Cinema Usher is a Scout column dedicated to detailing some of the best films playing in theatres with the when, where and why you should really give a damn and go watch. This very special edition is your guide to some of the best films playing at the upcoming Vancouver International Film Festival.
DETAILS | Oct. 2nd, 8:45PM / Oct. 7th, 3:00PM / Oct. 14th 8:30PM
Park Chan-Wook smashed his way into the international genre film scene with his massive 2003 revenge hit, ‘Oldboy’. Since then, his bloodlust and perversity has hardly mellowed. After a 7-year hiatus from Korean language cinema, he returns to his twisted roots with ‘The Handmaiden’, an immaculately framed adaptation of Sarah Waters’ 2002 novel, ‘Fingersmith’. The film tells the tale of a pickpocket planted as a maid to a mysterious heiress in a conspiracy to seize her fortune. Relocating the Victorian-era crime yarn to Japanese occupied Korea of the 1930’s, the story takes a luridly psycho-sexual turn as the heiress falls in love with the thief. Park’s glossy style is in full swing imbuing enough erotic bravura to make every one of the Fifty Shades of Grey blush.
DETAILS | Oct. 6th, 9:30PM / Oct. 8th, 1:00PM / Oct. 13th, 6:30PM
Director Olivier Assayas has spent the last decade finding his place on the mantle reserved for some of the best working directors in the contemporary world cinema circuit. From assassination thrillers and sweeping crime sagas to intimate family stories, Assayas’ is a curious, chameleonic talent, finding the nooks and crannies of genre to explore bigger emotions and ideas. In ‘Personal Shopper’ he plays with a ghostly tale, re-teaming with Kristen Stewart for a film about an American fashionista in Paris haunted by her dead twin brother. Existing in the liminal space between horror and drama, ‘Personal Shopper’ is exactly where it wants to be.
The Red Turtle
DETAILS | Oct. 1st, 2:30PM / Oct. 6th, 6:15PM
After a career of meticulously crafted animated short films, Michael Dudok de Wit teams up with Studio Ghibli for his first full length feature, ‘The Red Turtle’. In the unprecedented partnership, Dudok de Wit was given absolute creative freedom with the Japanese animation goliath at a transitional moment (at the time of departure of their most prestigious visionary, Hayao Miyazaki — see ‘Spirited Away’, ‘My Neighbour Totoro’, etc.). Blessed by Miyazaki himself, Dudok de Wit’s ‘The Red Turtle’ is a wordless, magical vision that strands a castaway on a mysterious, tropical island. As the story flourishes, viewers are wowed by observant, dreamy visuals of mythical proportions. With fervent praise from critics at Cannes earlier this year, it’s high time ‘The Red Turtle’ washed up on our shore.
The Death of Louis XIV
DETAILS | Oct. 7th, 9:45PM / Oct. 9th, 10:45AM
Nowadays, the big screen is reserved for explosions, CG and big explosions. Spanish filmmaker Albert Serra’s ‘The Death of Louis XIV’ reclaims the screen for painstakingly small, beautiful details. Based on medical records and memoirs, ‘The Death of Louis XIV’ observes the final hours of the Sun King, played by Jean Pierre-Leaud. Witness the aging King of the French New Wave in an oversized bouffant wig that would make Phil Spector jealous! Unfolding almost entirely in Louis XIV’s claustrophobic, candle-lit bedchamber, the film is touted as being endlessly watchable, at times comedically procedural and one of the the best films in Serra’s burgeoning career at the challenging outer edges of art house cinema.
Kate Plays Christine
DETAILS | Oct. 4th, 9:15PM / Oct. 6th, 1:00PM
Subjects of cinematic fascination come in pairs; 1997 was a year for volcanoes in ‘Dante’s Peak’ and ‘Volcano’ while the following year featured earth-shattering space rocks in ‘Armageddon’ and ‘Deep Impact’. There were literary asteroids too, as Truman Capote was the subject of two biopics in 2005. But in 2016, it’s Christine Chubbuck’s turn. She was a little-known Florida morning-show host before she punctuated American broadcasting history in 1974 by committing suicide on-air. While the grisly story of Chubbuck is over four decades old and the subject of internet myth, two films are tackling her story and rekindling the cultural fascination around her. While one is standard biopic fare, VIFF is featuring Robert Greene’s unique meta-documentary, ‘Kate Plays Christine’. Pitting actress Kate Scheill in the challenge of preparing for the role of Chubbuck on screen, Greene follows Scheill through the exploratory process of interviewing former television station employees and pouring over old footage of Christine for the titular role. The journey unlocks compelling realizations along the way.
DETAILS | Oct. 1st, 2:30PM / Oct. 5th, 9:00PM
Brazilian critic-cum-director Kleber Mendozca Filho made a big splash at the 2012 Festival with his debut film, ‘Neighbouring Sounds’. He returns this year with ‘Aquarius’, a sophomore effort that’s a few decibels quieter but in no way less powerful. Set in a seaside apartment complex that inspires the title of the film, Clara, an affluent, aging widow, is the last resident of Aquarius. Her quiet life is rudely interrupted when she is forced to take a stand against bullying land developers and defend the apartment that has been the home for some of the most important years of her life. Sound familiar? In watching Clara (played by Brazilian screen legend, Sonia Braga), the film is a meditation on the importance of defending memory of places, a timely and mindful message for Vancouver, a city in constant development.
DETAILS | Oct. 8th, 9:15PM / Oct. 10th, 4:15PM
Banned in China, but not before opening in Hong Kong on a single screen and performing better than Star Wars: The Force Awakens, ‘Ten Years’ is an omnibus film that gathers five young filmmakers to imagine the year 2025 in Hong Kong. From tales of political assassination, self-immolation and cultural erasure, the grim visions imagine a dystopian British colony caged by an Orwellian future. Each filmmaker takes turns audaciously rattling the cage with palatable frustration against the oppressive Chinese government that is swallowing up their cultural identity. Their fears have been confirmed as the Chinese government has deemed the film a “thought virus.” While Chinese citizens may not be afforded an opportunity to see this essential protest film, you do, so make sure to catch it screening at VIFF this year.
DETAILS | Oct. 1st, 6:00PM / Oct. 6th, 3:45PM
After debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival, Kevan Funk’s Vancouver-grown first feature, ‘Hello Destroyer’ touches down at the Vancouver International Film Festival for a pair of screenings. The film tells the story of Tyson, a star enforcer on the rink in a small hockey town, who makes an irrevocable mistake on the ice and suffers the consequences. Funk’s film isn’t afraid to dismantle the national pastime as a metaphor in exploring the acceptance of institutionalized violence where scapegoats are commonplace in defending larger, problematic systems. With its unrelenting opinion, ‘Hello Destroyer’ is a bold voices in Canadian art house cinema.