VIFF Film Reviews: No; Paradise; We’re Not Broke; Virgin Tales; Salman Rusdie: Imagining India; Frankenstein: a Modern Myth..

October 5. More films from the Vancouver International Film Fest.

No. (Drama, Chile/USA/France, 117 minutes, director Pablo Larrain). Gael Garcia  Bernal plays a creative advertising executive who joins the 1988 “No” campaign to oust the murderous Chilean president Augusto Pinochet, while his boss signs on with the other side.  Falling somewhere between a political tract and a thriller, this film is highly watchable. And if there is anyone out there who liked Pinochet, I recommend they stay away.

Paradise: Love (Drama, Austria/Germany/France, 120 minutes, director Ulrich Seidl). Worn down by age and several kilograms of extra fat, Teresa (the courageous Margarethe Tiesel) makes a bid for pleasure by escaping to a Kenyan coastal resort where local men vie for the attention and money of European women. The relentless, overt, ugly sex she finds fails to satisfy Teresa, but succeeds in repulsing the audience, several of whom left during the screening I attended. Those who stayed left with two questions. Who are the exploiters and who are the exploited in the sex for money trading? And  will Teresa, who eventually hauls her flabby body off screen left, eventually return for more? Curiously, this repellent film made my list as one of the best.

We’re Not Broke (Documentary, USA, 81 minutes, directors Karin Hayes and Victoria Bruce).  As American governments lay off workers for lack of funds, major corporations hide their earnings in order avoid paying taxes. Another chapter in the continuing indictment of the plutocracy that is ruining democratic societies.

Virgin Tales (Documentary, France/Germany/Switzerland, 87 minutes, director Mirjam von Arx ). A complement to Paradise:Love (which shows the futility of seeking freedom in sex), this film depicts the opposite. Colorado Christians Randy and Lisa Wilson have raised their brood of daughters (I counted five) and one son to redirect their sex drives into the worship of Jesus. Director von Arx makes no comment, letting her camera record the daily life of the family, including the thoughts of the man-desperate Jordyn, who is unmarried and living at home in her early twenties. Lisa home-schools her children despite her inability to master elementary mathematics and her hostility to science. Most disturbing are scenes of the annual father-daughter Purity Ball, which features flimsily-dressed girls as young as ten dancing around a cross-shaped totem. I was waiting for the syrupy music to fade out and be replaced by Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The Wilsons state the usual lies about evolution and birth control. It is a pity von Arx didn’t wait a few years to  record how many of the girls who took the chastity oath got knocked up.

The following films were shown at a single screening.

Salman Rushdie: Imagining India. (Documentary, France, 43 minutes, director Elisa Mantin). The author recalls his childhood in Bombay (Mumbai). A treat for Rushdie fans.

Frankenstein: A Modern Myth. (Documentary, UK, 48 minutes, director Adam Lowe). Inspired by Danny Boyle’s National Theatre production of Frankenstein, this film attempts to analyse the roots and effects of Mary Shelley’s seminal novel. It fails. Any decent probing of how the nature of science in 1817 influenced Shelley is completely buried by superfluous clips of bad Frankenstein movies. For the record, Mary Shelley wrote the novel at the Swiss Villa Diodati when she, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and physician John Pollidori competed to find out who could write the best horror story. The two poets gave up, Pollidori produced a vampire story and Mary gave us Frankenstein, a Modern Prometheus. Now that would have made a good doc.

About aharmlessdrudge

Way back during the late Bronze age -- actually it was the 1950s -- all of us in high school had to take a vocational test to determine our interests and, supposedly, our future careers. I cannot remember the outcome, but I do recall one question that gave me pause. "If you were to win a Nobel prize, would it be in literature or in physics?" I hesitated over the question: although I enjoyed mathematics and science more than English class, I did have a couple of unfinished (and very bad) novels hidden away at home. I cannot remember what I chose back then, but the dilemma followed me to university, where I switched from mathematics to English and -- after a five-year stint in journalism -- back to mathematics. I recently retired as a professor of statistics. Retirement. What a good chance to revive my literary ambitions. I have finished a novel -- more about that in good time -- and a rubble of drafts of articles about mathematics and statistics is taking up space on my hard disk.
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