July 21, 2010

Film Fest: Day Five

After feeling like I went 0 to 150mph in terms of film watching, I felt like I got my second wind today. And it was a relatively light day for me today; just work and then two films. Two films?! Feh! Beginner’s stuff! Which isn’t to say today at the Festival was not without its fair share of running around like a loon. I did a bit of a numpty thing and got the start time wrong for I Killed My Mother – it started later than I thought. But I managed to fill the time helping usher down at the Paramount. Why not, yeah?

I Killed My Mother
This is the first film from French Canadian writer, director & lead actor Xavier Dolan. He’s 20 years old and already has a second film out. Are you feeling a little sick after reading that? It’s ok. That’s normal.
For a first film, it's remarkably confident - precocious and more than a little pretentious, but confident. It concerns a teenage son and his single mother. They, to put it nicely, don't really get along. They can barely have a conversation without it eventually turning into a screaming match. And sure, he's an intelligent angsty teen who's a bit of a selfish asshole, but she's no picnic either. It's a stressful watch at times. Just as things between them seem to have settled, BOOM! One of them sets the other off and we're away screaming.
This by no means makes it a slog - it's an often beautiful film with moments of humour and you're constantly wondering where this relationship is going to end up. At times you're hopeful they can sort things out between them, other times you just want them to get as far away from one another as they possibly can. They love each other, but they can't stand one another.
The direction is playful at times, with Dolan playing with different stylistic flourishes and framing. It straddles an interesting line between a first-time feature director finding his voice, and an amazingly assured film. It's one I wouldn't mind checking out again and Dolan is cetainly a director to watch.
The second the film finished I had to race my ass back down to the Paramount to help put in…

Scheherazade, Tell me a Story
A (surprisingly) sell out show this one. I had no idea so many people would be interested in this. So, a sell out show mean absolutely all seats are full. Oh, except for those late-comers. Those late-comers whose seats are in the middle of a row.
The film itself was, like those seats in the middle of the full row, a little hard to get into. That mainly lay with the different cinematic language. I'm not talking about the language spoken by the characters, I'm talking about the language of the film. It's cut in such a way that it looks slightly off to Western eyes. I'm told other Middle Eastern films have this similar style, which is why it's like another language. Interesting to view and appreciate, but a little distancing for me.
The Scheherazade of the film is Hebba, a late-night TV host in Cairo known for her political attacks. Her husband and other want her to tone the show down (at least until her husband can score a political appointment). She does so by telling three stories over three nights. Stories that explore the position of women in modern Egyptian society. These at first delight, and then inflame.
I was surprised as to how much of the run time was taken up with the stories; it certainly feels like the majority. Each story explored a different exploitation of women, of wives, and it was difficult for me as a Westerner to understand the attitudes. They are perhaps not all too dissimilar from attitudes still prevalent in the West, especially in more conservative areas.
I think the film was intended to be politcal; to show Egyptians this side of their society. To open their eyes to the daily fear and suffering some women go through. I fear that conservatives may view as further proof that women need to be more tightyl controlled.

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