1. The Power of the Dog
New Zealand / Quebec
This film adaptation of Thomas Savage’s novel, published in 1967, is not a western like any other. The filmmaker Jane Campion, whose return to the big screen after 12 years of absence could not be more grandiose, indeed uses the codes of the genre to make real visual poetry. That said, the evocative power of The Power of the Dog (The power of the dog) goes well beyond its aesthetic appeal. It also lies in this way of carrying out a story whose dramatic springs are linked surreptitiously to build an implacable psychological contest. With finesse, sensitivity and sensuality, Jane Campion tells a story much more complex – and ambiguous – than it might seem at first glance. And recalls, as if necessary, that it holds one of the most beautiful names in contemporary cinema.
Available on Netflix.
2. Drive my Car
Alright, I’m cheating here a bit. Launched at the Cannes Film Festival, where he won the prize for best screenplay, Drive my Car is indeed a 2021 film, already showing elsewhere in Canada, but scheduled for release in Quebec in early 2022. In this admirably staged drama, where the theme of disappearance finds a magnificent echo in the theater by Anton Tchékhov, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi (Asako I and II) offers a cinema as subtle as it is poignant, also blessed with a splendid visual quality. Bringing a short story by Haruki Murakami to the screen, the Japanese filmmaker offers an ample film, from which emanates a sweet melancholy, allied to a sensitive and mature reflection on the nature of the feeling of love. Yusuke (Hidetoshi Nashijima), an actor and theater director who suffers from the sudden and mysterious departure of his wife, is very engaging in his quest for meaning. And haunts us long after the screening.
Unspecified release date in Quebec
3. Dune – Part One
What strikes first in Dune is this very clever crossing between the intimate and the immensely great, between the real and the premonitory. The images are breathtaking (the work of Greig Fraser as director of photography is exceptional), evoking a universe that is both new and familiar. In this setting where machinery and elements at times occupy the entire space, without forgetting the famous giant sand worms (the impressive artistic direction is by Patrice Vermette), Denis Villeneuve manages to focus above all on his characters, who ‘he often films in close-ups. The Quebec filmmaker, at the height of his art, has magnificently taken up an almost impossible bet, meeting the expectations of admirers of Frank Herbert’s novel while also reaching neophytes. Roll on the second part!
Available on Illico, iTunes / Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and Google Play platforms.
4. Quo vadis, Aida?
Bosnia and herzegovina
Recent winner of three awards at the European Cinema Prizes, including those for best film and best director, Quo vadis, Aida? was also an Oscar finalist. In this powerful drama, carried by the remarkable performance of Jasna Đuričić, Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić recreates the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995 through the story of Aida and her family. Translator, the latter is essential to relay to her fellow citizens the messages of the peacekeepers, overwhelmed and powerless. The inevitable outcome, soberly illustrated but how strong, freezes the blood. And recalls how all this horror, which occurred during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, took place in the general indifference of the world, just a little over 25 years ago.
Available on Amazon Prime Video, iTunes / Apple TV, YouTube, Google Play, Cineplex, and Cinéma Public.
Have paralyzed the cinema planet with Serious Five years ago, Julia Ducournau did not polish her style at all to make it more “frequent”. Fascinated by mutations, including those that can take place within the human mind itself, also adept at body horror, the French filmmaker offers an original and supercharged story, sprinkled with sex, death and motor oil, built around the quest of a rebellious and violent young woman. Strewn with dazzling scenes, tucked away somewhere between the Crash by David Cronenberg and the cinema of Gaspar Noé of the most beautiful days, Titanium take it or leave it. The jury of the Cannes Film Festival showed great audacity by awarding him the Palme d’Or.
Available on Illico, Mubi, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes / Apple TV, Cineplex, Google Play and YouTube.
6. Tick, Tick… Boom!
For the first feature film he directed, Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the heights, Hamilton) chose to bring to screen a musical inspired by a semi-autobiographical “rock monologue” that playwright Jonathan Larson himself delivered at a time when nothing seemed to work for him. Andrew Garfield offers a sparkling performance by slipping into the skin of the playwright, who died suddenly at the age of 35 in 1996, just the day before the premiere night of his musical. Rent on Broadway. Dotted with beautiful musical numbers, one of which is a direct tribute to the recently deceased Stephen Sondheim, this magnificent film is a must-see for any musical theater lover.
Available on Netflix.
Sophie Dupuis wanted to make a film that “brews”. This is exactly what she offers us with Underground. For her second feature film, the Valdorian filmmaker borrows the very feverish approach that had made Watch dog such a great success. And apply it this time to the form of the choral film. By building her story around a young miner (Joakim Robillard), the filmmaker has succeeded in making the many other characters who surround the protagonist really exist. Rarely have we seen in Quebec cinema such an imposing and coherent distribution at the same time. This film also evokes the spirit of brotherhood between men of all generations, whose safety and well-being depend on the attention that minors must give to each other. It is both beautiful and powerful.
Available on Illico, Super Ecran / Crave, iTunes / Apple TV.
8. The things we say, the things we do
After immersing yourself in the world of Denis Diderot thanks to Mademoiselle de Joncquières, his first period film, Emmanuel Mouret finds his own marks by offering us this time the most accomplished of his feature films. Both light and serious, The things we say, the things we do is indeed based on contemporary love crossovers whose nature, fundamentally, reveals the most fragile part of the human being. In this superb film where finely chiseled dialogues take precedence, carved out of the beauty of the French language, the music often emphasizes the word, thus bringing the story towards bursts of lyricism rarely exploited in this way in the cinema of the director of The art of loving.
Available on Illico and Vimeo (K-Films Amérique page).
9. West Side Story
Movie lovers question the relevance of this new film adaptation of a musical, the first version of which, produced 60 years ago by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, is one of the great masterpieces of cinema. Steven Spielberg, with great mastery, yet offers a film that manages to evoke today’s America, through a story set in the 1950s. This is a remarkable success, especially as this new version highlights an excellent cast, made up of young performers closer to the age of the protagonists, and also from the same ethnic origin. A great accomplishment.
Broadcast on upcoming platforms
10. Drunken birds
This second feature film by Ivan Grbovic (Romeo Eleven) begins under the sign of fire, with a moving car on a road in a desert in Mexico, which a fire consumes. With this powerful image, a bit surreal, the tone is set. We immediately dive into an atmosphere that is at the same time intriguing, troubled and poetic. The journey of a seasonal worker who came to Quebec to find a lover gives the filmmaker the opportunity to paint a vibrant portrait by subtly evoking the gray areas of those the protagonist meets. Thanks to the exceptional photography direction of Sara Mishara, who co-wrote the screenplay, also thanks to a formidable quartet of actors (Jorge Antonio Guerrero, Hélène Florent, Claude Legault and Marine Johnson), Ivan Grbovic offers here a moment of cinema of a very great wealth.
Offered on the Cinéma du Parc platform. Coming to other platforms on January 18.
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The 10 favorite films of Marc-André Lussier