Because I’ll be on vacation in July, I’m recommending a whole month’s worth of films at the ByTowne and the Mayfair. As usual, the ByTowne has published its entire schedule for the month, but I’m in the dark about most of Mayfair’s July offerings. Nevertheless, both offer a wide variety, including a slew of classics at the ByTowne and a bunch of new films.
Everything Everywhere All at Once is a wild and wonderful exploration of the multiverse. Evelyn Wang (the brilliant Michelle Yeoh) owns a laundromat with her husband Waymond. She’s frenetically busy, but her family life is a disaster. Her 20-year-old daughter hates her, and Waymond wants a divorce. They’re in the middle of a very stressful IRS audit (the nasty auditor is Jamie Lee Curtis!). But suddenly, Evelyn is in a different universe, where she’s told by a man who looks like Waymond that only she can save the universe from a terrible being intent on destroying everything. More universes and more identities for Evelyn come flying at her (and us). At its centre, it’s an immigrant family drama. It’s surreal and silly, the special effects are mind-blowing, and the film’s title is an apt description. Don’t try to make sense of the rapid-fire leaps between the bizarre universes—hang on and enjoy the ride! At the ByTowne.
The ByTowne is screening David Cronenberg’s latest dystopian sci-fi “body horror” drama Crimes of the Future. In the film, science has virtually eliminated pain, and humans have adapted to their toxic environment by mutating to grow organs within their bodies. A performance artist (Viggo Mortensen) and his partner (Léa Seydoux) publicly exhibit this metamorphosis in avant-garde performances while an investigator from a shadowy national organ registry (Kristin Stewart) tracks them. Probably not for the squeamish, but fascinating.
Peace by Chocolate is a rather sweet Canadian drama based on a real-life Syrian refugee family who immigrated from the cosmopolitan Middle East to Antigonish. Plenty of “fish out of water” gentle humour as the family adapts to small-town Canada and winter. Only the adult son speaks English, and yearns to complete his training as a doctor. His father is depressed because he’s no longer in charge of the family’s affairs, but since he doesn’t speak English or understand Canadian customs, he’s entirely dependent on his son. The father begins making chocolates, as he had a successful factory in Syria. You probably know how this ends if you follow Canadian news—it’s an inspiring story of the barriers talented immigrants face. Playing at the ByTowne.
The Phantom of the Open is also based on a true story, that of a crane operator from Barrow-in-Furness who managed to play in the 1976 British Open qualifying round, despite never having played a round of golf before. Starring two of my favourite British actors, Mark Rylance and Sally Hawkins. At the Mayfair and the ByTowne.
The Forgiven stars another of my favourite actors, Ralph Fiennes, as well as Jessica Chastain. It’s described as a “brutal examination of how power corrupts morality.” In this case, the power derives from wealth: A privileged couple accidentally kills a young Moroccan man with their car on their way to a celebration in the desert, and the father comes to claim the body. A dark satire at the ByTowne.
Another satire of the privileged, Official Competition is an amusing look at a bunch of self-centred film talents who misbehave on the set of a vanity film project funded by a wealthy industrialist who wants to be known for the art he nurtured, not just for his millions. Starring Penélope Cruz as the avant-garde director, Oscar Martínez as a theatrical legend, and Antonio Banderas as a none-too-bright action star, it’s a clash of egomaniacs. At the Mayfair and the ByTowne.
I’m not sure how to classify Apples, though the ByTowne labels it a drama and comedy. A middle-aged man succumbs to a worldwide pandemic that causes complete amnesia. When no one claims him, he joins a recovery program to build a new identity. The title comes from the fact that he has no memory of whether he likes the taste of apples. Surreal!
There are two exciting new documentaries at the ByTowne in July. One is a National Geographic documentary, Fire of Love, about Katia and Maurice, who were madly in love with volcanoes and each other. These two volcanologists spent two decades witnessing and documenting eruptions and their aftermath and taking amazing photographs and films until in 1991, a volcanic explosion in Japan killed them.
The other is a loving documentary about Leonard Cohen’s life and his most widely known song: Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song. This film is for all those who love his poetic music.
I mentioned earlier that the ByTowne is gifting Ottawa audiences with classic films in July. At the top of my list are two music-filled delights: Singin’ in the Rain and the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, Richard Lester’s full-length music video made decades before MTV. As the ByTowne schedule says, “Do you hear that distant screaming? It’s the sound of hordes of Beatles fans descending on the ByTowne!” If you’ve never seen either film, you’re in for a treat!
David Lean’s classic masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia has never been equalled! The cinematography alone is worth the price of admission—stunning! Then there’s Peter O’Toole’s career-making role as T.E. Lawrence.
Hitchcock’s masterpiece Vertigo topped the 2012 poll of the British film magazine Sight & Sound of the 50 Greatest Films of All Time. (Yes, it beat out Citizen Kane.) And Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (the director’s final cut) has influenced so many dystopian sci-fi films that you owe yourself to see it (or see it again).
The Music and Beyond festival has arranged for the ByTowne to show the 1991 film Tous les matins du monde. It’s set at the time of Louis XIV and stars Depardieux père et fils. Screenings will be preceded by a performance by Mélisande Corriveau of Renaissance and Baroque music.
The ByTowne is also showing a trio of recent French releases: Maigret (the eponymous French detective, played by Gérard Depardieu), Both Sides of the Blade (a drama starring Juliette Binoche), and the very French comedy My Donkey, My Lover & I. Plus two recent British films: A slice-of-life dramatic romance called Ali & Ava, and Downton Abbey: A New Era.