Films in Brief: 1/10/14

Due to our Film Editor being down for the count this week (tearing tendons in his foot and having the flu at the same time), there will sadly be a few reviews missing this week, including the Bloor Cinema column, but he did want to pass along these thoughts for the films he saw but couldn’t write about:

I Am Divine

Both films at The Bloor this week are great looks at fascinating artists and pop culture icons. I AM DIVINE takes a remarkably in-depth look at John Waters’ muse and legendary drag queen Divine from his less than exceptional childhood in Baltimore through to his becoming an off-Broadway mainstay and almost anarchic icon. He’s such a fascinating person that his journey isn’t only a blast to try and keep up with, but it’s also a lot more relatable than people might think.

Persistence of Vision

Equally as good at The Bloor this week is PERSISTENCE OF VISION, a look at the history of one of the greatest botched epics in film history. Director Kevin Schreck takes a fascinating look at the history behind Academy Award and Emmy winning animator (and Toronto native) Richard Willams’ 30 year long pet project The Thief and The Cobbler to the big screen. Wanting to make something grander than Star Wars or Laurence of Arabia, Williams’ (best known for thousands of commercials, the Pink Panther titles, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?) his project is one that would get away from the filmmaker wildly: scenes that would take years to animate and run hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget will never be used, he was sued to keep from using the stories of Idries Shah as his inspiration, and the film was ultimately taken away from him at the last minute by a bond completion company who realized that after 28 years and $25 million in investment (both personal and from the studio) the film still didn’t have a plot. While Williams’ declined to participate in the film and he understandably doesn’t want to relive the ordeal, there’s plenty of fascinating stuff in here for people interested in how ambitious projects can become notorious flops. (Spoiler: The actual Thief and the Cobbler is really terrible.)

GABRIELLE

Louise Archambault’s GABRIELLE opens today following successful screenings at TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten and being selected as Canada’s entry to this year’s Academy Awards (but sadly not on the short list of finalists). It’s a well acted and thoughtful look at a young woman with developmental disabilities (played beautifully and bravely by Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, who herself has Williams Syndrome) trying to cope with her burgeoning sexuality, the forced estrangement from the man she loves, her sister and care giver’s impending departure from her life, and the pressure of singing in a choir at a major concert. It’s all very well shot by Archambault, who films in a stripped down verite style all around, but still manages to make the romance look fantastically beautiful when necessary. I’m not entirely sold with the final ten minutes of the film which kind of leaves things off with a bit of a mixed message, but it’s easy to see where the acclaim for the film is coming from. (We will also have an interview with Archambault the beginning of next week, so stay tuned for that.)

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Ms 45

Finally, Abel Ferrara’s beautifully deranged MS. 45 makes its way to The Royal for a week of shows starting tonight. A rape revenge film so dirty and sleazy you’ll swear it crawled from the grave, Zoe Lund stars as a mute woman in New York City who snaps after being raped twice in one day and begins dispatching justice against all men with her titular handgun. Long since unavailable on home video and recently rediscovered by the wonderful folks at the Alamo Drafthouse, it’s a rare opportunity to catch up to one of Ferrara’s best and most overlooked titles. It’s not just a genre film, but a reaction to exactly the kind of trash that was being made at the time, always taking things further than they need to go not only for the sake of sleazy entertainment, but to also make a point that the city he loves so much has continued to become more and more of a cesspool. You might want to take a shower after this one, but it’s also great to view with a crowd in a theatre. If I wasn’t so sick, I’d be there myself tonight.



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