VIFF 2015: Victoria (Sebastian Schipper, 2015)

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Part of our coverage of the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival.

Gimmicks have long been used to get butts in theatre seats. From the blatantly crass attempts of William Castle, who deployed live effects in the theatres during his B-movie screenings, to the formal constraints of Alfred Hitchcock, who dared himself to film entirely in a boat or an apartment, or in reel-length unbroken takes. Gimmicks are exciting, they pique an audience’s curiosity. But transcending them and delivering a worthwhile work of art at the end is one of the most difficult tasks a filmmaker has. Gimmicks are both blessing and curse.

The aforementioned unbroken take has been tried many times before, including a faux example in last year’s Best Picture winner, Birdman. Now comes the German film Victoria, which manages an honest-to-goodness, no-strings-attached single take as the titular woman, a Spanish transplant, joins a group of guys on a drunken night in Berlin. What begins with the bravado of belligerent boys and the tentative mating dance of the deeply intoxicated, eventually turns sour as Victoria gets enlisted in a foolish and irrevocable act.

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Attack on Titan (Shinji Higuchi, 2015)

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The Attack on Titan franchise has been a juggernaut in Japan for the last few years. The original manga has now spawned an anime series (a huge hit that can be seen on Instant Netflix), several light novels, other spin-off manga and video games as well. Since the Japanese film industry basically thrives on manga/anime adaptations these days, it’s not surprising to find the property now adapted into two parts and treated like a big event. It’s the Death Note movies all over again.

About 100 years ago, giant humanoid creatures named titans showed up and ate just about everyone in the world. Humanity was barely able to escape extinction by building three giant walls that kept the titans out. But then one day they disappeared. Humanity has since been living in peace. Starring young fashionable actors like Haruma Miura, Kiko Mizuhara and Satomi Ishihara, Attack on Titan tells the story about what happens when the titans attack again.

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VIFF 2015: The Thoughts That Once We Had (Thom Andersen, 2015)

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Part of our coverage of the 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival.

Thom Andersen’s new essay film, The Thoughts That Once We Had is a proudly idiosyncratic interpretation of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s thoughts on cinema. Deleuze’s two volume set, The Movement Image and The Time Image, are the springboard for Andersen’s patented excursions into cinema’s past, built on a foundation of film clips both obscure and ingrained. Andersen’s film flits around Deleuze’s dense concepts, often teasing the first portion of a line with a resulting set-up clip, before transcribing the larger idea and presenting a montage representing it. I wouldn’t claim to understand what the hell Deleuze (and by extension, Andersen) is going on about half the time–it’s all very abstract and anyway, the quotations are onscreen for the briefest of seconds–but by gum, the thing works wonders despite the less learned background of the viewer. (In fact, the film’s biggest drawback will be the inevitable embrace by the high-falutin’ intellectual cognoscenti.)

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