The Festival du nouveau cinéma continues through Oct. 14. Here are our reviews of films playing over the next few days:
Cuba Merci Gracias
Two best friends take an emotionally-fraught trip to Cuba in Alex B. Martin’s Cuba Merci Gracias. Emmanuelle Boileau and Alexa-Jeanne Dubé more or less plays themselves in what proves to be a loosely narrative travelogue. Manue and Alexa are the kind of tourists that pride themselves on their capacity of adaptation 24 hours after landing and, in an attempt to witness the “real” Havana, wind up spending nearly every night drinking beer in the streets and hashing out their personal problems. (The recurring criticism seems to be that Manue’s brand of self-exploration relies on a lot of the same crutches in Cuba as it does in Montreal.)
It’s hard to really suss out whether Martin is making a fully improvisational piece or if he’s set out to make a film that lampoons this idea of the “Ugly American” going out to find so-called authenticity in the third world. It works both ways, though I’ll admit that my favourite bits in the film are the ones that lampoon a certain type of millennial navel-gazing. (Think a more naturalistic, less cringe-focused Fort Tilden.) The rest of the film is more documentary-like, bordering on a straight travel film at times, in a way that’s significantly less interesting. Still, it’s impressive how Martin weaves together what seems to be entirely improvised situations, and Cuba Merci Gracias captures the peculiar dynamic of travelling with a close friend better than almost any film I’ve seen. (Alex Rose)
Cuba Merci Gracias screens on Monday, Oct 8 at 9 p.m. in Quartier Latin and on Sunday, Oct 14 at 5 p.m. in Quartier Latin.
Most of Gaspar Noé’s films have been the equivalent of the director banging on a pot with a ladle and yodeling atonally for as long as it takes to break the audience. While I have to commend his mastery of the ladle, I have a real fight-or-flight reaction to his work that also applies to his latest, Climax. Noé’s latest provocation focuses on the members of a dance troupe who have been working tirelessly on a new piece, secluded during a snow storm in a decommissioned school. On their last day, they decide to throw a party and unwind – only to discover that someone has spiked the punch with LSD. Instead of a “tune in, drop out” experience, the whole thing turns into a total fucking nightmare, with the majority of the participants having a very bad trip.
Set to constant pulsating dance music and cast mostly with real-life dancers making their acting debuts (Sofia Boutella, The Mummy herself, is the only name in the cast unless you’re deep into the Parisian dance or voguing scene), Climax opens with eye-popping choreography and ends in a blood-spattered neon nightmare bacchanal in the purest Noé vein. It’s basically the Rectum sequence from Irréversible turned into a screeching horror movie, Noé’s crane-mounted camera snaking in and out of rooms and turning upside down constantly.
I can’t deny that Noé is a gifted visual filmmaker with a style that’s all his own, but here (and elsewhere) he puts it to the service of repetitive and juvenile provocation. Climax starts with its credits and “ends” twice before the real ending, empty narrative gestures that serve practically no purpose. In a way, Climax is reminiscent of mother!, another primal-color-tinted nightmare by a provocateur bro; Noé at least has the decency of not pretending that his movie is about anything other than sensory overload, but it’s still just banging on a pot – even if you do it rhythmically. (AR)
Climax screens Monday, Oct 8 at 9 p.m. in Cinéma Impérial.
Sticks and Stones
Our attention, in Sticks and Stones, the debut feature by director Martin Skovbjerg Jensen, is drawn again and again to the inscrutable and closely cropped backs of two teen necks: Bjarke (Vilmer Trier Brøgger), and Simon (Jonas Bjerril).
Simon, recently uprooted from Copenhagen, finds himself paired with the unsettling Bjarke on a video assignment for an enthused young teacher. Their project amounts to an unflattering depiction of their fellow small-town denizens as apes, in particular the higher-ups at the local speaker factory (Bjarke’s father among them). The collaboration bonds them together in an intense and uneasy friendship, the circumstances of which may be average (smoking weed, going to parties, talking with each others’ parents), but erotic and violent possibilities loom over their most casual encounters.
Simon and Bjarke disdain not all adults, but adult men (who nearly always appear literally distant and blurred). At the same time, the two friends succumb to the same male adult behaviours they want to avoid. Their thesis that men are apes and factory CEOs are alphas may be simplistic, but the film’s self-consciousness of its teenage POV allows Jensen to get at the shaky and morally-ambivalent logic of teens.
We sense from the outset that familiar trope of teen machismo ascending to a violent climax, the sound design heaving menacingly over even the most innocuous of domestic scenes, but Sticks and Stones manages to surprise with its tenderness. (Nora Rosenthal)
Sticks and Stones screens Monday, Oct 8 at 7:30 p.m. in Quartier Latin, Tuesday, Oct 9 at 7:15 p.m. in Quartier Latin and on Saturday, Oct 13 at 7:15 p.m. in Quartier Latin.
Find the complete program and ticket purchase details here.