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The girls from Pang. Slash/Back. Screenshot from YouTube.

Magic in the Dark: What’s playing at Ottawa’s independent movie theatres

By Barbara Popel on June 13, 2022



Though our June weather has (mostly) been delightful, there are films playing at the ByTowne and the Mayfair that will definitely tempt you to spend a few hours indoors.

The Mayfair’s published schedule stops at June 16th plus a few “Coming Soon!” movies. Because of this I can’t offer you as many recommendations as I’d like about what’s playing at the Mayfair for the second half of June. Nonetheless, two of the Mayfair’s “coming soon” films are ones I can’t wait to see; Everything Everywhere All at Once and Crimes of the Future. The ByTowne’s offerings include Slash/Back, an Inuit alien horror film that’s on my must-see list, Diva, a pic about movie-making, and Belle de Jour the second film in the ByTowne’s “Double Deneuve” series. The month wraps up with the 55th anniversary of the ground-breaking classic The Graduate. Plus The Phantom of the Open, an amazing bit of dreams-come-true golf history.

Let’s start with the two “coming soon” attractions at the Mayfair, which I’m guessing will be programmed sometime in June (and which I hear will be coming to the ByTowne in July).

Everything Everywhere All at Once is an exploration of the multiverse. The brilliant actress Michelle Yeoh plays Evelyn Wang, co-owner of a laundromat with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). While dealing with a very stressful IRS audit, Evelyn shifts into a different universe, where she’s told that only she can save the world. As the movie progresses more universes and more of Evelyn’s identities weave themselves into the story. Sounds like the synopsis of a superhero flick? It’s far beyond that. It’s a heartfelt immigrant family drama, asking real life questions about intergeneration family expectations and relationships. Everything Everywhere All at Once is surreal and silly, and the special effects are mind-blowing. The film’s title is an apt description—just hang on and enjoy the ride!

The other “Coming Soon!” attraction at the Mayfair is David Cronenberg’s latest dystopian sci-fi drama Crimes of the Future, the latest addition to the Canadian master’s collection of “body horror” films. The film positions the viewer in a world where science has virtually eliminated pain and where mutant humans have adapted to their toxic environment by  growing organs within their own bodies. A performance artist (Viggo Mortensen) along with his partner (Léa Seydoux) publicly exhibit this body metamorphosis in avant-garde performances. The plot thickens as an investigator  (Kristin Stewart) from a shadowy national organ registry maps the mutant bodies. Probably not a film for the squeamish, but fascinating nevertheless.

There’s sci-fi at the ByTowne too, but from a very different angle. The alien invasion adventure Slash/Back is directed by Inuk director Nyla Innuksuk and set in the Nunavut hamlet of Pangnirtung. A group of teenage girls discover an bloodthirsty alien invasion of shape-shifters. These teens aren’t afraid and instead go on an alien hunt.  This reminds me of the winning British film Attack the Block in which an alien invasion of a South London housing estate is foiled by a gang of resourceful teenage boys. Slash/Back has had good critical reviews, and it’s at the top of my list of “must see” films at the ByTowne this month.

Want something a little more meta? Official Competition, is a Spanish language film playing at the ByTowne and is an amusing look at a group of privileged, self-centred film talent. The familiar faces Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Martínez, behave badly on a vanity film project, funded by a wealthy industrialist who wants to be known for his art not his money.

The 1981 film Diva by French director Jean-Jacques Beineix continues at the ByTowne. Diva was an art house and critical sensation in 1981, but quickly disappeared from the popular view. Here’s your chance to see what all the fuss was about.

Dipping further back into French film archives, the second film in the Bytowne’s mini-retrospective of Catherine Deneuve’s films is the infamous Belle de Jour, directed by the iconoclastic Luis Buñuel. The angelically beautiful Deneuve stars as a wealthy Parisian housewife who begins secretly spending her afternoons working in an upscale bordello, where she is known as “Belle de jour.” Buñuel’s examination of sexual desire and fetishes, as well as sexual politics, has never been equalled.

The other film celebrating its 55th anniversary at the Bytowne is Mike Nichols’ The Graduate. Aimless recent graduate and angst-ridden, Benjamin (a very young Dustin Hoffman in his break-out role) starts a career in plastics while being seduced by a friend of his parents, Mrs. Robinson. While pursuing this affair, there are complications—Ben falls head over heels in love with Elaine Robinson, Mrs. Robinson’s daughter. Metacritic gave this movie an “83 – universal acclaim” rating, and labels it a romance/drama/comedy. I would say it’s all that, and has a perfect Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack to boot.

But wait—there’s more! The Phantom of the Open is based on a true story 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—this looks to be a treat. At the ByTowne.

Dates, times and tickets for the ByTowne are at their website. Dates, times and tickets for the Mayfair can be found here.