Arts & Entertainment
3 min

TIFF reviews

Bitch Slap, The Vintner's Luck

WHAT'S THAT SMELL? Bitch Slap is for the goat boys.










Bitch Slap
I tried to love Bitch Slap, Rick Jacobson’s audacious homage to boob schlock masters like Russ Meyer. But it’s too witless and strident to appeal to anyone other than 13-year-old boys.
 
It starts off promising enough with a rapid fire credit sequence featuring every bad girl in film — any woman who’s thrown a punch, fired a gun, strapped on pair of roller skates or rubbed her heiny on a man’s crotch to get her way.
 
Then our sexy trio of bad girls enter in a deliciously camp celebration of gams and cleavage, each emerging from a vintage car the same way — gorgeous shoe first, then bare leg, followed by breasts on which the camera holds for a good five seconds before bothering with the face.
 
They are a decidedly queer bunch: the psychotic man-hater Camero (Ameríca Olivo), who has the hots for Hel (Erin Cummings) the brains of the operation, who has fallen for the supposedly naïve girly girl Trixie (Julia Voth) — the latter two get it on in some hot camper action). They all have a penchant for obvious pussy humour spitting out lines like “fur pie jamboree” at every turn.
 
But the women have trust issues. Amidst eye-popping flashbacks that detail the knotty ties among them and the heist caper gone bad the trio spend most of the movie beating the shit out of each other. And while the violence and gore is cartoony, there’s just too much of it, overwhelming the movie. It gets boring. Endless fight sequences (and repeated false endings) play out to screaming thrash metal music at top volume and blaring gunfire (the punches are equally loud). I had to plug my ears (okay, call me gramps).
 
Despite visual flare and some genuinely funny moments — including hilarious cameos by Xena’s Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor as nuns — this film is for a very limited type of queer connoisseur: head bangers who like to watch their babes bloodied while savouring the smell of all the goat boys in the audience.
 
TIFF’s remaining screening of Bitch Slap is at 3:15pm on Wed, Sep 16 at Scotiabank Theatre.
 
The Vintner’s Luck
This brooding, romantic historical drama from New Zealand writer-director Niki Caro (Whale Rider and North Country) may catch on with a public thirsty for luxurious melodrama with intelligent ambitions. You can’t get much more dreamy than a lusty young man writing to his lover about his feelings with an angel’s feather quill. But the dialogue might be a little too precious for some tastes, the pacing a little too stately.
 
Jeremie Renier plays Sobran Jodeau a peasant farmer with ambitions to be a great winemaker in early 19th-century France. Though he owns his own land, he has to do the bidding of the count from the local chateau, following his orders about when to harvest or how to press the grapes. Sobran knows he can do better.
 
Enter an angel, gorgeous Gaspard Ulliel, who begins a metaphysical dance with the farmer, encouraging his ambitions and teaching him about wine and life — how both require deprivation as well as nourishment, struggle as well as joy.
The movie follows Sobran’s struggles and joys over 20 years including the complicated ménage à quatre that develops among the farmer, his wife, a baroness (who inherits the chateau) and the angel.
 
But all the characters’ talk of wine takes on a certain clumsy bluntness. To the question “What do you taste?” we are given repeated shopping lists of the human condition: sadness, effort, grief, conception, hopefulness…. It makes you long for someone to talk about cat piss. When the dialogue gets more pompous than wine writing, you know you’re in trouble.
The relationship between the angel and the farmer is the most intriguing and, ultimately, the most disappointing. After spending the whole movie trying to get Sobran to embrace the symbiotic relationship between happiness and sadness — to accept his nature —the angel makes a startling decision that totally undermines those lessons. And why didn’t we get that kiss between them? (There is some vigorous wrestling, though.)
 
The beautiful cast gives powerful performances and the sensuous cinematography is like one long commercial for the slow food movement. So if it sounds tempting to you, sneak in some good burgundy and enjoy (try slurping during the more ponderous moments).
 
TIFF’s remaining screening of The Vintner’s Luck is at 4:15pm on Fri, Sep 18 at the Cumberland.
 
More reviews to come.