TIFF 2014

TIFF 2014 | Elephant Song (Charles Binamé, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Jose Teodoro / September 15, 2014

By José Teodoro There are in fact multiple elephants in the room in this adaptation of Nicolas Billon’s play: the awkward struggle to cinematize a story designed to generate tension through sustained enclosure in a single location; the repeated deployment of an overarching metaphor to the point of exhaustion; and the showboating of Xavier Dolan…

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TIFF 2014 | Villa Touma (Suha Arraf, no national origin) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2014

By Michael Sicinski This is the directorial debut by Arraf, who is best known as the writing partner of Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis on his two most successful films, The Syrian Bride (2004) and Lemon Tree (2008). At the moment, Villa Touma is most notable for being a film that is “stateless,” officially speaking. Set…

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TIFF 2014 | A Dream of Iron (Kelvin Kyung Kun Park, US/South Korea) — City to City

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2014

By Michael Sicinski To paraphrase Calvin Coolidge, the chief business of cinema is business. As a general rule, festivals like films that can sell; Oscars and acquisitions provide high-level film programmers with industry niches that we critics will never really understand. But now and then, those thoughtful public servants manage to smuggle in something decidely…

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TIFF 2014 | Confession (Lee Do-yun, South Korea) — City to City

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2014

By Michael Sicinski One of the stronger entries in this year’s showcase of Seoul-based filmmaking, Confession, by first-time helmer Lee Do-yun, takes a while to display its true intentions. Following a prologue in which we meet our three main characters as adolescents and witness a traumatic event that cements their long-term friendship, Confession jumps ahead…

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TIFF 2014 | Songs from the North (Soon-Mi Yoo, US/South Korea) — Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2014

By Michael Sicinski Songs from the North is a work that practically mirrors the provenance pattern of another film in this year’s festival, Kelvin Park’s A Dream of Iron: an essay film from a Korean-born, US-educated multimedia artist. However, Yoo is a more experienced filmmaker, and as a result Songs is a far more nuanced…

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TIFF 2014 | The Theory of Everything (James Marsh, US) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 12, 2014

By Angelo Muredda Stephen Hawking falls in love, gets disabled, and becomes the world’s best-selling cosmologist in James Marsh’s mostly undistinguished The Theory of Everything, the sort of cautious, unoffending profile that tends to arrive in swarms this time of year. For what it’s worth, Eddie Redmayne is fine as the young Cambridge scholar with…

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TIFF 2014 | I Am Not Lorena (Isidora Marras, Chile/Argentina) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2014

By Michael Sicinski This is an exceedingly slight debut film about an actress named Olivia (Loreto Aravena) beset by an endless barrage of calls from collection agencies, all looking for someone named Lorena Ruíz. In reality, there are some fairly basic steps to take if one finds oneself in a similar predicament. (I speak from…

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TIFF 2014 | Le beau danger (René Frölke, Germany) — Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2014

By Michael Sicinski “In a world where everything seems programmed, even chaos, chance, or surprise, you’ve got to defy logic and bewilder people.” This is but one of the many lines of prose presented, without overt comment, in Le beau danger, written by the film’s subject Romanian author Norman Manea. However, this sentence seems as…

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TIFF 2014 | Wild (Jean-Marc Vallée, US) — Gala

By Toronto Film Review / September 11, 2014

Special TORONTO FILM REVIEW Guest Edition (N.B. This is presented absent any editorial intervention.) By David Davidson There is a real problem when even Steven Spielberg is confused about the state of modern cinema. It needs to be said: The old ways of doing things is over. And there needs to be the creation of…

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TIFF 2014 | Foreign Body (Krzysztof Zanussi, Poland/Italy/Russia) — Masters

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2014

By Michael Sicinski This is a complete mess, but I cannot honestly say whether Zanussi constructed Foreign Body to be exactly the film he wanted it to be and thus he’s just off his rocker, or if he has simply lost control of the medium. How best to describe this unhinged but futile film? In…

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TIFF 2014 | The Little Death (Josh Lawson, Australia) — Discovery

By Ian Barr / September 10, 2014

By Ian Barr If nothing else, this Antipodean mash-up of Love, Actually and Neil LaBute’s Your Friends and Neighbors—a combo surely everyone was clamouring for—makes a convincing argument that “edginess” is the least appreciable thing that any text in any medium can strive for. Kicking off the first of its four not-really-criss-crossing subplots, Paul (played…

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TIFF 2014 | The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland, UK) — Vanguard

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2014

By Adam Nayman A stray line about a “Dr. Viridiana” early in The Duke of Burgundy gives the game away: after the giallos humour of Berberian Sound Studio, Peter Strickland is chasing Luis Buñuel. Not with too much urgency, mind you: on the basis of his three features to date, the British writer-director is less interested in precise pastiche than evoking…

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TIFF 2014 | Adult Beginners (Ross Katz, US) — Discovery

By Sean Rogers / September 10, 2014

By Sean Rogers Had this movie actually centred on the late-in-life learning-to-swim class alluded to in its title (though never depicted onscreen), maybe some of the excellent bit players horsing around its edges could have jumped in and stirred things up a bit. I imagine a film in which the wearable-tech guru portrayed by Nick…

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TIFF 2014 | The Editor (Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy, Canada) — Midnight Madness)

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2014

By Adam Nayman The Editor could have used one. Much like the previous Astron-6 production Manborg, this passionately scrawled love letter to Argento, Fulci et al makes a fetish of both its cheapness and its knowingness, neither of which seem very endearing after a while (let’s say about 30 minutes, to be generous). Co-director Adam…

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TIFF 2014 | A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Roy Andersson, Sweden/Norway/France/Germany) — Masters

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 9, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is Roy Andersson’s third installment in his trilogy of films “about being a human being.” Regrettably, said trilogy has been on a downward trajectory from the original brilliance of Songs from the Second Floor through the less impressive but still enjoyable You,…

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TIFF 2014 | Gemma Bovery (Anne Fontaine, France) — Special Presentations

By Sean Rogers / September 9, 2014

By Sean Rogers Adapted from the literate, gently sardonic graphic novel by Guardian cartoonist Posy Simmonds, Anne Fontaine’s Gemma Bovery retains little of the source material’s Renoirian humanism and none of its murky thematic and visual greytones, but regrettably most of its plot. Since the outlines of Simmonds’ Gemma were themselves lifted from Flaubert’s Bovary—in…

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TIFF 2014 | Revenge of the Green Dragons (Andrew Lau & Andrew Loo, US) — Special Presentations

By Bart Testa / September 9, 2014

By Bart Testa This film is credited as an American production through the enabling of producer Martin Scorsese, and is set in the Flatbush section of Queens during the 1980s, when Mainland Chinese immigrants flocked there and young gangs flourished—as did human trafficking, centred there on the notorious “snakehead” Sister Ping. But this is all…

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TIFF 2014 | Pasolini (Abel Ferrara, France/Italy/Belgium) — Special Presentations

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 7, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front Willem Dafoe takes on Pasolini’s last three days on earth in a difficult, almost impossible film that Abel Ferrara directs with respectful audacity. Seventy-two hours in the life of the heretical Catholic and erotic Marxist poet, columnist, theorist, filmmaker, and tumultuous and gentle earthling. We get to see enacted glimpses of…

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TIFF 2014 | The Sound and the Fury (James Franco, US) — Special Presentations

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 7, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front Oh boy! Where to even start? Let’s try from the beginning: a Shakespeare quote opens the film, which tells us that James Franco reads the preeminent Elizabethan playwright or Wikiquotes, which as far as the film is concerned doesn’t make that big of a difference. The guy has actually had the…

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TIFF 2014 | Seymour: An Introduction (Ethan Hawke, US) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 7, 2014

By Michael Sicinski “He’s a very deep guy … It’s like Zen and the Art of Archery, or whatever.” Oh my God, shut up. Ethan Hawke, who has made a very lovely portrait of virtuoso pianist and teacher Seymour Bernstein, is going to be his own worst enemy in terms of getting people to actually…

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TIFF 2014 | Goodnight Mommy (Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala, Austria) — Vanguard

By Christoph Huber / September 7, 2014

  By Christoph Huber Don’t be fooled by the inane Haneke comparisons lavished by lazy critics on the first fiction feature by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, who previously made the beautiful portrait-essay Kern and the underseen drinking-game short Dreh und Trink (full disclosure: they are also my best friends, but that’s not why I…

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TIFF 2014 | Rosewater (Jon Stewart, US) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 7, 2014

By Jay Kuehner Political film without a politics of filmmaking, Jon Stewarts’s earnest directorial debut repurposes journalist Maziar Bahari’s memoir about having spent 118 days in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after he was accused of being an American spy into a palatable polemic about Iran’s theocratic rule circa the 2009 elections. The London-based, Iranian-born Bahari…

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TIFF 2014 | Red Amnesia (Wang Xiaoshuai, China) — Special Presentations

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 7, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front Deng, an aging but relatively sprightly old woman, spends her retirement taking care of her house and her grown-up children, who nonetheless appear to be better off when she is not around (one is busy building a successful heterosexual family, the other slacking about in front of the computer). Only the…

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TIFF 2014 | Return to Ithaca (Laurent Cantet, France) — Special Presentations

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 7, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front A nausea-inducing film of simplistic primitivism, Return to Ithaca is Laurent Cantet’s contribution to the debunking of the myth of Caribbean socialism (as if there were any illusions left). We are in the sado-Marxist island of Cuba, where any human right is cruelly crushed bar those of being able to have…

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TIFF 2014 | Gyeongju (Zhang Lu, South Korea) — City to City

By Michael Sicinski / September 7, 2014

By Michael Sicinski The deeply antisocial protagonist of Gyeongju, Choi Hyeon (Park Hae-il), is a well-regarded poli-sci professor in Beijing, back in Korea for the funeral of an old colleague. Recalling a memorable time he, the deceased, and another scholar had in the title-city many years ago, Hyeon returns to wander around in a doomed…

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TIFF 2014 | Phoenix (Christian Petzold, Germany) — Special Presentations

By Mark Peranson / September 7, 2014

By Mark Peranson In a loose adaptation of Hubert Monteilhet’s 1961 novel Le Retour des cendres, Berlin School stalwart Christian Petzold has decided to move further back in history, leaving East Germany behind (a fine decision as far as I’m concerned) for Germany 1945, and asking what it takes to rise from the ashes in…

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TIFF 2014 | The Equalizer (Antoine Fuqua, US) — Gala

By Michael Sicinski / September 7, 2014

By Michael Sicinski Looking back, it’s hard to believe that Training Day was as watchable as it was. (And it isn’t faulty memory or collective knuckle-dragging on racial issues. I caught it on cable a while back and it’s fine.) But Antoine Fuqua can’t direct, and this is abundantly clear in the opening seconds of…

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TIFF 2014 | Hill of Freedom (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea) — Masters

By Michael Sicinski / September 7, 2014

By Michael Sicinski Recently, some South Korean masters have made significant inroads into the English market. (We can call them “masters,” if you prefer a grain of salt in your bibimbap: Kim Jee-woon and Park Chan-wook are inevitably problematic figures to some. But I’ll accept no guff regarding Master Bong and his Piercer of Snow.)…

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TIFF 2014 | Teen Lust (Blaine Thurier, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman If Satan came back and saw the movies that were being made in his name, he’d never stop throwing up (pea soup, probably). Our Dark Lord is invoked routinely in Teen Lust, in which the virginal son of suburban Baphomet-worshippers endeavours to get laid before he becomes a sacrificial lamb—a premise already…

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TIFF 2014 | Li’l Quinquin (Bruno Dumont, France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman It’s not HBO, it’s (French) TV, and it’s also paradoxically the best movie that Bruno Dumont has made since L’humanite (1999)—a good point of comparison because Li’l Quinquin is basically a remake, give or take. Rural religious community? Check. Wobbly, possibly retarded police officer? Check. A random, ritualistic slaying? Check. Meditation on…

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TIFF 2014 | Heartbeat (Andrea Dorfman, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman In which a lapsed Halifax folkie very gradually gets her groove back. It’s every bit as thrilling as it sounds. Look: it’s clear that writer-director Andrea Dorfman—making her first feature since the well-liked Love That Boy (2003)—adores her star Tanya Davis, whose droopy eyes and dopey smile don’t seem like a put-on,…

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TIFF 2014 | Bird People (Pascale Ferran, France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman A film ideally screened at film festivals—where its scenes of characters logging into hotel wi-fi on their laptops and thrashing around in the throes of jetlag will pack an affective punch—Bird People has divided critics as neatly as its own bifurcated, his-and-hers narrative. Set almost entirely inside the confines of a Parisian…

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TIFF 2014 | [REC] 4: Apocalypse (Jaume Balaguero, Spain) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman Call it the [REC] of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This third and (I’m guessing) worst sequel to the 2007 Spanish found-footage horror flick is set at sea, for no good reason other than that the franchise hasn’t gone there yet. So a year after World War Z gave us Zombies on a Plane,…

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TIFF 2014 | Merchants of Doubt (Robert Kenner, US) — TIFF Docs

By Jason Anderson / September 7, 2014

By Jason Anderson There’s a wealth of valuable and urgent info in Robert Kenner’s study of how business and ideological interests—and, of course, the Koch brothers, the favourite boogeymen of American liberals—create the illusions of debate and doubt over such issues as climate change in the media arena when none ought to exist. At the…

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TIFF 2014 | Men, Women & Children (Jason Reitman, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 7, 2014

By Adam Nayman With Labor Day, Jason Reitman announced his intentions to become the new Sam Mendes. People should be careful what they wish for. Men, Women & Children could have easily been titled Fall Prestige Picture, or maybe Oscar Movie—you know, something with that nice, concise Seltzman/Friedberg ring. But that would promise a comedy,…

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TIFF 2014 | Eden (Mia Hansen-Løve, France) — Special Presentations

By Kiva Reardon / September 7, 2014

By Kiva Reardon For the first time, Mia Hansen-Løve hasn’t made a movie about a woman. But Eden isn’t about a man either, but rather a sort of man-child. This is an important distinction, given that for this particular creature there’s nothing more terrifying than the inevitable passage of time, which brings with it the slow…

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TIFF 2014 | Coming Home (Zhang Yimou, China) — Special Presentations

By Shelly Kraicer / September 7, 2014

By Shelly Kraicer Admirers of Zhang Yimou’s ground-breaking work from the late 1980s and early 1990s might puzzle over his transformation from innovative artist to state-sponsored populist after seeing his latest domestic hit, Coming Home. A film not without interest, particularly considering it reunites him with his actrice fetiche Gong Li, star of those influential ’90s masterworks (Red Sorghum, Ju…

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TIFF 2014 | Los Hongos (Oscar Ruiz Nava, Colombia) — Discovery

By Alexandra Zawia / September 7, 2014

By Alexandra Zawia Los Hongos translates to “The Mushrooms,” and while there are a couple of joints smoked in Oscar Ruiz Navia’s follow-up to his acclaimed debut feature Crab Trap, the alluded-to hallucinogens never arrive. Metaphorically speaking, young graffiti artists Ras (Jovan Alexis Marquinez Angulo) and Calvin (Calvin Buenaventura Tacon) might be mushrooms; their street-art…

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TIFF 2014 | The Guest (Adam Wingard, US) — Midnight Madness

By Jose Teodoro / September 6, 2014

By José Teodoro Still grieving the loss of their son Caleb to some unspecified military misadventure, the Peterson family finds their lives rejuvenated by the unexpected arrival of David Collins (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens), a handsome, polite young veteran claiming to have been “very close” to Caleb while serving abroad. David says he’s come all…

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TIFF 2014 | Cut Snake (Tony Ayres, Australia) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Jason Anderson / September 6, 2014

By Jason Anderson Though the title of Tony Ayres’ slow-burn thriller is borrowed from an Australian expression for a wild and crazy sort of fella, any potentially phallic connotations cannot be considered accidental. In fact, Ayres ultimately depends too heavily on Cut Snake’s most carnal element—a relatively novel re-ordering of the typical sexual dynamics between…

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TIFF 2014 | Backcountry (Adam McDonald, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2014

By Adam Nayman The obvious point of reference for Adam McDonald’s feature debut is The Edge, except that there’s (more) sexual chemistry between the two leads. (Sorry, Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.) Stubbly Jeff Roop and springy Missy Peregrym star as a city couple who make the (possibly, but no spoilers here) fatal mistake of…

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TIFF 2014 | Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, US) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2014

By Adam Nayman “I’m not going to hire a fucking thief,” exclaims a character early on in Nightcrawler, and while the name-check of Michael Mann’s debut feature is likely entirely coincidental, it serves to place Dan Gilroy’s debut feature in the proper context. As in Mann’s Heat, Los Angeles plays itself here, a star turn that’s…

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TIFF 2014 | A Hard Day (Kim Seong-hun, South Korea) — City to City

By Michael Sicinski / September 6, 2014

  By Michael Sicinski Part of the difficulty of City to City is uneven programming sensibility. It’s a difficult task, and an unenviable one, to try to represent any city or nation’s cinematic output with an eight-film snapshot, and diversity of approaches has to be a watchword. You can’t program a slate composed entirely of…

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TIFF 2014 | Alive (Park Jung-bum, South Korea) — City to City

By Michael Sicinski / September 6, 2014

  By Michael Sicinski As with his debut film, 2010’s The Journals of Musan, Park not only wrote and directed but also stars in Alive, his second feature, which would be an impressive enough feat even if the film weren’t a gruelling three-hour workout. It could be overselling Park’s work just a bit to claim…

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TIFF 2014 | Tales of the Grim Sleeper (Nick Broomfield, USA/UK) — TIFF Docs

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2014

By Adam Nayman Nick Broomfield’s limey knight-errant act has had its moments of wearing thin—as in the terrible Sarah Palin: You Betcha!—but at its core it’s clever, endearing and effective. Shamelessly brandishing the tools of his trade (i.e., his ever-present, conspicuously dangled boom mic) everywhere he goes, Broomfield stylizes himself into a caricature of the…

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TIFF 2014 | Black Souls (Francesco Munzi, Italy) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 6, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front Italian films on the mob seem to do pretty well at the box office, be they about the cultural mafia that hangs out on the elegant rooftops of Rome sipping cocktails and talking crap, or the more venial kind that sees poor people exchanging fire in the suburbs of Naples. Black…

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TIFF 2014 | Ned Rifle (Hal Hartley, US) — Special Presentations

By Jason Anderson / September 5, 2014

By Jason Anderson It’s too much to expect a heroic final-quarter-Hail-Mary moment for Hal Hartley. Though arguably the most distinctive and promising of the original Sundance kids, he has already spent too many years chasing past glories as his amalgam of Godardian irony and existential burlesque lost all spark, form and purpose. Nevertheless, there’s something…

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TIFF 2014 | Red Army (Gabe Polsky, US) — TIFF Docs

By Blake Williams / September 5, 2014

By Blake Williams American director Gabe Polsky’s timing really couldn’t have been worse. Arriving in Cannes only three months after the Berlin debut of Corneliu Porumboiu’s The Second Game—which delivered a radically minimal yet effective variation on the politically-minded sports documentary as Porumboiu has his father, a former soccer referee, provide commentary over the entire broadcast…

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TIFF 2014 | Kabukicho Love Hotel (Hiroki Ryuichi, Japan) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Mark Peranson / September 5, 2014

By Mark Peranson Not-so-fun times abound in this love hotel over the course of 24 hours. A sad-sack manager, who aspires to something more than cleaning up used tissue paper and stained sheets in his black Adidas jumpsuit, is the victim of a perfect storm of sexual embarrassment: his girlfriend shows up to sleep with…

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TIFF 2014 | Journey to the West (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan/France) — Wavelengths

By Shelly Kraicer / September 5, 2014

By Shelly Kraicer A small miracle of a movie, Tsai Ming-liang’s insanely slow mid-length film is also one of his most beautiful. For 56 non-action-packed minutes, we watch Tsai’s acteur fetiche Lee Kang-sheng, head shaved and dressed in red crimson monk-like robes, walk as slowly as possible through various urban spaces in and near Marseilles.…

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TIFF 2014 | Alleluia (Fabrice Du Welz, France) — Vanguard

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2014

By Blake Williams One wonders: did the world really need what is at least the fourth film treatment of the Lonely Hearts Killers case, after Todd Robinson’s utterly useless 2006 (Lonely Hearts), Leonard Kastle’s influential vérité shit-show The Honeymoon Killers (1969) and Arturo Ripstein’s rather mannered Mexican melodrama Deep Crimson (1996)? The source material—an unhinged yet commanding woman…

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TIFF 2014 | Revivre (Im Kwon-taek, South Korea) — Masters

By Michael Sicinski / September 4, 2014

By Michael Sicinski A number of TIFF 14’s Korean films are about the working poor or the criminal class eking out an existence on the mean streets of Seoul. Judging from Hwajang, a.k.a. Revivre,being on top of the capitalist mountain is no guarantee of happiness (although I’m sure any peasant would be glad to give…

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TIFF 2014| Manglehorn (David Gordon Green, USA) / The Humbling (Barry Levinson, USA) — Special Presentations

By Jose Teodoro / September 4, 2014

By José Teodoro David Gordon Green’s recovery from misadventures in the mainstream began in earnest last year with Prince Avalanche and Joe, films that echo the ebullient eccentricities and immersive sense of place of Green’s earliest features while retaining the stars he began using for financial leverage (Paul Rudd, Nicolas Cage) when he was riding…

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TIFF 2014 | Fires on the Plain (Tsukamoto Shinya, Japan) — Wavelengths

By Jason Anderson / September 3, 2014

By Jason Anderson Few things bode less well on paper (or at least a page of the TIFF program book) than the prospect of the director of Tetsuo: The Iron Man and A Snake of June adapting Japanese literature’s most famous anti-war novel, a book that already yielded an equally venerated, Criterion-sanctioned film version by…

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TIFF 2014 | Tu dors Nicole (Stéphane Lafleur, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Angelo Muredda / September 3, 2014

By Angelo Muredda Slight as it is, next to the garrulous shoutiness of much of its Canadian brethren at the festival, Stéphane Lafleur’s Tu dors Nicole feels like a minor oasis. Nicely lensed in minimalist black and white by the filmmaker’s usual collaborator (and Bernard Émond vet) Sara Mishara, the film follows the post-grad ambles…

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TIFF 2014 | Trick or Treaty? (Alanis Obomsawin, Canada) — Masters

By Kiva Reardon / September 3, 2014

By Kiva Reardon Since Alanis Obomsawin began her work with the NFB in the late 1960s, her style hasn’t much changed: talking-head interviews, heavy on narration, pedagogical to the core. True to form, the Masters-ratified Trick or Treaty? offers more of same—but rather than scanning as the work of a stymied veteran institutional filmmaker, Trick…

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TIFF 2014 | Two Days, One Night (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2014

By Adam Nayman “You exist,” says Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) to his wife Sandra (Marion Cotillard) in the Dardenne brothers’ Two Days, One Night—a line which echoes another in Ms. Cotillard’s other recent auteur-film turn in James Gray’s The Immigrant (“You are not nothing”), a movie with which Two Days, One Night otherwise shares very little,…

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TIFF 2014 | Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/Germany/France) — Masters

By Jordan Cronk / September 3, 2014

By Jordan Cronk From Cinema Scope #59 Seemingly preordained, director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s overdue Palme d’Or win provided a nonetheless satisfying conclusion to a rather undramatic Cannes film festival—and, further, to a closing awards ceremony of otherwise empty gestures and mostly uninspired selections. A previous two-time recipient of the Grand Prix for Distant (2002) and…

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TIFF 2014 | From What Is Before (Lav Diaz, Philippines) — Wavelengths

By Alexandra Zawia / September 3, 2014

By Alexandra Zawia Golden Leopard winner Lav Diaz’ From What Is Before is (pace Michael Haneke) the chronology of a mass murder. It’s the anatomy of a barrio in the rural remoteness of Manila’s coast, and a reflection on individual and collective strength and failure when outward conditions change. It’s an associative analysis of a…

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TIFF 2014 | Madame Bovary (Sophie Barthes, UK/Belgium) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 3, 2014

By Jay Kuehner Renoir, Chabrol, Oliveira and Minnelli, among a host of others, have all taken a cinematic crack at Flaubert’s realist chef d’oeuvre, but surprisingly, the young French director Sophie Barthes—for whom the book is part of an inherited cultural DNA—is the first woman to adapt the original “modern realist” novel, and not for…

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TIFF 2014 | The Search (Michel Hazanavicius, France) — Special Presentations

By Blake Williams / September 3, 2014

By Blake Williams The Search is what happens when winning awards supersedes making cinema. It’s what happens when pastiche is mistaken for art; when Bérénice Bejo and Annette Benning have Best Actress prizes on their résumés; when the context informing a movie is only other movies. It’s the kind of war picture you get when your…

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TIFF 2014 | National Gallery (Frederick Wiseman, US) — TIFF Docs

By Kiva Reardon / September 3, 2014

By Kiva Reardon After a quick establishing shot of the stone lions that guard the British National Gallery, Frederick Wiseman plunges into the building itself with a rapid-fire montage of the iconic works that hang on its walls. The effect is nearly overwhelming—especially for a viewer like me who dropped the one Art History class…

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TIFF 2014 | Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait (Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedrixian, Syria/France) — TIFF Docs

By Richard Porton / September 3, 2014

By Richard Porton Susan Sontag once observed how war photography enables us to both regard and consume the “pain of others.” Ossama Mohammed and Wiam Simav Bedrixian’s powerful film confronts this quandary head on by challenging its audience not to be numbed by a series of horrific images, most of them culled from mobile-phone videos…

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TIFF 2014 | 99 Homes (Ramin Bahrani, US) — Special Presentations

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 3, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) lives with his mother and son in a home he thinks belongs to them, until one day one the ominously named Mike Carver (Michael Shannon), accompanied by a couple of zealous policemen, informs him and his family that it actually belongs to the banks. Kindly invited to…

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TIFF 2014 | I Am Here (Lixin Fan, China) — TIFF Docs

By Wu Ming / September 3, 2014

By Wu Ming China has nothing on the West when it comes to glossy televised star-making contests. The Super Girl contest in 2005 broke television viewing records and transformed the way Chinese youth audiences engaged with pop culture. Along comes the inevitable Super Boy contest, to which award-winning filmmaker Fan Yixin (Last Train Home) has been given…

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TIFF 2014 | Girlhood (Céline Sciamma, France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Jordan Cronk / September 3, 2014

By Jordan Cronk Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood, the opening night selection of this year’s Quinzaine des réalisateurs, is a case study in overestimating the capacity of an established methodology. Following the two modest, unassumingly insightful features (the sexual coming-of-age chronicle Water Lilies and Tomboy, an observant examination of adolescent gender awakening), Sciamma’s latest doesn’t expand her…

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TIFF 2014 | Still the Water (Naomi Kawase, Japan) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 3, 2014

By Michael Sicinski Despite Naomi Kawase’s claims prior to the film’s world premiere at Cannes, Still the Water is not her masterpiece, and it’s uncertain she will ever actually make one. However, this is her best film since Shara back in 2003, and although the same basic faults that hobbled The Mourning Forest and Hanezu…

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TIFF 2014 | Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund, Sweden) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2014

By Adam Nayman It’s hard to recall a recent movie that’s whiter than Force Majeure, and not only because it’s set in Sweden. Ruben Östlund’s third film takes place at sleek ski resort whose peaks and slopes seem pristine against the usual telltale marks of human incursion; here, the snow blankets everything, and even sometimes…

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TIFF 2014 | What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, New Zealand) — Midnight Madness

By Jason Anderson / September 3, 2014

By Jason Anderson Less a spinoff of HBO’s well-loved Flight of the Conchords than a large step up by the New Zealand co-writing, -directing and -starring team of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi after their terminally twee Eagle vs. Shark and too-cute coming-of-age tale Boy, What We Do in the Shadows invites us to into…

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TIFF 2014 | It Follows (David Robert Mitchell, US) — Midnight Madness

By Angelo Muredda / September 3, 2014

By Angelo Muredda Trading the gentle lilt of his debut The Myth of the American Sleepover for a steelier look at youth in extremis, David Robert Mitchell arrives seemingly out of the box as a skillful genre filmmaker with It Follows. The “it” in question is an otherwise unnamed, shape-shifting stalker contracted like a virus…

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TIFF 2014 | Leopardi (Mario Martone, Italy) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 3, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front After dealing with the unification of Italy in We Believed, Mario Martone returns with another film of “unassuming” proportions: Leopardi, a biopic of the eponymous poet, one of the most revered and studied in the boot-shaped peninsula lately known more for its scantily dressed TV starlets than its literary output. Oppressed…

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TIFF 2014 | Secrets of War (Dennis Bots, The Netherlands) — TIFF Kids

By Michael Sicinski / September 3, 2014

By Michael Sicinski This fairly mediocre period piece is what we might call a double-whammy, given that it practically begs for critics to grade it on a curve. Not only is it a perfectly edifying film about World War II and the Nazis, it’s a film for and about children, which presumably excuses the extremely…

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TIFF 2014 | Theeb (Naji Abu Nowar, Jordan/Qatar/UAE/UK) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 3, 2014

  By Michael Sicinski This debut feature from Abu Nowar starts out in a very familiar place, even though it still retains a certain exotic mystique for many filmmakers. We’re in the desolate hill country of an as-yet-unspecified part of the Middle East, where tribalism and patriarchal authority are the only real forms of social…

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TIFF 2014 | Hungry Hearts (Saverio Costanzo, Italy) — Special Presentations

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 2, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front Jude (Adam Driver) and Mina (Alba Rochwacher) get stuck in a toilet together and fall in love, they marry and have a kid, but they won’t live happily ever after. Quite the contrary: once the newborn comes into their young and hopeful lives things get quite complicated, to say the very…

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TIFF 2014 | Jauja (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina/Mexico/Denmark/France/Germany/USA/Brazil) — Wavelengths

By Quintin / September 2, 2014

By Quintín From Cinema Scope #59 After the completion of his “Lonely Men Trilogy” of La libertad (2001), Los muertos (2004), and Liverpool (2008), people started to say that Lisandro Alonso should do something different. Jauja answers that request: it’s a film with an international star (Viggo Mortensen), features characters who speak in full sentences,…

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TIFF 2014 | Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 2, 2014

By Blake Williams The dumbest thing about Andrey Zvyagintsev’s new snoozer, Leviathan, is his commitment to that title. Either he’s completely oblivious to the goings-on in world cinema since his last film, the rather great Elena (2011), was released, or he actually thought his effort would stand up well against Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s homonymous, soul-destroying…

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TIFF 2014 | Amour fou (Jessica Hausner, Austria/Luxembourg/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Alexandra Zawia / September 2, 2014

By Alexandra Zawia Biographies reveal that the German Romantic writer Heinrich Von Kleist always wanted to die. When you consider that his witty, darkly subversive, socially critical and emotionally charged body of work never got the recognition it deserved in his lifetime, that death wish is easier to understand. Still, some trepidation on his part…

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TIFF 2014 | The Wanted 18 (Amer Shomali & Paul Cowan, Canada/Palestine/France) — TIFF Docs

By Kiva Reardon / September 2, 2014

By Kiva Reardon In 1987, during the first Intifada, a group of Palestinians in Beit Sahour bought 18 cows. As every action in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is imbued with a deeper meaning, these weren’t just basic bovines, but symbols of how the town could become self-sustainable (specifically, by breaking the community’s reliance on Israeli…

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TIFF 2014 | The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (Takahata Isao, Japan) — Masters

By Jordan Cronk / September 2, 2014

By Jordan Cronk Based on a 10th-century Japanese folktale, The Tale of The Princess Kaguya represents for its director Takahata Isao—who has claimed that it will be his final film—an appropriately nostalgic, fanciful reconciliation of his primary themes and techniques. Animated in Takahata’s familiar blend of pastel and watercolour abstracts, the film unfolds as a…

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TIFF 2014 | The Vanished Elephant (Javier Fuentes-León, Peru/Colombia/Spain)—Discovery

By Jose Teodoro / September 2, 2014

By José Teodoro Cop turned crime novelist Edo Celeste (Salvador del Solar) is having trouble cracking the ending of what’s to be the final installment in a series of successful detective novels. That’s quite the opposite situation of the film he finds himself in: the ending of The Vanished Elephant seems to have always been…

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TIFF 2014 | OBRA (Gregorio Graziosi, Brazil) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 2, 2014

By Michael Sicinski OBRA, the debut feature by Gregorio Graziosi, is a frustrating film. Foregrounding the problem of late modern architecture and filled with analytical cinematography of São Paolo’s urban density, there’s no question that this is a film with things on its mind. (The opening lines of dialogue are a citation of Charles Jencks’…

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TIFF 2014 | Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (Mark Hartley, Australia) — Midnight Madness

By Ian Barr / September 2, 2014

By Ian Barr Mark Hartley’s 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! was a ribald, enjoyably jocular chronicle of Australian cinema’s disreputable forgotten years, leading up to its middlebrow heyday in the late ’70s. With Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, Hartley facetiously recycles the earlier title’s adjectives…

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TIFF 2014 | Whiplash (Damien Chazelle, US) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 2, 2014

By Angelo Muredda Pitched somewhere between a kunstlerroman and an Archers melodrama about the psychic toll wrought by a life of artistic commitment, Whiplash is about as off-kilter as Sundance darlings get. An extended riff on sophomore helmer Damien Chazelle’s earlier short, the film stars Miles Teller as Andrew Neyman, an aspiring jazz drummer lured…

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TIFF 2014 | Adieu au langage (Jean-Luc Godard, France) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 2, 2014

By Blake Williams From Cinema Scope #59 The first on-screen text in Toutes les histoires (1988), the first chapter of Histoire(s) du cinéma, reads (as translated), “May each eye negotiate for itself.” Presented while Godard pronounces another maxim (“Don’t show every side of things; allow yourself a margin for the indefinite”), this text effectively prepares…

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TIFF 2014 | The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark/Indonesia/Norway/Finland/UK) — TIFF Docs

By Celluloid Liberation Front / September 2, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front In Joshua Oppenheimer’s sequel to his Oscar-nominated The Act of Killing, the focus shifts from the colourful perpetrators of the crimes that the Indonesian junta committed in the mid-’60s so that Shell, BP, Goodyear and other companies could access the country’s natural resources to the killers’ victims. We follow an optometrist…

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TIFF 2014 | In the Crosswind (Martti Helde, Estonia) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Kiva Reardon / September 2, 2014

By Kiva Reardon As one might expect of a film dedicated to the victims of the “Soviet Holocaust,” In the Crosswind is mighty bleak, but it’s not misery porn. Estonian director Marti Helde eschews the form of the standard historical biopic for an exploration of time, which literally stands still onscreen via a series of…

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TIFF 2014 | Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, USA) — Gala

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2014

By Adam Nayman Early on in Foxcatcher, eccentric billionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) expresses his frustration about the indifference afforded to young men who’ve served their country. That the veteran in question is an Olympic gold-medal winning wrestler (Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz) rather than a military man doesn’t diminish the sense of reactionary…

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TIFF 2014 | Waste Land (Pieter Van Hees, Belgium) — Vanguard

By Jason Anderson / September 1, 2014

By Jason Anderson City streets come a lot meaner than those of Brussels. Indeed, at one point in this initially intriguing but increasingly turgid Belgian thriller, the central homicide detective played by Jérémie Renier gets razzed about the city’s murder rate, which is puny by the standards of the cops in Seven, Bad Lieutenant and…

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TIFF 2014 | The Owners (Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Kazakhstan) — Contemporary World Cinema)

By Michael Sicinski / September 1, 2014

By Michael Sicinski It’s difficult to evaluate a film as aggressively unusual as The Owners. Despite its grating quirks and featherweight jabs at social commentary, it cannot be summarily dismissed. This is the sort of film that is likely to garner not just defenders but a small coterie of genuine fans, folks who see director…

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TIFF 2014 | Run (Philippe Lacôte, France/Ivory Coast) — Discovery

By Blake Williams / September 1, 2014

By Blake Williams The only overtly political film in this year’s Un Certain Regard section in Cannes came from Ivorian filmmaker Philippe Lacôte in the form of his fiction debut, Run. Unfortunate Forrest Gump (1994) resemblance aside (“Ever since I was young, people would call me Run,” spoken in voiceover by the film’s protagonist over the image of…

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TIFF 2014 | An Eye for Beauty (Denys Arcand, Canada) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 1, 2014

By Angelo Muredda “Some people are stuck in a wheelchair and they’re happy, and others want to kill themselves when their poodle died,” a ponderous Adonis muses early in Denys Arcand’s tiresome An Eye for Beauty. That’s one of many meaningless canards spouted in a film that mostly scans as a dumb almanac for the…

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TIFF 2014 | La Salada (Juan Martín Hsu, Argentina) — Discovery

By Diego Brodersen / September 1, 2014

By Diego Brodersen The debut feature by Juan Martín Hsu (the son of Chinese parents, but born in Buenos Aires) has the virtue of being nice and sincere, almost the exact opposite of what one would expect when reading the catalogue synopsis. A story of Korean, Bolivian and Taiwanese immigrants in Argentina, La Salada avoids…

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TIFF 2014 | The Tribe (Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine) — Discovery

By Robert Koehler / September 1, 2014

From Cinema Scope #59 By Robert Koehler In his third short film, Diagnosis (2009), Miroslav Slaboshpytskiy shows a young working-class man—possibly the father—snuffing a newborn infant with a pillow in a hospital. In his fourth short, Deafness (2010), a cop interrogates a deaf-mute suspect by nearly suffocating him with a plastic bag in his squad…

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TIFF 2014 | Heaven Knows What (Josh and Benny Safdie, USA/France) — Wavelengths

By Celluloid Liberation Front / August 31, 2014

By Celluloid Liberation Front There are a limited amount of situations one can stage when endeavouring to show the daily routine of street junkies in a movie, and Heaven Knows What suffers from such limitation in its sincere but problematic attempt to chronicle the cyclical existence of a group of young addicts. Mood swings are…

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TIFF 2014 | A Girl at My Door (July Jung, South Korea) — City to City

By Michael Sicinski / August 31, 2014

By Michael Sicinski This well-received Un Certain Regard entry (the debut film from a protégée of Lee Chang-dong, who produced) has all the trappings of a serious festival entry, and it superficially shares a number of Lee’s thematic concerns: the big-city transplant stranded in a provincial backwater; the closed-minded, insular nature of said community of…

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TIFF 2014 | The Valley Below (Kyle Thomas, Canada) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / August 31, 2014

By Michael Sicinski First things first: this is a pretty good film. Granted, first-time feature director Kyle Thomas makes some strategic errors, most notably a decision to organize his film around semi-independent but ultimately intersecting characters and storylines, which is the last refuge of scoundrels and fiction-workshop MFAs. This manoeuvre has the unfortunate effect of…

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TIFF 2014 | Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, France/Mauritania/Mali) — Masters

By Tom Charity / August 31, 2014

By Tom Charity Abderrahmane Sissako’s first feature since 2007’s Bamako is a fleet, forceful response to the brief but traumatic few months in 2013 when foreign jihadists seized control of the northern Malian city and imposed Sharia law (an incursion that was eventually repelled by the former colonial power, France, which is where Sissako now…

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TIFF 2014 | Men Who Save the World (Liew Seng Tat, Malaysia/Netherlands/Germany/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Shelly Kraicer / August 31, 2014

By Shelly Kraicer Liew Seng Tat’s eagerly awaited follow up to his award-winning Flower in the Pocket sets out to be a boisterous comedy of rural cross-dressing and ghostly hauntings, but it has fascinating, somewhat disguised undercurrents suggesting something more serious. Pak Awang (a magisterial Wan Hanafi Su) is marrying off his daughter, who has…

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TIFF 2014 | ’71 (Yann Demange, UK) — Discovery

By Kiva Reardon / August 31, 2014

By Kiva Reardon The Greengrass grows all over Yann Demange’s ’71, the latest example of a “historical” drama that believes that “immediacy” stripped of context equals the universal. Set in Troubles-troubled Belfast in the eponymous apostrophized year, the film follows a young English soldier, Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell), who gets separated from his unit after…

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TIFF 2014 | Wild Tales (Damián Szifron, Argentina/Spain) — Special Presentations

By Blake Williams / August 31, 2014

By Blake Williams It’s a sad sign of the state of Pedro Almodóvar’s career when one is more intrigued by the projects listing his name in their production credits than the ones he himself directed. This has as much to do with the rise of frequent collaborator Lucrecia Martel into one of world cinema’s juggernauts…

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TIFF 2014 | Clouds of Sils Maria (Olivier Assayas, France) — Special Presentations

By Mallory Andrews / August 31, 2014

By Mallory Andrews “It’s fucking brave,” says Valentine (Kristine Stewart) in defense of actress Jo-Ann Ellis’ (Chloë Grace Moretz) performance in the latest Hollywood big-budget goofy sci-fi superhero flick. Her comment is directed at her employer, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche, typecast as a legendary French actress), but it could very well be a salvo against…

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TIFF 2014 | Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, Canada) — Gala

By Adam Nayman / August 31, 2014

By Adam Nayman David Cronenberg’s worst movie in fifteen years finds him playing his usual home game on foreign turf. Los Angeles in Maps to the Stars feels just as alienated and under-populated as New York in Cosmopolis (2012), which is of course the point—a point that was once novel but is getting tiresome. Also…

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TIFF 2014 | Infinitely Polar Bear (Maya Forbes, USA) — Gala

By Jose Teodoro / August 31, 2014

By José Teodoro Maya Forbes’ late ’70s-set semi-autobiographical first feature reflects on a childhood spent under the parentage of Maggie (Zoe Saldana) and Cam Stuart (Mark Ruffalo), the former an African-American woman of modest origins struggling to forge a career in law, the latter a scion of old American aristocracy whose bipolar disorder has rendered…

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