Author: Ariel Fisher

Review: I, Daniel Blake

In his latest venture, I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach has created a masterpiece. A work of staggering compassion, he’s crafted a profound portrait of the very people the system is failing. Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a grizzled old man viscerally incapable of suffering fools. He’s had a heart attack, and due to systemic issues, his benefits have been cut off. Still unable to work, he is denied the benefits that keep him from living on the streets. Along his Sisyphean crusade for basic human rights, he meets Kattie (Hayley Squires), a single mother of two. She starves herself to keep...

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Review: The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden, the latest feature from Park Chan-wook, is an erotic thriller based on the novel “Fingersmith” by Welsh author Sarah Waters. Chan-wook’s penchant for deception is in fine form here as the film breaks down into three parts, each unveiling a new layer of duplicity. Set in 1930’s Korea, pickpocket Sook-hee has been hired by art forger Count Fujiwara to enter the home of delicate heiress Lady Hideko as her maid. She is to gain her trust, and convince her to marry the Count. In doing so, he would take her fortune, leave her destitute in a mental asylum, and run off splitting the fortune with Sook-hee. Everything changes, however, when the two women begin to fall in love with each other. Beautifully shot, The Handmaiden is not only a testament to Chan-wook’s representations of sensuality, but his eye for beauty in general. Along with cinematographer and director of photography Chung Chung-hoon, the pair have created a scintillating visual aesthetic that marries Chan-wook’s previous work with a world Edith Wharton could narrate. What’s perhaps most compelling about The Handmaiden, and what may differ greatly from the source material, is the strong feminist overtones. This is a story of women usurping their own lives, and seeking revenge on the men who sought to rob them of that very right. Through the manipulation and deceit comes an exhilarating erotic thriller about women, and predominantly...

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TIFF 2016 Review: The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden, the latest feature from Park Chan-wook, is an erotic thriller based on the novel “Fingersmith” by Welsh author Sarah Waters. Chan-wook’s penchant for deception is in fine form here as the film breaks down into three parts, each unveiling a new layer of duplicity. Set in 1930’s Korea, pickpocket Sook-hee has been hired by art forger Count Fujiwara to enter the home of delicate heiress Lady Hideko as her maid. She is to gain her trust, and convince her to marry the Count. In doing so, he would take her fortune, leave her destitute in a mental asylum, and run off splitting the fortune with Sook-hee. Everything changes, however, when the two women begin to fall in love with each other. Beautifully shot, The Handmaiden is not only a testament to Chan-wook’s representations of sensuality, but his eye for beauty in general. Along with cinematographer and director of photography Chung Chung-hoon, the pair have created a scintillating visual aesthetic that marries Chan-wook’s previous work with a world Edith Wharton could narrate. What’s perhaps most compelling about The Handmaiden, and what may differ greatly from the source material, is the strong feminist overtones. This is a story of women usurping their own lives, and seeking revenge on the men who sought to rob them of that very right. Through the manipulation and deceit comes an exhilarating erotic thriller about women, and predominantly...

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TIFF 2016 Review: Julieta

Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film, Julieta, sees his return to the realm of women through the words of Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro. He’s adapted three of her short stories, “Chance”, “Soon”, and “Silence”, from her 2004 collection “Runaway”. The stories focus on a young woman named Juliet, and her tumultuous relationship with her daughter, Penelope. Now, Juliet has become Julieta, played by Adriana Ugarte in her youth, and Emma Suarez from middle age onwards. With Julieta, Almodóvar has not only reiterated his skill at depicting women in all their multifaceted glory, but he’s helped showcase what makes Munro’s work so transformative. The film takes place over the course of 30 years, bouncing back and forth through time. Starting in Julieta’s 50s, we watch as a chance encounter stirs up memories of her past. As a result, she confronts her life, and tries to piece together the puzzle of her failed relationship with her only daughter, Antía. Ugarte and Suarez bring Julieta to life in all her tormented splendor. Ugarte’s intoxicating femininity and sexuality ooze through the screen, while her fragility and simultaneous strength captivate. Suarez’s ability to exude tragedy and torment is beautiful, as she embodies solemn grace while unravelling at the seams. Their performances elevate Almodóvar’s already deftly written script, while proving the versatility of Alice Munro’s work – that it may transcend geographical and cultural boundaries into the realm of...

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TIFF 2016 Review: I, Daniel Blake

In his latest venture, I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach has created a masterpiece. A work of staggering compassion, he’s crafted a profound portrait of the very people the system is failing. Daniel Blake (Dave Johns) is a grizzled old man viscerally incapable of suffering fools. He’s had a heart attack, and due to systemic issues, his benefits have been cut off. Still unable to work, he is denied the benefits that keep him from living on the streets. Along his Sisyphean crusade for basic human rights, he meets Kattie (Hayley Squires), a single mother of two. She starves herself to keep the kids fed, and reluctantly accepts Daniel’s kindness. Loach scathingly portrays the flawed jurisdiction that prohibits the system from functioning. It cripples the very people it’s intended to protect, while limiting the effectiveness of employees. Dave Johns’ performance is enthralling. He deftly balances the kindness and generosity with his gruff resentment towards the government. Hayley Squires’ turn as a destitute mother is devastating. She and writer Paul Laverty manage to raise questions about a woman’s right to choose, and what constitutes destitution. The tragedy of I, Daniel Blake lies in the victims of a failing system. The struggle to make ends meet is an issue plaguing the world at large. Thus Daniel Blake becomes a universal tragic hero, and I, Daniel Blake a film truly for the People; of the UK, North America, and the...

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Just like us: interview with Unlocking the Cage directors Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker

For nearly 40 years, documentarians D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus have told the stories of interesting humans. From Jimi Hendrix, to Jerry Lee Lewis, and Bill Clinton, they’ve always been attracted to compellingly divergent characters. Unlocking the Cage is no exception, as the duo turns their gaze towards Steven Wise, an animal rights lawyer responsible for a controversial call for a writ of Habeas Corpus that would afford chimpanzees in the state of New York the right to personhood.

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One person’s trash: divergent perspectives on trash cinema

Most cinematic genres have a clearly traceable trajectory or definition. The term Western was coined in a 1912 article found in Motion Picture World Magazine. The origins of the Horror genre can be traced back to the work of Georges Méliès in the late 1890s. Exploitation has a clear-cut description; a film which attempts financial success through the exploitation of current trends, niche genres, or lurid content. Trash, or Paracinema, has no such clean-cut genesis, definition, or set of guidelines. It can be loosely defined as film genres that typically rest outside the boundaries of contemporary cinema. Its origins are debatable, its breadth boundless, and its appeal at times difficult to explain. But there is interest in Trash, and no longer just in a niche market. We think of trash cinema, and assume “tasteless.” While this isn’t entirely wrong, it’s also an unfair generalization. Trash takes on many forms – from B- to Z-movies, Exploitation, Euro-Trash, Asian Trash, and just about everything you can think of. Trash is multifaceted. Trash Cinema, in its broadest sense, has millions of fans worldwide. Great critics like Pauline Kael and Lester Bangs have professed their affection for Trash, while academics like Jeffrey Sconce have coined terms in its honor (Paracinema) and founded some of its academic analysis. But what makes Trash so appealing? Those who adore Trash do so with zeal, and wear...

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