Films are the best thing out there for the soul and the mind. They can bring back past feelings or memories or project us into the future. They can take us to fantasy worlds or bring us back to reality. They can teach us something new. They can make us laugh; they can make us cry.
A film can be experienced with friends, our kids, our significant other. But one person I think people forget to share their movie experience with is themselves. A good film can be experienced alone. I know most people dread seeing a film alone and I’m often asked how I do it and if I feel self-conscious being in a theatre by myself. One of the best films I’ve seen were alone, sometimes in a completely empty theatre. I don’t know what people are scared of and why they are missing out just because said friend can’t make it tonight. I say, try it out; go and see a film by yourself; even better yet, go see a CIFF film by yourself. It’s an experience to be had.
dir. Anne Fontaine (France/Australia 2013)
Adore is a French and Australian sex drama directed by Anne Fontaine and starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright. The provocative and absurd love affairs in this film are intriguing yet troubling. It involves two, now grown, childhood best friends and neighbours, Roz and Lil (Wright and Watts) who fall for each others’ sons who are also best friends. Roz and Lil’s son Ian start having a sexual relationship behind Roz’s husband Harold’s back. Roz’s son Tom finds out and seeks out revenge by initiating a sexual relationship with Lil. Things get messy fast; the sons end up getting into relationships with women their own age. Ian is unhappy and Tom starts resuming his love affair with Lil. Adore will leave you boggle-minded and will make you reconsider the state of your own so-called relationship troubles.
dir. David Lowery (USA 2013)
Bending Steel tells the story of how Chris “Wonder” Schoeck eats, sleeps and breathes bending steel objects. His passion for his art is infectious. However, being a “strong man” has its downsides. Schoeck never learned how to properly develop relationships with others. The film does an excellent job at portraying Schoeck’s inner struggle. He lives in New York City, but never feels like a true part of the fabled land. He doesn’t seek out attention from others and instead relishes the comfort and solitude of his steel playthings.
The audience roots for Schoeck throughout the film, all the while being astounded that it’s all genuine. In being a documentary, Bending Steel and its group of “strong men” have nowhere to hide. There’s no camera trickery or quick editing to cover up flaws. The audience gets to be a fly-on-the-wall and see everything. When these men bend steel, we see them in all their amazing glory.
What’s most impressive about Bending Steel isn’t all of the astonishing human strength on display. The film delivers many aforementioned moments throughout its runtime. It hits home the most with its level of empathy and understanding created for the audience via Chris’ daily struggles.
Good Ol’ Freda
dir. Ryan White (USA 2013)
Good Ol’ Freda, a documentary by Ryan White is a must-see, whether you are the absolute Beatles fan or not. It tells the story of The Beatles’ secretary, Freda Kelly, who stayed by the band’s side for 11 years in that role. Kelly lived in Liverpool, U.K. and was just a shy teenager when asked to work for The Beatles, back then a local band “hoping to make it big.” Kelly witnessed it all, from the setbacks the band met along the way to The Beatles’ international rise to success. She stayed loyal and became the band’s faithful friend. Kelly reveals almost all in this documentary, which gives us an entirely new perspective on one of the most well-known bands in the world. In the ’60s, newspapers were quick to call her one of the “luckiest girls in the world.” Finally, we have her story on film, a story that’s been untold for 50 years.
dir. Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier (U.K. 2013)
Deep in the heart of Alabama lies Muscle Shoals, a mystical stop alongside the Tennessee river that became the birthplace of some of the greatest songs ever recorded. Rick Hall and his session band, The Swampers, are the men behind it all and, as the film follows Hall through the countless hits he produced, it also reveals a staggering amount of heartbreak and tragedy that he’s had to endure in his life.
The story of Muscle Shoals is told through incredible archival footage and interviews with dozens of mind-blowing icons. Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Keith Richards and a slew of other soul, R&B and Southern rock giants, share their fondest and not so fondest memories of recording with Hall and The Swampers that leave you with goosebumps and tears in your eyes. Yuchi natives used to call the river that flows through Muscle Shoals, “The River That Sings” after legends of a mysterious woman in the water who would sing to them and protect them. They say something about Muscle Shoals produces a sound that is unattainable from any other recording studios. Whether it be the landscape, the mud, or some type of Norman Mailer swamp voodoo, Candi Staton puts it best: “It’s coming up out of your gut and its coming out of your heart. That’s that Muscle Shoals sound.”
dir. Zach Clark (USA 2013)
Christmas can be a depressing and miserable time of year, so why not bask in all its forlorn misery. After she finds herself faced with a sudden tragedy just weeks before Christmas, Suzanne begins to unravel and, through an unlikely circumstance, forms a close relationship with a stripper named Autumn. Spending her nights on the party scene with Autumn and the other strippers, Suzanne looks for any, often nefarious, deed to take her mind off the tragedy and ends up falling down a rabbit hole of sex, drugs and debauchery to which she’s not normally accustomed. Through a series of misadventures, Suzanne struggles to keep her life together and find a way to move on. The film creates genuine and awkward moments that consistently shift from heartbreaking to darkly humorous and possesses a quirky earnestness that can only come from this type of independently-made Christmas movie. Those looking to get a jump on that holiday season dysfunction should take note.
By Team BeatRoute