A lot to cover today, but let me mention that one of the best movies I’ve seen recently is available again. Is named The rescue and features interviews, news clips, crisp cinematography and detailed artwork, the ordeal of a men’s soccer team and their coach who were trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand for nearly three weeks. The Navy Seals were unfamiliar with cave diving, but hobbyists came from all over (including a man from Langley, not mentioned) and did the risky job of getting them out. The suspense is extreme. The movie is now on Disney +.
And these are new …
The Hand of God: 3½ stars
Come on come on: 3
Whistler: Tzouhalem: 4
Whistler: Run Woman Run: 3
THE HAND OF GOD: Paolo Sorrentino already has an Oscar and Italy is sending this film to try another. In it, he does what Kenneth Branagh did with Belfast, Go back to the city where you grew up and tell her about your childhood there. That would be Naples, strongly Catholic (hence the title) and a football fanatic, especially when a new player joins the local team, the great Diego Maradona (also, hence the title). I do not know if the story of the child is fiction or reality, it is called Fabietto, not Paolo, but the film is alive with the streets, the people and the families of Naples.
And, in a way, a filmmaker’s eyes are open to the essentials of his craft. That is expressed in a subplot. As his brother, an aspiring movie star, gets an audition with Fellini, and the family repeat-watch a classic (Once upon a time in america), the young Paolo receives a corrective reprimand for complaining that nothing ever happens in Naples. A film director points to a list of events and people around him that are true stories if you look at them that way. Paolo, who is advised to lose his virginity quickly, receives this advice from the unattractive partner he has chosen: imagine that you are with someone beautiful. Like in the movies? This one has two moods: optimistic in the first half; tragic in the second. It is extensive and uneven, but its energy will keep you engrossed. (Vancity Theater now, Netflix in two weeks). 3½ of 5
GO GO: Except for a short, this is the first movie Joaquin Phoenix has been in since jester (2019) and it couldn’t be more different. And most welcome. It is about the family and the duties and feelings between parents and children. And the wisdom of children. All this arises in the story of two people who are neither parents nor children. They are uncle and nephew, made to travel together by circumstances.
Joaquin plays a radio journalist whose sister, due to a medical emergency, asks him to take care of her son (Woody Norman). He is only nine years old, but, like many children these days, he is intelligent, conscientious, and articulate. It is a remarkable performance from the young actor. His uncle spends his time interviewing the children about what they think about the future and the state of the world. (It seems he never goes into a studio to deliver or produce his articles and the station seems to have endless demand for them. But that’s my own background objection.) He’s based in California and he’s sent to New York for more interviews (also a leg in business), he’s bringing his nephew, and the trip is rewarding for us. The relationship is honestly depicted and it is sure to move you. The two need each other. The child is isolated from his sick father. Uncle seems lonely. Together, they develop a close relationship, when they are not arguing lightly or losing themselves in the crowd. The montages of those interviews with children act like a Greek chorus in this rich and intelligent film. (5th Avenue, Langley and Coquitlam.) 3 of 5
BLESSED: How do you think the man who made Showgirls, Robocop and Basic instinct Would you deal with a story about lesbian nuns? You’re right. Not subtly. Paul Verhoeven is once again touched by his apparent affinity for the lurid and the scandalous. The story he tells is true (see Wikipedia for Benedetta Carlini) and speaks volumes about faith and piety and the dangers of blasphemy and heresy. It shows us a lot of both.
A nun in 17th century Italy is lured into a sexual relationship by a nun who had escaped from her abusive father. There are many scenes of the two women, beginning with a nude bathing session. And more: groping during a hymn, snakes sliding around and up, and there is also what is done with a small statue of the Virgin Mary. Jesus himself comes to Benedetta (in visions, I suppose). He tells her that she is beautiful and touches her. She develops stigmata. Charlotte Rampling, as head of the abbey, learns that she is self-inflicted and takes her to court. Everything is beautifully staged and filmed. Even when Jesus rides a horse and brandishes a sword. But it seems blasphemous to me. (Vancity Theater.) 2½ of 5
TWO IN WHISTLER: The Coolest Self-Describing Film Festival is in theaters through Sunday and airs throughout the month. Details here. Some of the 40 features have already been seen around here, including Power of the dog, buried and The card counter. One, The hand of God, opens today, and I watch two more from the festival. They both have indigenous themes.
TZOUHALEM, directed by Harold C. Joe and Leslie D. Bland tells the rest of us about a leader who is legendary among the indigenous peoples of Vancouver Island.
He was the head of the Cowichan gangs in the mid-19th century, a fierce warrior who, it is said, could never be killed. He fought the Haida and other raiders who attacked from the north (particularly in a marvel of military strategy at the Battle of Maple Bay), but then failed to adjust to peacetime. He was bitter, he took many wives by killing their husbands and there are even stories of cannibalism. But as academics, anthropologists and others point out, he is revered as a hero, and his history clearly demonstrates that the Salish people had a rule of law before the arrival of the settlers. It is a fascinating documentary that also includes recreated sequences. (Village 8 Cinema this afternoon and online starting Tuesday). 4 of 5
RUNNING WOMAN RUNNING It also brings us a revered indigenous figure, but in a very different way. This is fiction, written and directed by Zoe Leigh Hopkins who hails from Bella Bella, BC She is part of the Mohawk and invokes the memory of the great marathon runner Tom Longboat by making him appear as a vision and mentor to a single mother who has lost . he dreams and is struggling with his weight. “I just want to go to a world where I feel like I’m winning in life,” he complains. Train to run a marathon. Tom pushes her when she’s ready to give up. She asks how he survived residential school. “It’s in your blood,” he says. That’s pretty well the theme of this winning movie. (Village 8 Saturday and Sunday, and online from December 18) 3 of 5
THE HUMANS: It’s a widely used genre: the family gets together for a Christmas dinner, talks and jokes and little by little it reveals secrets and resentments, but it comes with so many new and true things that you will be strongly attracted. If you can handle the slow pace, that is, and the obvious origins of the stage. It won a Tony Award on Broadway for playwright Stephen Karam, who also directed the film. There is a bit of visual readjustment, but it is the force of the dialogue and observations about the family that makes this work. And the naturalistic performance of the cast.
It’s a Thanksgiving dinner for the family, hosted by a daughter (Beanie Feldstein) and her boyfriend (Stephen Yuen) in the scruffy Chinatown apartment they just rented. Dad (Richard Jenkins) and Mom (Jayne Houdyshell, who played the role on Broadway) arrive with another daughter (Amy Schumer) and grandmother (June Squibb). Little by little, we learn that everyone has a problem: lost work, lost love, artistic stasis, dementia, and for the father, a big one that is not revealed until well advanced. These issues flow in and out of conversations just like they do in real meetings like this one. Some are trivial, some are deeply felt and long-standing. A ghost story is told, a surprise arises, and things stay interesting. (Broadcasting on VIFF-CONNECT.) 4 of 5
JULIA: It was played by Meryl Streep and parodied by Dan Aykroyd, but here is the real Julia Child, TV star chef and exuberant personality. You get this well from the opening scenes when she introduces the chicken sisters on the counter before her and slaps them. Later, he’ll slap one on the table, all as part of the effusive, unrestricted way he showed off on his cooking shows. They made her a star and, according to this documentary by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, a change of society. The film argues that it turned Americans into a more adventurous cuisine and steered them away from the fried spam and jelly salads they were used to.
She went to Paris, when her husband was transferred there, and fell in love with French cuisine. It was a revelation for her, so she co-authored a book that introduced Americans to it. An interview in Boston to promote the book led to a weekly television feature, which became a show and sensation when it went national on PBS. There would be a fight later, on a couple of fronts, a new gig on TV but never a recession, it seemed, in his mood. Among other things, we learned that she was an “incorrigible flirt” and a great devourer. It also took on social causes, but it had its greatest effect on the eating habits of Americans. As someone says at the end, “She took the train out of the station.” Food photography is beautiful; the movie is entertaining. (International Village.) 3½ of 5