Monday, November 15, 2010

My BIFF Favourites

In no real order they are:

1. Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives
2. Leap Year
3. Marwencol
4. I Killed My Mother: Much rawer and more deeply felt than Heartbeats this portrait of a difficult home relationship enjoys the benefits of autobiography while avoiding some of the obvious pitfalls. The closeness of the material to Dolan's own lived experience means that Hubert is not the perpetually whiny and angry teenager found in films like The Human Resources Manager and Dolan's preparedness to critique his younger self means that the narcissism of teenagers is not neglected. The nature of the disputes also rings true: The way petty things annoy us when we're already annoyed with a person, the way we pick a particular fight as a way of expressing anger about a totally different issue.

But veracity was something that Heartbeats had too. If I Killed My Mother is the stronger film, as I think it is, than it's also because its relationship has more depth than the (deliberately) shallow ones at the heart of Heartbeats. In Heartbeats the communication is amongst characters who are holding back - fearful of revealing their full intentions, of leaving themselves vulnerable to the heartbreak they ultimately experience. This hesitancy often means that the film is unable to delve beyond the characters' protective boundaries. The relationships plumbed are also new ones (the friendship between the central characters is generally taken for granted) without any history.

In comparison the characters in I Killed My Mother are not afraid of what their conversations might reveal - their relationships are negotiated in the open with all their dreams and aspirations on full display. Furthermore this negotiation occurs in the context of how their relationship used to be. The difference between the past and the future is tackled by the characters and the fact that they are bewildered by how one turned into other makes it no less interesting.

Another feature of the central relationships in Heartbeats is that they are hermetic. We are never given any clue as to how the other people in the character's lives view their quixotic pursuit of the young Adonis and the faux interview segments in between offer only oblique commentary. In I Killed My Mother both the portrayal of another mother-son relationship, as well as others' commentary on the central relationship, makes for welcome contrast and exploration.

5. Reign of Assassins
6. Kaboom
7. Lourdes: The thematic content will probably not be new to anyone whose spent as much of their lives growing up in a church as I have. Questions regarding the difficulty of believing in a good, all powerful, interventionist God in such a clearly imperfect world are not new and neither are the answers and debates within the film.

Yet despite this Lourdes succeeded for me. It represents the points of views of both the sceptics and believers accurately and doesn't demean either, even as it gently questions the latter. It also narrows the big questions down by placing them specifically within the context of Lourdes. The dynamics of a group who are actively courting miracles; whether through bloody-minded persistence, a search for formulae, or an attempt to cultivate a humble spirituality, means that the questions seem more urgent and personal. It's because of this that the characters never feel like mere mouthpieces for the writer. Indeed Hausner gets a lot of mileage out her actors by allowing them to build their characters through body language and facial expression rather than relying on her dialogue to do the heavy lifting.

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