The media screenings for VIFF kicked off today with three flicks at the luxurious Vancity theatre. Maribeth and I sank $325 each on passes that get us into any screening of the 350+ films shown during the three-week (September 29-October 14) fest. Plus these media screenings. We’ll each see nearly 100 films in the next five weeks.
This is the best film fest around. Lots of movies at reasonable access. No red carpets, no pretty film stars. The main cineplex has seven screens; and there are four single-screen theatres, three of them within a five-minute walk of the main venue. You can buy single tickets, books of tickets or passes.
I’ll try to keep up with my recommendations. All films are screened twice — check the website for the schedule.
Here are the three I saw today.
1. Innocence (Nevinnost), Czech Republic, 95 min.
This film is a sandwich — a meaty central theme within two separate and superfluous dramas. Director Jan Hrebejk (Divided We Fall, Kawasaki’s Rose) takes a while to establish the major conflict: it is a good twenty minutes before a fourteen-year-old girl accuses her doctor of sexually molesting her. The evidence is ambiguous, but the main trouble is that the cop assigned to investigate the case is the doctor’s wife’s ex-husband, a man with a grudge. Conflict of interest, yes. But apparently Prague is short of police detectives. The film plays out well until the last twenty minutes when Hrebejk springs a fresh and unnecessary complication that does nothing more than add an ironic twist.
2. Sleeping Sickness (Schlafkrankheit), Germany/France/Netherlands, 92 min.
The Heart of Darkness in modern Africa. The narrator this time is a French doctor of Congolese heritage sent to Cameroon to investigate a German doctor who has been soaking his funding agency to fight a non-existent epidemic of sleeping sickness. In contrast to Conrad’s novel, we get a glimpse of Dr. Velten’s pre-darkness life. A great performance by Pierre Bokma as the Kurtz of the film, but the last scene is absurd. “Doctah Velten, he hippo.”
3. 7 Sins Forgiven (7 khoon maaf), India, 148 min.
Susannah desperately wants to marry. Trouble is, she has bad judgment and finds herself bound in unholy wedlock in turn to six real rotters, including a vengeful army major, a drugged rock star, a sadistic imam and a Russian spy. These individuals are so despicable, we cheer each of Susannah’s creative efforts to snuff them. Choice number seven is a surprise (and a bit of a let-down). Entertaining though it is, the film cries out for a bit of judicious editing. Two and a half hours is thirty minutes too long. We are left mentally screaming at Susanna to get a grip.