Philippe Lesage – Les démons AKA The Demons (2015)

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A young boy begins to experience the adult world as he enters adolescence.

A daring, exquisite study of agitated child psychology that marks Quebecois filmmaker Philippe Lesage as a name to watch.

Fevered imagination and nightmarish reality brush shoulders to disconcerting effect in “The Demons,” Quebecois filmmaker Philippe Lesage’s extraordinary examination of childhood fears festering in broad suburban daylight. Putting his documentary training to disciplined use as he teases out the largely internalized insecurities — sexual, social and practical — of his 10-year-old protagonist. Continue reading

Xavier Dolan – J’ai tué ma mère AKA I Killed My Mother (2009)

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With I Killed My Mother, writer-director Xavier Dolan makes a grandiose show of his pain and narcissism. The 20-year-old Canadian filmmaker appears in his own film as Hubert Minel, a 16-year-old cutie whose endless spats with his mother are like volleying razorblades; their volcanic fights are so richly and sensitively attuned to how insecurity informs his character’s rage that you don’t doubt the material was based on personal experience. Dolan has Jenny Lumet’s rare talent for cannily transplanting to paper how people use language as ammunition—how words ricochet during squabbles in unpredictable ways and reveal the best and worst in us all. But I Killed My Mother is a film best heard than seen, as the earnest, nimble scrubbiness of Dolan’s screenplay is ill-served by his conceited visuals, an aesthetic mode that feels insecurely borrowed from perfume commercials and the work of Jean-Luc Godard and Wong Kar-wai. Continue reading

Will Pascoe – Noam Chomsky on the World: The Chomsky Sessions (2008)

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One of the most respected intellectuals of the 20th century, Noam Chomsky has had a long and prolific career as a linguist, philosopher, and political activist. Undoubtedly, though, he is best known as the quintessential American dissident. Chomsky’s criticism of U.S. foreign policy began with the Vietnam War and continued over the span of the next 40 years. Continue reading

Anne Émond – Les êtres chers AKA Our Loved Ones (2015)

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Guy’s tragic death is a shock for the Leblanc family. For many years, the real cause of his death is kept hidden from some members of the family, including his son David. The latter in turn starts his own family with his wife Marie. He lovingly raises his children Laurence and Frédéric, but deep within him harbours a persistent melancholy. Continue reading

Isiah Medina – 88:88 (2015)

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The first feature by Canadian experimental filmmaker Isiah Medina is an explosive digital diary dealing with ideas about time, love, philosophy, poverty, and poetry, all erupting within a densely layered montage that is as formally rigorous as it is emotionally raw. The film’s title derives from the reset digital clock display that appears when power is restored to dwellings where it had been abruptly severed because of overdue electricity bills &mdash a meaningless signature that Medina here resuscitates as a double-edged symbol that indicates how those who live in poverty also live in a state of suspended time. Continue reading

Atom Egoyan – Next of Kin (1984)

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Marking Atom Egoyan’s first feature film, Next of Kin a visually assured, lucid, and thoughtful exposition on alienation, displacement, and the amorphous nature of home and family. Incorporating innovative narrative devices of circular structure and video imaging, Egoyan explores the dichotomous role of technology as both a convenient tool for communication and an impersonal barrier to true human connection (a modern-day existential angst that is similarly portrayed in Mike Nichols’ The Graduate, to which Egoyan pays homage in the film’s early sequence): Peter’s voice-over that is visually reinforced by the recurring shots of an airport baggage carousel, reflecting his sense of aimlessness and disorientation; the Foster’s videotaped counseling session that ironically serves, not to facilitate dialogue, but to further alienate the self-conscious Peter from his family; the tape recorder that becomes a literal surrogate to Peter’s articulated thoughts. Furthermore, in illustrating the residual trauma caused the Deryan’s ‘lost’ son Bedros, Egoyan introduces his recurring theme of the absent child – an unresolved emotional fracture that would propel the psychological (and emotional) trajectory of his seminal films, Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter. By exploring the dynamic – and often necessary – function of compassionate role-playing and deception in social and familial relationships, Egoyan creates a haunting and affectionate contemporary humanist fable on identity, impersonation, and connection. Continue reading