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I just saw my first VIFF film, “Vincent”, a minimalist comedy from France. Director-performer Thomas Salvador plays Vincent, a sinewy introverted construction labourer who exhibits supernatural powers. When he is wet he swims butterfly faster than a motorboat and can power-lift a cement mixer but when he is dry he is an unassuming labourer.

Vincent’s prowess in the pool impresses Lucie (Vimala Pons) his beautiful girl-next-door love interest (think Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island). His scorching love scene with her is memorable for the camera angles that reveal everything and nothing all in the same shot. But their romance goes nowhere; she’s in the script just to give witness to his abilities. Vincent’s impulsive petty crime puts him at odds with the law.

This laconic comedy works best when Vincent finds water in the most unlikely settings. When running from police a splash in a culvert can mean a huge escape advantage. Salvador is a gifted stylist with the ability dazzle his audience with breathtaking rocky coastal waterscapes and memorable French sex. This is an elegant Superman tale without the righteous overwrought victories that litter Hollywood films.

The 77 minute debut film may have worked better as a 19min short as the story feels shallow, and flounders with lack of purpose. However “Vincent” is pleasing to watch for it’s cinematic craft from a nascent auteur who will no doubt soar with better material. And if I may be shallow as well, Thomas Salvador’s smouldering good looks don’t hurt the film either.

Amy Schumer mined her stand up routine to write Trainwreck. Directed by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Forty-Year-Old Virgin), the film also stars Schumer as her namesake, Amy, a trainwreck-postersexually ravenous pot-head who writes for a breezy magazine geared to the sports addicted, adult male. Her story assignment is a sports doctor (Bill Hader) who has gained fame by surgically repairing famous athletes’ joints, limbs and tendons. For unknown reasons he hasn’t had sex in five years. The film is a spoof on the uncommitted reckless bachelor meets good girl story but this time around the genders are switched: it is Amy who fears intimacy.

Can she commit? This is the central dilemma. From the outset you can see where the film is going. There are a few memorable chuckles especially relating to Amy’s fear of intimacy. She never sleeps overnight and hates spooning. “I am exiting this hug,” she says when a group hug feels creepy.

The film should be lauded for inverting male-female relationship stereotypes but the broad sketch comedy style relies on finding gags rather letting Amy find poignant moments naturally. Perhaps Lena Dunham (Girls), Apatow’s other lustrous protégé, would have fared better with this material. The movie is consumed in the way that one devours a bucket of fried chicken—a guilty pleasure, enjoyable for the moment, but difficult to embrace as the full meal. At times it feels more like Saturday Night Live schtick than a subversive rom-com with memorable anti-heroine who almost commits.

 

 

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Amy, the documentary about the tortured British singer Amy Winehouse is an unimaginative power-point not worthy of a theatrical release.

Acclaimed director Asif Kapadiea’s modern day tragedy features old grainy photos of the young impulsive Amy Winehouse and her family villains, especially her dad, who fail to notice the severity of her pain.

Winehouse with her unruly beehive hairdo, Egyptian eyeliner and tiny frame is a brilliant subject who doesn’t want to sound or look anything like her music contemporaries. She weathers mental illness, romantic break-ups, bulimia, drunken performances and the onslaught of flashbulbs from the ravenous paparazzi.

As fucked up as Amy is, she can actually write and the music continues to pour freely leading to Grammys and world acclaim. After her break-through single Rehab, she tours packed stadiums, parties with her boyfriend and ultimately does a stint in rehab, something her father Mitch advises against until she is too far gone.

Although blessed with a unique sound, the trappings of world wide celebrity, the tabloids and her descent into addiction feel all too familiar. Even her soulful live performances are squandered and truncated in favour of dullard talking-head observations by musical collaborators. There is not much new here that has been that has been also already been documented on E-talk!

Savemgid-uma-image-mtv your money and buy her music so you can to listen to her haunting lyrics and savour her bluesy emotional inflections in songs like “Back to Black”, that are deliberately a semi-tone or two off key. Her music, unlike this biopic, leaves more to the imagination.

Not since watching “Being John Malkovic,” have I been blown away by a film that combines comedy, satire and absurdism all in equal measure. Director and co-writer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel,” “21 Grams”) works us over with his black comedy Birdman, a satire that details the high-wire act of living a fulfilling life after superstardom ends.

birdmanposterIt was reported that Michael Keaton turned down 15 million dollars to play the lead role in The Dark Night Rises, part 4 of the Batman series franchise. This endearing backstory shrouds this film and makes you want to pull for Keaton even more. After years of wallowing in relative obscurity, Keaton is back on top, playing an older washed-up version of himself in Birdman.

Birdman, a film about a crazy fucked up Broadway play is loads of fun and Keaton does the heavy lifting as he tries to revive his acting sagging career from obscurity. He is directing and starring in a profit losing theatrical adaptation of a little known Ray Carver novel. An aging bitter New York critic is dubious about Keaton’s motives as she vows to end this pretentious Hollywood intrusion on Broadway’s dignified acting roots.

Ed Norton, the capricious method actor who sprouts a hard-on during a love scene playsimgres-2 the charming asshole with ease and porcelain anime doll Emma Stone is superb as the recovering addict who plays Keaton’s underachieving insightful daughter.

Hardly a drop of blood spills in this film, which is a huge departure for this iconic Mexican director who killed off more than his share of people and dogs in past films. Iñárritu films the story in what seems to be one continuous take to give the real-time sensation of the tumultuous days leading up to opening night. Whatever his reason is, the long flowing takes are seamlessly choreographed. I felt myself floating through the rehearsals from a red velvet seat only twenty feet from centre stage. Ironically, the New Yorker is the only publication to give it an annoying art-fraud review, citing overt thefts from Jean Luc Godard’s earlier works.

Artistic theft is the birthright of every artist since the dawn of entertainment. Birdman is a highly imaginative film that should be embraced for all of it’s not-so-well disguised thefts and it’s inherent contemporary truths.