Sunday at FNC

Justine Smith reviews two films screening today at FNC: the Austrian film Lillian and Matthew Rankin’s off-the-wall ode to Canadiana, The Twentieth Century.

The 48th annual Festival du Nouveau Cinéma runs through Oct. 20. Here are our reviews of films screening today: 


A slow-burn road-movie existing between documentary and fiction, Austrian film Lillian, was inspired by the real-life disappearance of Lillian Alling in 1927. The film opens in 2015 as Lillian, a Russian model, is turned down from a job in BDSM pornography. Her American VISA had expired six months earlier, and not even a scumbag porn producer will hire her without her papers. Lillian, who speaks no English, leaves this meeting and heads out on the road. All she has are the clothes on her back and a small bag packed with a large jar of cheese puffs.

Unfolding in near-silence, Lillian serves as a travelogue of the contemporary American experience. She travels down dirt roads and through small forgotten towns, drifting like a phantom. Momentum builds slowly as her health and connection to humanity deteriorates as she bears witness to the strange patriotic rituals and desperate coping mechanisms of rural residents. There are very few “incidents,” and the film is more about bearing witness than it is telling a story. As the film progresses, the distance between the cinematic audience and the events on screen shortens. It becomes more involving and heart-wrenching, especially as Lillian moves through the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and stops to listen to protesters. (Justine Smith)

Lillian screens Sunday, Oct 13 at 1:15 p.m. in Quartier Latin, on Tuesday Oct. 15 at 7:15 p.m. at Cinémathèque and again on Saturday, Oct 19 at Cinéma du Parc.

The Twentieth Century

Long live Canadian Cinema! In a hyper-specific gonzo historical film, Matthew Rankin’s first feature film tells the lurid tale of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canadian tenth Prime Minister. Shot on 16mm colour film stock and inspired by the avant-garde, the movie is a hilarious and biting look at the Canadian identity at the turn of the century. Rankin captures the unique passive-aggressive and self-satisfied patriotism of the Canadian experience as he crafts one of the most genuinely pleasurable films of 2019. 

The film features foot fetishism, seal clubbing, and Claude Chamberlan. Winnipeg is a wasteland, Quebec is a beacon of hopeful light, and Louis Negin is unforgettable as King’s invalid mother. Rankin’s film style, which is comparable to Guy Maddin’s, is beautiful and engaging as he blends live-action with animated flourishes. With a background in history, Rankin grounds the absurdity of his vision within a real historical context. The movie might be insanely weird, but it also feels emotionally true to the Canadian experience. Completely unforgettable, The Twentieth Century challenges the idea that English Canadian cinema is dull, overly serious and just American cinema with cheaper lighting. (JS)

The Twentieth Century screens Sunday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at Cinéma Impérial and again on Thursday, Oct  17 at 9:30 p.m. at Quartier Latin.