Pas­sions, sor­row, men­tal labyrinths: The movies at the WFF

Montreal Times - - Front Page -

The 41st edi­tion of the Mon­treal World Film Fes­ti­val (WFF) is un­der­way and de­spite its ob­vi­ous dif­fi­cul­ties—lack of printed pro­grams, some venues too dis­tant—one has to sa­lute the al­most heroic ef­fort that the or­ga­niz­ers have put in mak­ing this event pos­si­ble.There is no ques­tion that Serge Losique doesn't plan to sur­ren­der to the in­ten­tions of those who want to de­stroy the fes­ti­val. He got some back­ing from Que­becor to save the Im­pe­rial The­atre, and in his inau­gu­ral speech, he didn't men­tion the prob­lems. He pre­ferred to talk about ecol­ogy, in­stead of a red car­pet this time the fes­ti­val had a green car­pet. Be­yond those ex­tra-cin­e­matic con­sid­er­a­tions, when one re­al­izes that de­spite all odds, the WFF, at least un­til the time I am writ­ing this note, has pre­sented in its Of­fi­cial Com­pe­ti­tion cat­e­gory an ex­cep­tional se­lec­tion of films, one has to feel good.

Let's start with the open­ing movie, "Anna Karen­ina—Vron­sky's Story" di­rected by Karen Shakhnazarov. The novel by Leo Tol­stoy has been taken to the screen on a few oc­ca­sions, but this Rus­sian movie fo­cuses on the view that Count Vron­sky (Max Matveev) has of his re­la­tion­ship with the beau­ti­ful Anna Karen­ina (El­iza­veta Bo­yarskaya). The di­a­logue be­tween Dr. Sergey Karenin (Kir­ill Greben­shchikov) and Vron­sky, in an iso­lated part of Manchuria, is what un­rav­els the story with all the el­e­ments of pas­sion and the sor­row for Anna's fate. It is Rus­sian film­mak­ing at its best: re­al­is­tic scenes of the 1904 Rus­soJa­panese War, an ex­cel­lent re-creation of the pe­riod (the scene of the dance at the Kare­nine's place is a cin­e­matic beauty), and solid act­ing. One just hopes that some na­tional or lo­cal dis­trib­u­tor shows in­ter­est and buys the rights to show this ex­cel­lent movie to a wider au­di­ence.

At a time when many peo­ple are ques­tion­ing the moral cal­i­bre of politi­cians it may seem per­ti­nent to look at the ap­proach taken by Czech di­rec­tor Julius Ševcík to the life of Jan Masaryk— son of the founder of Cze­choslo­vakia—in his film "A Prom­i­nent Pa­tient." The main char­ac­ter played by

Karel Ro­den is a diplo­mat at the crit­i­cal time of Hitler's de­mands over the Sude­ten­land. Masaryk, how­ever, is at the same time bat­tling his own demons in the form of drug ad­dic­tion. "A Prom­i­nent Pa­tient" is also a se­ri­ous con­tender for some dis­tinc­tion at the WFF al­though the sub­ject may be a lit­tle bit ob­scure for many peo­ple.

Then we have this un­ex­pected jewel com­ing from an Al­ba­nia: "Elvis Walks Home" di­rected by Fat­mir Koci. This is a movie that at first seems to start on a comedic note but soon takes us on a more dra­matic twist when our pro­tag­o­nist, an Al­ba­nian refugee liv­ing il­le­gally in Lon­don who im­per­son­ates Elvis, is wrongly hired to en­ter­tain the Bri­tish troops dur­ing the Balkan War of 1999 in Bos­nia-Herze­gov­ina.When his real iden­tity is dis­cov­ered, he man­ages to es­cape from Sara­jevo, still wear­ing his Elvis cos­tume. His life, how­ever, will take a turn for the worse when he gets in the mid­dle of the bru­tal con­flict in which he would also find an un­usual gang of child-sol­diers, in fact, or­phans es­cap­ing the con­flict too.

In the cat­e­gory First Works, I had the chance to see "Veron­ica" by Mex­i­can di­rec­tors Car­los Al­gara and Ale­jan­dro Martinez Bel­tran which presents an in­ter­est­ing plot in the form of some men­tal labyrinth whose real mean­ing is only re­vealed at the end of the movie. My only ob­jec­tion is to the re­courses used by the di­rec­tors to con­vey the idea which at times seems some­how forced and ar­ti­fi­cial. The plot, how­ever, is in gen­eral ap­peal­ing, al­though some scenes may be too scary.

The Mon­treal World Film fes­ti­val con­tin­ues un­til Mon­day, Septem­ber 4. Awards will be pre­sented on Sun­day, Septem­ber 3. For de­tailed in­for­ma­tion in­clud­ing sched­ules, film de­scrip­tions and venues visi :

www.ffm-mon­treal.org

A large crowd for Chi­nese movies, in this case the

his­toric drama "The Hid­den Sword"

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