By Marc Glassman
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Cristian Mungiu, director & writer. Starring: Anamaria Marinca (Otilia), Laura Vasiliu (Gabita), Vlad Ivanov (Mr. Bebe)
The Tracey Fragments. Bruce McDonald, director. Maureen Medved, script from her novel. Jeremy Munce & Gareth Scales, editors. Starring: Ellen Page (Tracey Berkowitz), Ari Cohen (Mr. Berkowitz), Julian Richings (Dr. Heker), Max McCabe-Lokos (Lance),
Slim Twig (Billy Zero), Zie Souwand (Sonny).
The Bodybuilder and I. Bryan Friedman, director of a feature documentary w/Bill Friedman
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days Winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes film festival, this tough but compassionate Rumanian drama deals with the highly controversial topic of abortion.
Set during the grim era of the Communist dictator Ceausescu, the film depicts what could be a typical day in the life of two university students–except they are handling a monstrous problem. Gabita has become pregnant and she enlists the help of her roommate Otilia to aid in solving her dilemma. Under Ceausescu, who ran a particularly repressive regime, abortions were highly illegal, punishable by years in prison. Somehow, the women have found an abortionist, Mr. Beebe. He turns out to be a remarkably odious individual, demanding much more than money for his services. Whether they succeed or not—and the film does answer that question—what the two students experience will profoundly affect their lives.
Shot with long takes and in a deliberately unaffected manner, this film is reminiscent stylistically of the award-winning Iranian dramas of the ‘90s and, historically, the great neo-realist era of post-WW2 Italy. Scriptwriter and director Mungiu keeps the tension up throughout the film and he is aided by a brilliant performance by Anamaria Marinca. Her scenes at her boyfriend’s dinner table and afterward in his room are remarkable: you see how appalling people, even charming ones, can be to someone who has suffered a painful humiliation and trauma. Clearly, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days isn’t for everyone. But it is one of the best films of the year.
The Tracey Fragments The Tracey Fragments is an extraordinary film, partly experimental and wholly dramatic. The brilliant young actress Ellen Page delivers a stunning performance as Tracey Berkowitz, a nerdy teenager who despises her parents and everyone in high school except for a sullen, handsome boy in her class. Tracey’s life falls apart one day when her little brother, who always follows her around like a dog, goes missing, forcing his frantic big sister to search the city for him.
If the plot sounds compelling but hardly avant-garde, gear up for a surprise. The images in The Tracey Fragments are shown in rapidly shifting boxes, which bisect, trisect and occasionally draw and quarter the screen. As Tracey’s adolescent life is segmented into fragments of experience, so is the film. Edited by virtuoso Jeremy Munce, with a soundtrack by Canadian indie icons Broken Social Scene, The Tracey Fragments is outlaw filmmaking at its best.
The Bodybuilder and I The winner of the Best Canadian Feature Award at this year’s Hot Docs festival, The Bodybuilder and I explores the difficult relationship that its director Bryan Friedman has with Bill, his extremely fit father. Certainly it is unusual to find your estranged father dealing with his mid-life crisis by reaching what the Brits call “rude health” through bodybuilding. Friedman claims that he “had what I thought was a good, quirky idea, to look into the lives of older guys who were working out, going to bodybuilding competitions.” It was only when he realized that his father would have to be in the film because he’s a top bodybuilder in his age category, that “it became obvious to me that there was more going on in the story than just the competition!” Genuinely quirky, this film shows the therapeutic nature of personal documentaries. Bryan and Bill Friedman know each other better thanks to this lovely film—and you will, too.