It’s as if I brought my Jamaican weather to Toronto today as it was searingly hot outside, which made for a great day inside to watch movies.
THE UNKNOWN KNOWN (dir. Errol Morris)
This is not the 9/11 Pentagon tell all. This isn’t a bad thing, it is just a warning for those lovers of things like Fog of War looking for that in this movie, it’s not that. Errol Morris himself after the screening even said, “This is not Fog of War 2… it’s more Tabloid 2″… and I agree.
Donald Rumsfeld is a career politician who has become infamous for being perfectly amazing in public relations and he continues to do so here. In this series of discussions that Rumsfeld has with Morris we follow his discussions of post 9/11, Iraq, Raegan, Cheeney and many other aspects of his career and personal life. They’re all done mostly through a series of memos that he was known for while in politics which many called “snowflakes”. We’re treated to his reading of them as well as a visual representation on screen. The most stark memo is the one the title comes from, discussing the “known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns, and unknown knowns” which we hear read a few times in the film.
More than being informative this is being meditative as somehow Morris is able to capture a sense of Rumsfeld as he talks his career with us as well as he can and we’re just engaged throughout. The way that Morris handles the visuals as well as auditory experience of this conversation is able to hold our attention for the full 100 minutes without waning in any way. Even when at the end of it all we ask ourselves what we learnt and come up with little to nothing then it seem even more masterful the work of Morris.
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY: HIS & HERS (dir. Ned Benson)
It’s a sprawling romance which is divided into two sides of the story, His and Hers. The filmmaker, Ned Benson, touts the film’s ability to be watched in any order and as such I saw it in the order of Hers and His, After the mysterious death of Eleanor and Connor’s child their relationship gets into a bit of a problem and Eleanor needs space to figure things out. In this time we see how their lives change from being madly in love to something else and struggle to make it on the other side.
What I love so much about this movie is that not only is it dramatically great but it has this sense of memories as opposed to objective voyeuristic filmmaking. There are a few scenes that both Connor and Eleanor share in the film and that is where it shines as you see the blatant separation of his story versus hers and it works. It’s no longer just about their development as an outsiders perspective but rather a very much more internal process.
CHILD OF GOD (dir. James Franco)
This film follows Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) as this wild man lost after he’s removed from his land and had it sold from under him. He spends the rest of the film running around the caves and woods just being and whenever he comes upon someone else it never seems to go well.
In a film where you will be subjected to graphic masturbation, defecation and necrophilia many have to ask what good this film has to offer. It’s a harsh film with little plotting as some would try to forgive it if it were a documentary and we could ask the filmmakers how they actually found this man and why they wanted to highlight him. However, as it was a choice of not something real to find interesting but something fictitious it feels wrong.
Eventually I stayed for the sake of counting how many walk outs there were from the audience; there were 12. (Am I allowed to give a 0/5?)
MAN OF TAI CHI (dir. Keanu Reeves)
Action amazingness which is perfectly what I needed at the end of this day. At a festival like this I end up stacking a lot of heavy films. Foreign films where people are just sad and defeated and some that are just obtuse. Man of Tai Chi comes to save the day and provide great entertainment value with some amazingly shot kung fu that I think is way better than many want to give it credit for.
There are certain sequences, even the first training scene, with Tiger and his Master that the camera movement just feels different and engaging. This feels great throughout all the sequences.
Man of Tai Chi‘s story itself is borderline questionable at times, but also simple enough that it doesn’t really break anything too easily. Tiger is brought into this underground fighting ring for some odd reason and Donaka (Keanu Reeves) is his sponsor that seems to be leading him down a path that we’re unsure why he even cares for.
Part of me expected this to be the typical American kung fu film but it reeks of amazing Chinese cinema with not just the setting but being a production of China with very few non Chinese actors or moments. With the exception of Keanu’s scenes I believe everything else was completely Chinese dialogue and while Keanu’s scenes were bad and on the same level of all of his other films when it comes to performance conversations I’m starting more and more to believe that it’s more a case of Keanu giving us what his fans expect — i.e. cheesy cinema moments that we laugh at– than anything else, and I’m okay with that.