|Fernando Eimbcke's Club Sandwich|
Doubles and doppelgängers. Romantic comedies with unusual characters and love stories amid chaos. Revisioned history and new perspectives on iconic events. These are a few of this year's trending visions!
The films are listed in alphabetical order and are linked to the appropriate festival info page. Though no attempt was made to cover all the programmes in the festival, it actually works out that I do (with the exception of Midnight Madness). An asterisk is given to movies in my own top 20. Here is Part 1 from A - L. Part 2 from M - Z follows in a separate post. Some of the film notes repeat comments I've made in earlier blog posts. Although some trailers have been directly linked from these descriptions, where trailers exist they can be easily found on the linked TIFF page. So get out your highlighters and enjoy!
Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, is the true story of a free black man from the Northern United States kidnapped and sold into slavery during the years that precede the American Civil War. Race and history are two major themes of the global filmmaking crop of the past year and this film has not only been highly promoted by the festival, it has already gathered considerable buzz.
|Oscar Dietz and Cecilie Astrup Tarp in |
Ask Hesselbach's Antboy
What a gift, to be given the chance to see Yasujiro Ozu's last film, An Autumn Afternoon, projected in a digital restoration. This story of a man who slowly comes to terms with his own mortality, allowing the daughter who has been caring for him to have her own life, promises as much power to audiences now, as when it was first released in 1962.
Bad Hair. I'm intrigued by Mariana Rondón's newest feature, exploring a single mother's fearful response to the early signs of her's son's sexual identity. The boy takes refuge with a sympathetic grandmother. A coming-of-age tale that looks at the deep complexities of prejudice in families. The trailer points to both a light and dark sensibility: this isn't a sweet story, but promises to be moving.
Joao Viana's Battle of Tabato follows a man's journey to his daughter's wedding, where he must also confront his own violent history. The trailer is beautiful. The film is preceded by Ali Cherri's short film The Disquiet, a "poetic meditation" on Lebanon's history of earthquakes and tendency toward catastrophe. Again, the available preview images are stunning.
|Carina Lau in Flora Lau's Bends|
In recent years, the festival has seen a steady rise in films by or about Palestinian themes and stories. Yuval Adler's Bethlehem is one of these. About a Palestinian boy recruited as an Israeli informant, it follows the events when he learns that his own brother is a targeted extremist.
|Vilma Santos Jeffrey Jeturian's Bit Player|
*Blue is the Warmest Color, Adele: Chapters 1 & 2 by Abdellatif Kechiche won the Prix D'Or at Cannes and is an exploration of the first love of a young French woman. The movie gathered notoriety for its sexually explicit scenes when it debuted in May (and keep in mind -- this is in France!), and seems set to cause ongoing controversy, though a closer reading of the best critics points to a very solid and moving film.
|Ines Oliveira's Bobo|
*Bright Days Ahead. Frankly, I cannot wait for Marion Vernoux's romantic comedy about a sixty-something woman who falls for a man thirty years younger when she takes up classes in a senior's centre. Starring Laurent Lafitte and the always-incroyable Fanny Ardant, the trailer points to a levity and depth that remind me of Manoel de Oliveira's Mari-Jo et ses deus amours of 2002.
Polish master filmmaker Agnieszka Holland is returning with Burning Bush, a three-film series focused on Czech protester Jan Polach and the events in that country in the late 1960s. Although this is a serious investment of time (close to four hours), it has lately been too long between Holland's films. As someone who has helped to shape the voice of Eastern Europe in the cinema of the last thirty years, I plan to catch at least part of this opus.
|Jafar Panahi and Kambozia Partovi's Closed Curtain|
*Fernando Eimbcke's Club Sandwich has much appeal. At its core, it is about the shifting landscape in the relationship between a mother and her fifteen year old son as they holiday at a resort in Mexico. When the boy begins to fall for a girl he meets, the mother struggles with her own inability to let him go. The trailer is very appealing and the performances seem likely to be nuanced and moving.
As someone who has lost precious friends to this plague, I am drawn to Jean-Marc Vallée's Dallas Buyers Club which follows "the true story of accidental AIDS activist Ron Woodruff, whose cross-border smuggling network brought much-needed treatments into the hands of HIV and AIDS patients neglected by the medical establishment." From the Québecois filmmaker who brought us The Young Victoria and The Café de Flore.
|Sarah McCarthy's The Dark Matter of Love|
Thanos Anastopoulos' The Daughter follows a young girl as she takes action for herself to avenge events in her father's life. Set in a deteriorating lumberyard environment, if the trailer is any indication, the felling of trees becomes increasingly symbolic of the fallen world around her. From the City to City: Athens programme.
Le Démantèlement. Québecois filmmaker Sébastien Pilote's film chronicles a farmer's decision to secretly dismantle and sell his own farm in order to help his daughter have the money she requires to keep her own home. Starring Gabriel Arcand, the trailer shows a promising subtlety and moving storyline.
|Reese Witherspoon in Atom Egoyan's Devil's Knot|
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Hollywood's wunderkind at the moment, having made a name for himself as an actor and a director in the same crescending career. The trailer for Don Jon points to the tone of a Silver Linings Playbook, and seems possibly more compelling than the write-up on it; however, it could just be that a comedy about a man addicted to porn doesn't turn my crank no matter how well described! Gordon-Levitt's writing is strong, however, and often features well-written and developed character work, so I'm giving it a shot.
The Double has the kind of plot that I grow used to seeing in the proposals of my screenwriting students: a man comes in contact with a seeming twin, who slowly takes over his life, leaving only ruin. British filmmaker Richard Ayoade's feature, however, starring Jesse Eisenberg and and Mia Wasikowska, seems to have the edge of a thriller, and watching Eisenberg play both edges of the man might just be worth the admission.
This year's fest offers a riches of films and performances from Canada's First Nations. Among these is Peter Stebbings' Empire of Dirt, about three generations of First Nations women in a small Ontario town who are forced to confront their own complex pasts. Having story edited a similar (though also quite different) project over the past two years, I am curious to see how Stebbings makes it work.
|Danis Tanovic's Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker|
Caroline Link's Nowhere in Africa was a surprise hit of the 2001 festival and went on to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Link brings Exit Marrakech to this year's festival with some lingeringly similar themes. A European theatre director working in Morocco invites his son to spend time with him, only to watch him fall for a girl whose social status precludes an easy match.
I'm quite stunned by how many romantic comedies are in this year's TIFF round-up, and by the seeming range in style and situation and cultural context of them. Michael Dowse's The F Word features Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan as best friends who may be fated for a bit more. The title hints at the edgy style of this Irish-Canadian co-pro.
|Pan Nalin's Faith Connections|
Bill Conlon's The Fifth Estate is the festival's opening night film. A profile of the WikiLeaks founders, it has incredible timing, arriving after the sentencing of Bradley Manning, and as the continuing events in the aftermath of the Edward Snowden leaks unfold. It also features a strong cast, including Laura Linney, Alexander Siddiq and David Thewlis.
*A young Chicago man buys a treasure-trove of prints and negatives at an auction, and makes one of the great finds of the history of modern photography. The photographer turns out to be an enigma, and the art world scrambles to try to understand who she is. These were the events of recent years that I followed closely, and thus I am very excited by the premiere of Finding Vivian Maier by John Maloof (the treasure owner) and Charlie Siskel, about the woman behind the mystery. Watch the trailer here.
|Jasmila Zbanic's For Those Who Can Tell No Tales|
* Québecoise director Louise Archambault's Gabrielle follows what happens wehen a woman with intellectual challenges falls in love and wants a more independent life. The trailer indicates a film of subtlety and beauty from the producers of Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar, two of the best Québecois films of recent memory.
|Rani Massalha's Giraffada|
Gloria. Paulina Garcia won the Silver Bear for performance at Berlin for this story of a middle-aged woman seeking to find a mate at a time of life when the pickings get slimmer and what's out there can't always be trusted. When you are as discriminating and idealist as the title character, the road gets long. Sebastián Lelio's fourth feature looks strong in the trailer.
Half of a Yellow Sun chronicles the revolution in Nigeria in the late 60s, following two women (one of whom is Thandie Newton) as independence gives way to the Nigerian-Biafran war. Playwright Biyi Bandele makes his directorial debut in a feature that TIFF is actually promoting strongly, with three public and two press and industry screenings. The trailer promises an epic story, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, also appearing at TIFF in 12 Years a Slave.
Alain Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour is being presented in a new print struck from the original negative and supervised through its restoration by the cinematographer, Renato Berta. The story of a woman visiting post-war Hiroshima, while also reckoning the love relationships of her own life, it has been considered the most important film of the early post-war period in Europe. Resnais made an important contribution to the birth of the French new wave and film grammar in general with his use of mini-flashbacks, what we might call today Inserts or Flashcuts, in a way that took the viewer out of their traditional viewing comfort zone. The film also stars Emmanuelle Riva, last year's Academy Award nominated actress from Michael Haneke's Amour.
|Pawel Pawlokowski's Ida|
I am quite drawn to Caroline Strubbe's I'm the same, I'm an other, in the Wavelengths programme, which follows a man and a little girl on a road trip through Western Europe as they try to overcome their grief. The film's story is evocative of Jacques Doillon's 1996 film, Ponette, and the trailer for Strubbe's film makes clear the dwelling in emotional 'real time'.
I've always been partial to stories that focus on children making their way in a vanquished and seemingly overwrought world. Set in Valencia, Spain, Alberto Morais' Kids From the Port describes the determination and spirit of three children as they set out on a mission on behalf of a grandfather. Diana Sanchez' programme note for this film is one of the best-written ones in the whole catalogue.
|Mohamad Malas' Ladder to Damascus|
I was so moved by Hirokazu Kore-Eda's I Wish in the 2011 festival. Focused on children whose lives are torn apart by divorce, but who devise a plan to make all things right, it relied on the tenacity of the imagination as healer. Kore-Eda's current film, Like Father, Like Son, debuting at TIFF, takes a more sober view of childhood and this time from the vantage point of the parents who raise them. A chance discovery throws their world in orbit and forces the question "Is this child really mine?" Looking forward to the latest by this master.
Pierce Brosnan has never been my idea of an appealing leading man - until I saw him last year in Susanne Bier's Love is all you need, opposite the always beautiful and compelling Trine Dyrholm. Though I had problems with the film as a whole, the two leads were lovely, and I decided Brosnan, if not a deep actor, could at least make me care about him. Joel Hopkins' The Love Punch, featuring Brosnan and Emma Thompson as divorced jewel thieves who decide to work together on a heist, looks like light fun. Co-starring the ubiquitous and under-appreciated Celia Imrie (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; Imagine Me and You).
|Irrfan Khan in Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox|
Continued in next post with M - L!