The 48th annual Festival du Nouveau Cinéma runs through Oct. 20. Here are our reviews of films screening (for the first time at the festival) today:
If Quentin Dupieux has one talent, it’s creating singular and absurdist films based on one-sentence pitches. Rubber? A killer tire is on the loose. In Reality, a wanna-be director is challenged to find the best groan of pain to get his film financed. For his newest film, Le daim, Jean Dujardin plays Georges, a man so obsessed with his super cool deerskin jacket that he goes on a quest to prevent anyone in the world from ever wearing a jacket again.
The result? An absolutely hilarious and often self-reflective exploration, ego and vanity. Early in his journey, Georges realizes that picking up a cheap camcorder and telling people he’s making a film is an excellent way to get them to give up their jackets. He also enlists the help of a local bartender, Denise (Adèle Haenel), who aspires to be a film editor. So, on top of being an instant sartorial classic, Le daim is also a great film about filmmaking itself. While mostly a single joke extended into a feature-length movie (though a modest 77 minutes), Le daim never wears out its welcome, but it should also go without saying, if you haven’t liked any of Dupieux’s previous films, you won’t like this one. (Justine Smith)
Le daim screens Monday, October 14 at 8 p.m. in Cinéma Impérial.
Even the writing credits say that Sophie Deraspe’s Antigone is a loose adaptation of the Greek tragedy. it’s set in the current day, for one, and it veers off into its own thing not too long after borrowing the set-up from a play that was written nearly two millennia ago, but the roots of tragedy with a capital T are still felt in a sometimes powerful, sometimes melodramatic meditation on the modern immigrant experience. Antigone (Nahéma Ricci) moved to Canada as a child from an unnamed, war-torn Middle Eastern country where she saw the bodies of her parents dumped on her doorstep on the eve of their departure. It’s been rough for her and her siblings: her sister Ismène (Nour Belkhira) just wants a normal life, while her brothers Polynice (Rawad El-Zein) and Étéocle (Hakim Brahimi) hang around the Habibi street gang. Her world comes crashing down when Étéocle is killed by police and Polynice is subsequently arrested for assault, forcing her to make some tough decisions for the sake of her family.
As powerful as it can be, Antigone suffers somewhat from clumsy translation of 2,000-year-old narrative tropes. Though it’s not a straight adaptation, it does follow a throughline and some of its attempts at updating for a modern audience are a little corny. (Hip hop scored montages covered in graffiti feature prominently.) Camping the story in present-day Quebec allows Deraspe to touch on real-life parallels (including the death of Fredy Villanueva at the hands of police and the Printemps Érable) in much the same way that Jean Anouilh’s adaptation updated the setting to match the political climate of the 1940s, but the film’s depictions of gang life are only a notch above your average téléroman in terms of grittiness or immediacy. Its margins are considerably more interesting than its skeleton, but Antigone is propulsed by a strong performance from first-timer Ricci and Deraspe’s palpable desire to draw parallels between societies thousands of years apart. (Alex Rose)
Antigone screens Monday, October 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Cinéma du Musée and again on Friday, October 18 at 5 p.m. at Quartier Latin.
Someone in the audience during the TIFF Q&A asked Noah Baumbach, “why are you so fascinated by dysfunctional families?” In response, he simply asked, “Is there any other kind?” Baumbach has made love-ably dysfunctional people his expertise. Marriage Story is no different. A love story, a procedural about divorce and a musical, Baumbach’s film merges genre elements to create a divorce epic. Nicole (Scarlett Johannson) and Charlie (Adam Driver) have lived and worked together at their theatre company in New York for almost a decade. When a TV pilot is offered to Nicole in L.A., she sees it as a lifeline for her career and a way out of her suffering marriage. Charlie, an acclaimed theatre director, is a devout New Yorker who naively believes that Nicole and his son Henry (Azhy Robertson) will come back after shooting wraps. He and Nicole have also agreed to keep things amicable and avoid lawyers. When Nicole hires a ruthless divorce lawyer (Laura Dern) however, all good intentions go out the window and splatter onto the sidewalk.
Charlie flies back and forth to L.A., where the divorce has been filed, draining his bank account and patience in the process. It’s a love story about how good people can so quickly become hostile to one another and how intimate moments become weaponized in a legal battle. For instance, Nicole’s late-night admission to Charlie that she’s had too much wine is painted as alcoholism and bad parenting by his lawyer (Ray Liotta). It’s Baumbach’s most unhinged, castigating film to date, though there are scenes and monologues that feel overwritten to the point where they lose their impact. Yet poignant moments of tenderness between Nicole and Charlie as they battle their way through a divorce are heartfelt without feeling heavy-handed. Marriage Story is a searing depiction of how quickly love can clot and congeal into hate. They’re not opposites after all. (Sarah Foulkes)
Marriage Story screens Monday, October 14 at 4:30 p.m. at Cinéma Impérial and again on Friday, October 18 at 7 p.m. at Cinéma du Musée.
See the complete Festival du Nouveau Cinéma program here.