VIFF: Arts and Letters

Arts and Letters

A cinematic celebration of visual and performing arts with a strong focus on captivating films in which music takes centre stage. This following is only few featured films from the Arts & Letters series. For the full selection please see the free VIFF guide. To purchase tickets please click here:

Advanced Style: (Also featured in the ‘Style in Film‘ series)


Prompted by Ari Seth Cohen’s wildly popular blog (itself indebted to Bill Cunningham’s guerrilla fashion photography), Lina Plioplyte’s rousing documentary profiles a handful of New York women—aged “between 50 and death”—whose flamboyant approaches to style and glamour reflect their inextinguishable vitality. These women—who include a portraitist who once painted Ayn Rand and one of the Apollo Theatre’s original dancers—all possess screen presence to spare, as well as carefully curated wardrobes that will leave fashionistas both envious and inspired to bring a little more creativity and personality to their own ensembles. New Yorkers through and through, Plioplyte’s subjects don’t plan on going out without a well-accessorized fight.

The Great Museum:


In this eye-opening documentary, Johannes Holzhauzen takes us behind the scenes to explore one of the world’s greatest museums: the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. It’s a fascinating peek behind the curtains: from boardroom meetings to the removal of beetles from a centuries-old canvas, the operations of the place are laid bare. This exposure doesn’t reduce the museum’s stature. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In showing us the elaborate workings of the museum and sheer effort required to keep it running, Holzhauzen only heightens our sense of awe. (One especially gorgeous moment is an unbroken shot with the camera following an employee as he rides his scooter through an endless corridor of cabinets.)

Ballet 422:


Taking cues from Frederick Wiseman’s unadorned observational style, director Jody Lee Lipes whisks us inside The New York City Ballet’s storied confines and allows us to witness the creation of the company’s 422nd original piece. As the film elegantly traces the two months from first rehearsal to opening night, we glimpse the process through which choreographer Justin Peck elicits such sublime movement from his dancers. Likewise, we’re party to instances of divine inspiration and profound frustration, as the vérité film lays bare how arduous and sweat-drenched creativity can sometimes be.

The Possibilities Are Endless:


As James Hall and Edward Lovelace’s immaculate documentary opens, Edwyn Collins blasts out his mainstream hit “Girl Like You” on a 1995 broadcast of Late Night with Conan O’Brien. In a post-performance interview, the former Orange Juice frontman—who always had a way with words—elicits a laugh from Conan, who declares, “I like how your brain works.”

The compliment proves painfully haunting. As we join Collins in the present, he’s suffered two debilitating strokes and is desperately trying to reassemble a jigsaw of thoughts and memories. Furthermore, his vocabulary has been reduced to “Grace Maxwell” (his wife’s name) and the phrase “the possibilities are endless.” Hall and Lovelace initially employ entrancing, impressionistic visuals that evoke Collins’ indications that he may now exis in a dream-like state. However, once his recovery begins in earnest, the film becomes more formally staid, suiting its candid, clear-eyed account of what its subject has lost and what might be recovered through sheer force of will.

For the full selection please see the free VIFF guide. To purchase tickets please click here:

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