LE CINQ DIABLES (The Five Devils) (France 2022) **½
Directed by Lea Mysius
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THE COLOUR OF INK (Canada 2022) ***1/2
Directed by Brian D. Johnson
It is evident the immense amount of research that went into the making of THE COLOUR OF INK which also involves travel internationally from as far as from Canada to Japan to Italy and Norway where artists who use ink-maker Joshua Logan’s special ink reside or where other ink forms are present. Toronto-based artist and ink-maker Jason Logan is the main subject of the doc, which traces the history of ink and its impact on the world in Brian D. Johnson’s lush and visually striking film shot by celebrated cinematographer Nicholas de Pencier. Director Johnson also moves from the source of ink to its prime users. Ink is the dead raw material brought back to life from its use by artists. Logan’s fans and artists range from the legendary Robert Crumb to New Yorker cartoonist Liana Finck and Japanese artist Koji Kakinuma. Finck is the most interesting of the three and given the most to say. Despite the off-putting sound of the doc’s title, (don’t let the title discourage you from picking this film) director Johnson has brought the subject to life bringing forth insight, knowledge and with the additional bonus of entertainment.
JOHN WICK CHAPTER 4 (USA 2023) ***1/2
Directed by Chad Stahelski
Time flies. It seems like yesterday that audiences flocked to see and were amazed by the first John Wick action Keanu Reeves film and the two years that have flown that marked the delay of Numero quatre due to the Pandemic. Finally action fans are ready for Wick 4, all 165 minutes of it. It is a very long sit-through made easier by the action set-pieces that are always edge of the seat exciting to watch, never mind that some of them go on for more than 15 minutes at a time. According to the director, there are 14 action set pieces in all, too many to keep track of, and true that a few of these stand out, and might be remembered in the annals of film nation history.
In New York City, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) prepares to exact his revenge against the High Table while hiding underground with the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne). He travels to Morocco and kills the Elder, the only individual above the High Table. As a result, New York Continental Hotel manager Winston (veteran British actor Ian McShane) and his concierge Charon (Lance Reddick) are summoned to the Marquis Vincent de Gramont (Bill Skarsgard), a senior member of the High Table who chastises Winston for his failure to kill John. To punish Winston, de Gramont strips him of his duties as manager, has the New York Continental destroyed, and kills Charon. He then travels to Paris and enlists Caine (Martial-Arts and Hong Kong superstar Donnie Yen), a blind, retired High Table assassin and old friend of John's, to kill him, threatening to kill Caine's daughter otherwise.
The best action set piece takes place on the roundabout road surrounding the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. For those who have visited the French capital, it is well known that the surrounding road is always busy with fast circulating traffic. It is almost impossible to cross with the cars always whizzing by, the only way to get to the centre of the arc being walking in the tunnel beneath the road. The extended sequence of fights between Wick and his enemies amidst the cars, crashing into him and his combatants are masterfully done and credibly executed, done in the evening nights. The second most memorable set piece is the one taking place at the Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart) in Paris. Here, Wick is thrown down hundreds of steps as he goes rolling down stair after stair, before just getting up at the bottom. No-one can survive the falls in real life, but this is the movies. Another stunning set piece, though not an action one, takes place in the tunnel beneath Paris streets, on the Seine where Wick is transported by boat on the river.
The most over the top action set piece takes place amidst water and rain in a luxurious dance club where the clubbers dance totally unaware of the fighting going on. Wick fights mainly with ex-MMA fighter Scott Adkins, complete with body prosthetics to make him look like a ‘whale’ fighter. Call it fighting in the rain if you will, and it is a very elaborate and well choreographed set piece, comparable to the one in the recent BARDO, but for different purposes.
Never mind the over-simplistic neo-noir storyline and extended running length of the movie, the main thing to be entertained with and which are all extremely well executed are the outstanding action set pieces.
YOU CAN LIVE FOREVER (Canada 2022) ***1/2
Directed by Sarah Watts and Mark Slutsky
YOU CAN LIVE FOREVER is a touching story about a teenage girl who falls in love with the daughter of a Jehovah’s Witness elder. The film is a gentle coming-of-age sexual awakening set in the world of Jehovah'S Witnesses. As the saying goes, if one wants to embark on a project, it is best to base it on what one is familiar with. The film marks the feature debut of Montreal writers/directors Sarah Watts and Mark Slutsky. Although fictional, what transpires on screen, according to the press notes, is affected by Watts’ experiences in her life.
Jaime (Anwen O'Driscoll) loves sci-fi, The Cure and getting high. And unbeknownst to anyone around her, she is gay. When her father dies and her mother suffers a breakdown, she is sent to Quebec’s Saguenay region to live with her aunt (Liane Balaban) and uncle
(Antoine Yared), members of the town’s tight-knit Jehovah’s Witness community. Jaime feels like an outcast. But when dragged to a religious service, Jaime meets Marike (June Laporte).
As the teens grow closer – their attraction undeniable – Jaime finds herself drawn deeper into the Witness theology, which promises an eternal life in God’s promised kingdom after the world ends. Soon then girls will be forced to make a devastating choice between faith and love.
Unlike many lesbian love stories, the French BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR being the best example, YOU CAN LIVE FOREVER does not contain graphic sex scenes. It proves the point that a film need not have to be excessive in order to make a point, as there are other more subtle ways to show same sex love. In fact there is also no mention of same sex attraction till the second third of the film.
Another difference is the way Jehovah Witnesses are treated. In this film, they are treated with respect, with respect for their beliefs and not for just blind faith followers. The audience also gets to share a glimpse of their meetings.
Watts and Slutsky (known for his shorts Never Happened and Sorry, Rabbi) received a 2022 DGC Awards nomination for Outstanding Directorial Achievement In Feature Film. The film is Canadian and the directors are proud to celebrate the fact, an excellent thing as opposed to Canadian films opting to pretend to be American. The film was shot in the Saguenay river valley, where the magnificent fjord landscape is used to the fullest as a backdrop to the film’s haunting romance. The film’s most stunning scene is a simple one where the two girls sit facing a lake during one sunset. The camera is behind the girls, showing their backs on a wonderfully natural landscape. Audiences will also spot locations in and around Montreal, including Cinéma du Parc (where one of the film’s pivotal scenes takes place). The topic of French and English and their compatibility in school is also brought up. Jaime confesses her French to be terrible, being from Thunder Bay, Ontario at one point in the film when she attends her new school.
YOU CAN LIVE FOREVER is a charming and gentle gay coming-of-age story set in stunning Quebec that celebrates what the difficulties of life have to offer, both the good and bad.
The film premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival. It opens on the 24th of March.