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Geomi sup (2004)
8/10
Toronto film festival - 2nd screening
14 September 2004
Before seeing Spider Forest last night at the Toronto International Film Festival (agree with comments by cbranje, the ROM theatre is not the best at masking outside sounds, though the occasional rumble of the subway did add an extra shot of tension to some of the more suspenseful scenes), I'd heard it described as a film for those who liked 'Mulholland Drive' but found it too linear. While I don't think it's a very accurate statement, the film does invite comparisons to David Lynch. The creepy tone, gruesome murder scene, elliptical narrative structure, and ambiguous plot resolution are all Lynchian trademarks but I think Spider Forest is a little more straightforward or at least it lends itself more readily to a range of interpretations.

The set up: a man wakes in the forest, discovers the mutilated corpses of coworkers in a house in a forest, and pursues a man he believes to be the killer. Though most of the ensuing story is told in what may be hazy, and possibly wholly fictitious, recollections of the past, each memory recreates a moment of truth that one could easily see as happening to this man. We see him mourn the loss of his wife then hear other stories about death and loss and wonder, are these manifestation's of one event or separate incidents that actually occurred.

The film poses epistemological questions like: How do we know that we know? What differentiates consciousness from sleep? Is what we consider reality merely our continual reconstruction of our past experiences? For me, figuring out what's happened to the main character in 'Spider Forest' is akin to piecing together the fragments of a bizarre dream, but with the pleasure of seeing these fragments unfold in a series of beautifully shot frames.

Definitely recommend.
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9/10
wonderful film
21 January 2004
I can't recall the last time I've been so enthralled after watching a film or been treated to such a unique experience.

I say unique because visually, it looks at times as if black and white film stock from the silent era had been layered on top of each other and at other times, as though each reel had dipped in some psychedelic tie-dyed mixture. The film manages to be funny, sad, and sexy while never straying too far from, or into, the absurd, to lose its narrative coherency.

Watching a string of stereotypically costumed performers from around the globe trek to Winnipeg, to perform in a tournament-style music competition is something I'll not soon forget. The scenes where the musicians advance on one another while playing their sad songs are particularly amusing, as is the 'prize' granted to the winner of each round. But there is also something very touching about each of piece of music played and it's a credit to the writers and director that, rather than simply use these performers as comic props, they defer to the integrity of the music itself and accord it some measure of respect.

The actors are also wonderful. I figured that Mark McKinney would play a minor role as comic relief but his performance as one of the leads was remarkable; he manages, at once, to be despicably crude and ceaselessly charming. Isabella Rosselini and Maria de Madeiros both have a natural intelligence, grace, and beauty that generates a glow whenever I see them onscreen; if I were a film critic I'd say they 'sizzle' here, which seems all together apt and silly (and thus fitting).

The melodramatic pace, the cadence of the dialogue, and the 'look' of the film itself will seem a little jarring at first but this quickly passes. Highly recommend.
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