Tuesday, September 9, 2008

TIFF 2008 reviews: White Night Wedding

There’s not a lot I can really say about White Night Wedding. I’ve been lucky the last two years at TIFF with Icelandic films, and Baltasar Kormákur directed Jar City, one of the best movies I saw at last year’s festival, so picking this one was a no-brainer, though I’d also put in for a ticket to Country Wedding but, like everyone else I spoke to in the pickup line, didn’t get it, as apparently Icelandic nuptials are the hot ticket item among donors this year. Maybe there was some advance hype on that one; my Icelandic friend Disa says that her grandmother recommended she see Country, but White Night is, according to the program(me) book, one of the biggest box office hits in Iceland in recent years, so six of one, you know, maybe it doesn't matter which one I wound up seeing.

As it is, the impression left with me by WNW is similar to how I felt after Jar City, namely that Kormákur’s good at taking a familiar genre and putting a uniquely Icelandic twist on it while leaving most of the familiar beats in place, not that I’m even sure this is his plan. This movie’s apparently based on a Chekhov play that I haven’t read, but I’m pretty sure even most American marriage comedies have a little Chekhov in their DNA even if the Disney execs greenlighting them think “The Cherry Orchard” was a Warrant song. So there’s plenty of recognizable tropes here, with the characters just slightly larger than life which may be, I guess, the only way one can make it through life if you’re living on a tiny island of maybe fifty people shoved up against the arctic circle, as are the townsfolk in the movie. Personally, I found a bit of a Corner Gas vibe going on, including one character who’s basically a cross between Hank Yarbo and Vincent Gallo. And once again I have to wonder just how big the Icelandic film community is to be able to showcase such uniformly good performers. I can only guess that it’s largely government-subsidized and there’s gotta be a pretty sizeable theatre community from which to draw actors who are able to pull off Nordic zaniness without falling into the cloying saccharine trap that mars so much similarly-themed fare from, say, Ireland. Anyway, as for the movie: hilarious, well-acted, loads of fun, there’s no chance in hell it’ll play anyplace bigger than the Carlton but worth hunting down on DVD later. (***1/2)

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