Skip To Content
Still from Three Thousand Years of Longing/George Miller.

Magic in the Dark: What’s playing at Ottawa’s independent cinemas—October 1 to 15, 2022

By Barbara Popel on October 1, 2022

Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 

There are so many great new films and iconic older films showing at the ByTowne and the Mayfair in the first half of October that I hardly know where to start. Last month, I wrote, “September must be biography month.” October is shaping up to rival September with six biographical films.

Blonde is a fictionalized biography of tragic mid-century superstar Marilyn Munroe. The film is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ book of the same name. Both delve into Munroe’s inner demons and the conflict between her tragic personal life and her public life. Ana de Armas looks and sounds uncannily like Munroe. I bet de Armas has a good shot at Best Actress at the Academy Awards. At the ByTowne.

Speaking of 20th-century megastars, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis is a glittering biopic about The King. There’s a lot of focus on his slimy Svengali-like manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, played in an oleaginous manner by none other than Tom Hanks (wearing loads of makeup and a fat suit). But the best reason to see Elvis is Austin Butler’s outstanding performance. He not only looks, speaks and moves like Elvis, but he also sings like him. Covering 20 years of Elvis’s rise to the pinnacle of stardom, it shows the electrifying effect he had on white America’s “innocence.”

For David Bowie fans, there’s a special treat at the ByTowne. The documentary Moonage Daydream bills itself as an “immersive cinematic experience” about this enigmatic shape-shifter. It features never-before-seen concert footage, but is not a standard rock documentary. It delves into four decades of Bowie’s life, exploring his alienation, isolation, philosophy, calm acceptance of reality, and fascination with outer space. (And his belief in occasionally blowing things up in the art world he inhabited.) A complex film about a complex man.

Leonard Cohen fans have a chance to see the documentary Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song at the ByTowne. It’s a loving portrait of Cohen and his most widely covered song. Cohen fans will love it!

Eternal Spring is Canada’s entry in the 2023 Oscar race for Best International Feature. It’s a biographical account of the reactions of comic-book illustrator Daxiong (Justice League, Star Wars), a Falun Gong practitioner, to the brutal aftermath of a small Falun Gong 2002 uprising in China. It combines archival and present-day footage with animation inspired by Daxiong’s illustrations. A Globe and Mail film critic said, “You’re thrust into a thrilling, all-consuming film that challenges traditional documentary tropes and finds a way to tell a winding, difficult story with brilliant ease,” and “The animation style…conjures both traditional Chinese comics and Grand Theft Auto.”

Dear Audrey is an award-winning NFB documentary about the family of Martin Duckworth, an octogenarian activist and one of Quebec’s most important documentary filmmakers. He and his 47-year-old daughter (on the autism spectrum) are supporting his wife, Audrey Schirmer, a photographer and activist, as she goes through the final stages of Alzheimer’s. As a testimony to unshakeable love, I think it will move and inspire viewers. At the Mayfair.

Turning from biography to fiction, there’s a fabulous fantasy at the ByTowne from George Miller, the director of the Mad Max films: Three Thousand Years of Longing. Starring Tilda Swinton as a repressed solitary academic and Idris Elba as a giant djinn, it’s a gorgeous yarn about the perils of having your wishes come true. Dr.Althea Binnie (Swinton) is in Istanbul for a conference. One da, she picks up a curious-looking little bottle in the Grand Bazaar. Back in her hotel suite, she accidentally opens it. Poof! Out pours Elba, who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. She refuses, saying, “There’s no story about wishing that is not a cautionary tale.” So he shows her some of the wishes he’s granted over the millennia. Intrigued? Me, too!

Alliance Française Ottawa has rented the ByTowne for a special event: Right in the Eye: The Films of Georges Méliès Live. It’s a film/concert experience—12 Méliès films from the early years of silent film accompanied by a three-person orchestra on stage. Méliès’ special effects took film to a new level of fantasy. Note that ticket prices for these events are higher than usual ByTowne prices.

I’m delighted that the ByTowne has programmed Krzysztof Kieślowski’s multi-award-winning Three Colors trilogy in a 4K restoration, beginning with Three Colors: Blue. Julie (the exquisite Juliette Binoche) is recovering from the terrible car accident that killed her husband and young daughter. She wants to withdraw from life, but in Paris, she finds it impossible to avoid human contact. A beautiful film about recovering from grief and a must-see for any film lover.

The fourth in the Mayfair’s four-film Charlie Chaplin retrospective series, The Great Dictator, is the most overtly political. In it, Chaplin does a frighteningly good satiric imitation of Adolf Hitler. He’s called Adenoid Hynkel in the film, and swastikas are replaced with the double cross. The scene where Hynkel/Chaplin plays with a giant inflated model of the earth is a classic. Meanwhile, a poor Jewish barber (also played by Chaplin) is trying to avoid persecution. Remember, this film was made in 1941 before the United States joined the war. Chaplin hoped to influence an isolationist America with the best tool he had at his disposal—cinematic humour.

Appropriaely, both cinemas have a wealth of horror films programmed in October leading up to Halloween. Let’s start at the ByTowne with the new movie Nope from Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us) wherein something odd is happening on a ranch outside of L.A. Then there’s the ByTowne’s Boo-Towne series on Saturdays, which kicks off with Evil Dead II, followed by the classic frightener The Exorcist, and then Hellraiser.

The Mayfair has always been a suitable venue for horror fans, and it doesn’t disappoint with two seminal horror films—Poltergeist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. As the ByTowne schedule says, “Celebrate spooky month in the best possible way: sitting in a dark cinema with a bunch of other horror fans!” And after a decade of screening this cult classic, the Mayfair is showing “the greatest bad movie ever made”: The Room. Apt613 has already written about this major cult event.

So get out there and enjoy some magic in the dark!


Dates, times and tickets for the ByTowne are at www.bytowne.ca. Dates, times and tickets for the Mayfair are at www.mayfairtheatre.ca.

Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement:

 
Advertisement: