Tuesday, April 26, 2005


I don't pretend to be anywhere near an expert on Middle Eastern Cinema, but the few I've seen (Turtles Can Fly, Baran, Osama, and The Exam) have had a few things in common. They deal with the common people in often extreme poverty. They are overtly political in some way They typically have a gritty feel with moments of quiet visual poetry.
This week's KBT is a film that walks the line between fictional film and documentary, between absurd vulgarity and lush cinematography. To put it simply, Kandahar seems to fit the mould. It's a Canadian/French/Iranian co-production made in 2001 and is kind of a final document of life under the Taliban just before it's collapse at the end of that year. It was filmed in mainly in Afghanistan without Taliban permission.
An Afghan refugee, Nafas, living in Canada receives a note from her sister. In the note her sister writes that she is committing suicide at the next eclipse because she was maimed severely, and cannot take life anymore. Heading back to Afghanistan, Nafas is quickly reminded why she fled her home country, as she joins up with a group of women traveling across the desert, in an attempt to locate her sister before the eclipse.
Kandahar has been criticized for its loose narrative, but has been praised for it's potent imagery, which is quite affecting. The film is certainly somewhat off the typical style of film I show, but then unpredictability is the spice of life.
Come on by at 8:00pm. Showtime is 8:30pm. Kandahar runs a crisp 85 minutes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

KBT Presents: PRIMER

It is getting increasingly difficult to make a good science fiction film. Since computer generated special effects are very good these days, that is where the emphasis lies. Stories that fit the Star Wars or Star Trek mold, with little time or energy spent on the story or script, are making to the genre begin to creak. There have been a few recent great science fiction films. Pi, Solaris and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are the best examples, but you will notice that these films have more purpose behind them than simply space battles and computer graphics.
Primer is a structural mindbender of the highest order (think La Jetee scripted by Robert Altman and shot by Steven Soderbergh) . It is a 'hard' science fiction film without any special effects and set in the present. It is dialogue, dialogue, dialogue over gritty and disorienting camerawork. It was made for very little money, about $7000, before the ThinkFilm did some image and audio clean-up work. The end result is undoubtedly a new classic puzzle-box film which recalls the initial viewing of the modern noir classic Memento (only Primer is several times more disorienting).
The audience is like a voyeur over the lives of several engineers who invent something which could change the world, but fear, paranoia and greed supercede any chance of trust. These young entrepreneurs wear their pressed white shirts and $20 ties not just to their day jobs, but even while they work on thier side-projects in one of the guys garage. They bicker, they fight, and they are petty little boys.
I will go no further than this in discussing the film; it is best to go in cold. You will either be fully engaged at untangling the narrative or possible lost in its labyrinthine structure and procedorial minutae.
If causality, paradox and nested reality pique your interest or you just like a good puzzle, this is not to be missed. A post screening discussion is demanded. I believe that I have pieced all the stuff together, but a second viewing is required to test theories discussed after the 2004 Toronto Film Festival Screening.
Primer is not just a puzzle however. There is a lot of 21st century post-tech boom subtext from the characters behavior and it has a lot to say about the way things are done in high-tech (nay the entire business world) sector since the 1990s of instant-riches-today, burnout-crash tomorrow.

Drinks at 8:00. Showtime at 8:30. The film runs a lean 78 minutes, so there is certainly time for a post-screening discussion for those confused.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


After a three week hiatus, KBT returns with an energetic cinematic entry from Hungary, set entirely underground in the Budapest Transit System.

Kontroll opens with a man reading a statement to the effect of: The following film is fiction. This is in no way a reflection on how the Budapest subway system operates. Any incidents are unrealated symbols and/or metaphors of the directors story. What follows is a movie that could best be described as Clerks meets Trainspotting through the filter of either Andrei Tarkovsky or David Lynch. It is a look into the world of the denizens that run Budapest underground: a grimy and chaotic system ran with the same sensibility operating in Terry Gilliam's Brazil. You see, the Budapest transit system works on the honour system of buying a ticket to board the trains without gates. The 'kontroll' officers (an ironic job description if there was ever one) are a motely collection street rejects and sad souls, fighting for even the smallest shred of respect from the customers in the system. It seems that nobody actually pays for transit in Budapest or even behaves with any sense of civility. Actually, without the arm-bands the kontroll officers wear to indicate their position, you probably couldn't tell them from the late-night customers or in some cases even the homeless people sleeping in the stations.
The film is a bit of a genre blender. There is a love-story component, a mystery-thriller involving subway jumpers, a day in the life style comedy vignettes and the gradual re-awakening of a lost soul. The joy in the movie is the immersive envorimnent of the underground which is carried off with real verve (courtesy a nifty sountrack from the techno trio, neo). An unusal pace and fantastic cinematography (believe me when I tell you the subway system is as much a character as anyone else) coming to a peak with an full-on Rave on one of the platforms, is invigorating.

Come out Tuesday (April 12) for drinks at 8:15pm, Showtime at 8:30pm

Saturday, April 02, 2005


This is not so much a review (go to Rotten Tomatoes, you can find many of the film, but I recommend these two), as a reaction to much of the hoopla beginning to appear on websites, blogs and forums. Much like Pulp Fiction and Fight Club, Sin City appears to polarize film-goers of all kinds.

It appears that people have hang-ups on
A) Not enough story continuity (i.e. things just don't make sense)
B) Lack of subtext, relevence, maturity
C) Too much violence

I'm not trying to tell people what they should like or dislike, but rather clarify that a meta-film like Sin City succeeds on the level of 'style is substance' by magnifying its source material. That is, the nihilism of film noir, to the point of where images and moods are the story (I mean what does a comic/graphic novel do better? and that is what Sin City is trying to faithfully reproduce). If you check narrative convention at the door and go for the mood of the piece, (redemption through revenge...at any cost) I think Sin City is a true winner: its creativity and energy are nearly limitless and the actors willingness to 'look goofy' for that sake of delivering intentionally hard-boiled dialogue which is 50 years out of date, (and really never existed in the first place except in pulp novels and B-level films) but certainly relevant as post-modern artistic expression) is to be commended. [ed. note: I apologize for the structure of that last run-on sentence!]
Obviously, if you go into a movie called 'Sin City' with puritan expectations of PG-13 bloodless violence and no nudity you are going to be disappointed. My point here is that the extreme violence is a part of the texture of the film, and to remove it would be to destroy the film. It's not real, it's hyper-real.
Lastly, (at the risk of sounding like a snob) people who do not get 'Sin City' probably have no frame of reference coming into the film: they are not familiar with the source material or are not in any way familiar with the film noir of the 1940's and early 1950s. While full knowledge of either graphic novels in general or the noir-genre is not necessary, passing familiarity will greatly enhance the experience. To put it another way, if you are just learning english, it's perhaps not advisable to pick up a James Joyce novel and expect to understand it. (On second thought a better way of saying this is perhaps you won't enjoy watching the Wayan Brothers' "SCARY MOVIE" if you haven't seen SCREAM, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or those "Whaaaas up!" Budweiser commercials).
For those willing to write this movie off as the worst movie they've ever seen, I suggest you watch some more movies...(Start with Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episodes, and you will see how truly awful films can be).
For what Sin City sets out to accomplish...a no-holds-barred hyper-noir film representation of a graphic novel with cool characters and nihilistic hard-boiled performances from an ensemble of high-profile actors...It gets an A+ in my book and will likely be not only one of the best motion pictures this year, but also be one of the most emulated for the next several years...
This is a leap forward from the well intentioned attempts of Ang Lee's Hulk to emulate the comic-book frame. This is the next level of the comic-book adaptation. Like it or not.

Postscript: I have an itching feeling that Sin City is gender-biasing...That is not to say that all guys will like it and all women hate it, but if you do the math, more guys will like it than gals. The entire films perspective is from the male characters, and fetishizing of violence is the realm of young males. The movie is not about relationships that connect the men to the women, it's about one person (guy) versus society/the-system/the-enemy. It's not surprising that most of those of female persuasion that I've spoken to about the film were not big fans. On a (positive) personal note though, my wife loved it...(and I love her for loving it!)