By Anne Brodie
A devastating decades-long love story from writer-director Heidi Ewing sheds new light on the Mexico/US immigration crisis. I Carry You with Me starring Armando Espitia and Christian Vazquez follows a young man in Mexico City with a fiancee and son, who falls in love with a man. He faces life-changing consequences as a result, his fiancee leaves and bars him from seeing his baby boy, he’s beaten and shamed. He’s a talented cook but can’t rise above lowly jobs in the only restaurant in the area. He decides to abandon his life there and head to New York City. His lover, a product of parental abuse for his homosexuality begs him to stay, but he won’t hear it. He takes that dangerous walk across the border and to New York where over twenty years he rises through various kitchens, becomes a chef, opens his own restaurants, haunted all the while by dreams of his son, his lover and his mother. Ewing’s sensitive naturalism gives this poignant story intense intimacy and universality, with haunting scenes crossing the night deserts, evading untold dangers, which have new urgency with what we know now. The New York cityscape and longing daydreams of love and memory are achingly moving. Inside Out Film Festival.
Love, fate and separation are also at the heart of Christian Petzold’s Undine starring Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski, this time rooted in Nordic mythology. Beer is Undine, an historian lecturing on Berlin’s urban past and present; she mentions the “marshy dry place” that gave Berlin its name in the 13th century. She will find herself intimately tied to that long-ago past when her lover leaves her. She becomes the titular mythical character who must fulfil her destiny – to kill him and return to the water. Undine is, of course, an avid swimmer and one day underwater she confronts the giant legendary local carp, Big Gunther. She meets an industrial diver, they survive a freak aquarium accident and begin a loving affair; he’s the one. Meanwhile, her ex- wants her back, says he made a mistake, a mistake for which she will have him pay. Her new lover has an underwater accident and is pronounced brain dead and what follows in this extraordinary film will leave you gasping. Undine is mesmerizing, you can’t argue with mythology. Digital TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, Cinema du Parc in Montreal, Vancity in Vancouver.
It’s hard to gauge interest in films about demonic possession these days, the genre so well explored in The Exorcist, The Omen and other films a lifetime ago. After all, there is more than enough to horrify in everyday life in late spring 2021. But James Wan and director Michael Chaves take another swing at the devil in The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It now on TVOD. Based on true events, including the first time the “devil made me do it” of demonic possession defence was used in a US court of law. This treatment of the cases finds Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) professional demon hunters who claim to have proven hundreds of cases of possession, chase down a curse that passes demonic possession from person to person. They believe a curse can be broken and set out to do so. Not much new here. It’s mildly scary because again, watch the nightly news, but visually interesting. It hits the expected marks – broken, raw, elastic bodies, screams and growls, unexpectedly ghastly appearances and long, quiet, edgy sequences waiting for the other shoe to drop. I guess we’ll find out if there is an appetite for such fare. We don’t normally cover horror here at What She Said, but we were curious.
Southeast Asian exoticism in Michael Haussman’s Edge of the World, with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Dominic Monaghan and Josie Ho explores the 19th Century trope of the noble savage and white saviour. Its 1839 and England rules half the world thanks to its imperialist policies. But something strange happens when naturalist Sir James Brooke arrives in Sarawak, Borneo to study and document life forms. He finds botanical wonders, warm people and acceptance, and a better life, minus the headhunting. He feels like a fraud having failed at nearly everything at home and dreamed of a fantasy of escape from Victorian England to the tropics. His idyll is interrupted when pirates attack; he and his hosts drive them off. In gratitude and admiration, locals named him Raja, King. English-speaking representatives of the Sultan of Brunei arrive to confirm his status and he goes full-on native enjoying freedom, sensuality and prestige and seeks to end the ancient rituals of slavery and headhunting. Years later one of his shipmates returns to tell him he is to be knighted by Queen Victoria and that Borneo is to be absorbed by the British Commonwealth. Brook warns that Sarawak is a sovereign nation and they will fight. Its exotic, violent, colourful, visually beautiful and a powerful indictment of British imperialism. Brook’s story inspired among other works, The Man Who Would Be King and Lord Jim. TVOD.
FX’ The New York Times Presents series follows Framing Britney Spears with a hard look at the inadequacies of the machine-managed social influencers, a billion-dollar industry. Who Gets to Be an Influencer? is a stand-alone doc on an increasingly popular lifestyle option. Gen Z’ers are making money using their platforms to create interest not just from viewers but from paying marketers. If conditions are right, an influencer can earn a dazzling monthly salary from combined social media platforms and booty from companies that wish to take advantage of popular accounts’ visibility. The doc features Atlanta’s Collab Crib, an all-Black media hub of eight aspiring influencers; they live together in an unfurnished rental house and create and post all day long. The more likes they get, the more chances they have to land a lucrative deal. These are smart, strategic and thoughtful kids as well as creatives and artists. They want to make “generational money” for their families. But they soon discover that social algorithms are not friendly to Black content. So they’ll create buzz as the first all-Black House only to find one in LA that announced its existence the day before. Disappointed but not cowed, the kids choose to hang in for 90 days and see what they can accomplish. Producer-director Lora Moftah comes back to the 90-day mark and discovers they’ve made it! It’s the new American Dream come true. Cars! Contracts! Popularity! As one of the creators said at the beginning “there is nothing more valuable than peoples’ attention. Attention is money and money is power.” The new age is here. Airing simultaneously on FX and on Hulu, Fridays at 10 pm.
Once famous singer-songwriter Kate Nash, best known as Glow’s Rhonda Richardson, has a cautionary story to tell in Amy Goldstein’s documentary Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl. At 18 she was a well-known alternative/punk musician, writer and singer, known for her signature wild style as much as her songs – Foundations, Drink About You, Deathproof, Take Me to a Higher Place. Nash was surrounded by adoring fans male and female and in 2007, toured the world, sold millions and was a success. In retrospect, she says she wasn’t being properly cared for as a twenty-year-old. Her punk hit Underestimate the Girl was key, but when she changed her style for the next releases, her label dropped her. Nash worked hard with a new, aggressive manager, made it to China and took a single day off in two years. And then, the worst. The new manager emptied her bank account. Nash’s mood drops precipitously, she’s homeless and sells her fab wardrobe to resale shops as we imagine how hard it must have been for the toast of the town to deal with such a merciless blow. And then along came Netflix and Glow. TVOD.
Another show about female rockers (albeit people seem to like it). Girls5Eva on W Network, from Tina Fey, follows four grown women (Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Paula Pell and Busy Philipps) who had a band back in the ’90s and decide to do it again when rapper The Thinker “discovers” them. Spouses, kids, jobs, debt, ageing parents, and shoulder pain be damned, They’re determined to reproduce that youthful energy – which seems to mean screeching and shouting – and be relevant again. They reunite and find that they may not be who they seem to be. One claims to be a wealthy influencer when in fact she’s a car repair person. It’s inane, shrill, cartoony and obnoxious. Appearances by Jimmy Fallon and archival footage of Regis Philbin don’t help but there is an occasional great line – one about Eric Trump College… hehe. Next.
And now on digital TIFF Bell Lightbox celebrations of Pride Month. TIFF’s always fascinating and timely lineups promote entertainment, education and empathy via online screenings, events and discussions. TIFF’s TIFF’s LGBTQ+ Staff Advisory Committee says “Queer Becoming challenges the commonly used “coming out” trope, and instead highlights a spectrum of powerful “coming into” stories that explore queer identity, queer community, or queer family. … demonstrate queer self-actualization at every stage of life. Check titles and dates here.
The 10th anniversary, online edition of the Toronto Japanese Film Festival on till June 27th at Kobayashi Hall at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre. In ten years the beloved Toronto festival has launched a rich array of Japanese films to Canadian and international audiences. It is an annual Toronto favourite for its unique curation of films in all genres. International, North American and Canadian premieres include Hiroki Kadokawa’s foodie-friendly historical drama, Nio’s Cookbook, Keisuke Yoshida’s all-star boxing epic, Blue, Katsuhide Motoki’s period dramedy, Angry Rice Wives, Shuichi Okita’s surreal examination of ageing and loneliness, Ora, Ora, Be Goin’ Alone, Fuichi Fukuda’s manic manga adaptation and ode to high-school delinquency, From Today It’s My Turn and many more. The spotlight this year is on the work of leading women directors, Akiko Ohku’s Hold Me Back, winner of the Audience Choice Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival, Miwa Nishikawa’s Under the Open Sky, Naomi Kawase’s True Mothers, Japan’s Academy Awards entry, and Hitomi Kuroki’s historical fantasy The Devil Wears Ju-Ni Hitoe Kimono. Familiarise yourself with the JCCC and enjoy a taste of this year’s film offerings:
The Toronto Jewish Film Festival is online now Ontario-wide until June 13. Sixty films are on offer showcasing carefully curated Jewish premieres, favourites, local and international films. Here are just a few of the films available Lune, The Specials, Kiss Me Kosher, The Sign Painter, plus documentaries The Adventures of Saul Bellow, Alone Together, High Maintenance, Leonard Cohen, Portrait of the Artist, plus spotlights on Carl Reiner, Ted Allan & Joan Micklin Silver. Films will be available to view Ontario-wide for 48 hours, plus live Q&As with directors, cast and documentary subjects. www.tjff.com
Missing the 80’s? Paramount Home releases its Eighties Nostalgia Round-Up and it’s a winner. Four, count ’em, all the Indiana Jones films on 4K UHD and Blu-ray to celebrate the series’ fortieth anniversary out June 15th! The 5 disc collection of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg’s franchise features Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (it wasn’t), Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. A fifth disc is devoted to featurettes and special tidbits.
But before that Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, starring Mathew Broderick and Mia Sara holds a special place in many hearts for its hero’s quirks. John Hughes was in the prime of his young persons streak. I couldn’t say it any better than the hand-out ” Barf up a lung, forge a ‘sick note’ from the parents, and tag along on the funniest adventure to ever sweep through the Windy City. What are you still doing here? Save Ferris!” 🙂 On Blu-ray Steelbook Tuesday along with …
… Pretty in Pink, that era-defining tale of a high schooler (Molly Ringwald) and her fella (Andrew McCarthy) boasts THE eighties soundtrack as they navigate peer pressure, See, she’s from the poor part of town and he’s a wealthy alpha male. Kinda funny, kinda sweet, kinda hurty, it’s all about the time and place. Costars Harry Dean Stanton, Jon Cryer, James Spader and Annie Potts.
Mary Stuart Masterson and Eric Stolz were at the apex of their heart-throbbery in Some Kind of Wonderful. The problem here? current beaux and desired ones. Co-starring Lea Thompson and Craig Scheffer, and of course those old-fashioned social and gender stereotypes. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?