That Burning Feeling

Generally speaking, I am not a rom-com person. But when I heard about the plot for Jason James’ That Burning Feeling, it sounded just subversive enough for me to want to watch it. I’m glad I did.

That Burning Feeling follows Adam Murphy, a standard rom-com misogynist whose flippant one night stands leave him with a diagnosis of Gonorrhea. After running into career woes and having to inform all of his unkindly-nicknamed bedroom partners about his diagnosis, he’s also left with a bruised ego and a lost sense of self.

Despite being a character I have no business liking, I never find myself actively rooting for Adam Murphy’s failure – in my interview with Jason James, he says that this is a testament to lead actor Paolo Costanzo’s abilities as an actor, and I would agree. The entire cast does an excellent job in this movie. Tyler Labine’s portrayal of Murphy’s presumptuous, no-holds-barred neighbour makes the film. While I expected to have a couple chuckles during the course of the movie, I actually found myself enjoying it much more than I thought I would.

Vancouverites may be happy to find a lot of references about the area showing up in the film, complete with ridiculously-named condominium complexes.

I think this is a movie that fans of quirky flicks can enjoy whether they tend to be romantic comedy enthusiasts or not. James has done a great job of crafting a film that fits within the confines of a genre and yet pushes its boundaries at the same time.

– Linda Sjostrom

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Big Sur

I would argue that there’s an inherent challenge in adapting one of literary icon Jack Kerouac’s novels for film. While Kerouac’s signature stream-of-conscious writing style is one of the primary reasons he gained fame as the father of the Beat Generation, it stands in contrast to the conversational nature of most films. Additionally, his work doesn’t follow a typical story arc that you might find on the pages of a script. Regardless, Michael Polish’s Big Sur — based on the novel of the same name – is a film worth viewing for literary buffs.

Polish took a few artistic liberties, such as forgoing pseudonyms in favor of using the actual names of Kerouac and his companions, but stayed extremely true to Kerouac’s voice. In fact, according to Polish, all but twelve words in the film are taken directly from Kerouac’s novel. I found the voice-overs by Jean-Marc Barr, who played Kerouac, unobtrusive and felt they flowed nicely with the mood of the film. I think it actually would have been a shame to omit them, as so much of Kerouac’s work relies on language that takes place outside of dialogue. This holds particularly true at the end of the film, when Barr delivers his final lines. It was also refreshing to view a literary-based film that chose not to stray from the original artist’s work. There was no large departure from text or message, and no attempt to grab the audience’s attention with overtly modernized elements.

From a production standpoint, the film is stunning. Cinematographer M. David Mullen captures the overwhelming beauty of the Big Sur region in a way that can get you lost in the scenery. The soundtrack is also easily my favorite from the films I have viewed thus far. The music is lovely but also underscores the sense of contemplative desolation so present at this time in Kerouac’s life.

I would say the film ended without a strong feeling of resolve and the often aloof main characters can be hard to connect with, which may turn viewers away. However, readers of Kerouac may recognize these things as elements that are also present in his literary works. There was an unavoidable sense of loneliness about the film, just as in the novel and  in so many of Kerouac’s writings.

While I’m quick to admit that film adaptations of novels can lead to some truly cringe-worthy outcomes, I feel Michael Polish’s Big Sur played homage to Jack Kerouac’s novel in the best way it could. By using Kerouac’s own text he takes an admirable course of allowing the author’s work stand up for itself, and aids it with a breathtaking backdrop of redwoods and sea unparalleled by most films I’ve seen.

If you enjoy Kerouac’s work, I recommend trying to catch the second screening of Big Sur at the Victoria Film Festival on February 17th. Lovers of landscape photography could also benefit from seeing it. If you’re not a Kerouac fan, however, it may be wise to instead save up your movie endurance for one of the other films being shown on Sunday.

– Linda Sjostrom

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Good Vibrations

The story of Belfast’s Terri Hooley; a one-eyed, music possessed man who open up a record shop called Good Vibrations amidst the chaos surrounding him in Northern Ireland, is as heart-heartwarming as any music film I’ve ever seen. Capturing the power that music has in bringing people together. Wonderfully shot with archival footage of the time, and an excellent soundtrack featuring Hank Williams, Shangri-La’s, David Bowie and Suicide. Along with the Belfast punk bands that Hooley produced like Rudi, The Outcasts and The Undertones. The film is true to the times and gives insight into the Belfast punk scene through the efforts of Hooley. Packed with humor from start to finish. If you’re a record-collector or music fan this film will definitely cater to you, but it also has appeal aside from music enthusiasts or punk enthusiasts for the comedic value and overall quality of the film. Good Vibrations will be screening for the second and last time on the closing day of Victoria film festival. If you missed it before, I strongly suggest seeing the film. A slice of real-life that is sure to please audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

– Ross Currie

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Last Song Before The War

The Last Song Before The War takes you on a musical journey to Northern Mali, outside Timbuktu for the annual Festival in the Desert. The festival ran for 12 years serving as a gathering of different cultures and traditions, allowing festivalgoers around Mali and the world a chance to be connected through the shared experience of music. This documentary follows the last festival before the seizure of Northern Mali by Tuareg Rebels and Islamic Militants in 2012. Mali has always been known for its rich musical heritage, which is showcased in full throughout the 90-minute run time. Highlighting Griot performers, plenty of guitar solos, dancing and energy that can only be heard to be fully appreciated. A must see for anyone interested in Malian music, or music in general for that matter, a true treat for the ears and the eyes. Featuring interviews with Vieux Farka Toure, Khaïra Arby, Tinariwen, Banning Eyre and festival co-founder Manny Ag Ansar. The documentary illustrates the common ground that can only be reached through music, as well as showcasing the incredible talent that can be heard across multiple genres and styles in Malian music traditions.

– Ross Currie

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Interview Andrew Naysmith of Tidelines

Tidelines will be screening on Saturday, February 15th at the Victoria Film Festival. Listen to my interview with the director of the film Andrew Naysmith on the trials of consolidating three-years of footage into a full-length documentary and the importance of coastal preservation.

– Ross Currie

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Triptych

A triptych in the art world, is a work of art divided into three separate sections or panels. In the case of the film of the same name, directors Robert Le Page and Pedro Pires seamlessly interweaves the lives of three characters into a meditation in three parts. Starting off with Michelle, a Quebec City bookseller struggling with mental illness and reoccurring sounds and visions from her childhood that continue to haunt her and her ability to articulate the words inside her head. The film also follows her younger sister Marie; a jazz singer from Montreal suffering from aphasia after a brain surgery leaves her unable to remember the sound of her father’s voice. And Thomas, the German surgeon who operates on her in London, who also struggles with a failed marriage, alcohol abuse and a shaky right hand that prevents him from his practice in the future. Le Page gives viewers a glimpse into the psyche of three very different characters struggling to make sense of the problems in their minds, and allows for self-realization at the end of the film, when you’d never think it possible at the beginning. With the film being broken up into three parts and the intersecting narratives only revealing themselves as the characters are fully expanded, it allows the film to flow in a very unique way. Triptych is a concentrated examination on mindfulness that illustrates the effect of voice and words in understanding the self; executed to great effect through the lens of famed French-Canadian director Robert Le Page.

Ross Currie

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Karen Lam & Lauren Marsden – Co-Directors of The Pit: A Study in Horror

In today’s final installment of the interviews I did with some of the minds behind shorts you can see at today’s screening of Pure Creativity, I wanted to share a conversation I had with Karen Lam and Lauren Marsden, who co-directed The Pit: A Study in Horror. They had actually never heard of one another before they embarked on this project together, so their interview delves much deeper than just talking about the film itself. They told me about the unexpected benefits of working with someone outside of your own artistic field, as well as how they deconstructed horror films to produce this “creature feature without the creature.” If you want to find out about the main element you should use in a horror film to scare your audience, the popular BC location they used to shoot their film, or what other genre they’ve tried to brainstorm ideas for, listen below.

Have a great night at the festival if you’re headed to a screening tonight!

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