Archive for category: Netflix Canada Picks

Goodbye to Language; Film Socialisme (Netflix Canada picks)

25 Apr
April 25, 2015

Goodbye to Language / Adieu au Langage – Jean-Luc Godard, France/Switzerland, 2014, 69 minutes

Film Socialisme – Jean-Luc Godard, France, 2010, 102 minutes

When I saw recently that Goodbye to Language had been added to Netflix Canada, I wondered whether there would even be a point to a 2D viewing. Godard’s 42nd feature film is notably his first in 3D, and having seen it through the glasses at two different film festivals (incidentally using two different 3D technologies) I can confirm that it is very much about its own experimentation with the format. But it turns out that a 2D viewing is fully engaging in its own way—flattening the image makes it less disorienting, which clarifies the overall structure. That said, you’ve got to have tolerance for obliqueness if you’re to enjoy Godard’s late period in the first place, so it’s generally best not to expect to understand all the referencing on first or second viewing. And really there’s no harm or shame in seeking out an explanation of the structure of the film, any more than there is in reading the Bloomsday Book in order to figure out the plot of Ulysses. To illuminate the framework of the film is not necessarily to reduce it, but still those who prefer films with neater, more explainable puzzles are probably best served by sticking with Christopher Nolan.

Film Socialisme, on the other hand, has always struck me as a perfect Netflix film. Godard’s first HD video feature, it screens really nicely on flatscreen TV or on a tablet or laptop with headphones. I especially recommend the latter approach for appreciating the inventive/experimental sound mix. That said, what makes this film a must-see, quite apart from its pure creativity, is the unplanned aura of tragedy that hangs over the entire first part of the film—due to its having been filmed on a cruise on the Costa Concordia. Other highlights include a cameo appearance by Patti Smith and an enigmatic turn by a llama (possibly one-upped in Goodbye to Language by Roxy the dog). As a study of civilization itself, it manages to be cryptic, dogmatic, and self-deconstructing all at once, but who would expect less from the most challenging director still working?

The Tempest (2010) (Netflix Canada picks)

17 Apr
April 17, 2015

Julie Taymor, France, 2010, 120 minutes

Listen, I dig a superhero CGI-fest as much as the next person, but I feel the gender imbalance when it comes to roles, scripts, writers and directors is nothing short of egregious here in 2015. I’m at least relieved that, following the exit of Michelle McLaren from the Wonder Woman film, her replacement appears to be Patty Jenkins, and not, you know, some dude. While we wait for that one to drop we still have Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, in which Helen Mirren—as you would expect—kicks ass and effortlessly carries this spectacle that looks way more expensive than its $20 million budget. The striking visual effects are by Kyle Cooper, who made his name creating title sequences (most notably Seven) but who went on from here to supervise the effects for Tron: Legacy, Prometheus, and Iron Man 3. Prospera is an appealing superhero, depending on brains and techno-magical mastery to seek redress for past wrongs to her and her family, as well as on her sidekick Ariel who with his teleportation, invisibility, telekinesis and weather control is like a bunch of X-Men rolled into one. The film has its flaws, including a jarringly genre-hopping music score by Elliot Goldenthal, and a hounds-of-hell chase sequence pitched awkwardly somewhere between Lord of the Rings and Benny Hill. But the casting is brilliant across the board (yes, even Russell Brand is an inspired choice here), and so seamlessly has the origin story been wound around Mirren’s Prospera that you would never believe that a certain previous draft of this script featured a male lead. Did I mention that that previous draft was by William Shakespeare?

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Netflix Canada picks)

10 Apr
April 10, 2015

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?: An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky

Michel Gondry, France, 2013, 88 minutes

I like to think the world subdivides into people who think like Michel Foucault, people who think like Noam Chomsky, and, I suppose, people who don’t think in much of a structured way at all. I’m probably a natural Foucauldian but over the years I’ve come to appreciate the Chomskyian way as well. But, even more, I appreciate hand-drawn film animation—especially when it is as artful as this, illustrating a fascinating and humanizing conversation with the beloved linguistic theorist and political activist, without become overly distracting on the one hand or overly didactic on the other. All of Gondry’s films have a certain eccentric, artisanal quality but this may top them all as a transparent labour of love. I can’t think of another documentary film like it.

Footnote (Netflix Canada picks)

03 Apr
April 3, 2015

Joseph Cedar, Israel, 2011, 107 minutes

Some films attempt to find the epic in the marginal but few succeed better, and certainly none more literally, than this gem of a drama set in the hothouse of academia. A father-son pair of Talmudic scholars at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem share a painfully difficult relationship that threatens to melt down completely when one of them is set to receive the Israel Prize, the nation’s highest honour. A misunderstanding leads to a confrontation with the prize committee that might be the most intense verbal showdown on film since Bruce McGill’s courtroom explosion in The Insider. The movie steadfastly refuses to take sides, deconstructing both male egos from various points of view including those of their wives. A brilliantly constructed script—that deservedly won top prize at Cannes—is matched by top-notch performances by Lior Ashkenazi and stage comedian Shlomo Bar Aba.

Holy Motors (Netflix Canada picks)

27 Mar
March 27, 2015

Leos Carax, France, 2012, 116 minutes

Starting another new blog feature this week—Netflix Canada picks. It’s my intention each weekend to pick a film that I consider a hidden Netflix gem, and give a quick recommendation. I’ve heard from a number of friends that they find it frustrating to “find something good” on Netflix, especially in Canada—but my own watch list is a rather backed-up queue of about 100 films, so I intend to share some of those picks here.

Most reviews of Holy Motors make it sound very complex, and it is certainly layered and unpredictable—and all the more easily enjoyed for it. Part sci fi, part anthology film, part road movie, and a fantastic instance of the “lots of crazy stuff happens in one magic night” type, it is a clever a genre mashup as you could want. Its Decameron-esque structure runs from sexually weird and ribald episodes to sentimental and tragic romance—the latter thanks to a brilliant cameo performance, complete with show-stopping musical number, by Kylie Minogue channeling Catherine Deneuve circa Umbrellas of Cherbourg. There are also very specific references to Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady and Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face, but you need not be familiar with any of these sources to experience all of what this film has to offer. Highly recommended.