Monday, 18 July 2016

DEMON - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Polish Dybbuk Terrorizes Montreal

Demon (2015)
Dir. Marcin Wrona
Starring: Itay Tiran, Agnieszka Żulewska

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The dybbuk has always been one of the most bloodcurdling supernatural creatures, yet its presence in contemporary horror films has, for the most part, been surprisingly absent. Rooted in Jewish mythology, it is the spirit of someone who has suffered a great indignity just before death and seeks to adhere itself to the soul of a living person in order to end its own purgatorial suffering. Alas, it causes as much nerve-shredding pain to the spirit as it does to the body of the one who is possessed. Invading the physical vessel in which a fully formed spirit already resides is no easy task and can result in a battle of wills, which not only implodes within, but tends to explode into the material world with a vengeance.

Demon successfully and chillingly brings this nasty, unholy terror to where it belongs, upon the silver screen, as opposed to the natural world. The late Polish filmmaker Marcin Wrona (who died suddenly and mysteriously at age 42, just one week after the film’s world premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival) hooks us immediately and reels us in with an almost sadistically gleeful use of cinema’s power to assail us with suspense of the highest order.


On the eve of his wedding to the beautiful Zaneta (Agnieszka Żulewska), the handsome young groom Peter (Itay Tiran) discovers the remains of a long-dead corpse in an open grave on the grounds of his father-in-law’s sprawling country estate. He becomes obsessed with this ghoulish treasure lying within the unconsecrated earth of a property bestowed upon the couple as a wedding gift. Not only will the nuptials be performed and celebrated here, but the happy twosome have been blessed with this gorgeous old house and lands as their future home.

Much of the film’s stylishly creepy events take place over the course of the wedding day. Wrona juggles a sardonic perspective with outright shuddersome horror during the mounting drunken celebrations at this extremely traditional Polish wedding. As the band plays, the guests dance between healthy guzzles of vodka, whilst the dybbuk clings to the poor groom, his body and soul wracked with pain.


When Peter begins to convulse violently, the lone Jewish guest at the Roman Catholic wedding, an elderly academic, is the one person who correctly identifies the problem.

Wrona’s camera dips, twirls and swirls with abandon as the celebratory affair becomes increasingly fraught with a strange desperation. Are the guests merely addled with booze, or is the estate a huge graveyard of Jews murdered during the Holocaust?

Is it possible that an army of dybbuks is seeking an end to their lonely, painful purgatory?

Demon raises many questions, but supplies no easy answers. What it delivers, however, is one of the scariest, most sickeningly creepy horror films of the year. If anything, the dybbuk has finally found a home in the movies, and we’re the beneficiaries of Wrona’s natural gifts as a filmmaker, as well as the largesse of this ancient supernatural entity, which so happily enters our own collective consciousness as we experience its nail-biting havoc over a not-so-holy matrimonial union.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

DEMON enjoys its Montreal premiere at Fantasia 2016 in Montreal. This review was first published at Electric Sheep - a deviant view of cinema.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

THE LOVE WITCH - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Witchy Carnal Gymnastics

The Love Witch (2016)
Dir. Anna Biller
Starring: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys,
Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Robert Seeley

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Babes, witches, devil worship, black magic and sex, sex and more sex were the mainstay of a lovely sub-genre of 70s Euro-Horror that nobody in their right mind could outright dismiss. American counterparts amongst these garishly-coloured bonbons never quite lived up to the titillation quotient of Euro sleaze masters like Jean Rollin, Jesus Franco, et al, but no matter, director Anna Biller more than makes up for Uncle Sam's lack of quality output with her very own contemporary masterwork of delectably naughty feculence.

Mega-babe Elaine (Samantha Robinson) has left San Francisco and a mysteriously malevolent past behind her. Resettling in a small town in Redwood country at the behest of some "white" witches, Elaine soon unleashes her genuine powers of "black" magic upon a variety of studs. Plenty of carnal gymnastics, nudity and murder follow. We should all be lucky enough to have someone like Elaine to love us to death.


Biller creates a sumptuous, sex-drenched tale, shot in gloriously garish colour (in 35mm no less), parading ritual and rapture in equal measure. Those acquainted with the cinematic world she recreates (with a few new frissons) will have nothing to complain about. Those who aren't quite as abreast of it, might still derive pleasure from this diverting carnal romp. The rest can go to church.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: *** 3-Stars

The Love Witch is an Oscilloscope Release enjoying its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia 2016.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

THE EYES OF MY MOTHER - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Slaughter Slog

The worst exploitation pretends to be art.
The Eyes of My Mother (2016)
Dir. Nicolas Pesce
Starring: Kika Magalhães, Will Brill, Paul Nazak, Flora Diaz, Clara Wong

Review By Greg Klymkiw

At only 77 minutes, The Eyes of My Mother feels like it's never going to end. It's one of the more disagreeable pictures I've recently had the displeasure to experience. Offensively boring (and just plain boringly offensive), it's a pretentious, nasty and misogynistic art-house-horror slug of the lowest order. What we're essentially dealing with here is a bottom feeder hoisted to heavenly heights by its makers to bamboozle audiences into thinking they're watching something lofty. Worse yet, its makers even think they've created something high-toned, but have, in fact, generated a movie squarely aimed at pseuds who will laud its affectations rhapsodically.

Director Nicolas Pesce is obviously not a nincompoop. He's put his thinking cap on for this one and he's also gifted visually, creating dense monochromatic images guaranteed to stay with you. You won't really want them cluttering your cerebral cortex, but they'll adhere to it anyway, like globs of agglutinative faecal matter tossed against a wall to see if they'll stick.

This sordid slice of rural Americana begins with a mother of Portuguese descent dissecting the head of a cow for her daughter Francisca and removing the eyeballs to teach her little lassie about the wonderful world of vision. (Oooohhhh, this is getting heady already, mais non?) As bad luck would have it, Mom allows a serial killer into the house and when Dad gets home, he discovers Francisca sitting in the kitchen whilst his wife is being hacked and bludgeoned in the bathtub.

No matter. Dad subdues the serial killer and chains him in the barn - still alive, naturally. With Francisca's help, he hauls his wife's body into the woods and buries it.

Wouldn't you?

Mother teaches daughter facts of life:
How to best remove eyeballs.
We flash forward a few years later and Francisca has blossomed into a fully grown babe (rendered in stultifying monotone by actress Kika Magalhães). Dad is constantly morose. One might think it's because he misses his wife, but since he's always watching "Bonanza" on TV, we naturally assume a steady diet of the Cartwright family is contributing to his ennui.

Francisca seems a tiny bit happier. She's surgically removed the serial killer's eyeballs and spends her days torturing and humiliating him. Eventually, when Dad dies and she tires of bathing, then sleeping with his smelly corpse, she gets a might horny and begins to seek ways to satisfy her natural urges.

This leads to her own serial killer-like tendencies coming to full fruition.

Lacking the razzle-dazzle and dark humour of something like Lucky McKee's The Woman (which it bears a few similarities to) and fraught with far too many dull Terrence Malick-like stretches, The Eyes of My Mother is little more than a wank-fest for its director and an even bigger masturbation-o-rama for the aforementioned pseuds amongst both paying audiences and film critics, all of whom want to impress each other with their nonsense-infused justifications for the sheer, nasty, empty malevolence of this horrendous picture.

THE FILM CORNER RATING:
TURD DISCOVERED
BEHIND HARRY'S CHAR BROIL AND DINING LOUNGE

Lowest Film Corner Rating.
For elaboration on its history, usage and full meaning,
please visit HERE.

The Eyes of My Mother is an Unobstructed View release enjoying its Canadian premiere at Fantasia 2016

Friday, 15 July 2016

IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Ti West Goes West

Ti West serves up Sweet Revenge in Texas.

In a Valley of Violence (2016)
Dir. Ti West
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, John Travolta,
Jason Ransone, Karen Gillan, Larry Fessenden

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Who doesn't like a good western? Aside from a few knobs, pretty much everyone likes one. Writer-director Ti West (The Sacrament, The Innkeepers, You're Next) clearly enjoys westerns so much that he strapped six-shooters upon his cinematic mojo and damn well just made one.

And you know what? In a Valley of Violence is a darn tootin' good oater. Mildly revisionist, but mostly straight-up, the picture is replete with nods to Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter, Sergio Leone and Budd Boetticher whilst holding its own as a solid cowpoke revenge programmer.

Paul (Ethan Hawke), a former soldier with a mysterious past, stops in the one-horse Denton, Texas to replenish supplies. Accompanied by his beloved dog, he becomes acquainted with the spunky, sexy Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga), the restless little sister of hotel keeper Ellen (Karen Gillan). Local baddie Gilly Martin (James Ransone) moronically picks a fight with Paul and is soundly thrashed by our hero.

As these things must go, Gilly exacts revenge upon Paul, leaving him (and dog) for dead in the desert.

Bad idea.

Paul comes back to town, driven by hate.

The inevitable killing spree ensues.

Travolta's biggest challenge: Idiot Progeny!

West's script is lean, mean and sprinkled with plenty of witty dialogue. As per usual, he displays a first-rate eye for action, editing the picture with hard-driving aplomb and garnering solid performances from his all-star cast. Hawke makes for a stellar and stalwart cowpoke hero, the villains (especially Ransome and Larry Fessenden) ooze the proper amount of nasty Peckinpah-like scum-baggery and the camera utterly adores the spunky Ukrainian-American Princess Farmiga (Vera's lil sissy) who spits her lines out like some perverse cross twixt Maddie Ross and Addie Pray.

The real fun is seeing John Travolta as the town marshall, a beleaguered father to a moron son. Dad doesn't want to kill, but he will if he has to defend the rotting fruit sired from his seed.

In a Valley of Violence might not be the most wildly original western ever made, but it is a damn solid one and offers considerable entertainment value from a filmmaker who is fast becoming one of the most reliable and talented young directors in America.

Finally, no summation of this picture's virtues would be complete without a special nod to Abbie the dog, a sweet animal who delivers a lovely performance. What happens to the dog shouldn't happen to a dog, but no matter. You will rejoice in the sweet revenge on the animal's behalf. It's a bloody beautiful thing.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-half Stars

In a Valley of Violence enjoys its Canadian Premiere at Fantasia 2016.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

SHE'S ALLERGIC TO CATS - FANTASIA 2016 - Review By Greg Klymkiw: **** 4 Feature Debut

Can a schlub video artist get to home plate with a mega-babe?
She's Allergic To Cats (2016)
Dir. Michael Reich
Starring: Mike Pinkney, Sonja Kinski

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Every so often, I see a film that reminds me of the joy I experienced during those halcyon days when I produced a whack of no-to-low-budget feature films. The accent was always on the love of cinema, innovation and most of all, cool shit that I and my colleagues would be happy to pay money to see ourselves. Given our collective cinematic predilections, our only nod to "marketplace" was knowing there had to be whack-jobs like us "out there".

My personal credo was thus: If you're making a movie for very little money, it better goddamn well be something that puts you and the film itself on a map. Impersonal "calling card" films had only two results: Making something competent enough that you might end up in regular network series television or worse; not being able to overcome the meagre production value and generating a movie that nobody would want.

She's Allergic To Cats made me happier than happy. From the opening frames to the magnificent cut from a hilariously poignant final image to the first of the end title cards, I found the picture endlessly dazzling, deliriously perverse and rapturously romantic. This is exactly the kind of first feature which an original filmmaker should generate. Writer-director Michael Reich boldly announces his presence with a friendly fuck-you attitude, a great sense of humour and a visual style that should make some veteran directors be ashamed of their by the numbers camera jockey moves.

Though there is no official genre called "schlubs who get to successfully seduce babes", She's Allergic To Cats would definitely be leading the charge if such a thing did officially exist - it's kind of like a Woody Allen picture on acid through the lens of wonky, nutty 80s video art.

Are you a schlub? Don't worry. Babes await you.

Mike Pinkney, the actor, plays Mike Pinkney, the lead character - a schlub extraordinaire who works a day job as a dog groomer and in his off hours, makes retro-styled video art and/or endlessly watches the horrendous, compulsively watchable 70s TV movie with John Travolta, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. These viewings include Mike eating sweet, unhealthy breakfast cereals. His home is also disgustingly infested with rats who seem to devour everything - from bananas to condoms. The landlord's only solution is to eventually "look up" a solution on Wikipedia.

Mike's dream is to make a feature film homage to Brian De Palma's Carrie - with CATS!!! His producer thinks it's the stupidest idea he's every heard. Mike is dejected and persistent all at the same time. Amidst the slacker/McJob existence he leads, Mike miraculously hits it off with Cora (Sonja Kinski - Nastassja's daughter, Klaus's granddaughter) a mega-babe who happily agrees to a date.

Here, director Reich deserves to win some manner of official accolade for creating the most depraved "meet-cute" in cinema history. All I will say is that it involves the incompetent clipping of a dog's nails on the quick, causing them to bleed.

The entire love story is mediated through Mike's filmmaking/video-art perspective. The result is a chiaroscuro-like melange of garish "video" colours, cheesy (though gorgeous) dissolves and plenty of sexy video tracking errors.

Though the film's final actions can be seen from a mile away, "surprise" is hardly the point. There's a sad and deeply moving inevitability to where things go. Reich achieves the near-impossible. We laugh with his main character, we laugh at him and finally, we're given a chance to weep for him.

Yes, on many levels, She's Allergic to Cats is a head-film extraordinaire, but it has heart and soul. This is something of a miracle. Then again, this should come as no surprise. Getting the film made must have been a miracle and what Reich's efforts have yielded is nothing less than revelatory.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: **** 4-Stars

She's Allergic To Cats enjoys its World Premiere at FANTASIA 2016

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

AS THE GODS WILL - FANTASIA 2016 - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw - Daruma head explosions


As The Gods Will (2016)
Dir. Takeshi Miike
Starring: Shôta Sometani, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Rirî Furankî

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The ridiculously prolific Takeshi Miike generates a blood-spattered Lewis Carroll-like fantasy from the manga by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Akeji Fujimura in which a trio of high school students need to outwit a few bizarre entities in order to survive. The first episode is a truly hilarious and vicious adventure involving a not-to-bright daruma doll playing red-light-green-light with a classroom full of adolescents.

Any student caught moving in the daruma's gaze results in their head exploding. Needles to say, there are plenty of opportunities for Miike to focus on cerebellum-popping carnage. Head explosions never overstay their welcome. Unfortunatelty, a few other elements, do.


Alas, the film grinds oppressively after this terrific opening as our hapless heroes are pursued by a huge "waving cat, amongst other other grotesqueries. There's a kind of live-action video gaming quality to the proceedings and things just seem to go on and on for what seems like an eternity.

At four minutes shy of two hours, "eternity" seems to be the operative word here.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ** Two Stars

As the Gods Will enjoys its Canuck premiere at Fantasia 2016.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

THE DARK STRANGER - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Promising feature debut opens July 15 in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax on Cineplex Theatre’s Event Screens, followed by July 26 release on VOD via Raven Banner Releasing.

The Dark Stranger (2015)
Dir. Chris Trebilcock
Starring: Katie Findlay, Stephen McHattie, Enrico Colantoni,
Jennifer Dale, Mark O'Brien, Alex Ozerov, Emma Campbell

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Art and horror make for strange, but thoroughly appropriate bedfellows in life and art. True artists must be imbued with obsessive, self-reflective and often selfish qualities to create work of both originality and lasting value. Mental unbalance is not a pre-requisite, but comes in mighty handy amongst the best of the best.

The Dark Stranger is a curious and original genre film which delicately blends the elements of family drama, fairy tale (with literal graphic novel qualities) and outright horror (of the psychological and paranormal variety). Call it an everything including the kitchen sink motion picture experience which is buoyed by a superb cast and an overall one-of-a-kind directorial hand.

Katie Findlay in a star-making performance.
The camera absolutely loves her.

Leah Garrison (Katie Findlay, in a terrific star-making performance), is a young comic book artist in recovery from deep depression, a nervous breakdown and self-afflicted cutting. She lives with her loving university professor Dad (Enrico Colantoni) and typically goofy, but equally loving younger brother (Alex Ozerov) in a gorgeous, refurbished old house in one of the tonier (and leafier) neighbourhoods of downtown Toronto.

So, you might ask, what's this babe's problem?

Well, you'd possibly go bunyip too if your late mother (Emma Campbell), an acclaimed artist who passed mega-wads of talent DNA to her daughter, became increasingly agitated, irrational, roiling with rage and finally, exploding like Vesuvius - not only coming close to murdering her daughter, but in despair, offing herself. (It's also possible Leah inherited some wacko-psycho genes from Mommie Dearest to compliment her artistic gifts.)

Yup, I accept this.

During Leah's convalescence, a series of incidents converge to create a heady brew of horror. Witness: an art maven (Stephen McHattie) wishes to mount a show of her late mother's work, a series of nightmares involving an evil entity who serves as both artistic inspiration and tormenter and finally, an explosion of creativity that yields magnificent work, but in so doing, extracts the payment of self-mutilation.

Is this a psychological manifestation of the young Leah's despair, or is it something much more sinister and downright unholy? Or could it be both? Whatever it proves to be, we're offered a slowly mounting creepy-crawly terror that eventually releases a geyser of outright dread.

The Dark Stranger will certainly feel a bit oddball to audiences accustomed to a lowest common denominator story structure. The family drama elements border on an After-School-style special, the fairly tale aspects (reflected by gorgeously animated renderings of Leah's art) feel more suited to that curious blend of Grimm darkness and gentle naiveté inherent in the classic Soviet Gorky Studios fairy tales of the 60s and the horror itself blends David Cronenberg-like body mutilation with dollops of Clive Barker and Italian gialli thrown in for good measure. Add to this mix a dash or two of romance twixt Leah and her father's Teaching Assistant (Mark O'Brien) and the occasional visits from a well-meaning, but alternately annoying and sinister psychiatrist (Jennifer Dale).

And yes, there will be blood.

Veteran character actor Stephen McHattie.
Villain? Or hero? Or both?
In industry parlance, the movie might be seen as a "tweener", a film lodged between genres, but for those with a more discerning eye, the pleasures are varied and in summation finally create a wholly unique experience. At its most basic level, we have a movie with well-shaded characters and a compelling narrative which seems familiar, but takes turns surprising us just when things get too recognizable.

On yet another level, whether consciously intentional or not, the film provides a unique villain - the sort of entity many artists, especially in the film business, must face - the bureaucrat, the executive, the holder of the purse strings - that soul-bereft entity which causes the greatest confusion and turmoil within genuine creative people. Here our villain takes on properties of split-personality-like malevolence. (Like I said, not unlike the aforementioned gatekeepers.)

On one level, I did wish the more naturalistic aspects of the story had been tempered with a slightly otherworldly mise-en-scene to deflect from the more conventional family drama tropes which stick out like moderately sore thumbs. Ultimately though, this potentially fatal flaw is overshadowed. The Dark Stranger gradually and eventually takes hold with a vicelike grip, offering as many moments of genuine terror as it serves up genuine heartfelt emotion.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ Three-and-a-Half-Stars

The Dark Stranger opens July 15 in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax on Cineplex Theatre’s Event Screens, followed by July 26 release on VOD via Raven Banner Releasing. The film is also scheduled for U.S. ancillary release across all major digital, EST, VOD, streaming, TV and DVD platforms in October by genre distributor, Terror Films.

Friday, 17 June 2016

IN A LONELY PLACE + LA CHIENNE - Blu-Ray/DVD Review Double Bill By Greg Klymkiw - Haunting Nicholas Ray Noir on Criterion. Haunting Jean Renoir Melodrama on Criterion. Hangdog Male Leads make perfect bedfellows. Join in, why don't you? Room for all!

Michel Simon and Humphrey Bogart
Brothers in Lost Love and MURDER!
Almost two decades separate two great male performances twixt two of the screen's greatest hangdog faces - Michel Simon in Jean Renoir's La Chienne and Humphrey Bogart in Nicholas Ray's In A Lonely Place. Both involve the least likely candidates to get mixed up in murder, yet it doesn't take long for both to become embroiled in sordid underworlds; by their own choosing, to be sure, but mostly because deep, deep down, their respective psyches demand it.

The former is one of the best French films of the 30s.

The latter is one of the best American films of the 50s.

Both are unforgettable.

Both are Criterion discs.

Make it a double bill o' delectable despair.

Note: In A Lonely Place reviewed first, just below La Chienne is reviewed.


Is Bogie a killer, or is he just lonely?
Gloria Grahame is beginning to wonder.
In A Lonely Place (1950)
Dir. Nicholas Ray
Scr. Edmund H. North, Andrew Solt
Nvl. Dorothy B. Hughes
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid,
Art Smith, Robert Warwick, Martha Stewart, Jeff Donnell, Hedda Brooks

Review By Greg Klymkiw

"I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me.
I lived a few weeks while she loved me."

These are but a few lines from a new screenplay by writer Dixon "Dix" Steele (Humphrey Bogart), but they might as well be the story of his life in Nicholas Ray's haunting film noir classic In A Lonely Place. Easily one of the greatest films of the 50s and featuring a Bogie performance that was the pinnacle of his great career, the film is a definite must-see, but after your first viewing you'll be compelled to see it again and again and yet again.

It's a brooding thriller set against the backdrop of the studio dream factories. Dix, a scrappy drinker, brawler and writer is offered the job to adapt a novel. In a Hollywood watering hole, his harried agent Mel Lippman (Art Smith) begs him to take the job since Dix desperately needs a hit and the best-selling potboiler has huge grosses written all over it. This is exemplified by Mildred Atkinson (Martha Stewart), a not-too-bright coat check girl, who can barely get the book out of her face.

Dix needs to read the book overnight and render a decision by morning. A 40-watt bulb blinks on above his noggin and he invites Mildred to his pad to tell him the story so he doesn't have to waste time reading it. Mildred suspects Dix wants only to boink her, so she makes a point of mentioning she has a boyfriend. Dix assures her that he's only interested in hiring her for services rendered - she's read the book and now he doesn't have to.

Through the courtyard leading to his pad, with the still-trepidatious coat-check filly in tow, Dix meets eyes with Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame), a burgeoning actress and ravishing new neighbour in the apartment complex. Once inside, Dix proves he's good to his word and clearly has no interest in seducing Mildred. She relates the book's story and he's convinced it's a piece of garbage. He shoves some cab money in Mildred's fist and sends her packing so he can get some shuteye.

Then next morning, he gets a visit from his best friend and old army buddy Brub Nicolai (Frank Lovejoy). It's not a social call. Brub is a homicide detective and asks Dix to accompany him "downtown" for an interrogation with Captain Lochner (Carl Benton Reid), a hard-nosed dick.

Mildred, the coat check girl, has been brutally murdered, her body tossed in a very "lonely place". Dix is the prime suspect. Luckily, a band-aid solution to his plight is provided by a partially believable alibi rendered by the sexy doll face Laurel Gray.

This is where In A Lonely Place solidifies its greatness. An impending murder rap places Dix in a love relationship with Laurel which, in turn, inspires him to write a great screenplay, elevating the source material to a film with the potential to be a major prestige picture.

On one hand, the film is one of the most dizzyingly romantic love stories ever made, whilst on the other, it's a genuinely suspense-filled thriller. On both fronts, the film is a compulsive, heavily atmospheric addition to the film noir movement, expertly directed by Nicholas Ray (Rebel Without a Cause, Johnny Guitar, They Live by Night, Bigger Than Life, A Woman's Secret). Ray has always excelled at seeking humanity in the darkest of settings with characters who are cimmerian-to-the-max and In A Lonely Place might well be his greatest work.

He loves her?
He loves her not?
Bogart was a titan. As an actor and star, he was a true original. His performance here, though, blows everything away. Buried beneath the layers of cynicism and just plain meanness, is a man with plenty of romance, love and caring. That it's inspired by Gloria Grahame's Laurel Gray is no surprise. Grahame holds her own against Bogart. Many will remember her as the whore with a heart of gold in Capra's It's a Wonderful Life and Lee Marvin's moll who's disfigured by a pot of scalding coffee tossed in her face in Lang's The Big Heat. Here, she too hits a career pinnacle.

Dix has had a history of violent behaviour. We see several examples of his hair-trigger temper and as the pressures of the homicide case against him mounts, his warm, loving demeanour, which both Laurel and his renewed faith in his writing have allowed to blossom, eventually transform into something truly malevolent.

What finally comes through so poignantly in Ray's astonishing film is just how all of his central characters are in lonely places. Our poor hat-check girl is, at it turns out, in an abusive relationship and seeks solace in cheap melodramatic potboilers. Even that loneliness doesn't save her from the fate of murder in a lonely place. Laurel who once lived a life of aimlessness in search of stardom, finds love, purpose and meaning, only to see it ripped away from her, sending her back to a place even lonelier than before.

And Dix? Struggling his whole life with what seems like a blend of a bi-polar imbalance in addition to memories of his experience in a bloody, senseless world war, have been his constant companions, no matter what brief oases appear. Loneliness is his life. What should have been a magical time, is quashed.

What's worse, I think, is that Dix knows his whole life will be relegated to despair.

All these people, in spite of the dream factories around them, face nothing but heartache. Even more telling is that we get a mirror-view sense of life through the lens of Nicholas Ray. The words Dix writes in his script might well apply to us all:
I was born when she kissed me.

I died when she left me.

I lived a few weeks while she loved me.
We should all live for a few weeks in our otherwise miserable lives.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars

The Criterion Collection edition of In A Lonely Place comes complete with a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray; a new audio commentary featuring film scholar Dana Polan; I’m a Stranger Here Myself, a 1975 documentary about director Nicholas Ray, slightly condensed for this release; a new interview with biographer Vincent Curcio about actor Gloria Grahame; a piece from 2002 featuring filmmaker Curtis Hanson; a radio adaptation from 1948 of the original Dorothy B. Hughes novel, broadcast on the program "Suspense"; the trailer; and an essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith.
Maurice (Michel Simon) loves Lulu (Janie Marèse). Lulu loves his money, but loves her pimp (Georges Flamant)
a whole lot more. Ain't it always the way?
La Chienne (1931)
Dir. Jean Renoir
Scr. Renoir & André Mouézy-Éon
Nvl. Georges de La Fouchardière
Starring: Michel Simon, Janie Marèse, Georges Flamant,
Magdeleine Bérubet, Roger Gaillard

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Michel Simon probably wins hand-down in the hangdog mug sweepstakes. He was also one of the greatest actors who ever lived. To director Jean Renoir, Simon was not only a close friend, but a constant presence in Renoir's work. Simon was to Renoir what DeNiro was to Scorsese or John Wayne to John Ford. Just after working together on the delightfully sordid and pain-wracked melodrama La Chienne, Simon delivered one of his most famous and beloved performances in Boudu Saved From Drowning (remade by Paul Mazursky in 1986 as Down and Out in Beverly Hills with Nick Nolte in the role of the itinerant beggar who takes over the household of a bourgeois family).

Based on the novel "La Chienne" ("The Bitch") by Georges de La Fouchardière and remade in 1945 by Fritz Lang as Scarlet Street with Edward G. Robinson in the role Simon immortalized here, Renoir's film is despair-ridden as all get-out, but features the great French auteur's mordant wit and irony within the social context of the great story. It's not by accident, but by design that Renoir frames his film within the context of a Punch and Judy-like puppet show, its tiny, box-like proscenium opening and closing upon a live-action rendering of what's essentially a morality play.

Michel Simon as the dweeby longtime hosiery cashier Maurice Legrand seems born to be under thumb of women who abuse him. His wife Adèle (Magdeleine Bérubet) constantly berates him, dismisses his only joy as an amateur painter and never fails to compare him unfavourably to her long-lost and presumed-to-be-dead husband, Sgt. Alexis Godard (Roger Gaillard), the Great Man's stern portrait erected prominently in their home. When Maurice meets the beautiful, young hooker Lulu (Janie Marèse) he's smitten, but also sees in her someone who is more abused and downtrodden than he is. He wants nothing more than to offer shelter, protection and love.

Lowly Clerk, Sleazy Pimp: Who to Choose?
When she discovers he's a painter, Dédé (Georges Flamant), her pimp and love of her life sees a great opportunity to make some easy dough. He's able to sell a couple of paintings to a gallery owner and in no time, there's considerable demand for Maurice's work. Lulu convinces Maurice to paint more and begins to take credit for the work since he never signs his paintings and eventually agrees that she should sign them.

When the long lost Sgt. appears as not dead but very much alive, Maurice sees a great opportunity to leave his horrid Adèle and move in permanently with Lulu. Things, of course, are going to go terribly wrong. On the surface, just desserts come to all involved, but there's no sweetness to temper the bitterness.

All humanity in the world of Renoir's great film are reduced to puppets on a tiny stage. Even when the film is in full-on live-action "realism" mode, Renoir so often frames in box-like, proscenium fashion as if everyone is but a player, made of wood rather than flesh and blood, exuding big emotions and meeting with ends which only could be earned in a world of morality and melodramatics.

In so doing, the film is infused with far more humanity and honesty than most pictures of its own time (or any time, for that matter). Maurice's loneliness, the vaguely cretinous "qualities" Simon brings to the role and his desperation to love (and be loved) drive him to desperate actions.

And yet, by the end of the film, our sympathies almost lie with the pimp.

Such is the greatness of Renoir. He confounds all expectations.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars

The Criterion Collection edition of La Chienne includes a new, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray; an Introduction to the film from 1961 by director Jean Renoir; a new interview with Renoir scholar Christopher Faulkner; a new restoration of On purge bébé (1931), Renoir’s first sound film, also starring Michel Simon; Jean Renoir le patron: “Michel Simon” a ninety-five-minute 1967 French television program featuring a conversation between Renoir and Simon, directed by Jacques Rivette; a new English subtitle translation; an essay by film scholar Ginette Vincendeau and an astoundingly gorgeous new cover designed by Blutch.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

DRESSED TO KILL - Review By Greg Klymkiw - De Palma Masterpiece June 17, 2016 at TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX in major series entitled: Split/Screen: The Cinema of Brian De Palma


Dressed To Kill (1980)
Dir. Brian De Palma
Starring: Michael Caine, Angie Dickinson, Nancy Allen,
Keith Gordon, Dennis Franz, David Margulies, William Finley

Review By Greg Klymkiw

If Dressed To Kill was merely a tartly effective thriller, it might have been enough to solidify its place in film history, but the fact that it goes so much further is what keeps it to the forefront, where all great cinema deserves to be.

The fact of the matter is that cruelty is the driving engine of the film - not just cruelty for cruelty's sake, but to expose our own need to wallow in richly delineated sadism, especially as it's perpetrated upon others (those characters in the film who are all examples of lives that have "become unnecessary" - lives, perhaps, not unlike those belonging to most all of miserable humanity).

READ GREG KLYMKIW'S FULL REVIEW OF BRIAN DE PALMA'S DRESSED TO KILL HERE

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

DE PALMA - Guest Review By Meraj Dhir - Fetishes of a Master Revered: Theatrical Release June 17 at TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX, TIFF series "Split/Screen: The Cinema of Brian De Palma"


De Palma (2016)
Dir. Noah Baumbach, Jack Paltrow
Starring: Brian De Palma

Guest Review By Meraj Dhir

De Palma is indispensable - a jewel for filmmakers and film lovers alike. Then again, Brian De Palma is a jewel unto himself and is more than deserving of this first-rate feature documentary spanning over 40 years of a vital directing career. Jake Paltrow (The Good Night, Young Ones) and Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha) have teamed up to create a film that's as exciting, engrossing and suspenseful as one of the eponymous director’s own grand thrillers.

A simple, frontal camera set-up allows auteur Brian De Palma, now 75, to guide us through his films and his career. The audience is granted a privileged position at the feet of the master for just under two glorious hours of film connoisseurship - replete with delightful anecdotes, breathtakingly searing film excerpts and little-before-seen footage of the filmmakers’ earliest works . . . The portrait of De Palma that emerges is one of a director who is as much an anti-establishment, countercultural auteur as a studio company-man whose mastery of technical craft and cinematic know-how allowed him to make films that were both intensely personal and box office triumphs.

READ MERAJ DHIR'S FULL FILM CORNER GUEST REVIEW OF "DE PALMA"

Monday, 13 June 2016

LONDON HAS FALLEN - BLU-RAY/DVD Review by Greg Klymkiw - America the Greatest!


London Has Fallen (2016)
Dir. Babak Najafi
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett,
Jackie Earle Haley, Radha Mitchell, Charlotte Riley, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Deep in the bowels of London's Charing Cross tube station, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), Presidential Bodyguard Extraordinaire, slams a terrorist face-first into the cement and pins his arm to his back with a glistening attack knife shoved deeply into the man's flesh. He picks up the criminal zealot's walkie-talkie and engages in a bit of verbal jousting with a terrorist who just happens to be the big brother of the lad pinned down by our hero.

It is here where Gerard Butler gets to deliver a line of dialogue which might match (or supersede) some of the greatest tough-guy quips in action movie history.

He growls:

"Why don't you guys pack up your shit and head back to FUCK-HEAD-ISTAN or wherever it is you come from?"

Not only is the line vile, mean spirited and vaguely racist, but I have to admit it's incredibly, albeit darkly, funny. In its own strange way, it reveals how, in the war against terrorism, nobody in the U.S. can ever keep precise track of what brown-skinned Middle-Eastern terrorists they're fighting. (Indeed, the movie never goes out of its way to precisely, or at least CLEARLY reveal this, save for the fact that the bad guys are, uh, Middle Eastern and, uh, of course, terrorists.)

The aforementioned scene also leads to a touching moment wherein Butler viciously tortures his captured terrorist to death over the walkie-talkie for the benefit of big brother on the other end. Once little bro' gurgles out the last clot of blood from his mouth, President Ascher (Aaron Eckhart) looks queasily upon the carnage and queries: "Was that really necessary?"

Butler, with a straight face, responds: "No."


London Has Fallen is the inevitable sequel to the surprise box office hit of 2013 Olympus Has Fallen, which I opined at the time was "one of the stupidest movies made during the last decade". Well, I'm not sure London Has Fallen is more stupid, but its zero I.Q. matches that of its predecessor quite evenly.

Olympus featured Koreans launching terrorist violence against America, specifically the White House in Washington, D.C. London has all heads of state coming in for the funeral of the British Prime Minister - a perfect opportunity for terrorist attacks, the decimation of London and to take down as many of the free world's leaders as possible.

Olympus was directed by veteran Antoine (Training Day) Fuqua, whilst relative newcomer Babak Najafi takes over the helm with London and I might, in fact, actually give the nod to Najafi for action direction over Fuqua

Like Olympus, London delivers violence, American Propaganda, more violence, cheesy dialogue and even more violence, with much of the aforementioned bone crunching and blood-letting handled very decently. There's also a terrific extended chase scene which begins at the 20-minute mark and doesn't let up for a good 10-15 minutes and there's plenty of cheesy CGI to destroy all the London landmarks we know and love.

The plot, for what it's worth, is little more than Butler trying to get Eckhart to safety. Along the way, many evil brown-skinned terrorists are dispatched with glee. AND, there are plenty of explosions. If you like this sort of thing and if it's nicely crafted as it is here, I can only ask, "What's not to like?"

London Has Fallen is released via VVS Films June 14, 2016 on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD. The Blu-Ray comes with a couple of standard EPK-like "making of" special features.

LONDON HAS FALLEN,
sequel to the smash hit
Olympus Has Fallen,
will be available June 14, 2016 on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD

Here's your chance to win a free Blu-Ray from VVS Films

Answer the following London-related movie trivia questions.
The first two entries to get as many right as possible,
by 11:59pm June 13, 2016
will be the WINNERS

Email your answers to: filmcornercontests@gmail.com



Here are three mind-bending movie trivia questions:


1. How many bell notes are sounded during the London Films logo?

2. Where in London are the ashes of Laurence Olivier buried?

3. Gerald Thomas is the famous director of all the British "Carry On" sex comedies. What is the name of his Academy Award winning nephew?










Answer as quickly and as best you can.

The first two entries with the most correct answers will win.

GOOD LUCK

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

WIN A FREE BLU-RAY of LONDON HAS FALLEN from VVS FILMS - CONTEST BELOW, DUDES!!!

LONDON HAS FALLEN,
sequel to the smash hit
Olympus Has Fallen,
will be available June 14, 2016 on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD

Here's your chance to win a free Blu-Ray from VVS Films

Answer the following London-related movie trivia questions.
The first two entries to get as many right as possible,
by 11:59pm June 13, 2016
will be the WINNERS

Email your answers to: filmcornercontests@gmail.com



Here are three mind-bending movie trivia questions:


1. How many bell notes are sounded during the London Films logo?

2. Where in London are the ashes of Laurence Olivier buried?

3. Gerald Thomas is the famous director of all the British "Carry On" sex comedies. What is the name of his Academy Award winning nephew?










Answer as quickly and as best you can.

The first two entries with the most correct answers will win.

GOOD LUCK

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

THE WAITING ROOM - Review By Greg Klymkiw - The Living Death of War *****


The Waiting Room (2015)
Dir. Igor Drljača
Starring: Jasmin Geljo, Zeljko Kecojevic, Cynthia Ashperger

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Even when a war is 20-years-ago and thousands of miles away, it sears its ugly imprint upon your soul forever. It's even worse if you've been forced to abandon all you know and love for a new country with few prospects for immigrants and refugees.

Jasmin (Jasmin Geljo, a tough, pug-faced Buster Keaton) knows this all too well. The popular actor and playwright fled the violent dismantlement of the former Yugoslavia and settled in Toronto. Estranged from his first wife, he still finds time to visit her in the terminal cancer ward, alternating the death-watch with his youthful adult daughter. Married to a much younger woman, with whom he's sired two children, Jasmin grows increasingly distant from her.

Eking out a living as a construction labourer whilst endlessly auditioning for stereotypical television roles requiring Eastern European gangster "types", he dreams of recapturing former glories (of the thespian kind) by returning to Sarajevo to mount the hilariously bawdy theatrical comedy he's been performing for Toronto's Yugoslavian community.


War, however, forces dreams to either die hard or at best, reside in a kind of purgatory. His attempts to move forward seem to create an ever-increasing stasis. Taking part in the filmed portion of a political avant-garde art installation about the turbulent events two decades earlier is what finally ignites memories of the war he's tried so hard to closet. One repression usually leads to another and Jasmin's purgatory intensifies.


Writer-director Igor Drljača has taken several astonishing leaps forward from his dazzling 2012 debut feature Krivina.

This sophomore effort is even more richly layered, but on this occasion, he's splashed the movie with healthy sprinklings of (mostly sardonic) humour amidst the angst. What consumes us, though, is Drljača's rich mise-en-scène - gorgeously composed still-life shots, the drab, grey Toronto juxtaposed with a fake backdrop of the gorgeous Yugoslavian countryside. The pace is miraculously measured and calculated; so much so that the picture's guaranteed to mesmerize.

Like his first feature, Drljača has crafted a devastating film about war with nary a single shot fired from a gun, nor a single bomb exploded. The echoes, explosions and shots heard round the world are burrowed in the film's devastating silence and the pain etched into the faces of those suffering strangers in a strange land are like silent screams ever-reminding us of the true casualties of war - those who live a living death.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** Five Stars

The Waiting Room opens June 3 in Canada via A-71 Entertainment with its inaugural theatrical play date at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and additional dates to follow.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

TO LIFE (À la vie) - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Auschwitz survivors get some fun in the sun.

Sand, surf and fun in the sun
await this trio of MILF Holocaust survivors.

To Life (aka À la vie) (2014)
Dir. Jean-Jacques Zilbermann
Scr. Zilbermann, Danièle D'Antoni, Odile Barski
Starring: Julie Depardieu, Suzanne Clement, Johanna ter Steege,
Hippolyte Girardot, Mathias Mlekuz, Benjamin Wangermee

Review By Greg Klymkiw

I suspect I'm going to burn in hell for this, but about thirty minutes into the ludicrous post-holocaust melodrama À la vie, a most (shall we say?) unusual notion crept into my brain, thus making the entire turgid affair watchable without having to nail my feet to the floor. My thoughts began swirling with possibilities when it occurred to me that Three MILFs from Auschwitz might be the more appropriate title for this abomination and its tag-line could be something like: "Hot MILFs at the Beach! They've survived the Holocaust and now they're gonna: Live! Laugh! Cry! Most of all, though, these girls just wanna have fun!"

Ugh! That's really what the picture boils down to.

15 years after meeting, befriending and caring for each other in Auschwitz, three plucky MILFs: Helene from Paris (Julie Depardieu, yes, she's the daughter of Big Daddy Gerard Depardieu), Lily (Johanna her Steege) from Amsterdam and Montreal-based Rose (Suzanne Clement), get together for some sun, fun and frolics on the beaches of the northern French coast town Berck-sur-mer. (Uh, for the uninitiated a MILF is a "Mother I'd Like to Fuck" and the soon-to-be-utlized FILF is a "Father I'd Like to Fuck".)

"Mais oui, but I am a castrato, and you're not!"
Our MILFs are staying in the resort town gratis thanks to the largesse of handsome FILF Raymond (Mathias Mlekuz). He's well aware of the special nature of this reunion and donates the use of his rental property. It doesn't hurt that Raymond still carries a torch for Helene (she turned down his marriage proposal years ago, but they've maintained a close friendship). Instead of a potential union between this perfectly matched couple, Helene married her sad-sack childhood sweetheart Henri (Hippolyte Girardot). Why is he so dour? Well, in Auschwitz, his testes were blasted with radiation, then snipped off.

In a nutshell (so to speak), Helene has been married to a castrato for fifteen years. He can't get it up and is only able to provide kissing, cuddling and caressing. No matter. She loves him dearly. In spite of this undying love, Helene confides to her fellow MILF Holocaust survivors that this state of affairs has been depressing the living crap out of her, especially since she is still a virgin and longs for schwance instead of the (no-doubt) nimble digits drilling into her needy, greedy mutersheyd. Like some MILF Holocaust Survivor version of Porky's, the gals make it their business to get Helene laid.

As luck would have it, klafte-pronging is just around the corner. Jilted hubbie-to-never-be Raymond introduces the gals to the buff figure of Pierre (Benjamin Wangermee), proprietor of Club Mickey, the local beach day camp for kids. This 20-something God of Love turns out to be an Algerian orphan who lived in state care most of his life - it wasn't quite Auschwitz, but traumatic enough to give him some cred in the suffering sweepstakes.

Luckily, he's got a raging hard-on due to being a virgin and he's so smitten with virginal Helene that she is on the verge of getting some strokin' from a bonafide MILF lover.
A young, buff virgin Algerian orphan looking for MILF.
Of course, as this is a film about Holocaust survivors, there's plenty of serious issues to be dealt with. Alas, they're handled very clumsily and rife with cliches. All three women have deep secrets they want to reveal and the screenplay too conveniently allows each woman a shot at spilling the goods which have haunted them for fifteen years.

Everything about the picture is by rote and nothing ever rings true - so much so, that one wonders why director Zilbermann even bothered. Ah, he bothered because this is A TRUE STORY, based upon his own mother and her two friends. "Based on" seems to be the operative phrase to apply here. This is clearly a fictionalized version of the events. Though I've not seen it, Zilbermann has already made a documentary about his mom called Irene and Her Sisters. As it deals with the real subjects, I suspect it's not as ludicrously dappled in the perverse fluorescent colour scheme he employs to capture this empty fictional rendering.

In addition to the dreadful script, lacking as it is in genuine shadings of character, complexity and genuine emotion, the production design goes out of its way to be as accurate as possible in capturing period detail, but nothing ever seems to be "lived in". One of the more egregious elements soiling the picture is the jauntily horrendous ooh-la-la score which makes the film far too similar to a horrendous Claude Lelouch affair with music (if one can call it that) by the (mostly) insufferable accordionist Francis Lai.

About the only positive note is that the performance of Depardieu is extraordinary enough to evoke a genuine tear or two. One scene where she first discovers that one of her friends in Auschwitz is not dead is pretty extraordinary. Sadly, she struggles with attempting to find a character amidst the film's dross.
MILFs have secrets. Whaddya say they're gonna share a few?
Nothing in the film rings true.

"But it's a true story," you say.

I say, "So what?" If a movie can't make itself truthful, then it betrays all tenets of good storytelling.

The most disappointing aspect of the film is dashed when the MILFS declare they will meet regularly every year at the same resort. Damn! There goes the potential for a Bob Hope and Bing Crosby "on the road" franchise (albeit with MILF Holocaust survivors, 'natch). All through this wretched excuse for a movie, I kept imagining different locales for our girls to cavort about in endless sequels. Disappointingly we'll never get to see what shenanigans these wacky MILFs from Auschwitz could have had in Bali, Waikiki and Morocco. The list is endless, but merely relegated to my feverish imagination.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: * One-Star

TO LIFE (À la vie) is an Unobstructed View release which opens May 20 in Canada.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

LEAGUE OF EXOTIQUE DANCERS opens theatrically on May 20, 2016 in Toronto (Bloor), Vancouver (Rio), Edmonton (Metro Cinema) via KinoSmith

Legendary Burlesque Queen and Russ Meyer Star
KITTEN NATIVIDAD, her cutey cartoony still emblazoned
on the equally legendary gentlemen's club, The Body Shop.
League of Exotique Dancers (2016)
Dir. Rama Rau
Prd. Ed Barreveld
Starring: Kitten Natividad, Camille 2000, Delilah Jones, Gina Bon Bon, Holiday O'Hara, Judith Stein, Lovey Goldmine, Marinka, Toni Elling

READ THE FULL **** FOUR-STAR REVIEW by Greg Klymkiw HERE

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

SUNSET SONG - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Oh Dear, Another Terence Davies Masterpiece. What else is new? UK's Greatest Living Director Serves Up Epic of Romance and War.


Sunset Song (2015)
Dir. Terence Davies
Nvl. Lewis Grassic Gibbon
Starring: Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Kevin Guthrie, Jack Greenlees, Daniela Nardini, Douglas Rankine, Ian Pirie, Linda Duncan McLaughlin, Mark Bonnar

Review By Greg Klymkiw

To my mind, Terence Davies is a National Treasure and easily the United Kingdom's greatest living director. Over the course of 30+ years, he's brought us eight feature length diamonds. Some have been exquisitely in the rough like 1983's The Terence Davies Trilogy of short films, the 1993 Southern Gothic of The Neon Bible and the shimmering 2008 Liverpool documentary Of Time and the City.

The carefully hewn diamonds are something else altogether - one picture after another to take their rightful place as cinematic equivalents to the priceless Persian Koh-I-Noor diamond. Blending painterly tableaux, to-die-for lighting, sweetly breathtaking camera moves (often slow and subtle), replete with Davies's virtually trademark recurring themes of time and memory, are, with few peers, amongst the best films of all time.


The masterpieces include 1988's Distant Voices, Still Lives, the gulp-and-tear-inducing exploration of a family seeking solace in "old songs" at the local pub to allay the constant physical, verbal and psychological assaults from a brutal patriarch, 1992's The Long Day Closes, a ravishing ode to movies in post-war Britain, 2000's The House of Mirth, the finest Edith Wharton film adaptation anyone will ever make, and 2011's The Deep Blue Sea, the finest film adaptation of any Terence Rattigan play that (you guessed it) anyone will ever make. (That said, Anthony Asquith's adaptation of The Browning Version with Michael Redgrave is a pubic-hair-close-second in the Rattigan movie sweepstakes.)

And now, a new masterpiece can be added to the pile.


Sunset Song is the ravishing, romantic story of a young woman who gives up her dreams of a higher education to care for farm and family. Her father is a brute who physically abuses his eldest son and demands constant sex from his wife, turning her into a breeding machine long after she is physically able to handle it. Upon the matriarch's death, Daddy Dearest gets a stroke and attempts to demand sexual favours from his only daughter. As she always has, she fights back against the unfairness and evil of patriarchy. Though her dreams of teacher's college were dashed, she discovers that her real dream consists of a deep love for the land, its people and the sweet-faced kindness offered by marrying a handsome, caring young man.

All seems well and then, war.

What's precious about her life is about to flip topsy turvy, but her strength, indomitable courage and intelligence will constantly be set upon the greatest of life's challenges. Davies charges this simple, yet complex tale with an astonishing mise en scène. Never has an on-screen courtship been sweeter and the love experienced by the young man and woman beats its heart constantly through joyous events, strife and hardships of the most devastating order and beyond.

We're faced with a myriad of life's moments with Davies's masterly direction: a deliriously romantic exchange amidst a sea of sheep, a glorious wedding sequence and barn dance, the cruelties of shell shock and the horrors of war.


There's a sequence in Sunset Song which is blessed with one of the most moving series of images and sounds that you're likely to see in any films - period. It's pure Terence Davies, yet also worthy of the very best of John Ford. The sequence is especially reminiscent of those stirring moments from Ford's screen adaptation of novelist Richard Llewellyn's How Green Was My Valley - a cornucopia of knockout moments wherein Welsh miners sing songs of sadness and joy at key points in Ford/Llewellyn's narrative of the land and its people.

Davies, of course, is not in Ford's Wales, but delivers his narrative of the land and people of Scotland in this heartbreaking, but ultimately moving and soaring film adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon's immortal book "Sunset Song", the first in his important trilogy, "A Scots Quair".

As this is a Terence Davies film, music and song carry us to euphoric and elegiac heights. Using what might be the ultimate contemporary recording of Hugh Robertson's arrangement of Katherine Tynan's gut wrenching "All in the April Evening" (performed by The Glasgow Orpheus Choir), Davies and cinematographer Michael (Winter's Bone) McDonough's dazzling camera follow the people of the Estate of Kinraddie in Kincardineshire Mearns of northeastern Scotland as they slowly make their way over the rolling fields of yellow grasses until they converge upon the parish cathedral to prepare for a very solemn Sunday Service.


As beautiful and rich as the images are, along the country road and past the ancient rock buttressing the House of God, the camera, then dollying slowly backwards inside the cathedral as the townsfolk sit whilst sun streams through the majestic windows, waiting for the words of Reverend Gibbon (Mark Bonnar), there is a portent we cannot help but feel to our very core. It doesn't seem lost upon the townspeople either - what begins as a happy parade to worship, soon betrays visages of both melancholy and trepidation and the gait of the assembled, is ultimately not unlike a funeral march.

Tynan's song tells the tale of Christ's Passion, but given that Scotland has been corralled into war by England against The Hun, we cannot help but ascribe the meaning of the lyrics to reflect what really awaits the folk of Kinraddie:

The sheep with their little lambs
Pass'd me by on the road;
All in an April evening
I thought on the Lamb of God.

The lambs were weary, and crying
With a weak human cry;
I thought on the Lamb of God
Going meekly to die.


As the camera passes by the newly, happily married couple, Chris (Agyness Deyn) and Ewan (Kevin Guthrie), the lyrics are timed thusly:

. . . but for the lamb, The Lamb of God
Up on the hill-top green;

Here, Davies and McDonough reverse the angle upon the pulpit as the grim-faced Reverend slowly makes his way to the "holy" perch above the people. And the lyrics lament:

. . .Only a cross, a cross of shame
Two stark crosses between.


The Reverend ascends the stairs to his lectern of doom, lowers his head, then raises it, staring straight out at the congregation as the final lyrics hang in the air like a harbinger of death:

I saw the sheep with their lambs,
And thought on the Lamb of God.

The light then shines upon the suitably creepy Reverend as if it's been cranked-up by God Himself. Taking its place amongst such hellfire and brimstone cinematic sermons like John Gielgud in Joseph Strick's 1977 film of James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Orson Welles in John Huston's film of Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Davies is blessed with the casting of Mark Bonnar to have us (and the congregation), quaking with horror.


With his brogue pitched to hysteria and meanness, Bonnar's rendering of the sermon seems to be the very core of the film (even though the picture is essentially a grand coming of age story). It goes thusly:

"As you know, we are now at war with Germany. This NEW BABYLON has as many corruption as the old one. How long it will rage is what God in His wisdom will only know. But it's a chastisement by blood and fire that the nations must arise and prevail against this enemy. And Scotland, not the least of these, in its ancient health and humility to tread again the path of peace and courage that will ultimately lead to our victory.

Their King, which they also call Kaiser, is the Antichrist - a foul evil upon this Earth that must be swept away by the righteous.

Those who will not fight to defend their country, must be exposed for that they truly are.

Cowards. And pro-German cowards at that."

History proves that the needs of the state are always bolstered by organized religion. Worse yet, World War I notoriously sacrificed the youngest and largest number of men from Scotland, Ireland and the colonies (including Canada, Australia, etc.) to ensure victory. Whole swaths of generational promise were sacrificed in this dirty war fought between the "ruling classes".

God forbid Davies should ever be politically obvious in a didactic fashion, but in so far as he chooses his material and presents it, he still exposes as many terrible truths about humanity as only the best filmmakers/artists do. Sunset Song is a love story, a coming-of-age story, but most of all, it serves as one of the most heartbreaking and potent antiwar films of the new millennium.

And here's my guarantee, you will shed copious tears.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***** 5-Stars

Sunset Song Opens in Canada via Unobstructed View:
May 13: Toronto, Cineplex Cinemas Varsity and VIP (55 Bloor St. W)
Toronto Holdover, Magic Lantern Carlton Cinemas
May 27: Vancouver, Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour St.)
May 28: Winnipeg, Cinematheque (100 Arthur St.)
June 3: Calgary, Globe Cinema (617 8 Ave SW)
June 3: Waterloo, Princess Twin (46 King St. N)
June 17: Montréal, Cinéma du Parc (3575, av. du Parc)
Cinéma Beaubien (2396, rue Beaubien Est)
June 17: Ottawa, ByTowne Cinema (325 Rideau St.)
June 17: Québec City, Cinéma Le Clap (2360, chemin Sainte-Foy)
June 17: Cobourg, The Loft Cinema (201 Division St.)