Reviewer Ed Farolan
102 min., Australia, dir. Serhat Caradee
I would consider the plot of this screenplay close to Aristotelian, somewhat an example of the classic well-made play. In this case, the classic well-made screenplay. Although not too technically polished, it doubtlessly has all the elements of a good plot, and at the end, the audience gets the feeling that poetic justice has been done. This story could easily have taken place in Vancouver, or in any city in the world. It's about impoverished immigrants who dream of making it big, and when they can't do it the normal way, then they resort to crime. And what is the easiest way to make money these days? You're right. Drug-dealing. I could see the influence of Scorsese and Tarantino in this film, although not as violent. No wonder, this film garnered the Audience Award in the recent 2009 Australian Film Festival, and it has a good chance of winning the same award at the end of this year's VIFF.
Discorama, by Glaser
67 min., France, dir. Esther Hoffenberg
From 1959 to 1974, every Sunday, a very popular TV program, Discorama, showcased French pop music and was hosted by Denise Glaser. French families and the whole nation watched this show with devotion, as Ms Glaser presented an array of upcoming French singing talens. Many of them who were already popular or just beginning their careers got their start here: Ferrer, Gainsbourg, Barbara, Aznavour, Gréco, Hallyday, Hardy, Brel, Moustaki, Reggiani, and the list goes on. This well-researched documentary shows in-depth interviews with surviving artists and staff as well as archival clips of her TV show. Glaser conducted one-on-one sessions with the singers who then sang samples of their compositions. As I watched, I found her questions interesting. Raoul Sangla, the program’s cameraman, used his camera with close-up images in black and white (the show wasn't in colour) to reveal the sometimes flirtatious look in Glaser's eyes as she posed questions to her male singers, and oftentimes facial expressions of vulnerability in the interviewees' looks. The 600 hours of television she produced is indeed a treasure of French popular culture. When the show was dropped in 1974, Glaser's life lost its meaning and she died a poor woman in 1983.
Empire State Building Murders
73 min., France, dir. William Karel
This is an interesting "mocumentary", a tribute to the film noir, by this filmmaker as he mixes scenes from more than 50 classic films I often see in TCM, and takes in as the star of his show, Kirk Douglas, a somewhat Mike Hammer type in his old age, in the role of Jim Kowalski, as he narrates the story. The voice of the narrator is Patrick Florsheim's who really sounds like Kirk Douglas in his younger years. Ben Gazzara is also in the show as he narrates his side of the story, and says he now lives in Italy as he was a hitman and doesn't want to get involved in repercussions in his last golden years. Other greats appearing in this fact/fiction film are Mickey Rooney and Cyd Charisse. In his notes, Karel refers to this film as "fiction built like a classic documentary".
Beyond the Game
75 min., Netherlands, dir. Jos de Putter
For those into video games, a very popular one that's gripping teenagers and video game lovers around the world is World of Warcraft which boasts of millions of players globally. In this documentary, competitions galore happen in this virtual universe where, in one corner of the globe is China’s Sky, who is this country's champion competing with World Cyber Games gold medalist Grubby, from the Netherlands.This gaming subculture competitions take place in China, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and elsewhere, and in this film, culminates in Seattle where the key players enjoy celebrity status, signing autographs, sponsored by computer companies. Putter sets the stage for the climactic duel, and there is a surprise ending for the two hopefuls everyone though would win. Personally, I didn't find this film interesting, as I belong to a different generation where there were no such things as video games. But for this generation of computer literates and video games, this might be an interesting and informative documentary.
86 min., Hong Kong, dir. Wai Ka-fai
Wai Ka-fai, I believe, is enthralled with Harry Potter and other films dealing with wizards and the supernatural. In this feature film, he explores death and rebirth. The film also explores the thin line between fiction and reality. A novel is written and it comes to life, but the difference is, we can no longer distinguish which is reality and which is fiction. I enjoyed the special effects in the film, but I felt it somewhat convolluted, and a bit too melodramatic, Films of this nature are, however, in the market, as does most sci-fi and horror films. It is entertaining, and the actors are excellent, especially Hong Kong’s award winning star Lau Ching-wan who plays Tong, a family man who, at the beginning of the film, is killed in a car crash.
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.© 2009 Ed Farolan