Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Scene from "Official Competition" // CIFF

CIFF 2021 Reviews: Features

By Rachneet Randhawa, December 27 2021—

This year at the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF), the long-awaited headliner and blockbuster hit films were received with rave reviews. Feature films are special presentations that target the mainstream genre of film, atypical of big box office hits you would go for. Most of these films also feature Hollywood celebrities like Benedict Cumberbatch or Antonio Banderas. And so, they are enjoyable for the average movie-goer. 

The Electrical Life of Louis Wain

Before viral TikTok videos and cat memes like Nyan cat were a craze, paintings of our beloved furry companions were all the rage in the 19th century. The extraordinary true story of eccentric British artist Louis Wain, whose playful and at times psychedelic portraits, helped to transform the public’s perception of cats forever. The plot focuses on Wain’s life from the late 1800s to the 1930s as it highlights the adventures of this inspiring, unsung hero as he seeks to unlock the electrical mysteries of the world to better understand his life and the profound love he shares with his wife Emily Richardson, played by Claire Foy. 

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Electrical Life of Louis Wain // CIFF

Although the story of Wane is one of tragedy and mental health, including the heavy burdens placed on him to support his four sisters and the loss of his wife to breast cancer, the film’s portrayal of him paints him as an exuberant and curious artist that funnels his woes and setbacks into his cat portraits. Despite being a story of tragedy and mental health struggles, the film’s plot is crafted whimsically with the narrative being more amusing at times. This film will become a classic with its timeless storyline and amazing acting.

Country: UK

Rating: 5/5

Titane

Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival 2021 and a CIFF 2021 Telus Audience Choice Award for the Late Shift, the film speaks for itself. Horror, sci-fi, thriller -— you name it. The overall plot focuses on a woman, Alexia, who has a strong and overly eclectic affinity for automobiles after having gotten into a traumatic car accident as a kid in which a titanium plate is fitted into her head leaving a scar due to the surgery.

Scene from Titane // CIFF

As an adult, she is a showgirl at motor shows and is literally in love with cars. Over the course of the film, her sexual desires lie with cars, to the point of becoming impregnated by one with a hybrid child. This was one of our editor’s picks for CIFF 2021 you can read the review to learn more.

Country: France

Rating: 5/5

Official Competition

This drama and comedy film was the most bombastic of all the mainstream features. With Hollywood celebrities like Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martinez, this film overviews the stone-cold satire about the movie-making process. 

The overall plot focuses on an aging millionaire and pharmaceutical tycoon, José Luis Gómez, who hopes to leave a legacy behind. Knowing that he lacks a great achievement, he decides to produce a master work of cinema as a public good. After gaining the rights to a Nobel Prize-winning novel, he hires Lola Cuevas (Cruz) who is known as the bossy micromanager of the actors she manages, as much as she is for her amazing artistic visions to bring the film to the silver screen. 

Scene from Official Competition // CIFF

As the novel’s premise is based on sibling rivalry, she decides to hire two actors that come from completely different backgrounds — Ivan Torres (Martinez) who is known as a stage legend and embodies the very definition of the dramatic art of acting, and Felix Rivero (Banderas), famous for his cliche, overconfident brain-draining and box office hit action flicks. 

Lola constantly places both Ivan and Felix in tumultuous rehearsal techniques to uncover their true and raw acting abilities. Because of this, there is a lot of backlash for her being an unstable and absurd director, despite being one of the best in the movie business. 

Country: Argentina 

Rating: 4/5


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