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The Wagner Files

(2013, 90 mins)
In German & English with English subtitles
Director:
FEATURING Katharina Wagner, Philippe Jordan, Laurence Dreyfus, Oliver Hilmes, Eva Rieger, Samuel Finzi, Pegah Ferydoni

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Few composers inspire such extremes of love and revulsion as Richard Wagner, and few classical music documentaries go the extremes of this astounding German-made feature, which includes stylized, modern-dress reenactments of key moments in Wagner’s tumultuous life and digital animated graphics alongside more traditional expert testimony from the likes of Simone Young (conductor and music director of the Hamburg State Opera), Philippe Jordan (conductor and music director of the Paris Opera), Katharina Wagner (great-grandchild of Richard Wagner and director of the Bayreuth Festival) and Laurence Dreyfus (Professor of music at Magdalen College, Oxford).

With an audacity Wagner himself would surely have appreciated, the filmmakers don’t exactly shy away from their subject’s more dubious traits: his fraudulent financial transactions with "mad king" Ludwig of Bavaria (among many others); his scandalous love life - which included a passionate love affair with his best friend’s wife; his fetish for pink, feminine gowns… and of course his abhorrent anti-Semitic views, which would make him a cultural talisman for the Nazis.

At the same time, the movie revels in Wagner’s triumphant artistry. No composer before or since had such a grandiose vision for what opera could be.

Director’s Bio

Born in Brandenburg, Germany in 1967, Ralf Pleger studied music, art history and Italian in Berlin and Milan before freelancing as a dramaturge in opera and as a writer and director for radio and TV. His documentaries, dealing largely with musical subjects, include: A MUSICAL TOUR OF KRAKOW (1999), MUSIC IN ISTANBUL (2001), ANNE-SOPHIE MUTTER (2007), HANDEL: LIFE OF A POP ICON (2008), MADRID - ZEST FOR LIFE (2011), JOYCE DIDONATO, DRAMA QUEENS (2012), THE BEETHOVEN FILE (2013), VOCAL BATTLE ON THE HIGH SEAS (2013).


SPECIAL PRESENTATION

Richard Wagner's  final masterpiece, PARSIFAL, screens January 26 and 29 direct from London's Royal Opera House.

Oil Sands Karaoke

(2013, 82 mins, DCP)
Director:
Filmmaker in attendance

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Last September Neil Young spoke for many when he likened Fort McMurray to Hiroshima, "a wasteland". Local inhabitants were outraged, and at least one radio station banned Young from its playlist. Vancouver filmmaker Charles Wilkinson (Peace Out) treads a middle-ground with Oil Sands Karaoke, a portrait of the tar sands capital which includes both sobering vistas of massive environmental upheaval and an affectionate, non-judgmental look at the folks who live and work there, mostly when they’re letting their hair down at Bailey’s karaoke bar.

Among others, we meet Brandy Willier, a tiny driver of enormous trucks with a talent for tackling Britney Spears tunes, and Massey Whiteknife, an aboriginal entrepreneur better known on stage as Iceis Rain—a karaoke drag queen. Wilkinson applies the popular "Pop Idol" competition format to his own ends, here, to put a human face on what’s going on in our neighbouring province, and to draw in an audience that might be more inclined to listen to Sweet Home Alabama than another environmental sermon.

"Surprisingly sensitive… poignant, and beautifully shot." Marsha Lederman, Globe & Mail

Good Vibrations

(2012, 102 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
Director:
CAST Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Michael Colgan, Karl Johnson, Liam Cunningham

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Forget the Troubles and get your "Teenage Kicks" instead! In 1970s Belfast, gregarious impresario Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) opens his Good Vibrations record shop on the city’s most violent street. Confirming his terrible business sense, he next buys a seedy venue and launches a record label after pogoing his way through his first sweaty punk show. Signing local strugglers like Rudi, Outcasts and The Undertones—who go on to pen a single so catchy that legendary tastemaker John Peel is inclined to play it twice in a row—Terry comes to understand that Northern Irish punk is a tough sell.

Recalling Michael Winterbottom’s irreverent 24-Hour Party People, Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn’s wildly entertaining biopic plays loose with the facts, but nails the spirit of the era. As Hooley asserts: when it came to punk, New York had the haircuts, London had the trousers but Belfast had the reason. The seamless incorporation of archival footage lends a clear understanding of the chaos that had become commonplace. Consequently, we appreciate the catharsis such desperate, immediate music offered Belfast’s embattled youth. Likewise, we commiserate with Hooley when he suggests, "Victory doesn’t always look the way other people imagine it."

"An impasssioned, funny and monumentally likeable myth-making comedy." Time Out

The Summit

(2012, 100 mins, DCP)
Director:

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In the summer of 2008, 24 climbers set out to make the final ascent to K2, the world’s second highest and arguably most dangerous mountain. Eleven never came back. It was a disaster in a sport accustomed to tragedy. And it was by no means clear what had gone wrong. About the only thing all the survivors agreed on: the weather had been perfect; bright, warm and clear.

Nick Ryan’s film—written by Mark Monroe, who structured such acclaimed documentaries as The Cove and The Tillman Story—draws on interviews with the remaining climbers, sherpas and bereaved relatives to piece together an idea of the fateful events from myriad perspectives. Mixing digital footage shot on the ascent with dramatic reconstructions à la Touching the Void, Ryan puts us in the climbers’ boots to show how the compulsion to reach the summit—married with the frighteningly volatile nature of K2 itself—combined to turn small misjudgments into fatal errors.

We will probably never know the full story behind this tragedy—the Korean climbing team’s leader refused to participate, and some of the survivors offer flatly contradictory testimony—The Summit will leave you in no doubt about how the majesty of this peak continues to entrance adventurers, and the enormous demands it makes of them. As one sign lower down the slopes puts it: “Respect the mountain.”

"Riveting. Gripping. Thrilling." Indiewire

"A gripping cliffhanger. A heart-throbbing experience." Hollywood Reporter

Woody Allen: Love & Death

(1975, 85 mins, DVD)
Director:
CAST Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Harold Gould, Jessica Harper

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In his sixth film as director, Allen poked fun at his intellectual heroes, the heavyweight Russian novelists Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in particular, but also Chekov, Ingmar Bergman and Nabakov. At the same time this tale of a cowardly Russian philosopher caught up in the fight against Napoleon bows in the direction of Bob Hope and the Marx Brothers. It is one of Allen’s funniest movies.

In an interview with ’Esquire’ magazine, Allen recalled: "When good weather was needed, it rained. When rain was needed, it was sunny. The cameraman was Belgian, his crew French. The underlings were Hungarian, the extras were Russian. I speak only English - and not really that well. Each shot was chaos. By the time my directions were translated, what should have been a battle scene ended up as a dance marathon.".

Lou Reed's Berlin

(2007, 85 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
Director:
CAST Lou Reed, Sharon Jones, Antony Hegarty, Emmanuelle Seigner

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The doomed love story of addicts Jim and Caroline, Berlin’s 10 songs cycle through the couple’s initial drug-euphoric enchantment, their violent betrayals, their fatal collapse. In 1973, it was largely considered a flop. Today, it looks more like a masterpiece.

"Reed had never performed Berlin live in full until 2006, with a landmark five-day stretch at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. Director/artist Julian Schnabel brought cameras to commit the performance to celluloid; the record’s original producer, Bob Ezrin, was enlisted to oversee. Redemption all around.

The result is Lou Reed’s Berlin, a concert film by technicality, a cinematic trance in practicality. True to its source material, this is a mood piece. From the noisy cabaret confusion of wistful opener "Berlin" to the affecting coda "Sad Song," we are adrift in a live Lou Reed performance that Schnabel has captured in grainy-film reverie, all flickering silhouettes, soft-focus flourishes, and dreamy sepia tones.

Onstage, the band stands before a backdrop that Schnabel made to evoke the residential hotel where Caroline lives in "Lady Day"—beneath a tawny-green pattern, Lou looks imprisoned by mildew fractals and water stains. Projections also flutter behind him, interpretive scenes shot by Schnabel’s daughter Lola that end up interspersed within the film’s final cut. This is where we meet Caroline, a carefree, grinning, drooly-mouthed blonde with bicep bruises and high eyes, played–or, more accurately, mimed—by French actress Emmanuelle Seigner…

Then there are the tremendous back-up singers, retro-soul queen Sharon Jones and Antony Hegarty, the androgynous canary. And as for that atmosphere, Schnabel somehow magically makes the subdued hues of St. Ann’s feel like a grand loft space." –Camille Dodoro, Village Voice

Muscle Shoals

(2013, 111 mins, DCP)
Director:
FEATURING Aretha Franklin, Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Jimmy Cliff, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Wilson Pickett, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Steve Winwood, Rich Hall, The Swampers.
Classification: G

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Located on the banks of the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of the most creative and defiant music in American history.

Under the spiritual influence of the "Singing River" as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals is some of the most important and resonant of all time. "I’ll Take You There," "Brown Sugar," "When a Man Loves a Woman," "I Never Loved A Man the Way That I Loved You," "Mustang Sally,” "Tell Mama," "Kodachrome," and "Freebird" are just a few of the tens of thousands of tracks created there.

At its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white musicians together to create music that would last for generations while also giving birth to the unique ‘Muscle Shoals sound’ and the rhythm section ‘The Swampers.’

In this movie legendary artists including Aretha Franklin, Greg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Jimmy Cliff, Mick Jagger, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Wilson Pickett, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Steve Winwood and others bear witness to the magnetism and mystery of Muscle Shoals and why it remains a global influence today.

"Propelled in equal measure by its gorgeous music and rich anecdotes, it’s joyous, uplifting – and as funky as the music at its heart." David Gritten, Daily Telegraph

"A terrific film… a must see for even the most casual of music fans.. a stunning, soulful achievement." Jason Gorber, Twitch

"Will appeal to just about everyone." Katherine Monk, Canada.com

Woody Allen: Everyone Says I Love You

(1996, 101 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
Director:
CAST Edward Norton, Drew Barrymore, Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts, Woody Allen, Natalie Portman, Tim Roth, Natasha Lyonne, Gaby Hoffmann, Lukas Haas

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Edward Norton and Drew Barrymore stroll hand in hand around a fountain, then burst into a deliciously sloppy rendition of ’Just You, Just Me’, and immediately we’re right into it, and you can’t imagine why it’s taken Woody Allen so long to get round to reviving the musical.

Romantic, nostalgic and decadent as Fred Astaire, this might as well be an old movie, for all its relevance to here and now. The plot - a frippery about the affairs of an extended upper-class family - transports us from Manhattan to Venice and Paris, a sneak preview of the itchy foot Allen would indulge over the next decade. Yet unlike some of the cosmopolitan films that followed this one never feels cynical or self-serving; indeed, it feels like the work of a younger, more open-hearted man. The musical standards are beautifully orchestrated, staged with wit and invention, and enthusiastically performed, particularly by Norton, Tim Roth and Goldie Hawn, three stand-outs in a charming, sweet-natured divertissement. Enjoy yourself (it’s later than you think).

"A delightful and witty compendium of the film maker’s favorite things." Janet Maslin, New York Times

"It would take a heart of stone to resist this movie." Roger Ebert

Good Ol' Freda

(2013, 86 mins, Blu-ray Disc)
Director:
CAST Freda Kelly, The Beatles

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Freda Kelly was just a shy Liverpudlian teenager when she was asked to work for a local band hoping to make it big. Though she had no concept of how far they would go, Freda had faith in The Beatles from the beginning, and The Beatles had faith in her. History notes that The Beatles were together for 10 years, but Freda worked for them for 11. Many people came in and out of the band’s circle as they grew to international stardom, but Freda remained a staple because of her unfaltering loyalty and dedication. As the Beatles’ devoted secretary and friend, Freda was there as history unfolded; she was witness to the evolution - advances and setbacks, breakthroughs and challenges - of the greatest band in history. In Good Ol’ Freda, Freda tells her stories for the first time in 50 years. One of few films with the support of the living Beatles and featuring original Beatles music, the film offers an insider perspective on the beloved band that changed the music industry.

"A satisfying and moving experience." Ernest Hardy, Village Voice

Model Shop

(1969, 95 mins, DCP)
In English
Director:
CAST Anouk Aimee, Gary Lockwood, Alexandra Hay

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Demy’s first (and only) Hollywood movie looks better every time you check back in with it. Model Shop spans a twenty-four-hour period in the life of George Matthews (Gary Lockwood, just off of 2001: A Space Odyssey), a moody young man of middle-class privilege in Los Angeles. He’s quit his secure but unrewarding architecture job and fallen into an aimless existence with his dissatisfied, wannabe model girlfriend Gloria (Alexandra Hay), when creditors come calling for his cherished vintage MG. In a seemingly listless attempt to stave off this eventuality, George wanders in his car in search of $100 to pay off its re-possessors, but along the way he catches sight of a pensive yet elegant Frenchwoman in a car dealer’s parking lot and decides to follow her. It turns out to be Lola (Anouk Aimée), the recently-divorced title heroine of Demy’s 1961 feature debut, now working in a “model shop” where men can photograph women in private sessions in a variety of intimate backdrops, with an implied liaison afterwards. She’s trying to make enough money to return to France to her daughter. It’s Lola in LA, in other words, a

"A marvel of tone and decor…forges the impossible bridge between Quentin Tarantino’s in-jokey cinematic universe of intertwined characters and events, and the recently-completed Before trilogy of Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke." Next Projection

"One of the great movies about LA." Geoff Andrew, Time Out Film Guide

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