Rep Cinema This Week: Goodbye to Language 3D, The Overnighters, and Don’t Get Killed in Alaska
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Rep Cinema This Week: Goodbye to Language 3D, The Overnighters, and Don’t Get Killed in Alaska

The best repertory and art-house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements in Toronto.

Still from Goodbye to Language 3D.

At rep cinemas this week: Jean-Luc Godard’s bold 3D experiment, a profile of a pastor struggling to herd his flock in a boom town in North Dakota, and a sensitive microbudget Canadian debut.

Goodbye to Language 3D
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

The rare late work from a master filmmaker that feels like a scrappy, bold debut, Jean-Luc Godard’s Goodbye to Language 3D is a revelation, albeit an often inscrutable one for novices. The famously pugnacious pioneer of the French New Wave uses 3D to augment his usual play with onscreen text and chaotic juxtapositions of various narrative and thematic planes—superimposing contradictory messages on top of each other, undercutting his intertitles, and twice forcing us to choose our own image by squinting with either eye.

The result might be Godard’s most vital and formally adventurous essay film since 2001’s Éloge de l’amour, and it’s a surprisingly accessible entry point for later-period beginners who might have written him off as a difficult Marxist, anti-colonial scold from Weekend onward. To be fair, there’s plenty of Marxism, anti-colonialism, and scolding here as well—and a deep bibliography of the usual suspects from continental philosophy and 20th century literature, spanning Badiou and Sebald. But Goodbye to Language feels like the work of a free artist, who’s open even to ceding the better part of the film to a dog’s perspective on his masters’ tedious love affair. It’s a doggone pleasure.

The Overnighters
Directed by Jesse Moss

TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)

Before the financial crisis hit the United States in 2008, few would have predicted Williston, North Dakota was due for a transformation from a sleepy oil town to a mecca for the nation’s downtrodden itinerate workers, who arrived hoping for a second chance in an unlikely boom town. That mass relocation, and the ensuing economic and social problems faced by a community unable or unwilling to house its new residents, is the subject of Jesse Moss’s Sundance hit The Overnighters, an emotionally exhausting, sobering look at what it takes to feel pastoral about a flock of strangers. Focusing on Pastor Jay Reinke’s efforts to temporarily house the men in his church—to the dismay of many of his parishioners and neighbours—the film becomes a tough, nervy look at Christian charity in practice, as well as a probing exploration of this new class of migrant workers.

Told largely through furtive onscreen interviews and a plaintive accompanying guitar score, The Overnighters doesn’t rank among the most ambitiously built documentaries we’ve seen this year, but if anything, its unfussy form allows Moss to keep out of the way of the tough story he’s telling. By presenting this complex situation through an increasingly deepening character study of Reinke, who turns out to have his own personal relationship with the question of redemption, Moss allows the film’s earnest moral questions—about what it means to care for others and our responsibility to suffering strangers—to resonate.

Don’t Get Killed in Alaska
Directed by Bill Taylor

Carlton Cinema (20 Carlton Street)

For a film with a title as punchy as Don’t Get Killed in Alaska, Bill Taylor’s feature debut is a surprisingly tender affair, an uneven but solid opening salvo to what ought to be a promising career. Perhaps taking a cue from recent American independents such as Amy Seimetz’s Sun Don’t Shine and David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Taylor’s microbudget film opens with a couple on the run, taking up with twentysomething Liney (a very strong Tommie-Amber Pirie) and her boyfriend Dan (filmmaker and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World alum Ben Lewis) after a tree-planting excursion in New Brunswick apparently ended in shadiness and possible violence. Left with no viable way to pay for their plan to relocate to Alaska for a fishing gig, the couple decides to hit up their respective families in Ontario. That sends Liney on a three-part odyssey home, putting her back in touch with her estranged mother, brother, and father—in three drastically different environments—and reopening old wounds.

As with most first features, not all of the material here resonates: the film’s sideways commentary on the Occupy movement marks its script either as a dated product of 2011 or as a not-especially-convincing satire of the movement’s brief lifespan; meanwhile, the early stretch with Liney’s ostentatiously drunk mother is equal parts stilted and moving. But Taylor ought to be credited for resisting the urge to go big: there is a warmth and low-key realism to the film’s long stretches of conversation that is as much a credit to his patience as a filmmaker as it is to Pirie’s sensitivity as a performer, deft at modulating Liney’s speech patterns and attitudes depending on her audience. We’re curious to see where both director and star go next.