ART/Film Reviews

MY REMBRANDT and MARCEL DUCHAMP: the Art of the Possible – part of Vancouver International Film Festival’s (VIFF) Music/Art/Design series.

MY REMBRANDT

This documentary lets us in on how the materially privileged, despite possible pretenses to the contrary, lust over rare “objets d’art.”   Does their material desire to possess rare works of art amount to little more than the fleeting privilege of being able to flaunt their worldly status and/or smarts to others, or is it for national  glorification?  Perhaps both.

It successfully parts the privacy curtain and offers us a peek behind it into the lives of Europeans with old wealth, an American with new wealth and big state-sponsored art gallery curators in Holland and France and elsewhere.

The idea is simply that the documentary isn’t just an art film about Rembrandt paintings aimed at the art crowd. It’s a documentary that not only offers insight into the ruthlessness that can play out in the high stakes international art world when it comes to finding and buying masterpieces; it also offers insight into Europe’s first selfies, in that only the wealthy could afford to commission artists to render their portraits for posterity.

From the VIFF Catalogue:

One of the “old masters,” Rembrandt van Rijn is considered one of the greatest painters of all time, and in the elite world of art collectors, his work is – almost – priceless. Oeke Hoogendijk’s captivating and elegant doc is both an enchanting glimpse behind the curtain of this privileged universe, and also a deep dive into an art mystery that rocked Rembrandt fans across the globe.

From a Scottish duke’s personal affection for a coveted portrait, to an American couple who have tried to get their hands on as many of the artist’s paintings as possible, Hoogendijk reveals what “my” Rembrandt means to each – nostalgia, heritage, beauty, obsession and, for many, the satisfaction of exclusive ownership. My Rembrandt also details the heated legal battles that proprietorship can entail. The film follows the youngest Jan Six (whose forefather Rembrandt painted), an art dealer convinced that he has found two previously undiscovered Rembrandts – a bold claim that, like everything in the art world, doesn’t come without a price.

Marcel Duchamp: The Art of the Possible

What makes a work of art “art”? Good question. Should it not be in the eye of the beholder?

Marcel Duchamp, who was regarded as “the godfather of modern conceptual art”, challenges this question. You might say he pushed the limitations of the definition of art by focusing on the observer of the art.

Born in the late 1800s in a small town in Normandy, Duchamp would go on to almost single-handedly revolutionize the art world with his fascination with the “fourth dimension” and developments in science, technology and mathematics.  His unusual works were initially shunned and misunderstood by the mainstream, but later incorporated into pioneering movements like Cubism and abstract expressionism.

From the VIFF Catalogue:

The Art of the Possible is a mesmerising account of Duchamp’s life and work, showing how his radical rejection of 19th century ideals paved the way for innovation in dance, literature, music and the visual arts. An impressive array of experts and researchers bring Duchamp’s legacy to the fore, as archival footage reveals a charismatic – at times cheeky – visionary who was light years ahead of his time.

Marina Abramovic and Jeff Koons are among the artists and experts celebrating his life and work.

Presented by The Audain Foundation

Of these two documentaries, I much preferred “My Rembrandt”

Until October 7th you can order tickets to stream online with VIFF Connect:

https://viff.org/

 

Vancouver International Film Festival 2020 (VIFF) Online

VIFF 2020 starts tomorrow

This film festival is something I look forward to attending and blogging about every year.  The lineup has always been excellent and it’s nice to sit with and bump into the same familiar faces. No doubt this time is going to be different.  The familiarity of sharing a cinematic experience with a crowd is on hold for now and we’ll all be happy when things return to normal and we’re able to sit together again.  So until then…

British Columbia’s biggest annual celebration of cinema is just around the corner.

From Noon on September 24 to October 7th, film lovers province-wide will enjoy over 100 feature films and events showcasing exciting, groundbreaking and provocative cinema and creators from around the globe.

You’ll be able to watch this year’s stellar line-up from the comfort of your home via VIFF Connect, VIFF’s new online streaming platform. For the first time, audiences across BC can watch VIFF curated cinema and viewers around the world can tune into our Talks and Conferences.

Stay in the Loop

SIGN UP FOR VIFF NEWS  

Check out the amazing films/documentaries/talks:

viff.org

 

2020 Vision…when life gets blurry adjust your focus

Happy New Year everyone…finally.

We’re already two weeks in but until recently I’ve had company, a floor renovation here in Palm Springs and finally the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) which has just ended.  So I’ve been somewhat distracted until now. Normally I try to take in as many films as possible.  However this time I managed only four films.  Three fascinating documentaries of which I’ll touch on here to start up my blog.

The Truth – taken from PSIFF film media library.  I think Deneuve is solely responsible for making the “leopard coat” sexy and relevant even today.

I saw one feature “The Truth” starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche & Ethan Hawke (above photo).  A celebrated actress (Deneuve) publishes her memoirs amid a choppy relationship with her daughter (Binoche) who lives in her moms shadow and is married to a second rate American Actor (Hawke).  I enjoyed watching this film solely because of the actors.  Deneuve alone was the deciding factor going in with no prior knowledge of what the film was about.  She does a tremendous job of playing a self-absorbed screen diva.  She remains beautiful.

David Foster: Off the Record

David Foster with just a few grammy awards – taken from PSIFF film media images
 I thought for sure that the U.S. premier about the Canadian music icon would not ensure a full house.
But I was wrong.  Albeit a lot of the audience members were Canadians.  He is after all the Canadian equivalent of Quincy Jones.  His musical accomplishments could not be more celebrated in this documentary about his life and career. He discovered Celine Dion.  It explores his creative relationships with Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand and countless others. Fascinating man.

House of Cardin

House of Cardin – image taken from PSIFF film media library

What is Pierre Cardin up to?  Is he even still alive? At 97 years of age his name has a stamp on pretty much everything.  If he sold out, he did so on his own terms.

Pierre Cardin, the Italian born (everyone thought he was French) fashion icon changed the world of haute couture forever.  This documentary traces the life and career of a remarkable trailblazer.  As the trailer points out, it’s filled with eye candy (Sharon Stone among others are interviewed) and is a five-course feast for fashion lovers.  Indeed! If you love fashion this doc is a must!

The Kingmaker

Imelda Marcos on her 85th birthday in KINGMAKER. Photo Credit: Lauren Greenfield.

Dramatic, Dazzling, Disgraceful.

Lauren Greenfield’s cutting portrait of the legendarily extravagant Imelda Marcos starts with the shoes and the servants, then slyly expands into an examination of her dynastic ambitions and the damage that she and her corrupt family have wreaked upon the Philippines.

Stay tuned for updates from Palm Springs on various places to dine, shop and play.

 

 

 

 

 

“Won’t You be my Neighbor?”

Love; or the lack of, is at the Root of all things – Fred Rogers

I never expected to shed a tear watching a documentary about a popular childrens TV show from the past.  But one of the scenes from “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” shown at the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) touched a chord. And when I looked around me, it was obvious that I wasn’t the only one crying.  Mr. Rogers Neighborhood hit a common thread in its most simplest form.  It reminded us of our innocence because we all grow up so quickly and the world has changed so much.  But really; we’re still kids at heart.

Our basic needs are the same no matter where we live, our religion, ethnicity, age, economic status or our jobs.  It is to feel safe, loved and worthwhile.  End of story.

Sorry; no skeletons in the closet found anywhere in this feel-good documentary  It’s almost impossible to not uncover even a little dirt on anyone nowadays, specifically the famous.  And you can imagine someone especially as likeable as Mr. Fred Rogers (aka Mr. Rogers).  And by now they would have uncovered something from having interviewed many who knew him. For me, it was a case of not wanting to know any different. Because Fred Rogers was loved by millions of children, even though he was the unlikeliest role model. It is fascinating that he endured for so long.  This doc was a great character study.

We find out Rogers decided to go into television because he hated what he saw on TV.  So he created what can best be described as a landmark in children’s television.

But imagine being that likeable…

The thing is Fred Rogers, along with genuine spirituality…really, really cared.  And that is what is most admirable.  It was not only his persona, it was him.  No big secret.  Kids aren’t stupid; they picked up on his sincerity.  The show was a refuge for kids from all kinds of backgrounds.

Fred Rogers was a tireless children’s activist and advocate, bringing joy into our homes.  Can you think of any program like that now?

We certainly remember Eddie Murphy’s comical take with the spoof “Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood on SNL.  It was pretty hilarious.

I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.

Rogers was an ordained minister who studied religion which most likely gave him the tolerance and the tools he used with or without puppets, to teach children about worth, unity, grief, racism, superheroes and…everything else that no other program on TV was offering.  It was a unique and needed niche which only he at the time was able to  recognize.  He even managed to get funding for PBS when they were going to cut programming based on his court appearance about the demand for this kind of educational platform.

There was a conversation afterwards with Director Morgan Neville (Oscar®-winner for Twenty Feet from Stardom).  I was already a fan of his work. This heartfelt portrait  more than does justice to the show’s beloved host. Expect to be surprised by the film’s relevance and deeply moved by its subject.  I know I was.

It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have.

“7 Days to Vegas” – World Premiere

In the wonderful world of Poker you can’t even trust your friends.

If you’ve ever wondered about how much cheating goes on in the gaming industry, this movie will certainly enlighten you.

This is not the first high stakes gambling movie ever made. Maybe you remember “The Sting”, “Rounders” or “The Cincinatti Kid.”  But I must say, having just viewed the world premiere of “Walk to Vegas”at the 30th Palm Springs International Film Festival, it is certainly one of the most intriguing and one of the funniest I’ve ever seen.  It was refreshingly different.

These eccentric people will go to almost any length for money. 

Inspired by a true story about Hollywood big shots who will bet on anything, “Walk to Vegas” is about a friendly poker game with colorful, questionable characters which winds up turning into a walk from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for a $5 million bet.

This independent movie by the Van Patten brothers (James and Vincent) was filmed right here in Palm Springs. Multi-talented Vince Van Patten, an ex-child star, former tour professional tennis player, and commentator for the World Poker Tour…wrote, starred and produced this captivating film.  His real life wife, the stunning Eileen Davidson, also stars as his wife in the film and helped produced it.

Real life actor & poker player Jennifer Tilly has a cameo as herself in one of the scenes. I’ve always loved Jennifer Tilly in anything I’ve seen her in.  She was amazing in Bullets Over Broadway – one of my favorite Woody Allen films.   In this role she plays herself authentically (I assume, not knowing her personally).  Anyway…

The energy of the sold-out crowd in the theatre was remarkable compared to other screenings I’ve attended.  The audience certainly showed their appreciation.  Many of the cast members were in attendance and got up on stage for a Q&A after the screening. It was superb.

Side note: turns out the father of one of my friends from Los Angeles is also one of the producers of this movie. Small world!

Bravo!

 

“The Upside”

Part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival,The Upside” is a heartfelt comedy starring Brian Cranston (from Breaking Bad).

Kevin Hart + Brian Cranston in “The Upside”

I’m not going to dissect this scene by scene, because sometimes you just need to laugh. This comedy/tragedy did the trick.

I didn’t realize at first that it is a remake of a French film called  “The Intouchables” from the Weinstein company which was an International success, shown here in 2013.  It was one of the most successful French films in the history of French cinema. Otherwise, I might not have chosen to see “The Upside” because I don’t understand the need to make Americanized copies or adaptations of original foreign films that have proven to be excellent.  One example: I loved “La Cage aux Folles”, the 1978 Franco-Italian comedy. Later in 1996, “The Birdcage” was a remake directed by Mike Nichols and starring Robin Williams. In most cases I find the original to be the best version. But since they continue to recreate these films reasonably well and with an excellent English speaking cast…

The Upside” stars Brian Cranston as a wealthy yet very cynical quadriplegia who is looking to hire a full time caretaker.  When he decides to hire a fast talking parolee, the fun begins.   Kevin Hart (who may or may not host the 2019 Oscars – it’s still up for debate) plays a down on his luck, wise-cracking guy trying to prove to his parole officer that he’s looking for work.  I would say this is an unlikely pairing except for the fact that it is based on a true story and confirms the fact that opposites do indeed attract.

Nicole Kidman plays  a humdrum  assistant. For such an amazing actress, this part does not do her justice.

Julianna Margulies has a small part as potential love interest which comes to an embarrasingly unfortunate ending in a restaurant.

Overall, this movie was entertaining and the characters were excellently portrayed.  It brought many laughs.  Sometimes I think that’s enough.

A little trivia: this was the first film production for Malia Obama, daughter of Barack  & Michelle Obama. She worked as an intern for The Weinstein Company during filming.

Originally to be distributed by The Weinstein Company in March 2018, the film was shelved and sold off following Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. It was eventually bought by STX Entertainment and Lantern Entertainment, who then scheduled it to be released in the United States on January 11, 2019.

 

 

Ringing in the New Year starting with….

I look forward to this time of the year. It always starts off with a bang.  The bang being fireworks for New Year’s Eve and after a day or so of recuperation (depending of course on how much partying I do)…..my favorite way to start the year is by viewing & reviewing a bunch of great films at the Palm Springs International Film Festival; one of the largest film festivals in North America.  It’s always an exciting time to be in Palm Springs.

  • On Thursday, January 3, the annual Film Awards Gala will kick off the festival at the Palm Springs Convention Center.  The gala honours the best achievements of the film year by a celebrated list of talents.
  • The screening portion of the festival will run Friday, January 4 through Monday, January 14.

The Festival welcomes over 135,000 attendees each year for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries.  Produced by the Palm Springs International Film Society, the Festival offers 12 days of events and film screenings featuring over 200 films from 78 countries.

I don’t present myself as a movie critic or pretend to be one.  I only attend the films and documentaries that interest me personally and blog about it for this website.  So I am obviously hoping to “like” everything I see and am aware that what I like, you may not.  I’m looking to be entertained and learn something new.  And I feel privileged to be given media passes to premieres and special events.

YELLOW IS FORBIDDEN. Star Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei, the face of the “new China,” gave documentary filmmaker Pïetra Brettkelly an all-access pass for this fascinating — and occasionally troubling — behind-the-scenes look at Guo’s life and the run-up to her make-or-break Paris runway show.

See you at the movies!

 

 

 

Film: Colette

You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm 

Quote by the “Real” Colette

I don’t know what I enjoyed most about this film.  The story, the setting or the exquisite costumes.

For those not familiar, Colette was a French novelist nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. Keira Knightley gives the performance of her professional career as Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette in her earlier years as she turned Paris upside-down with her life and work.

As a writer, performer and a feminist, Colette attracted controversy and lived life to the fullest.

Movie Still

You may think that you know nothing of Colette’s writings but many of her works are well known around the world. The film “Gigi” starring Audrey Hepburn was adapted from Colette’s book of the same name and several of her writings have been adapted for the stage and screen.

She was a fascinating woman, married at the age of 20 to a writer and music critic of whom it was said he was a “literary charlatan and degenerate”.  Whilst married to Henry Gauthier-Villars she wrote her first books (Claudine series) using his nom de plume “Willy”. The books scandalized France – and made the pair plenty of money.

She was the first woman to be given a state funeral in France before being laid to rest in 1954 at the Père Lachaise Cemetery (the same cemetery I once visited where Oscar Wilde is also laid to rest).

Brief synopsis:

Co-starring a perfectly cast Dominic West as Colette’s libertine first husband, the charming rogue and writer known only as “Willy” who took credit for Colette’s first four novels while sharing a lover with her, Westmoreland’s biopic traces the writer-actor’s life from her provincial upbringing to her halcyon days causing an uproar in the salons and vaudeville theatres of Paris. The core of the film, however, is her fraught relationship with Willy and how the constraints and slights she faced ended up engendering a writing career that made her one of France’s most beloved artists. This is a heady, champagne cocktail of a film made all the more delightful by Knightley’s bravura turn.

Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet – Colette

Source: VIFF & The Good Life France

Visit Viff.org to see more intriguing films until October 12th

Film: The Happy Prince

The world is a stage but the play is badly cast – Oscar Wilde

Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde

Poet and Playwright Oscar Wilde is famous for many reasons.   I’m most familiar with his whimsical satire of Victorian society The Importance of Being Earnest – a classic about love, deception and mistaken identity.  A great character study… perfectly cast.

 And I saw his lipstick covered tomb at the renowned Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.

Other than that, I learned a lot more when viewing the special presentation of THE HAPPY PRINCE at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) yesterday.

No man is rich enough to buy back his past – Oscar Wilde

Actor Rupert Everett gives a simply remarkable performance as Wilde. He also impressively wrote and directed this powerfully empathetic account of the last years of the legendary Irish writer.

A short synopsis:

After spending two years in prison for his homosexuality—”gross indecency” was the official conviction—Wilde exiled himself to Paris, where he continued his self-destructive lifestyle while living in penury. Buoyed only by occasional contact with old friends Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) and Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), and with his wife (Emily Watson) and two sons far away, he’s a desperately lonely man who assuages his pain with alcohol, drugs and a succession of young men.  Everett was born to play Wilde, and his open, deeply felt film both honours his idol and conveys the essence of a man who, deprived of the things that make life worth living, maintained his ironic sense of humour until the end.

I can resist everything except temptation – Oscar Wilde

More exciting cinema until October 12th at:

Viff.org

Documentary: ANTHROPOCENE – The Human Epoch

A masterful collaboration by documentarians Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier.

A world class documentary that is equally stunning and disturbing. Surreal and sobering. The mind boggling cinematography by legendary photographer Edward Burtynsky was the stunning part.  The disturbing part was everything else. It showcases to great effect our unprecedented impact on planet Earth to date.

And there was a lot to be captured.  And there is a lot to be fearful for.  And there is a lot to change…if we still can.

Concentric Circles Forming In Still Water

A short synopsis: scenes of almost inconceivable scale such as monolithic machines hell-bent on terraforming their surroundings, land-fill sites staffed by thousands, heaps of elephant tusks piled high and set aflame, concrete seawalls lining China’s coastline, on and on.  Only some of the things humans are responsible for that endanger and change the structure of the planet.

I knew it wouldn’t be a feel-good film.  But it was a necessary one.  Which brings me to this famous quote:

Seeing is Believing

More films until the 12th at:  https://viff.org/