Episode 86: VIFF 2020 & NYFF 2020 / Undine / Nomadland / Time / The Human Voice

“A documentary film-maker can’t help but use poetry to tell the story. I bring truth to my fiction. These things go hand in hand.”

Chloé Zhao

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: Sound of Metal & Minari. Followed by the VIFF 2020 and NYFF 2020 Titles: Undine, Nomadland, Time, and The Human Voice.

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Streaming links for titles this episode

Time is currently available on Prime Video

Undine has been acquired by IFC and currently awaits an official release date.

Nomadland has been pushed back from it’s December 4th 2020 release date and has not yet received an official release date.

The Human Voice will become available on March 21st, 2021

Drink in the Movies would like to thank PODGO for sponsoring this episode. You can explore sponsorship opportunities and start monetizing your podcast by signing up for an account here. If you do please let them know we sent you, it helps us out too!

Episode 85: VIFF 2020 Doc Talk / Mr. SOUL! / Into the Storm / My Mexican Bretzel

“My Mother when she saw the film. She told me I had made a most truthful portrait of her parents than if I had told the truth. So maybe it’s better sometimes to use fiction to tell truths.”

Nuria Giménez Lorang (Interview Link)

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: Dick Johnson is Dead & MLK/FBI. Followed by the VIFF 2020 Documentary Titles: Mr. SOUL!, Into the Storm, and My Mexican Bretzel.

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Streaming links for titles this episode

Mr. Soul! is currently available in Virtual Cinemas

My Mexican Bretzel on IndiePix Unlimited

Into the Storm is currently seeking distribution.

Drink in the Movies would like to thank PODGO for sponsoring this episode. You can explore sponsorship opportunities and start monetizing your podcast by signing up for an account here. If you do please let them know we sent you, it helps us out too!

Episode 84: VIFF Kickoff / The Devil All the Time / Sibyl / Siberia

“Life is what happens when you’re doing other things, right?”

Abel Ferrara

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: The Trial of the Chicago 7 & Shithouse. Followed by The Devil All the Time, Sibyl, and the VIFF 2020 Official Selection Siberia.

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You can explore sponsorship opportunities and start monetizing your podcast by signing up here. And when you do let them know we sent you!

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Streaming links for titles this episode

The Devil All the Time on Netflix

Siberia is currently seeking distribution

Sybil is currently available to rent from multiple sources.

My Mexican Bretzel

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde

    80/100

During the past few months I have developed a love for documentary filmmaking, but this “documentary” is unlike any other I’ve seen so far. From the opening title card which reads “lies are just another way of telling the truth.” I knew I should have been prepared but what happened next was surprising. 

The film starts with WWII Swiss pilots and culminates in the crash of a pilot called Leon Barrett who loses his hearing. From there we get more insight into his relationship with Vivian Barrett, through a series of homemade videos, and their eventual trip to Paris where they secure a business deal to develop a new antidepressant called Lovedyn which has minimal side-effects.  

As the documentary progresses, or so we are told, we see their journey across Europe, to places like Barcelona and Majorca, and the United States. We also see an apparent deterioration of their relationship when Vivian falls for a man named Leo. When Leon and Vivian eventually reunite in NYC they continue traveling by land, air, and sea promoting Lovedyn. 

The biggest technical achievement of this piece is audio-visual manipulation and not the story itself. Bretzel is mostly silent and sound is used sporadically throughout. When sound is used it conveys a particular purpose or emotion typically used to indicate movement such as the sound of an airplane crashing, a train passing by, an owl flying down to catch its prey, the sound of a gondola, the roaring of the engines at a race track, or the crashing of waves. There is little to no dialogue and in the rare moment we hear spoken words it is the voice of an announcer calling a race. Instead of relying on sound the director, Gimenez, relies on archival home video footage overlaid with diary-like entries to explain what is going on. 

This piece is the definition of a slow burn. I suspect that this is more of a pastiche of the stories that the director heard growing up as opposed to a strict documentary. When you try to learn more about who Leon and Vivian Barrett were nothing comes up. This genre bending compilation of images and people is worth a watch for those who have the patience to appreciate the little things in life. If you go in, like me, with zero expectations you might be pleasantly surprised.

Recommended.

My Mexican Bretzel Trailer

My Mexican Bretzel screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2020.

VIFF Website: https://viff.org/Online/

Available to stream thru IndiePix Unlimited here

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

Jumbo

Written by Alina Faulds

60/100

The narrative structure of Zoé Wittock’s debut feature Jumbo is reminiscent of the amusement park ride that Jeanne (Noémie Merlant) is supposedly enamoured with. The Move-It ride is the kind where you’re strapped in as the machine’s arms fling you in all sorts of circles and every which way. Jumbo’s tonal shifts feel the same way, often not making sense as the film’s emotions change too abruptly leaving the viewer confused and nauseous.

Jumbo follows the character of Jeanne, a young woman that still lives at home with her single mother Margarette (Emmanuelle Bercot). Preferring to tinker with machinery over interacting with other humans, Jeanne takes a summer job working at an amusement park, the perfect form of employment for her interests. The amusement park is where she first encounters the Move-It ride which she affectionately decides to name Jumbo and quickly falls in love with it. Along with having to cope with her newfound objectophilia, Jeanne has to take a lot of criticism from her overbearing mother and deal with a boss that has feelings for her. 

Noémie Merlant’s performance is one of the few lights of Jumbo. She totally commits to the role, having Jeanne unconditionally fall in love with Jumbo and expressing confusion at her own actions. Merlant does her best to refrain from making Jeanne a mockery despite her strange and bizarre obsession with an inanimate amusement park ride. Merlant portrays Jeanne’s feelings for Jumbo just as she would if Jeanne was in love with another human, the same devotion she shows for Adèle Haenel’s Héloïse in Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Another highpoint of Jumbo is the film’s score by Thomas Roussel. Its synthetic and techno beats help portray the character of Jumbo as Jeanne looks for signs that the machine is acknowledging her, along with the rides mechanical groans and flashing lights.

Director Zoé Wittock puts in an immense effort to make Jumbo feel real despite the whimsically fairytale nature of the film, which is actually based on a true story as stated at the beginning of the film. However despite reality, Jumbo is still going to be too bizarre to be a believable story for many people. People who are more attuned to reality will simply look at Jeanne’s character as crazy, while those who live in fantasy will understand the love she has for Jumbo. No matter how great Merlant’s performance and Wittock’s directing efforts the plot will just be too out there for people to get behind. 

Jumbo’s tonal shifts fail to help as well, making the film’s realism even more difficult to believe. Jumbo freely jumps between the mother-daughter relationship with Jeanne and Margarette, Jeanne’s uncomfortable relationship with her boss, and Jeanne’s romantic relationship with Jumbo. It jumps between a comedy with humorous jabs coming from Margarette to a drama as Jeanne cries at Jumbo’s base begging for forgiveness. There are also a few scenes where Jeanne pictures herself in a blank white room with Jumbo as her only company. Pitchblack oil comes out of the machine and envelops Jeanne’s naked body, meant to be Jeanne’s release of pleasure but it just pulls the viewer out of the story’s realism once again and doesn’t make sense in the context of the entire film.

Despite immense efforts from Merlant and Wittock, Jumbo is just too bizarre of a film to fully enjoy. It’s difficult to give oneself over to the film’s while remembering how strange it is that Jeanne is in love with an inanimate object, it’s flat out weird. Wittock’s intentions are to have the viewer understand Jeanne’s love for Jumbo but instead, the viewer is just going to feel bad for Jeanne because her actions are so crazy. Jumbo is worth checking out for its bizarre plot but overall it is a disappointing piece of film.

Jumbo screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival 2020.

VIFF Website: https://viff.org/Online/

You can follow Alina Faulds’ Letterboxd, Twitter, or Instagram and view more of her work here.

Mogul Mowgli

Written by Taylor Baker

73/100

Tariq’s choice to keep a tighter aspect ratio in conjunction with repetitive close ups and smart if a bit overdone sound design create an experience that is far more felt than seen. His past work as a documentarian and the flourishes he learned in that work are clearly present here, thus adding a passive layer of believability. But it’s his leaning on the frenetic moments in the restaurant and the dreamlike encounters with a figure from one of Ahmed’s tapes that show he has something personal to offer in the medium of fictional storytelling.

Ahmed’s character Zed would normally be fashioned a tragic character in lesser hands. A victim of the world and the story. Their choice to keep neutrality on this by delicately building out characters and sequences of dialogue where he is unsympathetic or just a plain asshole reap a reward of treating the audience as mature and not spoon-feeding us. 

Not unlike Zed in the picture, the film does stumble along the way to it’s end. There is a lack of engrossment in the narrative, for periods of time you find yourself seeing the exact material you thought you would. Until Tariq breaks convention and pulls you back in, or you see the flashback/dreamlike sequences from the train and are drawn back.
In the end Mogul Mowgli doesn’t reinvent the wheel, or rise to glorious heights of cinematic storytelling. What it does do is cement the growth of Ahmed as an artist not just a performer, and establishes the budding flower of a possible cinematic duo for decades to come in Tariq and Ahmed as collaborators. I certainly hope Tariq brings us another feature film soon, I think he’s just getting started.

Recommended.

Taylor Baker originally posted this review on Letterboxd 10/23/20 in collaboration with MoviesForReel. You can check out more movie reviews and news from Movies For Reel here.

Mogul Mowgli is part of the Vancouver International Film Festival 2020 line up.

VIFF Website: https://www.viff.org/Online/

Undine

Written by Alina Faulds

60/100

Director Christian Petzold brings Paula Beer and Franz Rogowski together again for his latest feature Undine, a love story tinged with European mythology. The film opens on a bitter note, Johannes (Jacob Matschenz) brings Undine (Paula Beer) to their regular date spot, a cafe outside the Berlin City Museum-to break up with her. She tells him that she’ll have to kill him. While subtly shown in the film, the title gives Undine’s true presence away. She is an undine, a type of water nymph that longs to live amongst humans. With Johannes breaking up with her he’s doomed Undine, but her luck changes very quickly when she’s swept off her feet by a diver named Christoph (Franz Rogowski). 

Undine works best when it focuses on its romance. Petzold previously had Beer and Rogowski act as love interests in his film Transit, and their chemistry is just as present in Undine. Undine and Christoph fall for each other hard, cuddled in each other’s arms as they stroll the streets of Berlin and steal kisses from each other. Undine works as a historian at the Berlin City Museum giving lectures on urban development. Christoph loves her so dearly that he happily listens to her speaking and also takes her diving to see her name carved on an underwater wall. They’re quite the sentimental pair as Undine carries around a diver figurine that looks like it belongs in a fish tank. Rogowski makes Christoph into an extremely kind and loving man, fascinated with Undine’s quiet intensity. Petzold takes meticulous care in crafting the relationship between Undine and Christoph, their love is what ties the film together.

Where Petzold’s film struggles is in its mythology, which is largely brushed over. Undine is supposed to be an undine, but Petzold never makes this clear other than a strange underwater scene with a catfish named Gunther. The water nymph story is not explained very well either, as Petzold goes for a subtler approach with his narrative. When Undine tells Johannes that she’ll have to kill him for breaking up with her, it’s not implied that Undine is a water nymph and would have to go back to the lake from which she came. Her great desire to stay on land fails to be explored properly because of how quickly she meets Christoph. Any time Petzold tries to hint at this mystical plot point Undine loses itself. 
Undine works best when it purely focuses on the aching romance between Undine and Christoph. The tension between Beer and Rogowski translates beautifully into the devoted love their characters have for each other. Yet Petzold’s insistence on adding the undine water nymph myth into his film does not work, especially for those who have no prior knowledge of water nymph characteristics. The fact that Undine is an undine feels shoehorned into the film for no good reason other than a nice parallel that Christoph happens to be a diver and Undine is from a lake. If Petzold had taken more time to articulate how undines function this story would have worked much better, unfortunately, Undine is too rushed, a murky romance that loses itself in unexplained mythology.

Undine screened as part of the 2020 Vancouver International Film Festival.

VIFF Website: https://viff.org/Online/

You can follow Alina Faulds’ Letterboxd, Twitter, or Instagram and view more of her work here.

Possessor

Written by Nick McCann

95/100

It fills me with joy when filmmakers have kids that go on to do filmmaking of their own. Enter David Cronenberg, the king of body horror! His movies over the years raised as many social and thematic questions as they did drain blood out of people. Now comes his son Brandon, following in his footsteps with something that’s as entertainingly gross as it is thought provoking!

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Possessor moves at a methodical pace, slowly building it’s world when appropriate and taking the viewer on an increasingly crazy trip. It leaves plenty up for interpretation. I’m still going over details in my head as of this writing, but I could see some parallels to topics of invasive technology, identity and others. All while the plot goes in a couple of neat and unexpected directions! Even with some parts that are slower than others, nothing feels unimportant.

With the Cronenberg name also comes the trademark bloodshed. Again, Brandon takes nicely after his father. The violence adds to the story rather than simply exploiting content. That’s great on top of the effects simply looking solid in their disturbing nature. This may be some of the best practical work and make-up I’ve watched all year! It’s composed to a degree that reminded me slightly of the tangibility found in 80’s horror. Whether it be shootings, stabbings or other nasty details in between, there’s genuine creativity and craft on display. It’s plain gnarly.

It’s backed up with a good cast that looks well suited for the world they roam. So good that I can honestly listen to them talk cerebral sci-fi for a good hour! Andrea Riseborough once again shines, with her most strung out emotional state that’s felt even in places where she isn’t on camera. I also gotta give props to Christopher Abbot! That guy I genuinely believed he wasn’t the person he was. At a point, his performance only gets better thereon. Jennifer Jason Leigh should not be ignored either, being a reserved foil to Riseborough. Top it off with a delightfully scummy Sean Bean and you really don’t have a weak link on screen. They have strong dialog and interesting characters to take their time with for excellent results.

Cinematography looks incredible, with particularly interesting uses of dead space and PLENTY of psychedelic colors. This combined with the editing gives off a mood that’s intense on a subconscious level. It’s about the ideal joining of Inception and Scanners, in the weirdest and best way I can put it. Just as it should, everything on screen is reflecting the subsurface hectic feeling in the plot. All of it strung along with the menacing drone of the score that had my heart pounding a bit.

This is strange. Possessor is an arthouse horror movie that I actually mostly get and enjoy! It asks many questions and succeeds in following through on its varied concepts. Equally entertaining in it’s shocking bits of carnage as it is ponderous about the bigger picture. Most won’t get it or be really turned on by it, but I’m jiving good with it. It’s a thinking man’s blood fest. 

Highly Recommended.

Possessor is part of the Vancouver International Film Festival 2020 line up.

VIFF Website: https://viff.org/Online/

Possessor

Written by Alina Faulds

45/100

Possessor is the latest film from Brandon Cronenberg, another attempt to live up to his father’s legendary status in the industry. On one hand, he succeeds, the sci-fi body horror is just what one would expect from a Cronenberg flick, on the other hand, Possessor doesn’t live up to its hype often losing itself in its poor pacing and fails to properly convey a message. Possessor is violent, arthouse, graphic, and just plain weird. Plenty of people are going to love it for these reasons and will actually take something from the film, but it won’t do much for the average movie watcher.

A highpoint of Possessor is its opening as Cronenberg throws the viewer straight into the film wasting no time on exposition. Holly (Gabrielle Graham) begins stabbing a random man before putting a gun into her own mouth while screaming “Get me out!” Next Holly is dead and Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) wakes up in her own body, lying in some sort of machine. The sequence is chaotic and whiplash-inducing, and full of a lot more blood than necessary. A perfect set-up for what the audience should expect out of Possessor.

Instead of ghosts and demons, it’s Tasya that’s the “Possessor.” An assassin working for a mysterious organization, they use the aforementioned machines to take over random people’s bodies, using them as pawns in their missions to assassinate too-rich targets. Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character supervises the twisted science experiment but not much else is explained. When Tasya comes out of the machine she is given objects to trigger her own memories and remind her who she is. Tasya is struggling in her job, while she’s supposed to be cold and calculating, she begins to struggle as she thinks about her own family, she’s beginning to feel empathy for the people whose bodies she’s stealing. This comes to a head when she possesses Colin’s body (Christopher Abbott), the two battling against each other for control.

Possessor definitely has a compelling storyline but the pacing loses itself especially in the middle of the film. It gets rather dull as Tasya in Colin’s body is getting ready to off her next target, needing to prove herself to those in Colin’s life. With a compelling beginning and an incredible ending, unfortunately, Possessor is bookended by two great scenes that make the rest of it a snooze. Where Possessor does excel outside these scenes is in its visuals, especially those when the body’s two souls are fighting for control. With chilling screams and nightmare-inducing faces, the practical effects shine in these sequences, as they do in the killings as well. The acting between Riseborough and Abbott excel in these scenes as well. 

The other problem in Possessor is Cronenberg keeps saying the same thing. Tasya is struggling in her job and especially in Colin’s body, clearly shown in the multiple gross soul-ripping scenes. But Cronenberg never explains why this is the case, just that possessing other people’s bodies is bad. Possessor loses its touch here, getting a little too vague. Again it’s for these reasons why Possessor is such a divisive film, some will love the ambiguousness, trying to find an answer on their own. Others won’t like it, frustrated at the answers Cronenberg refuses to give the audience. 

Possessor is part of the Vancouver International Film Festival 2020 line up.

VIFF Website: https://viff.org/Online/

You can follow Alina Faulds’ Letterboxd, Twitter, or Instagram and view more of her work here.

Father (Otac)

Written by Taylor Baker

83/100

Otac or rather Father, is a story that is best experienced without spoilers so I’ll be careful about what I mention in my assessments.

Srdan Golubovic serves as co-writer and director of a film I can only describe as a brooding on circumstance in modern Serbia. As one who is entirely unfamiliar with their contemporary issues on a global or local level found in Serbia, I can only make assessments off of the material here. And that material is notably stark. This is a film in which a dog getting hit by a car, a woman self immolating, and neighbors stealing from one another is simply a back drop. It’s center is Nikola, the titular Otac meaning Father.

Through complex circumstance I won’t go into here, Nikola’s children are taken from him by the government. Instigating a road movie, that has no cars. But rather a laborious walk in poor health through a brutal and somewhat if not entirely hopeless feeling landscape. With the only constant being signs to Belgrade. Where he will petition the Minister for his children.

Goran Bogdan, the actor bringing us the unshakeable Nikola is wearying to simply witness. His eyes, and labored breathing signal a sadness and exhaustion that is at best disabling and at worst fatal. His journey, solidity, and dignity are remarkable. This isn’t a film that sears itself into you, more a yolk of something great that you’ll carry with you. Likely mentioning it with a timid fondness to others and feeling disappointed that they haven’t seen it’s stark depiction of life in Serbia themselves.

Highly Recommended.

Taylor Baker originally posted this review on Letterboxd 10/06/20

Otac is part of the Vancouver International Film Festival 2020 line up.

VIFF Website: https://www.viff.org/Online/