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3 reviews in total 
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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful and strangely reassuring, 18 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Not what you'd expect from a film about manic depression, eh? But somehow it manages to pull it off, by showing Beirbichler's character Franz (you might recognize Beirbichler as a farmer in Winterschlaefers) coming to grips and transcending his condition, which is making life very difficult for his family members and himself. (Although the ending is not exactly happy in any traditional sense) The film provides Beirbichler an excellent chance to show the broad range of his dramatic ability in the volatile mental state of Franz (his character in Winterschlaefers was much more unidimensional).

I also thought of Winterreise as a metaphor for the old, relaxed West (mostly Western Europe), resting on the laurels of past glory and achievement vs. a much more vibrant up-and-coming rest of the world. Not a very comfortable metaphor for those of us living in the West, but quite possibly a useful one.

Look out for the hard-driving tortured score (which includes more than just pieces of Franz Schubert's eponymous Lieder cycle).

9 out of 10 (not for the faint of heart)

Hana (2006)
21 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
One of high points of TIFF, 17 September 2006

It's one of those films you come out of smiling a wide happy smile - it's so delicate and subtly funny (alright, it does feature a lavatory, but none of the "standard" toilet humor), it's also kind to characters and makes its point(s) in a sly, unobtrusive manner.

It's a celebration of human values over the way of the samurai, especially as it has been presented in Japanese and Western popular culture in the past few decades. A joy to watch visually, too. I thought it might be Koreeda-san's best film so far, although some viewers may find it a bit more conventional/Westernized than, say, Nobody Knows or Maboroshi (which is not at all bad).

I will deliberately leave it at that, to avoid revealing any of the plot, which often overturns expectations.

It was the second film out of 17 I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it still remains a highlight for me.

Sharkwater (2006)
8 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
Great footage, good idea undermined by faulty logic and worse ethics, 17 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Here's a documentary about sharks, their place in the ecosystem, the brutal trade in shark fins, which is destroying the population of these creatures, some of the world's oldest, and about the efforts of those who try to protect the sharks (and make themselves famous in the process).

It gets off to a pretty good start, with some amazing footage of sharks and interesting facts (I'd like to hope those are facts) about sharks. The bits about mating hammerheads in equatorial waters are especially impressive, as are those of the director holding and stroking a 7-8' shark. The film starts doing a pretty good job showing the gentler, lighter side of sharks (which ARE truly amazing creatures).

Then Sharkwater makes a strong case for protection of sharks (with very compelling shots of the gruesome shark finning trade), and immediately goes on to destroy this case with unbelievable statements and shifting the focus to a shark protection group (a radical version of Greenpeace with guerrilla tactics). Keeping the director of the film and Canadian leader of this group in the limelight for what felt like three-quarters of the film made the whole thing seem a shameless vanity project for them.

Let me cite a few examples of what I thought was pretty offensive intellectually. In one scene the filmmakers say that sharks protect the ocean's capacity for generating oxygen. There may be logic to that, but a little further explanation of how sharks cycle back into the oceanic ecosystem would be great, since it's not immediately clear how creatures at the top of the oceanic food chain help those at the bottom (phytoplankton) create oxygen. Leaving any explanation out altogether makes this statement very unconvincing - and actually, most explanations of little facts just like this would make Sharkwater much more interesting and its message much more compelling.

Also, film makers keep calling shark-finning a trillion-dollar industry (I think I heard that phrase at least a dozen times). I mean, come on, how many trillion-dollar industries are there altogether? There's oil, and maybe some mining would come close, and maybe retail trade, and commercial fishing as a whole and that's probably it. The rest of industries would be down in the billions. It's pointless exaggerations like that that undermine the credibility of the best causes. They only make other argumentation so much less credible.

Then the film proceeds to tell the story of a noble struggle of the good guys, and stays at it for most of its running time. Ooooh, and don't they love being in front of the camera, strutting around, talking, nursing their wounds (of uncertain origin - was it a tiny shark bite, after all?), scraping with police and courts in distant lands! They're after the shark-killers, overfishing sharks in equatorial Pacific for their fins, brutally slicing off the fins and often discarding the bodies (which makes me wonder how some of that footage was made, were the filmmakers actually aboard one of those boats, filming the definning process, without bothering to intervene?).

Their methods? I am sorry, but ripping the sides of long-line fishing boats with a metal rod they called a "can-opener" or illegally confiscating fishing gear feels to me too much like piracy, of a very real and violent kind (nothing like you'd see in Disney or P2P networks). I am sure the international maritime law has a few things to say about that. Yes, something has to be done to attract attention to the plight of sharks and to stop, but I'm not sure these methods are acceptable even for a good cause.

This cause is further compromised by one-sided presentation. Something slightly more balanced would make the case for shark protection so much stronger.

To recap, the film has some good things in it (underwater shoots and shark facts) which is not enough to redeem the careless reasoning, self-aggrandizement and self-promotion of the filmmakers, and (to put it very mildly) questionable methods they use to stop the killing of sharks. Disgusting, really.