We are about a week out from the close of the 37th Annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and it looks like we have finally recovered from the experience. We have left behind the Uncle Marty commercials and L’Oreal sponsorship spots to bring you our coverage of highlights from this year’s fantastic festival. Films reviewed include: Like Someone in Love, Sightseers, Cloud Atlas, Thale, Ernest and Celestine, Amour, Everyday, Stories We Tell, Leviathan, Bad 25, Ghost Graduation, John Who Dies At The End, Rust and Bone, Foxfire: Confessions Of A Girl Gang, The We and I, Picture Day, Thanks For Sharing, The Hunt, I Declare War.
Next episode we will get back to releases currently in theatres including Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER, DREDD 3-D and LOOPER.
Opening song: Don’t You (Forget about Me)- Simple Minds
#1- “No”- directed by Pablo Larrain (2011, Chile/USA production)
Starring indie fave Gael Garcia Bernal (The Science of Sleep, Y Tu Mama Tambien), director Pablo Larrain comes to TIFF this year with No in the Special Presentations programme to complete his trilogy of sorts on the Pinochet regime.
The film takes the viewer into the politics of the era in 1988 when the ruling Chilean regime under General Augusto Pinochet, succumbed to international pressure by introducing a national referendum to decide whether Pinochet could continue another eight (eight!) years of his presidency. The concept of the film is simple: The ballot presents two choices- “Yes” (extend Pinochet’s rule) or “No” (pack your bags, Pinochet). The execution in how it all went down… well, that is what comprises the complex story of this film. Bernal plays the savvy and cynical adman Rene Saavedra who was called in to make the case for the No side, a formidable task when taking into account they were only granted fifteen minutes of airtime per day and had to draft a campaign that would be innovative enough to convince the disparate, isolated segments of the population to show up to the polls in the first place. Having to walk a fine line against a totalitarian government, Saaveda instinctively realizes of course that he can’t play up the suffering the general population has endured under Pinochet’s fifteen year rule- and instead opts to drive a rainbow emblazoned campaign full of optimistic joy that promises a “New Chile”- a killing your enemy with kindness approach.
Now the events of history obviously betray what happens in the end, but buzz from Cannes on the film is that is does a great job at building momentum towards its final outcome. A lot of that might have to do with the fact that Larrain chose to go with a 4:3 aspect ratio and a grainy video technique that more cohesively syncs with archival footage from the era. All in all, the narative elements of the backstory, the style and the ace in the hole- Gael Garcia Bernal make this a must-see.
#2 “Rust and Bone” – directed by Jacques Audiard (2011- France/Belgian production)
My only experience with Audiard’s work was his Cannes Grand Prix winner from 2009 called Un Prophete- a prison drama that was also a meticulous study of the collusion between youth and corruption that shook me to the very core. I was intrigued that Audiard would be working on another character study, this time framed around a romance. The addition of Marion Cotillard as the female lead doesn’t hurt either.
Rust and Bone is a French adaptation of Craig Davidson’s acclaimed novel of the same title tells the story of the unlikely and tender romance that develops between an aimless, father and drifter (played by Bullhead’s Matthias Schoenaerts) and a killer whale trainer played by Cotillard who suffers a terrible accident. Word is that Audiard has blended a Dardennes-style of naturalism to his character study and visuals- but what also hooked me was the fact that the film employs the talents of composer Alexandre Desplat (who most recently brought a tremendous flare for whimsy with Moonrise Kingdom this past year), whose work will be interspersed with pop music selections like Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” during key moments in the film. Whatever ends up happening, this film promises to bring something unconventional and visceral to the plate.
#3 “Cloud Atlas”- directed by Tom Tykwer, and Lana and Andy Wachowski (2011, Germany)
Halle Berry and Tom Hanks play multiple roles in “Cloud Atlas”- a film that seeks to explore the connected nature of the past, present and future.
I’m not quite sure what to think of Cloud Atlas. I knew almost nothing about it being a literary phenomena by novelist David Mitchell (the novel had been in serious Booker Prize contention and apparently perched upon the “favorite books of all time” shelf by many of my friends who had never bothered to mention the book before… till now) and I had only heard snippets about a possible Wachowski collaboration on the project over the years but never anything concrete in terms of production detail or a release date. I had basically wrote it off as a doomed projected locked in the dungeons of development hell. Then the trailer dropped… the almost six minute trailer dropped. The lush ocean bound visuals, the wizened Susan Sarandon voice overs, the sumptuous Sci-Fi imagery of almost magical futuristic technologies had me falling to my knees- but I was still like… what the hell is all this?? Luckily, the day the trailer arrived, there was an accompanying you tube video with all three (three!!) directors describing the vision of the film, a bit about the production details and the obvious storytelling difficulties and challenges in bringing such a sweeping and puzzle-like narrative to the big screen in terms of marketing and financial backing. So that helped a bit… the acknowledgement that this was a crazy story to tackle on the big screen. A big pull for me as well atre the actors who are starring in this film to help fill out the narrative- Tom Hanks and Halle Berry are two actors I greatly respect but have not enjoyed in anything they have released for years. I am hoping this film may reverse the trend as they have the opportunity to occupy different roles as the situations and indeed centuries roll on in the film. Along for the ride will be actors like Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, Ben Winshaw, Hugo Weaving… the list goes on and on. As far as trailers and story concepts go this year, this film has the “epic” label written over it and I am definitely interested in what a kinetic director like Tywker (Run Lola Run) and the directors of The Matrix Trilogy and Speed Racer can bring to such a sweeping canvas of history- past, present and future. Below is the above mentioned trailer and Director’s Commentary.
#4- “Thale”- directed by Aleksander L. Nordaas (2012, Norway)
Thale is director Aleksander Nordaas’ first feature film and entry into the Vanguard programme this year at TIFF. According to TIFF programmer Colin Geddes- the films within Vanguard promise something provocative, something sexy… possibly dangerous- it’s what’s next… and after seeing the above promotional shot from the film I was like, “YES!”. The Vanguard programme this year feels especially strong with films that vary greatly in terms of genre and style (Spanish horror with Here Comes The Devil and Painless, experimental documentary in Peaches Does Herself and Room 237 , quirky urban dramas in The We and I and Beijing Flickers and just the plain weird in the Edgar Wright produced Sightseers,) and Thale feels like a worthy entry, probably because it focuses on a topic that may be near and dear to the heart of the director, that of Norwegian folklore. Thale tells the tale of a couple of forensic clean-up technicians and childhood friends played by Erlend Nervold and Jon Sigve Skard who discover a deadly mythological siren hidden in the basement of a remote cabin in the Norwegian woods. Thale promises to be a leanly efficient, hauntingly atmospheric drama, grounded in reality, utilizing CGI for accents rather than spectacle. After getting a taste of The Cabin in the Woods earlier this year, it will be interesting to see a further permutation and meditation on the horror genre from this part of the world at TIFF- who knows, maybe Nordaas may be starting a trend…
Shot on a dozen HD cameras, “Leviathan” promises to offer a visual and sonic punch and will be one of the most talked about art films in 2012.
Having only a passing familiarity with ethnography on film (Sweetgrass, Nanook of the North, Black Orpheus), Leviathan seems like perfect opportunity with which to get a better grasp on the connections linking academia with the arthouse and where the genre may be heading into the 21st century.
From all the buzz coming in on this film, most it from its recent unveiling at the Locarno Film Festival, critics have been hailing Leviathan as not only a major work, but a visceral and important contribution to the history of ethnographic film itself. The New York Times wrote up a great piece on the intentions and craft of the directors behind the camera, both artist-filmmakers, Paravel herself being an anthropologist and the goals of the Harvard Sensory Ethnographic Lab in creating a more immersive and emotional experience out of footage shot in the field.
Utlilizing a dozen different cameras with HD equipment strapped to workers, decks, boat hulls and netting cranes, Castaing-Taylor (who co-directed 2010′s Sweetgrass) and Paravel have assembled the footage into a narrative of sorts following a single night’s fishing off the New Bedford coat, where Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick took place. In a nutshell, the film offers an all-hands-on-deck view of commercial fishing in the North Atlantic that promises to be visually and sonically explosive while providing an artful statement on the collaborative clash between man, nature and machine. SOLD!! Check out the trailer for Leviathan below:
#6 “Amour” – directed by Michael Haneke (2011, French/Austrian/German production)
Michael Haneke brings French cinema legends Jean-Lous Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva back to the big screen in his mortality tale, “Amour”
Modern master Michael Haneke returns to TIFF this year with his latest film, Amour. Haneke is one of my favorite working directors- his output just keeps getting better and better. The White Ribbon from 2009 was my favorite film of that year, which also screened at TIFF after winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes and Amour received the same honour this year at the prestigious film festival. Haneke’s work represents a calculation and precision that I just don’t see in a lot of other work on the big screen and his films never fail to resonate with me long after I have left a screening of one of his films. Amour promises to be no different. Bringing French Cinema screen legends Jean-Lous Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva on board, Haneke has crafted a stunning portrait on mortality that promises to be kaleidoscopic and trenchant all in the same go. Trintignant and Riva play Anne and Georges Laurent, a married couple in their eighties, who face the horrible dilemma of aging as one of them gradually succumbs to illness and the other is left to pick up the pieces and move forward. Check out the trailer for this film below:
Mads Mikkelsen returns to TIFF with “The Hunt”, directed by Thomas Vinterberg who directed the acclaimed “The Celebration” from 1998.
#7- “The Hunt”- directed by Thomas Vinterberg (2012- Denmark)
Thomas Vinterberg’s The Celebration was one of the first arthouse films I can remember voraciously seeking out because of the buzz I had heard about it- it was 1998, and the film had gained a tremendous amount of traction as an intelligent and subversive dissection of the hypocrisies present in Danish society. Fortunately enough, the film held up to the hype and stands as one of the most disturbing and uncomfortable watches I have ever sat through. Vinterberg returns to similar territory with The Huntwith actor Mads Mikkelsen in tow, who recently won the Best Actor prize at Cannes this year for his portrayal of an innocent man accused of child molestation and how the lie spreads like a virus in his small Danish town. Check out the riveting trailer below:
#8 Penance – directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2012, Japan)
Kyoko Koiumi (left) plays a mother out for revenge in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Penance”
What does the hunger for vengeance look like when it has been allowed to simmer for year upon year? How many ways can guilt fracture the human soul when left to languish in a similar fashion? These existential quandaries are the subject of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s (Pulse, Tokyo Sonata) new film, Penance which will screen at TIFF in the Contemporary World Cinema Programme. Adapted from Minato Kanae’s novel Shokuzai, Penance was filmed as a multi-part television series but comes to this Year’s festival packaged in all it’s five chapters at a whopping five (five!!) hours.
The film tells the story of Asako (Kyoko Koizumi), whose daughter Emili was brutally murdered while in elementary school. Each of Emili’s four best friends saw the face of the killer but refuse to identify the perpetrator, insisting the emotional shock of the incident wiped their memories clean. Well it’s 15 years later , the murder remains frustratingly unsolved by the police and Asako is on the hunt for Emili’s old friends to exact a penance, as punishment for their reticence. The film reveals how the incident itself has transformed the four young girls into four very disturbed young women. As Asako methodically tracks down each of the women, Kurosawa minutely observes how the feeling of guilt have warped their lives, binding their existence irrevocably to the violent act that sets the story in motion. Penance promises to be a quiet masterpiece of mounting intensity. Check out the trailer below:
God Bless America is Bobcat Goldthwait’s new dark comedy starring Joel Murray, about a man driven over the edge by today’s culture. It’s release here, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, feels like no accident.
God Bless America bursts out of the gate with a lot of great satire and a lot of guts, easy targets yes, but done in a cutting way that felt an amped up Mike Judge film, and it generates just as much genuine clapter as it does laughter. It does preach to a receptive crowd. Well, it swallowed everything it had to say with gusto to start and it gradually tapered off.
It starts to fall apart once Tara Lynne Barr show’s up. She’s shrill, unconvincing, too rehearsed (like a Kevin Smith film, you hear the author’s words coming out of an actor’s mouth rather than a real character), and generally if you’ve seen James Gunn’s “Super” Ellen Page has done this role already and 1000x better. Her screen presence is just plain annoying and a humongous anchor on the film.
Once the film gets moving into the shooting spree it really tanks. It wants to have it’s cake and eat it too, and the laughs die down because the film won’t properly commit to it’s opinion. It gives no clue if we are really supposed to keep cheering or if they have been corrupted and are hypocrites, etc.. It starts to get Boondock Saints kind-of-questionable and it certainly does not seem to have any grey area in there by design. The characters never change. They just start killing and the film assumes we will go along with it because we laughed at it when it was just their fantasies at the start.
If there was a right wing version of this film people would be horrified, and it could be very easily done to a very accepting audience. Bobcat says the movie is not political but there is just enough in there to inspire such a reaction. It is definitely “You know what grinds my gears” level blunt and even beyond Trey Parker/Matt Stone preachy. One scene in the office is a more memorable sermon than the extended one in Red State, and more effective too, because it connects with the actual audience watching the film.
The audience continued to cheer and cheer as Frank and Roxy verbally and then physically (and not so often creatively) attack the Tucker Max reading, 16-and-Pregnant watching ilk of the world, and eventually, anyone who get’s in their way, which is confusing. When the murders are in Frank’s fantasy, it’s amusing. When it gets acted out and the plot doesn’t progress or take on a properly sinister tone to match it, it just becomes contradictory and cuts against any message the film has, and scary for all the wrong reasons. It undermines it’s own satire.
That said, there were still flashes of funniness through this trod, even though the filmmaking also starts to get questionable around here with scenes that go on way too long, some bad writing, and using music montages as a crutch (no wonder Richard Kelly produced this thing).
The Q&A was of course, hilarious. Bobcat is quick and sharp.
Overall GBA is VERY memorable for both good and bad reason and is sure to provoke extreme reactions. It resembles Super, Taxi Driver, S.F.W., and of course, Bonnie and Clyde.
God Bless America screens: Sunday September 11-AMC 6, 1:30pm and Friday September 16-AMC 7, 6:30pm
This week, Greg, Corey and Ryan tackle a super-sized episode to review the latest documentaries and films we’ve seen, including an in-depth look at Marvel’s latest: THOR. We also do a quick review of Tina Fey’s bestseller Bossypants and take a sneak peek at Lady GaGa’s upcoming album Born This Way.
Greg, Cindy, Ryan and Corey bid farewell to screen legend, gay icon, and bona-fide superstar Elizabeth Taylor. Plus: a sneak peek at this year’s Hot Docs festival (featuring an in-depth look at Beauty Day), more film reviews, and a recap of Sarah McLachlan’s concert at Massey Hall.
A collection of artifacts and images from the history of film will be gathered together in Essential Cinema, the first exhibit to be held at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Toronto Film Festival’s new downtown home. “This is truly a representation of what happens at the festival, a back and forth between programmers, the audience and conversations in line,” says Noah Cowan, artistic director of the Lightbox. “The pieces show the history of cinema, writ large. It’s a conversation with the audience on why film matters to us all.” The exhibit, which includes original scripts and storyboards, memorabilia and new art projects from artists such as Atom Egoyan and Guy Maddin, is free to the public and open during the entire film festival, from Sept. 9-19. Read more about Noah Cowan’s favourite exhibit pieces in this National Post piece.
The Essential Cinema exhibition will transform the gallery spaces of TIFF Bell Lightbox into a journey through the Essential 100, TIFF’s list of the most influential films of all time. Bringing together iconic costumes, film stills, posters, music samples and film clips, the exhibition charts these works – all 100 of them – that have played such a key role in defining film culture for more than a century. Highlights include Robert De Niro’s cab license, used while researching his role in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver(1976), original release posters from Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves (1948) and Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc(1928), and original storyboards from Gone With the Wind (1939) depicting the evacuation of Atlanta. The exhibition will also include a special section, developed in partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, exploring elements of the creative process behind Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Vertigo (1958), from costume design to Saul Bass’ iconic title sequence. Audiences will have at least two opportunities to see each of the films before the end of 2010.
… must come to an end! This week, Cindy Alexander joins us as a permanent co-host on CriticalMassCast to discuss our favorite film endings of all time. We also look back on Golden Girl Rue McClanahan’s fabulous career, and discuss what we’ve been watching and doing over the past few weeks.
Intro: Toronto’s Earthquake & the G20 Summit
Bye, Rue: Our Tribute to a Real-Life Golden Girl
Favorite Film Ending: The Chorus
Favorite Film Ending: Before Sunset
Favorite Film Ending: The Sixth Sense
Potpourri: The Secret in Their Eyes, CFC Short Film Festival, Rasputin, Toy Story 3, Glee, LOST, IdeaCity 2010, Perez Hilton’s MMVA Party
Now in its fourth year, Luminato is an annual ten-day celebration where Toronto’s stages, streets, and public spaces are illuminated with arts and creativity. Luminato is a multi-disciplinary festival of theatre, dance, classical and contemporary music, film, literature, visual arts, design and more.
Luminato embraces three key programming principles: collaboration, accessibility, and diversity.
* Luminato embraces artistic collaboration – creating unforgettable moments by bringing together artists from different cultures and genres. The festival encourages local, national, and international artists to discover unprecedented creative expressions through unexpected partnerships. The Luminato staff, led by CEO Janice Price, partners with the Luminato Artistic Committee, as well as the arts leadership of the City of Toronto, to shape the programming offered at the Festival.
* Luminato’s hallmarks include free widely accessible events, and “accidental encounters with art.” Festival-goers are invited to participate, explore, and celebrate their own creative spirit.
* Luminato embraces and celebrates Toronto’s cultural diversity, and recognizes that creativity flourishes when cultures join together in a spirit of tolerance and respect.
Luminato is a charitable, not-for-profit, cultural organization whose vision is to commission and present significant local, national and international programming that reflects the city of Toronto as a diverse and accessible city that engages domestic and international audiences. Luminato brings Toronto’s light to the world, and the world’s light to Toronto.