Thursday, 31 August 2017

THREADS, CHARLES - Reviews By Greg Klymkiw - NFB at TIFF 2017 soars with joy and sadness

Life leads us from the frogs.

Charles (2017)
Dir. Dominic Etienne Simard

Review By Greg Klymkiw

In a mostly monochrome world, doughy lad Charles tends to his gargantuan lolly-gagging mother in a squalid flat. There are simple joys, of course, his beloved frogs, school and dips in the nearby lake. Dollops of colour, albeit pale and/or muted keep threatening to bring joy and solace, but they are fleeting.

Colour eventually explodes in the form of rising blue waters threatening to drown him. Will he be rescued? And whom or what will rescue him? Will it indeed be life itself? And oh, when it rains, what will rain down? Frogs? Kitty cats? Doggies? Big pudgy baby bears?

And will he find happiness?

Or is it, ultimately, imagination that will provide the ultimate freedom?

In Dominic Etienne Simard's Charles (a National Film Board of Canada co-production with France), it is the waters of time and the long, slow march to adulthood and freedom that await. The journey will, like so much of our lives, prove to be bittersweet. The film's gorgeous expressive visuals fill in all the blanks and finally, we're left with a work that soars with a great, though sometimes terrible beauty.


Charles plays at TIFF 2017.

The ties that bind hang by a thread.

Threads (2017)
Dir. Torill Kove

Review By Greg Klymkiw

To hang by a thread usually suggests imminent danger, something unstable and/or doomed to failure. In Oscar-Winner Torill Kove's lovely and simple animated short (a National Film Board of Canada co-production with Norway), it's the ties that bind which hang by a thread; a slender thread indeed.

This delicate and moving work details the life of a young woman who grabs a thread dangling from the heavens and allows it to hoist her upwards on a journey we come to recognize as life.

When she finds another thread, it's attached to an infant. She and the little girl are inseparable. Though the child grows incrementally into adulthood, they're bound together by that mysterious thread. Even when the thread leads the child to peers on a playground and, for a time, completely out of the mother's purview, the thread remains.

But the day comes, one we all dread I think, when when her daughter must sever the tie that binds to jump up to the heavens, to clutch her own thread.

As a single Dad to a teenage daughter the film inspired so many personal memories of past and present. It provided both solace and melancholy as I, like the mother in the film, face the imminent severing of my own thread to my own child. Yes, we dread the severance, but we also accept it. Life must go on and for those we love the dearest, our children, it must move forward.

There might not be anything new revealed in the sentiments and story revealed in the film, but its visual metaphor is one I welcomed, understood and responded to on a deep emotional level.

I suspect I'll not be alone in this.


Threads plays at TIFF 2017.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

SID AND NANCY - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Classic Punk Biopic on Criterion Collection

Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb as punk lovers
Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen in Cox classic.

Sid and Nancy (1986)
Dir. Alex Cox
Scr. Cox and Abbe Wool
Starring: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, Drew Schofield, David Hayman

Review By Greg Klymkiw

It seems inevitable that the wildly, strangely romantic tragic biopic Sid and Nancy would be Alex Cox's sophomore feature after his astonishing 1984 debut with the punk masterpiece Repo Man. Veering from an almost neo-realist 70s-style nihilism to a whacked-out druggie comedy to a borderline surreal presentation of a world gone completely nuts, Repo Man now feels like the ultimate 80s American film. Cox's picture, with its aimless punk played by Emilio Estevez finding his niche as a repo man with the sage Harry Dean Stanton, virtually spat in the face of the feel-goody-two-shoes of the execrable John Hughes teen dramedies and the sprawling, noisy, state-of-the-art macho action and adventure films that populated that often-wretched decade of cinema.

The hallucinogenic properties Cox brought to bear upon his first feature continued unabated with this grim, grimy love story twixt the legendary Sid Vicious (Gary Oldman), bassist of The Sex Pistols and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). Though the screenplay by Cox and co-writer Abbe Wool hits many tried and true biopic beats, the film ultimately excels during its many flights of fancy and the clearly oddball properties of a loving, domestic partnership against the backdrop of addiction, substance abuse and the sheer anarchy of the late 70s period of punk rock.

The film begins with the early rise to success of the band managed by Malcolm McLaren (David Hayman) and doesn't waste time getting Sid together with Nancy. They're young, they're in love and they're hooked on heroin. They're also inseparable - so much so that their couple-status begins to upset the applecart of the band. Once The Sex Pistols are on tour in America, things go from bad to worse. The group breaks up. Sid and Nancy continue as a couple whilst Sid attempts to launch a solo career.

And then, tragedy strikes in the squalidly legendary Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Love hurts and it most definitely doesn't last forever and death - violent death at that, has a bad habit of ending the joy and most of all, the pain.

As with Repo Man, Cox has a definitely unique eye on America and in Sid and Nancy, he delivers a skewed world through the eyes of these loving drug addicts (thanks to the astonishing work of cinematographer Roger Deakins and especially, Gary Oldman's star-making performance).

One of the most poignantly addled moments in the film comes when Nancy declares: "I hate my fuckin' life." Loving Sid responds: "This is just a rough patch. Things'll be much better when we get to America, I promise." Nancy looks blankly at him and matter-of-factly responds: "We're in America. We've been here a week."

Oh yeah.

Love hurts, alright. Especially when you don't know where you are. Or who you are.


Sid and Nancy is available as DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION on the Criterion Collection in a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed stereo soundtrack on the Blu-ray, an alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray, Two audio commentaries: one from 1994 featuring cowriter Abbe Wool, actors Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, cultural historian Greil Marcus, filmmakers Julien Temple and Lech Kowalski, and musician Eliot Kidd; the other from 2001 featuring cowriter-director Alex Cox and actor Andrew Schofield England’s Glory, a 1987 documentary on the making of Sid & Nancy, Infamous 1976 Bill Grundy interview with the Sex Pistols on British television, Rare telephone interview from 1978 with Sid Vicious, Interviews with Vicious and Nancy Spungen from the 1980 documentary D.O.A.: A Right of Passage, Archival interviews and footage, plus an essay by author Jon Savage and a 1986 piece compiled by Cox about Vicious, Spungen, and the making of the film.