Hopefully, you’ve all enjoyed my coverage of TIFF these past two weeks. You might be tired of hearing about it, but spare me one more moment to talk a little about what I’ve learned on my trip to that spot of land a bit north of the USA.
This was my first time going to TIFF, going to Canada, covering and even attending a film festival. It’s a lot of firsts for me to handle – I hope I did okay.
I watched a grand total of 35 films (all listed here). I posted reviews for 22 films and did 1 interview. I took in 4 movies and 3 cups of coffee a day. I walked out of 2 films, fell asleep in 3 and couldn’t complete 2 due to projection issues. I saw my first film ever projected in 70mm (The Master, of course) and overall had a blast. I’m still trying to figure out how to go back to “normal” everyday life after that, but so it goes.
So I went to Toronto and I ended up being horrendous at keeping up to pace with everything that was going on. I had a great time and posted a good amount (I’ll do better next year) of reviews over at Film School Rejects. However I thought it’d be nice to do a little round up review section where I go through every film I saw and do a 1 line decision here.
So in alphabetical order:
- 9.79* (dir. Daniel Gordon) - a mediocre documentary that never tries to contextualize it’s content into the future of the sport.
- Aftershock (dir. Nicolas Lopez) - average horror film that happens to be fun enough to be enjoyable.
- At Any Price (dir. Ramin Bahrani) - heavy handed but with gems of a sub-culture for those who don’t know about that part of life.
- Cloud Atlas (dir. Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski & Tom Tykwer) - fantastic grand science-fiction/period piece epic film that will be loved by many when released wide.
- Dangerous Liasons (dir. Jin-ho Hur) – nice adaptation, love the first hour and half and the final forty minutes are ok.
- Everyday (dir. Michael Winterbottom) - fantastic emotional film that doesn’t need the narrative to win me over.
- Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story (dir. Brad Bernstein) – great subjects make great documentaries, here’s a great example of that.
- Ghost Graduation (dir. Javier Ruiz Caldera) – Breakfast Club references aside the film is fun, just not great.
- Hellbenders (dir. J. T. Petty) – boring satire of Ghostbusters and the Exorcist but never gets anything going.
- Here Comes the Devil (dir. Adrian Garcia Bogliano) – creepy horror film that enjoys it’s grindhouse feel and is more frightening than I expected.
- The Iceman (dir. Ariel Vromen) – dark strong performances and a fun hitman tale makes for a great movie starring the Michael Shannon.
- In Another Country (dir. Sang-soo Hong) – boring, but I did walk out after an hour…so won’t rail it too bad.
- John Dies at the End (dir. Don Coscarelli) – boring horror film which thinks it’s being Fight Club level of clever.
- Key of Life (dir. Kenji Uchida) - hilarious screw ball comedy which I feel everyone should see.
- The Last Supper (dir. Lu Chuan) – epic historical tale, walked out after 90 mins due to timing problems but slow as all hell.
- A Liar’s Autobiography — The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman (dir. Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson & Ben Timlett) – uneventful documentary that never makes any sense or entertains.
- Like Someone in Love (dir. Abbas Kiarostami) – fantastic film where we follow two characters in this slice of life moment that engages throughout.
- Looper (dir. Rian Johnson) – great blend of science-fiction/action movie making that will wow audiences.
- The Master (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) – grand, fantastic, brilliant, hypnotic, and also emotionally draining.
- Motorway (dir. Pou-Soi Cheang) – vapid Hong Kong film that never quite gets the correct balance of stupid story and amazing action.
- Much Ado About Nothing (dir. Joss Whedon) – great adaptation with lots of Whedon fun.
- Passion (dir. Brian De Palma) – good remake that will remind you why you’ll never like working in an office.
- Pieta (dir. Ki-duk Kim) – brilliant revenge film which plays with a lot of ideas.
- The Place Beyond the Pines (dir. Derek Cianfrance) – a look at two characters and what makes them good or bad and the same in the same instance.
- Pusher (dir. Luis Prieto) – trite and mediocre film that doesn’t quite have the momentum it wants to be fun.
- Reality (dir. Matteo Garrone) – interesting look at celebrity and obsession.
- Rust and Bone (dir. Jaques Audiard) – a draining drama with a few manipulative points and great performances.
- The Sessions (dir. Ben Lewin) – hilarious grown-up sex comedy that knows how to make you cry.
- Seven Psychopaths (dir. Martin McDonagh) – amazing study of writing and use of horror sub-genres to play with audiences in the best way imaginable.
- Sightseers (dir. Ben Wheatley) – dark comedy that makes you hate yourself for laughing, then laugh at the fact that you hate yourself.
- Smashed (dir. James Ponsoldt) – rushed story that has a great performance by Winstead.
- Thanks for Sharing (dir. Stuart Blumberg) – underwhelming film that never quite makes any impression.
- Thermae Romae (dir.Hideki Takeuchi) - fun silly comedy that was probably fifteen minutes too long.
- To The Wonder (dir. Terrence Malick) – everything you expect from a Malick film and nothing more. I still await his return to Badlands style storytelling.
- The We and The I (dir. Michel Gondry) – lack of a story and no interesting characters makes for the worst film I saw all festival.
Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Punch Drunk Love) makes films which are many things, but more times than not one of the many words used to describe said films is ‘hypnotic’. The Master is no different. Anderson continues to display his ability to create scenes that flow into each other in such a way that regardless of how dialogue heavy his films are or how long they are you can almost never tell when they stop or end or find yourself staring at your watch wondering about your time spent.
Coming out of this screening of The Master there was talk from certain members of the audience of this film being ‘empty’. This point may feel valid at first but the truth is that there’s so much happening in the film to process that you can miss the point completely. A lot of the finesse of the film is disguised by the wonderfully kinetic style of filmmaking that Anderson is known for.
The question one has to ask yourself when watching this film is: what’s the difference between religion and cult, and which does Lancaster Dodd’s (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) teachings fall under? Religion is mainly based on the ideal of belief; it proposed morals and ideals to live by with the underlying belief that complying with them will serve a greater purpose. Cult on the other hand serves only the purpose of a group, or in some cases one man, to provide that source with some benefit. It’s obvious then, and the film actually says it out loud, that Lancaster’s teachings are that more of a cult than religion. While he states its teachings are there to serve more than just him it is actually the ideal of justifying his own opinions on life and the world.
The Master manages to hold its audience in a constant daze as we continually linger in moments of character. When Lancaster first meets Freddie (Joaquin Pheonix) and they discuss his ‘potion’ which contains ‘secrets’ it’s mesmerizing. While the film doesn’t land any Frank T. J. Mackey or Daniel Plainview level monologues that will be quoted for the next decade it does contain so many memorable moments of beautiful storytelling. From when we see Freddie’s montage (or as best as PTA can do a montage) of failed attempts at living a normal life after the war to his attempt to comply to Lancaster’s teachings with a test of describing a wall and a window repeatedly we are able to see a character’s true nature of frustration. Freddie is an alcoholic, but why is the question that’s never answered. The film proposes an odd relationship between Freddie and Lancaster. Lancaster is fascinated by Freddie and believes he can help him and while it seems that Freddie is very interested in Lancaster and his teachings we never believe that Freddie is completely sold on them. He continually wants to believe in Lancaster’s teachings but he’s unable to actually deify him.
The performances in this film are stunning. Looking past the obvious turn outs from Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Pheonix; Amy Adams and Jesse Plemons give brilliant supporting performances in the film. Adams serves the role of supportive, but stern, wife well. At times you believe that Lancaster receives all of his strength and will to create this system of belief from Peggy (Amy Adams). On the other hand Val (Jesse Plemons) does well to serve as a counter point to Peggy. While not openly against the movement he has no stake in it and remains skeptical. The character allows for interesting notes between him and Freddie as Freddie continually pushes others to believe and not question the words of Lancaster, even though he doesn’t truly believe.
Johnny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood) delivers some of the most original tones to film that we’ve heard all year. The film, being about Freddie’s search for belief, is complimented by Greenwood’s strange sense of constant displacement from normalcy. A track will begin with a feel of pieces missing and as the scene (and track) reveals more and more about itself the score will fill in those blanks but then will eventually veer off again into being displaced again to help keep Freddie’s journey as lost as it ever is.
The Master is the masterpiece film that TIFF was searching for and pleased to be found. PTA remains an unblemished filmmaker and not many can say that about themselves in this business.
So the last three days have been a flurry of great, mediocre and lazy films. But all things that make me happy I made the trip. Some of these reviews are yet to be posted, so please come back later in the day and you’ll see more content in this post:
A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman (dir. Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, Ben Timlett)
“A Liar’s Autobiography almost strikes me as a comedian experimenting with a routine, in which he hasn’t quite worked out all the kinks, and which someone thought would be great to throw up on the screen as the finished product.” Read the full review on FSR
Like Someone in Love (dir. Abbas Kiarostami)
“What this film, like Certified Copy, does so well is in its ability to hold your attention for long periods of time while the setting and camera barely change. It’s engaging even when all that’s occurring on screen is interesting dialogue between two (and in some cases three) characters.” Read the full review on FSR.
Seven Psychopaths (dir. Martin McDonagh)
“Seven Psychopaths also plays a lot with film conventions. During the runtime of the film, as Marty is discovering his psychopath characters, there is a series of shorter films embedded within the movie.” Read the full review on FSR.
The Place Beyond the Pines (dir. Derek Cianfrance)
“To its merit, the film constantly utilizes this side-by-side effect to show how divided the world can be. It’s a bit like in The Departed when Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello says “they would say we can become cops or criminals…when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?”. Place Beyond the Pines actually tries to take a deeper look at that loaded gun in order to decipher a real difference.” Read the full review on FSR.
The Sessions (dir. Ben Lewin)
“The Sessions delves into the same territory as films like Friends With Benefits. The idea that a relationship, professional or otherwise, where sex and intimacy are the primary basis won’t lead to emotional entanglement continues to baffle screenwriters as they pretend that the film won’t end in tears for both people involved. This film, while still running into those moments, handles them in ways that feel a lot more real than previous films that are only half as funny.” Read the full review on FSR.
Day 2 was a much
better more productive day as my screenings finished a bit early and I found myself with little to do. However including getting to see the latest film by Jaques Audiard and Michel Gondry films (so a very French day). I also got a chance to meet and talk with Nathan Johnson, the composer of the score of Brick, The Brothers Bloom and Looper, which isn’t live yet but hopefully y’all will get to read that in the coming days.
Here’s your day’s dosage of reviews:
The We and The I (dir. Michel Gondry)
“Gondry splits up the movie into three distinct chapters: “The Bullies,” “The Chaos” and “The I.” As the film moves from chapter A to chapter B it feels almost the same way we would see films show the progression of the stages of grief; it’s sudden and almost without warning.” Read the full review on FSR
Rust and Bone (dir. Jaques Audiard)
“Alain is a character of much contrivance. He comes off mostly as a drifter with little to his name. His inability to pity Stephanie is what benefits her as we watch her recovery, but at the same time we see him have the same approach to how he handles his relationship with his sister and his five-year-old son. His response to anything he can’t quite control is to lash out at it, with scenes of him shouting and punishing his child.” Read the full review on FSR
Day 3’s Schedule: The Place Beyond the Pines, Seven Psychopaths & A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman