Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2015)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Our Little Sister.

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister (Umimachi Diary) is a scenic and gently sensitive domestic drama that confirms its maker’s reputation as a great director in the tradition of Yasujiro Ozu and Mikio Naruse. Adapted from a popular Japanese comic book, the film concerns three twentysomething sisters – Sachi, Yoshino, and Chika – who live together in an old, large house in the seaside city of Kamakura. When their long absent father dies, they travel to a small countryside town for his funeral and meet their shy, teenage half-sister for the first time. Bonding quickly with the orphaned Suzu, they invite her to live with them and the four sisters commence a new life of tentatively joyful discovery. With documentary precision and picturesque elegance, Our Little Sister is a touching survey of love, generosity, and the weight of family histories.

Disc Features:

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Aniki-Bobo (Manoel de Oliveira, 1942)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Aniki-Bóbó.

criterion logoSet in the director’s hometown of Porto, Portugal, Aniki-Bóbó features a romantic rivalry amongst a group of young, school-age children. Eduardinho, an unofficial leader and bully to a band of his classmates, has affection for Teresinha, a pretty girl who begins noticing the interest of a shy boy named Carlitos. When Carlitos steals a doll for Teresinha and is accused of pushing Eduardinho off an embankment and toward an oncoming train, the youngster must negotiate feelings of guilt, betrayal, and persecution. Manoel de Oliviera’s first feature film was a commercial failure on its initial release, but has become regarded as a classic work in Portuguese cinema, a forerunner to Italian neorealism, and an inspiration to generations of Portuguese filmmakers.

Disc Features:

  • Restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • A new piece about Manoel de Oliveira’s first career in cinema with scholar Randal Johnson
  • A pair of city symphonies by de Oliveira on Porto – Labor on the Douro River (1931) and The Artist and the City (1956)
  • Excerpt from Sergio Andrade’s documentary Manoel de Oliveira: His Case, featuring interviews with de Oliveira and actors Fernanda Matos and Horácio Silva
  • Manoel de Oliveira and the Age of Cinema, a short documentary made for Portuguese television on the filmmaker
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dennis Lim and a reprint of Aniki-Bóbó‘s source story, José Rodrigues de Freitas’ Millionaire Children

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I Love Sarah Jane (Spencer Susser, 2008)

One last Halloween-ready short before we’re overrun by ghouls and goblins! Spencer Susser’s I Love Sarah Jane (2008) takes the zombie apocalypse to the Australian suburbs and mixes in a healthy dose of puppy love and some Lord of the Flies-type childhood nastiness to boot. I Love Sarah Jane reminds that zombies are bad but kids are the worst.

Happy Halloween!

Island Romance (Donald Ginsberg, 1957)

NFBWith weekend upon us, MMC! thought we might nose around some of the more unusual corners of the National Film Board of Canada. First up is Island Romance (Donald Ginseberg, 1957), a sweetly corny romance between a young man in Prince Edward Island and a girl visiting from Winnipeg. The short originally aired as an episode of the CBC television series Perspective, which replaced the popular On the Spot documentary series. Perspective aimed to blend documentary and fiction and was typically shown on Sunday afternoons, although the series was subject to frequent time slot changes. Perspective was a popular program, but was eventually replaced by the seminal Direct Cinema documentary series Candid Eye.

This merger of documentary and fiction makes Island Romance an unusual watch. Ginsberg’s presents an innocently saccharine tale of young love in the 1950s, but its quaintly chaste nature seems to take odd turn when local islander Danny (Daniel MacDonald) finds his efforts to woo the vacationing Jean (Iris Krangle) frustrated by her love for Canadian history and regional culture. Danny would like nothing better than a quiet moment with Jean, but seems in frequent competition with the tales of fishermen, literary landmarks like Green Gables, and historic events like Confederation and historical furniture like the chair of the country’s first Prime Minister. Viewers of Island Romance are not likely to expect a love triangle between Danny, Iris, and the Ministry of Tourism, but the film may be better for it by providing a little “WTF” in an otherwise picturesque story of G-rated summer lovin’. (And for those keeping track, Island Romance is peculiarly accurate in its details – Winnipeg’s newspaper is the Free Press and its most affluent neighbourhood is called Tuxedo.)

As per the NFB:

This short fictional film features the picturesque seaside landscape of Prince Edward Island as the setting for a summer romance between a girl from Winnipeg and a young fisherman from North Rustico, PEI. The young couple visits historic and scenic sites such as Government House in Charlottetown and Cavendish, of Green Gables fame. The film is a classic summertime romance and a nostalgic visit to the delightfully sun-soaked PEI of the past.

Wild Life (Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, 2011) and Sunday (Patrick Doyon, 2011)

NFBAs we survey the National Film Board’s history through some of its best works, it’s important to note that the NFB continues to produce great films today. With that in mind, we feature today two more recent works of short animation, both of whom were Academy Award nominees in 2011. Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby provide an extremely amusing fish-out-of-water tale with Wild Life, a beautifully composed film about western living with the perfect amount of darkness creeping about the edges of its story. The filmmakers painted each frame of Wild Life in gouache to produce its amazing texture. Patrick Doyon’s Sunday (or Dimanche) offers a view of childhood boredom that is anything but. Quirky, funny, and highly economical in Doyon’s illustration, the grey world of Sunday becomes whimsically dreary and thoroughly endearing. For good measure, we’ve included the NFB’s brief making-of video for Sunday featuring interviews with Doyon and the film’s co-producer Marc Bertrand.

As per the NFB:

This Oscar®-nominated animated short tells the story of a dapper young remittance man who is sent from England to Alberta to attempt ranching in 1909. However, his affection for badminton, bird watching and liquor leaves him little time for wrangling cattle. It soon becomes clear that nothing in his refined upbringing has prepared him for the harsh condition of the New World. A film about the beauty of the prairie, the pangs of homesickness and the folly of living dangerously out of context.

As per the NFB:

This Oscar®-nominated animated short is a magical tale about life as seen through the eyes of a child. In keeping with their Sunday tradition, after mass a family flocks to grandma and grandpa’s house, where the chaotic discussion soon begins to resemble a raucous gathering of crows on power lines. The local factory has shut its doors and, naturally, the adults can’t stop fretting about their money woes. On this particular grey Sunday, a young boy drops a coin on some nearby train tracks out of sheer boredom. Picking up the coin after a train has run over it, he discovers to his astonishment that an amazing transformation has taken place.

Hockey … It was Inevitable

NFBHockey may not be Canada’s national sport but it is certainly its favourite pastime, and while the National Film Board of Canada may not be overflowing with films about hockey as some might expect, the sport has prominence in its collection.

I expect that almost any review of the NFB’s best and most representative films likely requires some space for Sheldon Cohen’s The Sweater or Le chandial (1980), a beloved animated short based on Roch Carrier’s popular story. (A line from the story even appeared on Canada’s 5-dollar bill from 2001 to 2013.) To The Sweater, I’ve matched two more films that emphasize the place of hockey at all levels of Canadian society.  First up is Leslie McFarlane’s Here’s Hockey! (1953), a celebration of the sport from small, outdoor rinks to hallowed ice palaces. Here’s Hockey! is propelled by newsreel narration and full of gee-whiz optimism. Rounding out this trio is Overtime (Marrin Canell, 1984), an examination of the sport’s spirit even in the face of the flesh’s failure, told with the aid of worn-out equipment and stubby beer bottles. Recreational leagues like the one in Overtime are a fixture of many Canadians’ lives, whether it be playing in them, cheering from the stands, or hearing about them by the office water cooler.

As per the NFB:

In this animated short, Roch Carrier recounts the most mortifying moment of his childhood. At a time when all his friends worshipped Maurice “Rocket” Richard and wore his number 9 Canadiens hockey jersey, the boy was mistakenly sent a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey from Eaton’s. Unable to convince his mother to send it back, he must face his friends wearing the colours of the opposing team. This short film, based on the book The Hockey Sweater, is an NFB classic that appeals to hockey lovers of all ages.

As per the NFB:

Featuring Jean Beliveau, this short film focuses on hockey from the inside out. Known as Canada’s national pastime, this film demonstrates why hockey is such an exciting spectator sport. From east to west, the connection between fans and players is evident in the excited cries of “we’ve won!” From Pee-wee to Bantam, from the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association to the big league pros, Here’s Hockey! shows what it takes to make a great hockey player.

As per the NFB:

This short documentary profiles a group of men from the Toronto Lakeshore Oldtimers Hockey Club. Although middle-aged, they still play the game with as much energy and passion as they did 25 years ago. They claim that playing hockey is more fun now than it was when they were kids, despite the toll of aches and pains, injuries, gruelling schedules and late-night partying. Cares and responsibilities are cast aside once they are on the ice, and the locker room becomes a haven of uncomplicated camaraderie and fun. In refusing to grow old gracefully, they feel they won’t grow up at all!