Tag Archives: Whistler Film Festival

Melodrama… in 3D!: Part 1

The second row is a little too close for comfort to watch a prolonged bout of mutual masturbation in 3D but that’s exactly where I found myself a couple of weeks ago during the opening scene of loveGaspar Noe’s Love. With the camera zooming in so close to the action and me so close to the screen, it was hard to know where to look. Watch her give him a handjob to my left or him finger her to my right? I was so close to the action I couldn’t possibly do both. So I decided to compromise and sheepishly look down at my shoes.

Okay, obviously this is the movie where the sex is unsimulated and shot in 3D so clearly I showed up looking to see some sex. I regretted missing this at TIFF whose website peaked my interest with “3D ejaculation, anyone?”. What I could not have anticipated was how awkward it would be to watch at first. Or, once I’d gotten over the initial discomfort, how boring it would be. Love scenes are always tough to sell, it turns out, just because the penetration is real doesn’t mean the passion is.

love 2And just because the images are 3D doesn’t mean the characters are. Karl Glusman plays Murphy (so they can make a pointless reference to Murphy’s Law at some point), an American aspiring filmmaker living in Paris. He wakes up on New Years Day (or “January 1st”, as it’s called in this movie) to a frantic voice mail message from his ex’s mom. Elektra (Aomi Muyock) is missing and probably suicidal. Murphy is now living with Omi, with whom he has a young son, but his whiny interior monologue reveals that he is fed up with her and is still hung up on Elektra. Before you feel too sorry for him, you should know that he cheated on Elektra with Omi and called her a “selfish cunt” when she got upset that he had knocked up some other woman.

Murphy and Elektra are moody people and all this moodiness was starting to feel hypnotic. I could get into this story about Murphy trying to find his lost love. Unfortunately, Noe devotes love 3very little time to this mystery and overwhelms us with flashbacks of the Murphy-Elektra love affair, which seems to have been mostly a series of increasingly trashy fights followed by increasingly tedious make-up sex. It gets dull pretty quick and it doesn’t help that Noe made a big mistake writing this script in his second language. “Have you ever made love on opium?” Elektra asks. “No,” says Murphy. “You should. It’s great”.

So, did it need to be in 3D? Well, “unsimulated sex in 3D” is a cool gimmick and it clearly got my attention. And the 3D ejaculation was anything but anti-climatic and I dare you not to watch it without ducking or at least flinching. Other than that, the story is too dark and the filmmaking too pseudo-artsy to work as a guilty pleasure but it’s also too awful to work as art.

One Proud Canadian at the Whistler Film Festival

If you’ve glanced at our chaotic Comments section on Jay’s Golden Globes post, you may have noticed that I am a big supporter of Todd Haynes’ Carol, which had its Canadian premiere at the opening gala of this year’s Whistler Film Festival. It was the best by far of the films I saw at the festival but- my love for this Hollywood indie aside- I am as proud as I am surprised to announced that the Canadian films I saw outshone every other American entry. Here are my thoughts on the three most pleasant surprises from my side of the border.

I don’t know why why I was so surprised that How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town was exactlyMV5BMTUzMjU2NzA4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzM0MTg5NjE@__V1_SX214_AL_ what it sounds like. Maybe knowing that it was Canadian, I was expecting it to be more polite and restrained. But, no, the second sex comedy from director Jeremy Lalonde does not skimp on the orgy. Having been labelled the town slut as a teenager, sex columnist and closet virgin Cassie returns to her conservative small town for her mother’s funeral. No one is particularly happy to see her until several townspeople- each one having reasons of their own- decide they need to have an orgy and beg her to facilitate it for them. Lalonde, on hand to introduce the film and to answer audience questions, packs Cassie’s living room with likable characters you’d never experience to show up to an orgy. The implausibility of the situation- especially that they’d keep coming back after every increasingly hilarious false start, is part of the fun. The jokes are mostly lowbrow (a montage of cum faces being one highlight) but rarely cross the line into juvenility.

In The Steps, Marla (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Jeff (Jason Ritter) are brother and sister living inthe steps New York who are called to their estranged father’s (James Brolin) cottage in Ontario to meet his new Canadian wife Sherry (Christine Lahti) and her three kids. Truthfully, things haven’t been going great for Jeff lately. He’s lost his fancy New York job and his fancy New York girlfriend and he watches a little too much porn. But that doesn’t stop him from judging the shit out of his new step family; Sherry loves lame icebreaker games, David (Benjamin Arthur) owns the third largest paintball course in the province and loves hair metal and Nicolas Cage movies, Keith (Steve McCarthy) is a depressed former indie rock musician, and Sam (Vinay Virmany) keeps sneaking away to smoke pot. Obviously, this isn’t going to be one big happy family right away but (spoiler alert) they’ll be backing each other up in bar fights in no time. Obviously, it’s hard to watch this movie without knowing where it’s going and each character seems plucked from the Handbook for Movies About Dysfunctional Families. But the casting, both in how they inhabit their own characters as well as how they interact with the others, is bang on. It got big laughs from a small 9 am crowd at Whistler and was well worth getting up so early for.

The Steps was a perfect example of how a familiar story, when told well, can feel new. This is just as true of Forsaken, which had its Western Canada premiere at the festival. Kiefer Sutherland (who stood like 20 feet from me when introducing the film) plays gunslinger John forsakenHenry Clayton who returns home to his Reverend father (Donald Sutherland, sharing the screen with his son for the first time). As a pacifist, Rev. Clayton is none too happy to see his boy and is skeptical that he is sincere in his vow to hang up his guns for good. John Henry’s abstinence from the way of the gun is tested when some bullies ride into town forcing people off their land and threaten his long-lost love (Demi Moore).

They don’t make westerns like this anymore. Forsaken is neither revisionist nor homage. Instead, it follows the tradition of the great westerns of the 50s that understood the excitement of watching a hero getting his revenge just as well as they did the importance of making us wait for it. John Henry takes a lot of abuse and witnesses a lot of injustice before finally unleashing hell. We’ve seen this character before and know how it’s all going to turn out but it’s fun to see it all play out, especially with first-time feature director Jon Cassar taking his time with telling the story. If there’s one thing Kiefer knows , it’s how to play a killer who just wants to retire but keeps getting pulled back in and plays John Henry with just the right mix of badass and bashful. Both Sutherlands play their parts well, although the accent Kiefer tries out in some scenes doesn’t suit him, and the two are at their best when onscreen together. Even more effortless, however, are the bad guys played by the great Brian Cox, Sean’s high school buddy Aaron Poole, and the amazing but underrated Michael Wincott. It’s a blast watching these three be despicable and even more fun knowing that, by the end, their uppance will come.

Whistler, Day 5

Whistler is gorgeous. What a great place to hold a film festival. Even for a non-skier, the village is full of activities and temptations for any palette. And the people are SO friendly. Within minutes of our arrival, a complete stranger was fishing through her coin purse to give us a quarter to loose a shopping cart at the market, and if you take so much as a single hesitant step anywhere in the village, someone will stop to assist you, sometimes a designated helper, other times just a dedicated resident, whether you’ve asked for it, or want it, or not.


I wish I was equally impressed with the film festival itself, but I’m not. It made an immediate nasty impression on me when I arrived at the gala WFF-2015-900x600only to be put on the naughty list for holding contraband (ie, my camera). Here’s the thing. Don’t tell people from around the world to come to your film festival in a picturesque little village, and then tell them not to take pictures. Second, don’t call this a film festival or else I might have the idea that actors and directors are debuting their films and will be walking red carpets expecting to be photographed. There were precious few celebrities in Whistler, not even the ones who were billed, but I didn’t know that yet. I was still thinking you were a real festival, Whistler, and so I expected you to treat me like a real attendee. Instead you treated me like a criminal – only of thought crime, I suppose, since I hadn’t yet seen a single movie and could not have pirated your precious material – BUT I OWNED A CAMERA so of course I deserved to be lectured like a felon wearing finery. No matter that you’d already let in a hundred people with phones equipped with the exact same video-taking ability. No, no, by all means single me out and shame me. I’m sure I deserve it.


But on the topic of that first night, the “opening gala” as it called itself, whistler-villagewhich apparently was just an excuse to charge $35 dollars to watch a movie when all the others cost only $13. What does a gala make? Was it the cash bar, or the obligatory speech from the mayor? Next year can I pay extra not to hear that speech? As you know, Jason Priestly and Kim Cattrall were announced as the in-house celebrities, and yet we saw not a single hair from either of their heads the entire week we were there. And if you’re not trotting them out for the opening gala, then for what?


Difficulties and disappointments permeated this festival no matter which way we turned. The St. Lawrence festival that we attended last month wasn’t perfect either, but this being its inaugural year, we were more understanding. Whistler is boasting that this year is its 15th, and by now, they really should know better.


If a screening was scheduled to start at 8:30pm, they didn’t start letting 491people in until 8:30pm, which means not a single movie ever started on time. The theatres were sitting there with empty seats, but for some reason, the paying public was not allowed to sit in them. Even once you were in the theatre you’d be lucky to score a seat, as half of them were always reserved. Nobody ever showed up to sit in those reserved seats, so they’d yank the reserved signs last minute, which means the very last stragglers to arrive got the very best seats in the house, while people who had lined up politely got stiffed, EVERY DAMN TIME.


Sean and I were supposed to see 11 movies at this festival but only saw 10. We were in line waiting to be let in to see The Wave when we were told that no one could figure out how to download the movie from the usb, and so it was indefinitely delayed – “90 minutes at least.” We were told we could either come back 90 minutes later, or we could trade in our passes for passes to anoth2015-12-05 11.20.25er movie. But here’s the rub: we’re at a festival. Our schedule is set. Waiting 90 minutes leaks into our next film. And we don’t have any other holes in our schedule to allow for a substitute film. Other people had just driven up from Vancouver and couldn’t stick around for these options, but reimbursement was flatly refused. The 90 minute wait was of course commuted to an outright cancellation, and no makeup screening was ever scheduled, which means we were shit out of luck. We travelled 4500km to see these movies, and it’s kind of heartbreaking to leave unsatisfied.


Honestly, we were unsatisfied before we got there. The programming was not solid. We knew going in that although there were quite a few “big” 20151205_121324movies on the bill, we’d only get to see one of them because they were all scheduled to play at 9pm on the Saturday night. Apologies to Sarah Silverman and James Franco, but I went with Emma Thompson. And at least that screening went off without a hitch. Others were not so lucky.


Two of our screenings – two out of ten, mind you – were interrupted because microphones in other screenings were being broadcast in our theatre. I felt bad for the director of Chasing Banksy, because some woman was mindlessly singing nonsense into a mic and that was broadcast right in the middle of his movie, drowning out its actual sound. It was particularly ironic since they were unable to provide him a 20151205_233448microphone when he was introducing the movie – a world premiere, no less – and he had to resort to using his “outdoor voice.” And the same thing happened again at the Ethan Hawke movie where several audience members apparently recognized the voice and were shouting “Hey Paul, your mic’s on!” so that instead of one distraction there were dozens. Awesome.


Anyway. I think the Whistler film festival is fine if you live in Whistler and20151205_233645 don’t mind being bandied about, and enjoy watching movies in the freezing cold. And no, I don’t mean it was cold in Whistler, because actually it was quite mild. I mean the theatres were unheated. Thank goodness for blanket scarves, which served more as blanket than as scarf – although I did see other people toting actual blankets around, and others just huddled under puffy coats. Luckily Whistler the resort town rocks. It’s fun and full of energy and we had a great trip even if a certain festival let us down.

Whistler, Day 4

Born To Be Blue: Ethan Hawke plays Chet Baker during a period of born-to-be-blue-pstr01time in the 1960s when he was approached to make a movie about his troubled life as part of a comeback effort. It’s inspired by Baker, but not a true biopic, so Hawke has plenty of room to spread his wings and make the character his own, in what is probably one the best performances of his career. His charming junkie act lends a little humour to the proceedings, surprisingly, so it’s not as bleak as you might think. His co-star, Carmen Ejogo, plays a composite character representing Baker’s “women” and is stunning, not just because she’s beautiful but because she gives a delicate and refreshing performance, a real break out, and fearless alongside such a seasoned professional. Canadian actor Callum Keith Rennie rounds out the cast as Baker’s long-suffering agent, and he attended the screening to tell us all about painting fake palm trees born-to-be-blue01to make Sudbury pass for California, and squeezing in the shots before the first snowfall of the year. This movie was a real passion project for Hawke and it took a long time, and funding from both Canada and the UK, to get the thing off the ground. It’s a real treat for jazz fans because the music permeates this film, as it should. It’s filmed in a kind of jazzy way too, a little offbeat maybe, but with plenty of sparkle. So if you can get over Hawke’s terrible Chet Baker teeth (or lackthereof), you should find lots to enjoy in this fantastic, tragic film.

River: An American volunteer doctor in Laos becomes a fugitive when he intervenes in the rape of a young woman and her assailant’s body is later pulled from the Mekong River. It’s one of those spiralling, out of control situations, and we’re right in the heart of it thanks to writer-director (and Canadian!) Jamie M. Dagg. Fuelled by fear, the doctor makes an attempt for the US embassy. The editing has energy that propels the story forward, but it’s more than just a thrilling escape attempt. This movie leaves you wondering about the ethics of visiting or living abroad – obeying laws that may clash with your own ethics, and who pays the price when the two disagree. Sean’s got a great review of the movie here.

The Legend of Barney Thomson: Robert Carlyle directs himself in the eponymous role, an awkward and shy Glaswegian barber who just so happens to take up a new hobby: killing. An inept local thomsondetective (Ray Winstone) is on to him, and it becomes a battle of the bumbling fools to see whose luck will run out first. One thing Barney’s got going for him: his mother, played uproariously by the ever-wonderful Emma Thompson, who goes balls to the wall with her delivery. Kitted out with a prosthetic neck, her accent is through the roof and it’s the most fun I’ve seen her have with a role, maybe ever. The movie is FUNNY. The accents are a little thick to my Canadian ears, but the jokes land so quickly that I never struggled for long. It’s like the Scottish Fargo – an absurd farce that’s just a whole lot of fun. Carlyle was very humble at this, the North Emma-Thompson-On-Set-Movie-Legend-Barney-Thomson-Tom-Lorenzo-Site-TLO-4American premiere of his movie (sidebar: this one too was funded with Canadian dollars!). He called his character’s suited look a tribute to his father – “My dad was a tie man his whole life.” He acknowledged several other personal touches, including shooting on locations where he’d grown up. He credited Danny Boyle with being a particular influence – “he just creates the right atmosphere” and taught him “not to interfere.” He also called a certain scene a “definite nod to David Lynch” (his Blue Velvet, in fact), but I won’t spoil it for you because it’s sure to make you smile. This movie was entertaining and well-executed, so I was surprised how emphatically Carlyle responded to an audience member who asked “Do you want to direct more films?”, the answer being “No!”


Her Composition

I’ve yet to comment on my Whistler experience because Jay has already written in detail about our first two days and was so spot on with her reviews of Carol, The Life and Death of an Unhappily Married Man, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town, and Love that I felt I had nothing to add. It was Friday (or, as I kept calling it, “Sunday”) that I dared to separate from the other Assholes and brave the Whistler Film Festival alone.

Whistler itself proved easy enough to navigate. I managed to explore almost the entire village on foot in about half an hour and is structured in such a way that even I would find it difficult (though not impossible) to get lost. Her Composition was a different story. After a chance encounter with director Stephan Littger earlier that day, I had the rare and awkward treat of sitting next to him at the Canadian premiere of his debut feature. Littger had already expressed some apprehension about the disappointing speakers at the Village 8 Theater and made a point of encouraging us all to move up to the front of the theater to get the full effect. Sitting so close to him made his anxiety contagious and we both shifted in our seats when the DVD began to skip only a minute into the screening. The problem soon corrected itself though and I was able to relax and enjoy this fascinating and challenging film.

Her Composition is, thankfully, not a comedy, sparing me the pressure of laughing on cue. Malorie (Joslyn Jensen), like Natalie Portman’s character in Black Swan, is an artist who wants to please her instructor so badly that she has trouble truly letting go. With her thesis composition due in a matter of weeks, she decides to start over. Finally getting out of her head, Malorie starts working as an escort and drawing inspiration from the sounds of the city and of her encounters with her clients. Her new unorthodox approach to songwriting feels empowering at first but the narrative begins to get darker and darker as her experiences as a sex worker get more and more dangerous and as her obsession with her masterpiece begins to border on madness.

Littger’s frustration with the house speakers is understandable. The sound mixing makes or breaks a film like this and Littger and his team have clearly put a lot of thought into how to communicate texture through sound. Malorie hears music in her head which, of course, is inspired by the sound and rhythm of the world around her. To communicate this to the audience- the relation between a man’s grunts during climax and the song in her head- is the hard part. It’s a work of exceptional editing and sound mixing.

Even if all the subtleties of the sound weren’t showcased as well as Littger would have liked, he’s still got Jensen- whose performance is nothing short of captivating. Her transition from teacher’s pet to tortured genius is believable every step of the way. I was disappointed that she was unable to attend the Canadian premiere last week because I would have been happy to meet her and congratulate her.

I hope a lot of people see this in theaters with speakers that would make Littger proud.


Of all the films we saw at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival, River was my favourite, and apparently, I’m not alone.   When the bulk of WFF’s awards were handed out yesterday, River won the Borsos Competion for Best Canadian Feature Film!

As well, writer/director Jamie M. Dagg was honoured twice in connection with River, for Best Director and Best Screenplay (naturally).  River’s lead, Rossif Sutherland (Donald’s son and Kiefer’s half-brother) also received an honourable mention in the Best Performance category.  And when the People’s Choice Award is announced tomorrow, I will be rooting for River to win that too, because it’s awesome.

What was it about this movie that grabbed me?  There’s so much there to love.  It’s a Canadian-Laos co-production, the first of its kind and the first western movie to be filmed in the southeast Asian country of Laos (if you’re rough on your geography, Laos is nestled between China, Vietnam, Cambodia,  Thailand and Myanmar).  It’s hard to call anything we see onscreen beautiful, exactly, but the surroundings almost become a character of their own.  The title, though generic, is fitting because the seemingly omnipresent water is an obstacle that our protagonist grapples with again and again.

The movie starts in a frenzied emergency room and the tension only builds from there.   Every sight and every sound tightened the knot in my stomach as I watched the action unfold from there.  The cinematography is fantastic, the editing is tight, the score is amazing, and Rossif Sutherland is a revelation as Dr. John Lake.  Dr. Lake is one of the doctors in that frenzied opening scene, and the outcome results in him being asked to take some time away.  After a night of drinking at a vacation spot in south Laos, Dr. Lake witnesses a sexual assault and from there everything goes to hell.

Rossif commands our attention right away.  He’s got more than a little Jack Bauer in him, frenetic, unstoppable, and big enough to have eaten Kiefer whole.  But Rossif is clearly set on making his own name rather than relying on his lineage, and in River he delivers a star-making performance.  From the start, Dr. Lake is not a super likable guy, but Rossif makes us root for him anyway. We’re with him all the way through his journey and Rossif owns every single frame.

At all times, Rossif is an overpowering presence in the best of ways, and it is clear that the foundation for his stellar performance is Jamie Dagg’s work behind-the-scenes.  It’s hard to believe this is a Canadian movie and even harder to believe this is Jamie’s first feature film.  The action scenes, and there are many, flow naturally, are perfectly staged and suck the viewer right in.  Despite the fact we know in our gut that this can’t end well, we follow Rossif eagerly, because he and River are so compelling.  And just when you think it can’t get any better/worse, Dagg’s script delivers a fantastic payoff that elevates Dr. Lake and this movie to a whole new level, which did not even seem possible because what came before was already so great.

During the Q&A, we were told that this movie is being given a wide release in the spring of 2016.  How wide seems yet to be determined, but this is a movie you need to track down and experience.  Because River will take you on a wild ride that you won’t soon forget.   Don’t miss it!

Thoughts and Themes from Whistler Film Festival

Whistler Film Festival’s slogan is “Inspiring and Connecting Stories that Matter”, which is so generic I had to look it up even though it is attached to the pre-movie montage at every screening and we’ve seen ten movies in the last four days. But in the spirit of WFF’s slogan, here are some thoughts and themes inspired by our time here at the festival.

1. Consistently great Canadian movies

At least half of the movies we saw were Canadian or co-Canadian productions, and they were consistently good.  Canadian content rules have conditioned me to see Canadian movies as filler and nothing more, but I need to get over that notion and Born to be Blue, How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town, The Legend of Barney Thomson, and my favourite of the festival, River, are helping me ease into that new mindset.

2. Real-life storm porn

It’s a good thing we brought an umbrella.  The local weather forecast called for 110 inches of snow this week.  I didn’t bring my ruler, and most of that snow had turned into rain by the time it reached the village (which is 5,000 feet below the mountain peaks) but I think for once thwitnere meteorologists got it right.  Even the rain was pleasant, though, and the thick, fluffy
snow capped off the idyllic experience in this beautiful mountain town (or more accurately, “resort municipality”, because it doesn’t seem that anyone actually lives here).

3. Technical difficulties

From long, unmoving lines in an empty 8 theatre cinema, to lines that were permitted to mhqdefaulterge when they should have been kept separate, to triple viewings of the same commercial, to cancelled screenings, to reserving more than half the seats in a theatre for patrons who never showed, the Whistler Film Festival was an utter mess.  This topic deserves its own article, so stay tuned!

4. Australians

There must be more Australians in Whistler than anywhere outside Australia.  It’s absolutely insane that their accent here is more common than ours.  Whether you’re in the gondolas, hotels, theatres, coffee shops, pizza places, box offices, restaurants, equipment rental places, or grocery stores, in Whistler there is no escape from talk of dingoes eating babies.

5. Uncircumcised penises and other gratuitous nudity

I lost count of the number of penises I saw this weekend.  It was a lot.  And I think there might have been even more times when I thought, that woman is only naked because the director/screenwriter/executive producer wanted the excuse.  omg-gross-roger-rabbit-censored-1

Then again, this whole art instead of porn approach is one I can get on board with!

That’s all I’ve got for now but we have a five hour plane ride coming up so that will give us lots of time to come up with more to say.

Whistler, Day One

We’re in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia for the opening gala of whistler-xmas-wallpaperthe 15th Whistler Film Festival. The Whistler Film Festival (WFF) styles itself ‘Canada’s coolest film festival’ which I suppose is a clever play on the fact that it’s up in the mountains at a gorgeous ski resort town, the very best in skiing that North America has to offer, in fact.

The whole of Whistler is really constructed around this magical skiing. The hotels are “ski-out” – there are ski valets so you can ski right to the lobby door, check your skis, and walk right to your room in  your stocking feet if you so wish. The village is packed with all the vacation delights you might hope to paWhistler%20Winter%20Specials%20Whistler%20The%20Legends%20Legends%20Pool%20Winterrtake in when not skiing – there’s shops and galleries and most of all, ultra-deluxe restaurants for your taste buds’ every desire, and they’re all snuggled up cozily in a pedestrian-only enclave. If you’re tired of skiing, you can try snowshoes, or zip-lining, or dog sledding. Or, you know, fuck that shit: there’s imagesaward-winning spas and hot springs, and I’m telling you right now there’s nothing more romantic than sitting in a hot tub with a glass of champagne while the snow falls quietly around you.

Of course, being assholes, we’ve come to one of Canada’s most naturally stunning outdoor spaces, nestled between two majestic mountains, in order to spend time in a cramped, windowless room, watching movies.

Welcome to the Whistler Film Festival!

Last night, after a celebratory dinner to toast Sean’s birthday (warning: food porn on Twitter @assholemovies ), we hit up the opening gala where the feature presentation was Carol.

Carol is a ToddCAROL Haynes-directed drama starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Carol (Blanchett) is struck by the kindness of a stranger named Therese (Mara) just as her life is falling apart. Picture New York, 1950s: her marriage is ending, messily, and custody of her daughter is uncertain. She pursues a friendship with the much younger woman but they struggle when their feelings turn romantic. The world isn’t quite ready for such an affair.

Obviously I think Cate Blanchett is the bee’s knees and it strikes me now that I’ve never really heard a catesingle word said against her. She’s easy to adore because she’s consistently great. I think Oscar will remember her come nomination day, and it might be knocking on Mara’s door as well. Blanchett is an absolute dream here, so present in every scene, so poised. Her anguish is apparent in a look, the lowered lashes, the head turned just so. She’ll remind you of an actress from another era, which is perhaps appropriate since this is a period piece (Matt pointed out that Haynes seems to favour “the 1950s in the closet”, and felt that Carol not only stood up to Far From Heaven, but exceeded it).

Haynes sets a mournful tone early on. His direction is artful, considered. The story is slow, and simple, like a rose in his hand shyly opening its petals. We rely so much on the silent interplay between our two leads, so much is said just by their smouldering eye contact that we need excellent, ready camera work, and get it. Mara and Blanchett enhance each other on-screen, there’s a crackling electricity that makes it almost titillating for us to be eaves dropping on their early encounters.

But this is the 1950s. Things aren’t going to go smoothly for these two. This is not just a character study. It’s a story of suppression, repression, forbidden love. The programming director of the Whistler Film Festival introduced it say “This film moved me to tears, and I hope it does you too.” I thought it a little strange that he wanted me to cry, hoped that I would cry, but he was right. I was moved.

Carol is as rich as the chocolate tart we had for dessert last night. Every bite is nuanced and full of flavour. Both sinful and sweet, every crumb devoured without regret because it is good. And when it’s done, you can leave the table feeling satisfied.

Whistler Film Festival

I’ve officially got a Mack truck of a cold, so I’m sure to be a pleasant seat mate on our flight to British Columbia this morning. What’s more annoying – sitting beside a coughing woman for a 6  hour flight, or sitting beside her for ELEVEN whole movies?

1024x768filmfestivalWe’re off to join Canada’s favourite celebrities with nothing better to do (aka, Jason Priestly and Kim Cattrall) at the Whistler Film Festival this week.

Kiefer Sutherland’s going to be kicking around too. He was born in England (so was Cattrall if you want to get technical) but his daddy Donald Sutherland is a Canadian gentleman, and his grandpappy was a famed Canadian politician (Tommy Douglas was his name – he was Premier of Saskatchewan for a damnForsaken long time, and is applauded for ushering in our universal health care). The Sutherland boys have been hitting up the festival circuit big-time this year (they were at TIFF too) because they have a new movie to show off: Forsaken, a western that also stars one of Sean’s old school mates. Kiefer’s brother Rossif Sutherland is starring in another Whistler movie, River, which means there are THREE Sutherlands competing for best Canadian feature performance. Kiefer’s getting a special tribute at this festival so he’s taking home hardware one way or another.

Robert Carlyle isn’t remotely Canadian, but he’s getting honoured too. The Maverick Award, they call it – given to a risk-taker. He’s taken it all off in The Full Monty, is up for a Trainspotting sequel, plays a fairy tale creature on TV’s Once Upon a Time, and now he’s directing himself (and Emma Thompson) in The Legend of Barney Thomson.

And of course, this wouldn’t be a Canadian event without some very Canadian pastimes: the Whistler Film Festival is taking over the nearly tracks leftover from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics to stage a bobsleigh race, and of course the annual celebrity ski race, starring the likes of Jason Priestly, Atom Egoyan, Bruce bobsleigh-and-skiMcDonald, Norman Jewison, and anyone else who can find ski pants and will brave the epic gondola ride to the top.

When we’re ready to warm up, we might catch the screen writer’s panel, featuring Emma Donaghue, who wrote Room and 9 other writers, including the woman behind Pixar’s Inside Out (Meg LeFauve), and Brian Sipe, writer of Demolition, who we last met at TIFF, and Jon Herman, the white guy who wrote Straight Outta Compton.

And I’ll be trying to stoke my courage to ride Whistler’s famous peak to peak gondola. It’s strung between Whistler Mountain and imagesBlackcomb mountain and is both the longest (3.024km) and highest (436m) gondola lift in the world, which means I hate it on principle and am literally shaking in my boots. To make matters worse: glass-bottomed gondolas! So you can fully, 360 degree, imagine your plunging death in high-definition detail.


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