Every year there are so many films and so little time at the Atlantic Film Festival. Going through the schedule and trying to figure out what to see is a wonderful challenge to face. Do you try to see things that you’ve heard a lot about? Catch up with favourite directors or actors? Maybe explore some genres or nations that you like?
No matter how you choose the odds are that you will find a lot to like. The films in a festival have been vetted and selected and while there are a wide range of tastes in films, the overriding impetus for a film festival is to assemble a program that has something for everyone.
All that being said and in no particular order, here are the films that I am looking forward to in this year’s Atlantic Film Festival.
I’ve loved every one of Jacques Audiard’s films from the first one I saw which was Read My Lips which takes a naturalistic approach to material that is usually the domain of genre filmmaking. He followed that with The Beat That My Heart Skipped and then A Prophet. Each of the three films featured riveting performances by underrated actors with Emmanuelle Devos, Romain Duris and Tahir Rahim. So when I saw Rust & Bone on the schedule with Marion Cotillard as a killer whale instructor that was all I needed to know.
The Atlantic feature film that I’m most looking forward to is Shandi Mitchell’s The Disappeared. Working within the constraints of having six men in two dories in the North Atlantic Ocean trying to make it home, it has a great cast, crew, and director with a story that is set and was shot on the ocean (on film). It was a massive challenge and it will be great to see it on the big screen.
Leos Carax is a talented and frustrating filmmakers with sporadic output and spectacular failures such as The Lovers on the Bridge. Visually stunning, Carax is one of the Cinema du Look filmmakers and while Luc Besson moved away from the art house, Carax defiantly went back to it, burned it down and then built a new theatre out of the ruins. Holy Motors looks like an art house dream with his charismatic muse Denis Lavant in the central roles and a cast filled with interesting choices such as Kylie Minogue, Eva Mendes, and Michel Piccoli. It looks strange and wonderful and that’s enough for me.
Peter Mettler is a gifted cinematographer who creates indelible images and in The End of Time he will be exploring the perception of time, which is something that cinema should be perfectly qualified for. In Picture of Light he beautifully captured the northern lights on film through a trip to Churchill, Manitoba, so this should look great and be interesting too.
François Ozon creates stories that are unsettling and often visually beautiful usually within certain formal constraints. With oddly unsettling films such as Under the Sand, Swimming Pool, 5x2, and in Time to Leave he explores various aspects of relationships as well as obsession. With 8 Women he ventured into Cinemascope musical, and with Ricky he told a strange story of a couple with a child who is a demon. I haven’t seen his costume drama Angel or his most recent comedy Potiche, but with In The House it looks as though the dramatic and obsessive traits are back with the story of a boy in a literature class who infiltrates the life of a classmate and writes about it in essays for his literature teacher and I suspect that all does not go well.
I’ve seen four films by Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier and loved them all. The first one I saw was at the Atlantic Film Festival when I saw After the Wedding which was the melodramatic story of a man dealing with choices he made in his life and how it intersects with his work when he needs to make difficult choices. I loved that film and it made me seek out her other work including Brothers (which was remade into an American version) which is another naturalistic melodrama about moral choices. Then I saw Things We Lost in the Fire which was a beautiful story with Halle Berry and Benico del Toro in a more Hollywood version of the type of story she tells so well. Then she went back to Denmark with the Academy Award-winning In a Better World that raises the stakes and blends the melodrama with international relief work and childhood. Complex and beautiful, she gets great performances and brings depth to the stories that she tells. With Love is All You Need she teams up with screenwriter Anders Thomas Jensen (Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself, Brothers, Adam’s Apples, After the Wedding, In a Better World) again along with a Danish cast with Pierce Brosnan thrown in to a comedy. It should be fun to see what results.
Mike Birbiglia is a standup comedian and contributor to This American Life. If you listen to the radio show, you probably have heard him and his debut feature film grows out of a show that he did drawn from the challenges that he faced sleepwalking. Fictionalizing his own life with a cast of actors and co-director Seth Barrish, Sleepwalk with Me looks like a funny and intriguing story with little nuggets of truth scattered through it. While it shouldn’t be too difficult to see the film after the festival, sometimes it’s nice to have some lighter and more mainstream fare to check out.
Thomas Vinterberg wrote and directed the powerhouse first Dogme 95 film, The Celebration and I unfortunately haven’t seen his other films, but based on the strength of that one film and the cast, I’d say that The Hunt is going to be quite good with the always-great Mads Mikkelsen as a kindergarten teacher accused of child abuse. There seems to be a Danish skill in using melodrama to tell a story that increases the power of the story and I’m looking forward to seeing this.
Xavier Dolan is a young director who created a startling debut with I Killed My Mother in that he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in it. When I first saw the film I thought it was an amazing performance and then in seeing the credits it was even more impressive to see someone do all that at the age of 19. He followed it up with the stunningly beautiful Heartbeats which was wonderful to watch on the big screen at the Atlantic Film Festival a couple of years ago. With Laurence Anyways he moves out of the central role as actor and tackles the love story of a man and a woman after the man decides to transition to a woman. With another one of my favourite actors, Melvil Poupaud in the lead, it should be interesting to see what Dolan does with the story.
I know very little about the documentary Stories We Tell other than it was directed by Sarah Polley who has created two confident, beautiful and challenging feature films with Away From Her and Take This Waltz. Based on the strength of those two films and reading in the description that Stories We Tell is a documentary about family, stories, truth and memory it should be similarly powerful and beautiful.