Wednesday, 4 September 2019

My Mini TIFF Preview

This Thursday, the Toronto International Film Festival starts once again – and like every year, I will be attending. Gone are the days when I could spend the whole week watching 4 movies a day – I am too old, and I get too tired, and with the kids, I don’t want to leave them for that long. Last year, I did three days, four movies a day, and I was exhausted by Day 3. So this year, I’m going to do four days, three movies a day, and hopefully won’t be as tired. As I have the last few years, I will be attending late – Wednesday the 11th to Saturday the 15th – because I find everything so much calmer, the media has largely left, the celebrities have largely left, and I can just sit back and enjoy the movies. So what will I be seeing? With the caveat that I often end up switching my tickets at some point (I don’t think I will this year, but who knows?) these are the 12 films I will be seeing at this year’s festival – from my first screening to my last.
 
Motherless Brooklyn (Edward Norton) – It is a little strange that it has taken Norton 19 years to follow-up his rather charming (if forgettable directorial debut – Keeping the Faith – but he returns with this noir set in 1950s New York, with Norton himself as a P.I. with Tourette’s. The trailer looks good, and Norton is a great actor, who I always thought should direct more. The reviews out of Telluride have been pretty solid.
 
Waves (Trey Edward Shults) – Trey Edward Shults first two films – Krishna and It Came at Night, were both excellent – the first a straight ahead family drama that played almost like a horror film, and the latter which just went all out into the horror. This films got raves out of Telluride, so perhaps this will vault Shults into a higher stratosphere in terms of profile, and has is certainly one of my most anticipated of the fest.
 
About Endlessness (Roy Andersson) – Leave it to Swedish absurdist Roy Andersson to make a films called About Endlessness but have it be just over 70 minutes long. This is likely more of the same from Andersson – his vignettes about the absurdity and pointlessness of life, which are often brilliant and thought provoking. Andersson is always worth a look.
 
Les Miserables (Ladj Ly) – Ly’s debut film won the Jury Prize at Cannes, where the reviews were overall very good. It is about race, class and policing in Paris, seems like a timely film that will likely cause a lot of debate and conversation when it opens in North America.
 
Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello) – Bonello is a fascinating filmmaker – this is the follow-up to the brilliant, provocative Nocturama, one of 2016’s most controversial films. This one, describes as a kind of fantasy/horror/drama set in 1962 Haiti, goes back to the zombie film roots. Knowing Bonello, you know it won’t be a typical zombie film in anyway.
 
Deerskin (Quentin Dupieux) – Dupieux is a very strange filmmaker – I haven’t seen too many of them, but they are all weird to say the least. When this one opened at Cannes, it got very good reviews – and features Oscar winner Jean Dujardian (The Artist) – as a man obsessed with a designer jacket, with violent results for some reason. This seems like a good, light way to end a festival day.
 
The Wild Goose Lake (Yi'nan Diao) – I liked (but didn’t love) Chinese director Yi’nan Diao’s last film – Black Coal, Thin Ice – but do think that the film looked amazing. He entered the big time this year with The Wild Goose Lake, which made the Official Competition Lineup at Cannes, where it got solid reviews – even if perhaps its still may be an example of style over substance.
A. Hidden Life (Terrence Malick) – I believe Malick is the only filmmaker whose films I have seen at previous TIFF’s – To the Wonder and Voyage of Time were films I saw in previous years. His latest, which is really his return to a more narrative style of filmmaking that he has increasingly moved away from, has divided critics since it played Cannes. Still, it’s Malick – you have to pay attention, and I did start to like his more recent move away from narrative in To the Wonder, Knight of Cups and Song to Song. Very interested to see what he’s done this time.
 
Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho) – This actually tied with Les Miserables for the Jury Prize at Cannes. I loved Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighbouring Sounds and Aquarius, so I am interested in whatever he does – let alone a neo-Western, with elements of the Most Dangerous Game, and the interesting addition of his longtime collaborator Juliano Dornelles as a co-director.
 
Uncut Gems (Josh & Benny Safdie) – Out of all of the films I will be seeing, the Safdie brothers Uncut Gems is clearly my most highly anticipated – I loved their last time, Good Time (my #2 on my top 10 in 2017 – and spoiler alert – quite high on my decade in review list as well). This one is another New York set crime story, with Adam Sandler seemingly trying again, instead of just phoning it in. I cannot wait.
 
Synonyms (Nadav Lapid) – I liked Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s breakthrough film Policeman and really loved its follow-up The Kindergarten Teacher (last year’s American remake is good – the original is better) – and his latest. Synonyms, has received the best reviews of his career so far – so I’m more than willing to go on this ride.
 
The Painted Bird (Vaclav Marhoul) – I hesitated before getting my ticket to The Painted Bird – I actually picked something else, and then exchanged it for this – not because I didn’t want to see it, but because I wasn’t sure I wanted to end my festival with a three-hour, black and white Holocaust film – and then the reviews from Venice came in, and I figured I must.

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