Author: Elliott Pen

Review: Sarah’s Key

Transcending two different eras ““ World War II France and its modern day counterpart ““ along with a host of global locations,   Sarah’s Key  is a gripping tale of one little girl and the desire of a journalist to connect her to her present-day bloodline. Based on the novel of the same name by Tatiana de Rosnay,   Sarah’s Key   details one of the blackest periods in French history when the government rounded up thousands of of Jews living in the country to be sent to Nazi concentration camps. The story of Sara Starzynski is fiction against...

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Review: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Leading up to this year’s TIFF, one of the titles that garnered the most buzz was Werner Herzog’s 3D documentary   Cave of Forgotten Dreams . Walking an obviously precarious line between genius and madness, Herzog has managed to craft a piece that transcends the documentary to become elegy for humanity’s first artists. Located in southern France, the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave, one open and accessible by early Homo sapiens contains the earliest form of art by means of cave paintings dating back 30,000 years. Due to a rock slide however the cave became shut off prior to our ancestors being...

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Breathless – There is no other

Breathless . The name alone evokes at least a dozen images to those familiar with cinema. And now, as scholars, both of the true academic or weekend variety, move beyond to discuss emerging cinema in far-flung corners of the world or recall small movements, such as the Yugoslav “Black Wave,” it strikes me that many have forgotten a little film by Jean-Luc Godard entitled Breathless . Has then the topic of playboy criminal and the naive American he targets as his love been exhausted? For academics every valuable foot of the film’s ninety-minute run time has been wrung dry,...

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Review: Wavelengths 1, 2, & 5 – TIFF 2010

One of the most interesting, yet least talked about programs part of TIFF every year is the Wavelengths series which features avant-garde and experimental films from around the world. Every year programmers typically create a theme for each series so as to have a point of reference for each piece, similar to the way a curator would in an art gallery. Below are my thoughts on each of the films in the three separate series that I viewed. I would like to preface these “reviews”, however, as highly precarious. Many different people have many different ideas regarding the criteria in which to judge an experimental film and I am no different. As an admirer of experimental work I am basing my brief assessments on technique and implied meaning as it relates to the theme of the series it is a part of, and of course comments are gladly welcomed. WAVELENGTHS 1 ““ SOUL OF THE CITY The first Wavelengths series, entitled “Soul of the City” was by far the most enjoyable of the three I viewed. The camera of the artists in this series is turned on to the urban landscape to showcase the sheer velocity of change and modernity as it ravages these hubs. Tokyo-Ebisu (Tomonari Nishikawa) Tokyo-Ebisu is an interesting examination of the hustle and bustle of a tram line in Tokyo. The employment of patchwork (different...

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Review: The Solitude of Prime Numbers – TIFF 2010

The Solitude of Prime Numbers might be one of the brainiest dramas regarding human nature to ever exist. Based on the book by Paulo Giordano, Solitude paints an interesting look at human relationships. The story of Solitude follows three children, Alice, Mattia and Mattia’s mentally handicapped brother, Michela, from 1984 to present day as they move from youth to high school to higher studies. Since director Saverio Constanzo and his editing team chose the alternative to linear story-telling, the narrative shifts time and place quite often to give the audience the sense that despite aging, both Alice and Mattia barely mature from their earlier years. As the separate plots for both Alice and Mattia unfold we learn of crucial moments in their lives which shaped their character and echo the other’s experience. The approach taken by Constanzo would typically be welcomed, since the plot is simplistic and thin, however, the technique which sets the film apart from others is its major downfall. Stringing together sequences from different portions of Mattia and Alice’s lives is highly jarring and difficult to adjust to as there is no real rhythm to these changes. Ultimately, this off-kilter beat makes the film’s resolution feel lackluster. In fact, it was a relief to get to the conclusion of this film as it provided an anchor for one to properly gauge it. The Solitude of Prime...

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Review: The Debt – TIFF 2010

The Debt was one of a few surprises at TIFF this year. That is not to short the directorial skill of John Madden ( Shakespeare in Love ), or the acting skills of Helen Mirren or Sam Worthington, but there was some expectation that the story of three Mossad agents reflecting on a mission 30 years prior would feel a bit stale. That said, Madden and company deliver what is one of the most thrilling films of TIFF. The Debt is the story of three Mossad agents who reflect upon a mission 30 years ago to arrest Vogel, a Nazi war criminal. A decent portion of the film is the story of the agents’ mission to capture Vogel. As their plot unfolds the film shifts to the present with Mirren, a now retired agent, who’s story is being retold through her daughter by way of a book. What has been crafted here, is a film that borders on taking itself too seriously, but given the nature of the material it functions well. Madden avoids the temptation to create a straight-forward action film and instead remains rooted in reality which makes pleasantly surprising. Mirren’s acting, as usual, is strong, but even more wonderful was Jessica Chastain as Mirren’s character 30 years prior. Chastain’s attention to detail in Mirren’s style is quite evident and makes for one of the smoothest transitions...

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Review: Sarah’s Key – TIFF 2010

Transcending two different eras ““ World War II France and its modern day counterpart ““ along with a host of global locations, Sarah’s Key is a gripping tale of one little girl and the desire of a journalist to connect her to her present-day bloodline. Based on the novel of the same name by Tatiana de Rosnay, Sarah’s Key details one of the blackest periods in French history when the government rounded up thousands of of Jews living in the country to be sent to Nazi concentration camps. The story of Sara Starzynski is fiction against this quite real historical backdrop, but that does not detract from the emotional power it evokes. Again in fine form for the second time in the festival, Kristin Scott Thomas plays Julia, a journalist covering the roundup of Jews that Sarah was a part of sixty years after the fact. As her research goes deeper Julia learns that her soon-to-be new home was actually Sarah’s home prior to the events in 1942 which changed her life. This takes Julia on a journey of personal discovery which brings the American ex-patriate to question France as her adopted home, her family life, and her goals completely. The acting in Sarah’s Key is top notch, which should come as no surprise . Not only is Scott Thomas especially strong, shifting beautifully between English and French, but...

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