Tuesday 30 September 2014

TIE ME UP! TIE ME DOWN! aka ÁTAME! - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Pedro Almodóvar's Classic Romantic Comedy of Staking and Kidnapping for LOVE, now available on a stunning Criterion Collection Blu-Ray

Love, Almodovar-Style,
means NEVER having
to say you're sorry for
the woman of your dreams.
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! akaÁtame! (1989)
Dir. Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Victoria Abril, Antonio Banderas,
Loles León, Francisco Rabal, Rossy De Palma

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Any romantic comedy involving a man kidnapping the woman of his dreams, tying her to a bed and keeping her captive until she falls in love with him is tops in my books. Such is the case with Pedro Almodóvar's bonafide 1989 classic Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! which stars the young and sexy Antonio Banderas as Ricky, a recent asylum outpatient who stalks Marina Osorio (played by an equally young and sexy Victoria Abril), a porn star he once had an evening of passionate, albeit anonymous sex with.

He follows her to the set of a soft-core pseudo-art film where she's doing leading lady duties for Máximo Espejo (the great Francisco Rabal), an old, paralyzed and recent stroke victim auteur who clearly has the hots for her - so much so he pathetically attempts to masturbate to her old porn films. Marina's sister Lola (Loles León) is ever-present as Máximo's right-hand, but seems to really be around to keep Marina out of trouble with her on-again-off-again drug addiction. As the movie wraps production, Marina checks out to prepare for the end-of-shoot party later that evening and this is Ricky's chance to enact his mad plan. And so, he does what any man would do - at least any man in an Almodóvar film - he kidnaps her, believing that once she gets to know him, she'll not only fall madly in love, but will marry and have his babies.

Much of the film works as a two-hander exploring their strange relationship which grows to a point where Marina even assists and insists upon being bound when Ricky needs to go off to run errands. Some of his errands do enable her need for drugs, but he's a brave and caring enabler and suffers a beating from some dealers after he rips off their stash. Though one could, I suppose, chalk up their growing love as being rooted in a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, Almodóvar is far more interested in glorious laughs, sex and fun. It's his very audacity that allows us to believe in their love and hope that they're going to make it as a couple destined to a life of matrimonial bliss. While the film is sprinkled with more than its fair share of satirical humour, Almodóvar does not present the tale as satire. Its splashy colour scheme, sprightly pace, crackling dialogue and a great Ennio Morricone score all adds up to a hilarious and romantic love story for the ages - gorgeously acted and always sumptuously entertaining.

And make no mistake - this is a classic. The film features one set piece after another which have both individually and collectively gone down in the sort of cinema history annals which guarantee that nobody who sees them will ever forget them and perhaps, most importantly, will delight in them all over again on subsequent helpings of the picture. Not to spoil things for those who haven't seen the film, I do wish to state for the record, that I, for one, hold a sequence involving a very phallic bathtub toy and Ms. Abril's lithe form in said bathtub, very near and dear to my heart, mind and groin.

Ultimately I feel as if Almodóvar worked his own magic as a filmmaker to tie us up and tie us down so that we fall in love with both characters and furthermore, fall in love with the idea that familiarity, no matter how its attained, will breed deep and ever-lasting affection.

Seriously. I have no problem with this.


Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is now available in a full-blown Criterion Collection Dual-Format Blu-Ray/DVD with the highest standards of picture and sound quality - especially the picture, which renders cinematographer José Luis Alcaine's images in the most eye-popping fashion. While the added features aren't as voluminous as one might expect, quality makes up for quantity. The Crown Jewel of the extras is a phenomenal half-hour 2003 featurette entitled Pedro and Antonio which presents a lively, warm conversation between Banderas and Almodóvar that presents a wealth of information regarding the production of the film, but also the fabulous working relationship between the two as well as the film's themes and subtext. This half-hour puts most feature length commentaries to shame in terms of how much information it presents and, importantly, shows. This is accompanied by a solid documentary entitled United! Reflections on Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, a great 15-minute segment with Michael Barker, the co-founder of Sony Pictures Classics, Almodóvar's primary champion in his early days, a very amusing segment of the entire cast of the film singing the hit song "I Will Survive" - in Spanish!!! Add to this a gorgeous cover for the box and a superb booklet and you've got yourself yet another keeper from the Criterion Collection.

Monday 29 September 2014

FRANK - Review By Greg Klymkiw - FrankSidebottom/ChrisSievey-inspired Cult film runs @TheRoyal via @VSC

Frank (2014)
Dir. Lenny Abrahamson
Scr. Jon Ronson, Peter Straughan
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Scoot McNairy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Francois Civil, Carla Azar, Tess Harper

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Give an actor something to obscure their best feature and then see what they can deliver. I had occasion recently to recall Jack Nicholson in Tony Richardson's 1982 The Border where he was forced to wear sunglasses in virtually every exterior shot. Given that Nicholson was playing a Texas border guard, this not only made sense in terms of his character, but it shielded us from one of Nicholson's most expressive facial features. This resulted in one of his all-time best performances. Given that by 1982 Jack's eyes and what he could do with them had already began to border on the cliched, we the audience were afforded the opportunity to see him render work that felt as fresh and vital as it had always been. It's as if the shades rendered the character even more internal - we had to work hard reading him, which made the proceedings rooted in a kind of reality it might not have otherwise had. Nicholson's movements became stiffer, slower and as he was playing someone who was on a slow burn, especially as he began to respond to the horrendous corruption and unfairness with respect to Mexicans sneaking across the border for a slice of America's pie of opportunity, we were able to almost put ourselves inside the character. Most importantly, we had to respond to what he saw without necessarily having a full picture of how to read him.

Michael Fassbender is easily as great an actor as Nicholson, yet he's not quite crossed over into rendering performances rooted in cliches, so it's all the more astonishing to witness his work in Frank.

Co-writer Jon Ronson had been in Chris Sievey's Oh Blimey Big Band once the eccentric musician-comedian frontman of The Freshies had established his "Frank Sidebottom" persona for stage and television. "Frank" was a kind of Pee Wee Herman-like persona who wore a humungous fake head that resembled characters in the early cartoons of the legendary Fleischer Brothers (Betty Boop, Popeye). Though the screenplay for Frank is ultimately fictional, it's based in part on Ronson's journal entries during this period.

The first hour of Frank is especially lovely. It focuses on Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) a young keyboardist/songwriter who is miraculously swept out of his suburban ennui by Don (Scoot McNairy), a taciturnly amusing road manager and plunged headlong into a band led by the title frontman played by Fassbender. At first, Jon's ignored and/or reviled by Frank's eccentric band members (Maggie Gyllenhaal, Francois Civil, Carla Azar), but when he invests his "nest-egg" inheritance into the recording of a new album, their disdain transforms into guarded acceptance. Gyllenhaal even grudgingly prongs herself upon Jon's root, claiming disgust, but partaking of it with relish nonetheless. Jon, unbeknownst to the others, has been tweeting his adventures and even uploading clips to YouTube. Eventually, the band develops a sizeable cult following and is invited to launch themselves at the famed SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas.

Both the screenplay and Abrahamson's solid direction keep us delighted and enthralled in the odd creative process, and once the band heads to America, we're equally tantalized by the juxtaposition twixt the bucolic Irish cottage they're initially holed up in and the Big Sky of Texas. Though success looms, the film successfully shifts gears and we're plunged into the reality of the title character which, up until this point, has been mysterious to say the least. What's been funny and borderline (thank Christ for "borders") whimsical, becomes deeply and painfully moving.

Fassbender is the engine which ultimate drives the film. Saddled with his fake head, which he never removes, is what forces the great actor to utilize his innate gifts. With both his oft-muffled voice and body (as well as eventual sign language and verbal descriptions to convey his facial expressions under the mask), Fassbender extraordinarily delivers a myriad of emotions.

For anyone who discovered the world of true musical iconoclasts like Captain Beefheart, David Thomas of Pere Ubu fame and the multitude of genuinely alternative musicians during the punk and new wave phases in the late 70s and early 80s will especially be filled with a nostalgic glow that occasionally borders on epiphanies of the most hallowed kind. Frank is a film that seems featherweight, but its depiction of both the creative process and mental illness creeps up slowly and grabs you. Most of all, it doesn't ever really let go, long after the movie is over.


Frank is a VSC release which continues its successful run with an engagement at The Royal in Toronto.





Sunday 28 September 2014

THE NOTEBOOK (aka "A nagy füzet") - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Harrowing Hungarian Boys-during-WWII Drama

The Notebook (AKA "A nagy füzet")
Dir. János Szász (2013)
Starring: László Gyémánt, András Gyémánt, Piroska Molnár, Ulrich Thomsen, Ulrich Matthes, Gyöngyvér Bognár, Orsolya Tóth, János Derzsi, Diána Kiss

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Films depicting the horrors of war take on added resonance when they focus upon the innocence of childhood and, like Rene Clement's Forbidden Games or Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun, they're especially horrific when they focus upon the sort of insanity which grips children within the fevered backdrop of combat.

János Szász's The Notebook (AKA "A nagy füzet"), based upon the late Agota Kristof's award-winning 1986 novel, is replete with Eastern European rural repression as well as the inevitability that "freedom" from Nazism will lead to yet another form of Totalitarian rule. As such, it's a film that delivers several added layers of pain which represents a reality that all children have and will continue to experience so long as war is as much a part of human existence as breathing is.

The Notebook takes place during the final years of WWII in Hungary and focuses upon a seemingly inevitable decision a family must make that affects their children forever. With war still raging, a mother (Gyöngyvér Bognár) and father (Ulrich Matthes) decide it might be best to remove their sons (László Gyémánt, András Gyémánt) from the city.

Dad is a soldier and is especially adamant the boys be separated as they're twins and stick out more than most siblings. The mother will hear none of that since the boys are inseparable and instead transports them deep into the countryside to stay with her long-estranged and widowed mother (Piroska Molnár) who is placed in the position of being their reluctant Grandmother.

The boys are devastated to be left behind with this abusive, nasty-spirited old woman (referred by the those living in the nearby village as "The Witch"). She makes it clear to the lads that they will be forced to work her farm and earn their food and lodgings. In addition to beating them on a regular basis, referring to them only as "bastards", she tops off her cruelty towards the boys by leaving them locked outside in the cold.

Soon, the twins realize they will have to learn to survive at all costs.

They perform their chores with the same rapt attention they pay to their studies (from an encyclopaedia and Holy Bible) as well as the detailed writings of their experiences in a notebook supplied by their father who previously asked them to recount their lives in his absence. Survival, though, means learning to steal, withstand physical pain and eventually, to kill.

Especially moving, though in a odd and unexpected way, is the mutual love and respect that develops between the twins and their grandmother. They admire her tenacious survival mode and she, in turn, their steely resolve (and inherent nastiness), which she comes to grudgingly recognize in terms of their blood ties (and in spite of hating her daughter for abandoning the village so long ago).

The boys befriend a variety of locals, all of whom contribute in some way to their knowledge, survival and/or experience. An S.S. commandant (Ulrich Thomsen) from a nearby concentration camp takes a liking to them and becomes their unlikeliest protector, a facially disfigured teenage girl the boys cruelly call Hairlip (Orsolya Tóth) teaches them how to steal, a Jewish shoemaker (János Derzsi) who takes pity on them outfits the boys with winter boots and finally a maid (Diána Kiss) bathes the filthy, lice-ridden lads and even considers the possibly of introducing them to the pleasures of the flesh - these are but a few of the primary individuals whose paths the boys cross.

Amidst this strange world, the twins face adulthood through the skewed perspective of war and gain maturity long before they should. Sadly, it's a demented maturity, influenced by the horrors around them. They discover love of family where they least expect it, they reject another aspect of family love they'd never have imagined doing before the war and indeed, they kill and kill willingly - not because they especially want to, but because the circumstances demand it. (They do, however, want to kill one person and succeed in facially disfiguring this person in retaliation for giving up the Jewish shoemaker to the Nazis.)

The Notebook is an extraordinary experience. Screenwriter-Director János Szász elicits a series of performances that sear themselves into one's memory and he delivers a stark, haunting and devastating film by presenting some of the most horrendous acts of inhumanity in an oddly straightforward way, adorned only by the straight, unemotional narration through the boys' voiceover as written in their notebook.

Horror in this world, seen through the eyes of children, is presented as a simple matter of fact and this might be the most moving and disturbing thing of all. It's about children forcing themselves to not feel pain, to suppress all emotion and to never, ever cry. It's a film that might well be set in World War II, but it's as vital to the horrific world we now live in as if the events recounted were happening now. Most shocking and telling is the portrayal of Russian soldiers as the "liberators" of Hungary - marching in after the Nazis flee, but then, as Russians are won't to do, achieving little but stealing from the Hungarian farmers, hunting down anti-communist Hungarians as if they were war criminals and at one point, gang raping a young woman and murdering her for pleasure.

Not only do the boys learn there's no room for tears, but "liberator" is just another word for "oppressor".

The Notebook is a Mongrel Media release currently unspooling at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.





Saturday 27 September 2014

MOEBIUS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - South Korean Maestro Delivers Ultimate Date Movie via VSC @TheRoyal

Moebius (2013)
Dir. Ki-duk Kim
Starring: Jae-hyeon Jo, Eun-woo Lee, Young-ju Seo

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Moebius is my idea of a perfect date movie because, frankly, any date who storms out of it in disgust is, quite simply, not someone you want to spend any time with anyway. Good riddance, I say! You don't like Ki-duk Kim? Find some loser who'll suffer through dinner at The Keg followed by a screening of The Fault in Our Stars.

Life's too short! Hasta la vista, baby! Granted, you might have to see Moebius by yourself, but that's just fine. Why see it with anyone unless you can see it with someone you truly love?

Love, by the way, is what this picture is all about. Love between a husband and wife, a husband and his mistress, a husband and his son and, well, in addition to a few other love couplings, each getting more perversely intense than the last, Moebius is ultimately focused upon the greatest love of all, love for a penis. Not just any penis, mind you. When a disgruntled wifey attempts to slice the penis off her philandering hubby, she's thwarted in her efforts by not quite being, uh, on the ball enough to do it properly. In frustration, she does the next best thing, she slices off the penis belonging to her teenage son. An aghast hubby thinks the penis might be salvageable, but wifey does what any Mother would do, she stuffs it in her mouth and eats it.

A teenage lad without a penis is a pitiful thing. He sprays urine all over his shoes in public washrooms, is teased by classmates and he can't even indulge in a gang rape properly. Dad teaches the lad how to make use of extreme self-inflicted pain as an erogenous zone and eventually does what any good father would do. Dad sacrifices his own penis so his Son can be a man again.

Alas, the penis truly belongs to Dad and can only give pleasure to those who received pleasure from it and can only receive pleasure from those who once pleasured it. Uh, Mom? We think you're needed in Sonny's boudoir.

To say Moebius might not be appreciated by everyone is probably an understatement, but it's a dazzlingly sickening and funny exploration of family, fidelity, love and, ultimately, the notion of anatomy taking on personal properties rooted (so to speak) in the spirit from whence it came.

The only guarantee I can ultimately offer, however, is that you'll have not quite seen anything like Moebius. The film is pitched to levels of extremity seldom matched and director Ki-duk Kim tells his perverse tale with no dialogue and plenty of over-the-top pantomime. This is nothing to discount. It's pure cinema!

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-half-Stars

Moebius is in limited release via VSC and is on display at Toronto's majestic Royal Cinema.





Friday 26 September 2014

ALL THAT JAZZ - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Classic autobiographic Bob Fosse Felliniesque showbiz musical death fantasy gets the full CRITERION treatment - a real blast to the face

Bye Bye Life
Hello Emptiness
All That Jazz (1979)
Dir. Bob Fosse
Starring: Roy Scheider,
Jessica Lange, Leland Palmer,
Ann Reinking, Deborah Geffner, Ben Vereen, Cliff Gorman,
Erzsébet Földi, John Lithgow, Keith Gordon, Sandahl Bergman

Review By Greg Klymkiw

To my knowledge, All That Jazz is the only musical that is completely fuelled by self-destruction and death. Though Herbert Ross's joyously bleak 1981 Pennies From Heaven (from Dennis Potter's 1978 BBC mini-series) is equally infused with self-destruction and death, none of it is at all intentional as it is in this thinly-veiled autobiographical belly flop into the mind of Broadway choreographer/director Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), standing in for director and co-writer Bob Fosse.

In the course of one year during the mid-70s, Fosse directed three major undertakings - the original Broadway stage production of Chicago, the harrowing motion picture biopic of doomed comedian Lenny Bruce with Dustin Hoffman in the title role and the massive live-to-tape television special Liza with a Z starring his original Sally Bowles from the Oscar-winning Cabaret. Anyone who has directed even one of the aforementioned knows how energy-draining and soul-sucking the process can be. Fosse did all three at once. He also suffered from epilepsy, smoked five packs of cigarettes per day, popped scads of uppers, drank like a fish, slept with at least one different woman every night and was "unexpectedly" hit with heart disease, which, subsequently led to Fosse undergoing open-heart surgery.

They don't make 'em like Bob Fosse anymore.

All That Jazz is the borderline avant-garde, semi-realist, semi-fantastical, and dazzlingly Fellini-esque musical rumination upon the aforementioned period of Fosse's life. Call it self indulgent if you will, but it's one hell of a great show.

Opening with a massive audition sequence with hundreds of dancers on the stage, slowly weeded out by Gideon to the strains of George Benson crooning "On Broadway", punctuated by early morning rituals of Vivaldi on his tape deck, squirting drops liberally into his bloodshot eyes, popping dexedrine and washing it down with fizzy alka-seltzer and then, ever-gazing at himself in the bathroom mirror as he utters his "It's showtime, folks!" mantra, we're privy to an insider's look at showbiz unlike any other. Whether Gideon's driving his dancers to tears - especially a leggy clodhopper (Deborah Geffner) he's recently bedded down - obsessively cutting his movie to get the performance of his leading actor (Cliff Gorman) 110%, being a super-cool dad to his daughter (Erzsébet Földi) and privately tutoring her in dance, commiserating with his wife (Leland Palmer) whom he still loves but can't live with (or rather, in all truthfulness, vice-versa), loving but not committing to his long suffering-girlfriend (Ann Reinking), tossing all his choreography out the window and re-jigging it with a hot blonde (Sandahl Bergman) as lead dancer in a piece drenched with nudity, sex and every conceivable carnal coupling, Fosse fashions a veritable kaleidoscope out of Gideon's life - and by extension, his life.

As if this wasn't enough to keep our jangled eyeballs glued to the screen, Fosse delivers a series of fantastical flash forwards with Gideon recounting his life and philosophies to Death (Jessica Lange). Yes, I kid you not, DEATH. And what a babe Death turns out to be. This is Lange's second film just after the 70s Dino De Laurentiis King Kong and Fosse's got her dolled-up head to toe in pure popsicle licking-and-sucking ice-goddess-white.

Of course, some of the most delightfully engaging and sexy conversations in the movie occur twixt the two characters. Gideon knows he can't bullshit Death and Death is rather charmed and amused by Gideon's antics. Besides, the more insanely self-destructive he is, the sooner she can claim Gideon to walk towards the white light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps the most telling exchange between them is when Death (or Angelique as she's listed in the credits) asks if he believes in love and his response is a very forthright: "I believe in saying, 'I love you.'"

And oh, does Gideon profess his love to all the women in his life: left, right, centre, up, down and sideways. At one point, as he's rushed down a hospital corridor on a gurney, he imagines his wife on one side of him and his girlfriend on the other. To his wife, he says, "If I die, I'm sorry for all the bad things I did to you." To his girlfriend he says, "If I live, I'm sorry for all the bad things I'm going to do to you." For Gideon, love hurts - just so long as he's not the one being hurt. After all, he only really loves one person, himself, and he's more than happy to hurt himself. In Gideon's eyes, Self-destruction doesn't count. Though he's a liar, cheat, bully, braggart and son of a bitch, we can't help but love him (and neither, of course, can he). As played by the super-manly-man tough guy Roy Scheider, Gideon's allowed to be artistic in what some might consider an effete profession - but good, goddamn, he's all MAN!!! Fosse gives us plenty of reasons to like Gideon. It's as if we're given permission to like this charming, chain-smoking, sex-charged prick.

Gideon, you see, is the ultimate choreographer. Not only does he choreograph his Broadway shows, he choreographs every aspect of his life, his friendships, his collaborations and his love relationships. They're all choreographed to satisfy him. He assumes, nay - demands - that what gives him pleasure is pleasure enough for all. Of course, since he has the self-appointed (anointed) power to choreograph his life, it stands to reason he's ultimately going to choreograph his ultimate production.

Speaking of which, the musical production numbers in the film, whether they're within a rehearsal context or eventually in full-blown movie-musical splendour during Gideon's open-heart-surgery reveries (yup, his hedonism leads to the Big One), Fosse continually enchants the eye and keeps one's toes a tapping. And nothing in recent decades has been quite as spectacular as the aforementioned "ultimate" Joe Gideon production - the man gets to choreograph his own death.

And what a death Gideon gives himself - a stunning showstopper of a number that includes a full band onstage, lights to trip fantastic to, agile chorus girls (and boys) spinning and gyrating with abandon, a full house including everyone and anyone of any consequence in his life, some of whom he dashes madly into the aisles to personally say farewell to and if that's not enough, the whole thing is set to a crazily funky rendition of the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love", sung and danced by the astounding Ben Vereen with the word "Love" replaced by "Life". Hell, Gideon even gets a shot at crooning and engaging in pelvic whirligigs atop a glittery pinnacle with master showman Vereen.
"Bye Bye Life, Bye Bye happiness. . . Hello emptiness, I think he's gonna die. . . Goodbye your life, Goodbye. . . I think I'm gonna die!"
Bye, bye life, indeed.

Fosse won his directing Oscar for the phenomenal Cabaret, but it's here (and his subsequent Star 80, still begging for a proper home video release), where he really outdid himself. His direction of his own choreography is especially revealing. If one thinks, if even for just a moment, about any of Fosse's choreography in the film, it becomes readily apparent that all the numbers are staged in ways that would never work in a traditional proscenium context. This, ironically, is in marked contrast to the abysmal direction of the inexplicably-lauded film version of Fosse's Chicago wherein the boneheaded Rob Marshall directed choreography that might have worked on a stage, but is respectively, pathetically and laughably shot and cut with tin eyes and big old ham-fists.

Fosse is a filmmaker - the real thing! Like a few greats before him, most notably Busby Berkeley, Fosse directs and choreographs all the numbers for the camera - it's pure, joyous, unadulterated cinema. It also doesn't hurt that Fosse's cinematographer is none other than frequent Fellini lenser Giuseppe Rotunno. A canny-enough choice given some of the resemblance All That Jazz has, in homage, to 8-and-a-Half.

It's a marvel watching All That Jazz again on a superior format like Blu-Ray. It's not only as sumptuous and exciting as it was when it first unspooled on film in 1979, it's probably the next best thing to owning your own pristine 35mm print. In a contemporary context, Fosse's great picture feels even fresher and bolder today than I imagined it to be 35-years-ago.

And save, for all the endlessly delightful scenes showing doctors, including heart surgeons (!!!), chain smoking cigarettes, that's about the only thing in the film that feels even remotely dated.


And WOW! The Criterion Collection continues to outdo themselves. This gorgeously transferred dual-format (Blu-Ray AND DVD) home entertainment package in an all-new 4K digital restoration, with 3.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, has OWN ME written all over it. The extra features are an absolute bounty. The 40-minute scene-specific commentary by Roy Scheider really knocks this one out of the park. He offers considerable insight into his role, the working relationship he had with Fosse and even the filmmaking process. I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this added-value feature, but it's an absolute must for actors to cherish (burgeoning or otherwise).

There are numerous interview segments with editor Alan Heim, Fosse biographer Sam Wasson, actors Ann Reinking and Erzsebet Foldi, plus an astonishing episode of the talk show "Tomorrow" from 1980, featuring Fosse and legendary choreographer Agnes de Mille. There are also two superb in-depth interview with Fosse from the 80s, one of which, conducted by Gene Shalit, is shockingly well done.

As if that's not enough, there are two full length documentaries on the making of the film, on-set footage, featurettes on the film's music (including one with George Benson) and a lovely booklet with a decent essay. The only mild disappointment is the feature length commentary by editor Heim who is either far too silent through most of the film, far too anecdotal (delivering information we already know from the added documentaries) and when it comes to discussing the cutting, he's far too general and not very specific. A minor quibble, though. There's plenty here to keep you engaged for a lifetime.

Thursday 25 September 2014

FRONTERA - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Contemporary Border Hopping Western in limited Theatrical via VSC

Frontera (2014)
Dir. Michael Berry
Starring: Ed Harris, Michael Peña, Eva Longoria, Aden Young, Amy Madigan

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Frontera has the misfortune of being a watchable drama about the dangers facing "illegal" Mexican migrant workers crossing over the border into America. I say "misfortune" because the huge number of similar films has yielded several with which the bar has been set extremely high, one that Michael Berry's superbly acted and gorgeously photographed film is simply unable to reach due to its middling script (co-written by Berry with Louis Moulinet). If a picture can't come even remotely close to Robert M. Young's groundbreaking neo-realistic-styled Alambrista, Tony Richardson's stunning, existentialist-male-angst thriller The Border and the more recent docudrama Who is Dayani Cristal?, it's pretty much going to be the cat in the bag, with said bag in the river.

This is what befalls Frontera, a modest drama which offers us a multi-character narrative full of by-the-numbers story beats, that are not without some merit, but cumulatively add up to something feeling a lot more made-for-cable than a theatrical feature. Peña plays a Mexican who gets railroaded into a murder rap after he crosses the border into redneck Arizona territory on land, too coincidentally belonging to retired ex-lawman Harris. Peña's pregnant wife, Longoria, knowing her husband is a good and decent family man follows his path, but gets kidnapped by unscrupulous Mexican smugglers who are little more than ransom-seekers.

Adding a standard TV procedural sub-plot to the already-crowded proceedings, Harris smells a rat and begins investigating the murder all on his lonesome, butting heads with new sheriff Aden Young who is, in fact, trying to cover up the identity of the real killers. Alas, all these connected threads proceed predictably, since from the beginning, there's no real mystery as to who's who and who's done what. It all feels like a matter of running time before everything's sewn up in favour of the disenfranchised over the corrupt.

What's finally served up here is something that Ed Harris and/or Michael Peña admirers might enjoy if they're in a laid-back channel-flipping or V.O.D. mood. Those simply drawn to the subject matter, might be less enthralled. The political and social implications of America's ludicrously two-faced and corrupt border policies are all touched-upon, but frustratingly take a back seat to familiar melodramatic turns.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **½ Two-and-a-half Stars

Frontera is in limited theatrical release via VSC and currently screens at the Magic Lantern Carlton Cinemas in Toronto. It's availability on home entertainment platforms is inevitable.

My reviews of Alambrista can be found HERE and Who is Dayani Cristal? is HERE.





Wednesday 24 September 2014

2014 VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - Greg Klymkiw's Film Corner Guide to VIFF14

The Vancouver International Film Festival, VIFF 2014, Sept. 25 - Oct. 10, 2014 is the best and largest event of its kind in Western Canada. Here are some capsule reviews of previously published pieces with links to the full reviews. By section and alphabetical order within each section, you'll find my reviews on:









Great giallo must have
babes screaming.
The Editor (2014)
Dir. Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy
Starring: Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy, Paz de le Huerta, Udo Kier, Laurence R. Harvey, Tristan Risk, Samantha Hill, Conor Sweeney, Brent Neale, Kevin Anderson, Mackenzie Murdock, John Paizs
Review By Greg Klymkiw

Okay, ladies and gents, strap-on your biggest vibrating butt-plugs and get ready to plop your ass cheeks upon your theatre seat and glue your eyeballs upon The Editor, the newest and most triumphant Astron-6 production to date and easily the greatest thrill ride since Italy spewed out the likes of Tenebre, Inferno, Opera, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, The Beyond, Strip Nude For Your Killer, Don't Torture a Duckling, Hitch-Hike, Shock, Blood and Black Lace, Twitch of the Death Nerve, Kill Baby Kill and, of course, Hatchet for the Honeymoon. You will relive, beyond your wildest dreams, those films which scorched silver screens the world over during those lazy, hazy, summer days of Giallo. But, be prepared! The Editor is no mere copycat, homage and/or parody - well, it is all three. Directors Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy have created a film that holds its own with the greatest gialli of all.

It's laugh-out-loud funny, grotesquely gory and viciously violent. Though it draws inspiration from Argento, Fulci, Bava, et al, the movie is so dazzlingly original that you'll be weeping buckets of joy because finally, someone has managed to mix-master all the giallo elements, but in so doing, have served up a delicious platter of post-modern pasta du cinema that both harkens back to simpler, bloodier and nastier times whilst also creating a piece actually made in this day and age.

What, for example, can anyone say about a film that features the following dialogue:

BLONDE STUD: So where were you on the night of the murder?
BLONDE BABE: I was at home washing my hair and shaving my pussy.

Read the full review HERE


The Good Father prepares...

Art and Craft (2014)
Dir. Sam Cullman, Jennifer Grausman
Co-Dir/Editor: Mark Becker
Review By Greg Klymkiw

For thirty years, Mark Landis travelled the highways and byways of the United States of America in his big, old red cadillac, donating priceless works of art to innumerable prestigious galleries. In return, he asked for nothing. He wanted neither recognition nor money. Hell, he didn't even want tax breaks. All Landis wanted was to give. And damn, he gave! He gave, in the Red Cross parlance, ever-so generously. Curators, administrators and various art mavens were happy to accept his donations and mount the works of art in their galleries. Everything from Picasso to Matisse to Charles Courtney Curran graced their walls. The list, it seems, goes on and on. And on. And on. And on. But here's the rub . . .

Read the full review HERE

VIFF 2014 CANADIAN IMAGES (in alphabetical order):

Adam and Peter. One is Tanzanian. The other is Canadian. Both have albinism. One's called a ghost, The other's a businessman. TOGETHER they're a formidable force AGAINST IGNORANCE, HATRED and PREJUDICE.
The Boy From Geita (2014)
Dir. Vic Sarin
Review By Greg Klymkiw

In Tanzania, if you're born with albinism, a rare genetic condition that severely lightens the pigmentation of your skin and renders you susceptible to dangerous, damaging effects from the sun's rays, you are less than zero. You're considered a living ghost and the only thing you're good for is what can be extricated from you in death by witch doctors who make use of your body parts for all manner of good luck potions . . . The legendary cinematographer and filmmaker Vic Sarin presents a story that is, at once appallingly grotesque, yet also, out of the dark side of the human spirit is a tale of profound and deep compassion.

Read the full review HERE

Idiot Food Stores Reject Edible Food
Because Idiot Customers want the food
to LOOK aesthetically pleasing. All of it
goes to a landfill because there are simply
too many STUPID PEOPLE in the world.
Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story (2014)
Dir. Grant Baldwin
Review By Greg Klymkiw

Vancouver residents Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer seem like your normal garden variety bourgeois couple, replete with a fix-it-upper older home with trendily remade/remodelled interior design/decor, so why, you might ask, do they eat from garbage bins? Well, to make this film, of course.

Read the full review HERE

Canada's Great War Hero, Andrew Mynarski VC,
Shooting Star of Selfless Sacrifice, a man of Bronze.
Mynarski Death Plummet (2014)
Dir. Matthew Rankin
Starring: Alek Rzeszowski, Annie St-Pierre,
Robert Vilar, Louis Negin
Review By Greg Klymkiw

The true promise, the very future of the great Dominion of Canada and La Belle Province lies beneath the soil of France and Belgium. Between World Wars I and II, Canada lost close to 2% of its population, the vast majority of whom were the country's youngest and brightest from the ages of 16 to 30. Canadian lads bravely served on the front lines, well ahead of the glory-grabbing Americans, the Yankee Doodle mop-up crew that dandily sauntered overseas after all the hard work was paid for by the blood spilled upon European soil by the very heart and soul of Canada's future and that of so many other countries not bearing the Red, White and Blue emblem of puffery. As a matter of fact, any of the best and bravest in Canada came from Winnipeg and if you had to pick only one hero of the Great Wars from anywhere in the country, Andrew Mynarski, a gunner in the famed Moose Squadron, would be the one, the only. He is the subject of Matthew Rankin's perfect gem of a film, the one, the only genuine cinematic work of art to detail the valiant sacrifice, the one, the only, the unforgettable Mynarski Death Plummet.

Read the full review HERE

A great movie for steno-girls, retail clerks
and 70-year-old women looking for
cheap thrills on cable TV.
October Gale (2014)
Dir. Rubba Nadda
Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Scott Speedman, Tim Roth,
Aidan Devine, Callum Keith Rennie
Review By Greg Klymkiw

I went to see this movie knowing only the title and that it was starting at a time when I had nothing else to see. Usually, this is perfect. Knowing nothing about what you're going to see at a film festival is what yields the greatest treats. However, I knew I was in for trouble when the picture started in black with one sole, sombre note plunked on a piano.


When this happens, I usually think, "Oh fuck, another Canadian movie with a crappy piano score." No sooner did the next plop on the keyboard resonate in my auricular cavities when the soul-sucking credit "Produced with the participation of Telefilm Canada" did spew, like a spray of chunky regurgitate onto the screen. Though the opening score continued with a bit more variety of piano plunking, it sounded like something rendered by a Ferrante and Teicher tribute artist on a HiFi LP in the $1 bin at a used record store.

(LOWEST RATING: Below One-Star and One Pubic Hair)
Read the full review HERE

A maze begins in childhood & never ends.
The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer (2014)

Dir. Randall Okita
Review By Greg Klymkiw

One of Canada's national filmmaking treasures, Randall Okita (Portrait as a Random Act of Violence), takes the very simple story of two brothers and charts how a tragic event in childhood placed them on very different, yet equally haunted (and haunting) paths. Mixing live action that ranges from noir-like, shadowy, rain-splattered locales to the strange, colourful (yet antiseptically so) world of busy, high-tech, yet empty reportage, mixing it up with reversal-stock-like home movie footage, blending it altogether in a kind of cinematic mixmaster with eye popping animation and we're offered-up a simple tale that provides a myriad of levels to tantalize, intrigue and finally, catch us totally off-guard and wind us on a staggering emotional level.

Read the full review HERE


Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovitch,
the corrupt puppet of Russia
(pictured bottom left with blood of Ukrainians on his face
and conferring with the pig Putin), inspired the massive
revolutionary actions in Kyiv's Independence Square ("Maidan").
The war continues, but for several months,
the spirit of the Cossack Brotherhood was
gloriously rekindled, rising up in defiance
to lead the charge against a scourge
as evil as the Nazis. The early days
of revolution are captured vividly
in Sergei Loznitsa's great film MAIDAN.
Maidan (2014)
Dir. Sergei Loznitsa
Review By Greg Klymkiw

Part of me wishes I could just respond to this great documentary as, one supposes, it should be - as a stunning, stirring work of film art that adheres to the tenets of direct cinema by simply focusing upon three key months of the revolution in Ukraine from late 2013 to early 2014. And make no mistake, Maidan, by Sergei Loznitsa is a grand achievement of the highest order. Other than occasional inter-titles describing the historical context in a simple, fact-based manner, Loznitsa allows his exquisite footage to speak for itself. Using long takes, beautifully composed with no camera movement, the film captures key moments, both specific historical incidents and deeply, profoundly moving human elements. As such, the film evokes stirring and fundamental narrative, thematic and emotional sensations which place us directly in the eye of the storm.

Read the full review HERE

Red Army (2014)
Dir. Gabe Polsky
Review By Greg Klymkiw

Gabe Polsky’s feature length documentary Red Army is as much about the propaganda machine (of Cold War Russia) as it is pure American propaganda unto itself, by placing undue emphasis upon the rivalry between America and the Soviet Union on the blood-spattered battleground of ice hockey competition during the 1980 Olympics. Polsky has fashioned a downright spellbinding history of the Red Army hockey team, which eventually became a near-juggernaut of Soviet skill and superiority in the world. In spite of this, many Canadians will call the film a total crock-and-bull story. A Canuck perspective on the propagandistic gymnastics of of this American-centric film that makes no reference to the 1972 Canada-Russia series, not to mention the numerous Team Canada bouts with the Soviets throughout the 70s and 80s, will inspire more than just a little crying foul over Polsky’s film.

Greg Klymkiw's RATING: *** 3-Stars

Read the FULL article in my Colonial Report column at in the ultra-cool British film mag Electric Sheep - a deviant view of Cinema by clicking HERE which examines the film within the context of an essay entitled: Canada vs. America: The Politics and Propaganda of Sports in Gabe Polsky’s Red Army and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher.


Foxcatcher (2014)
Dir. Bennett Miller
Review By Greg Klymkiw

Foxcatcher, one of the most exciting American movies of the year, very strangely employs propagandistic elements within the narrative structure provided by screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, which, in turn, the director Bennett Miller superbly jockeys in his overall mise-en-scène. Astonishingly, the filmmakers manage to have their cake and eat it too. By offering a detailed examination of propaganda within the context of American history and society, as well as a mounting an ever-subtle critical eye upon it, Miller might continue to add accolades to his mantle in addition to the Best Director nod he copped at Cannes.

Greg Klymkiw's RATING


Read the FULL article in my Colonial Report column at in the ultra-cool British film mag Electric Sheep - a deviant view of Cinema by clicking HERE which examines the film within the context of an essay entitled: Canada vs. America: The Politics and Propaganda of Sports in Gabe Polsky’s Red Army and Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher.


Ah, the bucolic lives
of rural inbreds.
L'il Quinquin (aka P'tit Quinquin) (2014)
Dir. Bruno Dumont
Starring: Alane Delhaye, Lucy Caron, Bernard Pruvost, Philippe Jore
Review By Greg Klymkiw

I pretty much can't stand Bruno Dumont. His oh-so ironic plunges into northern French rural culture have always been rendered with a heavy enough hand that I've found it almost impossible to respond on any level but contempt. I especially hated his inexplicably acclaimed L'Humanite which involved an investigation of an especially brutal act of violence punctuated by scenes of cops actually taking weekends off to go to the seaside, eat cheese and sip wine. The non-thriller exploration of character and culture grew tiresome and just made me long for some of the more straight-up Gallic policiers I'd come to love over the years. Though L'il Quinquin also involves an investigation of a series of serial killings in a similar setting as the aforementioned, I was shocked to find myself sufficiently intrigued to sit all the way through its mammoth length of 200 minutes. Focusing primarily upon a group of kids living in a seaside resort, the film is an all-out comedy and as such, works moderately well.
Read the full review HERE


Tuesday 23 September 2014

WILLOW CREEK - BluRay/DVD Review By Greg Klymkiw - Anchor Bay BRD Defines "Keeper"

Willow Creek (2013)
Dir. Bobcat Goldthwait
Starring: Alexie Gilmore, Bryce Johnson

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Willow Creek is such a terrific horror film - original, funny and superbly directed by the incomparable Bobcat Goldthwait that it demands a big screen experience, so much so, that failing the opportunity to see it theatrically, it's the kind of picture you want to OWN on a format that's going to deliver maximum impact - not only on a first viewing, but subsequent helpings as well.

For my money. nothing less than Blu-Ray will do (or if you absolutely must, I grudgingly acknowledge DVD). The film is such an immersive experience, it might even be better seeing it at home. There you won't have to deal with, uh, people. Though I will admit, in the case of Willow Creek, it's kind of fun listening to people jump, scream and then feel that collective winded silence when the movie ends.

You can, however, get that at home too. I screened the movie for my little girl and it was a blast having her respond with utter terror. In fairness, she also responded to the humour, commented on how much she liked "how the movie was made" and then wanted Dad to do Google searches after the movie that dealt with the Gimlin-Patterson bigfoot footage and as much stuff out there that I could find on the bigfoot/sasquatch phenomenon. In any event, you want the best picture and sound to experience this film, not just to terrify your 13-year-old daughter, but yourself and anyone you choose to show it to.

Thankfully North Americans will have that opportunity with the Anchor Bay Canada and Anchor Bay Entertainment Blu-Ray release of Willow Creek which not only comes replete with a gorgeous high-def picture and sound transfer, but an amiable, insightful commentary track that includes writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait, stars Alexie Gilmore and Bryce Johnson.

If you're planning to see the film at home on Blu-Ray (or, if you must, DVD), here is how you must watch it. (This is how you should watch ALL films at home, but especially films like Willow Creek.

1. Turn off all telephones.

2. Make sure everyone has expunged ALL waste matter. No pausing of the film is allowed. No ingestion of solids or fluids that will inspire a need to expunge waste matter.

3. ALL blinds must be drawn, ALL lights must be off. NO LIGHT PERIOD.

Now, you're ready to watch and now, my review of the film proper:

* * * * *

In the wilderness, in the dark, it’s sound that plays tricks upon your eyes – not what you can’t see, but what your imagination conjures with every rustle, crack, crunch, moan and shriek. When something outdoors whacks the side of your tent, reality sinks in, the palpability of fear turns raw, numbing and virtually life-draining.

You’re fucked! Right royally fucked!

There were, of course, the happier times – when you and the woman you loved embarked on the fun-fuelled journey of retracing the steps of Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin who, in the fall of 1967 shot a little less than 1000 frames of motion picture footage of an entity they encountered striding through the isolated Bluff Creek in North-Western California.

Your gal was humouring you, of course. She was indulging you. She was not, however, mocking you – she was genuinely enjoying this time of togetherness in the wilderness as you lovebirds took turns with the camera and sound equipment to detail the whole experience. You both sauntered into every cheesy tourist trap in the area, chatted amiably with numerous believers and non-believers alike and, of course, you both dined on scrumptious Bigfoot burgers at a local greasy spoon.

Yup, Bigfoot – the legendary being sometimes known as Sasquatch or Yeti – a tall, broad, hairy, ape-like figure who captured the hearts, minds and imaginations of indigenous populations and beyond – especially when the Patterson-Gimlin footage took the world by storm. And now, here you both are in Willow Creek, California, following the footsteps of those long-dead amateur filmmakers.

All of us have been watching, with considerable pleasure, your romantic antics throughout the day. When night falls, we’ve joined you in your tent and soon, the happy times fade away and we’re all wishing we had some receptacle to avoid soiling our panties. You’re probably wishing the same thing, because in no time at all, you’re going to have the crap scared out of you.

We have, of course, entered the world of Bobcat Goldthwait’s Willow Creek. Goldthwait is one of the funniest men alive – a standup comedian of the highest order and a terrific comic actor, oft-recognized for his appearances in numerous movies (including the Police Academy series). He’s voiced a myriad of cartoon characters and directed Jimmy Kimmel’s TV show and subsequent concert flick.

In addition to these achievements, Goldthwait has solidified himself as one of the most original, exciting and provocative contemporary American film directors working today. His darkly humoured, satirical and (some might contend) completely over-the-top films are infused with a unique voice that’s all his own. They’ve made me laugh longer and harder than almost anything I’ve seen during the past two decades or so.

Even more astounding is that his films – his first depicting the life of an alcoholic birthday party clown, one involving dog fellatio, another about an accidental teen strangulation during masturbation and yet another which delivered a violent revenge fantasy for Liberals – ALL have a deep current of humanity running through them. His movies are as deeply observational and genuinely moving as they are nastily funny and often jaw-droppingly shocking.

God Bless America, for example, is clearly the most perverse vigilante movie ever made. Goldthwait created a wonderful character in Frank, an average American white-collar worker who suffers noisy neighbours, endless hours of TV he hates but watches anyway, loses his job for sexually harassing a dumpy co-worker who’s been coming on to him, is estranged from a wife who left him for a hunky, thick-witted cop, only gets to see his daughter by promising to buy her things he can’t afford and has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. When this beleaguered schlub begins a spree of mass murder, doing what all Liberals must do when civilization is on the brink of collapse, we’re with him all the way. When he teams up with a like-minded 12-year-old girl, the two of them a veritable Bonnie and Clyde, blasting away at America’s most vile entities, Goldthwait’s movie goes ballistic and so do we, cheering on these very cool birds of a feather who kill people – not because they’re necessarily criminals, but because they are horrible human beings contributing to society’s downfall.

I actually thought Goldthwait was going to have a hard time following that one, but I was wrong, of course. Willow Creek is a corker! It forces you to emit cascades of urine from laughing so hard, then wrenches sausage chubs of steaming excrement out of your bowels as it scares you out of your wits.

It’s a ‘found footage’ film, but I hesitate to use the almost-dirty-word to describe it, because Goldthwait, unlike far too many boneheads, hardly resorts to the sloppy tropes of the now tiresome genre. He’s remained extremely true and consistent to the conceit and in so doing, uses it as an effective storytelling tool to generate an honest-to-goodness modern masterwork of horror.

His attractive leads are nothing less than engaging. Lead actor Bryce Johnson has a naturally comic and commanding presence. As a bonus, he reveals a scrumptious posterior that the ladies will admire (and, of course, gentlemen of the proper persuasion). Alexie Gilmore is so attractive, sharp, smart and funny that it would be a shame if stardom wasn’t in the cards for her.

Goldthwait’s clever mixture of real locals and actors is perfection and the movie barrels along with a perfect pace to allow you to get to know and love the protagonists, laugh with them, laugh with the locals (not at them) and finally to plunge you into the film’s shuddering, shocking and horrific final third. The movie both creeps you out and forces you to jump out of your seat more than once.

Goldthwait is the real thing. If you haven’t seen his movies up to this point, you must. As for Willow Creek, I’d urge everyone to see the film on a big screen with a real audience if they can. When things get super-terrifying, you can feel that wonderful electric buzz that can only happen when you’re at the movies. Sure, it will work fine at home in a dark room with your best girlie snuggled at your side on the comfy couch, but – WOW! – this is a genuine BIG SCREEN EVENT. Try to see it that way, first! The movie is so good that it holds up nicely on subsequent viewings, allowing you to appreciate the full nuance of Goldthwait’s direction, his expert use of sound, the delectable humour (black and otherwise shaded) and then, there’s the bravura with which Goldthwait gives you the willies before he delivers several moments of cinematic cold cocking roundhouse blows.


Willow Creek is now available in North America via Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada and Anchor Bay. In the Uk, it's available released on DVD via Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment. If you don't own it, buy it.