Skip to main content
Under the Skin film image

Films to Watch at Vancouver's VIFF Centre in April

April 2024 | Reel Talk

Image: Under the Skin, Zones of Interest: The Films of Jonathan Glazer at VIFF Centre

In the April addition of Reel Talk, VIFF Centre Year-Round Programmer Tom Charity hones in on a few of the month’s highlights, including a retrospective on the works of Jonathan Glazer, Earth Day offerings, and some of the greatest films of the year.

What films are you most excited about this month?

Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World is a Romanian film by one of my favorite filmmakers Radu Jude. This extraordinary film plays out over two days. It follows a young woman working as a production assistant for a film crew who must pre-interview victims of workplace accidents because the company wants to feature them in corporate safety videos. She’s driving around Bucharest to interview these people, and scenes are intercut with sequences from an early 1970s Romanian film about a female taxi driver.

It sets up this dialectic between what the city looked like 50 years ago, how it is today, and different attitudes to women. Then there’s layers about corporate work practices and different modes of communication. I can’t even really encapsulate all the avenues Radu Jude takes us on because there’s an awful lot going on in this film.

Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World film image

Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World at VIFF Centre

I think he is the most radical and political European filmmaker working today. If you imagine you were looking back on the important films of the past 12 months from the perspective of 25 or 30 years from now – I think this will be one.

With Love and a Major Organ film image; couple sitting on beach

With Love and a Major Organ at VIFF Centre

I’m also excited to be sharing With Love and a Major Organ. It’s a Vancouver-made film based on a play. It’s a mildly futuristic love story — everybody in the film ceded their autonomy to an app on their phone, which gives them advice on everything, including romantic partners. The film’s heroine resists this groupthink to do her own thing and is subsequently seen as an eccentric. She meets somebody she thinks might be her soulmate — he’s reading yesterday’s newspaper in the park with all the bad news cut out. It reminded me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It’s refreshing to see a low budget Canadian film with this degree of imagination — it’s daring to be different.

Chicken For Linda! film image; animated family in car

Chicken For Linda! at VIFF Centre

We’re showing a French animated comedy called Chicken for Linda! which is quite delightful. It’s a story of a little girl unjustly punished by her mum over a misunderstanding. When the mother finds out that she was wrong, she asks her “How can I make it up to you? I’ll do anything.” Linda goes: “I want chicken.” As it happens, this is the day of a general strike, so all the stores are closed. She goes to a farm, but the farmers are at the rally… so she steals a live chicken. Chaos ensues.

A critic from Variety wrote: “In retrospect, I wouldn’t hesitate to call “Chicken for Linda!” the best film of Cannes this year.” There’s lots of slapstick humor, and the hand drawn animation is very pleasing and original — characters each have their own color. It starts off kind of realistic but ends up pretty off the wall.

Which films will be shown on Earth Day (April 22) this year?

We will have a BC-made film Silvicola. It’s about the forestry industry and filmed on Vancouver Island. The director Jean-Philippe Marquis spent 10 years as a tree planter, then became a filmmaker and wanted to explore this symbiotic destructive relationship between the forestry industry and trees. Everybody interviewed in the film works in that sector, either as a logger, planter, etc. They have different attitudes, but they all acknowledge the industry is decimating not only old growth but even beyond that — decimating the forest in a way that can’t be replaced even with the tree planting that goes on. The film is atmospheric — it’s beautifully shot and makes you listen to the woods in a way that’s very evocative. It’s an artistic piece as well as well as an advocacy documentary.

Silvicola film image; man chopping wood in forest

Silvicola at VIFF Centre

Close the Divide is an Albertan film reframing the climate crisis to make us think about it in a different way. For example, pointing out the technological developments towards sustainable energy that are legitimate grounds for hope. Without diminishing the dire stakes, it does suggest that the kind of doom psychology that characterizes most of the discussion around climate change has a paralyzing effect. It asks: What are the systemic changes that society needs to embrace and what can be achieved strategically? I have misgivings about some of the things in this film, but I think it’s healthy for us all to consider other perspectives, and opinions. I hope people will approach it with an open mind and engage in discussion. The filmmakers will be at the screening, and I think it could be a fascinating discussion.

Close the Divide film image; woman passing protestors

Close the Divide at VIFF Centre

We’re also showing a preview of a French comedy that we’ll be playing from the following Friday: A Difficult Year. Two middle aged men struggling with gambling addiction meet in an Addicts Anonymous type group. They attend environmental activist group meetings just to get free food, and are attracted to a woman there, so they pretend to be sympathetic to the cause, even though they’ve never really cared. It finds the funny side of life, and of course they do get involved in the cause in the end. We almost always play documentaries on Earth Day so I thought it might be interesting to do something different.

Zones of Interest: The Films of Jonathan Glazer runs from Mar 29 – Apr 4. Could you tell us a bit about why you chose those films?

Under the Skin film image; face on galaxy

Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer Restrospective at VIFF Centre

I’ve been an admirer of [The Zone of Interest director] Jonathan Glazer since his first film Sexy Beast came out in 1997 in the UK. The visuals are audacious and even surrealistic as the film goes on.

And then a few years later, in 2004, he made Birth. I thought it was a masterpiece. Nicole Kidman plays a New York widow who meets a 10-year-old boy, and he kind of courts her and says he is her late husband reincarnated. People didn’t know what to make of it. It invites you to imagine: maybe this kid’s for real, maybe he isn’t. It’s about that kind of l’amour fou [obsessional love], which was a prevailing concern of the surrealist movement. It was co-written with Jean-Claude Carrière who was most often associated with Spanish surrealist movies for the last 15 years of his career. They produced something that’s truly spellbinding. For me, it’s Nicole Kidman’s strongest performance.

10 years later, he came back with Under the Skin, which was like nothing anybody had seen before. Starring Scarlett Johansson like you’ve never seen her before. Again it’s a film about desire and sex, but as if it’s investigating from an alien perspective, from somebody who’s trying to make sense of humanity.

film posters on keyboard background

Elective Affinities: The Scores of Mica Levi, Jonathan Glazer Restrospective at VIFF Centre

We’re also presenting a Film Studies talk — Cayne McKenzie’s going to talk about the scores of Mica Levi, who scored The Zone of Interest, Under the Skin, Jackie. A couple of short films that Glazer directed and Levi scored are screening after the talk. Levi’s scores are so striking in their restraint on the one hand, because they don’t underscore a lot of the film — sometimes there’s no music at all. Other times, the music is huge and overpowering. It takes a leap of faith on the part of the director to allow the composer to be that full and operatic — it’s more of an upfront collaboration between music and image than you often get in contemporary work.

Glazer has also made a bunch of pop videos and ads that I almost included. His work is outstandingly creative. The guy just has an incredibly free visual imagination.

Last time you mentioned wanting to attend the Screwball Express screenings yourself. How was that?

It was so nice just to be in an audience where everybody’s laughing together at this film that’s 90 years old. Everybody wanted to talk to Michael van den Bos [the presenter] afterwards and tell him how much they enjoyed it. So that was really nice to see. It continues every Monday.

Thanks so much, Tom!

Tom Charity has been the year-round programmer at the VIFF Centre since 2009. He is the author of the critical biography John Cassavetes: Lifeworks, and has written or cowritten several other film books. A former film editor and critic for Time Out London magazine and, he has also written for The Times and Sunday Times, the Vancouver Sun, and many other publications. He contributes to Cinema Scope and Sight & Sound Magazine on a regular basis.