Rodrigue Jean’s ‘The Acrobat’ is definitely a movie you will either love or hate, and to be honest, my feelings vacillate between the two. It’s a story of two men who unexpectedly meet, and their relationship becomes intense quickly. But their relationship is cold, perfectly matched to the old Montreal weather where it is set. These two people hurt each other to show their affection, or is it the other way around? The director doesn’t make it clear.
Parts of the film are hard to watch – there is explicit sex, but it never feels like pornography. There are scenes that made me wince, while others touched me. I don’t know really if I could relate to the relationship between the characters, but I can certainly relate to their personal stories – one has to take care of his sick mother. To be honest, there are parts I really don’t know if I understood. There are feelings shown here between the two mean that I really do not understand. But such id life, right?
Jake Horowitz’s ‘All About Who You Know’ is one of my more interesting ‘discoveries’ this year. It’s a rom-com, but it is an unlikely one, as it tries to upend all rom com tropes. Cole (Dylan Everett) tries to woo Haley (Niamh Wilson) in the hopes of getting close to her screenwriter father. He concocts this elaborate meet-cute scenario, and he succeeds. But his bff (played by Stephen Joffe) is skeptical, for a number of reasons. It’s a plan that is bound to backfire, and, much more interesting for me is a gay subtext sub story line here – is Cole closeted? At first, I didn’t really get that, but it becomes more evident as the film progresses. Everett and Joffe have great chemistry together that, and maybe I am also projecting here, that I found myself rooting for the two of them to connect. But then, I thought Cole and Haley were also good together as well, which makes Cole…bi-sexual maybe? I like the fact that these things are murky in the story – at their ages, it is kind of normal to doubt and question your sexual orientation. But this is also set in the now, and there’s a part of me that asks why these kids would have problems accepting themselves – there’s no background story that would make me understand why. There’s great acting all around from the young actors, and you will find yourself enthralled – though some of the millennial entitlement issues do bother me (but that’s who they are) I found myself thinking of the characters after the movie ended, and I thought the film uses Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Circle Game’ in the most fantastic way. I highly recommend this film.
Shannon Gaye grew up and lives in the Vancouver area and her middle name ‘Gaye’ was named from Marvin Gaye. While I wouldn’t really describe her new Christmas album as R &b tinged like, I did sense a bluesy vibe in her version of ‘Merry Christmas Baby.’ Otherwise, her Holiday album is familiar, in a pop-rock vein. I read in her website that she plays drums so there is a little bit of energy here. She is also a Singer-Songwriter so she has included two of he originals here. They sound pretty generic to me. The best track is the Vince Guaraldi ‘Christmas Time Is Here’ but otherwise this is all just a little too generic for me. And curiously, she titled her album with a verse from Joni Mitchell’s ‘The River,’ but does not sing that song. I mean, it’s not a Christmas song anyway, but still…
When you are young and in love, the feeling consumes you, and art can be the only avenue that can properly express and describe that feeling. Perhaps you will be able to relate to a song, or a film. Phillippe Lessage’s ‘Genese’ tries to distill that moment in a story about two young people trying to navigate their feelings. On one side is Charlotte who in the beginning of the film is asked by her boyfriend for an open relationship. She resists the idea but meets another young man and starts going out with him, and gets to be treated badly by that guy. More complex is Gillaume’s story line. Gillaume goes to an all-male boarding school and finds himself falling for his (straight) best friend. I found myself drawn more to Gillaume’s story, as he makes stupid decisions after stupid decisions because of that attraction. One night, when he tries to kiss him, the friendship gets strained, and gets permanently damaged. Theodore Pellerin is heartbreaking as Gillaume, and he has a cringe-inducing scene wherein he starts to profess his love for his ‘friend’ in front of the class that just cut through my heart in equal parts shame and despair. How many times have we all been in a similar situation wherein we do things in am act of desperation responding to our unrequited feelings? (I raise my hand) The oddest thing about the movie is that around the last twenty minute mark, it segues to a completely unrelated third story line about characters that I find later are from an earlier film of his called ‘The Demons.’ I wonder if he had originally shot a sequel and just abandoned it and didn’t want to waste the footage so he included it here? Anyhow, we get a third of something truly fantastic here, and I am still haunted by it.
It’s funny I just saw two films back to back, and they both come from Canada.
First up is the adorable ‘Slut In A Good Way.’ Directed by Sophie Lorain, it is about a set of female friends who start working together in a toy store (not unlike the now defunct Toys R Us) When one of the girls, ‘Charlotte (Marguerite Bouchard) starts spending some sexual extra-curricular activities, she gets slut-shamed for it. But of course, this is the times of now, and there is no reason for that. What happens next is a commentary of how young people deal with friendships and relationships as they navigate what they feel and what they act on based on those feelings. The tone of the film is never too serious, but it isn’t flippant either, and it helps that the acting is good all around so you believe and are on these kids sides all throughout.
Molly McGlynn’s ‘Mary Goes Round’ is more serious in tone, about Mary (Aya Cash) who suffers through a couple of setbacks because of her drinking. Add to that the fact that her father has just been diagnosed with cancer, so fun fun fun all around. There are glimpses of lightness in this mostly bleak film, but for me, a bit of too much Debby Downer and not enough Debbie Reynolds joy.
Kyle Rideout’s ‘Adventures In Public School’ is a lot of times funny, but it is also a little bit creepy. It stars Daniel Doheny as Liam, who is on his way to Oxford to study Astronomy. But before that he has to pass the GED exam because he has been home-schooled by his mother (Judy Greer) On the day he took his test, he has sees a girl at the high school so he purposely fails the test so he would be able to physically attend high school. What happens after is mostly funny, as Liam navigates his way trying to fit in, never having had the opportunity to socially interact with other kids. Plus he is very close to his mother, to, iI think, a point where it is really creepy, and he has to disentangle himself from that situation. Doheny is great as the slightly neurotic nerd, and Greer is great as the helicopter mom. I found myself drawn ti these characters instantly and was glad to join them on their journey. It’s a half coming-of-age film, and I only say that because I know by the end of the film, Liam still has a little bit ways to go. But what’s here is compelling.
Stu Mac, with his sleeve tattoo, would not be out of place in a rock band. If you told me he was a member of the Stone Temple Pilots (since I don’t really know any of STP’s members) I would totally believe you. As per his website, Mac is a seasoned performer, and even studied under famed jazz singer Ranee Lee.
I find he straddles the line between pop and jazz. There are some non-jazz songs here, and he does those very well. When he switches to the jazz tracks, though, he is just as good. I even find him injecting blue-eyed soul on ‘My Buddy,’ and ‘It’s Only A Paper Moon.’ I guess I shouldn’t be pigeonholing people, but he gives a lot of different ‘sounds’ on this album, ‘Out Of The Blue.’ He sings assuredly, he knows what he wants in his sound.
Is it a good thing that every time I turn around I see a new jazz vocal album being released? Or is it because it’s much easier nowadays to make one, some even done at home? I don’t mean to minimize albums nowadays or referring to what I am writing about now, but just musing…
Calgary-based Johanna Silanpaa has a new album called ‘From This Side.’ I wondered where her name came from, so I googled her and found that she was born in Sweden, and I thought it all makes sense now. The Swedish love jazz.
And she has a sweet voice that makes a nice counterpoint to the swinging arrangements here. When I saw that about half of the album were her originals, I secretly groaned. But you know what? They’re not bad, although I would probably have to listen to the songs more to fully appreciate them. For me, she soars when she sings standards. She nails the irony in ‘Everything I’ve Go Belongs To You’ and the joy in ‘Blue Skies.’ I will definitely look for he next foray.
Although ‘Love Of My Life’ is set in Toronto, I thought I would love it because it stars and is about British people, Anglophile that I am. Directed by Joan Carr-Wiggins, it stars Anna Chancellor as Grace, a woman who potentially could only have five days left to live – she has a brain tumor. her husband is crying as the film opens, and then we met a motley crew – her ex-husband and his current girlfriend, among other people. But these people are so unlikable that if I were Grace, I would think it may not be too bad for me to go right away. The movie didn’t engage me at all, as I thought it would, and it’s attempt at humor there a major fail. The film suffers from being too bland, in my opinion – it’s not necessarily a bad film, just nothing for anyone to be excited about – even the cast seems bored.
It’s always refreshing for me when I find a film that seems like it did not come from a factory. Everything in ‘What We Have’ is interesting, and unpredictable, but never manufactured or fake. It’s the story of Maurice, played by Maxime Desmons, who also wrote and directed this film. Maurice is an actor has moved from Paris to a small Northern Canadian town, and the locals are asking why he would ever move there. We find that he has a lot of demons inside him, and slowly these come out as he gets entangled in the life of Alan (Alex Ozerov) his French language student.
This is a very affecting story, and you at once get invested in these people’s lives. The story takes interesting twists and turns, and at times is very unsettling to watch – but it is extremely real and explores issues of loneliness, commitment phobia, and teenage bullying. It is exhilarating, and it never alienates. Desmons is fantastic, with just the right amount of detachment to make you feel for him as you feel his journey. It will leave you thinking about the characters even after the film has ended.