The 33rd Annual Vancouver International Film Festival kicked off last night with the gala screening of "Wild," directed by Canada's own Jean-Marc Vallée. Although he and his cast were not in attendance -- VIFF rarely sees the level of glitterati our sister festival to the east receives -- the audience was electric.
Harlow MacFarlane makes some seriously evil music. Combining elements of ritual ambient, power electronics, and the atmopsheric end of the black metal spectrum, his various recording projects -- Funerary Call, Sistrenatus, and the analog synth-oriented Grey Towers Stone Temples -- have earned him recognition from avant-garde music fans worldwide. He's also a horror movie expert who has worked for years in the make-up and prosthetics industry in B.C. Hopefully, his upcoming live performance -- under the Funerary Call aegis, providing a live score for Häxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages -- might help raise his profile here at home.
People like me who get excited about poring over the cheapie bins for bargain-priced cult classics should be positively ecstatic about the October programming at the Vancity Theatre. I talked to VIFC programmer Tom Charity about the VIFC's late October schedule -- including the Vancouver-shot porno chic Sexcula; the inspired decision to have Vancouver's Funerary Call do a live score for Häxan: Witchcraft Through The Ages; and the two films paired with Häxan: Ken Russell's The Devils -- a serious favourite of mine -- and Dario Argento's Inferno.
This VIFF, the vast preponderance of films were projected digitally (only four out of 340 films at the fest were actually shown on film). Every film I saw looked and sounded great, insofar as there were no scratches, missing chunks, stutters, mis-projections, or glitches. It's hard to argue with perfection. That said, a new 35mm print of a film like Tarkovsky's Nostalghia is a cause for great excitement, and more than merited a talk with the Cinematheque's Jim Sinclair about film vs. digital, Tarkovsky, and other upcoming film fare.
My favourite film to deal with life in Vancouver -- maybe even my favourite film to be made here -- remains Bruce Sweeney's 1998 offering, Dirty. Workshopped in a way informed by Sweeney's experiences at a VIFF forum with Mike Leigh, the film digs into the muck of the city's damaged psyche, offering characters that are unforgettable and all too familiar in their dysfunctionality -- including a pot-dealing dominatrix (the late, terrific Babz Chula); a painfully lonely schlub from Port Alberni with anger-management issues (Ben Ratner); a student saddled with massive student loan debt and an eating disorder (Nancy Sivak); and an anal, preening UBC student with a secret need to be spanked and humiliated (played by the great local actor, filmmaker and UBC professor Tom Scholte).
A recent winner of the Camera d'Or prize at Cannes, Ilo Ilo quickly sold out its first screening at the 32nd Vancouver International Film Festival. This subtle yet detailed film about family life in Singapore shows the skilled editing and directorial abilities of Anthony Chen in his feature film debut.
Written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Gia Milani, All the Wrong Reasons is a film about the difference between being selfish or selfless in matters of love. Milani maneuvers the heartbreak of PTSD thoughtfully, as Kate is faced with small challenges until her biggest hurdle is what defines her future with James, who has ventured down an impulsive path of his own.
Usually, outdoor ordeal films, at least of the horror genre, involve members of the middle classes suffering for their privileges, and ultimately being forced to defend them violently against poor people with a righteous grudge. Besides having a glaring class dimension, another aspect of the appeal of such films, is that they present cityfolk in the audience a chance to vicariously test our mettle: can we "do what is to be done under such conditions -- eat raw meat, sleep on the bare ground, betray our comrades, kill someone?" Or has city life made us too soft? 2013's VIFF has no shortage of films that ask these questions, with film after film plunging its characters into ordeals in the wilds, from which they may not emerge. Not all of these are horror films -- though even ones that aren't partake of elements of the genre
Nothing quite like a good midnight movie. Savvy, cinephilic audiences meet provocative, culty film fare at a time when, as Dick Miller observes in Martin Scorsese's After Hours, "different rules apply." The programming for VIFF's new late-night series, Altered States -- handled by longtime Vancouver journalist and VIFF staffer Curtis Woloschuk -- certainly reflects this observation. And what's striking about the series as a whole, is that the movies featured have much of the sophistication usually spotlighted by VIFF -- they're just cranked up a notch.