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A new month means new films added to streaming services...This weekend, we're recommending two double features: La Piscine and its remake A Bigger Splash; and Joachim Trier's Thelma and Louder Than Bombs.
Plus, catch up with the Canadian short Shahzad from Haya Waseem, whose first feature will screen at TIFF next month.
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Shahzad - free to stream worldwide on Vimeo
I loved Haya Waseem's short film Shahzad when it screened at TIFF back in 2016. So I was delighted to hear that she's now made her first feature, Quickening, which will premiere at TIFF in September.
In the meantime, I highly recommend catching up with her short.
Here's an excerpt from my intro to my interview with Haya:
Born in Pakistan, raised in Switzerland, and now based in Toronto, writer-director Haya Waseem epitomizes the Torontonian as a citizen of the world. Her short film Shahzad
will screen in Short Cuts Programme Five
at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it was Seventh Row’s pick for the best Canadian short at the festival
The film follows the eponymous Shahzad, a young Pakistani boy who has just moved to Toronto, as he makes friends, integrates into Canadian society, and finds his home with his father Iqbal an increasingly alien place. Waseem talked to The Seventh Row by email about the genesis of the film, the Canadian immigration experience, and the important of making Canadian films in recognizably Canadian settings.
Read the full interview.
Click here to watch the film.
Double Feature: La Piscine and its remake, A Bigger Splash
La Piscine - Criterion Channel Canada/US
Jacques Deray's erotic thriller, La Piscine, just got a Criterion Collection release and so is currently streaming on the Criterion Channel in Canada and the US. In 2016, Luca Guadagnino remade the film into A Bigger Splash, a film we loved so much we wrote a special issue on it.
My extremely unpopular to cinephiles opinion is, much like Guadagnino's Suspiria remake, his La Piscine remake is better than the original: it takes the same premise and story and adds characters with psychological complexity and depth... and frankly, it's still just as sexy!
Still Deray's 1969 film is a curiosity: a film about beautiful people hanging out in the beautiful Italian countryside and admiring each other's beauty. It's gorgeous to look at if a bit dramatically thin; it's all atmosphere. I'd recommend the two though as a double bill. It's interesting to see where Luca and screenwriter David Kajganich (who also wrote Luca's Suspiria screenplay) have expanded character details.
A Bigger Splash - Tubi Canada, Prime/BFI Player UK, VOD in US/AU and most other territories
A Bigger Splash follows the plot of La Piscine quite closely, including keeping the character names. But as it stars four of the best actors working today, each with roles that have been notably deepened, let's just say, I love it a lot more. Also, it has Ralph Fiennes... dancing!
Here's an excerpt from my review of the film:
Luca Guadagnino's erotic joyride, A Bigger Splash,
opens on a performance. The camera slides past stadium scaffolding through the smoke, the crowd rumbles, and rock star Marianne (Tilda Swinton
) takes the stage. Then we cut to a completely private moment: Marianne and her younger paramour Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts
), sunbathing in the nude at their idyllic Italian villa. The camera doesn’t leer or linger; their nudity is casual. This moment is for them alone. It’s almost their last before Marianne’s ex-lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes) blows in with his newfound daughter, Pen (Dakota Johnson
), in tow, to pursue Marianne.
Guadagnino’s focus is examining social performance, especially how professional performance relates to private life. Marianne is a rockstar who sings for a living but can’t speak. Harry is a behind-the-scenes record producer; he listens for a living but won’t stop talking. Paul is an observer, a documentarian, who tries to stay out of the conflict but ends up inciting the most destructive act. Pen, the only one without a profession, is the biggest mystery, for she’s still figuring out who she wants to be in the spotlight.
Harry seduces the audience, even as he’s been horribly juvenile, the same way he seduces Marianne. Even though Harry knows Marianne is supposed to be resting her voice from throat surgery, he tries to tempt her into banter. She merely gesticulates playfully, but we can see he sends her, wakes her up in a way Paul, her caregiver who pleas with her to stay mute, doesn’t. But that’s why Harry is dangerous. Yet Harry is never more transparent than when he’s alone, looking on with jealousy and sadness while Paul and Marianne casually cuddle. He takes a moment to feel his hurt before blazing onto the scene, ready to dad-dance your heart out and steal the show.
Read the full review.
Trier on Tap - Criterion Collection in Canada and US
Seventh Row favourite Joachim Trier premiered his latest film at Cannes last month, and it's coming to TIFF in September! If you've been following us for some time, you may know that we've gone deep on his two most recent films, Louder Than Bombs and Thelma, both of which are now streaming on Criterion Channel!
We have a couple of super exciting Trier projects coming soon (one at the end of the month, one in a few months) so stay tuned for announcements!
Louder Than Bombs (also on VOD in AU/UK and other territories!)
I've been banging the drum for Trier's English-language debut since I caught it at the first press screening at Cannes in 2015.
The rest of the world has been a bit slow to realise that the film is actually genuinely great: it's just a bit too thoughtful and dense for the dehydrated, exhausted Cannes critic to have appreciated, in part because it refuses to hew to convention and cliche. Barry Jenkins discovered it last year and was amazed by how good it was. (Barry, I said this in 2015!).
Here's an excerpt from my review:
s sublime English-language debut Louder Than Bombs
is an engrossing and empathetic look at a family recovering from trauma. More experimental and broader in scope than Trier’s perfectly taut Oslo, August 31st
, it’s still just as carefully judged. If you dig deep enough, they share DNA
: a story about exile and the meaning of home; a story about how relationships are linked to time and space; and a story of depression, loneliness, and fleeting connections.
Re-teaming with his co-writer Eskil Vogt and cinematographer Jakob Ihre (Reprise
, Oslo August 31st
), Trier finds new cinematic forms
to delve into the inner lives of three characters in the Reed family: the sensitive patriarch Gene (Gabriel Byrne) and his two sons — new father Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) and socially awkward teenager Conrad (Devin Druid) — who are dealing (or not) with the death of family matriarch Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert). The film switches perspectives between the three men, like a fictional version of Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell
, as we try to understand what they’re going through. And like every Trier film to date, it left me completely emotionally destroyed, only increasing in potency with each repeat viewing.
Though tied together by grief for Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), the men are disconnected from one another, rarely even sharing the same frame. Yet they’re brought back together in their family home for the first time since her death three years ago thanks to a new retrospective of Isabelle’s war photography. A forthcoming New York Times article to publicize the exhibit will also reveal new information about how Isabelle died — something Conrad, who was twelve at the time, doesn’t know — which exposes old wounds.
Read the full review.
Read the whole Special Issue on Louder Than Bombs.
Thelma (also on Kanopy US/Canada, VOD in Australia, Hulu/Tubi US, and streaming or on VOD in most other territories worldwide)
Trier's first foray into genre filmmaking is actually not as much of a departure as it might initially seem.
We went deep on the film in a Special Issue, which has since formed our Case Study on Thelma in our ebook Beyond Empowertainment: Feminist horror and the struggle for female agency.
Here's an excerpt from Orla's essay on how Thelma is more than just a modern Carrie:
As the story of an ostracised, religious girl developing supernatural powers,Joachim Trier
invites comparisons to Brian De Palma’s 1976 film Carrie
(based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name). De Palma’s take sees the meek, sweet Carrie (Sissy Spacek) fall victim to merciless bullies and an abusive mother (Piper Laurie); there’s no question where your sympathies lie when her violent powers prove fatal to her peers. Thelma’s (Eili Harboe) suppressors are only her parents. They use their religious conservatism to control her. Their lifestyle and beliefs set Thelma apart from her peers and make her feel guilty for falling in love with her female classmate Anja (Kaya Wilkins). Yet Carrie and Thelma end up in vastly different places: Thelma
’s ending is hopeful for its protagonist, but De Palma presents a fatalistic outlook.
Comparisons between the two films have been made frequently
, but it’s their differences that are most telling: about De Palma and Trier as filmmakers, the way in which film has changed since the ‘70s, and the thematic purpose that both stories serve. Trier’s film is a character study of the eponymous Thelma, which uses horror trappings to accentuate internal conflicts that could exist in a naturalistic drama. De Palma is less interested in Carrie as a person than he is in the world around her.
With the exception of a prologue that establishes a threat in the story
, without paying it off, we spend some time at the start of Thelma
simply getting to know the protagonist. We see her attend her first classes at university and familiarise herself with her new apartment — before she has her first seizure. Through this, Trier structurally indicates that this is a story about Thelma as a person: it is essential to know Thelma before we know about her powers. They are a product of who she is.
You can read excerpts from the book on the site, and purchase the book here!
Alex Heeney, Editor-in-Chief
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