Filmtastic Fare

Athree-week vacation in France accounts for the recent absence of this column.

One of the highlights of my holiday was the Cinema au clair de Lune, an open-air free showing of films in Paris, with the movies projected on a wall, just as in Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 Cinema Paradiso.

Watching the 1982 James Garner and Julie Andrews classic Victor Victoria at the Trocadero Gardens in the shadow of the illuminated Eiffel Tower, I couldn’t help thinking that it doesn’t get much better than this.

Another highlight was interviewing two Paris-based short film and experimental film directors about their work. More about that in a future column.

For now, a new season of film is upon us, and the selection is better than it’s been in a long time.

The Yukon Film Society has inaugurated a monthly series of classic, documentary and family films at the Yukon Arts Centre.

In addition, Landmark Cinemas have revived their weekly Art Films Series, now dubbed Filmtastic Films, with a collection of six current independent features playing this fall at the Qwanlin Cinema Centre.

Playing September 18 and 19 is Midnight in Paris, a wonderful piece of whimsy, written and directed by Woody Allen.

His 41st film, it stars Owen Wilson (Hall Pass, Little Fockers), Marion Cotillard (Inception, La Vie En Rose), Canadian-born Rachel McAdams (Sherlock Holmes, Wedding Crashers). It also features a cameo performance from the First Lady of France, Carla Bruni, as a tour guide at the Musée Rodin.

Wilson is Gil Pender, a successful Hollywood screenwriter visiting Paris with his mismatched fiancée Inez, played by McAdams.

Pender is a romantic at heart, whose secret ambition is to write a novel. He longs for the Paris of the ’20s, the era of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.

His materialistic fiancée couldn’t care less, and is fixated on shopping and the pseudo-intellectual ponderings of the couple’s friend Paul, played by British actor Michael Sheen (TRON: Legacy, New Moon).

Begging off an invitation to go dancing with Inez, her parents and Paul, Gil wanders the streets of Paris alone one night, and is startled to see a big Peugeot filled with partygoers pull up alongside him.

They beckon him to join them, and magically he finds that they are the bohemian idols of his fantasies, transported from the heyday of Paris café society.

Gil returns night after night to join them, much to the consternation of his present-day companions, who hire a private detective to find out where he disappears to on his nocturnal ramblings.

The City of Light has never looked more beautiful or magical than in Midnight in Paris. It’s romantic, it’s enchanting, and it’s pure Woody Allen at his best.

Playing the following week is the winner of this year’s Cannes Film Festival’s Palme D’or, Terence Malick’s The Tree of Life. It’s a film that defies easy definition, and I won’t try to here, not having seen the film yet.

On the surface it’s a saga of a family growing up in mid-’50s Waco, Texas, and features Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. A domineering father and an angelic mother form the crucibles for their two sons’ growth.

As they contemplate their formative years from an adult perspective, Malick goes deeper and regales us with a magnificent exposition on creation, the universe and the meaning of life that transcends its bucolic Midwest setting.

From everything that’s been written about it, The Tree of Life seems to be the kind of film that viewers will want to see more than once. Fortunately, viewers who saw it earlier this week at the Yukon Arts Centre still have a chance to catch it again.

Midnight in Paris plays Sunday, September 18 at 5 pm, and Monday, September 19 at 7 pm. The Tree of Life plays Sunday, September 25 at 5 pm and Monday, September 26 at 7 pm. Ratings are not available.

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