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Screenshot of "Triangle of Sadness" (2022) written and directed by Ruben Östlund.

Magic in the Dark: What’s playing at Ottawa’s independent cinemas November 15–30

By Barbara Popel on November 14, 2022

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The ByTowne and the Mayfair are offering quite an eclectic selection in the last half of November.

The ByTowne’s “Noirvember” series continues with Lady Vengeance, which focuses on a femme fatale. This South Korean film directed by Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Handmaiden) follows a wrongfully convicted woman who, on her release from prison, seeks vengeance on the man responsible.

The following week, “Noirvember” continues with one of the great film noir classics, Howard Hawkes’ The Big Sleep. Based on Raymond Chandler’s murder mystery novel and with a script by William Faulkner, this classic stars the real-life couple Humphrey Bogart and a very young Lauren Bacall.

The Mayfair is hosting a fundraiser for the Music Program of Glebe-St. James United Church: a singalong Sound of Music. The film swept the 1965 Academy Awards and is considered one of the best musicals ever made. It could be one of your favourite things! The film has subtitles, so you’ll have no excuse—you’ll have to sing along! Of course, if you’d also like to dress up as one of the characters….

Over at the ByTowne, there’s another in its High Tea Cinema series—Stephen Frears’ The Queen. Based on true events that followed the tragic death of Diana, the “People’s Princess,” and with the inimitable Helen Mirren playing Queen Elizabeth and Michael Sheen as Tony Blair, this is a must-see for royalists and history buffs alike. Plus, there will be tea and scones! What better way to spend an afternoon?

The newly released Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is premiering at the Mayfair. It’s a gorgeous stop-motion feature film and, like all of del Toro’s films, it has a dark and vaguely creepy atmosphere. The fairy tale is set during the rise of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy. A bereaved father, Geppeto, carves a wooden boy who is magically brought to life. During his adventures, Pinocchio struggles to live up to his father’s expectations and to find his place in the world. The film garnered a Metacritic score of 89 and (so far) is Metacritic’s 8th-best film of 2022.

Here are two films I think viewers will want to talk about after seeing them:

The first, at the Mayfair, is Triangle of Sadness. It has elicited a lot of controversy among film critics, but it won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes. A vicious satire of the fashion industry and the super-rich, no character comes out well except perhaps the servants. Warning: It has very explicit scenes of the results of mass food poisoning. What will you think of it—thumbs up or thumbs down?

The second film, The Wonder, is continuing at the ByTowne. The cinema’s calendar describes it as “a psychological thriller inspired by the 19th-century phenomenon of the (Irish) ‘fasting girls’.” Critics have heaped praise on Florence Pugh who plays the English nurse hired by the local bigwigs to report on the 11-year-old Irish girl who supposedly has eaten nothing but “manna from heaven” for four months.

Finally, there are two very different films at the ByTowne that I’m looking forward to: EO and Viking.

EO may have been inspired by the great (but difficult to find online) 1966 film, Au Hasard Balthazar. Both films are about a sweet-natured donkey who meets good and bad people during his life and has both joyful and terrible experiences at their hands. However, the animal never loses his innocence despite it all. EO won the Jury Prize at Cannes 2022.

Viking is a comedy by prolific Quebecois cineaste Stéphane Lafleur. Here’s how the ByTowne describes the film: “When the first manned mission to Mars hits turbulence due to personality clashes amongst the crew, the higher-ups devise a high concept solution: create a simulacrum of the spacecraft, stock it with five surrogates who possess the same personalities as the feuding astronauts and have them re-enact the events occurring light minutes away.” Every time I watch the trailer for Viking, I giggle.


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

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