Sunday, June 05, 2005

SIFF diary, part 6

Dead Man's Shoes, Sabah, and Mysterious Skin

Armageddon is upon us. I am certain of it. And I have proof. Gregg Araki made an excellent motion picture. And the other proof that the end of the world must be soon, I have now attended 12 screenings and have yet to come upon a film or event that I didn't enjoy. Sure, some of the films have been better than others, but if Cape of Good Hope remains the worst film that we've seen at this year's festival, then we are doing very well.

Dead Man's Shoes caught our attention because it not only stars British actor Paddy Considine (24 Hour Party People, In America), but was also written by the actor. The result is a very interesting and satisfying film of vengeance and redemption.

Richard (Paddy Considine), a soldier that after returning home from the service, finds his brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) has been tortured and humiliated by a group of small time gangsters. Dead Man's Shoes spans the 5 days that Richard spends terrorizing the men and Considine gives a frightening performance. Dead Man's Shoes is slow to reveal the events that feed Richard's wrath, and while not as shockingly violent as other reviews had hinted at, this is a bloody revenge picture that is very satisfying for the performances and the fascinating slow reveal of the horrific events that took place.

Sabah was a delightful surprise. Arsinée Khanjian (AKA Mrs. Atom Egoyan) stars as the Canadian Muslim, Sabah. She has just celebrated her 40th birthday and has spent much of her life dutifully caring for her mother, when she meets and falls in love with Stephen, a non-muslim Canadian (Shawn Doyle) who she fears will never be accepted by her very conservative family.

Sabah is often romantic and with a light tone while confronting the real and challenging issues of family, ethnic and cultural identities and the compromise that happens when acclimating to another culture. I really loved every minute of this charming, romantic film.

Mysterious Skin is a departure for director Gregg Araki. I am familiar with Araki from Doom Generation, which was far too hyper-kinetic and disturbing for my taste. I've steered clear of Araki's films ever since. So when I heard that his new film, Mysterious Skin was showing at the SIFF, I was determined to miss it, despite getting so many positive reviews. The subject matter of Mysterious Skin is still very much in familiar Araki territory, about two boys who are linked together by a shared childhood sexual abuser. As the boys grow up, the past will not let them go and the nerdy Brian, suffers continued nose bleeds and blackouts without ever remembering the details of the abuse that haunts him in nightmares. In Brian's search to find out what happened to him during 5 hours that he cannot remember, he searches out another boy that is also in his dreams, Neil. Neil is a young hustler that seems relatively untouched by the abuse in his past, until he and Brian finally meet again and Brian demands answers.

While the subject matter of Mysterious Skin in very dark and troubling, the films tone is solemn and surprisingly optimistic. Mysterious Skin is a very moving, haunting and beautiful film. It is the kind of film that I never would have expected Gregg Araki to have made. This might be the best film I've seen at the SIFF as I cannot seem to shake it.

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