Tuesday, October 30, 2012


noun /ˈärbiˌträZH/ 
The simultaneous buying and selling of securities, currency, or commodities in different markets or in derivative forms in order to take advantage of differing prices for the same asset.
Dumb this concept down one or two more shades and I think I'd still be scratching my head. I don't have a head for money or strategy, and the only use I think I'd have with a functioning knowledge of either is to avoid being taken advantage of. White collar crooks have been getting away with the dirt they do for years because, on the whole, that dirt is beyond the ken of most basically functioning people. And it's hard to villainize someone for something you don't have a tight grasp on. In recent years, however, that esoteric dirt has become so egregious and ignoble that us head scratchers are starting to realize we need to smarten up.

In Nicholas Jarecki's first major film, Richard Gere (who, though Buddhist and probably a good dude, I think works best a slime ball) plays a hedge fund manager who has monkeyed with his company's books to cover up a major boner he pulled. Running parallel with his financial skulduggery, Gere flees a car crash that kills his mistress. The crash and Gere's role in it become a sort of tangible example of the financial deceit.

I can't help but think that our notions of right or wrong are mostly empathetic. If we can imagine ourselves doing something or having something done to us, then we can better form an opinion about it. But when crime is committed outside the spheres of our knowledge, reacting becomes difficult. Money and its movements are so ethereal it's hard to grasp the ethics of it. By coupling a financial thriller with a more recognizable one, Jarecki, I think, gets a stranglehold on that ether.

- Andrew

Stories We Tell

Stories We Tell is about just that. There are a lot of story levels to this documentary, Sarah Polley's first. (We showed her previous film, Take This Waltz, a few months ago.) Let's do some accounting: there are Sarah's interviews with her siblings, father, and family friends; there is the narration by Sara's father, Michael Polley, from his own memoir; there is archive footage of Sarah's mom, Diane Polley, and Super 8 from the family, all commingled with contemporary footage shot by Polley with actors hired to play her family; finally, there is the story of the compiling of all these stories. Late in the film, Michael Polley points out to Sarah, his interviewer, that the process of her film making is ultimately akin to the story that each participant is telling; what one considers worth telling is just as important as what one leaves out of a story, the details and opinions the teller deems irrelevant. From all her footage and from all her sources, Sarah decides how the story of all these stories will be told.

The secret--the reason for this layer yarn--is not much of a secret at this point, but I won't spoil it. It's enough to say that it's a family secret having to do with Sarah's mother. One interviewee (I won't say who) raises the point that the documentary might be somewhat futile. Diane, the "owner" of the story, doesn't have a voice. In her absence, what authority do the people she left behind (Diane died of cancer in 1990) have to tell her story for her?

Polley doesn't answer this question outright, but certainly addresses the issue in the make-up of the film itself. We are reminded throughout the documentary that we are watching a story that has been compiled and arranged by one person. We see Sarah filming her family during interviews, we see Sarah filming her fake family for the re-creation scenes. We see Sarah in the sound booth directing her father as he reads from his memoir. One of the last scenes is Sarah recording with her father, who, as the film is ending, is presumably reading the end of his memoir. In the middle of one line--his own line, about his life--his director interrupts him, asking for him to try the reading again.

- Andrew

Friday, October 26, 2012

Short Childs & Thrills Film Fest: The Lineup!

OK folks, here are some brief descriptions of the films Peter Szabo has selected for the Short Chill and Thrills Film Fest screening Sun Oct 28 at 9:00pm. I'm looking forward to the showing and hope to see you there.

- Peter


Directed by Zsolt Gyöngyösi
Hungary 2012

While confessing to his priest, a man recalls a life-changing drive with a mute hitchhiker and the dark reflections about his adulterous wife that he revealed to his mysterious passenger. The two confessions--in the church and in the car--connect and lead to a crushing ending. Based on the short story of the same name. 

Maxwell Edison

Directed by Warren Ray
Louisville, Kentucky, USA 2012

Based on the story "The Man Who Loved Flowers," this colourful short follows Maxwell Edison, a man who loves life, flowers, and women, as he prepares for an exciting date with Joan, while avoiding the shadow of the local serial killer. 

Grey Matter

Directed by James B. Cox
Long Beach, California, USA 2012

Based on the short story of the same name, Grey Matter explores the life of Isaac, who must care for his alcoholic father, a war veteran, after his mother abandons them both. Issac finds release from his troubles at home by acting out in school, mainly by telling lies. Unfortunately, these lies have consequences when Issac's father begins a horrific transformation.

Love Never Dies

Directed by Peter Szabo
Guelph, Ontario, Canada 2012

Based on the short story "Nona" by Stephen King, Love Never Dies is a psychological thriller about a drifter who wanders the night, seeking to escape his tormented past. One night he meets the mysterious and seductive Nona, a woman cast from his darkest fantasies, who lures him on a deadly chase to uncover the horrifying truth he so desperately wants to avoid. Inspired by the creepy corners of King’s imagination, Love Never Dies explores the razor-thin line that separates the allure of love from the romance of murder. Love never dies…but sometimes it kills!

See also this contest for the fest:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Human Ambiance

I'm not much of an eater at the movies. I'm there to watch. At my most sensitive, the sound of people eating in front, behind, and to the side of me can be infuriating and completely distracting. I think it might have something to do with the disordered ambiance of a theatre full of munching and crinkling rubbing against the grain of the ordered, intentional experience of the movie itself. But I'd never hiss at someone to quit it with the loud chewing. Food and movies go together like beer and absolutely everything. My tolerance craps out with cellphone glow and unrelated chitchat, but even then it's hard to fault people for being faultful people in what is, essentially, a social setting.

As coddled Westerners, we're becoming cagey, suffering one another--whether foolish or otherwise--less and less. So much of our lives has become about control that we start to unhinge a bit when control over our environment is mostly taken away from us. So we stay home or we wear headphones in public, steering as clear as we can from having to deal with each other. But there's an old fashionedness stained in our cloth. Some part of us still likes cramming together in a dark place to share an experience with strangers, no matter how annoying those strangers are. 

There's just score in Samsara, no dialogue. When I saw the movie the other night, the theater was replete with drink sipping, wrapper crinkling, mindless mastication, but also with whispers back and fourth about what was on the screen, or what what was on the screen reminded someone of; there were disjointed little gasps, tsks, and sighs when someone was moved or disgusted or bummed. There was no end to coughs, and sniffles, and shifting in seats, and the theater door opening and closing without a sense of delicacy. With no plot, no talking, the people in the theater were threatening to overwhelm the movie in the theater. For the first half hour or so, I was losing my mind.

But here's the thing: I mentioned in my previous post that, if it's about anything, Samsara's about us. So it makes a kind of perfect, beautiful, maybe unintentional sense that the people you're watching the movie with are contributing to the thing itself. We experience so much of life completely alone nowadays (yes, I said "nowadays") that I think, even when we're surrounded by each other, we try to ignore that fact.

Think about this: when you're watching TV or movies at home, how often do you laugh out loud? Or gasp? I'm going to guess rarely. It's not a coincidence that we laugh more, laugh louder, when we have others around us doing the same. For reasons beyond my ken, shared experiences are elevated, sensitized experiences--for better or worse. Doing a thing in public is as much about being in public as it is about the thing itself. I remember that when the idea of Letterbox Vs. Widescreen became common knowledge, my dad became incensed that he was losing a few inches of detail on either side of the image. When we watch movies or TV alone, I can't help but think we lose peripheral and important elements of the experience, as annoying as some of those elements might be.

- Andrew

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


The question I've been getting about Samsara is, "What's it about?" After seeing the film yesterday, the most acute, accurate answer I can come up with goes like this: "It's about us. About how we're the absolute best and the absolute worst. And it's about how beautiful that is." And holy cow is Samsara ever beautiful. Here's a roll call of filming locations: Indonesia, Burma, Mecca, India, the Philippines, Versailles, the Wailing Wall, Tibet, Petra, Namibia, the Himalayas, Epupa Falls, China, Yosemite Valley, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Turkey. The film isn't necessarily capital A About anything, yet is About everything.

Anyone over thirty living in the downtown core of Guelph is probably familiar with the Buddhist concept of samsara. But for those unfamiliar, samsara describes a cycle of birth and rebirth which can only be escaped through enlightenment; and with birth comes, along with the certainly of taxes, death. Not a word is spoken in the film--the images are left to speak for themselves. If there's any narrative here, it's to be found in the juxtaposition of these locations and events. Whether or not the samsara that is this film leads to enlightenment is kind of up to you. The only thing that's certain is that, while you don't have to go home after the movie, you can't stay in the theater.

Coming of age in Guelph in the '90s, filmmaker Ron Fricke's last film, 1992's Baraka, was the film I associated with the Bookshelf Cinema. It always seemed to be coming soon, or playing, or coming back soon. The poster image of a painted child peering out from behind verdant foliage, maybe as amazed by us as we are of her, is the image that encapsulates the Bookshelf for me. Full disclosure: I am employed gainfully by said business. Still and all, while I was having my mind blown and heart stomped by Mr. Fricke's follow-up, I couldn't help but cogitate just slightly on how lucky I and everyone else in that packed little theater were to have a venue to see the spectacular, troubling results of five years of filming. When something so rare is so available, the easiest thing to do is take it for granted. But I'm serious guys: Samsara, in addition to being a humbling mirror held up to our complicated humanity, is a gentle reminder of how lucky we are to have a place like the Bookshelf in our community that lets us hang out with descriptions of ourselves that are kind of disappearing from our lives lately.

- Andrew

Farewell My Queen

A few weeks ago we were playing the doc The Queen of Versailles and now with Farewell, My Queen filling our screen, I can't help but make comparisons. The Siegels were building the largest house in America, and they dubbed the thing, without a shred of irony, Versailles. Of course the reference points towards the superciliousness of the project, but the Siegels chose this name seemingly without any understanding of how that historical opulence popped.

Farewell, My Queen takes place over three days of Versailles's fall, as observed by young Sidonie, Marie Antoinette's reader. Benoit Jacquot's film is based on the novel by Chantal Thomas, also the author of the study The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette. From all appearances, this films owes much to that earlier book of history. Here's a precis of that text: 

Almost as soon as Marie Antoinette, archduchess of Austria, was brought to France as the bride of Louis XVI in 1771, she was smothered in images. In a monarchy increasingly under assault, the charm and horror of her feminine body and her political power as a foreign intruder turned Marie Antoinette into an alien other. Marie Antoinette's mythification, argues Thomas, must be interpreted as the misogynist demonization of women's power and authority in revolutionary France. In a series of pamphlets written from the 1770s until her death in 1793, Marie Antoinette is portrayed as a spendthrift, a libertine, an orgiastic lesbian, and a poisoner and infant murderess. In her analyses of these pamphlets ... Thomas reconstructs how the mounting hallucinatory and libelous discourse culminated in the inevitable destruction of what had become the counterrevolutionary symbol par excellence.

All of this is present in Farewell, My Queen, but is more implied than belaboured. The young Sidonie is our lens, and her naivete is ours. She is besotted with the queen at a time when that same woman is subject of national rancor. Early on in the film, discussing Marie Antoinette's love of tapestry with another attendant, Sidonie remarks, "That's when she forgets she's queen." The other attendant replies, with a creeping scorn, "I never forget who I am."

As a period piece, Farewell, My Queen spends a lot of time on the literal dirt and indecency of the time. Where most films of this genre revel in the grandeur of what we consider the past, Jacquot's falling Versailles is intimate and frenetic, and Diane Kruger's Marie is human and flawed and as fallible as anyone else in the court. The building revolution lives very much beyond the grounds of Versailles, but the grist of is tangible in the court itself. Farewell, My Queen is all about the intersection of how we view a person and who that person is, in ways both loving and hateful.

- Andrew

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Random Roles

I have a lot of love for the nerdlingers over at the AV Club. They've got the quippy, mordant tone of their father site The Onion, but levelled at popular culture and the maybe-less-popular culture that they're ebullient about. Daily they offer a great pulse-taking of what's new and what's awesome and what's lame, but definitely worth checking out are their running features. Especially edifying are My Year Of Flops, I Watched This On Purpose, and Commentary Tracks Of The Damned. If ever you're feeling like a hopeless lame-o, subsisting solely on the Cheetos and Funyuns of our garbage culture, you can buck up, because you're freaking Fonzie compared to these ostensibly pocket protector-wearing geekazoids.

It's the AV Club's love of and for the ancillary that's laudatory, for culture's a quilt... or a rich tapestry... or something like that. Whatever thing in your linen closet that culture's like, it's animated more by people you've never heard of or rarely hear of than by the people who end up on magazine covers and talk shows. But even if you don't know the names of peripheral proponents of culture, you'll probably recognize them. Random Roles offers a nice cataloging of some of your favorite characters as well as those you didn't realize were your favorites. Recognize these guys?: Stephen Tobolowsky? William Atherton? Wallace Shawn? Jean-Claude Van Damme?

Upcoming Stephen King Short Film Fest (Oct. 28)

Word has been swirling around the Royal City that some films based on Stephen King short stories will be playing at the Bookshelf Cinema. That's right!

Thanks to local filmmaker Peter Szabo, we're hosting a one-night event called the Short Chills and Thrills Film Fest on Sunday, October 28, at 9:00 p.m. The bestselling novelist has generously offered any filmmaker the film rights to his short stories with a few conditions: a one dollar fee must be paid for the film rights, the film may only be screened at festivals, and profits cannot be made by the filmmaker.

Donations will be accepted at the screening ($5 suggested), with proceeds going to Guelph's media arts centre, Ed Video.

Peter is currently curating submissions from other filmmakers who have also made film adaptations of Mr King's stories, and we'll update you on his efforts as the program comes together. October 28 promises to be an exciting and very cool night at the cinema.

Here's a link to the trailer for Peter's film Love Never Dies, from Mr King's short story entitled “Nona”:

Angus McLellan (Ed Video and Bookshelf Cinemastaffer) also interviewed Peter Szabo last year about his film.

More to come!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Master is Coming!

Yes, as Andrew mentioned, P.T. Anderson's latest critically-acclaimed work is Bookshelf bound. Dates are yet to be confirmed, but it looks like early-mid November will see The Master coming to a Bookshelf Cinema screen (hopefully) near you.

 It's a visually stunning monster of a work that boasts bravura perfs from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joachim Phoenix, with Amy Adams intensely present in a truly supporting role. Thespian kudos abound.

Look also for Deepa Mehta's adaptation of Salman Rushdie's prize-winning novel, Midnight's Children, in mid-to-late November. Much-requested repeat titles will include The Intouchables and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, look to tomorrow's entry for news, details, and a trailer for the Short Chills and Thrills Film Fest, October 28.


Friday, October 12, 2012


Adjectives I've been hearing from goers exiting recent films nuzzle in the rubric of Wonderful, Hilarious, and Inspiring. There's been a tangible tone to our program of late, and I'd never say there's anything wrong with that. One of cinema's great animating qualities is the swift kick it gives to our own life and the way we think about its keister while also entertaining us. But it's easy to forget the other side of the scale.

Rebelle (AKA War Witch) is Canada's submission to the Oscar's Best Foreign Language category. Here's the plot as laid out by director Kim Nguyen: "Komona, a 14-year-old girl, tells her unborn child growing inside her the story of her life since she has been at war. Everything started when she was abducted by the rebel army at the age of 12. For two years she was forced to carry an AK 47 and kill people. Her only respite comes from her 15-year-old friend, a boy called Magician, who helps her and listens to her. As they experience the horrors and daily grind of war, Komona and Magician fall in love." 

Worth highlighting here is "the daily grind of war" and "Komona and Magician fall in love." Our Western narrative of strife, at its most egregious, tends to be a 10 on an amp knob that goes to 11 and beyond. War and its attendant atrocity aren't subjects anyone should have to dwell on daily, but no one promised us (and if they did, they were lying) that the human experience would be kind. We've had a lot of lightheartedness at the Cinema this summer, and while Rebelle might be light on lightness, there's no paucity of heart. And, if we're being honest and a squidge maudlin, film--and any old art--is at its best and most invaluable when it's recalibrating our day-to-day understanding of what life's essentials really seriously are. 

If you've been enjoying the films that we've lately had on our schedule, we hope you won't shy away from Rebelle. You might not leave feeling optimistic about the world and what we do to it sometimes, but hopefully you'll leave feeling optimistic about the capacity for goodness in said world.

- Andrew

Robot & Frank

Frank Langella is no slouch, but frankly (ED: Sorry) he has never had the guts to cash--in my opinion--the cheque he signed way back in 1987. Maybe you remember a little picture starring a gigantic man, Masters of the Universe? You may not know this, but Langella played the rotten, boney-faced, theretofore-animated villain Skeletor--not to be mistaken with the villain he portrayed in Frost/Nixon. Here's the Oscar nominee on that particular role:

With Robot & Frank, Langella is finally getting in line behind the bank's velvet stanchions. It's the future (somewhere between 1987 and whatever future/dimension Skeletor ruled) and Frank is a thriving grump and retired ne'er-do-well who has a new-fangled robot helper foisted on him by Stephen Tyler's daughter. The curmudgeon resists his new bot bud...until he realizes that the machine may be a means for him to reconnect with his past lawlessness. The heartfelt mayhem that ensues can only be (I assume, because this movie has yet to show in our theater) a contemporary melange of E.T.Short CircuitCocoon, and Monkey Shines.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Display of Emotion Is All Right

I can't say whether anything's been shored up just yet, but going on the trailer that played before Iron Sky last night, The Master might could be coming to The Cinema in the future. I've been licking my chops for this movie since the first trailer (edited by Paul Thomas Anderson) appeared at the beginning of the year. Inchoate reviews from friends range from "It's, like, the best thing..." to "I'm, er, not sure what that was...." I still can't wait to see this film, whatever it is.

A tidbit of trivia I'd heard about PTA's previous film, There Will Be Blood, had the auteur visiting John Huston's The Treasure of the Sierra Madre on a daily basis during filming. Putting a finger on the sensitive connections between the two films involves more scrounging and head-scratching and reading B. Traven's original book than I can do right now, but comparing the venerable director's unmistakable voice with Daniel Day Lewis' performance of Daniel Plainview somehow says everything--or at least cocks a knowing eyebrow.

Now, with The Master, I've done some rudimentary Internet scrounging to slake my anticipation. And I find that once again PTA admits to his visits to the John Huston well, specifically a documentary Huston made for the US Government during WW II. Let There Be Light is a disturbing and affecting look at PTS syndrome that feels sometimes like an old classroom movie. If you're anticipating The Master like I am, then you could do worse than spending an hour with sometimes heartbreakingly jangled men. It may make for a good primer.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Iron Sky

October 10 and 11 at 9:00 p.m.

Listen up: Nazis on the moon. Sarah Palin is president. We're not saying that this is Citizen Kane and we're not saying this is Plan 9 From Outer Space. We're not even saying Iron Sky will be the best worst movie you've ever seen. We're saying: Nazis on the moon. Sarah Palin is president. Even though we're showing this movie at 9 p.m., it's got midnight movie written all over it.

B Movies and Cult Movies have made a real comeback, hitting their stride probably with Generation X's mobius strip-esque sense of irony. Ed Wood celebrated the history and charm of bad movies, and Grindhouse charged them up and tricked them out--especially with the interstitial "trailers." The lines have lately become so thin between movies that set out to be a stylized kind of bad, movies that just are bad, and movies that have no idea they're bad. We'll let you decide where Iron Sky lands in that geography. 

What this movie has in spades is brio and humour. And Moon Nazis and President Palin. Whether or not it will achieve a place on your bookshelf along with the rest of your favourite cult films (ED: When does a bookshelf stop being a bookshelf, by the way? If all you've got on there are gewgaws, CDs, and movies, why not just call it shelving?) will be a decision made by time and an Internet chockablock with raving nerds. Because all us guys in the cinema are total jocks, you know...

- Andrew

The Queen of Versailles

October 10 and 11 at 6:30pm

This doc started out as a look at the couple building the biggest house in America but took a left turn along with the Siegles when they got low-blowed by that economic fiasco that's been in the news lately. There are plenty of laughs at the expense of the superciliously enhanced, sometimes aloof trophy wife and her aged, moneyed monomaniacal husband, but there's also no lack of humanity or gravitas in this portrait. You get the feeling that director Lauren Greenfield, like the viewer, had a somewhat settled idea of who these people were when filming began, and indeed Greenfield's subjects don't do themselves any favours to dampen the cartoon versions of themselves. But even if the circumstances of their marriage is unconventional, and their wealth a tad preposterous, the strife the Siegles face and the questions they're forced to ask themselves are essentially our own. In their review the New York Times put it best: "If this film is a portrait, it is also a mirror." 

Greenfield is a dandy photographer to boot, so it's no wonder the look of this doc rises to elegant eye candy from time to time. Her website's definitely worth a look, and, if you've got the time, she has a searchable database of her work.

And for a bit of extra viewing pleasure, it doesn't hurt to know that David Siegle tried and may still be trying to sue Greenfield for defamation of character. This suit doesn't seem to have legs, but we always wonder what subjects think of how they appear in these docs.

- Andrew

Hi, Howdy, and Welcome to The Bookshelf Cinema's Blog

Things are somewhat spartan here, we'll admit. But hang in there. As we get a better hang of whatever a blog is and how whatever a blog is works, we'll be bringing you (the theater-goer and the prospective theater-goer) an out-and-out myriad of fun stuff related to the films we're showing in our cinema as well as films (and movies, we guess) in general. For the time being, though, this is the spot to find out a scosche-and-then-some more about the movies we're currently housing in our movie house.

Check back soon and check back often!