VIFF Capsule Reviews #2

The day was grey and rainy so it seemed like a good one to fill with heavy subjects.

It opened with Yoju Matsubayashi’s documentary film The Horses of Fukushima. When the reactor melted down after the tsunami hit, everyone within 20km of Fukushima was evacuated, except for the group of horses used by the locals for their annual races and ceremonial events. Yoju Matsubayashi traces these animals as some perish, others get sick, and they spend months being rehabilitated. Some viewers will have to come face to face with Japanese practices regarding horse meat they may find unsavory, but this is a welcome story to tell.

Next, Yuriy Bykov takes on Russian corruption in the scathing The Fool. The story follows a plumber who realizes that an entire tenement building with over 800 inhabitants is going to fall down in 24 hours and he has to track down the corrupt city officials who must order the evacuation. The plumber is so blind to the grey nature of the civilization around him that his story gets a bit tiresome, but when we begin to follow the officials who must battle their own parts in the fiasco and find a balance between protecting their interests and saving lives, The Fool hits its stride. And if the audience feels like Bykov has hit them on the head with a skillet, well… it’s because he has.

Next up was a dense, difficult but uplifting story from Pedro Costa, Horse Money. Following Ventura, the same slum dweller from past films such as Colossal Youth, Costa takes us into a pensive purgatory where Ventura must come to terms with his violent past, and the violence others committed towards him, and finally move on.

The evening was reserved for two Cannes heavyweights, David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and Xavier Dolan’s Mommy. Cronenberg’s take on the incestuous nature of Hollywood is just plain caustic, with Julianne Moore and John Cusack both playing equally amoral nightmares. It’s the little moments of shock and outrage that make this great, more than any Great Message.

But Mommy…oh my goodness… an intimate story of mother and son told with the volume cranked to 12, this is just simply a wonder. It finds Dolan the director, Dolan the writer and Dolan the artist all working to perfection simultaneously, and a triple threat of performances by Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clément and Antoine-Olivier Pilon that you will never forget. This film just slayed me.