‘Jumbo’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sundance Film Festival 2020 selection Jumbo, written and directed by Zoé Wittock, is an interesting exploration of sexuality and coming of age. We meet young Jeanne (Noémie Merlant), who works at an amusement park and is completely taken by these machines. These inanimate objects, fascinate her to the point, that she cannot stop thinking about them, especially one theme park ride, she calls ‘Jumbo’. Wittock does a great job explaining identity and explores queerness in a unique way. We all can say that, “love is love”, until someone questions who we love. The film shows the struggles of coming to terms with one’s sexual identity and the gender norms that are forced upon others.

Jeanne is incredibly shy, naive and reserved. She has had to watch her mother bring home men, who do not treat her well. Jeanne has had a skewed knowledge of relationships because of her mother. When Jeanne goes to work at the amusement park, she experiences a sense of liberation because no one can see her in the dark. She is no longer quiet, with the theme park attraction, she is free to experience this connection how she pleases. It is a great concept and the fantastical elements combined with a really grounded journey of sexual identity, worked extremely well for this piece. It was so interesting to watch, just to see the emotional connection Jeanne felt towards ‘Jumbo’.

The film does suffer from pacing issues and some empty dialogue that doesn’t add much to Jeanne’s development. There are two moments that stood out to me, ones that I will never forget. The first is the scene where she has a very intimate moment with ‘Jumbo’. The oil from the theme park attraction covered her naked body, slowly, and we see that Jeanne is reaching her climax. I thought the set up for this scene worked well because of the contrast of black and white. Society often looks at sexuality in two ways, either gay or straight, but there are others in between, that deserve the same level of attention. Society also looks at gender the exact same way, boy or girl, black or white.

The second moment, which I found a bit jarring was Jeanne having sex with a man who has been pursuing her. The choice to not have the camera on the characters was interesting. It is a sexual moment that Wittock did not want to show, instead she just wanted us to listen. The man is the only one making any noise, while Jeanne is silent. She is being taken from behind and it is not an intimate, emotional connection. Wittock then shows her face, after he finishes, and her eyes are filled with tears. That is not what she thought sex would feel like. How could something so intimate be so emotionless?

Jumbo is a an interesting watch because of Noémie Merlant, she completely took over the role and held the film together. She had such a beautiful understanding of Jeanne and how to portray her. Wittock took a chance on presenting societal issues in a very abstract way and it was impressive! You cannot take this film at surface value because it will lose the meaning of Jeanne’s journey. There is so much depth to this film and Wittock hits certain beats with ease. It is emotional, unique and a fresh perspective on sexual identity.

How Adult Themes Can Be Elevated Through Stop Motion Animation: An Interview With Josephine Lohoar Self


By: Amanda Guarragi

There are many ways filmmakers have incorporated themes of grief, love and loss in their films. In The Fabric of You, writer and director Josephine Lohoar Self uses stop motion animation, to create emotional connections through memories. The film is set in the Bronx, where we are introduced to Michael, a gay, twenty-year-old mouse, who hides his true identity, while he works as a tailor. When Isaac enters the shop one day, he changes Michael’s perspective and their relationship blossoms. The film is presented by the Scottish Film Talent Network and funded by the BFI and Creative Scotland. The film had its world premier at The 2019 Edinburgh Film Festival as part of The New British Animation 2 Strand.

The concept of the film was inspired by the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus by American cartoonist Art Spiegleman. The novel recounts the experiences of the author’s father, during the Holocaust with drawn wide-eyed mice, representing Jewish people and menacing cats as Nazis. It spoke to Lohoar Self, “I used it as a catalyst for looking at stop motion animation as a way of telling more adult themes and seeing it as a vehicle for themes of grief and memory.” this is what the film does so well. The memories that Michael reminisces about throughout his day cut into his everyday activities. They can be happy memories or traumatic ones and it is all framed in how he processes those moments.

Michael

Lohoar Self has a Fine Arts background and wanted to incorporate her artistic knowledge as a painter through animation. She is skilled in telling stories through her paintings and wanted to combine that with her love for filmmaking,

“I enjoy working with like-minded creative people, so painting for me was sort of isolating. This was a great collaborative, creative experience with film and animation. That’s what it offers and I was particularly drawn to stop motion animation because of that.”

She felt that stop motion animation could explore different levels because of the endless possibilities that can be created in that space. There are moments that can be altered through memories in time and space, “I think I was really interested in exploring how grief affects memory and how memories are affected after someone passes on.” Lohoar Self said. There are moments in The Fabric of You that cut through Michael’s everyday activities to show that he misses his partner. Those were powerful moments because anyone who has suffered a loss will understand how Michael is feeling.

Michael and Isaac

There are waves of sadness that can hit you at the most random moments because a small thing could remind you have that person and that is what this film does so well. Lohoar Self wanted to present the complexities of those feelings through different plains, “I thought it would be fun to draw the parallels between people seeing objects and memory and also cutting between three different layers of reality, imaginary and fantasy.” She also used a singular object, a button, to create a profound moment between Michael and Isaac.

Lohoar Self wanted to create a deeper, emotional connection between Isaac and Michael by using the buttons as a representation of individuality. Fashion is something that can define you as a person, Lohoar Self goes onto say, “Fashion can be a form of expression, so I think for me, fashion as a concept in the film was quite important, as a way of revealing your identity and revealing who you are but also a way of hiding it and concealing it.” Isaac accepted Michael for who he was and the button symbolizes something entirely different halfway through the film. The importance of that particular object being tied to a memory is what makes this film emotional.

The Fabric of You uses stop motion animation to explore themes of love and grief through different plains. The narrative structure allows the audience to process the important memories as Michael does, his emotional spectrum is put on display and affects his everyday life. The film is assembled to draw in the viewer with its quick editing and fantastical elements, while retelling a traumatic story that can resonate with everyone. There is so much that can be done with animation and to be able to use a different form, to express adult themes, can really help audiences process their feelings.

How the Female Experience is Depicted in the Short Film “Twist”: An Interview with Aly Migliori


By: Amanda Guarragi

Women have shared so many similar experiences with each other for many years and there have been films that have truly captured the female experience. The short film Twist, written and directed by Aly Migliori, analyzes the loss of innocence in this coming of age thriller. It takes the female experience and tells a universal story that women know a little too well. Migliori gives a fresh take and elevates the experience through the use of colours, lighting, minimal dialogue and the score.

Migliori wanted to put these character in a space and in this heightened period all in one night, “I wanted to show the consequences, the learning, the growth and kind of feeling the loss of innocence without any kind of explicit blame or anything. It’s a pretty impactful moment for her, it’s pretty innocuous for the others.” The film takes place at night as a teenager named Hannah (Helena Howard), finishes work at her local ice cream parlour and she walks home alone at night. A car, with three boys pulls up right beside her and they convince her to get in, so they can drive her home.

She takes this universal story, this universal experience and makes a great thriller while addressing a young girls first encounter with the dangers of being a woman. Naming the film Twist was extremely clever because it’s an entendre. Migliori played with the idea of the expectations of the title, both literally and how everything unfolded at the ice cream parlour. She goes on to say that, “The ice cream parlour, this very Americana ice cream parlour has connotations with American nostalgia, American childhood and kind of American censorship. I think this story is kind of resisting that mythology, while playing with it.” That is why the ice cream parlour as the centerpiece of the film worked so well. It felt like a wholesome location because of the nostalgia tied to everyone’s childhood and then Migliori turned it into a place that has scarred its lead character.

Courtesy of First Hunt Films

What was most impressive was how the score elevated the moment Hannah realized what was happening and how this moment would affect her for the rest of her life. All women remember the one moment where everything changed, when their perception of the world, of boys, changed. The score had this teenage pop angst as Migliori described with a sinister undertone that completely worked with Howard’s performance. The connection was so raw and it forces the viewer to remember that specific moment in their own lives.

What really tied everything together was the cinematography and the use of lighting. The choice to light up the ice cream parlour and make that the standout while keeping everything else around the parlour in darkness worked very well. There were bright reds used at the beginning of the film and then as the film got deeper into the story, it got darker, “The red takes on a much darker meaning later on, as the story progresses we’re still using the same colour palette, we’re just shifting it darker and she’s kind of growing up and losing her rose coloured glasses on all of the elements of the female experience.” Watching Hannah go through that experience and having all of these elements change with her made a huge impact.

Twist is a short film that offers so much in such a short period of time. It dives into the female experience and leaves you questioning the moments in your own life. All women have a similar story and no, that is not an exaggeration. Aly Migliori delivers on all fronts and her biggest aspirational takeaway is that hopefully some people find a certain parallelism in their own experiences and feel heard, while also truly enjoying this story.

On The Rocks Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks is her most personal piece in her filmography and that is why it felt so different from the rest of her films. Coppola focused the story on a young mother reconnecting with her playboy father, after assuming, that her own husband, is going down the same path. The film is heartwarming, funny and explores the institution of marriage.

If we look at this film as a standalone piece and not apart of Coppola’s filmography, we notice some similarities to other New Yorker based romantic dramas. Her writing and direction felt more grounded and realistic, which created a solid connection to these characters. She poses plenty of questions about marriage and how in some instances, we never fully know the person we have chosen to spend our entire lives with.

Love is not about who we fall in love with, but rather, what we fall in love with. When people ask “Why do you love them?” you’re explaining their attributes, their personality, and essentially what attracts you to them. It has never been who but how the person makes you feel. It doesn’t matter who the person it is, but what their love does to you, what their affection means to you.

Courtesy of American Zoetrope
(left) Bill Murray as Felix and Rashida Jones as Laura

Coppola explores the hardships of marriage and relationships in general, from two very different perspectives. One from Laura (Rashida Jones), who is married with two kids and the other, her father Felix (Bill Murray), who is a single man travelling the world. Laura blamed herself for her relationship being on the rocks, while Felix blamed his ex-wife for changing how she loved him. To be with someone for decades and decades is something that people don’t fully understand when they get married. People change within a year, so why is it upsetting when people continue to change and some can’t adapt?

Courtesy of American Zoetrope
(left) Rashida Jones as Laura and Bill Murray as Felix

It was a very interesting dynamic in choosing a father and daughter to have these open conversations with. Especially considering that Felix had left her mother and they still had such a strong relationship. It is always great to see a father/daughter dynamic on screen and their chemistry was just so easy to watch. Bill Murray was an absolute delight and in all honesty, it is probably his best performance to date. He was just so suave, really fun and wise, it felt like perfect casting.

On the Rocks is the lighthearted film that was needed during this season. It was charming and sweet, with a fantastic jazz score to accompany it. Coppola also takes you on a journey through New York City, but in a very different way, you see the city in a whole new light and it is wonderful. The film will definitely grow on you as you watch it and you will learn what Coppola is trying to tell her audience about relationships.

The Old Guard Review


By: Amanda Guarragi 

The Old Guard is adapted from a graphic novel written by Greg Rucka and directed by Gina Prince- Bythewood. It is an introduction to ancient, immortal mercenaries, who have the ability to regenerate cells with Andy (Charlize Theron) being the oldest and leading the rest of the soldiers. They find out that the CIA knows what they are and they and they fight to protect their secret. The action slowly builds, as we learn more about these characters and their backstories. There is so much lore that can be explored and it feels like they didn’t even scratch the surface.

Bythewood gave incredible direction in the action scenes, they were really fluid, sharp and when the movements connected it looked slick. Every punch, knife swing or the pull of the trigger was perfectly timed and made it look effortless. The rest of the film did have pacing issues, I felt as if it dragged on and it took too much time to get from one location to the other. For a film that had solid action sequences, that spike your adrenaline, the rest of the film just seemed to exist. That is the only aspect that was lacking for this film and I wish it picked up a bit in the middle.

Charlize Theron and Kiki Layne were dynamite together and I loved seeing them work together. They both have such a strong presence on screen. Charlize had this calmness to Andy, she was subtle in her delivery but had so much emotion masked behind her eyes. You could feel that she was old and you could feel the grief that she was carrying. Kiki Layne had this innocence to Nile but had this warrior essence slowly building up inside her as the film went on. Their fight scene in the cargo plane was really well done and it’s probably my favourite scene in the whole film.

The Old Guard is jam packed with lore and intriguing characters, that will leave you wanting to know more. It is a pretty fun action film and the fight choreography was really unique to their immortal characters. It was a great way to start this story and considering how the film ended, we are banking on a well needed sequel. Everyone that worked on this film deserves a sequel because there is so much more left to unpack.