Sept. 17, 9:30 p.m. Ryerson; Sept. 18, 2 p.m. Scotiabank 3
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
Peter Raymont/Michèle Hozer (Canada)
A disappointment. The title and subtitle intimate a fresh, revealing, perhaps even psychoanalytically inspired look at the celebrated Canadian pianist who died, too soon, in 1982 just after his 50th birthday. Instead, the film's mostly a rehash of the external life of Gould using a lot of familiar archival footage. For all his genius and often charming eccentricity, Gould clearly was a complex, troubled individual, but the documentary's explorations of his psyche are perfunctory and banal. Of greatest interest are the interviews with former Gould inamoratas, most notably Cornelia Foss, the American painter who in the late 1960s decamped to Toronto from New York with young son and daughter in tow to be with the pianist. Lovely music throughout, of course, and Gould biographer Kevin Bazzana and Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy provide germane context. But it's too long overall and, finally, unsatisfying. J.A.
Sept. 13, 5:30 p.m. AMC 7; Sept. 14, 6:15 p.m., AMC 7; Sept. 19, 10:30 a.m., AMC 7
Good Hair Jeff Stilson (USA)
The obsession and esteem issues that black people have with their own hair is one humdinger of a head-scratcher. Simply put, Afro-Americans hate the 'fro. Chris Rock's hilarious look at the lucrative industry of hair weaves and hair relaxers and the people (more women than men) who go to great lengths to achieve great lengths will be an illumination to all - including black men, who, we are told, dare not to touch the expensively straightened hairstyles of their women, even though they're the ones footing the bill for the elaborate processes. Rock speaks to talking heads (including Rev. Al Sharpton and poet Maya Angelou), goes to barbershops, travels to hair-exporting India, and chronicles the cutting-edge hairstyling competition that threads this lighthearted documentary. B.W.
Sept. 15, 2:30 p.m., AMC 6; Sept. 19, 9:30 a.m., Scotiabank 3
Bruno Dumont (France)
The film's name comes from a 13th-century mystic and poet who wrote of her love for God, but French director Bruno Dumont ( L'Humanité, The Life of Jesus) is a contemporary story of fundamentalist extremism in the face of the apparent absence of God. A religious novice and politician's daughter (Julie Sokolowski), is asked to leave the convent for her particularly zealous religious practices. Tortured by her inability to feel Christ's presence, she finds improbable kinship with a Muslim boy and his radical Islamic brother, leading to catastrophic results. In the tradition of Carl Dreyer, Robert Bresson and Ingmar Bergman, Hadewijch is about the dilemma of modern spirituality and specifically about one young woman's struggle for transcendent meaning to her life, against a background of contemporary politics, race, class and terror. L.L.
Sept. 11, 6 p.m., Varsity 8; Sept. 13, 10 a.m., AMC 6; Sept. 19, 4 p.m., Winter Garden
Hotel Atlantico Suzana Amaral (Brazil)
A superb feature from the grande dame of Brazilian cinema, 77-year-old Suzana Amaral. Her camera follows an enigmatic, unnamed loner (Julio Andrade) - sometimes he's called "the actor," sometimes "the artist": At one point he describes himself as "an idler" - as he travels without apparent aim through southern Brazil, encountering the good, the menacing and the unusual. He's a kind of a "go-with-the-flow" guy - and the flow without exception puts him into immediate proximity with death. Hotel Atlantico is a decidedly cryptic "adventure" film - Amaral's a master at keeping the viewer off-kilter and uneasy - but its 107 minutes make for a thoroughly absorbing and frequently troubling trip. You'll be thinking "David Lynch" and "Coen brothers" en route, but there are also flourishes that recall Borges, Kafka and Rabelais. J.A.
Sept. 16, 4:45 p.m., Isabel Bader; Sept. 19, 9:15 a.m., Isabel Bader
Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel
Brigitte Berman (Canada)
Director Brigitte Berman won an Oscar for her 1985 documentary about bandleader Artie Shaw. Now, she returns to the seemingly bottomless well of American celebrity with this overlong (135 minutes) look at the less sybaritic side of legendary Playboy empire founder Hugh Hefner. Berman works hard here to portray Hef in quite another light, as fearless campaigner for racial equality, human rights and what begins to feel like a laundry list of worthy liberal causes. It's no hagiography: Pat Boone and others appear to remind us that the Playboy fantasy world is exactly that, and comes at a steep price. Michael Posner
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