For moviegoers, disillusioned by the dismal crop of films this summer, there’s hope ahead. The Arts Film Series will soon return to the Qwanlin Cinema for its fall season.
A staple feature at selected Landmark cinemas for a number of years now, the series highlights short runs of independent and foreign films on Sundays and Mondays only, and has proven to be particularly popular with Whitehorse audiences.
Here’s a sneak preview of what audiences can expect this season.
Kicking off the series of six films on Sept. 19 and 20 isThe Girl Who Played With Fire. It’s a Swedish film, the only one of the series that’s subtitled, and is a screen adaptation of the best-selling novel by journalist Stieg Larsson, a followup to his equally successful The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
The film tells the story of young computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, who returns home to Sweden after spending a year abroad. She falls under suspicion for the murder of two journalists who were on the verge of releasing a controversial exposé on a sex trafficking ring operating between Eastern Europe and Sweden.
Her fingerprints found on the murder weapon, as well as a troubled past including psychiatric commitment at age 12, do not help her as she pleads her innocence.
The efforts of Lisbeth’s friends to clear her name before the authorities capture her result in a complex manhunt that reveals the brutality of the people engineering the trafficking ring, in a tightly wound drama full of suspense that has earned critics’ applause.
The next offering, playing Sept. 26 and 27, is The Kids Are All Right, a comedy that is a French-American co-production directed by Lisa Cholodenko. It stars Julianne Moore and Annette Benning as Nic and Jules, a Los Angeles lesbian couple who each give birth to a child, using the same anonymous sperm donor.
When daughter Joni turns 18, her younger brother asks her to contact the sperm bank so that they can meet their biological father.
He turns out to be the owner of a natural foods restaurant, who rides a motorcycle and has made a career out of charming his way out of any and all commitments. He’s played by Mark Ruffalo, and when he appears on the scene, the kids are delighted, and Nic freaks out.
The subsequent familial meltdown is a joyous and confusing farce to behold, played with great skill by Benning and Moore, and ably supported by Ruffalo and Mia Wasikowska, who played Alice in this past spring’s Alice In Wonderland.
The Kids Are All Right premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where, despite being admitted to competition after the festival’s deadline had closed, it went on to become a breakout hit. It later won an award at the Berlin Film Festival, and was the opening film at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival.
October brings Please Give, another critically acclaimed comedy that premiered at the 2010 Berlin Film Festival, and was given limited American release this past April. Playing Oct. 3 and 4, it stars Katherine Keener as the owner of a trendy New York City furniture store.
She buys cheap at estate sales and earns a pretty profit on the substantial markup she sells for. She feels guilty about the money she makes from unwary sellers who don’t know the true value of their possessions, and does not want her materialism to rub off on her teenaged daughter.
Unsuccessfully, she tries to allay her guilt through volunteer jobs that leave her weeping at the contrast between her own lifestyle and the midtown poverty all around her. Her donations to homeless people sometimes backfire on her, and she increasingly finds her life becoming one big convoluted mess of angst.
I’ll continue with a preview of the rest of the films in this excellent autumn lineup in a future column. All of the features in the arts film series are designated for mature audiences and show Sundays at 5 p.m. and Mondays at 7 p.m. at the Qwanlin Cinema.
Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.