The Victoria Film Festival is drawing rave reviews as it heads into its final weekend.
Monday reviewer Kyle Wells offers his thoughts on the latest batch of films he’s viewed at the festival. Films are graded out of four stars.
The Traitor – Director Marco Bellocchio
Veteran Italian director Bellocchio injects enough energy and life into this sprawling mafia epic to keep the film mostly feeling lively and fresh, even if it does get a bit bogged down with courtroom scene after courtroom scene. Pierfrancesco Favino is superb as a Sicilian mafia boss who turns informant and helps to bring down hundreds of his associates over the span of decades. Moments of extreme violence punctuate this otherwise fact-heavy film and one stunning sequence of a car being launched skyward during a bridge bombing one of the finest bits of filmmaking of the festival. ***
Old Age and Hope – Director Fernand Dansereau
Now in this nineties, Quebecois director Dansereau has made a touching and thought-provoking documentary about growing old and facing death. His main interest is in how a person can live their twilight years while still finding joy and meaning in life, despite inevitable health problems and looming mortality, but Dansereau is also very interested in how religion and, even more so, spirituality plays its part.
|Rafe Spall stars as a lovable loser in “Denmark,” a film by Adrian Shergold. Photo courtesy IMDb|
Featuring interviews with religious figures, Dansereau’s own colleagues and friends (including fellow director Denys Arcand) and, most notably, people on the cusp of death, this documentary does a remarkable job of lifting the veil on the taboo topic of aging and death, revealing all of the complex emotions it holds, from grief to gratitude, from sorrow to quiet dignity and peaceful acceptance. That a documentary about death can feel so uplifting is a credit to its craft and the open-hearted approach of its creator. ***1/2
Denmark– Director by Adrian Shergold
Dry Welsh humour permeates this tale of a down-on-his-luck lovable loser who travels to Denmark with the plan of getting himself arrested in order to enjoy the legendary hospitality of the Danish penal system. Things don’t go as planned, his nerves get the better of him, and of course there just happens to be an attractive local woman who has seemingly been waiting around to help our hero find a new lust for life. The movie has good enough intentions and the tone is light and not without its share of laughs, but ultimately it’s all a bit thin and well worn. **
|Samuel Adewunmi plays the teenage version of the lead role in “The Last Tree.” Photo courtesy IMDb|
The Last Tree – Director Shola Amoo
The influence of Moonlight is strong in this movie about a young black boy growing up in inner London, attempting to navigate the perils of being a sensitive young man in a tough, at times cruel, world. Told in three acts (again … Moonlight), the movie is at times beautifully shot and filled with empathy for its main character. It’s held back slightly by its brisk pace and a lack of depth as a character study (compared to movies such as Waves or … Moonlight), but Samuel Adewunmi is captivating as the teenage version of our main character and the contrast of the film’s three settings (London, Lincolnshire, Nigeria) makes for an interesting look at how place can affect who we are and how we grow. **1/2
|A young man relased from youth detention poses as a priest as he attempts to rebuild his life in a small town, in the Polish film, “Corpus Christi.” Photo courtesy IMDb|
Corpus Christi – Director Jan Komasa
This Academy Award-nominated feature from Poland follows a young man recently released from juvenile detention who decides to imitate a priest in order to build a new life for himself in a small town. Bartosz Bielenia is the highlight of the movie, playing our main character with wiry energy and haunting desperation, to captivating results. Exploring themes of trauma, redemption and forgiveness, Komasa’s film is at times exhilarating even if it does lose a bit of steam over its running time. ***1/2
The Victoria Film Festival continues at various venues around the city through Feb. 16. Visit victoriafilmfestival.com for a list of showtimes and films.