The European Union Toronto Film Festival is currently screening at The Royal Cinema (until Tuesday, November 23), and the selected features offer audiences different stories told by filmmakers from various EU countries. The festival serves an important purpose as a cultural essential in one of Canada’s most diverse cities.
Take a sneak peek at the festival with Wylie Writes’ Shahbaz Khayambashi, Shannon Page, and Addison Wylie as they review Rachel Tunnard’s Adult Life Skills, Jacques Molitor’s Mammejong, and Jan Nemec’s The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street.
Adult Life Skills (DIR. Rachel Tunnard)
Anna is an almost-thirty lost soul who lives in a shed on her mother and grandmother’s property, works at some sort of children’s camp, dresses like a child, and makes videos starring her fingers that she shows to no one. It’s fair to say that she is stuck in arrested development, which makes for a surprisingly enjoyable viewing experience. It is not often that you get a late-twenties coming of age story, but that may be a good way to describe Rachel Tunnard’s debut feature Adult Life Skills.
Like the majority of English films, this film benefits from the breathtaking sights of English cities (Huddersfield, in this case) and the beautiful soundtrack, but the true stars are the performers, among them Jodie Whittaker as Anna and Alice Lowe as her employer. There is just such a charming quality to this film. Anna has to learn to grow up, but the plot kind of takes a backseat to the various interactions between the characters. This occasionally goes into meandering territory, which may turn off some viewers, but if you fall in love with the characters, you won’t mind.
As Adult Life Skills nears its conclusion, there is, perhaps unintentionally, a call to the traditional: as if in order to reach maturity, one must buy into the status quo, as if there are no other paths to adulthood, and that does harm the final product to some degree. That being said, Adult Life Skills is a very enjoyable, lovely little film that deserves an audience.
– Shahbaz Khayambashi
Adult Life Skills screens at The European Union Toronto Film Festival on Sunday, November 12 at 6:00 pm at The Royal Cinema.
Mammejong (DIR. Jacques Molitor)
Mammejong is a solid example of how a charismatic cast and and a thoughtful filmmaker can put a new spin on common, sentimental tropes.
After experiencing trauma in his family, Flëpp (Max Thomas) supports his distraught and emotionally needy mother Sophie (Myriam Muller), and they have a close relationship because of their shared experience. It’s an unusual relationship though, since Sophie is knowingly enabling Flëpp’s very personal chaperoning and shallow social life. The comforting is disrupted when Flëpp meets Leena (Maja Juric), a spontaneous runaway who carries an invisible beacon signalling for help to those she meets on her travels. Flëpp, in his constant empathetic degree, keeps Leena company, which becomes a friendship that Sophie is jealous of.
Audiences are more than familiar with the Jealous Parent and Manic Pixie archetypes, yet Muller and Juric (along with the help of director/co-writer Jacques Molitor) are able to use their off-the-shelf characters and do interesting things with them. Most notably, they are able to completely feel out the negative space, and use every atmospheric moment in their favour. Max Thomas is also a joy to watch come out of his shell as he experiences more about his life while he grieves.
Mammejong does, in fact, feel long once heavier factors set in during the final act, but the film maintains its competency while exploring its themes of maturity and moving on.
– Addison Wylie
Mammejong screens at The European Union Toronto Film Festival on Wednesday, November 15 at 6:00 pm at The Royal Cinema.
The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street (DIR. Jan Nemec)
The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street, the final film by the renowned and often-controversial Czech director Jan Nemec who passed away last year, is loosely based on Nemec’s short autobiographical stories and documents various scenes from his life and career, beginning with the disappointment of the 1968 Cannes film festival. There is no coherent, linear narrative to The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street. Instead, the film jumps through time, offering an intimate portrait of the moments of Nemec’s life that he feels were most significant. The result is impressionistic, with an almost literary emphasis on interiority.
Nemec’s best known film (at least to North American audiences) is likely his 1968 short documentary Oratorio of Prague, which documented the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. One of the most powerful sequences in The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street features Nemec’s haunting original documentary footage blended seamlessly with dramatized scenes of Nemec and his crew capturing images of the Russian tanks as they move through the crowded streets of Prague.
The film offers moments from Nemec’s life almost anecdotally, without providing much in the way of context. Frequently, the narrative breaks the fourth wall, even going so far as to reveal the sets themselves. Incredibly, Nemec does not appear in the film. The first-person narrative is performed by Karl Roden (Hellboy), who plays Nemec’s “present day” self. Jiri Madl (Colette, Television’s Borgia) does a wonderful job in his performance of the younger Nemec. Both actors perfectly embody Nemec’s irreverent egotism.
While the film does offer interesting insight into Nemec’s life and creative process, audiences unfamiliar with his work may find the narrative somewhat difficult to follow. Ultimately, Nemec’s final film is a portrait intensely aware of its own construction and artifice. This is a biographical film almost as outside-the-box as its director.
– Shannon Page
The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street screens at The European Union Toronto Film Festival on Monday, November 13 at 6:00 pm at The Royal Cinema.
For more information on the festival, visit the official European Union Toronto Film Festival website.
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