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Murder on the Orient Express told once again and a true original, Jane

Also two small quirky films: My Friend Dahmer and Infinity Baby

The Cinematheque, continuing its Canada 150 commemoration with free screenings of key Canadian films, has two very interesting ones coming up.

Sunday at 3 p.m. it’s the Quebec film Cotton Mill, Treadmill  (French title On Est Au Coton). This early work by Denys Arcand is a hard-hitting expose of working conditions  in the textile industry in the province and of the Anglo-American control over the whole economy there.  The film was banned for several years.

Friday evening Nov 17 there’s an even rarer film, a silent from 1919, starring Victoria-born Nell Shipman. She was a big star and Back to God’s Country was her biggest hit. She played a resourceful young woman who flees to the Canadian wilderness to escape a rapist. It was filmed in California, Idaho and Alberta, features a bear encounter and nude scenes. The film has been restored and a pianist will accompany it with a new score he wrote.

For more on both visit http://thecinematheque.ca/

 

And the new ones in town are:

Murder on the Orient Express:  3 stars

Jane:   4 ½

Daddy’s Home 2: --

Infinity Baby:  2

My Friend Dahmer:  2 ½

 

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS: This is the 4th time Agatha Christie’s famed mystery novel has been filmed (including twice for TV) but to my mind, it’s the second best of them. It falls short of the 1974 version even though it’s just as classy, exceptionally well-designed and cast with top actors. But it’s not as gripping. It loses momentum with all the minute details of the clues and the revelation, which should amaze and chill, is sketchy and diffuse. Other than that, the film is quite entertaining.

 

Kenneth Branagh, directs and stars as Hercule Poirot, a man of supreme confidence (“I am possibly the greatest detective in the world”) and an impossibly large handlebar mustache. It’s distracting as he’s called on to solve the murder on the famous train of a crass American (Johnny Depp). His compartment door had been locked. A train employee had been monitoring the car all night. So how could it happen? Poirot finds all the first-class passengers had some connection and possibly motive but who among Judi Dench, Willem Defoe, Josh Gad, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley and several others actually did it?

 

If you already know the answer, and many do, you’ll have to concentrate on how Poirot manages to tease it out. And how the suspects try to explain themselves. They’re a stylish bunch and the quality of their acting keeps your interest, even though we hardly get to know some of them. Cruz, for instance, is playing the role that won Ingrid Bergman an Academy Award back in 1975. She’s reduced to a minor character here. Poirot gets a personal history (he mourns a lost love) and an inflated worry about the nature of justice. Neither adds much. What does work undeniably is the love of train travel this film revives from the 1930s. Bits of that still exist. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 3 out of 5

JANE: This is an outstanding film about Jane Goodall, who we all know as the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees but haven’t seen like this before. It’s not a biography. There’s a lot that’s not said here, though easily found in other films or the books she has written. This is an intimate visit as she was more than 50 years ago just starting her animal studies in Tanzania. Louis Leakey, the paleontologist, had set her up there hoping she’d turn up some insights into the behavior of primitive man. She does; she finds a lot of it, after painstakingly getting the chimps’ confidence, being allowed to get close and observing.

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