FNC 2020: Sin La Habana (2020) & Poissonsexe (2020)

Its taken a while to wrap up the Festival du Nouveau Cinema coverage but we’re in the final double feature. Both a romance in their own regards is a Canadian film, Sin La Habana and a French movie, Poissonsexe. Both having a romance wrapped up in highlighting a bigger plot and both carrying a different tone and atmosphere.

Sin La Habana (2020)

Director (and writer): Kaveh Nabatian

Cast: Yonah Acosta Gonzalez, Aki Yaghoubi, Evelyn Castroda O’Farrill, Julio Cesar Hong Oritz, Ahlam Gholami

Set in Cuba and Montreal, Sin La Habana tells the story of a love triangle that grows from a desire to find a better life in another country. A big plan for the main character Leonardo to find a better future in another country that can’t be found in a closed country in Cuba by charming a Montreal traveler Nasim into a relationship in the goal of having her bring him over and eventually get married to immigrate to Canada. When settled, he needs to find a way to bring his girlfriend Sara in Cuba to Montreal so that they can find a way to be together again. However, the issues are piled up when their relationship takes a turn for a more complex when the new country brings on its own problems, not only for Leonardo and Sara but also Nasim who being an immigrant herself has her own issues to deal with.

Looking at the issues of relationships, immigration, assimilating in a new country, Sin La Habana covers quite a few topics. Immigration and how its not as great as people imagine it plus the story of these great ploys at going to no lengths to achieve their goals for a better life to find that things don’t ever go as planned. One in the dark (kind of) and one that isn’t and yet dreams aren’t easier to achieve in another country, its something that is from within as Leonardo goes through from his first moments as a ballet dancer to a roundout point of trying to get a position in a dance group in Montreal. On the other side, Nasim’s character might seem a softer character at first but soon to realize that she knows exactly what is going on and stays cautious but she is fighting her own fight with her family and her future. These two’s story comes in the front that the love triange element falls in the backdrop along with the character of Sara after the Cuba side of things shifts over to the Montreal setting.

Its always nice to see Montreal as a location in movies as a personal little highlight for myself. Montreal is a diverse location but a harder place to fit in because of its language barrier as a French-speaking province in Canada along with the cold winters and it makes for a fitting location for this story. Sin La Habana talks about an issue and perhaps loopholes of the immigration system. A story that probably someone has heard of about one person or another or the news however its the characters that are crafted and their journey that gives Sin La Habana an interesting angle. They each have their good and bad character traits that make them believable and real people and each chasing some form of their own dream and life.

Poissonsexe (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Olivier Babinet

Cast:  Gustave Kervern, India Hair, Ellen Dorrit Peterson, Okinawa Valerie Guerard, Alexis Manenti

Daniel, a biologist studying the disappearance of fish, is haunted by paternity. It is by looking for a woman who could be the mother of his children that he will come across a strange fish and discover what he really lacks: love. – IMDB

Poissonsexe, called both as Fishlove or Fishsex on FNC site and IMDB respectively, is a peculiar little story. The characters are peculiar and they find a strange fish and altogether it has this unique take on the environment especially on a biological marine/aquatic side. Its about love and sex and babies but in the end, its also about these fairly lonely people who do the same things everyday and want to find companionship. A bit of a comedy and a little of drama pulls this story together in a charming way.

The story’s focal character is Daniel, played by Gustave Kervern. He is a rather routine and boring sort of fellow. He has everything planned out for an upcoming baby room without even having a girlfriend and then he gets set up by his friend for online dating. When he meets a woman who finds him parked on the beach, they end up finding a strange fish with legs. This brings their connection together and he slowly realizes that he wants love and not just a child. The whole movie is a little quirky and moments of comedy and awkwardness and yet it manages to find its own balance to make the whole thing fairly charming.

Other than the leading roles standing out, the little strange fish creature adds this almost psychedelic nature to it. Sometimes it feels like it overdoes some of it a little but then, it feels deliberate to make this fish have its own pull for Daniel. However, what is a big theme that pulls the story together is about the environment and how its being wasted away does to the smallest fish which grow extinct because they no longer can reproduce despite the best scientific effort. Yet what goes on this lab almost reflects the story line that Daniel’s character goes through right down to the most entertaining part which its finale.

Poissonsexe is a little odd and the strange fish is a quirky little addition and putting together the parallels of extending the next generation whether in the fish world or human world, the story is about love and feelings instead of the science. There are some disjointed moments and some supporting characters do feel a little one dimensional but its a lot of fun. French humor always seems to have this interesting charm when balanced well and this one definitely.has those charming elements. The love story is a fairly basic element here but what makes it different are the other elements all combined together.

Thats it for this double feature and it wraps up my FNC 2020 coverage! (FINALLY!) Hopefully there were some smaller films that caught your eye. These two were okay for me alhough Sin La Habana did win one of the festival awards.

FNC 2020: Moving On (2019) /Wisdom Tooth (2019)/The Thief’s Daughter (2019)

In an effort to wrap up the FNC 2020 coverage, the final reviews will be in multiple movies. The first is a trio of family dramas, each with their own angle and premise that makes them rather unique (and all three that I did enjoy) plus a focus on a female main character.

Moving On (2020)

Director (and writer): Yoon Dan-Bi

Cast: Choi Jung-Un, Yang Heung-Ju, Park Hyeon-Yeong, Park Seung-Jun

After her parents get divorced, Okju, her father and her little brother move in with a grandfather she barely knows. Life in the new family unit proves challenging for the already traumatized teenager. – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

A lot of Moving On is about coping. Coping with change in a world that feels like everyone is trying to move on as nothing had happened before and dealing with the inner feelings of neglect and loneliness. That is what Okju is dealing with throughout but not only her has some issues, her father also has some tough decisions while her aunt who has moved into the home as well have her own issues. Everyone tries to act like nothing is wrong in fear of their grandfather knowing about all their issues as he also has his own health issues that they worry about. And yet, in all this, the little brother seems to be the one that has escaped all these feelings. He gets a lot of the attention but at the same time, seems less scarred by these effects.

Moving On is a subtle films that focus on everyday people going through everyday issues and as they stay together in this home, they get to know each other’s issues and what bothers them or lingers in their thoughts from the past and present. As the family connections come into play, they each have their form of conflict and struggles that craft these characters especially the main teenage girl Okju who spends a good part of the movie trying to seek attention despite her quiet personality from small things like fighting to have a room to herself and her personal space to getting the attention of a boy that she likes and even the little moments that she shares with her father and aunt that all makes her feel special for little short moments.

Its hard to explain Moving On that makes it not feel like its fairly mundane however, the best movies (arguably) are those that use an everyday life premise and create believable characters and relationships. In this case, its one about a family going through divorce, break-ups and a change in living situation. The subtlety of how its executed really does give a lot of focus on an outstanding premise and story, heavily focused on each of the characters, especially with Okju.

Wisdom Tooth (2019)

Director (and writer): Ming Liang

Cast: Xingchen Lyu, Jiajia Wang, Weishen Wang, Xiaoliang Wu

Gu Xi and her half-brother Gu Liang lead a hardscrabble life in a village in northern China, where they struggle to make ends meet. Their unusually intimate relationship takes on a new dimension with the arrival of the charismatic QingChang, daughter of a rich businessman.  – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

Wrapped up in both a family drama featuring a close sibling relationship where the brother and sister’s life revolves solely around each other. However, as their lives take a turn for new opportunities, Gu Liang meets a new girl which opens up a mostly behind the scenes romance. Viewed mostly from the point of view of Gu Xi, she needs to adapt to a world where she isn’t the center of her brother’s world as an outgoing rich girl QingChang gets into the picture. Call it an unusual love triangle if you want but aside from the family/romance side, a fairly more subtle subplot lies in the little details of the dealings that Gu Liang and his best friend are involved in in the fish business as well as her boss’s issues due to her undocumented status.

One of the best elements of Wisdom Tooth is the link of Gu Xi’s wisdom tooth issue at the beginning that pulls back to it at the end as she finds back her way. At the same time, its the execution of the premise from the lighthearted sibling relationship at the beginning that defines them right away to its gradual addition of QingChang and the best friend which leads to a friendship between WingChang and Gu Xi as they try to bond together which all comes crashing down one day and she needs to make a huge decision. Set in the 1990s China backdrop and its cold weather in a part of a more northern China (I can’t remember the exact location) but the looming winter adds a lot to the setting and cinematography.

Aside from that, this story is heavily focused on its characters and the relationships between each of them. With that said, the entire cast does an outstanding job. The standout goes out to crafting the character of Gu Xi, played by Xingchen Lyu who is followed throughout as she starts to find herself by the end and her independence. At the same time, Gu Liang played by Xiaoliang Wu is also done really well. His struggle between his sister, his love relationship and his “career” is well-portrayed. The ending of the story is done in a fairly unique manner that I quite liked. If there was one little element that held the movie back, it would be the imbalance of how it treated the mixed genre of family drama, romance and crime thriller.

A Thief’s Daughter (La Hija de un Ladron, 2019)

Director (and co-writer): Belén Funes

Cast: Greta Fernandez, Eduard Fernandez, Alex Monner, Tomas Martin, Adela Silverstre

Her father is a convicted, her boyfriend rejects her, her brother is troublemaker, her baby needs money and she’s half-deaf of one ear. Bad times to be Sara. – IMDB

A Thief’s Daughter is a movie about coming to terms with what is the current situation and striving for a better day than settling for the life with a criminal. Sara, played by Gerta Fernandez is the central character as she moves through her various responsibilities as a mother, a girlfriend, a sister, an employee and as a daughter. The relationship between her and her father is the plot that constantly builds throughout the film. However, Sara’s life is a struggle in general. As she finds a more stable job to support her desire to get her younger brother’s custody, her relationship with her father is further worsened along with her brother’s attachment to their father. The feeling of loneliness is what gradually becomes more apparent as she ends up dealing with everything on her own, whether its her own doing or the better choice to keep away from the trouble.

A Thief’s Daughter has relatively decent pacing. The different relationships she has all outlined and built upon throughout to give them all purpose and depth. Her father’s presence although not completely apparent, it appears with enough context to highlight their issues. Its a great work of the writing that gives this looming sense of dread that something bad could happen to Sara when her one good thing being finding a stable job at a school kitchen due to all the conflicts that happens to her throughout. In the end, it becomes a worry that hits her about whether she will be alone for the rest of her life, a rather heartbreaking revelation for Sara, a character that tries her best to do the right thing by everyone but rarely seems to get treated with the same about care from others. There’s a lot that’s done very well in A Thief’s Daughter. Its subtle and quiet but Sara’s character really does end up being rather powerful. Especially when faced with people that don’t seem to stick around her life and her father who she finally stands up to about her own feelings.

That’s it for this Festival du Nouveau Cinema features.
A good batch of family drama with central female characters overall which are all well worth a watch.

FNC 2020: Cocoon (2020)

Cocoon (Kokon, 2020)

Director (and writer): Leonie Krippendorff

Cast: Lena Urzendowsky, Jella Haase, Lena Klenke, Elina Vildanova, Franz Hagn, Kim Riedle

One long, hot summer, 14-year-old Nora spends most of her time with her sister and her sister’s best friend. While the two older girls run around with the crowd of boys who flock around them, shy Nora stays meekly in the background. When she meets anti-conformist Romy, a girl unlike anyone she’s ever met, unexpected desires take hold of her. – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

Cocoon is a 2020 German coming of age film about a 14 year old girl who starts figuring out who she is despite facing the different voices around her as she hangs out with her sister and her friends through an exceptionally hot summer. Cocoon feels similar to movies like Call Me By Your Name and last year’s FNC movie Mickey and the Bear as she confronts both her sexual orientation, first love and change in her own body while having some of her own family issues to deal with both her sister and her mother. Cocoon is two fold as she relates to the caterpillar that she has in a jar which over the course of the film eventually disappears and reappears as a butterfly by the end. It creates a nice parallel of her emotions over this snippet of her life as she toughens up to embrace who she is and be brave enough to walk her own path.

For main character Nora, its a slice of life about this hot summer in the neighborhood and city where she lives. She narrates segments of videos from her cellphone that recaps what happens and her feelings all shown in vertical phone clips perspective and acts like chapters to this summer. She starts off as something of a wallflower as she lurks in the background, having to follow her sister, Jule and her friends because of her mother being rather uncaring for them. Her sister and her friends are fawning over boys and how to lose weight to look like models and generally be cool and slightly reckless. For her, she’s changing alone and has no one to talk to about this when she meets Romy, a girl that she starts to have a friendship/relationship with but with resistance from her sister but opens up her feelings for the first time to be herself and accept her differences.

In many ways, Nora is a great coming of age character as she doesn’t just face finding herself but the movie also makes a great effort in telling about her struggles at home especially when faced with being the one that seems be okay with her mother’s lack of caring in comparison to her sister that seems to do a lot of things that tries to get her mother’s attention and she is there to pick up the pieces. It showcases her multifaceted relationships in all of its dysfunctions: parent-child, sibling and sisterhood, friendship and especially with herself. Lena Urzendowsky portrays Nora in a wonderful way that gives her quite a change as she moves from her introvert and outsider in social settings from the beginning to the end where she becomes comfortable in her own skin despite the things she overcomes throughout the film. The story isn’t as simple and normal but in a lot of the characters and their underlying traits are portrayed in their actions shot through only the eyes of Nora.

I’ve always had some issues with German films especially in their pacing elements but Cocoon is really good as the execution of the phone snippets as chapter breaks helps a lot in drawing Nora’s inner feelings with the quiet and introvert character that breaks out of her own cocoon through the process. The parallels are done well and the story is well-written that makes it all come together nicely.

FNC 2020: The Book of Vision (2020)

The Book of Vision (2020)

The Book of Vision

Director (and co-writer): Carlo Hintermann

Cast: Charles Dance, Lotte Verbeek, Sverrir Gudnason

Eva, a mysterious doctor, searches for an answer to her urgent dilemma as she unravels Dr. Anmuth’s Book of Vision. Stellan gets involved in her life and is forced to confront his own nature, as Eva faces the biggest decision of her life. – IMDB

The Book of Vision feels like its a movie to ponder upon a little especially in terms of life. Its told in two storylines. The first is the present with Eva (Lotte Verbeek), a doctor who decides to leave the practical elements to study the history of medicine in hopes of solving her own illness. It leads her to meet a man, Stellan (Sverrir Gudnason) who leads her to look at Dr. Anmuth’s Book of Vision, a book that explores his experiences with medicine. This is where the second storyline comes in as it bounces between the happenings of Anmuth’s past as a physician as he gets phased out of his profession with newer views and practices in medicine. The two come to this blend as the two stories start to blend together much further propelled by the characters in past and present both leading different roles but existing together, leading to perhaps a theme of how perhaps life doesn’t exactly end when it does but exists in another form while others move on to some sort of reincarnation or something. I can’t truly say that I understand the complete depth of the film but at least that’s my takeaway from it.

There’s something so beautiful of The Book of Vision though. Its the cinematography mostly that shows this incredibly elegant and sophisticated air. The 18th century Book of Vision bits focus around this sense of belief in the concrete or whether some superstitions exist outside of what feels like a harder to believe realm of fantasy. The design of that element is breathtaking and mysterious all at the same time and yet, the imagination and creativity feels beautiful to look at. The outfit and the tone all coming together in those 18th century scenes so well. In the reality, there is another feeling as it focuses around not only the mystery but the gradual connection and relationship between Eva and Stellan and there’s a different feeling to the scenes using the lights and the work they explore. One of the most beautiful elements are when the more fantastical elements where the past leads to the present and the characters fall into each other’s world. Its these little subtle details. A little hard to understand what it all means but the way its put together is really quite the spectacle.

The Book of Vision is Carlo Hintermann’s narrative feature film debut after having done previously four documentaries. This one dives into a part costume drama, part romance drama and bringing in a creative dose of medicine, life and fantasy. Its not a piece to digest on the first viewing perhaps of the deeper connections and meanings. While that usually isn’t exactly the best selling point, there’s something so mesmerizing about how its portrayed and the beautiful cinematography plus the wonderful performance of this connection between these three characters paralleled in the past and present between Anmuth, Eva/Elizabeth and Stellan played by Charles Dance, Lotte Verbeek and Sverrir Gudnason respectively, that all makes it well worth a watch.

FNC 2020: Red Post on Escher Street (2020)

Red Post on Escher Street (2020)

Director (and writer): Sion Sono

Cast: Sen Fujimaru, Riku Kurokouchi, Mala Morgan

It follows a film-maker who holds auditions for his net project. Several of the actors who fail to win roles participate as extras. – IMDB

While Sion Sono is a well-known director from Japan, its one that is a bit of a blindspot in my watch list. Red Post on Escher Street is an odd film. It almost feels like one long audition reel with a lot of different groups of friends and touching a little on the different backstories from a widowed young girl and her family to a group of friends who do theatre shows today or a group of extreme fangirls of the director of this film, etc. Looking at both sides from the auditions to the different people behind the scenes like the director’s story and the executives funding the film and their influence and all coming to the finale where the film is being made and all these people who didn’t get the roles become these extras and it all goes to a crazy finale. The whole thing feels like a lot of something and nothing and almost feels like its not very significant and yet, there is something so charming and entertaining about the whole ordeal which is what makes Red Post on Escher Street such a fun movie experience despite its long runtime of almost 2.5 hours long.

Red Post on Escher Post highlights a film set and the difficulties plus the differences in viewpoints. The director wants to find his roots and a new muse of sorts that he had with a previous actress that he worked with however, things are set up in a certain way to be coerced to have the investor’s wishes of casting his own choice of cast. The pressures on all sides and the different backstories of the people all reflected and come together by the end. It all gets so ridiculous at the end and yet so hilarious as we have the shoot all fall apart when the extras want to fight for their chance and follow their dreams, each warped in their own thoughts and this whole string of people running down the streets. I’m sure the Red Post Box is meant to have some significance but its really great how it shows up in different scenes as a purpose for various events whether its finding certain items or delivering their audition application forms or whatnot.

Red Post on Escher Street is a movie to just experience. Its hard to say that anything is especially outstanding but yet it all seems to work together in a rather over the top way. Some of it doesn’t all make sense but then the script is done that by the end a lot of the randomness comes together in subtle details in dialogue and a little reveal for one of the characters. The scenes and outfits are colorful and the characters themselves are also quite catchy and oddly intriguing. Among the tons of serious movies in this year’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema, its quite the palate cleanser to have a movie that discusses a very serious themes of grief, loss, chasing dreams, oppression but all wrapped up in this colorful and oddly comedic tone.

FNC 2020: Caught in the Net (2020)

Caught in the Net (2020)

Directors: Vit Klusak & Barbora Chalupova

Three adult actresses posing as 12-year-old girls, three fake bedrooms, three cameras, three chat boxes with fake profiles. A social experiment on the sexual abuse of young people online conducted live on camera. An investigative documentary that plays out like a thriller as it probes how the sexual predators who live closer than you might think relentlessly manipulate their young victims. – FNC 2020

Caught in the Net is a Czech documentary about online sexual predators. The documentary starts off by showing how it chooses its three actresses who are all of age but looks younger and can pass as twelve year olds. From that process moving to how the set is created with their three rooms as well as the recording and monitoring of the activity right outside and how they bring some of their own younger pictures and create this fake profile for the three to interact with men who reach out to them. The have a specific code of conduct that was shown right before the online interaction started indicating that they could not initiate anything, in general. Its pretty much an experiment of seeing sexual predator behaviour which over the course of the 10 days of online interactions definitely felt like it truly was a scarring experience, and rightfully so because as much as the images and videos were genitalia was blurred out, its not hard to know what is going on. As it moved to extreme territories with blackmail, paying for their pictures (and more) and eventually, physical meeting at a spot, the documentary covers every phase.

Its no doubt that Caught in the Net is meant to trigger some very negative feelings about these online predators. However, its also a bit of an education for people who don’t realize how these young girls are treated. Other than looking at selected conversations and interactions, they did bring in experts like sexologists, psychiatrists and lawyers which brought in the extra knowledge of what these actions were. These actresses are all of age so they have their own judgement but they also offer their view on the situation and the men that they interact with. It reflects on the effects these interactions could have on future perspectives of themselves, relationships as well as sex. While it is reflective of Czech laws, aside from the details, it does reflect on a knowledge of how illegal any of these actions are from these predators. It also expands on what the nature of pedophilia beyond what the general view of it is. All these things give this documentary a well-rounded sense as they also bring in people who deal with girls who have suffered from these situations like Crisis Line directors and such. Aside from exploring the predator psyche, it also explores why twelve year olds would accept this in the first place.

Caught in the Net is truly a shocking experience. Even if before you start the documentary up, its already expected, watching the online interactions and the different men and how some of them tell their own experiences, its a grueling experience to go through. What is shown is filtered quite a bit especially since the documentary ends explaining that these three girls over 10 days had over 2400 men contact them as well as some of the highlighted men having personal meetings with them. Even for the actresses, it starts feeling very personal especially when faced with men who have turned around and posted their pictures on social media to threaten her as well as having one central men that popped up on all three girls interactions who was known by one of the crew.

Overall, Caught in the Net is a very well-executed and thorough documentary. It was eye-opening and shocking and covered all bases from the young girls (even if it was actresses) to having thought of different outcomes to selecting a few men that seemed the most intriguing of the conversations to focus on while also have a very important moment happen where after all the bad men, there’s always one saving grace. The men are all blurred out and their private parts are all blurred out and yet, it still delivers its content with knowledge on the side of law and psychiatry. At the end, Caught in the Net does make a point to address that online predators don’t only target girls but boys and give a note to parents and also was asked to give in the content to police to revise. It really is killing two birds with one stone.

*Caught in the Net is showing virtually on Festival du Nouveau Cinema until October 31st, 2020*



FNC 2020: The Tremor (2020)

The Tremor (2020)

The Tremor

Director (and writer): Balaji Vembu Chelli

Cast: Rajeev Anand, Semmalar Annam, Sasikumar Sivalingam

Following a tip-off, a rookie photojournalist sets off to report on a destructive earthquake but soon finds himself on a mysterious journey that questions the line between fact, myth, and sensationalism. – IMDB

The Tremor is one of those movies that is very hard to sell. The plot of it (just like described above) is rather intriguing but the execution is one that is going to test a lot of the viewer’s patience. The Tremor follows an unnamed photojournalist who spends most of his film driving in his car through mountain paths. The movie starts with scenes of the aftermath of an earthquake in first person as it sees trees fallen down and people being carried out in stretchers and there’s this brewing sound effects in the background that gets louder and louder and yet, back on the road, the movie spends a lot of time with a GoPro or dashcam bouncing around in first person of the mountainous roads that he drives on or close-up of his face whether trying to figure out where to go next or smoking.

The few encounters he has turns out to be fairly cryptic with different information being shared about whether an earthquake did happen and where it is exactly. That is where the suspense lies: in the unknown and whether this did happen and whether the tip-off was a real thing because it starts feeling a lot like its misinformation at a certain point. Its what keeps the plot going and the intrigue of following this man drive around the movie and visit different places and climb through mountainous locations and these little villages along the way looking and questioning the people that want to talk to him. Its these little conversations that much like him, the viewers are learning about the location and what happened or has happened.

In reality, what does give The Tremor the most style is the setting. The mountainous roads and the forest along with a deep fog that creeps in from the valley that starts covering up what is going on. It seems to come in slowly and unexpectedly, following him around. The isolated roads and the vast mountain range and valleys and just the emptiness of the whole location gives it so much suspense. As the past is revealed and almost always constant denial, much like the main character, its easy to wonder what is real or myth. If it wasn’t for the mountainous roads that feel like they loop (or maybe they do) and the unknowing direction of just moving forward and keep hitting figurative dead ends of this situation either having never been heard or the connection of a past earthquake that has been lingering in the village’s memory, it all gets a little uncertain and unclear.

In some ways, The Tremor really is quite an outstanding movie. The cinematography, the setting, the soundtrack all give it the suspense and mystery to keep the viewer intrigue. But at the same time, its a grueling experience where it ends and its a wonder how it was one to get into because in reality, its the most basic elements of watching one man drive through a mountain constantly going forward with almost always fruitless effort and it lies on whether the endgame is one that is satisfying enough. For myself, its a little half and half.

*The Tremor is currently playing virtually for Festival du Nouveau Cinema until October 31st, 2020*

FNC 2020: Drowsy City (Thanh Pho Ngu Gat, 2020)

Drowsy City (Thanh Pho Ngu Gat, 2020)

Director (and writer): Dung Luong Dinh

Cast: Hien Le Thuy, Toan Nguyen Quoc, Tue Ta Xuan, Tri Vu Minh

A young man who works as a slaughterman is forced to take revenge on three strangers that brutally attack his simple life. – IMDB

Drowsy City is an interesting Vietnamese film because of the bizarre main character as well as how they choose to have a specific disclaimer at the beginning of the film about its visual effects, post-production as well as the focus of its film being about the humans and not the chickens/ducks. I’m no post-production or visual effects expert and rarely focus too much on it plus the only point I will make is that it wasn’t overly graphic in the chicken slaughtering scenes except for the parts where they pour boiling water over the chicken that gets a little disturbing. In reality, the slaughtering process comes into play with the main character on hand and how the whole revenge plays out in his perspective. My only suggestion for any potential viewers is that if that seems like something that bothers you, then it might be one to avoid. I might not find it graphic but everyone’s tolerance for this is difference.

Drowsy City features some beautiful cinematography. It films the city of Hanoi which bursts with rich colors from its overhead shots that pan over the city as well as the art on the buildings and the pop of color even in the simple apartment that the main character Tao lives, which remains nameless for most of the film. The cinematography highlights the crowdedness of the city as well as the characteristics. In some shots, it almost feels like the camera is angled to be like a surveillance camera much like Tao who spies into three gangsters that hide in an abandoned building that he lives in (or maybe next to) with its upper corner angles in a room.

Drowsy City isn’t a character study but at the same time, Tao is an odd character. It lives alone and everything is a simple routine from slaughtering chickens to using the chicken feathers to create different items of entertainment like darts or clothing on mannequins. He also feels odd because he sleeps in his bathtub filled in water that he would use int he daytime for his job. As his character progresses from being bullied by the three gangsters and being tempted by their prostitute, her simple life is changed and it becomes apparent that his life as a chicken slaughterer is rooted very deep into his mentality and it reflects into this very bizarre revenge plan. It turns into this confusing moment of whether he is a cruel person despite his actions as he seems to also have a great care for a hen that he takes care of and the chicks that eventually hatch. I’m going to say right away that the ending they chose for this one usually is one that would not something that I particularly prefer but somehow in this case, it seems fitting.

Being no expert of Vietnamese movies, Drowsy City is an odd movie experience. The cinematography is outstanding and the character of Tao is very unique in the most bizarre way. The revenge is also executed in an oddly memorable fashion because its very different form what would be expected. Its definitely not for anyone but at the same time, as quiet as the whole experience and even Tao’s character, which has almost no dialogue, the movie runs at a swift 70 minutes. Bizarre and one of a kind: that’s two very important descriptors of this film and to truly expect the unexpected because things get wild.

* Drowsy City is playing virtually on Festival du Nouveau Cinema and is available until October 31st*

FNC 2020: Kill It and Leave This Town (2020)

Kill It and Leave This Town (2020)

Kill It and Leave This Town

Director (and writer): Mariusz Wilczynski

Voice Cast: Krystyna Janda, Andrzej Chyra, Maja Ostaszewska

Fleeing from despair after losing those dearest to him, the hero hides in a safe land of memories, where time stands still and all those dear to him are alive. – IMDB

Kill It and Leave This Town is a Polish animated film which upon research is well worth a watch because of the time it takes to make it ( 15 years!!). While time isn’t exactly a defining factor of how good a movie will be and this one is rather bizarre, it absolutely is a personal film to the director/writer Mariusz Wilczynski. The story feels a little jumbled as it moves between a mother preparing and going to work, her son and husband that goes to the beach, an old woman in a hospital and her son and this old woman’s life going in reverse to when she is in younger scenes while her son turns into this giant observing everything going on. Its rather odd when the only significant standout color in this doodle drawing world is red with some lighter contrast colors for the backdrop of buildings or lights or the blue sky, etc. Its a bit confusing to figure it all out since it feels like there’s a lot of imagery at play here.

One of the most original elements of this animation is the art style. It feels like a doodle project where its simple sketches in a notebook put together. At a closer look, its like a craft project as different elements are cut and glues on top of each other and there are even faint fold lines in each scene but the elements all move like stop motion animation with moving trains and birds flying around. The people are drawn in the most simple and have simple scenes where its focused a lot on one person talking in the one scene and having some conversation with someone off screen or off-centre conversation between two people. The use of color and how something that feels simple like a 2D drawing on paper all comes together piece by piece literally. The amount of thought and creativity (and heart and patience) just seems to flow off the screen.

Kill It and Leave This Town does feel like its an interconnected story between the scenes. There are some well-constructed scenes where one person is in one shot but then shows them in another shot in the background. It seems to live in memories of the characters and there is something deeper to explore in the story once the proper characters and their cross with each character is set straight. Talking about the characters, the voice actor (while unfamiliar with the language) does work really well with the characters (from how I interpreted the scenes, at least). Its a little odd and has a few weird scenes in between and its a little out there in what its trying to portray. This animation is rather dark and sad so its not really for everyone as there are some graphic bits to it as well. Overall, its one that I’m still trying to piece together in my mind in entirety but definitely a unique film to say the least especially since Polish cinema is not something that I’m familiar with.

FNC 2020: My Salinger Year (2020)

My Salinger Year (2020)

Director (and co-writer): Philippe Falardeau

Cast: Margaret Qualley, Sigourney Weaver, Douglas Booth, Seana Kerslake, Brian F. O’Byrne, Colm Feore, Yanic Truesdale, Theodore Pellerin

A college grad takes a clerical job working for the literary agent of the renowned, reclusive writer J.D. Salinger. – IMDB

Based on the memoir of the same name by Joanna Rakoff, a My Salinger Year plays along the lines of The Devil Wears Prada, a movie that I’m very fond of, but replacing the world of fashion to the world of publishing and literary agents. At the same time, its a bit of an inspirational tale of an aspiring writer’s journey as she gets a reality check of this one year in this agency that is something of a sidetrack from her original career goals, especially for someone who is dealing with an author, J.D. Salinger, that she doesn’t quite know the reason for their praise as she’s never read his work before but hears about his personality through her boss and co-workers but also the way his work connects with his readers from being tasked with reading and replying generic letters to his fans who write to share their thoughts. In a struggle with whether to follow specific instructions or to follow her instinct, she makes some decisions that might not always have a great outcome. Between being more trusted at work and busier and a move-in with her boyfriend that doesn’t quite go as plan, she comes to realization about her goals in life. 

My Salinger Year is quite a fun and endearing sort of film. Mostly because of the roles at hand and the cast chosen to portray them. Margaret Qualley is wonderful as Joanna and her dynamic character plays incredibly well with Sigourney Weaver’s role as literary agent, Margaret. Both of these roles do take on quite a turn of events between the two of them and its this progression of their relationship that makes it work. At the same time, there are other supporting roles from Colm Feore as Daniel, a man that seems to just sit around offering his opinion here and there but never offered an explanation about who he is until the end while one of the co-workers Max is played by Yanic Truesdale, probably most known as Michel in Gilmore Girls and having a similar kind of style to his character here.

My Salinger Years reminds a lot of a mesh of The Devil Wears Prada and Julie and Julia and yet, how the literary world is portrayed through the eyes of Joanna Rakhoff is rather fascinating. It throughs out mentions of other authors and an entertaining little exchange of letters with a young Salinger fan who relates his life/world to the book and has this wonderful scene where she dreams up seeing her ex-boyfriend and has this beautifully shot dancing scene in an elegant hallway. Having not read the source material, My Salinger Year is a wonderful memoir as a film showing effectively the literary publishing world and Joanna’s one year working there shows that no matter how minor the job, there’s always something to reap from the experience.