TIFF 2015

TIFF 2015 | My Skinny Sister (Saana Lenken, Sweden/Germany)—TIFF Kids

By Michael Sicinski Although some critics will undoubtedly refer to Saana Lenken’s film about teenage bulimia as Afterschool Special material, let’s be clear: no American or Canadian film would approach the seriousness or cruelty with which Lenken addresses her Swedish audience. More than once, the relationship between Stella (Rebecka Josephson) and her sister Katja (Amy…
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TIFF 2015 | Northern Soul (Elaine Constantine, UK)—City to City

By Michael Sicinski Given that these online reviews offer a comments section, I’d like to invite readers to chime in here, as if we were doing a radio call-in show: did anyone who attended TIFF this year, critic or regular filmgoer, actually see any of the City to City films? Honestly, I haven’t heard a…
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TIFF 2015 | It All Started at the End (Luis Ospina, Colombia)—TIFF Docs

By Steve Macfarlane Long before “poverty porn” was popular parlance, a tight-knit network of filmmakers and artists in Colombia made Agarrando Pueblo (The Vampires of Poverty), a satiric mockumentary about Latin American documentarians “selling images of poverty to Europe” to boost their own careers. The 28-minute short gets a few minutes’ special attention in Luis…
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TIFF 2015 | No Men Beyond This Point (Mark Sawers, Canada)—Vanguard

By Tom Charity Providing a welcome counterpoint to the pregnant pre-teen boys in Evolution, Mark Sawers’ documentary traces the rise of the Virgin Birth in the latter half of the 20th century, the redundancy of the male sex, and anticipates man’s imminent extinction as womankind inherits the planet. This is all in jest, of course—a mockumentary,…
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TIFF 2015 | Sunset Song (Terence Davies, UK/Luxembourg)—Special Presentations

By Steve Macfarlane There is no such thing as a “minor” Terence Davies. If anything, the divisive response at Toronto to the Liverpool-born master’s new Sunset Song (based on a 1932 novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon) verifies the preciousness with which critics have been holding Davies’ auteurism, and perhaps their own experiences of his work,…
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TIFF 2015 | SPL 2: A Time for Consequences (Soi Cheang, China)—Midnight Madness

By Michael Sicinski It’s been ten years since Wilson Yip’s SPL (unceremoniously retitled Kill Zone for its North American home video release), and apart from the reappearance of Simon Yam in a completely different role, there’s not much connection between the first film and this supposed sequel. Helmed by Milky Way protégé Soi Cheang (Accident,…
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TIFF 2015 | Parisienne (Danielle Arbid, France)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Diana Dabrowska An abusive uncle tries to rape his beautiful Lebanese niece, Lina (Manal Issa). The Lebanese girl manages to defend her dignity and runs away from home. She gets lost in the darkness of the night, while Paris in the background begins glow. Meeting different men and lovers, young Lina discovers the faces…
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TIFF 2015 | Demolition (Jean-Marc Vallée, US)—Gala Presentations

Special TORONTO FILM REVIEW Guest Edition (N.B. This is presented absent any editorial intervention.) By David Davidson It’s a gift for his public how that in recent years Jean-Marc Vallée has been bringing each year a new film to TIFF. Demolition in particular is unique in that instead of using the premiere platform to build…
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TIFF 2015 | Desierto (Jonás Cuarón, Mexico/France)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman “Welcome to the land of the free,” growls self-styled border patrolman Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), mere moments after shooting up a group of Mexicans trying to sneak into the United States. With his pickup truck, sleeve tattoo, antenna-mounted Confederate flag and “Don’t Tread on Me” sticker—not to mention his high-powered rifle—he’s the…
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TIFF 2015 | Demon (Marcin Wrona, Poland)—Vanguard

By Diana Dabrowska Five years after The Christening, young director Marcin Wrona returns with Demon, a meditation on Polish memory that hints at the need to exorcise the past. He’s attempting to make a serious movie within a genre framework, and he succeeds in balancing the right amounts of fear, humour, and grotesquerie. Peter (Itay…
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TIFF 2015 | My Name is Emily (Simon Fitzmaurice, Ireland)—Discovery

By Michael Sicinski This story of a troubled teenaged girl (Harry Potter actress Evanna Lynch) taking a road trip to retrieve her father (Michael Smiley) from a mental institution seems to have the potential to break with the clichés of the coming-of-age template. Emily’s mother died when she was young, and Dad eventually became so…
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TIFF 2015 | Lace Crater (Harrison Atkins, US)—Vanguard

By Steve Macfarlane A queasy demise is the best-case scenario on the other side of a one-night stand in Harrison Atkins’ Lace Crater, a s-s-s-s-s-s-spooky and inventive indie debut that’s best seen, if possible, in a packed theatre. The ever-reliable Lindsay Burdge stars as Ruth, a twentysomething in the aftermath of a heinous breakup with…
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TIFF 2015 | Magallanes (Salvador del Solar, Peru/ Argentina/ Colombia/Spain)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Roger Koza Extortion, kidnapping, violence, corruption, brutality—all those nouns are applicable to a whole vein of Latin American films celebrated in almost all the international film festivals that follow the successful and much trodden path of squalour and sordidness. In this adaptation of Alonso Cueto’s novel La pasajera, cab driver and ex-soldier Magallanes (Damián…
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TIFF 2015 | Maggie’s Plan (Rebecca Miller, US)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman No, it’s not an alternate title for the Thatcherite satire of High-Rise: Rebecca Miller’s abrupt slide into conventionality after a string of spiky efforts follows the Machiavellian machinations of a thirtyish single gal (Greta Gerwig) who steals the writer husband (Ethan Hawke) of an eccentric academic (Julianne Moore) and then tries to…
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TIFF 2015 | Mississippi Grind (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, US)—Gala Presentations

By Aurélie Godet Having long self-diagnosed myself with an addictive personality, combined with a rather unhealthy relationship with money, I dread movies about gamblers. So while watching Mississippi Grind, I spent half an hour standing at the back of the theatre, ready for my exit. But I never left, eyes drawn to the screen as…
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TIFF 2015 | Hurt (Alan Zweig, Canada)—Platform

By Adam Nayman Real-life stories don’t come much more metaphorically resonant than that of Steve Fonyo, the B.C.-born amputee who followed in Terry Fox’s footsteps in a cross-Canada run for cancer research in 1985—an inspirational route that has led him 30 years later into total ruin. The mystery of how a national hero was so…
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TIFF 2015 | Sector IX B (Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, France/ Senegal)—Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski Based on the work of Surrealist anthropologist Michel Leiris (in particular his controversial volume L’Afrique fantôme), this featurette by post-colonial artist Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc begins in the theoretical realm and soon veers into the dense thicket of fantasy. Sector IX B centres on an academic researcher (Betty Tchomanga) who travels to the…
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TIFF 2015 | Yakuza Apocalypse (Miike Takashi, Japan)—Midnight Madness

By Boris Nelepo Yakuza, martial arts, vampires, romance, and a devious villain dressed up as a frog. This cursory summary might just be the most accurate one, seeing that in Yakuza Apocalypse, Miike Takashi reaches new heights of disregard for narrative coherence, even for him. Changing its course throughout, this ebullient mess of a movie…
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TIFF 2015 | Hellions (Bruce McDonald, Canada)—Vanguard

By Adam Nayman One hopes that Bruce McDonald’s heart wasn’t in Hellions. At times, it’s feeble enough to be mistaken for backyard filmmaking, except that it lacks the joy—the getting-away-with-somehing giddiness—of kids remaking Halloween with a consumer-grade camcorder. John Carpenter’s classic is evoked a half-dozen different times over the course of the truly incomprehensible storyline,…
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TIFF 2015 | Men & Chicken (Anders Thomas Jensen, Denmark / Germany, Vanguard)

By Michael Sicinski Not only Anders Thomas Jensen’s best directorial effort by a country mile (faint praise, that), but far more satisfying than many of his scenarios for other, better directors, Men & Chicken is a black comedy about extreme family dysfunction. What begins as a kind of odd-couple brothers’ tale soon goes way off…
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TIFF 2015 | Rabin, the Last Day (Amos Gitaï, Israel/France)—Masters

By Manu Yáñez In a meditative and torrential fashion, Rabin, the Last Day thoroughly analyzes the socio-political environment that, according to Amos Gitaï, triggered the 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the last reliable hope for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Avoiding the languor and affectation of many Gitaï films while remaining faithful…
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TIFF 2015 | Ixcanul (Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala/ France)—Discovery

By Jay Kuehner Like its eponymous volcano, Ixcanul smoulders. A lavishly raw ethnographic fiction with documentary elements set among a Kaqchikel Mayan community on the Guatemalan plateau, Jayro Bustamante’s debut follows the rituals of a coffee-farming village in his native country that sits in elemental proximity to an active volcano, the surrounding landscape both blackened…
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TIFF 2015 | Story of Judas (Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, France)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Aurélie Godet Three years ago, French-Algerian filmmaker Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, a consistently ambitious auteur, played the title role in his film Les chants de Mandrin (Smugglers’ Song), a beloved outlaw of pre-Revolutionary France who was barbarically executed in a public square. In a sort of amplification of that project’s scope, the writer-director proposes with Story…
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TIFF 2015 | Full Contact (David Verbeek, Netherlands/Croatia)—Platform

By Tom Charity Dutch filmmaker David Verbeek adopts an (initially) opaque, almost Apichatpongian tri-partite structure in this boldly visualized response to the alienated nature of the War on Terror. French-born lieutenant Ivan Delphine (Claire Denis fixture Grégoire Colin) “pilots” drones, calling down missile strikes on unsuspecting al-Qaeda targets in the Middle East from the security…
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TIFF 2015 | The Devil’s Candy (Sean Byrne, US)—Midnight Madness

By Ian Barr Sean Byrne’s 2009 prom-night chamber-horror comedy The Loved Ones was a promising debut feature. This belated follow-up—a satanic haunted-house chiller, with Shining references galore and a droning Sunn O))) score—is equally promising, further suggesting that Byrne will eventually deliver a film worthy of his already distinctive wit and stylistic virtuosity. One’s enjoyment…
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TIFF 2015 | Journey to the Shore (Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Japan/France)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Müge Turan Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu) is a young piano teacher. One night Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano), her husband who went missing three years ago, materializes out of the blue in their apartment. He confirms that he’s dead and invites her to go on a journey to meet the nice places and people who showed him…
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TIFF 2015 | Afternoon (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan)—Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski Following the release of his 2013 film Stray Dogs (a work that some consider his masterpiece), Tsai Ming-liang announced his retirement from feature filmmaking. He’s been busier than ever since this alleged bowing out, producing a stage play and the Walker series of medium-length films (Tsai released the latest one, No No…
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TIFF 2015 | The Event (Sergei Loznitsa, Netherlands/Belgium)—Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski Following Maidan, last year’s impeccable the-revolution-is-live bulletin from Ukraine, Sergei Loznitsa returns to the found-footage format with which he first came to international prominence. The Event is in many respects a logical follow-up to Maidan, and attentive viewers will detect certain formal and ideological echoes. Centred on the military coup that represented…
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TIFF 2015 | Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson, US)—TIFF Docs

By Boris Nelepo After being approached by Arte three years ago, renowned musician Laurie Anderson started developing a personal film essay in memory of her beloved rat terrier Lolabelle, who died in 2011. Though the pet had gone blind not long before death, Anderson still managed to teach her painting, sculpture, and music. Initially conceived…
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TIFF 2015 | Louder Than Bombs (Joachim Trier, Norway/ France/ Denmark)—Special Presentations

By Müge Turan Norwegian director Joachim Trier’s leaden English-language debut is a study of a dysfunctional family in turmoil, surveying grief, lack of communication and painful secrets (as well as the generational gap) between a schoolteacher father (Gabriel Byrne) and his sons (Jesse Eisenberg and Devin Druid) as they cope with the loss of the…
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TIFF 2015 | Jack (Elisabeth Scharang, Austria)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Tom Charity About three-quarters through Elisabeth Scharang’s film about the Austrian murderer turned literary sensation Jack Unterweger, the reformed and released killer is excited to meet with a leading European filmmaker (identified as “Neumann”). Neumann receives him politely, but not with the enthusiasm Jack has become accustomed to. “Don’t try to be an artist,”…
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TIFF 2015 | Disorder (Alice Winocour, France/Belgium)—Gala Presentations

By Blake Williams Alice Winocour’s Disorder—that’s of the post-traumatic stress variety, no pigs unleashed on congested Guangzhou highways here—occupies a point on the line one could conceivably trace between Claire Denis’ cryptic, visceral genre pictures and Kathryn Bigelow’s post-“Shock and Awe” work. Which is to say, stylistically speaking, this has nowhere near the same DNA…
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TIFF 2015 | A Young Patriot (Du Haibin, China/US)—TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski Hey, look! A film from the New Chinese Documentary Movement! Usually when this happens, it’s because a Wavelengths slot has been given to the latest from Wang Bing. But this somewhat rare appearance in TIFF Docs by a Chinese doc makes a bit more sense once you discover that it’s co-produced by…
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TIFF 2015 | Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton (Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson & Galen Johnson, Canada)—Wavelengths

By Mark Peranson Wherein Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson, and Galen Johnson give Paul Gross’ wannabe populist war epic Hyena Road a right and proper cuadecuc-ing. Who would have thought Pere Portabella’s legendary experiment shot on the set of Jess Franco’s Count Dracula (1970) would inspire not one, but two films at this year’s TIFF—well, three,…
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TIFF 2015 | Hyena Road (Paul Gross, Canada)—Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman Canada, Fuck Yeah. Written, directed, starring, and narrated by Paul Gross—close-shorn and bearded like a badass—Hyena Road tries to show that war and war movies aren’t just for Americans. Our boots are on the ground and filled by strapping specimens like Rossif Sutherland, cast here as a northern cousin to American Sniper’s…
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TIFF 2015 | Santa Teresa and Other Stories (Nelson De Los Santos Arias, Mexico/ Dominican Republic/ US)—Wavelengths

By Leo Goldsmith Nelson De Los Santos Arias’ Santa Teresa and Other Stories is a (very) loose adaptation of parts of Roberto Bolaño’s epic novel 2666 which the filmmaker interweaves with the stories of friends and collaborators. The title is a hint: Santa Teresa and Other Stories is something of a grab-bag, shot on a…
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TIFF 2015 | Man Down (Dito Montiel, US)—Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman Dito Montiel’s Man Down is a visionary work of abstract cinema—a haptic masterpiece that overwhelms the viewer through the sheer scale of its imagery. Then again, I was sitting in the front row of a press screening held in an IMAX cinema, so your mileage may vary. Chances are that those audience…
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TIFF 2015 | Our Last Tango (German Kral, Germany/Argentina)—TIFF Docs

By Tom Charity We all know it takes two to tango, and that’s a problem for this mildly engaging but lop-sided strut down memory lane with Maria Nieves Rego and Juan Carlos Copes, the Ginger and Fred of Argentine tango. Maria, at 80, is eager to revisit the past, reminiscing about dancing with the broom…
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TIFF 2015 | Our Brand is Crisis (David Gordon Green, US)—Special Presentations

By Steve Macfarlane A fictionalized, present-day reimagining of Rachel Boynton’s terrific 2005 documentary of same name, Our Brand is Crisis would have an uphill battle on its hands even if it were a masterpiece, which it most certainly is not. David Gordon Green’s latest is instead a pleasant enough if decidedly un-hip studio diversion starring…
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TIFF 2015 | Homesick (Anne Sewitsky, Norway)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Ian Barr The catch-all programme title “Contemporary World Cinema” carries with it a threat of homogeneity, and films like Anne Sewitsky’s incest drama Homesick do little to dispel that impression. The film’s first warning bell is an overly convenient therapy-session opening scene, in which Charlotte (newcomer Ine Marie Wilmann) attempts to evade her shrink’s…
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TIFF 2015 | 11 Minutes (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland/Ireland)—Masters

By Manu Yáñez In his unorthodox answer to Hollywood action movies, Jerzy Skolimowski has made a film that is more than (or maybe exactly) what it seems. In narrative terms, there’s the (unconscious) battle for survival of a human pack that faces its destiny between 5:00 and 5:11pm on a given day. The extraordinary here…
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TIFF 2015 | The Steps (Andrew Currie, Canada)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman For generating the mental image of Chad Kroeger getting head from Sloane from Entourage, The Steps warrants scorn; it’s a weak Canadian movie indeed that has to namecheck Nickelback in order to get a laugh. Actually, the funniest moment in Andrew Currie’s film is when Big Apple broker Jeff (Jason Ritter) phones…
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TIFF 2015 | Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, US)—Special Presentations

By Boris Nelepo Charlie Kaufman has been sorely missed. It’s hard to believe that following his series of screenwriting smashes in the early 2000s, and his underrated directorial debut Synecdoche, New York (2008), he slipped under the radar for a good seven years. His comeback feature Anomalisa has grown out of the eponymous play he…
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TIFF 2015 | Price of Love (Hermon Hailay, Ethiopia)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski Hermon Hailay’s third feature is a somewhat puzzling melodrama centered on Teddy (Eskindir Tameru), a young Addis Ababa cab driver with a chequered past. His attempt to keep on the straight and narrow is disrupted by a chance encounter with Fere (Fereweni Gebregergs), a beautiful sex worker who is “owned” by Marcos…
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TIFF 2015 | I Smile Back (Adam Salky, US)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman “Do you want to hear about the daddy issues or the drugs?” queries Laney (Sarah Silverman) to her doctor on the first day of rehab; 28 days later, she’s had ample time to talk (and think) about both, but it’s unclear as to whether or not she’s been healed. Because Laney is…
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TIFF 2015 | Honor Thy Father (Erik Matti, Philippines)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski Erik Matti’s recent actioner On the Job (2013) was a big hit at home and even got a moderate release in North America, not that the film managed to bring in those coveted Crouching Tiger, Heroic Grandmaster crossover dollars. But there is a sheen of transnational professionalism that coats Matti’s work—quite distinct…
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TIFF 2015 | Invention (Mark Lewis, UK/Canada)—Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski Considering the degree to which Mark Lewis’s work has evolved over the years, its origins in the Vancouver art scene of the ’80s and ’90s can go only so far in explaining it. But however inadequate such periodization may be, perhaps one way to consider Invention is as a kind of conceptual…
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TIFF 2015 | Desdé Alla (Lorenzo Vigas, Venezuela/Mexico)—Discovery

By Diana Dabrowska Alfredo, a wealthy, middle-aged man, travels by bus, tempting underage teenagers with large sums of money. They don’t even have to sleep with him or touch him. Alfredo only watches as a harmless voyeur. The rules are very simple: turn around, lean against the wall, pull off your t-shirt and slightly slide…
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TIFF 2015 | Frenzy (Emin Alper)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Diana Dabrowska Turkish cinema currently lives under the sign of Nuri Bilge Ceylan; Frenzy throws a new name into the ring. Emin Alper’s 2012 debut Beyond the Hill was a family drama that transformed repressed violence into a sociological parable; his follow-up is a metaphorical study of madness and paranoia as an expression of…
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TIFF 2015 | Into the Forest (Patricia Rozema, Canada)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman It’s the Time of the Wolf, Canadian-style. But where big bad Michael Haneke quickly gets his apocalypse on the Road, Patricia Rozema keeps her characters in the Cabin in the Woods—all the better to see them emote, my dear. Adapted from Jean Hegland’s allegorical novel about an unspecified near-future catastrophe that leaves…
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TIFF 2015 | Trumbo (Jay Roach, US)—Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman All Dalton Trumbo ever wanted was his name on an Academy Award, and the same goes for the people who’ve been entrusted with telling his life story. This is not to impugn Bryan Cranston or the other crackerjack actors cast as (in)famous faces from Hollywood’s past—chances are that Otto Preminger would have…
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TIFF 2015 | Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga, US)—Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner Lodged somewhere in spirit between two defining moments of its protagonist’s horrific trajectory into a child-soldier abyss—a swift machete blade etched, thunk, into a suspected enemy’s skull, and a corruptive, charismatic leader’s luring of a young disciple to his abusive lair—Beasts of No Nation holds sway with cogent, putrid effect, at once terrifying and…
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TIFF 2015 | The Wait (Piero Messina, Italy)—Discovery

By Diana Dabrowska A despairing mother, Anna (Juliette Binoche), mourns the death of her beloved son, Giuseppe; a Sicilian community is drowning in a black haze of grief and sorrow. But suddenly the beautiful Jeanne (Lou de Laâge), Giuseppe’s French ex-girlfriend, arrives in the countryside. She doesn’t know about the tragedy and wants to meet…
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TIFF 2015 | The Martian (Ridley Scott, US)—Gala Presentations

By José Teodoro Don’t say Twentieth Century Fox has no taste for the meta: concerned as it is with the thorny ethics of expending unimaginable resources and risking multiple lives for the slim possibility of saving a single lost foot soldier in the colonization of the angry red planet, The Martian not only revisits the…
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TIFF 2015 | Song of Songs (Eva Neymann, Ukraine)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski This is an unusual case, an exceedingly brief (only 76-minute) film that still manages to feel overstuffed and meandering. This could be the result of director Eva Neymann’s decision to freely adapt Sholem Aleichem’s short fiction, yoking together characters and scenarios from no less than ten stories from the eponymous collection. As…
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TIFF 2015 | Remember (Atom Egoyan, Canada/Germany)—Gala Presentations

By José Teodoro How much of our sense of duty, resolve or morality is merely the aggregate of decisions we made long ago—or decisions that were made for us? From the start of Remember we’ve no reason to feel certain that Zev (a sublimely baffled Christopher Plummer) is acting of his own free will. He…
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TIFF 2015 | Eye in the Sky (Gavin Hood, UK)—Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman “In war, truth is the first casualty,” Aeschylus assures us on the opening crawl of Eye in the Sky, which only partially accounts for why Gavin Hood’s dramatic thriller feels mostly phony. Actually, there’s something authentically Greek—Socratic, even—about the film’s structure, which toggles between various American and British political and military authorities…
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TIFF 2015 | Sparrows (Rúnar Rúnarsson, Iceland/ Denmark/ Croatia)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Max Goldberg A shoegazer’s kitchen-sink drama, Sparrows trails a sensitive Reykjavik teenager to his father’s home in the hardscrabble north. The land of the midnight sun lends this coming-of-age story a nice bleary texture, and second-time director Rúnarsson is every bit as attentive to the interiors of the fishing village—crappy wood-panelled homes strewn with…
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TIFF 2015 | Return of the Atom (Mika Taanila & Jussi Eerola, Finland/Germany)—TIFF Docs)

By Michael Sicinski There are plenty of small-town industrial malfeasance stories that could serve as a valid point of comparison for the blinkered corporate idiocy profiled in Return of the Atom, but since it’s the most recent (and most sorely mishandled) let’s choose True Detective Season Two. Instead of the imaginary town of Vinci, California,…
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TIFF 2015 | Women He’s Undressed (Gillian Armstrong, Australia)—TIFF Docs

By Mallory Andrews The biographical documentary presents a number of problems for a filmmaker, primarily the fact that the genre’s standard format—the forward plodding of the subject’s life events punctuated by their notorious claim-to-fame moments—is staid and tired. But Gillian Armstrong’s attempt to shake things up on a formal level in her Orry-Kelly doc Women…
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TIFF 2015 | Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (Evgeniy Afineevsky, Ukraine/US/UK)—TIFF Docs

By Boris Nelepo The Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity by now has been the subject matter of a slew of movies, each dramatically different from the other. There was Sergei Loznitsa’s auteur project Maidan; the reportage Kiev/Moscow by Alexander Rastorguev and Pavel Kostomarov; and the chronicle Stronger Than Arms by the #BABYLON’13 collective. Winter on Fire:…
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TIFF 2015 | The Endless River (Oliver Hermanus, South Africa/France)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Diana Dabrowska After the radical, frigid and well-received Beauty (2011), young director Oliver Hermanus creates another study of obsession, this time about the fine line between victimhood and blame in the midst of a vendetta. Once again set in present-day South Africa, where racial tensions have hardly receded since the time of apartheid, The…
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TIFF 2015 | In Jackson Heights (Frederick Wiseman, US)—TIFF Docs

By Boris Nelepo Frederick Wiseman’s modus operandi was perhaps best described by German film critic Olaf Möller: “[His] work is about civilization and its creation, the work it takes.” In Jackson Heights adds another chapter to Wiseman’s monumental ongoing treatise while also offering another installment in a separate cycle devoted to various isolated communities (a…
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TIFF 2015 | Endorphine (André Turpin, Canada)—Vanguard

By Adam Nayman Freed from the constraints of shooting Instagram-style for Xavier Dolan, André Turpin amply fills the wide screen in this, just his third feature in 20 years. Hopefully, he didn’t spend too much of the time since Un crabe dans la tête (2001) fretting about the substance of this ostensible subconscious odyssey, which…
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TIFF 2015 | Legend (Brian Helgeland, UK)—Gala Presentations

By Adam Nayman Last year, Tom Hardy came to TIFF with The Drop, a drab Brooklyn crime film that afforded its star the opportunity to talk like Adam Sandler; this year, with the Kray brothers biopic Legend, we get two strenuous Hardy vocal performances for the price of one. Perish the thought that our man…
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TIFF 2015 | This Changes Everything (Avi Lewis, Canada/USA)—TIFF Docs

By Tom Charity Apocalyptic fantasies are in heavy rotation these days at both the multiplex and the art-house. In this climate-change documentary, anti-capitalist crusader Naomi Klein pronounces herself a late convert to saving the world, and gets things rolling with the disconcerting admission that she doesn’t much care for climate-change documentaries. Heck, next thing you…
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TIFF 2015 | Girls Lost (Alexandra-Therese Keining, Sweden/Denmark/Norway)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski Here we have a film that begins as mere hackwork, and finishes as something actually quite offensive. A teen movie from Sweden that for all its sincerity displays all the subtlety of pulpy Hollywood entries like The Craft or even the recent low-budget B-picture The Sisterhood of Night, Girls Lost has no…
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TIFF 2015 | Cinema Scope 64 Preview | The Mask (Eyes of Hell) (Julian Roffman, Canada)—TIFF Cinematheque

Put the Mask on Now! By Samuel La France Originally published in Cinema Scope 64 (Fall 2015). When it premiered in North American cinemas in 1961, Julian Roffman’s The Mask—released in the USA as Eyes of Hell, and returning to theatres this fall in a new digital restoration produced by TIFF and the 3-D Film…
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TIFF 2015 | The Pearl Button (Patricio Guzmán, Chile/France/Spain)—Masters

In Dreams Begin Responsibilities: The Films of Patricio Guzmán By Max Nelson Originally published in Cinema Scope 63 (Summer 2015). At one point in his new film The Pearl Button, Patricio Guzmán visits a friend’s painting studio and asks the artist to unroll one of her current projects: an immense, to-scale cutout model of Chile.…
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TIFF 2015 | The Exquisite Corpus (Peter Tscherkassky, Austria)—Wavelengths

Strip Tease: Peter Tscherkassky and The Exquisite Corpus By Daniel Kasman Originally published in Cinema Scope 63 (Summer 2015). Sex seems the inevitable returning controversy du jour at the Festival de Cannes, every couple years another auteur revealing some supposedly new transgression set to scandalize an international press corps wholly ignorant that, outside their bubble,…
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TIFF 2015 | We Monsters (Sebastian Ko, Germany)—Discovery

By Mallory Andrews Don’t have kids—that may be the only valuable takeaway from Sebastian Ko’s first feature, in which two awful people reckon with the awful acts committed by their awful daughter. Paul (Mehdi Nebbou) and Christine (Ulrike C. Tscharre) have separated and moved on to new partners, which has been understandably hard on their…
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TIFF 2015 | The White Knights (Joachim Lafosse, France/Belgium)—Platform

By Adam Nayman Everything about this fact-based account of French aid workers plotting to transport African orphans back across the Atlantic to pre-paid adoptive parents—under the guise of a fictitious NGO whose mandate is geared towards in-country education—is scrupulously realistic. And the questions it asks about Western altruism in the Third World are pertinent and…
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TIFF 2015 | The Danish Girl (Tom Hooper, UK)—Special Presentations

By Diana Dabrowska Copenhagen, 1926. Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are happily married. He is a painter of muddy, sad-looking landscapes inspired by his childhood memories, while her interests are portraits, although her husband believes she’s still searching for inspiration. In truth, though, it’s Einar who’s waiting to be thunderstruck:…
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TIFF 2015 | Spear (Stephen Page, Australia)—Discovery

By Mallory Andrews Australian choreographer Stephen Page has made his name as the director of the Bangarra Dance Theatre, reinvigorating Aboriginal dance for a modern audience. His feature-film debut Spear plays out like a minimalist musical, loosely following Djali (Hunter Page-Lochard) as he navigates the fluid and complex space between his indigenous heritage and a…
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TIFF 2015 | The Apostate (Federico Veiroj, Spain/ France/ Uruguay)—Contemporary World Cinema

By José Teodoro Federico Veiroj’s A Useful Life (2010)—in which a middle-aged programmer finds himself out of a career after his Montevideo cinematheque fades to black—considered a post-cinema existence and decided it was just fine. Yet the film’s irreverence with regards to its own medium was undercut by a formal elegance and sense of play…
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TIFF 2015 | One Floor Below (Radu Muntean, Romania/ France/ Germany/ Sweden)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Müge Turan The “New Wave” tag can feel like a little arbitrary, even crude, when applied to the diverse array of recent Romanian films, but it’s interesting to note how frequently the Dostoyevskian themes of morality, guilt, and criminality feature as the central preoccupations of these works. At the core of these narratives lies…
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TIFF 2015 | Minotaur (Nicolás Pereda, Mexico/Canada)—Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski Nicolás Pereda’s recent work, particularly his last two features Greatest Hits (2012) and Los ausentes (2014), already represented a substantial reduction of means when compared to the relatively action-packed Perpetuum Mobile (2009) and Summer of Goliath (2010). But with his latest, Pereda has achieved a genuine comedy of stasis. How much further…
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TIFF 2015 | Eva Doesn’t Sleep (Pablo Agüero, France/ Argentina/ Spain)—Wavelengths

By Angelo Muredda Evita Perón’s luminous corpse gets exhumed for dubious ends in Pablo Agüero’s intermittently engaging Eva Doesn’t Sleep, a mixed-media survey of Argentinean history since the fall of the Perónist government in the mid-1950s. Agüero’s method is to explore the persistence of Perón’s iconography for the disenfranchised by tracking it across a series…
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TIFF 2015 | Al Purdy Was Here (Brian D. Johnson, Canada)—TIFF Docs

By Angelo Muredda An old CanLit staple whose braggadocio feels out of tune with the relative civility of contemporary Canadian letters, Al Purdy is a fitting subject for Brian D. Johnson’s doc, which also feels a bit out of time. Al Purdy Was Here operates as both an extended eulogy for the scrappy poet as…
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TIFF 2015 | How Heavy This Hammer (Kazik Radwanski, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Angelo Muredda There’s a moment in Kazik Radwanski’s impressive feature debut Tower (2012) where a dentist tells thirtysomething man-child Derek (Derek Bogart), a better-adjusted, Torontonian Travis Bickle, that he has an impacted tooth coming in from the side long after most people’s wisdom teeth cease to bother them. Radwanski looks to another late bloomer…
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TIFF 2015 | Cemetery of Splendour (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, UK/ France/ Germany/ Malaysia/ Thailand)—Masters

By Kong Rithdee Originally published in Cinema Scope 63 (Summer 2015). Midway into Cemetery of Splendour, Jenjira Pongpas visits the Shrine of the Two Goddesses with her American husband to make offerings: she gives the goddesses a cheetah figurine for blessings on her bad leg, a gibbon for her strong limbs, and a tiger for…
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TIFF 2015 | Embrace of the Serpent (Ciro Guerra, Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Blake Williams Ciro Guerra, taking after Werner Herzog, understands the influential power of research narratives when it comes to representing a nation’s colonialist past—especially with regards to meticulous details. Why else would the chief selling points in the loglines of his last two features boast of these productions’ pedantic commitments to, e.g., a surplus…
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TIFF 2015 | Cinema Scope 64 Preview | Bleak Street (Arturo Ripstein, Mexico/Spain)—Masters

Eternal Damnation: Arturo Ripstein’s Bleak Street By José Teodoro Originally published in Cinema Scope 64 (Fall 2015). There is no such thing as ambient sunlight in Bleak Street. The sun’s rays descend from high above, diffused by a latticework of electrical cables, metal stairs, frayed tarpaulin, and urban flotsam, or slam down in hard sheets…
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TIFF 2015 | Francofonia (Alexander Sokurov, Germany/France/Netherlands)— Masters

By Michael Sicinski [SPOILER: James Franco does not appear in this film.] There was no reason to expect something playful from Sokurov, especially after his excruciating take on Faust (2011). But with Francofonia we find Russia’s melancholic master offering up an essay-film take on the Louvre that’s downright breezy. After setting up a contemporary framing…
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TIFF 2015 | A Heavy Heart (Thomas Stuber, Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Angelo Muredda Student Oscar nominee Thomas Stuber makes his first tentative mark in features with A Heavy Heart, a close-quarters profile of unsmiling musclehead Herbert (Peter Kurth), whose heyday as a boxer in East Germany—he almost but didn’t go to the Olympics, as his friends remind him—is long gone post-reunification. Now a hired goon…
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TIFF 2015 | Lamb (Yared Zeleke, Ethiopia/ France/ Germany/ Norway)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Müge Turan This year there are two films titled Lamb on the festival circuit. Both are coming-of-age tales. Both have lambs. Kutluğ Ataman’s Lamb is about a boy in rural Turkey who needs to be circumcised, and is told that he’ll be slaughtered and eaten if they can’t buy a lamb for the celebration…
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TIFF 2015 | Murmur of the Hearts (Sylvia Chang, Taiwan/Hong Kong)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Shelly Kraicer Sylvia Chang’s newest film is the illustrious actress-director-writer-producer’s best since Siao Yu (1995). Murmur of the Hearts is a sophisticated family drama whose emotional force sustains a narrative of ambitious power and range. Nan (Lawrence Ko) and Mei (radiant Macanese star Isabella Leong, in a long-awaited return to the screen) are a…
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TIFF 2015 | Room (Lenny Abrahamson, Ireland/Canada)—Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda The first thing a reader of Emma Donoghue’s novel Room will notice about Lenny Abrahamson’s mostly sturdy adaptation is a problem of perspective. The impressionistic early montage of mundane objects (a sink and a toilet, which soon become known to us as the talismanic idols Sink and Toilet) quickly gives way to…
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TIFF 2015 | Blood of My Blood (Marco Bellocchio, Italy)—Masters

By Diana Dabrowska The eternal rebel still has fists in his pocket. In his most recent films, Marco Bellocchio has challenged some of the central pathologies of Italian 20th-century history, including the Aldo Moro case in Good Morning, Night (2003) and the rise of Mussolini in Vincere (2009). Unfortunately, in the quirky and rather bizarre…
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TIFF 2015 | Cinema Scope 64 Preview | The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (Ben Rivers, UK—Wavelengths

Leeching Upon the Lifeblood of the Real: Ben Rivers’ The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers By Leo Goldsmith Originally published in Cinema Scope 64 (Fall 2015). Ben Rivers’ recent short, Things (2014), is an intimate tour of the filmmaker’s own domestic space and personal effects. Including…
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TIFF 2015 | Looking for Grace (Sue Brooks, Australia)—Platform

By Diana Dabrowska It begins in an innocent way: wwo teenagers on the road, Grace (Odessa Young) and Sappho (Kenya Pearson), meet Jamie (Harry Richardson), a nice guy with a rebel-without-a-cause vibe. Grace is attracted to him; director Sue Brooks provides the foreplay, a gentle build of excitement and erotic tension. We accompany Grace through…
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TIFF 2015 | Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, US)—Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner Cinema has a thing for journalism, but any reciprocal adulation must certainly be attenuated by the swift, sensational work that movies make of the press’ labours. No small irony then that Spotlight’s story—about a crack but underperforming team of Boston Globe investigative reporters trying to expose the Massachusetts Catholic Church sex abuse…
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TIFF 2015 | Dégradé (Arab Nasser & Tarzan Nasser, Palestine/France/Qatar)—Discovery

By Adam Nayman As ambulatory mammalian metaphors go, a manacled and toothless lion is pretty shaggy stuff: chained passively outside a Gaza Strip hair salon operated and populated by a group of women, the poor beast stands in for a society under the thumb of violent ideologues. A kind of distaff Dog Day Afternoon shot…
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TIFF 2015 | Der Nachtmahr (AKIZ, Germany)—Vanguard

By Adam Nayman What Kim Gordon is doing in an arty, Berlin-set German genre movie is anybody’s guess, but the strangeness of her extended cameo as an empathetic high-school English teacher at least interrupts the surrounding monotony. In his feature debut, pseudonomynous German video artist (and Banksy associate) AKIZ stages the same scene over and…
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TIFF 2015 | Stranger (Yermek Tursunov, Kazakhstan)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman With Kazakhstan going to the dogs, young Ilyas decides to run with the wolves. Stranger isn’t officially an adaptation of The Jungle Book, but there’s more than a pinch of Kipling to its wild-child set-up. The notion that a feral lifestyle on the outskirts of the steppe is preferable to village life…
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TIFF 2015 | Cinema Scope 64 Preview | High-Rise (Ben Wheatley, UK)—Platform

By Tom Charity Originally published in Cinema Scope 64 (Fall 2015). “Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr. Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.” That, friends, is an opening sentence: J.G. Ballard at his best. And…
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TIFF 2015 | The Treasure (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania/France)—Contemporary World Cinema

Digging for History: Corneliu Porumboiu on The Treasure By Adam Cook Originally published in Cinema Scope 63 (Summer 2015). Corneliu Porumboiu has always been the joker of the Romanian New Wave, as well as its most consistent and formally rigorous director. Employing the slow pace, long takes, and non-professional actors that have become the calling…
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TIFF 2015 | Les êtres chers (Anne Émond)—Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman Anne Émond bests fellow French-Canadian whippersnapper Xavier Dolan in the Now-That’s-What-I-Call-’90s-Music department in Les êtres chers, as Blind Melon and Elliott Smith give way to Pulp (“Common People,” naturellement). That the first two (dead) artists specialized in songs about suicide and the latter made a habit of we-love-life anthems offers a hint…
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TIFF 2015 | Ninth Floor (Mina Shum, Canada)—TIFF Docs

By Mallory Andrews It’s an all-too-common predicament when viewing a documentary to have to overlook a work’s technical flaws in order to appreciate the potency of its subject matter. To wit, Double Happiness (1994) director Mina Shum’s first nonfiction outing is yet another example of an inherently interesting topic existing within the body of an…
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