An unsettling film from Germany, Dolores is the story of Georg Letterer, a detail-driven model maker who lives with his ailing brother in a home they cannot afford. When a German movie star crosses paths with Georg, she becomes enamored with his work and hires him to do a life like model of her villa style home before she sells it to move to Hollywood. Georg becomes deeply obsessed with the beautiful actress as he works on the model of her home, a dangerous feeling that becomes much darker when he realizes that his model making power can actually manipulate the world around him.
Like an Alfred Hitchcock version of an episode of The Outer Limits, the filmmakers of Dolores lead you down an uncertain path with Georg, who, at first, seems like a reclusive anti-social person too long burdened by the problems of others around him. As we journey further, Georg’s intent becomes more and more sinister, creating a sort of monster you didn’t know was even possible. The film has pieces of very dark humor peppered throughout and a couple things you won’t see coming. Dolores is, without a doubt, an unexpected Hitchcockian treat. 4/5
French Tour (France)
Coming from France, French Tour (or it’s original title, Tour De France) is essentially a mismatched buddy road trip drama. The film centers on Far’Hook, a French rapper of Arab descent who finds himself on the targeted end of a rap beef after refusing to take a selfie with a fellow rapper. His producer decides to give him a safe passage by sending him on a trip with his cantankerous father, Serge, played by French legend Gerard Depardieu. Far’Hook is tasked with driving Serge through the country as he recreates the works of artist Claude-Joseph Vernet at various seaports.
The movie has these two characters who are very different from each other in age and ideals, rubbing off on each other as the story progresses. Both are stubborn with their own politics but unfortunately for me, the characters never felt connectable and these arguments seem a bit inconsequential. The story seems to be largely predictable with the messages from writer and director Rachid Djaidani lacking any sort of subtlety at all, maybe even a bit lazy at times, which goes hand in hand with the obvious misunderstanding of the younger generation. All of this just makes Depardieu’s slight sleepwalk through his movie very apparent. 2/5
The Giant (Sweden/Denmark)
A collaborative effort between Sweden and Denmark, The Giant (or Jutten) follows Rikard. A severely deformed man who can only communicate through a single word, Rikard pines for his mother, a reclusive hoarder who he never gets to see. His only solace is a game called pétanque, which looks like a blend of curling, bowling and Bocchi, something Rikard aspires to be the greatest at. While this exposition is happening, the audience is aware of a massive giant who looks exactly like Rikard, roaming across the landscape, getting closer and closer to where our story takes place.
This film starts out as an almost documentary style following of our main subject, in a way, being sort of an Elephant Man update. The problems arise with the progression of the story, as it starts to move away from the realm of any realism. I do understand that I mentioned a giant moving as a subplot to this movie, which is fantastical, but the reality depicted to our main storyline starts to suffer and get a bit muddled as well. By the two-thirds point of the film, I felt myself getting frustrated at the lackadaisical nature of the narrative and the main point of the film becomes unclear to whether it’s all just a heightened dream or if the audience is supposed to take this as Rikard’s real life. In the end, I was a bit frustrated with this one. 1.5/5
Harold And Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (U.S.A.)
My first documentary of the festival, Harold And Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story comes from the U.S. via director Daniel Raim and producer Danny Devito, who was a close personal friend of the subjects, Harold and Lillian Michelson. The film tells the story of the marriage between Harold, a storyboard artist with an incredible filmography, and Lillian, a film researcher with an equally impressive film list herself. The movie takes you from the start of their relationship and through their marriage, including their three boys who are born along the way, and also through both of their storied careers.
Anyone who knows me, reads my work or listens to my radio spots or podcasts, knows that I adore film documentaries and this film goes directly to my heart. Harold And Lillian is my first favorite movie of the festival and is a must see, automatically for the charm of the subjects both in their relationship and as individuals. It’s a jaw-dropping look at two people that have had a profound effect on cinema as we know it. So many times I felt reactions to the film, whether I was laughing or otherwise, that I was unable to stifle. This film is absolutely fascinating and should be celebrated in the film community. 5/5
Milton’s Secret (Canada)
I got my first taste of Canadian film with Milton’s Secret, a movie that was partly filmed right here in Vancouver. The story follows Milton, a twelve-year-old boy who has a hard time connecting with his overworked parents – (played by The L Word’s Mia Kirshner and Gilmore Girls’ David Sutcliffe) and is dealing with a relentless bully at school. Milton’s life direction changes when his grandfather (Donald Sutherland) comes to visit, a man who has adopted a new “live in the moment” philosophy since the passing of his wife. The family starts to live by this guide as well and hopes to improve their outlook on their lives.
There’s no way to put this lightly, so I’ll say right now that this is the worst film I have seen this festival so far. The movie comes off as an inspirational self-help style story, which is fitting because it comes from the guy who adapted The Celestine Prophecy into a TV movie. The bad thing about this is that the characters and plotting feel so false that we aren’t compelled to care about anyone in this film. The production and script are a blend of cheesy and cornball melodrama and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. This film had less weight than an episode of Degrassi High. 0.5/5