TIFF HITS AND MISSES
There’s still a week until TIFF 2012 begins, but here’s a sneak peek at some of the big- buzz flicks, awards- bound entries, quiet sleepers... and a few you should probably miss. Plus, NOW’s critics reveal what’s on their personal must- see lists. And che
Looper, Rust And Bone, The Sessions and Laurence, Anyways are among the films to catch in our early review roundup
THURSDAY, SEPT 6
THE END OF TIME MAST D: Peter Mettler. Canada/ Switzerland. 114 min. Sep 6, 9:15 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; Sep 8, 12:15 pm Yonge & Dundas 2 Rating: NNN A decade after exploring transcendence in Gambling, Gods & LSD, Mettler returns with another conceptual documentary, this one investigating the perception of time.
It’s an intriguing notion, and for about 90 minutes it’s spellbinding. Mettler visits CERN to explore the concept of celestial time, a Hawaiian lava flow to consider geological time, Detroit to see the city’s recent financial collapse represented physically in abandoned buildings, and a Hindu funeral to show how humans mark time. And then he overstays his welcome with a very long (and narratively questionable) experimental sequence that feels like a CG version of 2001’s Star Gate sequence. Maybe he was trying to make me realize how slowly time passes when you’re bored. NW
LOOPER GALA D: Rian Johnson w/ Joseph Gordon- Levitt, Bruce Willis. U. S. 118 min. Sep 6, 6: 30 pm Visa Screening Room (Elgin); Sep 6, 8 pm Roy Thomson Hall Rating: NNNN Writer/director Johnson does for time travel movies what he did for film noir in Brick, taking the bones of a genre we know backwards and forwards – in this case literally – and putting a fresh new skin around them.
It’s 2044, and dead- eyed Joe (Gordon- Levitt) makes his living as a Looper, killing people sent back from 2074 so the future’s criminals won’t have bodies to hide. But when his future self ( Willis) arrives and escapes assassination, Young Joe finds himself on the run from his employers, who are out to grab them both.
It gets much more complicated than that when Young Joe meets a single mother (Emily Blunt) and her son (Pierce Gagnon), but Johnson keeps the pace fleet and the twists ingenious. This is first- rate head-fizzing entertainment, with exceptional performances by Gordon- Levitt, Blunt and Willis – and Jeff Daniels and Garret Dillahunt, too, come to think of it. NW
RUST AND BONE (DE ROUILLE ET D’OS) SP D: Jacques Audirad w/ Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts. France/Belgium. 120 min. Sep 6, 9: 30 pm Visa Screening Room (Elgin); Sep 7, noon Ryerson Rating: NNNNN Audiard follows up A Prophet, his masterful prison drama, with another muscular film, this time a romance.
A de- glammed Cotillard stars as Stéphanie, an orca trainer at a French Riviera amusement park who, after losing her legs in a workplace accident, begins a beautifully awkward relationship with Ali (Bullhead’s Schoenaerts), a blunt instrument of a man.
Despite the Côte d’Azur setting and Katy Perry on the soundtrack,
Audiard’s elegant film has a rougharound-the- edges aesthetic and refuses to sensationalize its subject. Some will dismiss it because of its hoary contrivances, particularly during the gutwrenching climax, but they’re not giving the brilliant director his due.
His genre clichés are part of his greater argument about deceptive appearances, moral redempton and false hopes. RS
WL D: Miguel Gomes w/ Teresa Madruga, Laura Soveral. Portugal/Germany/Brazil/ France. 110 min. Sep 6, 6:15 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; Sep 8, 1 pm Jackman Hall ( AGO) Rating: NNN Portuguese writer/director and occasional surrealist Gomes (Our Beloved Month Of August) shows considerable ambition in this bifurcated black-and-white drama, which spends its first half in present- day Lisbon, where a woman (Madruga) worries about her elderly neighbour ( Soveral), then jumps back half a century to tell the story of that neighbour’s life in Africa as a silent film narrated by her former lover (Carloto Cotta).
The problem is that the second half doesn’t really illuminate the first. Instead of finding a way to knit the two together, Gomes settles for a playful recreation of jungle- movie tropes and a couple of nods to F.W. Murnau’s 1931 Tabu: A Story Of The South Seas and calls it a day. Great soundtrack, though. NW
FRIDAY, SEPT 7
SP D: Joe Wright w/ Keira Knightley, Aaron Taylor-Johnson. UK. 130 min. Sep 7, 6 pm Visa Screening Room (Elgin); Sep 8, 12:15 pm Isabel Bader Rating: NNN Wright tries to outdo Baz Luhrmann in this high- concept adaptation of Tolstoy’s novel that sets much of its sprawling action in an elegant theatre. This allows for swift scene changes (and must have kept costs down), and up to a point it makes sense thematically – stressing the artifice of 19th- century Russian society and the culture of watching and gossiping that ultimately dooms the affair between married mom Anna (Knightley) and her lover, Vronsky ( Taylor-Johnson).
But the strategy isn’t used consistently, mixing theatre interiors with actual exterior locations (it was filmed partly in Russia). And despite Tom Stoppard’s clear screenplay, the effect distances us from the characters.
Still, it’s a bold approach, and the leads (along with Domhnall Gleeson’s sympathetic Levin) are fine, although Jude Law steals the picture with his pinched yet dignified and human portrayal of Anna’s cuckolded husband.
DISC D: Kate Melville w/ Tatiana Maslany, Spencer Van Wyck. Canada. 93 min. Sep 7, 9:45 pm Isabel Bader; Sep 8, 3: 30 pm Yonge & Dundas 6; Sep 16, 6:45 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 Rating: NNN See Tatiana Maslany cover story and review of the film, page 10.
VAN D: Luis Prieto w/ Richard Coyle, Bronson Webb. UK. 87 min. Sep 7, 9 pm Bloor Hot Docs Cinema; Sep 9, noon Yonge & Dundas 10 Rating: NNN This is actually the second British remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 breakout thriller about a mid- level coke dealer who finds himself on the hook to a vicious mobster; an earlier Hindi version was produced in 2010.
Coyle (Coupling) takes on the role of the increasingly panicked anti- hero, but Zlatko Buric (who was in all three of the original Danish movies) reprises the role of the fatherly heavy. It’s all hand- held cameras, crisp editing and pounding music, and Coyle is fine – though he’s styled to play up his resemblance to Andy Serkis, making one wonder how much more effective Serkis would have been in the role.
But as slick as director Prieto makes the production, he never quite pulls it out from under Winding Refn’s shadow. NW
SATURDAY, SEPT 8 AMOUR
MAST D: Michael Haneke w/
Emmanuelle Riva, Jean- Louis Trintignant. Austria/France/Germany. 127 min. Sep 8, 6 pm Visa Screening Room (Elgin); Sep 16, 9 am TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 Rating: NNNNN Austrian auteur Haneke (Caché, The White Ribbon) won his second Palme d’Or for this unforgiving tale of an aging husband and wife (French screen legends Trintignant and Riva) whose lives disintegrate into torment after she’s paralyzed by a stroke and he devotes himself to her care.
Turns out there’s no one better to chronicle the tiny, cumulative miseries of old age than an emotional sadist, and Haneke can turn a simple sequence of a man moving his paralyzed wife from her bed to a chair into a nerve- shredding, heart- inmouth aria of suspense. The director’s approach is unapologetically manipulative, but Trintingnant and Riva invest every moment with life and history. I never want to see this movie again, but that’s testament to its power. NW
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER
SP D: Stephen Chbosky w/ Logan
Lerman, Emma Watson. U. S. 103 min. Sep 8, 6:15 pm Ryerson; Sep 9, 3: 30 pm Yonge & Dundas 7 Rating: NNNN Chbosky makes his directorial debut with this adaptation of his 1999 young-adult novel about a teenager (Lerman) just starting to come out of his shell after a traumatic experience, thanks mostly to the prodding of new school friends ( Watson, Ezra Miller).
It’s set in Pittsburgh about 20 years ago, and Chbosky gets the period absolutely right. Not only are the clothes and fads rendered accurately, but the movie nails the sense of isolation and confusion that existed before the internet allowed us to answer any question in a heartbeat. Lerman’s withdrawn, inarticulate performance contrasts nicely with
Watson and Miller’s ebullience, and his scenes with Paul Rudd (as a sympathetic English teacher) are wonderful.
This could have been pap. It’s anything but. NW
( TIE POHJOISEEN)
CWC D: Mika Kaurismäki w/
Vesa- Matti Loiri, Samuli Edelmann. Finland. 110 min. Sep 8, 6 pm Yonge & Dundas 9; Sep 9, 12: 30 pm Yonge & Dundas 9; Sep 16, 9 am Yonge & Dundas 10 Rating: NNNN An estranged, wastrel of a dad (Loiri) shows up drunk on the doorstep of his son (Edelmann), an uptight, 40-something concert pianist. The two embark on an on-the-fly road trip with life- changing stops along the way.
You’ve been down this sort of road many times before, but Kaurismäki surprises with a sly journey full of warmth, humour and whimsy. Loiri’s jovial performance as the cunning father anchors the film. He’s difficult to trust, but like his son, you want to ride with him anyway. RS
THE SECRET DISCO REVOLUTION
DOC D: Jamie Kastner w/ Gloria Gaynor, the Village People. Canada. 84 min. Sep 8, 9:45 pm Scotiabank 3; Sep 13, 3 pm Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Rating: NN If there was something revolutionary about disco, it’s certainly been kept secret from this filmmaker. Kastner offers a history of the maligned musical genre while taking Hot Stuff author Alice Echols’s position that the disco movement was politically liberating for the marginalized.
Stuffed with incoherent arguments, a whole lot of speculation and sweeping statements that anger even the Village People, the film is only redeemed when Kastner finally shares the audience’s frustration. Like disco, the doc has little to offer, but Kastner dances around the subject well. RS
WEST OF MEMPHIS
MAV D: Amy Berg. 146 min. Sep 8,
2: 30 pm Ryerson Rating: NNNN Just a year after Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky brought Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory to TIFF, another feature documentary about Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley Jr., wrongfully convicted of the 1993 murders of three eight-year- old children in West Memphis, Arkansas, might seem unnecessary – but the story of the West Memphis Three can never be examined closely enough.
Berg’s narrative doc is much more emotionally accessible than the meditative Paradise Lost films, with appearances by celebrity supporters like Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (who produced this film), Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp and Natalie Maines.
The film organizes two decades of investigation and activism into a comprehensive two-and- half- hour narrative, re- interviewing key figures from new angles and bolstering Berlinger and Sinofsky’s thesis that the case epitomizes the horribly flawed nature of the Arkansas justice system, which would much rather abandon an innocent man on death row than reopen a closed case. NW
SUNDAY, SEPT 9 A FEW HOURS OF SPRING
(QUELQUES HEURES DE PRINTEMPS) SP D: Stéphane Brizé w/ Vincent Lindon, Hélène Vincent. France. 109 min. Sep 9, 9:45 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 2; Sep 11, 5 pm Yonge & Dundas 6 Rating: NNN This finely modulated examination of a working- class mother- son relationship takes a satisfying turn once the son (Lindon) discovers that his independent- minded mother ( Vincent) has opted for assisted suicide to deal with her terminal cancer. Tenderness blossoms amidst the gravitas as the ex- con truck driver’s concentrated gaze at his dying mother melts away years of non- communication between two stubborn solitudes.
The mother’s dedication to fulfilling her desire to die with dignity makes a persuasive case for a humane way out, even if it means going to Switzerland to do it legally. Brize’s sensitive direction and compassion for his characters enable us to empathize with the plight of these two inarticulate people. PE
SP D: Ben Lewin w/ John Hawkes,
Helen Hunt. U. S. 95 min. Sep 9, 2: 30 pm Visa Screening Room (Elgin); Sep 11, 2: 30 pm Visa Screening Room (Elgin); Sep 15, noon Ryerson Rating: NNNN In a challenging role that’s sure to get awards attention, Hawkes ( Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene) plays Mark O’Brien, a real- life poet and journalist who, because of childhood polio, spends most of his life in an iron lung or on a gurney.
The film recounts his attempts in his late 30s to lose his virginity with a sex surrogate named Cheryl (Hunt). The fact that he’s Catholic, and recounts his experiences to his priest ( William H. Macy), adds another fascinating element.
Director Lewin sometimes struggles to find the right tone, but the story unfolds elegantly, and he’s helped by a magnificent cast. Acting entirely with his head, Hawkes, his voice breathy and pitched high, finds a huge range of subtle emotion, and Hunt invests her character with depth and compassion even as she’s struggling with her own conflicted emotions. GS
MONDAY, SEPT 10 ANTIVIRAL
SP D: Brandon Cronenberg w/ Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon. Canada. 108 min. Sep 10, 9 pm Ryerson; Sep 12, 2:45 pm Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Rating: NN In a world so fame- crazed that people pay to be infected with celebrities’ diseases, a black marketeer ( Jones) injects himself with the blood of an ailing superstar (Gadon) and becomes a pawn in a very deadly game.
Writer/director Cronenberg has said he’s never seen any of his father, David’s, movies, so apparently they’re in his DNA. Antiviral is basically Videodrome with viruses instead of tumours, right down to the biomechanical hallucinations and the corporate war subtext.
But this version’s told so clinically that it might as well be hermetically sealed, and Jones’s character is never anything more than a scowling, bug- eyed cipher. Gadon’s great as a sheltered (and possibly genuinely innocent) superstar, but she’s only in the film long enough to make us wish she’d stuck around longer. NW
BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO
VAN D: Peter Strickland w/ Toby Jones, Cosimo Fusco. UK. 92 min. Sep 10, 6 pm Bloor Hot Docs Cinema; Sep 11, 2:45 pm Yonge & Dundas 3 Rating: NNN Berberian Sound Studio takes place almost entirely within the confines of the eponymous Italian recording facility where a repressed British engineer ( Jones) has arrived to mix a bloody giallo called The Equestrian Vortex.
Writer/director Strickland sets the story in the mid-70s, right around the time Dario Argento was finishing up Suspiria, and that film’s suffocating, oppressive sensibility is replicated here with lots of heavy breathing and shrieking (as looped by actors in sound booths) and flesh- squelching (as recreated by foley artists stabbing watermelons and smashing fruit).
As our twitchy hero begins to come apart under the stress of the job, the movie echoes his crumbling state of mind by coming unstuck in chronology and language – sort of. It evaporates like a bad dream as soon as the lights come up, but the experience is still worth having. NW
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON
GALA D: Roger Michell w/ Bill Murray, Laura Linney. United Kingdom. 95 min. Sep 10, 6: 30 pm Roy Thomson Hall; Sep 11, 12: 30 pm Winter Garden Rating: NN In 1939, George VI and Elizabeth spent a weekend at Franklin D. Roosevelt’s estate in hopes of getting the president to pledge U. S. support in the coming war. Also present was FDR’s cousin (and occasional lover) Daisy, whose diaries provide the factual basis for this shameless King’s Speech wannabe.
Hyde Park On Hudson is more concerned with historical pageantry than with actual drama, forever imagining the conversations of its famous characters behind closed doors. Linney’s Daisy serves as narrator and audience surrogate, but the movie has no time for her, being much more interested in the scenes between Murray’s paternal FDR and Samuel West’s insecure George, which are clearly meant to echo the interplay between Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth. Olivia Colman gets to have a little fun as George’s wife, Elizabeth; Murray’s Rushmore co- star Olivia Williams, as Eleanor Roosevelt, does not.
Every moment seems calculated to appeal to the mainstream
American audience that embraced The King’s Speech. Why else would the English characters use the term “stutter” instead of “stammer” in reference to George’s speech impediment? NW
A LATE QUARTET
SP D: Yaron Zilberman w/ Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman. U. S. 105 min. Sep 10, 6 pm Visa Screening Room (Elgin); Sep 12, 5 pm Scotiabank 4 Rating: NNN When Peter ( Walken), leader of a famous string quartet, sees signs in himself of a degenerative disease and contemplates retirement, jealousy, ambition and life crises start rocking his collaborators (Hoffman, Mark Ivanir and Catherine Keener).
There’s some great writing in director Zilberman and Seth Grossman’s script on the topic of music – a speech about Peter’s encounter with Pablo Casals is amazing – and good performances by a great cast. But until the last scene, the film is emotionally slack, and no one except Walken is credible as a string player, a major problem with the editing and coaching. SGC
TUESDAY, SEPT 11 BURN IT UP DJASSA
(LE DJASSA A PRIS FEU)
DISC D: Lonesome Solo w/ Abdoul
Karim Konaté, Mohamed Bamba. Ivory Coast/France. 70 min. Sep 11, 7 pm Jackman Hall ( AGO); Sep 13, 10 pm Jackman Hall ( AGO); Sep 14, 12:45 pm Scotiabank 4 Rating: NNNN Solo’s remarkable debut is a gritty crime drama that holds a whole lot of promise for raw Ivory Coast filmmaking. Konaté turns in a fiery performance as Tony, a street dweller with undeniable charisma and an itch for something more than his legitimate job selling cigarettes can offer.
Solo directs with a realist’s pulse while frequently cutting to a young narrator (Bamba) who tells a slightly skewed version of Tony’s story.
Solo’s like a ghetto mythmaker, turning street life into art and taking Africa’s oral storytelling traditions in a fresh direction. RS
DISC D: Kazik Radwanski w/ Derek Bogart, Nicole Fairbairn. Canada. 78 min. Sep 11, 10 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 3; Sep 12, 6:15 pm Yonge & Dundas 9 Rating: NNN An admirable feature debut by former Ryerson student Radwanski, Tower is a tightly focused but somewhat hollow character study that makes the most of a microbudget.
Holding the film’s claustrophobic close- ups throughout is Derek (Bogart), a 34-year- old Toronto loner who shrugs off relationships just as he does goals and responsibilities. He’s a repellant personality not because we see him do anything bad, but because his expression and speech make you long for better company. Still, the actor is a true discovery, and his exceptionally nuanced performance keeps Tower standing despite its iffy foundation. RS
WEDNESDAY, SEPT 12
SP D: Matteo Garrone w/ Aniello Arena, Loredana Simioli. Italy/France. 115 min. Sep 12, 6:45 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; Sep 13, 9: 30 pm Scotiabank 3 Rating: NN Having explored the insidious reach of organized crime in Gomorrah, director Garrone examines the effects of another corrosive social disease on Italian society: the allure of reality television.
An extroverted Neapolitan fishmonger ( Arena) auditions for a spot on the Italian version of Big Brother and slowly becomes obsessed with appearing on the show. It’s a promising idea, but Garrone exhausts his comic and satirical potential after about an hour, leaving Reality wheezing toothlessly in a feedback loop of obnoxious behaviour and increasingly obtuse plotting.
Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín – who’s at TIFF this year with his political drama No – told exactly the same story in 2008’s Tony Manero with far more wit and bite. Seek that out instead. NW
CWC D: James Ponsoldt w/ Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aaron Paul. U. S. 85 min. Sep 12, 6 pm Ryerson; Sep 13, 5 pm Yonge & Dundas 7 Rating: NNN The marriage of two young drunks ( Winstead, Paul) is tested when she decides to get sober and he doesn’t. Still working the functioning-alcoholic angle he played in Off The Black, director Ponsoldt has made a movie that feels as unstable as its protagonists; it wobbles between uncomfortable comedy and shattering drama, sometimes in the same scene.
Winstead’s virtually unrecognizable from her more composed turns in Scott Pilgrim and that Thing prequel, and Paul does a more solicitous version of Breaking Bad’s ruined Jesse Pinkman. But the pieces don’t quite snap together the way they should. Ponsoldt can’t help underlining every Big Emotional Turning Point, and while Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and Octavia Spencer do their best to lend humanity to their supporting roles, the movie never sees them as anything more than plot devices. NW
THE SUICIDE SHOP
(LE MAGASIN DES SUICIDES) SP D: Patrice Leconte w/ Bernard Alane, Isabelle Spade. France/Belgium/Canada. 79 min. Sep 12, 9 pm Ryerson; Sep 16, 12: 30 pm Scotiabank 2 Rating: NNN When suicide seems like the only way to go, the Tuvache family business makes sure you go out with options: poisons packaged like perfumes, a handmade sword for hara- kiri or a plastic bag and tape for the hobos who cant pay for more. That’s the morbidly amusing premise in The Suicide Shop, an animated comedy that squeezes as much life out of its central gag as it can.
The flat musical numbers seem a dull ploy to pad out the running time, but Leconte compensates with old- school animation that boasts visual wit and dry humour. RS
THURSDAY, SEPT 13
SP D: Xavier Dolan w/ Melvil
Poupaud, Suzanne Clément. Canada. 161 min. Sep 13, 9 pm Visa Screening Room (Elgin); Sep 15, 9 am TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 Rating: NNNN A love relationship goes through wild ups and downs when Laurence (Poupaud) transitions from male to female and his girlfriend (Clément) tries to support her. Saturating his colour palette and adding magical touches so that nature mirrors the story’s powerful emotions, Dolan ( J’ai Tué Ma Mere) creates a gorgeous, epic romance that never loses its energy despite the film’s length.
The performances are spectacular, especially Clément’s as a woman who desperately wants to believe she can be part of the gender revolution, and Nathalie Baye’s as Laurence’s deeply conflicted mother. SGC
FRIDAY, SEPT 14 BESTIAIRE
WL D: Denis Côté. Canada/France. 72
min. Sep 14, 6: 30 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 3; Sep 16, 10 am TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 Rating: NNNN We look at animals. They may or may not look back. Côté’s extraordinary meditation on the relationship between man and beast (and even the camera) is simply a series of static shots that leave you thinking.
Bestiaire is not for everyone, since it demands a patient audience willing to fill in the gaps between Côté’s striking compositions and telling montage. Those who are game will be richly rewarded, while the rest will have a better time at Marineland. RS
(WAR WITCH) SP D: Kim Nguyen w/ Rachel Mwanza, Serge Kanyinda. Canada. 90 min. Sep 14, 9 pm Visa Screening Room (Elgin); Sep 15, 3 pm TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 Rating: NNN For a film about child soldiers in an unnamed African country, Rebelle shows surprising restraint.
Director Nguyen’s decision to look away from carnage and avoid melodrama may limit our engagement, but it’s the admirable choice, making room for sensitive and imaginative filmmaking. Non-actor Mwanza (a revelation) stars as 12-year- old Komona, a village girl abducted by rebels, forced to kill her own parents and baptized the War Witch for her ability to sense impending danger. Komona’s attempt to escape along with an infatuated albino boy (Kanyinda) provides a sweet, even whimsical interlude from the horrors of war that seems too good to be true. RS