Seven up

Picks from the Vancouver International Film Festival

1. Dans la Ville de la Sylvia (José Luis Guerín, France/Spain)

2. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin, Canada) My two favorites of the festival were both ghost stories in which a haunted protagonist (fey Xavier Lafitte in Sylvia and Maddin's voice-over in My Winnipeg) traces his past in a city charged with memory. In Guerín's detailed mise-en-scène and patterned compositions and Maddin's loopy reenactments and smeared dissolves, we get nothing less than cinema as seeing, remembering, being — which is to say, a cinephile's dream.

3. Useless (Jia Zhangke, China)

4. The Unforeseen (Laura Dunn, US) Terror's Advocate and Scott Walker: 30th Century Man have their strengths, but these two documentaries gave me the greatest hope for the state of nonfiction cinema — Laura Dunn's chronicle of an environmental crisis in Austin, Texas, for its plainspoken visual lyricism and Jia Zhangke's observation of the fashion industry for its side-wind narration and flowering long takes.

5. Persepolis (Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi, France/Iran). Sometimes all it takes is lively storytelling. Fingers crossed that this pitch-perfect adaptation of Satrapi's graphic novel will edge out Ratatouille for the animation Oscar.

6. Fujian Blue (Robin Weng, China)

7. La France (Serge Bozon, France) My two dark horses, each in its way about a band of outsiders. Fujian Blue's tender portrait of a group of friends living on the edge in southeast China (a center for human trafficking) evokes Mean Streets, while Bozon's chronicle of a troop of World War I deserters makes delightful, if often inexplicable, use of vintage Hollywood movies (the westerns of Howard Hawks and John Ford, the combat films of Raoul Walsh and Samuel Fuller) and sun-dappled musical arrangements that would make Wes Anderson blush.

For Johnny Ray Huston's report on the Vancouver International Film Festival, go to Pixel Vision at

Also from this author

  • By George

    A new book collects George Kuchar's shouts and murmurs

  • Georgian rhapsody

    'Discovering Georgian Cinema' raises the curtain on a vital national cinema

  • Rites of passage

    Three consecutive Sundays of Nathaniel Dorsky's resplendent films at the Pacific Film Archive

  • Also in this section

  • Con and on

    Thrilling, stylish Highsmith adaptation 'The Two Faces of January'

  • Cel mates

    Mill Valley Film Festival screens vintage and innovative animated features

  • Bridgeworthy

    More Mill Valley Film Festival picks