a simmering, disorienting ambiguity punctuated by these same moments of startling beauty.