Last and First Men: a warning to humankind

Not your usual sci-fi movie

“Listen patiently.” Tilda Swinton’s voice reverberates against an orchestral score while the camera pans out on a sculptural installation. Then, the screen goes black.

Directed by Jóhann Jóhannsson and originally released in 2017 prior to his passing, Last and First Men, presented by the Festival du nouveau cinéma, is not your average sci-fi movie.

Based on Olaf Stapledon’s 1930 science-fiction novel Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future, the film tells a message from billions of years into the future. The message is an alert to humanity, warning them of their inevitable extinction.

If you’re looking for an action-packed sci-fi movie, this is not it.

The experience resembled that of watching a nature documentary (Swinton might just be David Attenborough’s female counterpart). Her narration, which is similar to a dramatic audiobook reading, spans the length of the film and can be heard over the liturgical-style instrumental music composed by Jóhannsson himself.

The film offers an abstract anecdote of a post-apocalyptic world; there is no acting, there are no characters. Throughout the film, the camera pans over grayscale futuristic architectural details and archaeological sites. The stark architectural elements, which are socialist-era monuments and can be recognized as Spomeniks from the former Yugoslavia, contrast Swinton’s smooth voice. Her narration is at once compelling and deadpan.

Like watching a documentary or walking through an exhibition gallery, Last and First Men requires full and undivided attention. Jóhannsson’s film captures what it means for a film to be considered art.


Spotlight on Concordia Fine Arts at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema

The Concordian attends an art show put together by Concordia fine arts students for the Festival du Nouveau Cinema.


One of the shows depicted in the video is Vertige, a short film and live performance by Eva Myers and Mark Durand, and performers Candice Riviera and Olivia Jean Flores. 


Video by Calvin Cashen

Feature photo shows dancer Olivia Jean Flores performing in Vertige


Auteur directors deliver stunning feats

Call Me By Your Name and Wonderstruck make their bid for awards season at the Festival du nouveau cinéma

While major film festivals like the Sundance Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival have always welcomed the biggest names in the industry, the Festival du nouveau cinéma gathers a more modest crowd. However, that doesn’t mean the festival’s programming fails to match up with its competitors.

This year’s lineup included a range of high-profile films, including Quebec filmmaker Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 and Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Farrell.

In addition, two of the most highly anticipated films, Call Me By Your Name and Wonderstruck, screened during the festival’s final weekend. Let’s see if they lived up to the hype.

Timothée Chalamet (left) and Armie Hammer star in Call Me By Your Name, a coming-of-age love story.

Call Me By Your Name

When a film receives so much praise across the board, it might be tempting to dismiss it as overrated. Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is not such a film. Starring Armie Hammer and newcomer Timothée Chalamet, the film is a sexy coming-of-age tale that explores first love, self-discovery and heartbreak.

Set in northern Italy during the summer of 1983, the film follows Elio (Chalamet), a boyish and brooding 17-year-old who, while vacationing with his academic parents at their summer villa, becomes transfixed with 20-something Oliver (Hammer), an American grad student who arrives to work with Elio’s father for six weeks. Elio and his parents are intellectuals—they’re all perfectly trilingual and read Joseph Conrad while lounging by the pool—and so is Oliver, so he fits right in.

As Elio and Oliver get to know one another, they are simultaneously perplexed by and drawn to each other. This creates a push-pull relationship in which neither of them are entirely sure the other is interested. But the chemistry between them is palpable, and their desire for one another is beautifully exemplified against the sumptuous backdrop of the Italian vistas they explore together.

Elio experiences all of the typical highs and lows of first love. Yet his heartbreak is amplified to a new level, perhaps because their relationship is never fully realized and their romance is somewhat forbidden. The more entangled Elio and Oliver become, the more devastating their eventual goodbye feels.

Call Me By Your Name is a true masterpiece, and it’s hard to imagine Guadagnino ever topping it. It’s safe to say the film is a shoe-in for awards season, with both Hammer and Chalamet poised to receive tons of accolades for their crushingly honest and sensitive performances. This is absolutely not one to miss.

Call Me By Your Name hits theatres everywhere on Nov. 24.

Wonderstruck follows two young children on separate journeys of self-discovery.


“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” This quote is oftentimes the only source of comfort for young Ben, the main character in Todd Haynes’ brilliant film, Wonderstruck. After Ben loses his mother in a car accident, and then loses his hearing when he is struck by lightning through a telephone, he decides to run away to New York City in search of his father, whom he has never met.

Ben’s story, set in 1977, is told simultaneously alongside that of Rose, a young deaf girl who lives in New Jersey in 1927. Rose, like Ben, is also trying to escape a reality she cannot fathom. Told in black-and-white, silent-film-style flashbacks, Rose travels to New York City to free herself of her strict father and reunite with her absentee mother. As Rose and Ben’s journeys unfold side-by-side, they happen upon the same places, but it’s unclear how the two are connected.

Haynes is known for invoking strong performances from his actors, and he does so beautifully here with lead actresses Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams. Williams gets little screen time, but she pulls off her wistful, loving character well, and you miss her when she’s not on screen. Moore, on the other hand, delivers yet another emotionally rich and mesmerizing performance without ever saying a word. The film’s young cast, comprised of Oakes Fegley as Ben, Jaden Michael as Jamie and Millicent Simmonds as Rose, provide a sweet purity and sense of excitement that only adds to the film’s magic. Wonderstruck isn’t Haynes’ best work, but it will certainly strike a chord with audiences—there won’t be a dry eye in the theatre once the film ends.

Wonderstruck is currently playing in Montreal theatres.


Artfully showcasing unsettling stories

Highlights from the Festival du nouveau cinéma include striking films from two Canadian filmmakers

The Festival du nouveau cinéma wrapped up on Oct. 15, following two weeks of showcasing some of the best new films of the year. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes

It’s difficult to describe this film as anything but disturbing and violent, but it’s not a bad film by any means. Directed by Québécois filmmaker Simon Lavoie, La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes will stay with you long after you’ve seen it due to its graphic depiction of family abuse, neglect and assault. Teenaged Ali (played formidably by Marine Johnson) was raised to believe she was a boy. The film shows her living in isolation with her brother and volatile father, who beats them senselessly any time they step out of line. Although the film is shot in black-and-white, Lavoie still manages to convey the gruesome details, which only elevate the film’s morbidity. Ali’s father seems haunted by a life-altering event, told only in flashbacks throughout the film. In present day, Ali is not only unaware she is a girl—she also doesn’t understand that her brother impregnated her when he raped her in the woods. When a sympathetic man from a nearby town explains who she is and what happened to her, Ali takes control of her life and fights for survival. But when the truth of her family’s secrets are finally revealed, it feels like a punch to the gut. Despite the heartbreaking revelation, the film ends with a glimmer of hope, making it worth all Ali had to endure.

Sweet Virginia

Jon Bernthal (right) and Christopher Abbott star in Sweet Virginia, a chilling and cinematic thriller.

There is nothing sweet about this film, and that’s what makes its title so effective. Set in a small town where three brutal murders have just taken place, Sweet Virginia tells the story of Sam (played by Jon Bernthal), a tortured ex-bull-rider who now manages a motel, and his friendship with Elwood (Christopher Abbott), a deranged hitman who inserts himself into Sam’s life. Rounding out the main cast are Rosemarie DeWitt and Imogen Poots as Bernadette and Lila—two disgruntled widows harbouring a few secrets of their own. Elwood books a room at Sam’s motel shortly after murdering three men in a local diner, two of whom are Bernadette and Lila’s husbands. Sam befriends Elwood, not knowing who he is, and the two strike up a rapport. The tension between them rapidly builds as Elwood’s motives—and Sam’s connection to one of the victims—becomes clear. Bernthal impresses as the quiet, kind-heart Sam, but Abbott is the true standout here. He showcases Elwood’s increasingly maniacal and sociopathic behaviour through subtle gestures—such as his ever-present and ever-creepy groan—along with an off-puttingly upbeat candor. While the ending is rather predictable, the audience is still jolted out of their seats when the film reaches its climax. Moreover, the film is visually stunning. Director Jamie M. Dagg managed to capture interesting features even in the most mundane settings, such as a motel room or the front seat of a car, through non-traditional camera placement. If you’re into crime thrillers set in moody small towns, then Sweet Virginia is for you.


What’s coming to the Festival du nouveau cinéma

A host of new and exciting films and the addition of virtual reality awaits

For a festival that is about to have its 45th edition, the Festival du nouveau cinéma (FNC) is stunningly youthful. It all makes sense when you realize its founder, Claude Chamberland, seems to care not for prestige, but for rejuvenation. If the once-glamorous Montreal World Film Festival has crumbled under the weight of ambition, the FNC has only prospered.

“As extensive as [the Toronto International Film Festival], but completely different,” is how Chamberland described the festival during the press conference that unveiled this newest edition. Filmmaking is constantly changing and adapting to the market, technological progress and cultural trends, among other factors. If it wants to remain worthy of its name, the FNC must adapt along with it—if not run ahead.

In this spirit, several new sections have been added to this year’s program—the most noteworthy of which is FNC eXPlore. Its mission is to promote new mediums, including virtual reality, which is becoming a mandatory component at film festivals—not to mention art galleries—around the world.

Installations will be free, with 45,000 visitors expected daily. Another new section, Les nouveaux alchimistes, is a space of expression for the most experimental filmmakers who bring cinema down to its essence as the marriage of sight and sound.

That is not to say that the FNC is oblivious to the past. This edition is dedicated to recently deceased filmmakers André Melançon, Jacques Rivette, Abbas Kiarostami, Andrzej Zulawski, Ronit Elkabetz and Donald Ranvaud. Retrospectives are planned in several sections, most notably decicated to the late Polish master Krzysztof Kieslowski. Several screenings will also mark the 100th anniversary of the Dada movement, an avant garde art movement that took place in Europe in the early 20th century.

As always, the programming is remarkable for the range it offers. It is no exaggeration to say any viewer will find something that will suit their taste—from the short Carte blanche films that precede most screenings, to the long Lav Diaz’ award-winning 4-hour and 8-hour films, and from the most innocent of the P’tits loups section aimed at younger viewers, to the most adult, Temps Ø section, which this year offers several films that explore pornography.

Even if you couldn’t make it to the Cannes festival this year, you’ll soon have an opportunity to see arthouse films such as American Honey, Sieranevada, Aquarius, Toni Erdmann, The Handmaiden (with French subtitles), After the Storm and Gimme Danger. Other festival successes to be featured at the FNC are Kirill Serebrennikov’s The Student and Ivan I. Tverdovsky’s Zoology from Russia and Studio Ghibli’s co-production The Red Turtle from Belgium—a sure-fire future Oscar nominee. In other news, notorious Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl will make a rare overseas appearance to present his new film, Safari, and deliver a masterclass about the film.

The festival runs from Oct. 5 to 16, with screenings in many venues across the city. Stay tuned for The Concordian’s coverage. For information on prices and programming, visit

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