In Revue: Greeks and Tragedy, No Strings Attached
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In Revue: Greeks and Tragedy, No Strings Attached

Because Toronto’s more movie obsessed than a Quentin Tarantino screenplay (yuk yuk), Torontoist brings you In Revue, a weekly roundup of new releases.

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Ashton Kutcher gets all wrapped up in No Strings Attached. Illustration by Chloe Cushman/Torontoist.

Pretty nice little spread this week, true believers. There’s something for everybody, even if not a lot of it was for us. Take your pick: there’s an uninspired romantic comedy (perfect date film for your relationship that will last four months), an award-winning Québécois feature (good for serving of subtitled cinema veggies), and for those of you compulsively plotting the ebbs and flows of contemporary world cinema’s various new waves, something fresh out of Greece (which is just plain good).

No Strings Attached

Directed by Ivan Reitman
2 STARs


About twenty minutes into the nearly two hour slog of No Strings Attached we’re subjected to the first of its many sex scenes between stars Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman. It goes down like this:
Adam (Kutcher) snaps awake naked on a couch with a hand towel covering his crotch. Though impeccably composed in that plucked-from-an-Abercrombie-Fitch-catalogue Kutcherian way, he complains of a bruising hangover. After a string of roommates (including, for some reason, the wonderful Mindy Kaling and, for some other reason, Greta Gerwig) totter out to toy with him, he realizes that he drunkenly crashed on the couch of on-again-off-again crush Emma (Portman). After piecing together the events of his night, Adam makes a move on her. Despite the fact that his mouth probably tastes like a puke-spattered brewery floor, the two make out passionately for a bit before Adam nimbly foists himself on top of Emma and rushes the two of them to mutually-satisfying orgasm in forty-five seconds. (Emma hurries him along because she’s a doctor-babe who has to get to work.)
The remainder of the film futzes around in in this kind of stupid fairy-tale bullshit. The whole conceit is lame, given that a film’s plot necessitates the kind of complications Adam and Emma’s titular “fuck buddy” arrangement superficially precludes. Though competently directed by Reitman (he doesn’t let any boom mics slink into his shots or anything), No Strings Attached is an unfunny, unconvincing mess. Unless you’re desperate to get the taste of Blue Valentine out of your mouth, there’s no reason to see this. To be fair, though, it does score points for Ludacris’s pitch-perfect delivery of the line “Boo! Here comes my dick!”
No Strings Attached opens Friday, January 21 in wide release. Click here for showtimes.

ATTENBERG

Directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari
4 STARs


ATTENBERG’s striking poster art, depicting star Ariane Labed’s shoulder blades sharply protruding from her back, is a bit of a cheat. After all, it’s only the film’s second most arresting image. Its most memorable impressions come early, in the film’s opening scene, in which Labed’s Marina and best friend Bella (Evangelia Randou) suck face in front of a white wall, an instantly unforgettable tableau of bored, tongue-tied sexuality.
Tsangari’s film entwines these stripes of tedium and awkwardness into a captivating look at the life on the fringes of a decaying Greek village. A listless, asexual twentysomething, Marina whiles away her days playing foosball with herself, silly-walking with her BFF, cranking Suicide tapes in her car and watching Sir David Attenborough’s nature documentaries with her dying father (Vangelis Mourikis). When a stranger (Giorgos Lanthimos) comes through town, Marina finds herself stumbling awkwardly into an overdue sexual awakening.
Like Dogtooth—2009’s entry into the incidental canon of the New Greek Cinema (directed by Lanthimos)—Tsangari’s ATTENBERG seems to regard sex as an inherently foreign act. Maybe it’s a takedown of Greece’s current isolation from the world, but its humanity extends beyond a rough economic allegory. ATTENBERG is a deeply felt portrait of civilization on the fringes, and of the often awkward ties that bind us together through the boredom.
ATTENBERG opens Friday, January 21 for a limited run at The Royal (608 College Street). Click here for showtimes.

Incendies

Directed by Denis Villeneuve
3 STARs


For a while now, Quebec director Denis Villeneuve has been trying to charm himself into the mainstream. His last film, 2009’s Polytechnique, was cut in both French and English as a way of slipping it more seamlessly into English-speaking markets both in Canada and the United States. Now, with Incendies, Villeneuve has made an exceptionally saleable film: not by churning out some slickly Anglicized product, but making his most markedly foreign movie to date.
Decorated with awards from TIFF, the TFCA, and a bunch of other organizations tasked with canonizing Canadian cinema, Incendies has been drumming up all kinds of critical hype (including a spot on Oscar’s Foreign Film short list). It’s all a bit silly. Incendies isn’t a great film, but it’s got all markers of a film desperately beseeching critical hurrahs. Villeneuve’s latest follows orphaned twins Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) attempting to solve the manifold mystery of their deceased mother’s (Lubna Azabal) past, in accordance with her will. Cutting between a mother’s youth in the Middle East and her children’s quest to recover it decades later, Villeneuve’s film traces family tragedy across multiple generations and a couple of continents.
It’s a good enough film, even if it’s a bit ham-handed. Villeneuve plays the story’s web of family tragedy unblinkingly, which works if you’re not at all sensitive to schmaltz and excessive sentimentality. When all the pieces do fall into place, the calculatingly heartrending finale is likely to stir as many sarcastic eye rolls as it is loosed tears.
Incendies opened Friday, January 20 at TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West) as part of Canada’s Top Ten. Click here for showtimes.

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