Art For Art’s Sake
Art and politics sometimes make very strange bedfellows, especially in repressive regimes like Soviet Russia. One of the most unbelievable stories to come out of the land where Socialist Realist tractor art was an important propaganda tool involves a fanatic collector named Igor Savitsky, the heroic subject of Desert of Forbidden Art. Savitsky, a failed artist with a bold mind and an eye for talent, constantly risked his life over several decades to be the savior of literally tens of thousands of paintings that would otherwise have been lost forever.
A Moscow-based aristocrat who survived the revolution by becoming a useful member of the proletariat, Savitsky ended up in a remote corner of Uzbekistan where he fell in love with the gorgeous traditional craftwork of the Uzbeks. After “manipulating” government funds he managed to open a small museum dedicated to this work, even as Stalin was purging expressions of ethnic diversity. Later, Savitsky came to champion the paintings of avant garde Soviet artists, most of whom were denounced as degenerate and sent to the Gulag or mired in insane asylums. And thus it was that for decades, under the very noses of government officials he worked for, Savitsky collected masterpieces for display at a humble gallery in the desert of Uzbekistan 1,500 miles distant from oblivious Moscow.
That is the merest outline of Forbidden, an award-winning documentary that will fascinate most people interested in history and politics. Even moreso it will enrapture those with an eye for modern art, as there are treasures here — masterworks by “unknown” artists whose glowing canvases rival those of Kandinsky and Chagall. M
Desert of Forbidden Art ★ ★ ★
Directed by Tchavdar Georgiev, Amanda Pope
Starring Edward Asner, Sally Field, Ben Kingsley
NR – 80 minutes
Plays Wed and Thurs, May 9-10 at UVic’s Cinecenta
There are few actresses as charming as Emily Blunt (Young Victoria), and in The Five-Year Engagement she does a fine job lighting up the screen playing opposite the slightly doughy Jason Segel (last seen consorting with Styrofoam in The Muppet Movie). Emily plays Violet, an English rose set loose in America who has fallen in love with Tom, a talented chef based in San Francisco. Marriage is proposed and accepted, but plans for the wedding keep getting delayed and eventually put into deep freeze as Emily gets her big break — a two-year posting at Michigan University. Easy-going Tom puts his life on hold and moves to Michigan with Violet; but undercurrents of resentment geyser to the surface and this previously perfect romance seems headed for the rocks.
Engagement does a decent job setting up characters and situations that pay off with moderately clever running gags. There is also enough chemistry between the two leads that you care about their romantic travails. But this is extremely well-travelled rom-com territory, and the meandering storyline sometimes gets lost in the weeds in a clumsy search for fresh ways to tell an oft-told tale. Terminal romantics will likely be charmed; the more cynical amongst us will likely feel that this engagement doesn’t have enough to party about. M
The Five Year Engagement ★ ★½
Directed by Nick Stoller
Starring Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Chris Pratt
R – 124 minutes
Continues at at the Odeon, SilverCity, Uni 4, and Westshore
Movie Listings May 3-9
THE AVENGERS -(Uni 4) A mob of Marvel-ous superheroes comes together to help prevent a global apocalypse. The galaxy of greatness includes Iron Man (Robert Downey), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Captain America (Chris Evans). Starts Fri.
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS -(Odeon) The latest from Whit Stillman (Last Days of Disco) is a comedy about a trio of pretty young things who set out to make some some waves at a grungy university but get in over their heads thanks to some reckless romantic entanglements. Starts Fri.
★★ AMERICAN REUNION -(Odeon/Caprice) The original American Pie was a raunchy but sweet-natured comedy classic. The sequel is like week-old pastry: crude, crumbly, and tasteless.
BULLY -(Odeon) A lot of interest — and praise — has been generated by this hard-hitting (as it were) documentary on the bullying that is sadly pervasive throughout the school system.
★★★½ THE CABIN IN THE WOODS -(Capitol) Noted screenwriter Joss Wedon (Buffy) has a great deal of fun deconstructing the horror genre in this demented tale about five kids who go to party at a remote cabin and get way more than they bargained for.
★★ DR. SEUSS’ THE LORAX- (Caprice/Roxy, Sat.-Sun. only at 2:00) This is an over-stuffed, garishly coloured eco-parable that is preachy and only fitfully engaging. Featuring the voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron and Taylor Swift.
★★½ THE FIVE–YEAR ENGAGEMENT -(Odeon/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) Emily Blunt and Jason Siegel star in a sweet but meandering rom-com about a couple who endure an unusually long engagement that causes stress for various family members. See review.
★★½ THE HUNGER GAMES -(Capitol/SilverCity/Uni 4/Westshore) With Twilight fading fast, the latest teen sensation is undoubtedly this fantasy account of a future world where every year 24 young people are selected to fight to the death on live TV. Everyone else seems to love this movie, but other than for the great lead performance by JenniferLawrence I found this derivative and a bit cheesy.
JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND -(Caprice) There’s lots of action and adventure in this fantasy tale of a rescue mission to a mysterious island that is home to lots of strange — and dangerous — critters. With Dwayne Johnson and Michael Caine.
THE LUCKY ONE -(SilverCity/Caprice) Sudsy novelist Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook) is back at it with this romantic drama about a young Marine just back from three tours of Iraq who goes looking for the woman he thinks was his “lucky charm” throughout the war.
★★½ MIRROR MIRROR -(Caprice/Roxy) Here’s an over-the-top but still entertaining retelling of the Snow White fairy tale starring Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane, and Armie Hammer. Directed by noted visual stylist Tarsem Singh (The Cell).
★★★ THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS -(Odeon/SilverCity/Westshore) The Aardman Studios crew (of Wallace and Gromit fame) set sail with this rollicking — and extremely silly — spoof of all things piratical. Featuring the vocal talents of Hugh Grant, Salma Hayak, and Jeremy Piven.
★ THE RAVEN -(Capitol/SilverCity) Edgar Allan Poe (an eerily stinky John Cusack) is the star of this gruesomely bad thriller, which is set in 19th century Baltimore and features a detective who enlists the aid of the morbid author when a madman starts killing people in ways that echo classic Poe tales. Quoth the critic: Please, no more!
★★ SAFE -(Odeon/Westshore) British bruiser Jason Statham plays a disgraced cop who is protecting a young Chinese girl from most of the mobsters (and corrupt cops) in New York City. With more dead bodies than living brain cells, this crazily-plotted actioner delivers turbo-charged thrills for the hard of thinking.
★★★ SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN -(Odeon) Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) directs Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt in a whimsical tale, part satire and part romantic comedy, about a fisheries expert who becomes a consultant to a sheik who wants to bring the sport of fly fishing to the desert.
★★★½ TITANIC -(Capitol) James Cameron celebrates the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the supposedly unsinkable Titanic by re-releasing his epic version of the story, the second-highest grossing film of all time.
★★★ 21 JUMP STREET -(Capitol/Caprice) The TV show about undercover cops in high school jumps to the silver screen, getting a spoofy and raunchy makeover in the process. As guilty pleasures go, this one is pretty darned funny. Starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum.
★★ WRATH OF THE TITANS -(Roxy, 8:50) Wrath of the classics scholars will be more like it, as Hollywood delivers a particularly cheesy tale about how half-mortal Perseus braves the underworld to rescue his father (a.k.a. Zeus) as Ares and Hades unleash the brutal Titans upon the world. This fantasy epic stars Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, and Rosamund Pike..
★½ WRATH OF THE TITANS -(Odeon/SilverCity/Caprice)
★★ JOHN CARTER -(Caprice)
★★★ CHIMPANZEE -(SilverCity)
AFRICAN ADVENTURE: SAFARI IN THE OKAVANGO -(noon, 3 pm, 6 pm)
★★★½ MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL -(8 pm, Fri. and 7 pm Sat.) Tom Cruise is back for a fourth outing with the IMF crew, in a particularly turbo-charged action flick with good performances, a tricky plot and amazing stunts. This is great in IMAX!
★★★½ ROCKY MOUNTAIN EXPRESS -(10 am, 1 pm, 4 pm, & 7 pm Sun.-Fri.) Here’s a patriotic account of the many daunting challenges behind building the CPR railway: part history lesson, part glorious travelogue. NOTE: The 10 am show on May 8 is in French; on May 9, no 7 pm show; on May 10, no 10 am show.
★★★★ PULSE: A STOMP ODYSSEY -(May 10, 10 am only)
TORNADO ALLEY -(11 am, 2 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm Sun.-Thurs.) Take an incredible trip into the violent heart of tornadoes via never-before-seen footage collected by a fearless (crazy?) storm chaser.
MOVIE MONDAY – Screening Journey to Kapasseni: A Refugee’s Gift and Return to Kapasseni. Over a decade ago, two refugees from Mozambique but now living in Victoria, returned to their home village to do some good. That note-worthy effort, plus a 10-years-later follow-up, are heartwarming documentaries with a strong local connection. 6:30pm MONDAY in the 1900-block Fort. By donation. 595FLIC. moviemonday.ca.
VIC THEATRE -is showing Hot Coffee, a refreshing (and fascinating) documentary that explores the surprising truth behind the “infamous” lawsuit over the $10 million cup of too-hot McDonald’s coffee. THURSDAY, 7 pm, 808 Douglas. Cash only!
awareness film night -ends its season with Civilizing The Economy, a documentary examination of how 45% of the GDP in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna district is derived from co-ops. WEDNESDAY, May 9, 7 pm, Edward Milne Community School Theatre, 6218 Sooke Rd.
Cinecenta at UVic screens its films in the Student Union Building. Info: 721-8365. cinecenta.com.
★★★½ MONSIEUR LAZHAR -(Wed.-Thurs., May 2-3: 7:00, 9:00) Oscar nominated and the big Genie winner, this drama from Quebec features an Algerian immigrant in Montreal who gets hired as a replacement teacher at a junior high when a teacher commits suicide. His efforts to reach out to the grieving students, combined with his own personal tragedy, make for some touching and heartfelt cinema.
ALBERT NOBBS -(Fri.-Sat., May 4-5: 7:00, 9:15) Glenn Close pretends to be a man in 19th century Ireland in order to get work and survive. After 30 years, the charade has trapped the unfortunate soul in a very peculiar prison. With Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland).
★★★½ THE ARTIST -(Sun.-Tues., May 6-8: 7:00, 9:00) Dazzling lead performances highlight this delightful homage to silent movies. Although in some ways more a whimsy than a real film, it still managed to win Oscar’s heart.
★★★ DESERT OF FORBIDDEN ART -(Wed.-Thurs., May 9-10: 7:20, 9:00) Art (and history) lovers should embrace this fascinating documentary about a Russian man who saved literally tens of thousands of pieces of “decadent” art during the decades of Stalinist opppression. See review.