Thursday, 16 February 2017

A MAN CALLED OVE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Sentimental Swedish Ode to Old Grump

Plucky Persian Perks Up Grump's Spirits.
A Man Called Ove (2016)
Dir. Hannes Holm
Nvl. Fredrik Backman
Starring: Rolf Lassgård, Bahar Pars, Filip Berg, Ida Engvoll

Review By Greg Klymkiw

You'd have to be the biggest grumpy-pants in the world not to respond to A Man Called Ove, a sweetly funny, delightfully romantic and almost-ridiculously sentimental picture about an old curmudgeon who keeps getting interrupted every single time he attempts to commit suicide. Based on Fredrik Backman's 2012 novel of the same name, writer-director Hannes (Behind Blue Skies) Holm renders this always-humorous and often tear-squirtingly moving movie in a solid, straightforward fashion that allows its first-rate cast to flex considerable muscle.

59-year-old Ove (Lassgård) carries his stern, sullen countenance as if it were a badge of honour. As the persnickety prefect of a townhouse community, he makes his daily morning rounds of the complex, wielding an iron fist and spitting out his disgust when anything (or anyone, for that matter) is the least bit out of place. Being a grump seems to be the only thing that gives him happiness.

After being forced into retirement from the factory he's been foreman at for several decades, the taciturn recent-widower becomes a man with a mission. His goal is to become reunited with his beloved wife (Ida Engvoll). As she's six-feet-under (he visits her grave daily with fresh flowers), the reunion can only be effected via suicide.

With a noose round his neck, a kerfuffle just outside the house commands his attention. A new family, led by the pretty, pregnant and definitely Persian matriarch Parvaneh (Pars), are moving in across the way and whilst backing up their u-Haul trailer, Ove's mailbox gets knocked over.

This will not be the first time his suicide attempts will be foiled. Little does he know it yet, but Ove still has plenty to live for and the world still has plenty of reason for him to keep going.

Kids will always melt the cold heart of a Grumpy-pants!
Many things annoy Ove, but it hasn't necessarily always been that way. Flashbacks (which occur just prior to his suicide attempts) deliver warm insight into his relationship with his father and, perhaps most importantly, the grand, though ultimately melancholy love story that shapes him.

Throughout much of his life, the thing that really irked (and continues to irk) him were/are the "white shirts" - bureaucrats whose only reason for being is to make the lives of everyone else intolerable. Ove's specialty has always been railing against the injustices of bureaucracy and finding ways to cut through the red tape placed before real people. Along the way, his own penchant for red tape forces him to take a good hard look in the mirror.

The centrepiece of A Man Called Ove is Rolf Lassgård's astonishing performance. The picture has been nominated for two Oscars, Best Foreign Film and Best Makeup, but the jaw-dropper omission is a Best Actor nod.

Lassgård's deadpan is impeccable, but there's not too much on any big screen out there that's more affecting than those moments when (via Lassgård) Ove's cold heart is melted by the kindness of others, a grumpy cat he adopts, a Middle Eastern gay man seeking refuge from his family when he comes out, a dear old friend stricken by a debilitating stroke and the genuine warmth afforded to him by the sweet children of his neighbours.

(Yeah, I know this sounds like it could be vaguely sickening, but Holm's assured direction keeps things in check.)

And when Lassgård's Ove sheds a tear or three, there will be no dry eyes in the house - except, perhaps, those ocular ejections held back by those of the grumpy-pants persuasion. Chances are good, though, that even they will succumb.


A Man Called Ove is a Pacific Northwest Pictures (Canada) and Music Box (USA) release. It opens in Canada on February 17/17.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - "Act of Killing - Lite" on Scientology

Louis Theroux - Brit Michael Moore sans Bulk.
My Scientology Movie (2016)
Dir. John Dower
Scr. Louis Theroux
Prd. Simon Chinn
Starring: Louis Theroux, Mark Rathbun, Andrew Perez, Jeff Hawkins

Review By Greg Klymkiw
"One of the systems of faith that are based on the belief in the existence of a particular god or gods, or in the teachings of a spiritual leader."
- The Oxford Dictionary definition of the word "religion"
Founded by the dreadful and prolific Science Fiction pulp writer L. Ron Hubbard and presided over by the enigmatic David Miscavige since Hubbard's death in 1986, the Church of Scientology has taken more than its fair share of volleys over the years, including the brilliant fictionalized fantasia The Master by PT Anderson and Alex Gibney's searing documentary Going Clear.

Examining the aforementioned Oxford definition of the word religion, in addition to the various film exposes, including My Scientology Movie, I really do have to wonder what finally separates Scientology from any other religion, whether it be Catholicism, Christian Fundamentalism, Judaism, Islam and any other major/minor systems of faith. Scientology, like all the rest, feels it is the best religion, places emphasis upon recruitment, needs to survive upon financial support from its followers and is not without cult-like leaders and/or elements of cultish indoctrination.

With My Scientology Movie, Director John Dower, Producer Simon Chinn, Host/Star/Writer Louis Theroux and chief commissioning entity, the BBC, were obviously denied access to the inner workings of Scientology and have taken their cue from the in-your-face (and decidedly entertaining) shenanigans of Michael (Roger and Me) Moore and the extremely visionary film artist Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing, The Look of Violence), to craft this lightweight, often amusing, occasionally chilling bit of shock journalism.

To the former, Theroux blunders about Los Angeles in his oh-so-Blighty fashion on the outskirts of various Scientology headquarters and to the latter, orders up auditions with young actors to play Scientology types in scripted and improvised recreations of speeches, presentations and alleged actual inner workings of the Church.

Young actors portray Scientology officials in recreations.
Host Theroux is accompanied through most of the film's cheeky gymnastics by former high-ranking Scientologist Mark Rathburn who left the Church, exposed its inner workings and was, not surprisingly, discredited by the Church itself. Via Rathburn, we get a sense of his own experiences within the organization and an even greater sense of how his life has become severely beleaguered since his break from Scientology. He comes across, probably to the chagrin of the Church, as an extremely sympathetic figure. Much of our empathy for him, however, comes more from Theroux's annoying and eventually badgering of Rathburn, attempting to get the man to respond to his own "complicity" in events and actions of the past.

One cannot fault Theroux for being a journalist, but one can certainly question his methods in the film, especially as they relate to Rathburn. Firstly, the movie inadvertently exposes how investigative journalists will try to be "friends" with their subjects in order to get what they want out of them. If My Scientology Movie was a film, as opposed to what it is, little more than reasonably watchable TV-style doc-journalism, this fascinating aspect of what makes investigative journalists do their job, might have elevated the proceedings considerably if it had been less (and seemingly) inadvertent.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, Theroux's timing and methods to address Rathburn's "complicity" in the actions of the Church, seem so fumbling and wrong-headed that we can't help but feel for the former Scientology big-wig. At one point Theroux, in a somewhat smarmy and definitely clumsy fashion, uses information and points-of-view from letters he's received from the Church's lawyers to needle Rathburn. This not only pisses Rathburn off, but us as well.

Granted, Theroux interviews another former Church official Jeff Hawkins, who not only adds considerable insights to the proceedings, but states unequivocally that he believes Rathburn has been hiding more than a few skeletons in the Scientology Closet. As a journalist, Theroux is bound to act on this. That's the theory - the practice, however, is something else altogether and backfires on him. This kind of recoil is what will give the Church of Scientology considerable ammunition to discredit the movie itself.

I couldn't really blame them.

Andrew Perez as David Miscavige - Star Turn!!!
The film as journalism barely gets a passing grade. As a film, it registers a "gentlemanly" grade of "B". This is no work of artistry, voice and vision (like, say, Joshua Oppenheimer's great, important films). Still, My Scientology Movie gets points of the old-college-try variety for its dramatic reenactments - not because they're especially good, but because the actor they've chosen to play Scientology's topper David Miscavige, Andrew Perez, is undeniably charismatic and rivetingly scary.

His recreations of public Miscavige speeches go well beyond simple Rich Little-like impersonations, he genuinely creates a "character" of considerable human dimension. In the fictionalized dramatic recreations of the Church's inner workings, Perez dazzles so astoundingly that one wonders why he's not already on the road to the same kind of superstardom that celebrity Scientology church-member Tom Cruise is on. Perez is clearly a great actor. The camera loves him and I think audiences would love to see him in more movies (as opposed to what seems to be his only role since making this movie, a bit part in some TV show).

Hell, if Miscavige ever chose to produce his own approved biopic of himself, he'd be well advised to sign up Perez for the role. The kid exudes power and charisma, and that's what Miscavige has in spades.

This is not a bad picture by any means. It has elements that do provide considerable entertainment value. At times, the movie even flirts with Oppenheimer potential. There are a few sequences where Theroux is filming Scientology types as they are filming him in turn. These duelling cameras moments come close to capturing the kind of picture this could have been, if it had been a real movie made by real artists - not just another glorified TV documentary.


My Scientology Movie is a Kinosmith release. Canadian playdates include:
February 6 & 8 Victoria Film Festival, Victoria, BC
February 17 – 23 Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, Toronto, ON
February 24 – March 2 Globe Cinema, Calgary, AB
March 3 – 5 Salt Spring Film Festival, Salt Spring, BC
April 14 – 18 Bytowne, Ottawa, ON

Friday, 3 February 2017

Another Reason Why The Royal in Toronto is the BEST Indie Cinema, not just in Toronto, but Canada (and one of the best in the world). Anna Biller's THE LOVE WITCH - on the big screen, where it's meant to be seen! The Royal has the best sound and picture in the city (by day, it's Theatre D Digital, a sound mixing studio for the movies) and the sumptuous colours of Anna Biller's ode to 70s Euro-Trash are going to look more gorgeous than ever. The seats are super-comfy too.!!! Review By Greg Klymkiw

The Love Witch is precisely the sort of movie I'd have seen during the 70s and 80s in one of my favourite (and long-gone) grind houses in Winnipeg that dotted Portage Avenue and Main Street in my old winter city like neon beacons of all that was truly sacred in life. Now you can see this ode to magnificent Euro-Trash in the very best cinema in Canada.

It will be glorious, but be warned, The Royal Cinema is sadly bereft of sticky floors, the aroma of urine/cum and toothless hookers giving gum jobs to malcontent veterans (of both Great Wars).

Well, we can't have everything.

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 that parades ritual and rapture in equal measure. Cinematographer M. David Mullen shoots the gloriously garish colours (courtesy of Biller's costume/production design) with deliciously rock-hard lighting (in 35mm no less).

The film proudly wears the clever screenplay's feminist undertones on its sleeve, which smartly contributes to Biller's deft satirical edge. The dialogue she generates for her pitch-perfect cast allows for laughs-aplenty, but where the movie excels (far beyond most other post-modernist endeavours of this kind) is that the actors deliver their lines with the appropriate thud-to-the-floor woodenness, or when necessary, jaw-agape histrionics and they do so with very straight faces and sans tongues-in-cheeks. This is one of the most difficult things for even the most seasoned thespians to pull off and there is not a single cast member who lets Biller, the film and by extension, the audience, down.

Though the movie runs a whopping 120 minutes, audiences will never feel like the proceedings are overstaying their welcome. Biller edits with the skill of a master cutter - not a single cut feels anything less than one which moves the story ever-forward and the pace is happily hypnotic. Those acquainted with the cinematic world The Love Witch recreates (with many fresh frissons) will have nothing to complain about. Those who aren't quite as abreast of it, will still derive pleasure from this diverting carnal romp.

The rest can go to church.

THE FILM CORNER RATING: ***½ 3-and-a-Half Stars

The Love Witch is an Oscilloscope Release enjoying its Canadian Theatrical Premiere at The Royal Cinema, 608 College St. Toronto:
2017-02-04 9:30 PM
2017-02-07 8:00 PM
2017-02-12 8:00 PM
2017-02-19 4:30 PM
2017-02-25 3:30 PM
2017-03-04 9:30 PM.