David C Jones charts what he likes at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival

David C. Jones is an arts lover and a critical thinker. He makes films, directs plays, teaches, is a professional emcee and writes for the OUTtv website.  Here are David’s thoughts on the films he saw at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. The films are presented in the order that they touched him emotionally, stimulated his imagination, engaged him and made him curious. The best is at the top of the list.

The Sandman (Sweden)

The SandmanA bizarrely affecting comedy about an opinionated man of culture who begins to leak sand, or as one character says “trickling”. The only person who may be able to help him is the wannabe singer at the cafe below his apartment but he has already declared her ugly and untalented making help not likely.

Benno our grainy protagonist is played by European stage actor Fabian Krüger in his feature debut and what a charming and wicked man. A braggart and a thief that makes you care desperately as his apartment fills with the sand that is part metaphor and part curse.

The story has delightful twists and turns that I won’t give away and some shocking images as it makes you giggle and marvel. It’s like a new Grimm Fairy Tale come to life.

Screenplay by Peter Luisi
Directed by Peter Luisi

Additional screenings:

Sat, Oct 8th 9:00pm – Empire Granville 7 Th 3
Tue, Oct 11th 11:40am – Empire Granville 7 Th 3

Visit http://filmguide.viff.org for more information and tickets.  Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPXH-N1LATE for the film’s trailer.

The Skin I Live In (Spain)

The Skin I Live InI adore Almodóvar’s style of story telling, however I sometimes find, like any great artists, he can fall short of the mark. I adore Volver and Women on the Verge, but Bad Education seemed more like an excuse to get it’s star Gael García Bernal into his underwear. So this film I approached with caution.

It is the story of a plastic surgeon played by Antonio Banderas who is working on a new synthetic skin but is consumed by grief and bent on vengeance.

It is visually sumptuous but what is the genre – Gothic romance, horror, comedy, love story?

I don’t want to give anything away but the title is a sick coda to a truly odd tale. The style is languid which caused a small amount of people to walk out – or maybe is was the truly twisted surgery – I can’t say for myself that I enjoyed the film but it did get under my skin.

Screenplay by Pedro Almodóvar
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

No additional screenings.

Visit http://filmguide.viff.org for more information.  Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EolQSTTTpI4 for the film’s trailer.

The British Guide to Showing off (UK)

The British Guide to Showing OffI have seen so many documentaries this festival – that was by accident – but this one held my interest because I knew nothing of the subject matter and it was so wonderfully art designed.

Andrew Logan is sculptor / drag artist / party person who has produce off and on – the Alternative Miss World contest in England attracting the beautiful people and the freaks in a parade that is part art and part rebellion.

The film meanders as it presents history in preparation for the 2009 pageant but the people are wild and the costumes are wilder.

Directed by Jes Benstock

Additional screenings:

Mon, Oct 10th 2:30pm Empire Granville 7 Th 4
Thu, Oct 13th Noon Empire Granville 7 Th 4

Visit http://filmguide.viff.org for more information and tickets.  Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-jdKzDDGGo for the film’s trailer.

Carol Channing: Larger Than Life (USA)

Carol Channing: Larger Than LifeCarol Channing is a delightful freak and the exaggerated embodiment of joy. She is a personality and an icon but she was never a great singer or actor. But she was always a genuine … Carol.

This documentary sets out to discover where the woman came from and how she evolved. There are great stories and vintage clips and it is framed by a truly inspiring love story. But we avoid any great grit.

Her sad marriage is her third husband is touched on and her thoughts on Barbara Streisand taking her signature role in Hello Dolly in the movie are dismissed with a off hand comment. But there is no mention of Marilyn Monroe who took the part she originated of Lorilai (and solidified her star status) in Gentlemen Prefer Blonds while Carol stayed on the sidelines.

The film is fun and a delight but it feels as calculatedly crafted as perhaps Ms. Channing herself is.

Screenplay by Dori Berinstein, Adam Zucker
Directed by Dori Berinstein

Additional screenings:

Wed, Oct 5th 10:30am Empire Granville 7 Th 7

Visit http://filmguide.viff.org for more information and tickets.  Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ex8gE6YC63Q for the film’s trailer.

The Fairy (La Fee) (Belgium-France)

The FairyThis film has been featured and celebrated all over Europe. The main artists involved employ slapstick and dance and fantasy and a little social commentary in this story of a down and out night porter at a hotel who meets a woman who claims to be a fairy.

I personally like my comedy to be more disciplined in it’s premise and I found this to be all over the map. Sometimes characters could dance under water or fly and sometimes they were constrained by mortal realities. The improvised nature of the movie made it feel more indulgent rather than inspired at times.

Screenplay by Fiona Gordon, Dominique Abel, Bruno Romy
Directed by Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy

Additional screenings:

Wed, Oct 12th 4:00pm Empire Granville 7 Th 7

Visit http://filmguide.viff.org for more information and tickets.  Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3V6jk9t5T94 for the film’s trailer.

Alan Bennett and the Habit of Art & Alan bennett: The Southbank Show (UK)

Alan Bennett and the Habit of ArtAlan Bennett is a writer and author who was also was a founding member of the old British sketch group Beyond the Fringe – and the film festival presented two short documentaries about him.

One focused on his over all career culminating on his hit play (also a movie) called The History Boys about young men preparing to get into University. The other focused on his play The Habit of Art which is an imagined meeting late in life between W H Auden and Benjamin Britten.

He was witty and droll and humble and quiet, so much so that I nodded off twice but in the end I realized – I did not know a lot about the man and now I know a bit more.

Directors: Adam Low and Archie Powell respectively

No additional screenings.

Visit http://filmguide.viff.org for more information and tickets.

Vancouver International Film Festival
September 28 – October 14, 2011

Visit http://www.viff.org for more information on the Festival.  Visit http://davidcjones.ca for more information on David C Jones.

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