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Toronto 2010: “Trigger,” “Incendies,” Reviewed

Toronto 2010: “Trigger,” “Incendies,” Reviewed (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.

It is hard to imagine a more appropriate film than “Trigger” to open the Bell Lightbox in Toronto, though festival organizers who intend the gleaming cube in the middle of downtown to be their new home might do well to prepare to have the roof blown off after this premiere alone. For the most part, the latest from “Pontypool” director Bruce McDonald is actually quite quiet, a tête-à-tête between two of Canada’s finest actresses Molly Parker and Tracy Wright as they navigate a one-off reunion of their grrrl rock band from the ’90s. And while their band Trigger is quite loud — think Veruca Salt with a dash of Stevie Nicks — it’s the little throwaway moments offstage that speak volumes.

Like a soothing B-side to McDonald’s grungy 1996 punk mockumentary “Hard Core Logo,” McDonald is once again drawn to the idea of what happens when rock stars grow up, but “Trigger” is free of the narrative that insists that it involves a comeback tour to make it successful. Instead, Parker’s Kat and Wright’s Vic will be just relieved to make it through the night.

Although it’s never made explicit why they broke up in the first place, it’s clear from Kat’s late arrival to dinner that Trigger didn’t exactly end on amicable terms, and Daniel MacIvor’s screenplay is economical enough to have the mere mention of a tourstop suggest the sour times in their relationship. Now, Kat is a music supervisor for Lifetime in Silver Lake and Vic, a recovering addict with a long-gestating solo album who carries with her a copy of “The Spirituality of Imperfection.”

Neither Kat or Vic went on to live perfect lives, as evidenced by the random flights of fancy that McDonald spices up the film with — fantasy sequences that show the buttoned-down Kat breathing fire shortly before making out with a businessman at another table while Vic retreats to the bathroom to freebase some coke. Yet both evade the trap of being too irreparably damaged to be compelling merely out of pity, summed up nicely by Vic when she tells Kat at dinner, “You’re terminally unique.”

09052010_TracyWrightMollyParkerTrigger.jpgThe night is dotted by such observations as the two stroll around Toronto, leaving dinner to make a cameo at the concert in their honor, break into Allan Gardens (already seen once this year in “Chloe”), and eventually end up at aftershow party at a nearby art school, where past resentments are finally brought to a boil, in a virtual travelogue of the city that is given as nice a platform as the film’s two lead actresses. (Also worth noting is how Canucks Don McKellar (Wright’s husband), Callum Keith Rennie and Sarah Polley all show up in small but uniquely crafted parts.)

It is a particularly rewarding showcase for Wright, who passed away in June of pancreatic cancer. (Her other final film “You Are Here” is also playing the festival.) Wright’s sunken eyes bring an instant credibility to the world-weary Vic, but it’s a true rebel spirit that electrifies her conversations with Parker, who is as fun and flirty as she’s ever been here, but with the strain of knowing she can’t reclaim her youth. Still, “Trigger” is decidedly not some solemn rumination on the past, but a party built upon making lemonade out of lemons. Make that hard lemonade.

Celebration isn’t the word that comes to mind for “Incendies,” though it arrives at its premiere in its native country after first being feted in Venice and Telluride. Yet I found myself at a remove from much of the film, whose title translates to “Scorched,” first being impressed by its provocative opening sequence — a dialogue-free tracking shot in a Middle Eastern classroom where a group of boys are getting their heads shaved to Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army” that feels like the start of something dangerous — and then dismayed to discover a drama that occasionally lived up to such a daring introduction.

It is only minutes later in the staid office of a notary that one realizes director Denis Villeneuve is interested in disconnection, both a major theme and a weakness of his adaptation of Wajdi Mouawad’s play which follows twins Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette) as they attempt to find their father and the brother they never knew they had to hand off letters from their late mother Nawal (Lubna Azabal).

09052010_Incendies.jpgToo talented to dismiss as a mere imitator of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s fractured narratives, but too much of an influence to ignore, Villeneuve works backwards from the reading of Nawal’s will to reveal that long before she was a notary’s secretary, her life was marked by a series of tragedies from the birth of a child she had to give up almost immediately after seeing the child’s father shot in front of her to being the lone survivor on a bus that gets riddled with bullets and set on fire.

It’s to Villeneuve’s credit that Nawal’s constant misfortune never becomes comical despite reaching nearly implausible depths, but it’s the story’s structure that ultimately fails “Incendies” since Nawal is considerably more interesting than her two largely indifferent children, who get their own parallel storyline, and knowing she survives to the present day drains the film of much of its potential dramatic tension.

One could argue that’s besides the point because Villeneuve’s narrative is as much about the ongoing miseries in the Middle East as it is about the individual story of Nawal, with the Lebanese Civil War of the ’70s and ’80s serving as the film’s backdrop. Even though Villeneuve finds a uniquely damning way to suggest the cycle continues while resolving Nawal’s storyline for the film’s conclusion, “Incendies” still never feels like a whole, ultimately leaving more questions to be asked than Jeanne and Simon have the time or interest in finding out the answers for.

“Trigger” and “Incendies” are both without U.S. distribution.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.