TIFF 2013

TIFF 2013 Postscript | Wavelengths 2: Now & Then

By Samuel La France / September 20, 2013

By Samuel La France “There is no post-production in my work,” claims Helga Fanderl in an expository video posted on her website. Fanderl’s statement reinforces the spontaneity and immediacy of her shooting methods, the results marked by an explicit sensitivity toward the objects, gestures and spaces that she films. And while it’s true that her…

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TIFF 2013 | Salvation Army (Abdellah Taïa, France/Morocco)—Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 13, 2013

By Michael Sicinski In a perfect world, film festivals would be filled with debut films as disciplined and poetic as Salvation Army, a film that first-time director Taïa adapted from his own autobiographical novel. This fact alone should be cause for consideration: How many filmmakers wallow in the self-indulgent excesses of autobiography? So few are…

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TIFF 2013 | The Dog (Allison Berg & Frank Keraudren, US)—TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2013

By Michael Sicinski Over a decade in the making, The Dog is a relatively straightforward profile of John Wojtowicz, the infamous bank robber immortalized in Dog Day Afternoon. Chiefly constructed around extended interviews with Wojtowicz, The Dog benefits immensely from the man’s natural charisma. But the real star of the film is time. It’s not…

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TIFF 2013 | R100 (Matsumoto Hitoshi, Japan)—Midnight Madness

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2013

By Michael Sicinski Based on Matsumoto Hitoshi’s track record as both a filmmaker and comedian, we have every right to expect the unexpected. But what’s most surprising about his latest film is the fact that he has chosen to take an ostensibly outré subject (sadomasochism) and turn it into a bland mainstream adventure-comedy. To be…

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TIFF 2013 | Bethlehem (Yuval Adler, Israel)—Discovery

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Utterly circumscribed by its political geography, Yuval Adler’s Bethlehem delineates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the eyes of a Palestinian teen, Sanfur, who at film’s outset is boldly protesting to his peers that he’s got the nerve to take a bullet to the chest (aided by a protective vest presumably looted from Israeli officers). That…

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TIFF 2013 | Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland)—Special Presentation

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Pawel Pawlikowski’s return in letter and spirit to his native Poland is an elegiac, quasi-pious hymn (in requisite black and white) to a bygone era of Eastern European filmmaking, and by implication the legacy of Jews after occupation. Orphaned, novitiate nun Anna (Agata Trzebuchowska, a non-actor discovered in a local café) prepares…

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TIFF 2013 | Starred Up (David Mackenzie, UK)—Special Presentation

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2013

By Jay Kuehner British. Prison. Drama. Say it and sigh: Where can the genre go, post-Scum, Porridge, Bad Girls, Ghosted, Screwed, Hunger? Nonetheless, David Mackenzie (Young Adam) makes a gritty bid for the pantheon with this initially lean and suitably mean rendering of a typically corrupt prison system where inmates are predestined for internecine feuds and cigarettes, cellphones, and verbal…

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TIFF 2013 | Labor Day (Jason Reitman, US)—Special Presentation

By Jay Kuehner / September 11, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Too much sugar ruins the pie! Jason Reitman’s shamelessly saccharine adaptation of Joyce Maynard’s novel could not have resisted such a bromide, as it was baked into the dough. But the earnestness with which certain hackneyed narrative flashpoints are so handily realized turns whatever latent drama the film might have possessed into…

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TIFF 2013 | Wavelengths 1: Variations On…

By Samuel La France / September 11, 2013

By Samuel La France There was deception aplenty in the first of four Wavelengths shorts programmes at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Entitled Variations On…, the programme foregrounded the formal repetitions and deviations pervading each of its five works, the title’s ellipsis suggesting that the audience’s requisite curiosity be matched by an equally imperative…

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TIFF 2013 | The Wonders (Avi Nesher, Israel)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Tom Shoval / September 11, 2013

By Tom Shoval Avi Nesher (Once I Was, Secrets, Turn Left at the End of the World) is one of the most successful film makers in Israel. Mixing easy-to-digest stories with a classical style and casting well-known Israeli comedians and television figures, Nesher’s formula has proven to be a winning one, at least in terms…

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TIFF 2013 | A Place in Heaven (Yossi Madmoni, Israel)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Tom Shoval / September 11, 2013

By Tom Shoval Shuttling back and forth in time through 40 years in the life of an Israeli general (played by famous Israeli actor Alon Aboutboul), Yossi Madmoni’s epic melodrama (its epicness heightened by Boaz Ben Yacov’s cinematography and Erik Lahav Leibovic’s editing) is trying to “film” the “Israeli soul” during a period of disillusion…

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TIFF 2013 | Three Landscapes (Peter Hutton, US)—Wavelengths

By Max Goldberg / September 11, 2013

By Max Goldberg One of several triptychs showing in this year’s Wavelengths program, Peter Hutton’s Three Landscapes zeroes in on the industrial terrain ringing Detroit (where he grew up), the bucolic pastures of the Hudson River Valley (where he now lives), and Ethiopian salt flats (where he travelled under Robert Gardner’s sponsorship). The most obvious link between…

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TIFF 2013 | Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari (Alexey Fedorchenko, Russia)—Vanguard

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2013

By Michael Sicinski The Mari culture is a western Russian ethnic group positioned along the Volga who, after having nearly been wiped out by enforced Sovietization, is experiencing resurgence due to concerted preservation efforts on the part of contemporary ethnic Maris. The cinema of Alexey Fedorchenko is a key part of this; at the moment,…

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TIFF 2013 | Child’s Pose (Calin Peter Netzer, Romania)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2013

By Michael Sicinski The not-so-New Romanian Cinema is still rocking and rolling, more than a decade after commanding the attention of major Western film festivals. This year the festival features strong entries by Corneliu Porumboiu and Cristi Puiu alongside this perfectly average national-spotlight programmer that, rather remarkably, nabbed the Golden Bear at the Berlinale this…

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TIFF 2013 | The Sacrament (Ti West, US)—Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2013

By Adam Nayman In which a cult filmmaker spikes his own Kool-Aid. Ti West’s sloppily made and surpassingly tasteless movie slaps a Vice logo on its account of American documentarians investigating a secretive Caribbean commune. But even if the found-footage textures aren’t really supposed to fool anybody—not unless Joe Swanberg and Kentucker Audley have suddenly…

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TIFF 2013 | Tracks (John Curran, UK/Australia)—Special Presentation

By Tom Charity / September 10, 2013

By Tom Charity In 1977, Robyn Davidson set off to walk 1700 miles from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with her dog and four camels. This quixotic endeavour clearly must have meant something—not only to the 25-year-old but to the many thousands of readers who made her memoir a bestseller at the time and…

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TIFF 2013 | Fading Gigolo (John Turturro, US)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2013

By Adam Nayman The image of an aged Woody Allen facing down a tribunal of stone-faced rabbis near the end of Fading Gigolo is probably a keeper, and whatever else one might say about John Turturro’s film, it deploys its septuagenarian special guest star to superb effect. To wit: Woody here is playing the amateur…

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TIFF 2013 | Enough Said (Nicole Holofcener, US)—Special Presentations

By cscope2 / September 10, 2013

By Adam Nayman First things first: in his final screen performance, James Gandolfini is pretty good. For all the years that he played Tony Soprano, Gandolfini’s secret weapon was an unlikely sexiness—a quality steadily buried under layers of bad behaviour and cellulite, but still visible to the character’s lovers and the show’s audience alike. Gandolfini’s…

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TIFF 2013 | Triptych (Robert Lepage & Pedro Pires, Canada)—Masters

By Kiva Reardon / September 9, 2013

By Kiva Reardon With Robert Lepage and Pedro Pires’ Triptych, you get three terrible films for the price of one. Composed in a tripartite structure, the film follows Michelle (Lise Castonguay), a schizophrenic second-hand bookshop owner who hears voices and self-harms with a rosary; Thomas (Hans Piesbergen), a brain surgeon with an unsteady hand which…

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TIFF 2013 | The Unknown Known (Errol Morris, US)—TIFF Docs

By Jay Kuehner / September 9, 2013

By Jay Kuehner The fourth truism derived from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s syllogistic philosophy of foreign policy in Iraq, the “Unknown Known” may be another name for imperviousness, or disavowed belief. If what we don’t know can hurt us, it is what we are unaware of not knowing—the Unknown Unknown—that can terrorize us, brought…

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TIFF 2013 | A Field in England (Ben Wheatley, UK)—Wavelengths

By Tom Charity / September 8, 2013

By Tom Charity “Open up and let the devil in!” With four movies in four years, Ben Wheatley seems set on giving Michael Winterbottom a run for his money as the most prolific filmmaker in Britain, and the devil take the hindmost. Unlike the versatile and self-effacing Winterbottom, however, Wheatley immediately stamped a distinctive authorial signature…

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TIFF 2013 | Child of God (James Franco, US)—Special Presentation

By Adam Nayman / September 8, 2013

By Adam Nayman Stuffed-animal lovers beware: several very huggable toys are obliterated by shotgun blasts in Child of God, inanimate stand-ins for all the men and women and social institutions that Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) wants to cut down with his crack-shot aim. Blame Cormac McCarthy, whose worst novel (by a mile) has been faithfully…

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TIFF 2013 | Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan, Canada)—Special Presentation

By Adam Nayman / September 8, 2013

By Adam Nayman As the titular Tom, co-screenwriter-director-producer-narcissist Xavier Dolan sports a tangled blonde dye job that screams “city boy” even louder than his Montreal accent. Decamping to the Québécois wastelands for the funeral of his lover Guillaume, Tom is every inch the ostracized outsider, on top of which he has to play along with…

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TIFF 2013 | Sarah Prefers to Run (Chloé Robichaud, Canada)—Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 7, 2013

By Michael Sicinski Oh yes indeed, Sarah prefers to run. She prefers it to having articulate conversations, displaying recognizably human emotions, or demonstrating a capability to see her actions as connected to the larger world in any way. This character study of a young Québécer (Sophie Desmarais) whose track-and-field skills get her a spot on…

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TIFF 2013 | Concrete Night (Pirjo Honkasalo, Finland/Denmark/Sweden)—Masters

By Michael Sicinski / September 7, 2013

By Michael Sicinski If Pirjo Honkasalo was on the radar of North American cinephiles recently, it was probably with The Three Rooms of Melancholia, her acclaimed 2004 documentary about the Chechen War. Concrete Night is her first fiction feature since Fire-Eater in 1998, and although there’s no question that Honkasalo exhibits a master’s control of…

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TIFF 2013 | Kill Your Darlings (John Krokidas, US)—Gala Presentation

By Angelo Muredda / September 5, 2013

By Angelo Muredda Vintage knitwear porn for those lads and lasses who’ve been hankering to see Harry Potter’s first onscreen bout of gay sex, Kill Your Darlings puts a slick YA sheen on Allen Ginsberg’s Columbia days. Not content to trace the origins of the “New Vision” young Ginsy (Daniel Radcliffe) co-conceived with fellow dreamboat…

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TIFF 2013 | The Invisible Woman (Ralph Fiennes, UK)—Special Presentation

By Angelo Muredda / September 5, 2013

By Angelo Muredda While Coriolanus seemed designed to show us that Ralph Fiennes could direct as well as star in Shakespeare, The Invisible Woman scans as a cannier power play, a consistently underrated actor-director’s audition for high-toned costume dramas about major historical figures (Charles Dickens, here). As a director’s portfolio, it’s not so bad: certainly…

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TIFF 2013 | Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, UK)—Special Presentation

By Jay Kuehner / September 4, 2013

By Jay Kuehner Or, Scarlett Johansson Sleep Walk With Me. Jonathan Glazer’s protracted gestation (nine years) in bringing Michael Faber’s cult novel down to earth and into festivals (theatres would be a reach, as distribution could prove a challenge for this anomaly) signals a perfectionist at work or a project better off abandoned, and Under The Skin equivocally…

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TIFF 2013 | Bastards (Claire Denis, France)—Masters

By Robert Koehler / September 4, 2013

By Robert Koehler The editor/publisher/filmmaker of this fine publication (in Issue 55) accurately termed Claire Denis’ latest her “incredibly divisive and equally irate attack on late capitalism.” Why Bastards is even slightly divisive is just one of the year’s many cinema mysteries, and it’s fairly easy to predict that after the ridiculously hothouse atmosphere of…

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TIFF 2013 | The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, Italy)—Special Presentation

By Michael Sicinski / September 4, 2013

By Michael Sicinski Paolo Sorrentino has become a sort of go-to Italian auteur for the current regime in Cannes, without having a great deal of support elsewhere. Unlike some members of the International Cinema Scope Cabal™, I have remained somewhat agnostic toward Sorrentino, who is undoubtedly talented but committed to working in a highly unfashionable…

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TIFF 2013 | Gabrielle (Louise Archambault, Canada)—Special Presentation

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2013

By Blake Williams To anyone who thought it wasn’t possible for there to be a film about the mentally disabled that is as problematic as I Am Sam, has Québécois filmmaker Louise Archambault got a treat for you. In Gabrielle, actress Gabrielle Marion-Rivard stars in the title role, and suffers from the same disorder (Williams syndrome) as…

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TIFF 2013 | Borgman (Alex van Warmerdam, Netherlands)—Vanguard

By Jordan Cronk / September 4, 2013

By Jordan Cronk Alex van Warmerdam’s Borgman opens not simply in media res but in mediam tumultus, as an unidentified mob (led, in true van Warmerdamian fashion, by a priest in full regalia) run roughshod across a dense forest floor, uncovering a hidden bunker outfitted with a small militia’s worth of assault weaponry. Roused from…

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TIFF 2013 | Ningen (Guillaume Giovanetti & Cagla Zencirci, Japan/Turkey)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Tomas Hachard / September 4, 2013

By Tomas Hachard A Raccoon and a Fox discover a Human burying a bag of gold. Certain that he has much more of it, the two animals transform into humans themselves, and bet on which can convince him to hand over his wealth first. The catch: they must remain humans until one of them wins.…

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TIFF 2013 | Empire of Dirt (Peter Stebbings, Canada)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Angelo Muredda / September 4, 2013

By Angelo Muredda Since her breakthrough in Bruce McDonald’s Dance Me Outside, Jennifer Podemski has had a grounding effect on the countless Canadian TV shows and films she’s cropped up in, singlehandedly recalibrating the sombre melodrama of Degrassi into something like realism. Podemski is an especially valuable player in Peter Stebbings’ Empire of Dirt, a…

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TIFF 2013 | The Art of the Steal (Jonathan Sobol, Canada)—Gala Presentation

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2013

By Blake Williams It didn’t take much post-viewing research to uncover what Jonathan Sobol’s thing is, i.e., why the hell TIFF programmers find him programmable (I would name names, but The Art of the Steal’s blurb in the programme guide has been strategically left uncredited): alas, he was born in Niagara Falls. At the very least…

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TIFF 2013 | Canopy (Aaron Wilson, Australia)—Discovery

By Jose Teodoro / September 4, 2013

By José Teodoro Set in early 1942, Australian writer-director Aaron Wilson’s feature debut unfolds entirely in the fecund jungles of Singapore in the midst of the Japanese invasion. Canopy follows a downed Australian airman and a lost Singapore-Chinese resistance fighter as they join forces to tend to their wounds and find their way to safety.…

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TIFF 2013 | The King’s Body (João Pedro Rodrigues, Portugal)—Wavelengths

By Adam Cook / September 4, 2013

By Adam Cook The King’s Body is at least the third film this year to play with a formula in which the filmmaker(s) provide an environment and scenario and introduce to it a variable (people, actors), the ensuing interaction between the controlled and uncontrolled becoming the source of the film’s meaning; the two others I…

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TIFF 2013 | Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (Sono Sion, Japan)—Midnight Madness

By Alexandra Zawia / September 4, 2013

By Alexandra Zawia Sono Sion’s cinema is marked by disproportion. Taking great pleasure in busting through form and conventions, his films are often regarded as being “too” everything: too loud, too violent, too implausible, etc. Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is all that, and much more. Its entertainment value defies any rational analysis, and…

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TIFF 2013 | Sapi (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines)—Vanguard

By Violeta Kovacsics / September 4, 2013

By Violeta Kovacsics Brillante Mendoza began his turn towards genre with Kinatay, which was a perfect mixture of social commentary and genre atmospherics. Sapi moves a step beyond, into explicit horror-movie territory (the plot deals with demonic possessions), but as with the earlier film Mendoza demonstrates that he only understands genre when it is strongly…

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TIFF 2013 | The Station (Marvin Kern, Austria)—Midnight Madness

By Violeta Kovacsics / September 4, 2013

By Violeta Kovacsics One is tempted to see The Station as a sort of remake of The Thing, as the landscape is quite similar to that of John Carpenter’s Arctic classic, and so is the plot: a group of people working in a snowy weather station in the middle of the Alps are threatened by…

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TIFF 2013 | October November (Götz Spielmann, Austria)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Jason Anderson / September 3, 2013

By Jason Anderson Though hardly as adventurous (or merciless) as some of his Austrian peers, Götz Spielmann nevertheless created two bracing portraits of adults behaving badly in Antares and Revanche, his two most celebrated features. And just as the former film was smart enough to skirt many of the clichés of the “Hey-these-miserable-people-are-all-connected!” mode that…

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TIFF 2013 | Asphalt Watches (Shayne Ehman & Seth Scriver, Canada)—Vanguard

By Jason Anderson / September 3, 2013

By Jason Anderson Full credit goes to Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver for making a national portrait that thoroughly rejects the heartwarming dictums of CBC radio producers, government tourist officials, and any other purveyor of folksy Canadiana. An ultra-lo-fi animated travelogue based on a cross-Canada hitchhiking trip that the pair took in 2000, Asphalt Watches…

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TIFF 2013 | Closed Curtain (Jafar Panahi & Kambozia Partovi, Iran)—Masters

By Michael Sicinski / September 3, 2013

By Michael Sicinski [SPOILERS follow.] This Is Not a Film was a hybrid documentary wherein Jafar Panahi showed us what happens when a restless creative mind tries and fails to negotiate various end-runs around the absurd, maddening restrictions imposed upon him. In many respects, the more Panahi “failed”—famously walking off camera in tears, refusing to…

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TIFF 2013 | Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, US/UK)—Special Presentation

By Alexandra Zawia / September 3, 2013

By Alexandra Zawia To start with the obvious, the visuals in Gravity are impeccable, which is not due simply to the presence of virtuoso cinematographer Emmanuel Luzbeki—Alfonso Cuarón understands the spatial possibilities of the frame. Characteristically using reflections to add depth to an image, he finds himself an a priori amplified playground in a film…

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TIFF 2013 | We are the Best! (Lukas Moodysson, Sweden/Denmark)—Special Presentation

By Alexandra Zawia / September 3, 2013

By Alexandra Zawia Boredom and sports are the most prominent enemies in the lives of two pre-teen girls in urban, middle-class Sweden in 1982, which gives them a perfect reason to form a punk band, even though they can neither sing nor play any instrument. Setting out to prove that “Punk’s not dead,” Klara (Mira…

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TIFF 2013 | Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt, USA)—Special Presentation

By Alexandra Zawia / September 3, 2013

By Alexandra Zawia It’s remarkable how Kelly Reichardt takes on different genres and makes them her own, undermining expectations by moving elliptically within specific conventions and creating a radical atmosphere. In Meek’s Cutoff, she chose to shoot a Western from the restricted perspectives of her characters, as if from underneath the brims of their hats,…

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TIFF 2013 | Joe (David Gordon Green, USA)—Special Presentation

By Alexandra Zawia / September 3, 2013

By Alexandra Zawia Ex-con Joe (Nicolas Cage), last name Ransom, is a right-doer with a killer dog in a fucked-up, miserable world deep down South ruled by unemployment and an economic situation for which the word “crisis” is inadequate. It’s a place inhabited by alcoholic and abusive parents, hookers, and teenagers who are trying to…

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TIFF 2013 | You Are Here (Matthew Weiner, US)—Special Presentation

By Jose Teodoro / September 3, 2013

By José Teodoro Owen Wilson coasts on his familiar faux-innocence and blank cheerfulness as Steve, a weatherman and serial womanizer. He deploys the same seduction speech on every female he seeks to bed, sex-workers included. Zach Galifianakis plays Ben, Steve’s squirrely, unemployable best friend, who seems about two bong hits away from becoming the Hippie…

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TIFF 2013 | Thérèse (Charlie Stratton, US)—Special Presentation

By Jose Teodoro / September 3, 2013

By José Teodoro The first images are captured from below the murky surface of the Seine, seemingly from the point-of-view of the poor sap who gets drowned by the dunderheaded lover of the film’s unlucky anti-heroine. It makes you wonder whether this workmanlike, mostly faithful revisit of Émile Zola’s brilliantly dreary early novel—the prototype for…

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TIFF 2013 | The Amazing Catfish (Claudia Sainte-Luce, Mexico)—Discovery

By Jose Teodoro / September 3, 2013

By José Teodoro Amazing is certainly pushing it, but Claudia Sainte-Luce’s debut feature (photographed by Claire Denis’ regular shooter Agnès Godard) has enough craft and intelligence to render its sentimental story about coming out of one’s shell more charming and inventive than one would expect. Set in Guadalajara, the film follows an unlikely product demonstrator…

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TIFF 2013 | The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra, India/France/Germany)—Gala Presentation

By Kiva Reardon / September 3, 2013

By Kiva Reardon There’s a certain simple charm to Ritesh Batra’s debut The Lunchbox. The film follows lonely housewife Ila (Nimrat Kaur) and curmudgeonly widower Saajan (Irrfan Khan), who are brought together when the lunches she lovingly cooks for her adulterous husband are misdelivered to Saajan. After discovering the error, the two begin passing notes…

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TIFF 2013 | Afflicted (Derek Lee & Clif Prowse, Canada/US)—Midnight Madness

By Kiva Reardon / September 3, 2013

By Kiva Reardon “Men in their 20s are the worst thing happening on our planet,” said comedian Rob Delaney; given the evidence of Afflicted, the debut feature from Derek Lee and Clif Prowse, the same could be said of cinema. A horror film that unfortuntately lacks any real dread, gore or suspense, Afflicted follows filmmaking…

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TIFF 2013 | Bobô (Inês Oliveira, Portugal)—Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 3, 2013

By Michael Sicinski This second film by Oliveira poses a few key questions. First, are European films schools necessarily doing the right thing by basing their training on the auteur theory? Bobô is beautifully shot and paced; the early shots of Sofia (Paula Garcia) in her meticulous, lifeless apartment are notably impressive for how well…

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TIFF 2013 | Qissa (Anup Singh, Germany/India/Netherlands/France)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Tomas Hachard / September 3, 2013

By Tomas Hachard With what sounds like a doleful take on the Game of Thrones theme music playing behind them, Qissa’s opening credits quickly establish the film’s weighty tone, confirmed immediately in the film’s moody first scene, where an aged man questions himself: “What am I? Who am I? What curse have I brought upon…

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TIFF 2013 | The Mayor (Emiliano Altuna Fistolera, Carlos Federico Rossini & Diego Osorno, Mexico)—TIFF Docs

By Robert Koehler / September 3, 2013

By Robert Koehler It’s not surprising that Mexico’s drug war can verge into surrealism, as Mexico oozes with surrealism. But there are many shades to this condition, and The Mayor captures one of them with just about the right deadpan tone. In the wealthy Monterrey suburb of San Pedro Garza Garcia, the country’s statistically safest…

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TIFF 2013 | Gerontophilia (Bruce LaBruce, Canada)—Vanguard

By Blake Williams / September 3, 2013

By Blake Williams Who could have predicted that in making a film about an ostensibly straight, 18-year-old pretty-boy nurse who gets his rocks off with his octogenarian patients (complete with full-frontal shots of the latter) Bruce LaBruce would produce something that critics could reprimand for being limp? More Gus Van Sant than Jack Smith, so…

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TIFF 2013 | When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Mark Peranson / September 3, 2013

By Mark Peranson As celluloid threatens to go the way of the dodo, a number of filmmakers have been impelled to make work that takes the disappearance of 35mm head on, arguing for what will be lost when the world has gone digital. Comprised of 17 shots, none longer than the 11 minutes of a…

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TIFF 2013 | The Last of the Unjust (Claude Lanzmann, France/Austria)—TIFF Docs

By cscope2 / September 3, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 By Christoph Huber Claude Lanzmann’s last reworking of leftover materials from the rich archive accumulated for his groundbreaking epic Shoah (1985), The Last of the Unjust breaks with the rigorous approach its director previously employed to find a just way to talk about the Nazis’ mass murder of the…

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TIFF 2013 | Omar (Hany Abu-Assad, Palestine)—Special Presentation

By Richard Porton / September 2, 2013

By Richard Porton While the Israeli-Palestinian quagmire has some inspired some distinguished non-fiction films since the dawn of the 21st century—notably Michel Khleifi and Eyal Sivan’s Route 181; Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel, which remains one of the least seen important documentaries of the last decade—most features tackling this intractable conflict are disappointingly mediocre.…

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TIFF 2013 | Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Marcel Ophüls, France)—TIFF Docs

By Robert Koehler / September 2, 2013

By Robert Koehler Long ago in a cinema world far away, Marcel Ophüls made a movie titled The Sorrow and the Pity, an angry jeremiad against French collusion with the Nazis, and it left scars. Ophüls, Max’s son, had none of his father’s gifts for the combined grace and magnificence of mise en scène wrapped…

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TIFF 2013 | Wasted Youth (Argyris Papadimitropoulos & Jan Vogel, Greece)—City to City

By Robert Koehler / September 2, 2013

By Robert Koehler Incredibly, Argyris Papadimitropoulos’ and Jan Vogel’s sharply defined, co-written and directed look at an Athens teetering on the edge of mass social violence is only now receiving its Toronto premiere, which means that TIFF 2011 passed on one of the finds of Rotterdam 2011, where Wasted Youth premiered. (Let this be a…

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TIFF 2013 | Le Démantèlement (Sébastien Pilote, Canada)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 2, 2013

By Robert Koehler An exceptionally pokey attempt to bring King Lear (and maybe just a bit of Père Goriot) to the Québécois farmlands, Sébastien Pilote’s Le Démantèlement reduces the spectacle of patriarchal self-destruction to the level of watching a cup of tea grow cold on the table. Something happened here, but oh my, how utterly…

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TIFF 2013 | The Summer of Flying Fish (Marcela Said, Chile/France)—Discovery

By Robert Koehler / September 2, 2013

By Robert Koehler The long shadow of Lucrecia Martel casts itself over the atmospherically weighty, metaphorically leaden The Summer of Flying Fish, Marcela Said’s uncertain entry into fiction after a string of non-fiction features. After Martel rewrote the coming-of-age playbook a decade ago in Argentina with La cienaga, Said is late to the same game…

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TIFF 2013 | Burning Bush (Agnieszka Holland, Czech Republic)—Special Presentation

By Blake Williams / August 31, 2013

By Blake Williams There’s likely to be some bitching about the increasingly popular phenomenon of television getting screened at film festivals in the Southcliffe review, so I’ll try to be brief in that regard. But it must be stated that Burning Bush, which currently doesn’t even have director Agnieszka Holland’s name listed in the main details of…

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TIFF 2013 | The Face of Love (Arie Posin, US)—Special Presentation

By Jose Teodoro / August 31, 2013

By José Teodoro The face in question, arresting baby blues set within those weathered, wizened features, belongs to Ed Harris. A curious choice of visage to represent such a concept, to say the least, especially considering the crazed look Harris sports while making his entrance, which is also an exit, as the first of the…

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TIFF 2013 | Devil’s Knot (Atom Egoyan, US)—Special Presentation

By Kiva Reardon / August 31, 2013

By Kiva Reardon The story of the wrongful conviction and incarceration of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr. and Jason Baldwin—better known as the West Memphis Three—was conveyed in such compelling, gritty detail over the course of the three-part HBO documentary Paradise Lost (1996/2000/2011) that one may conceivably feel sorry for anyone attempting to relate it…

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TIFF 2013 | Watermark (Jennifer Baichwal & Edward Burtynsky, Canada)—Special Presentation

By Kiva Reardon / August 31, 2013

By Kiva Reardon Moving from oil to water and proving the two can mix, Jennifer Baichwal and Ed Burtynsky reunite after their eco-tract Manufactured Landscapes for Watermark, which once again examines the intersection of humans and nature. This time around, however, the results are more meditative and philosophical. Burtynsky has taken on a co-directorial role,…

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TIFF 2013 | Southcliffe (Sean Durkin, UK)—Special Presentation

By Michael Sicinski / August 31, 2013

By Michael Sicinski In evaluating Southcliffe as a TIFF entry, I find myself thinking back to one of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s very best lines of criticism: “Why insist on treating good baba ghanoush as if it were bad peanut butter?” We might then be forced to ask what we do, as gourmands or as critics, when…

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TIFF 2013 | Man of Tai Chi (Keanu Reeves, US/Hong Kong/China)—Special Presentation

By Michael Sicinski / August 31, 2013

By Michael Sicinski Probably the most remarkable thing about the whoa!-teur’s directorial debut is that it’s not a complete embarrassment. Given the fact that Reeves chose to make an ersatz HK actioner, the likelihood of a total fiasco was rather high, but Man of Tai Chi isn’t nearly that interesting. Reeves, together with fight choreographer…

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TIFF 2013 | Don Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, US)—Special Presentation

By Angelo Muredda / August 31, 2013

By Angelo Muredda An overeager new entry in the cinema of reformed douchebags, Don Jon is the feature debut you would expect from Joseph Gordon-Levitt, an affable star who’s keen to show his directorial (and pectoral) chops at all costs. And show them he does, in a host of obnoxious if admittedly muscular montages that…

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TIFF 2013 | Ilo Ilo (Anthony Chen, Singapore)—Discovery

By Robert Koehler / August 31, 2013

By Robert Koehler Howard Hawks thought that if a movie contained four or five memorable scenes, the movie worked. Anthony Chen, who won Cannes’ Camera d’Or for Ilo Ilo, would please Hawks. Chen knows his memorable scenes, and they usually involve two or more of a quartet of indelible characters stumbling and bumbling about a…

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TIFF 2013 | Quai d’Orsay (Bertrand Tavernier, France)—Special Presentation

By Robert Koehler / August 31, 2013

By Robert Koehler The credits, right there on screen, insist that Quai d’Orsay is “un film de Bertrand Tavernier,” but I don’t believe it. Maybe some imposter named “Bertrand Tavernier,” appropriating the name of a director who, to put it mildly, is hardly associated with satirical farce. Adapting former government speechwriter Abel Lanzac’s autobiographical graphic…

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TIFF 2013 | Heart of a Lion (Dome Karukoski, Finland/Sweden)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / August 31, 2013

By Robert Koehler Marrying narrative contrivances with topical real-world issues is always a bad idea: the former is dead certain to spell trouble from the start, the latter usually ensures a stolid movie. Thus, Dome Karukoski’s Heart of a Lion, which performs this very shotgun marriage with unearned gusto. Screenwriter Aleksi Bardy strains to justify…

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TIFF 2013 | Young & Beautiful (François Ozon, France)

By Angelo Muredda / August 30, 2013

By Angelo Muredda Not a Lana Del Rey cover, dommage, but a riff on his usual concerns of voyeurism, Gallic family strife, and the ambiguity of pretty girls, François Ozon’s Young & Beautiful is an accomplished trifle. We’re in Ozon country from the first shot, a young peeping Tom’s through-the-binoculars gaze at his sunbathing teenaged…

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TIFF 2013 | Norte, the End of History (Lav Diaz, Philippines)—Masters

By Boris Nelepo / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 By Boris Nelepo Nothing is true. Morals are dead. There are no more laws. The end of history is nigh. So says Fabian (Sid Lucero), a law-school dropout who sees no point in legislation in a world devoid of reason. Permanently in debt, he whiles away the hours gabbing…

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TIFF 2013 | The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zürcher, Germany)

By Michael Sicinski / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 By Michael Sicinski The first five shots of Ramon Zürcher’s debut film The Strange Little Cat (Das merkwürdige Kätzchen) serve as a kind of miniature map for this relatively short (72-minute), highly unusual work, neatly outlining the spatial compression and sonic misdirection that characterizes its aesthetic approach throughout. (Though…

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TIFF 2013 | Cristi Puiu on Three Interpretation Exercises (Cristi Puiu, Romania/France)—Wavelengths

By Aaron Cutler / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 Every Film Must Be an Exercise: Cristi Puiu on Three Interpretation Exercises Cristi Puiu’s new film Three Interpretation Exercises is exactly that: three discrete, roughly 50-minute sequences, improvised with three groups of four actors, which grew out of a workshop Puiu was invited to lead in Toulouse. Puiu spoke…

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TIFF 2013 | João Pedro Rodrigues & Alain Guiraudie on Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie, France)

By Mark Peranson / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 Sex, Death, and Geometry: A Conversation Between Alain Guiraudie and João Pedro Rodrigues on L’inconnu du lac There’s not much physical intercourse (a mere two hardcore sexual acts) in Alain Guiraudie’s L’inconnu du lac, but, still for, say, 80 percent of the film his camera looks at (but doesn’t…

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TIFF 2013: Manuscripts Don’t Burn (Mohammad Rasoulof, Iran)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Richard Porton / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 By Richard Porton By contrast to The Past, this year’s predominant Iranian Cannes entry, Mohammad Rasoulof’s Manuscripts Don’t Burn (which screened in Un Certain Regard and took home the FIPRESCI prize for that section), is not at all evasive when it comes to politics. Filmed clandestinely in Iran with…

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TIFF 2013 | The Past (Asghar Farhadi, Frace/Italy)

By Richard Porton / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 By Richard Porton For most critics, there’s an implied schism between conventional, “well-made” films and more challenging, supposedly obscure experimental or modernist cinema. A film such as Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s The Past (a French production that was an entry in the Cannes Competition and won the best actress…

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TIFF 2013 | The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh, Cambodia/France)

By Christoph Huber / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 By Christoph Huber The eventual Un Certain Regard prizewinner, Panh’s The Missing Picture parts with the formal orthodoxy of his previous films on the subject like S-21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine (2003) or Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell (2011), for the first time using both found…

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TIFF 2013 | Like Father, Like Son (Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan)

By Scott Foundas / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013 By Scott Foundas In Cannes, the word on the street about Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Like Father, Like Son was that it was the competition’s most “Spielbergian” entry—a shorthand, one supposes, for the film’s multiple fraught father-son relationships, a trope Spielberg has invoked just often enough in his own work for…

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TIFF 2013 | A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhangke, China/Japan)

By Robert Koehler / August 30, 2013

From Cinema Scope #55, Summer 2013. By Robert Koehler Jia Zhangke is not an artist who normally trucks in anger. In an era when film criticism and programming have been steadily shifting away from a focus on nationalist tendencies, led by filmmakers who’ve become globalized along with the rest of us, Jia has maintained a…

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TIFF 2013: Mary, Queen of Scots (Thomas Imbach, Switzerland/France)

By Adam Cook / August 28, 2013

By Adam Cook Thomas Imabch’s Mary, Queen of Scots seemingly has a lot going for it: rising actress Camille Rutherford, who gave a memorable lead performance in Nicolas Klotz’s Low Life two years ago; a solid supporting cast (Mehdi Dehbi as Rizzio, in particular, steals the show); a wintery mise en scène that de-romanticizes the…

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TIFF 2013 | The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard, UK)

By Jay Kuehner / June 24, 2013

By Jay Kuehner “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul.”―Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray Wherever in cinema there is a proverbial angry young man, there inevitably entails a narrative about redemption. However defiled the milieu, salvation of some sort is not far off.…

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