By Anne Brodie – Céline Sciamma’ TIFF hit Petite Maman is finally in theatres. stars Nina Meurisse, Stéphane Varupenne and Margo Abascal. Joséphine Sanz is Nelly, a young girl sent to her mother Marion’s rural childhood home after the death of her grandmother to empty and sell it. She likes to wander through the surrounding forests, where she meets Marion (real-life sister Gabrielle Sanz). They look alike but we don’t give it much thought apart from the actors being sisters. We will discover the meaning but the girls’ main focus is completing Marion’s treehouse and enjoying their time together. They talk, walk, and share insights into their family’s lives and their joys – cereal – and fears – Marion’s about to have an operation and her mother is gravely ill and Nelly’s mother and father are having difficulties. Nature is their escape. The simplicity and authenticity of their bond come to life through the Sanz girls’ effectively authentic performances of generational pain, awakening, and living. The idyll comes to a close when Marion goes to the hospital and Nelly’s family prepares to return home. Will they see one other again? Or is there a deeper question? Sciamma outdoes herself with this beautiful meditation on identity and love. In select theatres now and TIFF Bell Lightbox on May 10.
The English language historical drama Lady of Heaven: The Life Of Fatima from director Eli King and writer Twelver Shia Muslim cleric Yasser Al-Habib is now in select theatres across Canada. It’s a time-travelling biography of Islamic historical figure Fatima that begins in the modern-day Middle East. A boy is traumatized when his mother is murdered by ISIS terrorists attempting to create a new caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Women must be subservient and follow Sharia law or face burning. His grandmother takes him in and comforts him with the epic story of Fatima, daughter of the prophet Muhammad whose faith, love of peace, justice, and equality carries her legend forward. Her story begins in the 7th century in Mecca a time of pagan brutality; she escapes across the Arabian desert to her father, a prophet of God in Medina where a Mosque is being built. The bloody history of the area in both time frames finds hope in this epic, a massive and complicated undertaking; in keeping with the Muslim faith, there are no depictions of God or gods, shown with special effects. Co-stars Ray Fearon, Christopher Sciueref, Mark Anthony Brighton, Denise Black, Lucas Bond, Sami Karim, Albane Courtois, Matthew Brenher, Chris Jarman, Yasmin Mwanza, and Dimitri Andreas and was shot in Tbilisi, Georgia. In theatres.
Omar Sy and Laurent Lafitte are detective partners Ousmane Diakité and François Monge on the job in Paris; they are personality and workwise polar opposites in Louis Leterrier’s The Takedown on Netflix. Diakité is fair, empathetic, effective, and brainy while Monge is a competitive, misogynist narcissist who has earned the contempt of his fellow coppers and most of the women he knows. He ogles a nude suspect in the shower, sleeps with his therapist, and gropes a stripper. They’d worked unhappily together in years prior but must investigate a drug dealer, a case that suddenly morphs into something altogether different, the death of a young motorcyclist who was shot twice in the leg, driven over a cliff, electrocuted on cables, and sliced in half by a train running underneath. Can they heal their fractured relationship and solve the case? It leads them to small-town rural France on a dangerous mission where they discover a major threat to national security. Silly, mildly amusing, occasionally annoying – thanks to LaFitte’s character – but an OK ending. It’s dubbed from French so there is some lip flap.
I knew little about The Grateful Dead or Deadheads but Box of Rain, a doc now available on TVOD shows their cultural influence. My curiosity about this musical/lifestyle phenomenon of the 70s remains strong today was mild, but the intense attraction travelling fans had for the band and its charismatic leader, the late Jerry Garcia is clearly a cultural chapter of its own. Filmmaker Lonnie Frazier says her induction into the Deadhead community helped heal severe, life-threatening psychological damage stemming from a home that never felt like a home and a brutal assault. Frazier was given free tickets to a Dead show, hopped into her car with two friends and a cat, and travelled across the US to a Dead show in Oregon that changed her life entirely. The girls were welcomed into a culture of acceptance, love, and safety, a tight-knit band of fans, some of whom spent decades following Garcia and Co. Parking lot events known as “Shakedown Street” were post-show shows, part of the culture determined by the band itself that sent out notes asking for respectful behaviour. Fans crafted merchandise to sell in order to finance the lifestyle. Frazier credits her time as a travelling Deadhead as allowing her to finally belong and how it felt to be respected and loved. There are lots of touching stories like hers, the cherry on top is the ever-evolving music of the Dead.
Season 2 of Prime Video‘s deserted island mystery series The Wilds opens with a warning about Teen Suicide content. Eight girls remain on their island, eight boys on theirs and they know they aren’t on a retreat, they are being held. They know they may never leave and never see their families again. Flashbacks and forward to questioning by their captors, dressed in strangely hilarious business/collegiate attire, from the experiment to post interviews; the kids are strangely into these confessionals and they’re milked for high drama. The kids try to present united fronts and overcome hardships – little food and fresh water, personality clashes food, hopelessness – get busy with practical solutions, and try to stop internecine wars. Rachel Griffiths plays the puppetmaster watching from the surveillance bunkers, a woman short of moral, emotional, and other normal niceties saying “boys are the perfect failures we need them to be” for their purposes. Raf ( Zack Calderon) has a big storyline, his dual life at home, his wealthy girlfriend, strict parents, and on the island, and his inability to stand up to bullying; he comes up with a plan. Meanwhile, a boy whose mother has a lot to answer for is found brutally killed. The girls decide to escape to higher ground but Rachel (Reign Edwards) stays, waiting for someone to return. And what ho! discoveries of supplies on both islands. This teen angst potboiler retains its high pitch with more twists and turns than trying to put a cover on a duvet. Shot on tropical Bethells Beach, Swanson, Auckland, New Zealand.
Suranne Jones’ portrayal of the 1830s diarist and personality continues larger than life as Anne Lister in Season 2 of Gentleman Jack on Crave. Lister dared to defy convention in a male-dominated world by dressing in a masculine wardrobe, running businesses, and analyzing the stock market better than any man in Halifax, West Yorkshire. She dared to live openly with her notionally married wife Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle) and retains the earned respect of her peers. Her business acumen astounds the locals, her belief that railways, a new means of transport, would be good for the country, moving people and goods, in her case coal, and she encourages investment. The script source materials are the enormous numbers of diaries Lister left behind, some written in code that prove how brave and canny she was and detailed notes on her active love life. Jones breaks the fourth wall to wink at us, sharing her glee at the strength of her personality and her effectiveness as a business leader, husband, and human being. in a time women didn’t do those sorts of things. She doesn’t wait to ask to be seated when she meets government officials, well-positioned landowners or anyone else. Lister is incapable of presenting herself in a conventional false manner and she’s driven by intellectual curiosity; this phrase is repeated often, a party trick “I dissected a baby once in Paris. It was dead”, upholding the series’ winking humour. Fun, bold and fact-based, Jones is wildly entertaining in her larger-than-life performance.
And now for a true crime original documentary, The Unsolved Murder of Beverly Lynn Smith, a Canadian Amazon Original that examines the murder of a 22-year-old wife and mother in her home in Raglan, Ontario on Dec. 9, 1974. It is also the story of a police sting gone wrong. Director Nathalie Bibeau’s archival footage and in-depth interviews with Smith’s family, including her twin sister, friends, police, and suspects, to find out why the murder remains unsolved all these years later is frustrating and sad. ” The arrest, release, and re-arrest of a Cobourg man, Alan Smith, no relation, Beverly’s next-door neighbour at the time of her death are vexing. Smith was arrested more than 30 years after the murder, charges were dropped, and relaid months later.” He maintains his innocence and feels victimised by the “Mr. Big operation” police put in play. It’s complicated but he wound up tossing a dead body with his new friend Danny, for Jack, a tough nut and head of a criminal biker organisation. Jack insists that since Alan and Danny know his secret, that he is a murderer, they must give him their biggest secret for mutual safety. Meanwhile, lapses in investigation procedures by the newly formed Durham police in 74 led them to dead ends that remain dead today. Smith’s twin sister says “It’s been 47 years and I need someone to hate”. Chilling indeed and close to home.
Archival footage from 1920 illuminates Sacco and Vanzetti, a 1971 film by Giuliano Montaldo now available on Kino Lorber DVD. It examines one of the most polarising trials in US history, the case of Italian immigrants to Boston Nicola Sacco (Riccarda Cucciolla)and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (Gian Maria Volontè), anarchists charged with a violent robbery/murder in Braintree Mass. Xenophobic anti-immigration sentiment in law enforcement and the judiciary appears to have been the prime motivator in this shameful episode. The men’s political leanings were used against them in the supposed land of liberty for all. Police raided the Italian community, ripped up political posters, and held all residents. But Sacco and Vanzetti were singled out, proven guilty of committing the crimes against the evidence. Milo O’Shea their lawyer is convinced of their innocence and discovers information that proves it and points to systemic racism. The prosecution and judge openly and without evidence, discard it and the men are to be executed. The doc combines the signature style of Italian political films of the late sixties, in a distinctly American milieu – an interesting effect. Ennio Morricone provided the music and Joan Baez, a protest song typical of the era. A glimpse into two pasts, the 20s and the 70s around the unforgettable and shameful case against Sacco & Vanzetti. Click the English caption button:
Rock Hudson’s Home Movies, from Mark Rappaport, also available now on Kino Lorber DVD was originally released in 1992 and at the time was considered a queer cinema landmark. Actor Eric Farr speaks as Hudson’s voice, addressing the viewer as he relays the contents of Hudson’s diary. Film clips from Hudson’s films share the screen detailing sly humour the fact not generally known back in Hudson’s heyday that he was gay. The film clips are thinly veiled “confessions” in keeping with his films’ straight storylines but obvious to some – that Hudson was out to some and proud, He often found himself in suggestive situations with co-stars. Otto Kruger appears to touch Hudson too much in the film Magnificent Obsession, an older predator. There are apparent scenes and lines that for those who knew fraught with gay intent. It follows Hudson to his death from AIDS. The endlessly repeated similar clips are fascinating but it becomes a one-noter. The disc also includes short bonus films from Rappaport, Blue Streak, a short on blue movies; John Garfield, on the “pugnacious” actor; Sergei/Sir Gay, on filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein’s gay POV, Conrad Veidt — My Life, on the anti-Fascist actor who played Nazis almost exclusively in Hollywood.
I’m late on this, but wow. The outrageous, nutty, spot-on comedy series Killing It stars Craig Robinson a single underemployed Miami man with a dream. For twenty years, he’s polished his magic pitch and he’s finally ready to throw out there, he’s after a bank loan to fund his dream – a saw palmetto farm to cure benign prostrate hypoplasia. “Why do I rise? Do I rise for the European market? No, I rise to pee” is his slogan, and Saw Palmetto berries his vision for wealth. It’s a common problem in men and dollar signs to “Craig”. Meanwhile, he rents out his apartment and sleeps in the car, he’s that broke; he co-parents with his ex Camille, played by deaf actor Stephanie Nogueras who has a new man but cares for Craig. He lands a bank interview he thinks will finally net him a loan and calls an Uber which crashes en route. The driver, spunky Aussie Jillian (Claudia O’Doherty) stopped to kill a python; she’s part of a paid program to capture and kills pythons because there’s been an explosion in their numbers. The beast bites his hand and he accidentally nailguns them together. NO PYTHONS WERE HARMED!! And thus begins one wacky series that joyously defies belief. Jillian and Craig enter the Florida Python Challenge 2016 and butt heads with a toxically hilarious father and son and eventually team up to win. Craig’s brainy brother Isaiah (Rell Battle) wrests control of a criminal enterprise and offers Craig a spot if the python thing doesn’t work out. Wickedly fun and original. On the Peacock app.