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

By Barbara Popel on August 30, 2022





September is starting out with lots of new releases at the ByTowne and the Mayfair, as well as several film classics.

Let’s start with recently released films…

The British dramedy The Duke is based on an actual 1961 burglary. It stars the wonderful Jim Broadbent as an oft-unemployed labourer who stole a portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the British National Gallery and held it for ransom. The ransom? A charitable donation to support old age pensioners. The always excellent Helen Mirren plays his beloved wife, who supports her husband as a cleaning lady. The two are charming as a squabbling long-married couple still very much in love. The Duke is just what we need these days—a true story of how one person can make a difference. At both cinemas.

Another British flick at the ByTowne, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, would just be a regular your-wildest-dreams-can-come-true fantasy were it not for one of the best actresses working today, Lesley Manville, who plays a 1950s cleaning lady in London. One day, she’s smitten by an exquisite Christian Dior evening dress owned by a client. She decides she must get her own Dior dress to change her dreary life. The excellent Isabelle Huppert plays a brittle Dior executive.

From Spain, The Good Boss is a satire of corporate life starring the talented Javier Bardem, who plays the charming but hypocritical owner of a manufacturing business that’s in the running for a business excellence award. But his fiction that his company is a perfect business is crumbling. First. there’s a fired worker who, along with his kids, is holding a noisy vigil outside the factory. Second, he’s got a depressed supervisor who is too distracted to do his job properly. And third, the boss is involved with an infatuated ambitious intern. See it at the ByTowne.

From France, My Donkey, My Lover & I is at the Mayfair. It’s a feel-good comedy about infidelity—one of those subjects the French seem to do so well. A schoolteacher named Antoinette inserts herself into her married lover’s family vacation—a donkey trekking holiday in the mountains. Not at all what she expected.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On at the ByTowne is an unlikely animated/live action adventure/comedy/sort-of-documentary for the whole family. It’s about Marcel, an adorable 1-inch tall shell with a single google eye and a pair of tiny shoes. He lives with his grandmother Connie (voiced by Isabella Rosselini) in an AirBnB. The rest of his family disappeared some time ago; Marcel misses them terribly. One day, a documentary filmmaker rents the AirBnB and decides to shoot a documentary about Marcel. This unique film from A24 has been eliciting paeans from film reviewers such as “Marcel might just be the most purely joyful, stealthily profound movie experience of the year.”

At the other end of the spectrum, Emily the Criminal is playing at the Mayfair. A dark thriller about a young woman who, because she is drowning in student debt and has only lousy McJob prospects, resorts to petty credit card crime. But it’s a slippery slope—the money is good and Emily finds breaking the law thrilling. She becomes involved in more and more serious criminal activity. The excellent actress Aubrey Plaza plays Emily.

Fans also have a chance to see two new documentaries about legendary Canadian singers:

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song is a loving portrait of Cohen and his most widely covered song. If you love his work, this documentary is for you. It’s at both cinemas.

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On is a comprehensive tribute to Sainte-Marie’s extraordinary life and career as a singer-songwriter, an activist and a teacher. The film will have its world premier at TIFF 2022 a few days before the ByTowne shows it.

The last new film I’ll mention is a delightful bit of fluff: CatVideoFest 2022. It’s at both cinemas. No, you can’t bring your kitty to the cinema.

Now, turning to films from the vault, there are four films at the ByTowne that deserve your attention:

I’m really excited about Apocalypse Now: Final Cut, Francis Ford Coppola’s magnum opus. It’s likely that scenes from this epic film about the brutal slaughter and madness of the Vietnam War will stay with you for the rest of your life. And it has to be seen on a big screen with an excellent sound system to be fully appreciated. Don’t miss it!

Another dark film from that era, Thief, is about a professional safecracker who delights in being his own boss but who agrees to do a job for the Mafia (that infamous “one last job” trope). But his plans don’t match the Mafia’s. James Caan and Tuesday Weld star.

Then there’s the twisty film noir Strangers on a Train from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. The premise is that a perfect murder—actually, two perfect murders—can be accomplished if two completely unrelated men each murder the other’s victim.

For fans of Japanese anime, there’s Akira – 4K Restoration!, the iconic R-rated 1988 Japanese sci-fi film that introduced anime to the West. Akira is set in the dystopian cyber-punk Neo-Tokyo in the year 2019. It has lavishly detailed computer animation (unusual for its time) with lots of action sequences.

Find dates, times, and tickets at the ByTowne or Mayfair websites.