OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

The lights will come on again!

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The ByTowne is now closed. But there's good news!

After the pandemic has been brought under control,
new management will take over the space and the ByTowne will re-open.

It may take a while for pandemic restrictions to be eased enough
that a feasible number of patrons can be allowed to watch a movie again,
but the new owners are working towards that day.

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Truman

Winner of 5 Goya Awards, including Best Film!

Call it a comedy of melancholy, and you won’t be far off the mark. Truman, Spanish filmmaker Cesc Gay’s wise, wistful and well-observed film about two friends enjoying a final reunion in the shadow of impending death, is amusing and affecting as it focuses on a middle-aged actor’s efforts to put his affairs in order before he faces the final curtain.

Poster for the Spanish movie Truman‘Each person dies as best he can.’ That’s how Julián (Ricardo Darín, Wild Tales, The Secret In Their Eyes) sums up his attitude as he faces his imminent demise in his adopted home base of Madrid. An Argentine transplant, he has enjoyed years of steady employment as an actor. Now that he has been confronted with a real-life plot twist – a diagnosis of terminal cancer – he has opted to write his own last act by foregoing additional treatments that will only delay the inevitable.

Enter Tomás (Javier Cámara, Talk To HerLiving Is Easy With Eyes Closed), Julian’s longtime buddy, now a college instructor in Canada. Julián is welcoming, but also a bit wary, when Tómas unexpectedly arrives for a visit. He suspects, and not without cause, that his friend has flown in to talk him into resuming cancer treatments. But Tómas realizes early on – obviously not for the first time in their relationship – that he’s unable to change his friend’s mind once it is firmly set.

And so the two men spend what each knows will be a last holiday together, dividing their time over a four-day period between long conversations in bars and cafés and Julián’s sporadic attempts to tie up loose ends before he makes his final exit. Julián is especially concerned about finding a new home for Truman, his faithful, sad-eyed boxer and spends an inordinate amount of time ‘auditioning’ new owners for his pet.

Truman proceeds at a leisurely pace, with occasional detours and sporadic rest stops. But the passage of time rarely makes itself felt, as director Gay gives his audience such personable travelling companions.

Darín gives a slyly robust performance as Julián, vividly conveying the profoundly mixed emotions of a man who, after a lifetime of excess and misbehavior, has begun to feel unfamiliar pangs of regret. At times, Julián seems almost comically eager to make amends for past deeds, such as when he apologizes to an acquaintance for sleeping with the guy’s wife. At other times, he sounds almost resentful that his illness makes others uncomfortable. ‘People don’t know what to say to me,’ he tells Tomás, sounding more sad than angry. ‘They smell death, and they get scared.’

As Julián struggles to maintain his air of good-humoured but steel-willed resignation, Darín smoothly maneuvers through a gauntlet of mood swings. Cámara’s more low-key portrayal of Tomás is an apt and effective counterpoint, so that Tomás serves as sounding board and sympathetic onlooker (and, yes, audience surrogate) while at the same time registering his own emotional turmoil as he bids goodbye to a treasured friend.

Excellent supporting players orbit around the two stars of Truman. Among the standouts: Dolores Fonzi as Julián’s sister; Javier Gutierrez as a briskly efficient mortuary sales representative; and José Luis Gómez as the theatrical producer who reluctantly fires Julián from his current, and likely final, acting gig.

– Joe Leydon, Variety
 

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