The new fantasy/doc from the director of Cameraperson was obviously a must-see at the fest. A semi-sequel since Johnson’s debut covered her mother’s loss to alzheimer’s, so this one has a mild case of sequelitis – more focused and bigger in every way, but somehow less resonant. That said, it’s still a more fun and resonant sequel than Thor 3 Ragnarok, and I look forward to watching again. Loose Loose opened, without the lead male vocalist from last time – an improvement!

Nick Cage has one last chance to find the enemy who once held Cage captive and messed up his ear (Benir – sounds like “bent ear” – is played by Alexander Karim, actually a Swede). The first problem is that Benir is presumed dead (actually sick, in seclusion), and the second is that Cage has been diagnosed with rapidly-advancing dementia – so both men are dying of health issues aside from the revenge drama.

Cage gets help from his spy buddies Anton Yelchin (between Only Lovers Left Alive and Experimenter) and Irène Jacob (The Double Life of Véronique), and impersonates a doctor (Serban Celea of Retro Puppet Master) to gain access to his nemesis. But this is where the movie finally gets interesting. After the studio recut the movie and released it as Dying of the Light, Schrader recreated his preferred version using unconventional means, with Lynchian overlays, quivering closeups, reversed shots, and scenes rephotographed off a TV. Finally, after the typical spy-movie plot and dialogue, Cage and Benir’s confrontation breaks down into experimental sounds and colors, then cuts to Cage’s tombstone.

Bao (Domee Shi)
We’d already seen this before Incredibles 2, but our audience must’ve missed that, and found it hilarious.

Late Afternoon (Louise Bagnall)
The obvious artistic achievement in the bunch, smoothly following patterns and colors into memory holes, a fanciful visualization of an Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother’s thoughts while her daughter is tidying up. Louise is from Ireland, worked on Song of the Sea.

Animal Behaviour (Alison Snowden & David Fine)
I don’t recall Bob & Margaret having writing this obvious, but I do recall this sort of thing being done to death in other animated shorts, including some by Snowden & Fine’s former employer Aardman. Group therapy session with different types of animals ends when a rampaging ape can’t control his anger issues.

Weekends (Trevor Jimenez)
Good editing and visual details, but it’s also the third movie in a half hour to feature dream logic while telling a story about strained relationships between parents and kids. Boy lives with his mom who is pulling her life together, spends weekends in dad’s super cool apartment. I saw the director’s noirish Key Lime Pie a decade ago.

One Small Step (Andrew Chesworth & Bobby Pontillas)
And here’s the fourth, minus the dream logic. I think someone on the academy nominating board had just lost a parent and was feeling very emotional about this subject. Katy said this one was a by-the-numbers Pixar-style story – girl is raised by her shoe repairman dad, is failing to achieve her dream of becoming an astronaut, but gives it another go after dad dies.

Wishing Box (Wenli Zhang & Nan Li)
The jokey, cartoony one – pirate recovers a seemingly empty box that contains whatever his pet monkey wants it to. The monkey finally figures out that his master wants gold coins, and pulls out enough to sink their ship, yuk yuk.

Tweet Tweet (Zhanna Bekmambetova)
Extremely Metaphorical, person walking the Tightrope of Life, growing up, falling in love, losing her husband to the war, and still trudging ever forward, attended constantly by a cutie little bird.

Perhaps I picked a strange week to finally watch Amour, having just returned from a funeral, or perhaps I picked the perfect time. After all, I hear that it’s an emotionally wrecking movie, but the experiences in the movie seem brief and merciful compared to what a couple of my relatives recently went through.

Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant are tasteful and educated, have lived together for decades in their quiet apartment where she gives piano lessons. One day she has a minor stroke, then a corrective operation doesn’t go well, and she slides further away every week while her husband watches, helping as much as he can, but desperately unable to keep her mind from deteriorating, until she’s almost completely gone and he finishes her off with a pillow. In a typically quizzical Haneke ending, their daughter Isabelle Huppert comes home at the end looking for them – we’ve seen police find the body in an opening flash-forward, but we don’t know where Jean-Louis has disappeared to.

I thought it an excellent movie despite how dismissive I’m sounding here, and it’s encouraging that Haneke seems to have learned empathy. It’s also much, much better than the last movie I watched called Love. The movie (and Haneke and Riva) won all the awards, from césars and oscars to the Cannes palme d’or, but the AARP “movies for grownups” award went to Flight instead.

Adam Cook:

The couple’s apartment, full of their memories and long collected items (paintings, books etc.), slowly shifts from a haven to a prison, both physically (the camera rarely ventures outside the confines of their flat) and in the objects that fill the cavernous rooms. Music, once the loves of their lives, becomes a painful reminder of their pasts and what will never be again. Haneke, in the use of long static shots allows the audience to soak in these all important details and help to understand who these people were before the debilitating illness systematically destroyed their world.

Ouch from C. Huber:

Haneke, meanwhile, adhered demonstratively to the world of his polite, bourgeois couple, tactful even in the “provocations,” making Amour the ultimate in art-house art: a film that comfortably ushers its dwindling target audience towards its eventual demise.

Alzheimer’s movie by Sarah Polley, who bravely wrestled herself and Julie Christie away from Hal Hartley before he could cast either of them in another of his increasingly bad movies.

Surprisingly heartwarming movie, not the sad slog it might’ve been. Christie is the devoted wife with alzheimer’s, Gordon Pinsent (shipping news, tons of tv stuff) is the devoted husband, Michael Murphy (john sayles movies) is Julie’s fellow nursing home patient and Olympia Dukakis (mr. holland’s opus) is Murphy’s wife.

Movie jumps through time and space, visiting scenes out of order but with a sense of purpose, flashing back and slowly revealing, not just the usual “start with the ending for the helluvit” (see: pan’s labyrinth). Seems Gordon cheated on Julie years before, and as she’s forgetting her way home and forgetting where the dishes go in the kitchen, she can’t forget that. In the rest home she assumes a new identity as the wife of Michael Murphy, much to her real husband’s and Murphy’s real wife’s horror. It’s a clever balancing act: is Julie punishing Murphy for past transgressions or is she so far gone that she really doesn’t recognize him?

Just a gorgeous movie with excellent story, performances, close-ups, snowy cross-country skiing, and Julie Christie’s beautiful expressions. One of my faves so far this year.