Monday 6 October 2014

TIFF 2014 - 11 days, 47 films

What follows is a quick run down and wrap-up of the 47 films I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival this year (which took place from September 4-14) and listed roughly in order of preference.

Along with seeing the films, I also managed to sit only 20 feet away from Juliette Binoche (damn good thing I was sitting due to the swooning that was happening in my head), met the filmmakers of Spring, talked to Jermaine Clement, hung out with my fantastic film friends and met some equally fantastic folks from out of town (hi Andrew, Sam, Justine, Max, Odie, Josh and others who will jump to mind moments after I post this...). Needless to say, I had a great time - I didn't even really regret seeing the also-ran movies.

11 months to go until TIFF 2015...

A Pigeon Sitting On A Branch Reflecting On Existence - A wholly worthy end to Andersson's trilogy about the human tendency to live in purgatory and miss out on happiness. Indelible images (oh good lord, that human rotisserie...) and scenes that had me grinning stupidly.

Whiplash - The film and performances (especially a fierce J.K. Simmons) are just as good as you may have heard when it came out of Sundance a double winner (Audience and Critic awards), but it's the finale that puts it right over the edge. The most bracing thing I've seen all year. Goosebumps on goosebumps.

The Duke Of Burgundy - I absolutely feasted on the smorgasbord of images and sounds on display and came away satiated to the gills.

Nightcrawler - "He's dead. Get the shot." Satirical, tense, blackly comic and provoked spontaneous applause after the best damn car chase I've seen since I don't know when. Can't wait to see it again.

Clouds Of Sils Maria - Has layers upon layers of meta, but does so within the confines of the stories. But the real joy is in watching and listening to Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart interact and react to each other.

The New Girlfriend - Ozon has been an up and down director for me (even within individual films), but this is easily the best thing I've seen by him.

They Have Escaped - Not your average teen runaway film, it marries great hallucinatory sights and sounds to show attempts to escape adulthood.

Leviathan - Thick with inescapable hypocrisy. Watch out for anything red.

1001 Grams - Charming and lovely and nowhere near as slight as you may first think.

The World Of Kanako - Not for everyone, but there's a certain kind of brilliance to the Sion Sono meets Seijun Suzuki sensory overload of this particular world. Best credits sequence in years.

What We Do In The Shadows - Easily the funniest film of the fest. Virgin sandwiches only!

Kabukicho Love Hotel - This is what happens when you create fully-fleshed out characters - their hardships feel real and their victories much more sweet.

Shrew's Nest - Much more dynamic and tense than many of the recent Spanish "horror" films.

Out Of Nature - Essentially a filmed internal monologue which does an effective and entertaining job in letting you in on one man's attempt to figure it all out.

Spring - Evolution is amazing and brutal and unpredictable and this film so totally gets that. Fantastic.

'71 - The confused landscape of Northern Ireland is well realized here along with visceral chases and a palpable sense of fear.

Confession - Slowly but surely builds its characters and plot until a resolution that fully meets its goals. Engaging and quite beautifully filmed.

Scarlet Innocence - Started as low rent melodrama and moved to top shelf high melodrama. Nice trick.

The Editor - Hits that fine balance between parody and genuine tribute of the giallo. It almost overstays its welcome, but most of the jokes land and it really does look great.

Partners In Crime - Somewhat slight, but still a stylish and solid look at one example of how bullying can have broader consequences.

Kahlil Gabran's The Prophet - The animation is strong enough to carry the film alone, but if you also give in to the poetry and the cadence of the words, the film becomes something quite wonderful.

It Follows - Great concept, 70s-80s throwback style & score and a fine ability to create tension make this a lot of fun despite an abundance of plot holes and issues. Overlook those and you'll be fine.

Electric Boogaloo - Exactly what you expect and that's OK (though it's a shade less fun than its older siblings Not Quite Hollywood and Machete Maidens Unleashed). Also, Sybill Danning is still gorgeous.

Cake - Anniston's character isn't simply a bitch - her reactions and behaviour are that of a fully realized person. A finely measured film.

A Little Chaos - It may be conventional, but this easily won me over on the strength of its individual parts. And Kate. Definitely Kate.

Gyeongju - The Past and ghosts litter the streets of the city of Gyeongju and though it takes awhile to navigate them, the stroll is quite pleasant.

Over Your Dead Body - Though quite dry in its first half, it ends up using its beautiful sets to properly capture the tone of its Japanese ghost story source material.

The Grump - Gentle with its topic of fearing and resisting change, but is also a bit fearful of using non-stock characters. Still, it should improve your mood...

Red Amnesia - Plays with the idea of regret not being enough to make up for past sins. Though it takes its time to get there, it becomes very satisfying.

Arie Libre - An effective portrayal of a marriage imploding, but hurt somewhat by the husband character being disproportionally a jackass. Then again a female friend thought the same thing of the wife - so maybe the film got a good balance.

Haemoo - Mixed feelings - a solid "at sea" tale that takes a fascinating dark turn and then devolves as its characters become less complex the longer the film runs.

Eden - A fairly joyless wander through the French dance music culture that provides little insight into it or its main character.

The Good Lie - Stronger for focusing on its African characters instead of their North American "saviours" (Reese Witherspoon is in a supporting role at best here) and achieves some genuine emotion, but it is otherwise so very by the book.

The Owners - A slow, absurdist, depressing, black comedy from Kazakhstan with little dialogue. Its washed out look doesn't help the static feeling throughout much of the movie, but it's also oddly enjoyable at times. And there's plenty of dancing, so you've at least got that to fall back on.

Monsoon - Gorgeous but never reaches for anything big - counter to what its overly serious narration implies it does.

Men, Women & Children - Reitman tries to be universal with his themes by using many individual stories, but misses the mark with most of them. Trimming it to a few better developed stories would have brought out the themes much more.

Tokyo Tribe - Alternated between riotously fun and terribly dull. An exhausting experience. But dammit if Beatbox Girl wasn't awesome.

The Reaper - The quiet and slow pace of the film showed that death is patient and waits for opportunities, but waiting with it isn't always that exciting.

Wild Tales - Certainly had some inspired moments, but was taken out of it by an audience who seemed to be rehearsing to be canned laughter for a sitcom. Nothing remotely close to being that funny in it.

Cut Snake - For all its contrivances and lack of emotional weight, Cut Snake was fine. But nothing more. Not a bit more.

Love In The Time Of Civil War - 2 hours of unrelenting misery. Accurate and well acted misery, but misery just the same. Highest density of crack smoking per minute of footage ever.

Who Am I - No System Is Safe - And we're still waiting for a good hacker film..."You write machine code?" "Yes". No, no you don't dude.

Tour De Force - One 5 minute somewhat affecting scene does not forgive 90 minutes of tepid and forced drama mixed with stock "comedic" scenes. Could have been devastating if they actually built real characters.

The Cobbler - The line "you are the guardian of soles" is actually spoken out loud. And not for laughs. McCarthy ditches his complex and interesting characters for dull plot.

Waste Land - Never has the descent into madness been so dull.

Revenge Of The Green Dragons - The last time I came across this many cliches I was watching a clich├ęd movie about cliches while eating a cliche sandwich. With a side of cliches.

Impunity - Poorly paced and plotted, muddled and, frankly, stupid. I don't know what Impunity was doing at this festival.

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