Reviews - Page 3

Giving you our points of view on the latest docs in release and on the circuit.

Cannes 2021: Cow Is Udderly Terrible

In some ways, this is the easiest type of review to write. Cow is an empty attempt to engender emotional response to some farm animals. It employs nauseating camera work and repetitive, banal shots of bovines. It’s coupled with some pop radio and off-screen comments from the farmers, but it’s mostly a series of plaintive moos and the sounds of machinery sucking the milk from udders accustomed to being drained. Perhaps for those who have never visited a dairy farm, or have been oblivious to where dairy products come from full-stop, there may be something to be gleaned from the

Cannes 2021- Bigger Than Us, clumsy as it is, will inspire young activists

As part of the 2021 festival, Cannes dedicated a sidebar to “Cinema for the climate.” This group of mostly non-fiction films tackled various storylines that somehow relate to environmental causes. This, combined with a 20€ charge for each attendee meant to offset our carbon footprint, was but one message drowned out during these COVID-sensitive times. While the irony of worrying about plastic pollution daily when spitting into polymer vessels to ensure that a plague didn’t spread wasn’t lost, we humans are occasionally gifted with the ability to keep several things in mind at once. On its surface, Flore Vasseur’s Bigger

‘We Are Many’ Harnesses the Power of the People

The power of the people resonates strongly in We Are Many. This long gestating—and long shelved—doc from director Amir Amirani chronicles the global protests against the USA’s invasion of Iraq. We Are Many chronicles the lead-up to the fateful day of February 15, 2003 when approximately 30 million people worldwide joined their voices in a resounding anti-war protest. The doc offers perspectives from many participants who rallied for change and found the world to be ruled by two different and, sadly, seemingly opposite powers: the will of the rulers and the will of the people who elected them. We Are

Cannes 2021: Todd Haynes’ Velvet Underground Is a Definitive Portrait

There are more than a few dramatic directors who also excel at making non-fiction films about music. Martin Scorsese is an obvious example, as is Jonathan Demme with his many collaborations with Neil Young. Moreover, simply look at the likes of Spike Lee and how his American Utopia provided an aesthetic vigour that trumped many of his recent fiction works and you can see both the lure and the possibility for something extraordinary to happen when music docs are helmed by filmmakers with a strong background in narrative storytelling. Todd Haynes, for example, has bent the very notion of the

For Madmen Only Review: Spotlighting the Man Behind the Comics

Whether it was his desire or not, Del Close ended his career being known as the man behind the men and women of comedy. Adored by many in the business and respected as a pioneer of modern-day improvisation, Close never took the spotlight but is heavily responsible for the comedic landscape of today. Some of the greatest comedians and comedic actors of this era, like John Candy, Bill Murray, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and many others, remember Close as a comedy teacher and major influence on their careers. A man only known to the cognoscente, For Madmen Only

Cannes 2021: ‘Val’ Is One of the Best Biographical Docs in Recent Memory

He emerged on the scene with implausibly good looks, the stuff of matinee idol dreams. He studied in one of the most prestigious acting schools in New York, did plenty of theatre, and was wooed by Hollywood. He was considered a problem on many sets, would do films that were critically acclaimed or sometimes do quickies just for the money. There was a superhero film along the way, a western, gangster films, and more. As age caught up with him, his looks faded but there was still plenty to admire about what he could accomplish when given the chance to

All the Streets Are Silent Review: The City That Never Sleeps

Trust a Canadian to make a documentary even if he’s miles from home. Montreal born and bred Jeremy Elkin identified with New York as a youth and, in particular, the amazing street culture that emerged there in the Eighties. Montreal had a small skateboarding scene—it’s hard to build up one in the snowy downtown—and a slightly bigger hip hop culture. For Elkin, travelling down to New York to skate in the Eighties and be part of the exciting club environment must have been the best thing he’d ever experienced. Now, 25 years later, he’s made a doc that evokes the

Naomi Osaka Review: Doc Series Plays a Mean Forehand

Naomi Osaka serves a mean forehand. The public attention to the tennis player’s success, however, has been sharply backhanded. The Netflix mini-series Naomi Osaka, directed by Garrett Bradley (Time) offers a window into the world of a young athlete whose raw power on the court took the world by storm. Shot over two years in an intimate verité style with commendable access to the usually media-shy Osaka, Bradley’s doc captures the drive it takes to win. Naomi Osaka, however, is also an essay about the costs of fame. Osaka’s story and success offer perspective on the personal and existential toll

Can You Bring It Review #2: Ephemeral Poetry

Dance may be the most ephemeral of all the performing arts but that’s part of its poetry. If you’re not there during the performance much will be lost: the choreography, the dancers, the music, the overall feeling and philosophy can’t truly be captured on film. Nor can the historical moment that compelled the artists to create their work. That time has passed. But the beauty of dance, of choreographers working with performers, can produce miraculous collective endeavours, which will move us on film, across space and time. Can You Bring It: Bill T. Jones and D-Man in the Waters is

Roadrunner Review #2: Why Did He Do It?

Why did he do it? Anthony Bourdain, the celebrity chef, brilliant memoirist and charismatic TV essayist took his own life on June 8, 2018. Tall, thin, sardonically funny, downbeat handsome in a way that women love and men appreciate, Bourdain seemed to have it all. Over a period of 20 years, he’d come a long way from being a highly regarded chef at the chic Manhattan steak house Les Halles to the bestselling writer of Kitchen Confidential to a high-ranking personality on CNN. What was brilliant throughout his life was the man’s style: tough, passionate, analytical with a nose always

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