Cinematic nostalgia: Immersing ourselves in yesterday’s embrace

Modern media is focusing its resources on historical fiction and rebooting old franchises, which raises a question about society’s current state. 

It seems like everything is either a period piece or a remake nowadays, doesn’t it? With the constant development of biopics such as Oppenheimer, Air, or the soon-to-be-released Napoleon, and works of historical fiction such as Bridgerton, Stranger Things, and Peaky Blinders, rare are the projects that highlight the joys and quirks of our current era. 

I recently watched A Haunting in Venice with my parents, the new Hercule Poirot murder mystery flick. I thoroughly enjoyed the picture’s intrigue and was left satisfied yet hungry for more. 

However, a question rests in the back of my mind: why is yet another movie set in the past? The Hercule Poirot series has always revolved around the 1940s, so I was not surprised to see the film set in 1947 Venice. Still, it made me reflect on the content I consume and why it’s set in my grandparent’s epoch.

Our modern lives aren’t interesting: that’s the answer I’ve come up with. Why are cell phones rarely referenced or brought up in films set in the present? Why don’t today’s romantic comedies hold a candle to those of the past? Why has our infatuation with the ‘80s spread to music and fashion? 

As technology develops, we are growing less social, less creative, and less in touch with reality. Fewer kids are out playing street hockey, malls and movie theaters are not the beacons of youthful discovery like they used to be, and parents are scrolling mindlessly on Facebook for hours on end. It is apparent that people are not living life to the fullest. 

We hear it all the time: “I was born in the wrong generation.” The phrase has become a joke at this point, but everyone seems to feel a particular affection for an era they never lived in yet experienced vicariously through a movie or television show. 

History is fascinating, as it defines our present as much as it does our past, yet it feels as though the more society develops technologically, the more we yearn for the simplicity of old times. It’s always easier to bask in old memories rather than create new ones. The core of the issue here is escapism. 

We spend so much of our modern lives avoiding any inklings of boredom and loneliness through social media, podcasts, and any other medium that will allow us to escape reality, that we fill every second of our free time with as much technological stimuli as possible. We yearn for the past because the past seems simple. Boring at times, but simple and purposeful, so of course we watch old movies and shows because they feel important. 

This is not to say that watching an old movie is a sign of emotional distress or an identity crisis. The past is comforting, but when it is weaponized as a countermeasure to the pressures of the present, introspection is needed. 

Perhaps we should address the issues of now instead of immersing ourselves in yesterday’s embrace by recognizing simplicity. Going for a walk without the phone, living an eventful moment without recording, speaking to a stranger, going to a restaurant by yourself, journaling about the little things—these all tie the soul to the present moment.

The little moments are what define us, and if they’re not nurtured and preserved, the same past that we so desperately cling to for comfort will engulf us all as our future passes us by. 

Arts and Culture

Spooky, scary, strange short films at SPASM Festival

Viewers enjoy a bizarre cinematic experience at Plaza Theatre.

SPASM Festival is back for its 22nd edition, and it is freakier than ever! This one-of-a-kind annual event offers viewers a unique cinematic experience right in time for Halloween. On the program this year, from Oct. 18 to 31, are equally bizarre short films of all genres. These short films have been divided into themes, and the themes have been attributed to each evening of the festival. So far this year, SPASM has presented the “Sex” evening, the “WTF” evening, and the “Cabaret Trash” evening. All short films are haunting in their unique way, and are (most importantly) destined to an informed audience of 18 and above.

Still from short film “Wendigo” broadcasted during SPASM Festival.

The short films come in all shapes and forms: some of them are live action, some are animation. They last between one and 15 minutes, averaging about five minutes long. A few recurrent themes are nudity, sexual content, gore, and violence. The level of peculiarity varies greatly from one short film to another: they range from head-scratchers to mind-bending. Most movies are in French, others are in English or don’t include speech at all. Nevertheless, almost all films are easy to understand regardless of language. Some movies are very scary, others are not at all scary—some are even moving. There is a little bit of everything for everyone, except for the faint-hearted! 

Besides the content it broadcasts, another unusual aspect of SPASM Festival is that it offers viewers the option to watch the short films from the comfort of their home. Though there are live projections of the movies at the Plaza Theatre, SPASM’s website also offers the option to rent the short films online. Viewers can either buy a pass for the live projections, which gives them access to every evening of the festival in person, or they can buy an online pass, which unlocks every short film on the website. Otherwise, one-time tickets are also available for live projections and online movies. With those one-time tickets, viewers can pick and choose which thematic evenings interest them the most. All short films are available on SPASM’s website until Nov. 1. 

Projection night at Plaza Theatre. Photo by Julie Hey Lee.

SPASM also hosted a few spooky activities this year: a Halloween party on Oct. 28, Mega Horror Ciné-Quizz on Oct. 26, and its closing night on Oct. 31 will be a horror themed evening. For those who like to spend Halloween watching scary movies, it might be worth checking out SPASM’s lineup on Oct. 31!

Coming 2 America: a light for the Black community

Eddie Murphy representing Black culture for the second time in 33 years

“Before Black Panther, there was Coming to America. It set a precedent, it set a standard, it opened up so many doors, it was the first of its kind to celebrate Blackness unapologetically,” said Jermaine Fowler in a BBC interview.

On March 5, 2021, Amazon Prime released the sequel of Coming to America, one of the most important cultural Hollywood statements for the Black community.

In 1988, when Coming to America was released, it brought with it a lot of attention. It had an all-Black cast, and it represented African culture on a mainstream level. Although there were some stereotypes such as the perceived submissiveness of African women, they were modified during the sequel.

In the original movie, Akeem Joffer (Eddie Murphy) is an African prince from Zamunda who goes to America to find his future queen. In the movie’s sequel, Joffer goes to America to look for his long-lost son, Zavelle, who Joffer brings back to Zamunda to meet the rest of the family. It depicts the multiple differences between African and African-American cultures, yet we can see them blend during both movies, especially the sequel.

During the movie, Joffer’s family in Zamunda welcomes his son Zavelle and his family from America. We see the differences between the two families but also witness them blend and bring out the best in each other. In the end, Joffer’s daughter becomes the heir to the throne, and his son marries Mirembe, a woman native to Zamunda. She appears as an empowered, independent, and ambitious woman.

In Coming to America, African women were portrayed as submissive, dependent, with no ambition, and only aspiring to marriage. The sequel showed, however, that Black women, African-American and African women can be independent, ambitious and powerful.

“I’m very excited about African women who are kicking down those pre-existing narratives that held them back. I’m excited by my generation as we’re not taking anything less,” said Nomzamo Mbatha, who plays Mirembe in Coming 2 America, during a BBC interview.

The positive representation of Black people in the media is not common, especially in mainstream movies. The Black community constantly battles for more positive representation.

They portray us either as the good ones that are all docile or the aggressive and dangerous person, and it stems from history. That’s sad,” said Victoria, a student at Université du Québec à Montréal.

Eddie Murphy both plays the leading role and produced Coming to America and the sequel. He is seen as a role model and an icon around the world, and more importantly, within the Black community. Many other influential figures are in attendance in the sequel, such as Teyana Taylor, James Earl Jones, Garcelle Beauvais, Leslie Jones, Arsenio Hall, and more.

Mbatha, a native South African woman, plays the role of Mirembe, a hairdresser. Having a native South African woman in mainstream media is inspiring to South Africans of the younger generation. The film “speaks of what I want young girls from the African continent to feel — that they’re not invisible and they’re not too far, their dream is tangible — we need to open those doors for African girls and women,” said Mbatha.

From Coming to America to Black Panther, it took 30 years for another mainstream Black movie of this magnitude to come along. This in itself shows the lack of representation for people of colour in Hollywood.

Since the beginning of 2020, it has been challenging for the Black community because of the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the loss of influential people in the entertainment business such as Kobe Bryant, Chadwick Boseman, Cicely Tyson, and more.

Coming 2 America is one of the biggest mainstream Black movies in recent years. During these challenging times, Black people being represented at such a high level, as well as having Murphy back on screen is a light for the community.


MENA 2020: diverse narratives, cultures and perspectives

Sharing the works of filmmakers of the Middle Eastern and North African diaspora

The 2020 edition of the Middle East and North African (MENA) Film Festival is taking place online until Nov. 27 and offers a variety of works by filmmakers from the Middle Eastern and North African diaspora. The virtual film festival offers the public a chance to discover films that shed light on a variety of cultures, diverse dialogues and stories.

This year, MENA presents 20 short films and three feature films. Comedy, documentary, experimental films and more have been included in the film festival’s programming.

The festival offers a variety of works, providing a space for the voices of artists that are a part of Middle Eastern and North African communities. MENA also aims to provide a place for emerging artists and new voices to share their work and create a welcoming space for various dialogues.

My Dream Goes All the Way to Iran (2019), directed by Negar Mojtahedi, documents the stories of six Iranian-Canadians sharing the most painful and beautiful moments of their journeys from Iran to Canada. The film is a powerful portrait of the Iranian expatriate, portraying an immigrant population that is often misunderstood and misrepresented. The movie depicts the realities that refugees and immigrants face, uprooting their lives for a hopeful future.

Directed by Franco-Tunisian director and writer Manele Labidi, Arab Blues (2019) tells the story of psychoanalyst Selma (Golshifteh Farahani) who comes back to Tunis after living in France for 10 years. Selma has decided to set her practice as a shrink in Tunis, which is seen as a skeptical practice in the capital of Tunisia. Presented as a comedy, Arab Blues opens a window into modern Tunisia but also presents cultural clashes in a humorous form.

Amphitheater (2019) by Qatari filmmaker Mahdi Ali Ali, tells the story of a photographer named Sarah who follows a rebellious girl in her hideout: an amphitheater. Sarah is intrigued by the girl’s behavior and captures her in candid portraits.

There is also the coming-of-age film from Lebanese director Oualid Mouaness, 1982 (2019), which depicts 11-year-old Wissam, who is determined to confess his love to his classmate Joanna on the last day of school. Meanwhile, school teacher Yasmine, alongside other teachers, try to mask their fears as many are on different sides of the political divide. The story is set during the beginning of the 1982 Lebanon War.

Voice of Silence (2016) by Iranian director Panahbarkhoda Rezaee is a documentary narrative that tells, through a photographer’s lens, the story of the Iran-Iraq war that lasted from 1980 to 1988. The movie gives a voice to the victims of the war.

MENA offers the chance for the public to engage with a variety of works coming from different places in the Middle East and North Africa. This is a great opportunity to get to know the various stories and perspectives of Middle Eastern and North African filmmakers.

Many events happen in the Middle East and North Africa that tend to be less spoken of in Canada and the virtual film festival is a great place to experience the different realities lived in these areas and authentic Middle Eastern and North African works.

The virtual film festival serves as a cultural experience where walls are broken down and different dialogues are presented in space, without geographical divides. MENA serves to celebrate the many cultures present in the world and share stories that tend to be less known.

The MENA Film Festival is on until Nov. 27. Tickets are sold onlineViewers can obtain a pass for full virtual screenings for $40, giving the opportunity to the audience to see as much as they want, and individual passes for $10 each.


“Exploring Nature” at Montreal’s International Documentary Festival

RIDM’s 23rd edition showcases some of the best nature documentaries from the past year

The Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) kicked off its 23rd edition on Nov. 12, allowing filmgoers the opportunity to screen a wide variety of documentaries from the comfort of their own homes. The 2020 festival showcases some of the best documentaries from the past year and boasts a wide selection from all over the globe.

This year’s festival is divided into eight thematic categories, each available for a period of seven days. Among the first sections available for screening is “Exploring Nature,” an assortment of films about the environment and our complicated relationship with it. Here are just a few of the nature docs that caught my eye!

Watch The Concordian’s interview with Bruno Dequen, RIDM artistic director below.

Cenote (dir. Kaori Oda, Mexico/Japan, 2019)

Despite its presence at RIDM, Cenote is far from a conventional documentary. Director Kaori Oda is even reluctant to label her latest feature a film, instead referring to it as an “experimental documentary.” With its swirling, often disorienting camera work and its hypnotic auditory cues, “experimental” is certainly an apt descriptor, as Cenote is more akin to a sensory experience than anything else.

As its title suggests, the film examines cenotes; deep, natural sinkholes formed by collapsed limestone. Armed with an 8mm camera and an iPhone X, the Japanese filmmaker travels to Yucatan, Mexico to document the land’s many cavernous pits and explore their ties to the ancient Maya civilization. Opening text explains that Mayans saw cenotes as spaces of great spirituality, areas that connected present life with the afterlife. Ritualistic offerings in the form of human sacrifice were habitually presented to the Rain God Chaac, who Mayans believed lived at the bottom of the cenotes. Given this information, the cenotes develop an air of intrigue and Oda’s dreamlike and indistinct imagery paints them as something otherworldly and mythical.


Stray (dir. Elizabeth Lo, United States, 2020)

Stray opens to a quote by Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope which tells us that “Human beings…would do well to study the dog.” If unconvinced by this statement, one would only need to sit through the next 72 minutes to realize that there is indeed a lot to learn.

Stray documents the lives of several dogs living in the streets of Istanbul and Turkey, primarily focusing on a hazel-eyed canine named Zeytin. Zeytin wanders through the city in search of food and shelter, encountering numerous other strays and passersby along the way. Eventually, she is “adopted” by a group of teenage vagrants, all refugees living in similarly poor conditions.

What’s particularly striking about Lo’s film is how instantaneously we become invested in the plight of the animals. Stray appeals to our empathy at a very instinctual level; it doesn’t require any frills or embellishments to evoke an emotional response from its viewers.

As Zeytin roams the streets, she sees crowds gathered in protest, a couple arguing on a restaurant terrace, homeless men keeping warm by a barrel fire. She stares attentively. How much does she really understand? While the animal world lacks many of the intricacies of the human world, the film shows us that there is in fact a significant overlap found in our shared compassion, curiosity and desire for companionship.


Jiíbie (dir. Laura Huertas Millán, Colombia/France, 2019)

Jiíbie is a medium-length documentary that examines the cultivation and production of coca powder in the Amazonian community of Muina-Murui. Immediately, the film makes its purpose clear; “This is not a movie about cocaine,” a title card reads. For its many centuries of spiritual and ritualistic use by the native people of America, the coca plant cannot shake its reputation as the raw material from which the narcotic is extracted.

Jiíbie aims to dispel the many misconceptions associated with the plant by showing us the reverence it holds within these communities. In intimate detail, we watch as the Indigenous people of the Amazon crush, burn and mash the coca leaf into powder for spiritual purposes, all while listening to local stories and myths centered around the plant.

While it might not rid the leaf of its negative connotations, Jiíbie is still a powerful educational tool and a fascinating insight into the world of coca powder production.


Icemeltland Park (dir. Liliana Colombo, United Kingdom/Italy, 2020)

In a far-off future, nature is exploited to the point of no return. Unrestrained industrialization has led to the creation of an amusement park where attendees can watch the environment decay in real time. Sounds scary, right? This is the inventive premise behind Icemeltland Park, and sadly, Liliana Colombo’s dystopian vision is far too realistic for comfort. Colombo’s darkly satirical take on climate change takes us on a guided tour across the world to watch glaciers melt as part of a hypothetical theme park attraction.

The film is composed almost entirely of iPhone footage pulled from YouTube and runs with its clever framing device all the way to the very end. Included are “commercial breaks” and popup text that orders viewers to “please keep recording” despite the potential danger and implications of the horrific events unfolding. It’s a film that speaks to our indifference and general apathy towards climate change and how greed and spectacle triumph over the environment. Icemeltland Park ends with a foreboding warning that more natural catastrophes will come at the hands of climate change. An ominous message, but a necessary one, nonetheless.

The Montreal International Documentary Festival runs from now until Dec. 2. For more details including tickets and programming, please visit their website.


“Richest programming of its history” at Cinémania 2020

The francophone film festival will be held entirely online and available across Canada

Against all odds, this year’s edition of Cinémania is set to begin with great optimism. From Nov. 4 to 22, Canada’s largest film festival dedicated to francophone cinema is presenting its most ambitious programming to date — entirely online — proudly adding new features such as a short film program and homemade documentaries.

“We were simply ready,” said Guilhem Caillard, the festival’s managing director, about having to face social distancing measures in the second wave of the pandemic. “The most important aspect is that our public has access to our films, and honestly, in terms of programming, this year is the richest of the 25-year history of the festival.”

Along with other institutions in the film and performing arts industries, Cinémania was put under tremendous stress recently. Until last week, they hadn’t been able to confirm whether they would be able to show their films in theatres. When the provincial government announced that red zone restrictions would remain in effect until Nov. 23, the festival already had an online platform ready to go —  one they had been working on since last April.

In total, only eight films (out of 130) could not be moved online as their distributors didn’t allow it, but Caillard has promised that when it’s permitted, these films will come to theatres in Montreal.

Among those removed from the festival was the opening film, Aline. Directed by and starring renowned French actress Valérie Lemercier, Aline is a fictional film heavily inspired by the life of Céline Dion. The most anticipated feature of the festival, its release on both sides of the Atlantic has been postponed to an unknown later date.

Cinémania is now bigger than ever, adding short films and homemade documentaries this year.

“Opening to short films allows the festival to open up even more to emerging filmmakers, to diversity, and to more francophone countries,” said Anne de Marchis, the director of marketing and communications at Cinémania.

This year the festival adds short films to its programming for the first time ever, including more than 30 films encompassing many different genres. Most of them are from Québec, as Cinémania will also present films that were set to be shown at Regard, a short film festival in Saguenay, which was cancelled on its first day, in March, due to social distancing measures.

Another addition this year are two documentaries produced by the festival itself: a short documentary about Louis Bélanger, this year’s festival’s guest of honour, directed by Kalina Bertin (Manic, 2017), and another by Gauthier Aboudaram on the film La nuit des rois, Ivory Coast’s 2020 Oscar submission, which is also featured at the festival.

A diverse programming to discover francophone cultures worldwide.

Once again, Cinémania proves to be an eloquent testament to francophone cinema’s diversity; encompassing many genres, approaches, and themes.

“This year we observed a strong presence of Quebecois cinema, stronger than ever at the festival,” said Caillard. A good example that might interest Concordians, according to Caillard, is Maryanne Zéhil’s La face cachée du baklava, a comedy about how Lebanese people are perceived in Quebec. Also, for every ticket sold, a dollar will be donated to the Canadian Red Cross for reconstruction in Beirut.

L’État Sauvage, a feminist western and a France-Quebec coproduction, is another of Caillard’s favorites this year, “which brings out the western side of the Quebec landscapes,” he said, and depicts a French family in the midst of the American civil war.

Caillard also noted that many of his films this year — more than ever — centre around LGBTQ+ issues, allowing his audience to discover how they can be seen and portrayed around the world. Among those are A good man by Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, which tells the unconventional story of a transgender man’s pregnancy, or Deux, by Filippo Meneghetti about the beautiful lesbian love story of octogenarians.

Cinémania also presents itself as a good opportunity to see some high-profile directors’ work, including films that were part of the official competition at Cannes this year, and new anticipated features such as François Ozon’s Été 85, or Cédric Klapisch’s latest, Deux moi.

The entire programming is available here. It costs $8 per individual film, or $65 for the entire online selection.


Photos courtesy of Cinémania.


Exploring the needle drop: the underrated art of soundtrack curation

While an original score can capture the tone of a film, the proper placement of licensed songs can birth iconic moments that live beyond the film’s runtime

Though music and film are separate forms of art, they serve each other in extremely complementary ways. A song on its own can be great but pairing it with a sensational music video can be the difference between a great song and an iconic one. In the same way, a great film can stand on its own, but a quality soundtrack can bring that film to life in a very special way.

These aren’t musical scores I’m talking about. While those set the tone and capture the mood and emotions on the screen, they are made to do just that, as they’re created in conjunction with the film. What I’m talking about here are licensed soundtracks, a list of songs that existed on their own separately but were placed in a film and took on a new life as part of a character’s story.

There is a certain level of nuance and finesse to the art of soundtrack curation that goes almost completely under the radar when we discuss music in film. We give composers like Hans Zimmer and John Williams their credit for scoring films regularly, but rarely do the music supervisors and their departments get their respect for curating phenomenal soundtracks.

To be able to bring a character, their journey or even just a snapshot of that journey to life using pre-existing songs shows an understanding of their story beyond the surface level. It gives their character a certain tangibility — a feeling of realness and relatability that is missing when using a grand, orchestral score. It could be that the lyrical content fits the character or scene, or it could be an existing attachment to the songs. Either way, it brings a very human element to these characters and their stories.

When you look at some of the most memorable music moments in film, I’ve found that there are three different types of song placements: the setting-establisher, the character-developer, or the scene-carrier. While they can crossover, those are the three that I’ve found to be most common.

The setting-establisher is pretty self-explanatory, as it serves to establish the setting in which the movie takes place. This can be seen in the opening credits sequence of Richard Linklater’s 1993 coming-of-age film Dazed and Confused, with Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion.” The song begins as an orange Pontiac GTO slowly pulls into the parking lot of Lee High School on the last day of school in 1976 and continues over a montage of activities happening at the school.

This technique is useful, especially in this instance, as it not only establishes the setting both in time and geographically but also does a good job setting the tone for this movie. The opening, breezy guitar strings and Steven Tyler’s soft, smooth vocals are the perfect audio companion to the first day of summer the protagonists are about to experience.

The second type of placement, the character-developer, is a song used in a moment that is integral to a character, mainly the protagonist’s, journey. The use of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” in David Fincher’s Fight Club is a prime example of this.

Though it’s the conclusion of the film, it is also the biggest moment in the narrator’s development, as he has overcome his dissociative personality and mental anguish. The song starts as the narrator and his love interest stare off into the exploding skyline, and as they watch he tells her, “You’ve met me at a very strange time in my life,” leading into the song’s first verse. It captures the chaotic mental state of the narrator extremely well, while also serving as an explosive closer to the film.

Finally, the scene-carriers are moments in which the song is the focal point of the scene, as the song is actually being listened to or played within the movie’s world. These are moments like “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Wayne’s World or “Tiny Dancer” in Almost Famous, where the characters are interacting with the song.

These moments are the ones in which a character becomes extremely relatable, where they are partaking in the enjoyment of something the viewer themselves enjoys in reality. Having a group of characters sing along to popular songs humanizes them in a very unique way. The viewer can’t help but join in by singing along, or at the very least by smiling as they grow more connected to the characters.

Not all moments of matching a song to a scene are successful though. Of course, when soundtrack curation is done right, we get iconic moments like those mentioned above, but when it’s done wrong, we get abominations like the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” scene in 2015’s Pan.

The film does a massive injustice to the classic song, working it into a cringeworthy pirate shanty, sung by a choir of children led by Hugh Jackman’s Hook. It’s a completely uncharacteristic use of the song that has no understanding of the characters in the movie or the song’s content.

One film that fully embraces and understands the importance of song placement within a film’s world and narrative is Marvel’s beloved space opera, Guardians of the Galaxy. When the film released in 2014, both the movie and its excellent soundtrack received heaps of praise.

The tracklist is comprised of a group of undeniably classic but never overplayed songs, from Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” to Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love.” Every single song was worked into a scene and every placement was magic. The best part is that the songs that viewers heard as they watched their lovable protagonist’s journey, were the songs he was listening to with them.

The movie’s official soundtrack titled Awesome Mix Vol. 1, the name of the mixtape Chris Pratt’s character uses in the film, was a massive success. It went on to be one of the ten highest-selling albums of its release year and a top three best-selling vinyl album of the 2010s. While the Marvel brand is strong, and the songs on their own are fantastic, it was the perfect marriage between the film and the songs used that created such an enormous impact on pop culture.

That perfect marriage between scene and song is what makes licenced soundtracks so special. While a traditional movie score can be a beautiful orchestral piece in its own right, there is something about a well-curated soundtrack that makes a movie more relatable. To be able to take two completely separate things and combine them to create something special is no easy feat, and it should be recognized as the art that it is.


The visceral horror of Come and See

Elem Klimov’s historical epic is a deranged and frightening showcase of human evil

A common criticism aimed at modern war films is their general disregard for historical accuracy. Films like Pearl Harbor or Enemy at the Gates, while entertaining, are often embellished or glamorized in order to make the subject matter more palatable for mainstream audiences. The fact of the matter is that war is messy. Lives are lost, cities are destroyed and soldiers and civilians are left with lasting psychological effects. Rarely will a film seek to capture the absolute horror of combat in a truthful and authentic manner. There are, of course, some exceptions, one of which is the 1985 Belarusian film Come and See.

Set during the Nazi occupation of Belarus, a landlocked Eastern European country between Poland and Russia, Come and See tells the story of a young teenage partisan named Flyora. Against the wishes of his mother, Flyora joins the Soviet resistance movement and soon becomes entangled in a hellish conflict.

Director Elem Klimov has stated that in making this film, he wished to properly convey the sensory experience of war to the viewer. To achieve this, the director consulted Soviet writer Ales Adamovich to collaborate on the film’s script. Adamovich fought as a partisan during the Second World War, and his book I Am from the Fiery Village was used as the inspiration for the film’s events.

The director’s characterization of Come and See as a sensory experience is an apt one. Whether it be the terrifying reverberation of a dropped bomb or the ominous droning of fighter planes circling the sky, the film’s sound design shakes you to the core. The imagery is similarly harrowing, and the camera will often linger on disturbing scenes, amplifying feelings of discomfort. Fans of Ari Aster’s Hereditary and Midsummer will find these techniques very familiar. The result is an overwhelming and visceral journey into the depths of depravity that will affect you profoundly.

Visually, Come and See is distinct for its frequent use of POV shots. This was a purposeful decision made by Klimov and cinematographer, Aleksei Rodionov, to place the audience at the center of the events unfolding. The close-ups of the actors directly addressing the camera are incredibly impactful and make the characters’ anger, fear and anguish feel all the more real. It’s a reminder that war is a human conflict first and foremost, and that there were very real people affected by the ramifications.

As the film progresses, we watch as protagonist Flyora gradually undergoes a stunning visual transformation, with his hair turning grey and his face becoming lined with wrinkles. Flyora’s transformation is not only a physical delineation of the effects of war, indicating the immense stress he is undergoing, but it also represents his loss of innocence. Flyora begins the film as an eager boy ready to join the Soviet resistance, but by the end he is left battered and emotionally scarred, robbed of his youth.

The film went through numerous delays during production, with the USSR’s State Committee for Cinematography,  at one point rejecting it, believing the film promoted an “aesthetics of dirtiness.” Nearly 35 years later, Come and See has garnered a reputation among critics as being one of the greatest and most accurate depictions of war ever put to film. It is a haunting representation of the indelible effects of war and an assessment of mankind’s capacity for evil. It is a gut-wrenching watch from start to finish, but one that should absolutely be seen.

Come and See is playing at Cinema Moderne as part of their “M: Les Maudits” Series dedicated to cult and genre classics. Screenings take place on Feb. 28 at 9 p.m. and March 8 at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are available online or at the box office. For more details visit


The power of Waves’ soundtrack

How Waves soundtrack elevates the film’s themes of teenage angst and depression

*Spoilers ahead*

The trailer for Trey Edward Shults’ film Waves scared me, initially. It was vague and cluttered with songs that most teens would compile into a generic Spotify playlist entitled “Vibes.” When I finally watched the movie last week, I was shocked. The movie wasn’t as corny as the trailer made it out to be and the soundtrack, to my surprise, elevated the film’s themes of teenage angst and depression.

The opening scene shows the protagonist Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) driving with his legs out on the freeway as his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) sings along to “FloriDada” by Animal Collective. The track encapsulates the ever-freeing sentiment of being a teenager in love.

In the first truly pivotal scene of the movie, Tyler receives news from Alexis that she’s planning on keeping a baby that they accidentally conceived not long before. After a failed attempt to convince her to get an abortion, “IFHY” from rapper Tyler, the Creator starts playing as the protagonist gets up off his chair and begins to trash his room.

There could not be a better song to go with the scene as Tyler’s newly-formed resentment to his now ex-girlfriend fits perfectly with the “IFHY” about hating then loving a woman he dreams to be with forever. The track bounces back and forth from soft melodies to an aggressive hook where he yells, “I fucking hate you, but I love you.”

The movie quickly switches courses when Tyler, who can’t cope with the idea that his girlfriend is seeing someone (she isn’t), goes out to a party that leads to his eventual arrest.

Unsurprisingly, Frank Ocean leaves his mark all over the A24-produced film. Many tracks off of his beautiful Blonde and Endless projects make their way onto the film, especially in the first half, with songs like “Mitsubishi Sony” and “Rushes” eerily pointing out what comes next in the heartbreaking film.

The second half of the movie deals with the aftermath of Tyler’s actions. Particularly, it focuses on Tyler’s sister Emily (Taylor Russell) and how her brother’s arrest has forever changed her life. She meets Tyler’s old teammate, Luke (Lucas Hedges) and falls in love with him. The second half also puts Frank Ocean’s Endless on the forefront as three tracks from the project play in succession.

The ending of the movie pairs Radiohead’s beautiful “True Love Waits” with Emily trying to make amends with her estranged mother. The two had a falling out after Tyler’s indictment and hadn’t spoken to each other until Emily sent a tear-jerking text that paved the way for a hopeful, yet still depressing ending.

Waves’ reliance on a 2010s-heavy soundtrack is a sign that the movie is for our generation. Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Tame Impala, and H.E.R., among many others, make their mark on the heavyweight film that will resonate with the youth more than it might with adults. The story is universal; everyone will understand it. The soundtrack, however, is a direct glimpse into how music affects our thoughts and actions.

Waves is for everyone, but really, Waves is for the kids.

Graphic by @sundaeghost.


Let’s kill the cool girl trope

She’s pretty! She’s fun! She likes sports and hot dogs but still looks great in a little black dress! You know her well! She is the cool girl

A trope we see everywhere, whether she’s in the latest action movie, romcom, drama or even manifesting herself in a Jennifer Lawrence’s celebrity persona, trust me when I say —  everywhere. But, here’s a little secret — she doesn’t actually exist.

That’s right. The cool girl is not real, sorry boys! This is not to say that women are not cool, because trust me, they are. This is to comment on the fact that the cool girl we see in the media is made up and simply a manifestation of male desires.

To clarify, I am not saying that women are not naturally drawn to stereotypically male interests; that’s ridiculous. Women are complex, making their desires diverse and vast. I am simply referring to a systemic trope; one born from male writers, directors and producers who create a female character solely to fit the male gaze. It’s not just about her liking sports or fixing cars, it’s that above all these characters must be insanely hot. It’s a crucial prerequisite, characters have to look like Megan Fox or Sandra Bullock before they are even considered on the cool girl radar. People will say, “she’s not like other girls,” but ha! You’re wrong. Friends, she is like other girls, she just might be better at hiding it.

According to a video by The Take, many women go through a phase where they want to be seen as the cool girl and honestly, I can relate. After fiddling with my sweaty ponytail in an attempt to look effortlessly windswept when I was playing soccer with my guy friends, or trying time and time again to look cool in a baseball cap, I have given up. Cool girls might seem effortless, but I can assure you — they’re not.

The Take explains that the cool girl is often juxtaposed with a very uptight and traditionally “girlier” version. This girl is shown to like more stereotypical girly things such as shopping, painting their nails, and does her makeup, a girl who is seen as annoying, superficial or less-than by the male characters and audience. The cool girl and the girly girl are both very demeaning to women and are both portrayed for the sole purpose of living and dying for male attention. These tropes plant deep roots of internalized sexism between women, often turning them against each other.

To be the cool girl you must renounce your gender, separating yourself from stereotypically feminine characteristics, while also being flawless. How exhausting!

Once we identify these patterns, they are very difficult to miss. When was the last time that you consumed a movie, television show or book where there was only one redeeming female character? I have a feeling you won’t have to look very far.

All this being said, things are getting better. Jennifer Lawrence has calmed down, and at the same time, we are starting to see representation of many interesting and emotionally intelligent women on screen.

Can you imagine? Female characters that reflect the multidimensional interests, motivations, hobbies, hopes and dreams of real people! Female characters showing each other love and support and not putting each other down to gain credibility. Movies like Bridesmaids and Gone Girl address this stereotype head on, using humor and even fear to explain the ridiculousness and the damage of continuing to write women this way.

So let’s move away from “being one of the guys,” and let her just be. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that real women are pretty cool after all.



Collage by Brittany Clarke

Briefs News

World in brief: First week of public hearings, Venice under water and a new Netflix rival

Venice faced its worst flooding in 50 years, leaving St. Mark’s Square under a metre of water last Tuesday. Reuters reported that the Basilica was submerged for the sixth time in the past 1,200 years – but the fourth time since 2000. After declaring a state of emergency, Venice’s Mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, also told reporters that climate change was to blame, referring to the high tides as “apocalyptic.” A study published in Quaternary International back in 2017 argued that Venice will be underwater before the next century if no actions are taken to counter climate change.

The first public hearings in 21 years began on Wednesday for Trump’s impeachment inquiry. It is set to investigate whether or not the President abused his presidential powers and sought help from the Ukraine government to undermine Democratic candidate Joe Biden. Politico reported that standout moments included the House moving from quid pro quo to officially accusing the President of “bribery,” and the testimony from the Acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor reporting another previously unknown phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump. Also an important moment was U.S. diplomat Marie Yovanovitch’s testimony, which Trump denigrated on Twitter, claiming “everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad.” If the inquiry ends up proving Trump’s wrongdoing, he would become the third American President to be impeached.

A new streaming platform that was launched on Nov. 12 is set to offer access to Fox, Pixar, Marvel and National Geographic productions. Disney Plus comes as another big player against Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime and HBO, among others. Subscribers can expect to find Disney classics such as The Lion King and Star Wars on the streaming service. While Disney has been accused in the past of being culturally offensive, the service deemed wise to include the message “may contain outdated cultural depictions” prior to some of its movies. The platform is available for $8.99/month or $89.99/year in Canada.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Note to Shelf: God Golly, Miss Holly

There aren’t many readers who will admit to preferring the movie version of a book they read. In fact, it is more often frowned upon. Words can never translate perfectly on screen; no matter how great the team you assemble is.

There are times when films are simply inspired by the books, borrowing snippets here and there, creating their own plot-lines and endings, making it impossible for us to choose sides. Simply because they are not the same.

Take Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s for example. WARNING, spoilers ahead.

Most people forget that one of Audrey Hepburn’s most popular films was actually based off Capote’s complex work of literature. And when I say complex, I don’t mean the novel is hard to read or decipher. I mean it has layers. Or rather, Miss Holiday Golightly has layers.

Hepburn fans and movie lovers know Holly Golightly as a lost, witty, and coquette little girl who struggles to find herself a home. That is, as many Hollywood clichés go, until she falls in love with Paul Varjak, and shares a passionate kiss in the rain, finally letting go of her fear of commitment. The movie is an ode to all commitment-phobes, with Paul’s infamous speech to Holly, calling her a coward because she’s afraid to let herself go; to love and be loved. A speech that does not occur in the book.

People, myself included, often prefer the movie because of its lightheartedness and fairytale ending. Because we don’t want to watch Holly struggle anymore. Because we need to believe that things end well, even the most improbable ones. We anxiously wait for Hepburn to find Cat in the last scene, because we need that reassurance that not everything, or anyone is lost forever.

But that is not the case for Capote’s Holly.

In the novel, Holly never finds a home and remains a lone wolf. Or as she so poetically dubs herself, “a wild thing.” And though she often relishes in that aspect of herself, she lets her guard down with the narrator, with that infamous telling line: “it’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes and things disappear.”

In the novel, Holly never finds her cat, and there is no Paul to sweep her off her feet, kiss her under the rain, and tell her he wants to love her. The narrator does dote on her, but there is no telling it’s in a romantic way. He cares for her, and her approval, because she appears to be this cool, racy girl; with a mysterious past, a wild present, and a constant fear of the future.

Where Hollywood’s version of Holly is a coquette glamour girl, Capote’s Holly is a mess, and, for lack of a better word, sometimes a bitch. She has no regard for anyone but herself, because she has never known peace, love, or comfort. And those are hard things to come to terms with when reading the book; which explains why Hollywood resorted to a happier version.

Most of the books I read leave me with a sense of warmth. But Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s left me with an uneasy feeling in my heart, and a cold shiver down my spine. And made me wonder whether most, if not all of us, have a little Holly Golightly with the mean reds inside of us.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

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