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September Movies At Saigon's Alternative Film Venues

This month’s film line-up ranges from stories centered around the world of music to the tale of post-civil war Mali, an animal uprising and a biopic of the painter that would change landscape paintings forever. Be sure to check out your favourites this month at Saigon’s alternatives film venues.

September 9 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Timbuktu (Mauritania/France, 2014)

The latest effort from Mauritanian filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu is a poetic and intimate telling of the political, social and religious shift that occurred in the city right after Mali's 2012 civil war. Throughout the film, the country's military coup and subsequent ascension of the Islamic State remains in the background. Sissako uses suggestive imagery and a range of characters to capture the cultural and social dynamics of the people living under sharia law. This is the first internationally-acclaimed film that touches on contemporary issues regarding the extremism of the Islamic State through a non-western point of view. Although Sissako makes fun of the contradictions in the newly self-appointed Islamic authority – and the brutality that comes with it – he also shows compassion for the soldiers that have to implement these drastic new laws. Nothing is black and white, as the western media and politicians often suggest, and Timbuktu captures the essence of what it feels like to be human in a society lost in its own transformation.

September 10 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Frank (UK, 2014)

A bizarre and surreal fable, Frank is based on Jon Ronson's memoir about the underground persona Frank Sidebottom. Frank is more a tragicomedy than a biopic of musician Christopher Mark Sievey, the man with the huge, oval fiberglass head who became a very popular figure in the indie world during the 80s and 90s.

According to director Lenny Abrahamson, the film bears a unique relationship to Sievey. “There is a spirit in common, in the sense that it is true to Chris’s intense, maverick, playful but ultimately really serious approach to what he did,” says Abrahamson. “The way to think about Frank is, if Frank Sidebottom fell asleep and had a dream, than maybe this film is his dream.”

The gifted Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, X-Men: First Class) is the on-screen man beneath the somewhat disturbing spheroidal head. The film received two awards at the British Independent Film Awards in 2014, one for Best Screenplay and one for Best Technical Achievement. 

September 16 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Love & Mercy (USA, 2014)

To label Love & Mercy a biopic about The Beach Boys' co-founder Brian Wilson would not only be misleading but also a disservice to the imaginative storytelling of director Bill Pohlad. This fact shines through most heavily in Pohlad's casting choices: Paul Dano and John Cusack. The two actors don't look alike, nor do they try to in their portrayals of Wilson at different stages of his life. Dano plays Wilson during the 60s, right after his first panic attack, when the singer withdrew from the band’s Japanese tour so that he could focus on composing their new album. Cusack portrays Wilson during the late 80s, when the musician was deep into therapy with the unorthodox and manipulative psychotherapist Eugene Landy (played by a scarily convincing Paul Giamatti) after suffering from auditory hallucinations and a mild form of manic-depression. What Love & Mercy successfully does is to open a door into Wilson’s head that might surprise even the biggest Beach Boys fans.

September 17 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Almost Famous (USA, 2000)

The 70s are remembered as an era of rock 'n roll, excess and love. Based on the firsthand account of director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire), who worked as a reporter for Rolling Stone during his teenage years, Almost Famous is a sweet, heartfelt and sometimes naïve portrait of both the dreams and illusions associated with the ideology and music of that time. Crowe’s approach to the story is as honest as can be: he does not shy away from his younger self’s expectations and shattered dreams. The film won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, while both Frances McDormand (Fargo) and the delightful Kate Hudson (Nine, Brides War) received nominations for Best Supporting Actress.

September 23 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

Mr. Turner (UK/France/Germany, 2014)

Timothy Spall gives a roaring performance as the Romantic landscape painter JMW Turner in the latest biopic by British helmer Mike Leigh. Mr. Turner recreates with charming detail the life of the Victorian era. From the lavish set decorations to the Dickensian language, the film is a journey back to the past. However, the real journey is the one that the audience takes in discovering the temperament and eccentricity of 'the painter of light'. Turner appears to be most at peace when roaming Great Britain in search of beautiful light and landscapes for his paintings. During his visits at the Royal Academy, his jovial side surfaces when he interacts with other painters, while his sarcastic openness and views on art come through in dealing with pompous art critics and wealthy buyers. Away from the public, Turner's eccentricity and internal turmoil is pervaded by a sense of isolation and his incapability to express his feelings verbally or form a true connection with women.

September 24 @ 8pm – Saigon Outcast

Straight Outta Compton (USA, 2015)

There is more than just rap and hip-hop in this hugely successful music biography about the birth of N.W.A. Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), Ice Cube (played by his son O'Shea Jackson, Jr.) and DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) were among the first to establish one of Los Angeles' most influential hip-hop groups. Director F. Gary Gray applied the same rhythm and camera movements of gangster films to supplement the story of N.W.A.'s creation. The life of the group and its importance exceeded the musical sphere and became a rallying cry against the racial discrimination and harassment carried out by the police. Straight Outta Compton is ultimately an example of the underdogs becoming successful, multi-millionaire musicians, but it also a reminder of the contemporary racial issues that still affect the US today.

September 30 @ 8pm – deciBel Lounge

White God (Hungary/Germany/Sweden, 2014)

Winner of the Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, the Un Certain Regard Award and two Palm Dogs (for the dogs Luke and Body) at Cannes, the Hungarian film White God is a strikingly violent and crude parable about the relationship between humans and animals and the relentless rage that springs from the abandoned and unloved.

Following classic fairy tale structure, the film sees a 13-year-old girl, Lili (Zsófia Psotta), fighting to get her dog back after her father abandons it. Meanwhile, the city of Budapest, where the film is set, becomes the theater for canine revolt and carnage after stray dogs rise up against brutal dogcatchers.

Not since Amores Perros and Bombon: El Perro has a film been so poignant and touching, yet brutal. The pure joy of this cinematic gem is in its storytelling, merging the childish, dreamlike qualities of fairy tales with the torments of horror. 


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