TIFF 2017

Never Steady, Never Still (Kathleen Hepburn, Canada)—Discovery

By Lydia Ogwang / September 16, 2017

By Lydia Ogwang Determining the sum total of Kathleen Hepburn’s formally accomplished feature debut is daunting arithmetic. Protagonist Judy, a longtime sufferer of Parkinson’s disease, lives with her husband and 18-year-old son in warm domesticity. The film’s opening moments deliver a soft, rose-coloured naturalism, but a prologue delivered in voiceover establishes loss and vulnerability as…

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The Seen and Unseen (Kamila Andini, Indonesia/Netherlands/ Australia/ Qatar) — Platform

By Michael Sicinski / September 16, 2017

By Michael Sicinski The Seen and Unseen is a truly singular film, but it does not relinquish its secrets easily. The story of two young twins, the girl Tantri (Ni Kadek Thaly Titi Kasih) and the boy Tantra (Ida Bagus Putu Radithya Mahijasena), who share an intense emotional bond that may extend beyond death, The…

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Kissing Candice (Aoife McArdle, Ireland) — Discovery

By Robert Koehler / September 15, 2017

By Robert Koehler Any discussion about Kissing Candice begins with cinematographer Steve Annis, who, up until now, has been a specialist in music videos for Nick Cave, Florence and the Machine, U2, and Bryan Ferry. Operating in anamorphic widescreen with writer-director Aoife McArdle (herself a music-video veteran, who previously collaborated with the cinematographer for U2’s…

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Brawl in Cell Block 99 (S. Craig Zahler, US) — Midnight Madness

By Steve Macfarlane / September 15, 2017

By Steve Macfarlane Was Vince Vaughn the Owen Wilson to Jon Favreau’s Wes Anderson? As woebegone drug runner Bradley Thomas, Vaughn delivers a rock-solid command lead in S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99 that carries the raggedy mantle of Nolte, Kristofferson, Bronson, McQueen, etc. It’s a film that makes it easy to remember…

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh, USA) — Special Presentations

By Leonardo Goi / September 14, 2017

By Leonardo Goi Martin McDonagh’s rollicking and viciously funny revenge tale stars a memorable Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes, a mother who seeks retribution for her daughter, who was brutally raped and killed by men the local police forces seem uninterested in bringing to justice. Seven months after the crime and without a lead in…

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Dark River (Clio Barnard, UK) — Platform

By Alysia Urrutia / September 14, 2017

By Alysia Urrutia The places you’ve lived are like the people you’ve loved: you can leave them all you want but they’ll never be gone. The inextricability of space and emotion, the way we infuse familiar places with the ghosts of our memories, is at the core of Dark River, a grim tale that explores…

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Disobedience (Sebastián Leilo, UK) — Special Presentations

By Manuela Lazic / September 14, 2017

By Manuela Lazic Now fully crossed over into English-language filmmaking (following in the footsteps of his Hollywood-focused countryman Pablo Larraín), Chilean director Sebastián Lelio continues his series of films about women and discrimination with Disobedience. This time out, he examines the difficult dialogue between sexuality and religion through the story of Ronit (an excellent Rachel…

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I Love You, Daddy (Louis C.K., US) — Special Presentations

By Dan Sullivan / September 14, 2017

By Dan Sullivan Full disclosure: An issue of this publication (CS 70, to be precise [Ed. note: not cleared for use]) appears laid atop the desk of Glen Topher (Louis C.K.), the creatively blocked but nevertheless richer-than-God television writer/producer whose daughter China (Chloë Grace Moretz, surely a career-best turn) moves into his opulent penthouse in…

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Mom and Dad (Brian Taylor, US) — Midnight Madness

By Elena Lazic / September 14, 2017

By Elena Lazic For his first solo directorial effort, Brian Taylor (of Neveldine/Taylor, the creative duo behind Crank and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) tackles the challenge of comedy-horror head on with a premise that could have gone so wrong: a mass hysteria causes parents to suddenly turn against their children, with the clear intention…

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BOOM FOR REAL The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat (Sara Driver, USA) — TIFF Docs

By Phil Coldiron / September 14, 2017

By Phil Coldiron GELDZAHLER: So they’re kinds [sic] of indexes to encyclopedias that don’t exist? BASQUIAT: I just like the names. Given that this exchange between curator and artist is typical of the latter’s saintly tendency towards terseness, Sara Driver’s decision to render her portrait of the five years before Basquiat exploded onto the art…

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Angels Wear White (Vivian Qu, China/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Steve Macfarlane / September 14, 2017

By Steve Macfarlane It’s no spoiler to say the whole damn system is found guilty as hell in Vivian Qu’s Angels Wear White. While a sleepy coastal town refurbishes itself as getaway destination, a teenage migrant worker named Xioami (Wen Qi) fills in for her friend working the reception desk at a hotel. There, she’s…

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Chappaquiddick (John Curran, USA) — Gala Presentations

By Manuela Lazic / September 14, 2017

By Manuela Lazic It seems that the movies will never stop portraying the tormented lives of the Kennedys. After last year’s divisive Jackie, which focused (oh so tortuously and in slow-motion) on the First Lady’s immediate reaction to JFK’s assassination, the cameras have now turned for the first time (at least in a high-profile studio…

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Sweet Country (Warwick Thornton, Australia) — Platform

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 13, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country attempts to be unique in every way possible, and nearly succeeds. An Australian Western about colonialism, it consciously revises the racial politics of the genre, while emphasizing vibrant visuals, expressive sound design, and a radically loose narrative structure. After Sam Kelly (Hamilton Morris), an Aboriginal farmer, kills a…

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Living Proof (Matt Embry, Canada) — TIFF Docs

By Aurelie Godet / September 13, 2017

By Aurélie Godet Canadian filmmaker Matt Embry is living proof that one can do well despite being stuck with multiple sclerosis, provided that one circumvents the medical establishment’s augur of incurability by diversifying sources of information on the causes and treatment of the disease. This is the main takeaway of Living Proof, a documentary that…

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Disappearance (Ali Asgari, Iran) — Discovery

By Steve Macfarlane / September 13, 2017

By Steve Macfarlane In Ali Asgari’s slow-burning melodrama Disappearance, a young unmarried couple (Sadaf Asgari and Amir Reza Ranjbaran) spend one very long night moving from one Tehran hospital to another after their first time having sex results, for her, in a bleeding condition that won’t stop. There are several avenues to help, but each…

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Shiekh Jackson (Amr Salama, Egypt) — Special Presentations

By Willow Maclay / September 13, 2017

By Willow Maclay Michael Jackson’s death sent shockwaves through popular culture around the world. Amr Salama’s film measures its impact in Egypt through the story of a young Imam (Ahmad Alfishawy) whose reaction to the news unearths memories and emotions he had thought long buried. On the surface, the sheikh’s life seems to be going…

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Cocaine Prison (Violeta Ayala, Australia/Bolivia/France/US) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 13, 2017

By Michael Sicinski There’s a scene early on in Cocaine Prison where we see several of the little brothers of Deisy Torrez, one of the film’s main subjects, rolling around in dried coca leaves, playing in the foliage like so many New Englanders have at the height of autumn. This is beautiful and sad, since…

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Alias Grace (Mary Harron, Canada/USA) — Primetime

By Angelo Muredda / September 13, 2017

By Angelo Muredda Margaret Atwood’s most genre-bending, postmodern novel gets a mostly straightforward Victorian adaptation in Mary Harron’s CBC-bound miniseries Alias Grace, at least on the basis of its first two episodes. Atwood has a lot of fun with the lurid rubbernecking appeal of the story of Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon), the maid turned prisoner…

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Victoria & Abdul (Stephen Frears, UK) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 13, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Not content with a simple erasure of colonial violence under the veil of a feel-good prestige pic, Stephen Frears opts for full-on degradation in his latest film Victoria & Abdul. Judi Dench stars as a Queen Victoria who is bored with royalty, and the way her crown alienates her from the people…

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Black Cop (Cory Bowles, Canada) — Discovery

By Josh Cabrita / September 13, 2017

By Josh Cabrita The inciting central incident in Cory Bowles’ debut feature is an all-too-recognizable altercation between two belligerent, white Toronto PD officers and a hoodie-wearing black man (Ronnie Rowe Jr.) leaving a convenience store mid-run. Starting with the officers’ quasi-congenial attempts to get the jogger’s attention while his earbuds blare, a tumult of racially…

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Azmaish: A Journey Through the Subcontinent (Sabiha Sumar, Pakistan) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 13, 2017

By Michael Sicinski While certainly informative and laudably humanist in intent, Azmaish poses a certain problem for this reviewer, simply from the standpoint of context. This new documentary/road movie from Sabiha Sumar (Dinner with the President) is a kind of primer on the conflicts between India and Pakistan, offering a crash course that starts with…

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Breathe (Andy Serkis, UK) — Gala Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 12, 2017

By Angelo Muredda Andy Serkis takes a left turn from performance-capture guru to prestige-pic helmer with this ingratiating and anonymously directed biopic that leaves no cliché about love and illness untapped. If there’s anything curious about Breathe, it’s the behind-the-scenes business machinations that saw Serkis taking on as his directorial debut a story that turns…

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Molly’s Game (Aaron Sorkin, US) — Gala Presentations

By Manuela Lazic / September 12, 2017

By Manuela Lazic It took Aaron Sorkin 15 years to finally go from the writer’s desk to the director’s chair, and in some respects, Molly’s Game feels like the work of an experienced filmmaker. The story of Molly Bloom’s rise and fall as the organizer of the world’s most exclusive and star-studded poker game comes…

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Soldiers. Story from Ferentari (Ivana Mladenovic, Romania/Serbia/Belgium) — Discovery

By Alysia Urrutia / September 12, 2017

By Alysia Urrutia While on the surface Soldiers from Ferentari would appear to be wildly rugged in every possible sense—stark cinematography, bleak setting, characters frayed by age and rough around the edges—Ivana Mladeovic’s film heroically manages to infuse its ruinous onscreen world with the romantic possibility of freedom, the kind that only having spent half…

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The Motive (Manuel Martín Cuenca, Spain) — Special Presentation

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2017

By James Lattimer Watching The Motive is akin to hearing an artist expound at length on the tedious specifics of their process, a feeling made all the more wearying by the blinkered nature of said approach. The opening scene of Manuel Martín Cuenca’s film shows its protagonist, wannabe writer Alvaro (Javier Gutiérrez), practically crying with…

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The Swan (Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir, Iceland) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 12, 2017

By Michael Sicinski When someone makes their first film, it’s not uncommon for them to experience some difficulty controlling parameters such as style and tone. But Ása Helga Hjörleifsdóttir’s The Swan is something a bit more frustrating. For the first half of its running time, this Icelandic coming-of-age story is simply bizarre, taking visual and…

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Tigre (Silvina Schnicer & Ulises Porra Guardiola, Argentina) — Discovery

By Lydia Ogwang / September 12, 2017

By Lydia Ogwang The feature directorial debut by Silvina Schnicer and Ulises Porra Guardiola’s centres on matriarch Rina, a woman in her sixties who is returning to her rundown family home to stage a sort of family reunion. Among her guests are an estranged son whose help she has enlisted in maintaining the family land…

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Cardinals (Grayson Moore & Aidan Shipley, Canada) — Discovery

By Lydia Ogwang / September 12, 2017

By Lydia Ogwang Canadian newcomers Grayson Moore and Aidan Shipley strike gold with veteran Sheila McCarthy in the lead role of Cardinals. McCarthy is masterful as the damningly self-convicted Valerie, a mother of two recalibrating to free civilian life after serving time for apparent alcohol-induced vehicular manslaughter. While her daughters (played by Grace Glowicki and…

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Human Traces (Nic Gorman, New Zealand) — Discovery

By Aurelie Godet / September 12, 2017

By Aurélie Godet Scientific findings keep revealing, with an accelerated urgency, the disruptive and irreversible impact that human activities have on the natural environment and on the species that coexist with them on Earth. Set at a remote sub-Antarctic research station, Nic Gorman’s Human Traces attempts to fuse an urgent message about environmental consciousness with…

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The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (Simon Lavoie, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Cabrita / September 12, 2017

By Josh Cabrita A tale of a reclusive, degenerate family in rural Quebec in the 1930s, Simon Lavoie’s follow-up to Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves (winner of last year’s Best Canadian Feature prize at TIFF) wastes no time shoving our noses into some truly vile shit: an abusive patriarchy, incest,…

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Princesita (Marialy Rivas, Chile/Argentina/Spain) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 12, 2017

By James Lattimer Some day, there’ll be a film about cult membership that doesn’t draw on the same hoary old clichés, but until then we have Marialy Rivas’ Princesita, whose glossy, vaguely queasy take on the standard narrative of male power figures and helplessly ensnared women is so overfamiliar that it feels stretched at a…

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Manhunt (John Woo, Hong Kong/China) — Special Presentations

By Leonardo Goi / September 11, 2017

By Leonardo Goi Brace yourselves: after the American sojourn that brought the likes of Face/Off and Mission Impossible 2 and a detour into Chinese historical-blockbuster mode with Red Cliff, John Woo has returned to the Asian police thrillers which earned him global fame with the hilarious, all-out-bonkers and thoroughly enjoyable Manhunt. Zhang Hanyu stars as…

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The Ritual (David Bruckner, UK) — Midnight Madness

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 11, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Making his feature debut after directing segments for the horror anthology films V/H/S and Southbound, David Bruckner proves that he is clearly familiar with the mechanics of his genre, but The Ritual misses the mark: working in a longer format, he comes up with a confused and unsustainable tangle of typical horror…

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Les Affamés (Robin Aubert, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema)

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2017

By Michael Sicinski While it could be said that the last thing the world needs is another zombie movie, Québécois director Robin Aubert has managed to offer a solid and at times even original survey of this well-trod terrain. Where so many other genre filmmakers make the mistake of trying to add their unique spin…

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A Fish Out Of Water (Lai Kuo-An, Taiwan) — Discovery

By Azadeh Jafari / September 11, 2017

By Azadeh Jafari Obsessive memories from the past haunt Yi-An, a sad, inattentive little boy who claims that he remembers his previous mother and his past life by the sea. In reality, Yi-An’s grandpa has fallen ill and needs constant care, which forces his mother to take him and go live with her sister—a situation…

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Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (Angela Robinson, US) — Special Presentations

By Manuela Lazic / September 11, 2017

By Manuela Lazic Angela Robinson’s biopic of the creators of Wonder Woman makes an intriguing companion piece to the DC blockbuster released earlier this year—which presented a more commercial and sanitised version of the heroine—and is an odd yet enjoyable film on its own. Framed by Professor William Marston’s (Luke Evans) defense of the morals…

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You Disappear (Peter Schønau Fog, Denmark/Sweden) — Special Presentation

By Michael Sicinski / September 11, 2017

By Michael Sicinski A film just obvious and tiresome enough to be a minor hit, You Disappear is the sort of literary adaptation that gives prestige a bad name. Taken from a novel by Christian Jungerson, You Disappear is the sort of film that recites large passages of the book in voiceover, just in case…

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The Crescent (Seth A. Smith, Canada) — Midnight Madness

By Josh Cabrita / September 11, 2017

By Josh Cabrita Seth A. Smith’s perplexing and propulsive The Crescent strips away nearly all exuberance from its mise en scène and presents Nova Scotia’s naturally picturesque vistas in bleak hues. Using the anxieties of a survivalist psyche to radically realign our perception of specific tropes, Smith capitalizes on fears of economic isolation within the…

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Thelma (Joachim Trier, Norway/Sweden/France/Denmark) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 11, 2017

By Angelo Muredda Joachim Trier makes a sterling if somewhat noncommittal bid for post-horror with Thelma, a slow-burn supernatural thriller about a Norwegian teen (Eili Harboe) who goes away to college (and away from her morally rigid Christian parents) and finds her long dormant powers to make terrible and strange things happen reactivated by, what…

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The Poet and the Boy (Kim Yang-hee, South Korea) — Discovery

By Mallory Andrews / September 11, 2017

By Mallory Andrews I felt vaguely embarrassed for immediately being reminded of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson at the outset of Kim Yang-hee’s debut feature The Poet and the Boy. The similarities are apparent: in addition to Yang Ik-june’s Poet (the only name he is identified by in the film) working through his art and inspiration via…

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A Worthy Companion (Carlos Sanchez & Jason Sanchez, Canada) — Discovery

By Angelo Muredda / September 11, 2017

By Angelo Muredda Evan Rachel Wood works hard to put on a tough face in Carlos and Jason Sanchez’s unconvincing debut feature, the kind of miserablist festival fare that has given English Canadian cinema a bad name for too long. Wood stars as Laura, a thirtysomething house cleaner with unsavoury sexual appetites (so a moralizing…

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The Breadwinner (Nora Twomey, Canada/Ireland/Luxembourg) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 11, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr In its reductive exploration of misogyny in Afghanistan, The Breadwinner is reflective of how a children’s film, with its simplified, toned-down, and easily conveyed ideas, is not conducive to discussions of serious political problems. But equally faulty is the very obvious issue of who is discussing what, and for whom. A film…

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The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci, France/United Kingdom/Belgium) — Platform

By Steve Macfarlane / September 10, 2017

By Steve Macfarlane Short of insider knowledge, there’s no way Veep creator Armando Iannucci could have anticipated the appetite for Russploitation accompanying the meteoric rise (and/or fall) of America’s 45th president. Nevertheless, The Death of Stalin arrives at the intersection of mid-career Beckett and later-career Mamet, cocked and loaded for maximum chortling at all things…

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Makala (Emmanuel Gras, France) — TIFF Docs

By James Lattimer / September 10, 2017

By James Lattimer For all the recent criticism of Cannes’ reliance on the same big names, perhaps the bigger problem is the festival’s continuing failure to find new ones to replace them, as the chances of making a real discovery on the Croisette seem to dwindle further with each passing year. French director Emmanuel Gras’…

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The Carter Effect (Sean Menard, Canada/USA) — TIFF Docs

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2017

By Adam Nayman Filming Drake (billed as a “rapper/actor,” in a nod to his Degrassi stint) in front of some dinosaur skeletons at the Royal Ontario Museum is the wittiest touch in Sean Menard’s barely feature-length, sure-to-be-bought-for-television account of Vince Carter’s tumultuous tenure with the Toronto Raptors, not that said tumultuousness is really given its…

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Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (Chris Smith, USA/Canada) — TIFF Docs

By Pamela Jahn / September 10, 2017

By Pamela Jahn When Jim Carrey auditioned to play Andy Kaufman in Miloš Forman’s 1999 biopic Man on the Moon, he was a man on a roll: Ace Ventura, The Mask, and Dumb and Dumber (all released in 1994) had made him a star and the best-paid comic actor of his generation, and he exceeded…

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The Future Ahead (Constanza Novick, Argentina) — Discovery

By Diego Brodersen / September 10, 2017

By Diego Brodersen In Constanza Novick’s debut feature, Dolores Fonzi (also present at TIFF in The Summit) and Pilar Gamboa (The Fire, La flor) play best friends whose lives intertwine through the years. Novick is quite experienced in writing professionally (and quickly) for daily TV shows, but fortunately almost no clichés are found in her…

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The Children Act (Richard Eyre, UK) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 10, 2017

By Adam Nayman Ian McEwan specializes in preposterous plots, and The Children Act is as contrived as anything in his posh, voluminous, award-winning repertoire. (I don’t have an official number, but I’m guessing this is something like the 85th film made from one of his novels). Shortly after receiving a your-job-or-our-marriage ultimatum from her perennially…

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Oblivion Verses (Alireza Khatami, France/Germany/Netherlands/Chile) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2017

By Michael Sicinski An elderly morgue attendant at a huge urban cemetery (Juan Margallo) is working late one night when a political protest gets out of hand, resulting in the secret police bursting into the morgue to hide the bodies of the protesters they’ve killed. Later, when the authorities come back to clean up the…

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The Guardians (Xavier Beauvois, France/Switzerland) — Special Presentations

By Aurelie Godet / September 10, 2017

By Aurélie Godet Xavier Beauvois is an interesting case of half-tamed wildness. He knows to surround himself with the most reliable professionals—here producer Sylvie Pialat, composer Michel Legrand, and, of course, Caroline Champetier, his cinematographer since 1995’s N’oublie pas que tu vas mourir. You feel that he’s enough of a rebel to resist external pressures…

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Waru (Briar Grace-Smith, Ainsley Gardiner, Renae Maihi, Casey Kaa, Awanui Simich-Pene, Chelsea Cohen, Katie Wolfe & Paula Jones, New Zealand) — Discovery

By Willow Maclay / September 10, 2017

By Willow Maclay Grief has a way of mangling the status quo and turning it strange. It absorbs everything in its path like an all encompassing fog waiting to seep into your blood. We live knowing we are only moments away from it happening to us, but we usually manage to put these feelings away…

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Hannah (Andrea Pallaoro, Italy/Belgium/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2017

By Michael Sicinski Hannah is a bit of a paradox: it is an exceedingly quiet movie, and at the same time a bracing one, with a volatile, superstar performance at its heart. Charlotte Rampling plays the title character, a woman whose life has been dramatically upended just as she and her husband (André Wilms) should…

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Dark is the Night (Adolfo Alix Jr., Philippines) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2017

By Michael Sicinski Dark is the Night is unmistakably a cri de coeur regarding the fascist leadership of Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte and his extrajudicial drug war. At the same time, Adolfo Alix, Jr. has chosen to convey this most urgent of messages in a highly unusual format, making his film a rather strange specimen…

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A Sort of Family (Diego Lerman, Argentina/Brazil/France/Poland) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Diego Brodersen / September 10, 2017

By Diego Brodersen After 2002’s Suddenly, that magnificent cornerstone of the New Argentine Cinema, Diego Lerman has specialized in powerful but still delicate stories dealing with complex, urgent subject matter. Where his previous film Refugiado dealt with the issue of a family on the verge of disintegration after domestic violence forces the protagonist to run…

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Killing Jesus (Laura Mora, Colombia/Argentina) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 10, 2017

By Michael Sicinski A lot of debut films have structural problems, of course, but Killing Jesus, by Colombian first-timer Laura Mora, is rather unusual in this regard. The beginning and end are exceedingly clunky, while the middle feels uniquely organic and atmospheric. Granted, this assessment has as much to do with what I as a…

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Mademoiselle Paradis (Barbara Albert, Austria/Germany) — Platform

By Michael Sicinski / September 9, 2017

By Michael Sicinski A film that would make a fine double bill with either Jessica Hausner’s Amour fou or David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Barbara Albert’s Mademoiselle Paradis is a subtle and intelligent film about the historical crisis of female subjectivity and the various men who attempt to control that emerging identity. At the height…

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The Third Murder (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan) — Masters

By Leonardo Goi / September 9, 2017

By Leonardo Goi Those who have come to love Hirokazu Kore-eda for his flair for quiet, homely pleasures may find The Third Murder a tad surprising. We are no longer in the comfy, Ozu-like milieu of Our Little Sister, and though small talk about Japan’s culinary wonders is exchanged, the feature opens with a much…

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Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart (Tracy Heather Strain, USA) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 9, 2017

By Michael Sicinski Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart is a TV documentary about the life and work of the late African-American playwright/activist Lorraine Hansberry. Produced for PBS’ American Masters series, Sighted Eyes is meticulously researched, well assembled, and has most of the appropriate expert commentary. It is instructive to remember just how much Hansberry accomplished in her…

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Don’t Talk to Irene (Pat Mills, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 9, 2017

By Robert Koehler After the dark pleasures of his debut feature Guidance, writer-director Pat Mills wanders into the deep Toronto suburban bush with his considerably less funny follow-up Don’t Talk to Irene. High school seems to be Mills’ bailiwick: Guidance took school counselling to extreme, twisted places, mining good sources of satire; Don’t Talk to…

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Custody (Xavier Legrand, France) — Platform

By Ethan Vestby / September 9, 2017

By Ethan Vestby There’s something promising in the nearly 15-minute passage that opens Xavier Legrand’s Custody, which charts a hearing between a divorced couple regarding custody of their 11-year-old son, the mouthpiece avatars of their respective lawyers going off while the idly waiting, pained-looking parents sit in silence. So boldly dry with its ping-ponging legal…

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Battle of the Sexes (Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton, USA) — Special Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 9, 2017

By Robert Koehler It is surely awards season and TIFF launch time when a spate of movies appear featuring real-life figures from the recent American and British past (because they must be Anglo-Saxon, just because they must), cast with stars undergoing striking physical transformations, art-designed with meticulous attention to period details down to the wallpaper…

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Ava (Sadaf Foroughi, Iran/Canada/Qatar) — Discovery

By Mallory Andrews / September 9, 2017

By Mallory Andrews “The bird that would soar above the level of plain tradition and prejudice must have strong wings,” the protagonist of Kate Chopin’s 1899 novel The Awakening is advised; “it is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.” Ava (Mahour Jabbari), the teenage title heroine of Sadaf…

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Stronger (David Gordon Green, USA) — Gala Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 9, 2017

By Angelo Muredda Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman gets the biopic treatment in Stronger, David Gordon Green’s lazy if intermittently affecting first major stab at Oscar glory. Jake Gyllenhaal tamps down his blinking-related affectations of prestige movies past and brings some calm, regular-guy gravitas to Bauman, who, according to the gruff, faux-Boston brogue of…

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The Lodgers (Brian O’Malley, Ireland) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 9, 2017

By Adam Nayman Things creak in The Lodgers, a painfully genteel Irish horror movie haunted by the spirits of superior ghost stories, from The Innocents to The Others. It’s not that director Brian O’Malley is unaware of (or not duly reverent to) the old-dark-house tradition that he’s working in, it’s just that he doesn’t add…

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Bodied (Joseph Kahn, USA) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 8, 2017

By Adam Nayman Or: Do the Wrong Thing. The protagonist of Joseph “Look What You Made Me Do” Kahn’s Eminem-produced 8 Mile satire (scripted by Toronto-area rapper Kid Twist) is a slim, shady grad student writing a dissertation on the subaltern subversiveness of clandestine rap battles. After some encouragement from a legendary (black) rapper—who tells…

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Foxtrot (Samuel Maoz, Israel/Germany/France/Switzerland) — Special Presentations

By Pamela Jahn / September 8, 2017

By Pamela Jahn Not every director comes to filmmaking early in life, but those arriving at it later usually kick in with a vengeance. Samuel Maoz was only a few years shy of 50 when he was awarded the Golden Lion in Venice in 2009 for his debut feature Lebanon, a dramatized version of the…

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Meditation Park (Mina Shum, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Josh Cabrita / September 8, 2017

By Josh Cabrita Mina Shum’s first narrative feature since 2002 (following a decade-long stint directing Vancouver-based television) is contained within the few blocks surrounding the intersection of Renfrew and Hastings in East Vancouver, a community largely made up of longtime Asian immigrants. One of these residents is the silently resilient Maria (Pei-Pei Cheng), who has…

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Nina (Juraj Lehotský, Slovakia/Czech Republic) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Lydia Ogwang / September 8, 2017

By Lydia Ogwang The spark at the heart of Nina is kindled by faith in forms. Slovakian director Juraj Lehotský meets us here with a mostly modest coming-of-age film, trusting that the spectacle of adolescent growth still holds enough weight to make the case for its existence just this once more. Lehotský’s eponymous subject is…

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Scaffolding (Matan Yair, Israel/Poland) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 8, 2017

By James Lattimer While understatement is usually preferable to shouting, it can also become too much of a good thing, as Scaffolding (not to be confused with Kazik Radwanski’s new short film, the far better Scaffold, which screens in Wavelengths prior to Denis Côté’s Ta peau ti lisse) neatly illustrates. While Matan Yair’s debut feature…

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The Price of Success (Teddy Lussi-Modeste, France) — Special Presentations

By Robert Koehler / September 8, 2017

By Robert Koehler Considering that a stand-up performer who goes by the singular moniker of Brahim can pack French concert houses and have his face plastered all over Paris, he must have some pretty damn fine comic stylings. Whatever they may be, they pop up at around the 26-minute mark of the erratic and ultimately…

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Simulation (Abed Abest, Iran) — Discovery

By Phil Coldiron / September 8, 2017

By Phil Coldiron On a large, bare soundstage, actors dressed in street clothes and day-glo blue boots gather to play a curiously shaped morality tale set in Abadan, an Iranian town near the country’s border with Iraq. The props and settings—a police station, a pair of apartments—are plainly artificial, rendered in green-screen green; the narrative…

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Samui Song (Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Thailand/Germany/Norway) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Kong Rithdee / September 8, 2017

By Kong Rithdee Six years after his last fiction film Headshot (during which time he made Paradoxocrazy, a documentary chronicling Thailand’s political history), Thai auteur Pen-ek Ratanaruang returns to the festival circuit in fine form. At times noir-ish, at times cheeky, and at times a little too self-aware, Samui Song thriller surfs in and out…

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The Great Buddha+ (Huang Hsin-Yao, Taiwan) — Discovery

By Aurelie Godet / September 8, 2017

By Aurélie Godet Augmented and improved from the short film of the same name that Huang Hsin-Yao directed in 2014, the “Plus” version of The Great Buddha is the Taiwanese filmmaker’s first narrative feature. This wink to technology branding is consistent with the central role played by satirical humour in all of Huang’s storytelling endeavours,…

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Miracle (Egle Vertelyte, Lithuania/Bulgaria/Poland) — Discovery

By Michael Sicinski / September 8, 2017

By Michael Sicinski The TIFF catalogue description trumpets Miracle as “the first film from Lithuania to play the Festival in over 15 years” (sucks to be Sharunas Bartas). While indeed no miracle, this debut film by Egle Vertelyte is certainly pleasant enough, occupying a familiar film-festival category—that’s to say that, if you haven’t marked “wry-yet-rueful…

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Euthanizer (Teemu Nikki, Finland) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 8, 2017

By Michael Sicinski Since the old Vanguard section was put to sleep, Contemporary World Cinema is now forced to make room for films like Euthanizer, a bit of four-legged ugliness from Finland. The story of a clearly deranged yet moralistic factotum who offers to euthanize animals for a fraction of what the local vet charges,…

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What Will People Say (Iram Haq, Norway/Germany/Sweden) — Platform

By Alysia Urrutia / September 7, 2017

By Alysia Urrutia Placing a new cultural spin on the well-worn story of a young girl whose sexual blossoming comes into conflict with family values, What Will People Say is both provocative and predictable, topical but trite. The host of repercussions visited upon Nisha (Maria Mozhdah) for having imprudently succumbed to ostensibly sinful urges is…

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Radiance (Naomi Kawase, Japan/France) — Special Presentations

By Blake Williams / September 7, 2017

By Blake Williams This past weekend the international film community was rocked by the news that Juliette Binoche is set to star in Cannes darling Naomi Kawase’s next film, a Japan-set movie that will reportedly be called Vision. Aside from reporting the casting coup, this news is surprising because it suggests that Kawase, who is now…

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The Nothing Factory (Pedro Pinho, Portugal) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 7, 2017

By Phil Coldiron In 1978, the earliest year for which OECD labour statistics on Portugal are available, more than 60% of the country’s workforce was unionized. By 1986, the year the country was accepted into the European Economic Community, that number had dropped to just over 40%. Today, following the arc typical of a Western…

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First They Killed My Father (Angelina Jolie, Cambodia) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 7, 2017

By Jay Kuehner Can there be any doubt, within the simplified moral terms of cinema as conveniently conscionable entertainment, that Angelina Jolie’s Cambodian project constitutes an act of courage? Any doubts are flagged as cynicism, any detraction deemed insensitive. And yet, for a survival story of such magnitude as Loung Ung’s (from whose memoir Jolie…

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Mother! (Darren Aronofsky, USA) — Special Presentations

By Leonardo Goi / September 7, 2017

By Leonardo Goi Possibly the most anticipated title on the 2017 fall festival circuit, Mother! certainly is the visually delirious tale promised by its marketing team (the exclamation point is earned!), but Darren Aronofsky’s awareness of his own directorial grandeur ultimately turns it into a self-referential, hallucinatory trip. A world-famous poet (Javier Bardem) has sought…

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The Butterfly Tree (Priscilla Cameron, Australia) — Discovery

By Robert Koehler / September 7, 2017

By Robert Koehler Is writer-director Priscilla Cameron kidding or not? The recent Melbourne Film Festival reception to her first feature The Butterfly Tree charitably suggests that this treacly tale may be meant in the spirit of camp. But camp must have a funny side, and there isn’t a moment in this quasi-magical realist coming-of-age story…

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The Leisure Seeker (Paolo Virzì, Italy) — Gala Presentations

By Leonardo Goi / September 7, 2017

By Leonardo Goi Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland can hardly rescue Paolo Virzì’s first English-language feature The Leisure Seeker, an unnervingly average twilight-years road trip that’s kilometres away from the quality of the Italian director’s European works. Sutherland stars as John, a retired professor addicted to Hemingway and suffering from Alzheimer’s, with Mirren as his…

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The Tesla World Light (Matthew Rankin, Canada) — Short Cuts

By Jason Anderson / September 7, 2017

By Jason Anderson Published in Cinema Scope 71 (Summer 2017) International devotees of Canuck pop-cultural arcana may pride themselves on knowing every single line that Drake ever uttered on Degrassi: The Next Generation, but there’s another treasure that Canadians thus far have been able to keep for themselves. These are the Heritage Minutes, a series…

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Fluid Frontiers (Ephraim Asili, USA/Canada) — Wavelengths

By Jesse Cumming / September 7, 2017

By Jesse Cumming Published in Cinema Scope 72 (Fall 2017) If it is not here It must be there For somewhere and nowhere Parallels In versions of each other …. where Or even before something came to be —Sun Ra, “Parallels” (1970) Described as “A Video Film on Space and the Music of the Omniverse,”…

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Arrhythmia (Boris Khlebnikov, Russia/Finland/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 7, 2017

By Robert Koehler Arrhythmia was originally intended as a comedy about a stressed-out couple in the Russian health-care industry, but co-writers Boris Khlebnikov (who also directs) and Natalia Meshchaninova made the wrong decision by switching gears to the more literal tone of a modest melodrama. The comic possibilities are still visible under the surface, especially…

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Kings (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, France/Belgium) — Gala Presentations

By Steve Macfarlane / September 6, 2017

By Steve Macfarlane Using the 1992 riots that followed the acquittal of four LAPD officers caught on tape beating Rodney King as pretext for a meet-cute between Halle Berry and Daniel Craig, Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s nightmarishly terrible Kings has a long career ahead of it as an object lesson in how not to exploit current…

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Suburbicon (George Clooney, USA) — Galas

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2017

By Adam Nayman On paper (where it was doubtlessly first written, probably with a typewriter, 30 years ago) Joel and Ethan Coen’s script for Suburbicon evokes sinister, postwar domestic melodramas like Shadow of a Doubt and Bigger Than Life. On screen, as directed by George Clooney, it evokes—or, more accurately, pilfers, poorly and to no…

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Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, US) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 6, 2017

By Jay Kuehner Greta Gerwig’s debut feature is like something akin to asking a classmate to sign your yearbook and getting a detailed novella in return, or a pink plaster cast scrawled with a poem. It’s also proof that Gerwig is clearly her own muse. The film opens with a cheeky quote from Joan Didion…

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Mudbound (Dee Rees, US) — Galas

By C.J. Prince / September 6, 2017

By C.J. Prin A period piece set in 1940s Mississippi, Dee Rees’ Mudbound takes the form of a low-key epic about race relations in America, counteracting its mid-sized budget with a sprawling narrative structure. Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) and his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) purchase a farm for their family, part of which is leased…

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Oh Lucy! (Atsuko Hirayanagi, USA/Japan) — Discovery

By Elena Lazic / September 6, 2017

By Elena Lazic While the exotic appeal of foreign titles to Western viewers is undeniable (especially at major film festivals), few movies ever reverse that dynamic. In Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Oh Lucy!, Josh Hartnett doesn’t play one of his usual roles (or at least the roles he used to get in big Hollywood movies), where his…

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PROTOTYPE (Blake Williams, Canada) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 6, 2017

By Phil Coldiron Early in the autumn of 1900, four months before Edison closed the Black Maria and five years before the Lumière brothers left the cinematograph business altogether for what they supposed to be less trivial concerns, a storm landed at the booming port town of Galveston, Texas and killed perhaps as many as…

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Of Sheep and Men (Karim Sayad, Switzerland/France/Qatar) — TIFF Docs

By Michael Sicinski / September 6, 2017

By Michael Sicinski First of all, let me compliment Mr. Sayad’s directorial prowess: I watched Of Sheep and Men with no foreknowledge, and I honestly thought it was a fictional feature. That’s because this documentary is so tightly structured in terms of its focus on two protagonists and their gradually shifting milieu, and even though…

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Three Peaks (Jan Zabeil, Germany/Italy) — Special Presentations

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2017

By Adam Nayman Three Peaks opens with a man and a child struggling to hold a conversation underwater in a fancy resort swimming pool; it’s a witty visual pun pointing to submerged motivations and difficult intergenerational communication. Jan Zabeil’s film is filled with such touches, and as they add up, you could be forgiven for…

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Valley of Shadows (Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen, Norway) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2017

By Adam Nayman The other clog doesn’t drop for a good long time in Valley of Shadows, a half-enchanting, half-enervating Norwegian feature whose director tries to have his horror tropes and transcend them too. That it takes Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen a while to really indicate what kind of movie he’s making could be taken as…

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The Florida Project (Sean Baker, USA) — Special Presentations

By James Lattimer / September 6, 2017

By James Lattimer As in many of Sean Baker’s films, The Florida Project’s final destination doesn’t quite captivate as much as the journey taken to get there. Baker’s sixth feature is first a merry wander, then a desperate gallop through the plastic fantastic environs of central Florida, where each motel is more garish than the…

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Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, UK) — Special Event

By Adam Nayman / September 6, 2017

By Adam Nayman He just can’t help himself. Unless my memory is failing me, Memento-style, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is the first World War II movie — and I suppose, provided we keep the designation relatively straightforward, the first war movie, period — that’s been deliberately crafted as a puzzle box. The relationship of form to…

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Le fort des fous (Narimane Mari, France/Algeria/Switzerland/ Germany/Greece/Qatar) — Wavelengths

By Jordan Cronk / September 6, 2017

By Jordan Cronk Published in Cinema Scope 72 (Fall 2017) Narimane Mari’s 2013 film Bloody Beans concludes with a query: “What is worth more, to be or to obey?” These words, invoked in succession by a handful of the film’s adolescent protagonists, are taken from Antonin Artaud’s “Petit poème des poissons de la mer,” an…

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Luk’Luk’I (Wayne Wapeemukwa, Canada) — Discovery

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 5, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Set and shot during the last days of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, in Luk’Luk’I Wayne Wapeemukwa attempts to puncture the veneer of Canadian nationalism by turning away from the event’s image of national prosperity and togetherness in order to focus on marginalized communities. Working with a cast of mostly nonprofessional actors,…

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The Shape of Water (Guillermo del Toro, USA) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 5, 2017

By Jay Kuehner “Fairy tales are meant for difficult times” declares Guillermo del Toro, and even though The Shape of Water is steeped in a Cold War-era America of key lime pie (that reeks of racism and homophobia) and teal-finned Cadillacs (fit for assholes weaned on the power of patriarchal thinking), it’s clear just what…

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First Reformed (Paul Schrader, USA) — Masters

By Pamela Jahn / September 5, 2017

By Pamela Jahn Just when one is about to lose faith in a director’s ability to recover from the slip-ups of recent years, along comes a film that makes one want to believe in his greatness all over again. Sidney Lumet turned that corner once with Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007), and even…

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Dragonfly Eyes (Xu Bing, China/USA) — Wavelengths

By Robert Koehler / September 5, 2017

By Robert Koehler Anticipating the current political moment of a fake US president attacking perceived enemies as fake, much of which is triggered by a culture drowning in simulacra, conceptual artist Xu Bing’s first foray into cinema seems like an ideal Chinese response to the madness. The result of a massive, years-long project to compile,…

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Our People Will Be Healed (Alanis Obomsawin, Canada) — Masters

By Josh Cabrita / September 5, 2017

By Josh Cabrita Now in her 85th year and making her 50th film, indispensable Indigenous documentarian Alanis Obomsawin appears to have fallen into an atypical mood of optimistic self-reflection. In her previous film, the nearly three-hour, Wisemanesque We Can’t Make The Same Mistake Twice, she chronicled, with deliberate drudgery and opacity, a years-long judicial suit…

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A Ciambra (Jonas Carpignano, Italy/France/USA/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 5, 2017

By Michael Sicinski In case you had any question as to what to expect from A Ciambra, the latest film from Jonas Carpignano (Mediterranea), the TIFF catalogue description clears things up. In a scant 236 words, we are given the following: “unadorned,” “highly naturalistic,” “verisimilitude,” “gritty reality,” “raw vitality,” “stark reality.” Add in the fact…

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Lean On Pete (Andrew Haigh, USA/United Kingdom) — Special Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 5, 2017

By Jay Kuehner A girl and a gun or a boy and a horse? Andrew Haigh adapts Will Vlautin’s cautionary, melancholic neo-Western with a keen eye and ear for regional vernacular and class distinction. Haigh recognizes the potential in the story that Jane Smiley described as a “sheer cinema-vérité detailing of American life,” and hems…

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BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Robin Campillo, France) — Special Presentations

By Jordan Cronk / September 5, 2017

By Jordan Cronk A sprawling yet affectingly personal portrait of a group of Parisian activists and ACT UP members in the early ’90s, Robin Campillo’s follow-up to the ambitious social thriller Eastern Boys (2013) is defined by a nuanced understanding of group dynamics and the delicate nature of sociopolitical resistance––traits no doubt informed by the…

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Under the Tree (Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurðsson, Iceland/Denmark/ Poland/Germany) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 5, 2017

By Michael Sicinski This would-be black comedy from Iceland starts out in gently grumbling Mike Leigh mode and ends up somewhere in the neighbourhood of Miike Takashi’s Dead or Alive trilogy. That may sound kind of badass, but the trajectory is never really convincing. (Ron Burgundy might opine that things escalate a bit too quickly,…

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The Disaster Artist (James Franco, USA) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman / September 5, 2017

By Adam Nayman The pivotal moment in The Disaster Artist—James Franco’s absorbing, hall-of-mirrors adaptation of Greg Sestero’s combination memoir/tell-all about his participation in the making of The Room, which some have called the worst movie ever made—comes when oddball-narcissist-auteur-polymath Tommy Wiseau (played, naturally, by oddball-narcissist-auteur-polymath Franco) is humiliated at a Hollywood restaurant by a powerful…

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Jeannette, the Childhood of Joan of Arc (Bruno Dumont, France) — Wavelengths

By Jordan Cronk / September 5, 2017

By Jordan Cronk Published in Cinema Scope 71 (Summer 2017) Pitched somewhere between Straub-Huillet and Headbangers Ball, Monty Python and Messiaen, Bruno Dumont’s new feature Jeannette, l’enfance de Jeanne d’Arc marks an unexpected and near-perfect synthesis of the French iconoclast’s many disparate interests and obsessions. Although by now it’s convenient to read Dumont’s robust corpus…

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Ex Libris – The New York Public Library (Frederick Wiseman, USA) — TIFF Docs

By Tom Charity / September 5, 2017

By Tom Charity Published in Cinema Scope 72 (Fall 2017) Let’s start with this: the transitions in Fred Wiseman’s new film (and there are many) have a simple and specific beauty. They double as establishing shots, each comprising a brief cluster of New York street views, usually including an intersection sign to pin us to…

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Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, Italy/France) — Special Presentations

By Angelo Muredda / September 4, 2017

By Angelo Muredda From the moment the opening credits offer a screen-filling shout-out to the musical score by Sufjan Stevens and the handwritten titles by Chen Li, Call Me By Your Name announces itself as a Luca Guadagnino film: a love letter from one aesthete to countless others. That opening salvo might inspire a bit…

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The Rider (Chloé Zhao, USA) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 4, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr Set in the world of modern-day cowboys, Chloé Zhao’s The Rider is an incisive critique of traditional American masculinity. The film follows rodeo rider Brady Blackburn (Brady Jandreau, who, like the other actors, is playing a version of his real self) as he struggles to recover from a head injury suffered during…

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April’s Daughter (Michel Franco, Mexico) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Robert Koehler / September 4, 2017

By Robert Koehler As long as Michel Franco keeps winning major festival awards, like this year’s Cannes Un Certain Regard jury prize for his atrocious April’s Daughter, it appears that he’ll be able to keep making movies. That, and getting help from the likes of Tim Roth, who has for some reason decided to become…

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3/4 (Ilian Metev, Germany/Bulgaria) — Discovery

By Azadeh Jafari / September 4, 2017

By Azadeh Jafari Ilian Metev’s fiction debut, following his award-winning 2012 documentary Sofia’s Last Ambulance is a touching portrait of family relationships that explores the lives of a physicist, Todor (Todor Veltchev), and his two children, Niki (Nikolay Mashalov), an energetic and imaginative teenage boy, and Mila (Mila Mihova), a talented young pianist preparing for…

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Darkest Hour (Joe Wright, UK) — Gala Presentations

By Jay Kuehner / September 4, 2017

By Jay Kuehner A parliamentary drama of considerable pallor (not power), Darkest Hour drops us in on the “action” of the House of Commons floor as the “Phoney War” with Nazi Germany is about to become all too real, and where Winston Churchill’s appointment to wartime prime minister is met with a frenzy of handbill-waving…

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The Garden (Sonja Maria Kröner, Germany) — Discovery

By James Lattimer / September 4, 2017

By James Lattimer The only element of The Garden worth marvelling at is the amount of money seemingly lavished on its production design, as upmarket thrift stores the length and breadth of Germany appear to have been raided in an attempt to capture the spirit of ’76. But while chintzy patterns, vintage cars, and space…

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Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Mouly Surya, Indonesia/France/ Malaysia/Thailand) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 4, 2017

By Michael Sicinski Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts is a post-postmodern grab bag of genre moves and hollow gestures. At times it seems to want to be taken seriously, and at others it is content to revel in pastiche, very much like Ana Lily Amirpour’s films. How exactly are we supposed to take this…

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Caniba (Véréna Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor, France) — Wavelengths

By Dan Sullivan / September 4, 2017

By Dan Sullivan On paper, what could be more sordid than an interview-portrait with Issei Sagawa, the infamous cannibal who became a tabloid sensation in the early ’80s after he murdered and ate part of a Dutch woman in Paris? Caniba, the new film by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor, doesn’t exactly skimp on the…

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High Fantasy (Jenna Bass, South Africa) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 4, 2017

By Adam Nayman The ’80s-style Hollywood body-swap comedy gets a purposeful and political makeover in High Fantasy, an inventive and entertaining South African feature that cleverly yokes heavy subject matter to an agile DIY aesthetic. Shot entirely on iPhones wielded by its adolescent cast members (who also wrote the script), the film takes the form…

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Strangely Ordinary this Devotion (Dani Leventhal & Sheilah Wilson, USA) — Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski / September 4, 2017

By Michael Sicinski Published in Cinema Scope 72 (Fall 2017) Columbus, Ohio-based artists Dani Leventhal and Sheilah Wilson have embarked on an artistic relationship that is formally and emotionally adjacent to their domestic lives, a quotidian zone they share with their young daughter Rose. Both artists have established careers on their own. Neither Leventhal’s video…

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Zama (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina/Brazil/Spain/ France/Netherlands/Mexico/ Portugal/USA) — Masters

By Blake Williams / September 4, 2017

By Blake Williams Published in Cinema Scope 72 (Fall 2017) “[Cinemas of the senses] generate worlds of mutating sounds and images that often ebb and   flow between the figurative and the abstract, and where the human form, at least as a unified entity, easily loses its function as the main point of reference. One way…

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Gutland (Govinda Van Maele, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium) — Discovery

By Alysia Urrutia / September 3, 2017

By Alysia Urrutia To have lost something is for something familiar to have disappeared, but to be lost is to be surrounded by the unknown—in other words, to have the unfamiliar appear. Jens Fauser (Frederick Lau) is lost in both senses of the word, shedding layers of his former self just as readily as he…

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Félicité (Alain Gomis, France/Senegal/Belgium/Germany/ Lebanon) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Dan Sullivan / September 3, 2017

By Dan Sullivan Alain Gomis’ first film since 2012’s Aujourd’hui unfurls leisurely, with a precision, patience, and sense of musicality, embodied on a somewhat literal level by the chansons sung by its magnetic protagonist. The set-up is slightly elemental, which may be the point: by night, Kinshasa native Félicité (Véro Tshanda Beya Mputu, a Congolese…

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The Other Side of Hope (Aki Kaurismäki, Finland/Germany) — Masters

By Jordan Cronk / September 3, 2017

By Jordan Cronk The second in a proposed trilogy of films focused on the European refugee crises, Aki Kaurismäki’s follow-up to the warm and generous Le Havre (2011) is both of a piece with its predecessor and something a little looser and more unkempt. This time the plight of his refugee, a Syrian emigrant named…

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Faces Places (Agnès Varda & JR, France) — Masters

By Jordan Cronk / September 3, 2017

By Jordan Cronk The unexpected kinship between 33-year-old visual artist JR and octogenarian Left Bank legend Agnès Varda is infectiously explored in Faces Places, the latter’s first feature since her 2008 personal-poetic landmark Les plages d’Agnès. Inspired equally by JR’s youthful joie de vivre and the large-scale photographic portraits he produces in his makeshift mobile…

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Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia/France/Belgium/Germany) — Masters

By Richard Porton / September 3, 2017

By Richard Porton From all outward appearances, the Russian director Andrey Zvyagintzev is a Putin-era incarnation of what was known during the Soviet era as a “dissident”: Leviathan his previous prize-winning film, did after all manage to upset the powers that be, especially the Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky. Produced, unlike Leviathan, without the assistance…

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I Am Not a Witch (Rungano Nyoni, UK/France) — Discovery

By Elena Lazic / September 3, 2017

By Elena Lazic Rungano Nyoni’s debut feature, a deadpan observation of the superstitions and misunderstandings hanging over everyday life in a small, present-day Zambian village, has all the characteristics of a light comedy of manners. The film follows Shula (Margaret Mulubwa), a young girl who is one day accused by her neighbours of being a…

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Pyewacket (Adam MacDonald, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2017

By Adam Nayman The hands-down winner of the TIFF 2017 “Google the title to understand it” award, Pyewacket finds Adam MacDonald—who came to the festival in 2014 with a tough, impressive little thriller called Backcountry—swapping generic models, trading survivalist realism for occult-tinged horror. It’s a lateral move, and also not an improvement (albeit one that’s…

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Wajib (Annemarie Jacir, Palestine/France/Germany/ Colombia/Norway/Qatar/UAE) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Lorenzo Esposito / September 3, 2017

By Lorenzo Esposito What does it mean to be a Palestinian abroad? What does it mean to be a Palestinian at home? Can the struggle between the two identities tell us something honest about a Palestinian society living under the Israeli occupation? Wajib, Annemarie Jacir’s third feature, confirms the director’s ability to show and discuss…

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The Day After (Hong Sangsoo, South Korea) — Masters

By Andrea Picard / September 3, 2017

By Andréa Picard Published in Cinema Scope 71 (Summer 2017) With its wonderful Whitman-inspired title, On the Beach at Night Alone gave us one of the year’s most indelible images, so crushing, mournful, and beautiful in its abandon: Kim Minhee’s character Younghee lying forlorn in the sand on a cold beach. The solemn distress and…

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Beyond the One (Anna Marziano, France/Italy/Germany) — Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski / September 3, 2017

By Michael Sicinski One of the main images that reappears throughout Anna Marziano’s new film is a shot out of a moving train window, that of a thicket of trees racing by in a blur. Although this type of shot is something of an avant-garde staple, there is something truly unique about the way Marziano…

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Ta peau si lisse (Denis Côté, Canada/Switzerland) — Wavelengths

By Adam Nayman / September 3, 2017

By Adam Nayman Published in Cinema Scope 72 (Fall 2017) William K.L. Dickson’s Sandow (1894) is a three-part documentary study of the Prussian muscleman Friedrich Wilhelm Muller, who adopted the more flamboyant nom de plume after he dodged the draft and joined the circus. Sandow’s placement on undergraduate film studies curriculums the world over owes…

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Tulipani, Love, Honour and a Bicycle (Mike van Diem, Netherlands/Italy/Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Mallory Andrews / September 3, 2017

By Mallory Andrews What is the aesthetic advantage of whimsy, especially in a work presumably meant for an adult audience? These questions preoccupied me throughout Mike van Diem’s Tulipani, Love, Honour and a Bicycle, a primary-coloured fable recounted to Anna (Ksenia Solo), a young woman who travels from Montréal to Italy after her mother’s death…

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Miami (Zaida Bergroth, Finland) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Ethan Vestby / September 2, 2017

By Ethan Vestby With the demise of TIFF’s Vanguard program—the one with the ostensible mission of bridging the gap between art- and  grindhouses—it’s worth wondering what exactly makes a satisfying mix of the two, and if it’s even really worth pursuing in most cases. Looking at a film that would’ve likely been at home in…

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The Summit (Santiago Mitre, Argentina/Spain/France) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Diego Brodersen / September 2, 2017

By Diego Brodersen The third feature by Santiago Mitre (The Student, Paulina) is in more ways than one his most ambitious, complex, and accomplished yet. It’s not easy to mess around with the presidency in a country where there’s no such cinematic tradition, with the exceptions of documentary films and the casual fictional hagiography of…

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The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK) — Special Presentations

By Jordan Cronk / September 2, 2017

By Jordan Cronk For those who’ve grown weary––or perhaps suspicious––of the seemingly obligatory conceptual gambits that have thus far characterized the films of Yorgos Lanthimos, then the Greek provocateur’s latest should come as welcome reprieve; for everyone else, it’s likely to appear as something a little more ordinary, a little less daring. Starring Colin Farrell…

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Winter Brothers (Hlynur Pálmason, Denmark/Iceland) — Discovery

By Aurelie Godet / September 2, 2017

By Aurélie Godet In Hlynur Pálmason’s enigmatic short Seven Boats (which screened at TIFF 2014), a man adrift at sea in the wreckage of his vessel was ignored or pushed away by the occupants of the smaller boats floating around him. Winter Brothers, the Icelandic filmmaker’s first feature, recalls these motifs of rejection and the…

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Novitiate (Maggie Betts, USA) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 2, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr With Novitiate, director Maggie Betts creates a dramatic portrait of a 1960s convent during the reforms of Vatican II. Following a group of novices as they enter the church, Betts manages to capture a youthful intensity to feverishly convey a multitude of psychological, as well as societal, concerns. Protagonist Cathleen (Margaret Qualley)…

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The Insult (Ziad Doueiri, France/Lebanon) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Adam Nayman / September 2, 2017

By Adam Nayman. Call it Two Angry Men: Ziad Doueiri’s courtroom drama applies a stolid, old-fangled Sidney Lumet-ness to a geographically and historically disparate cultural context. The setting is Beirut, a city riven with ethnic and religious tensions. In the opening scene, mechanic Tony (Adel Karam) attends a rally of the Christian Party, whose conservative,…

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Porcupine Lake (Ingrid Veninger, Canada) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Angelo Muredda / September 2, 2017

By Angelo Muredda Micro-budget Toronto filmmaker turned production maven Ingrid Veninger hits her sweet spot with Porcupine Lake, which trades some of her scrappier aesthetic instincts for a more polished veneer but keeps the heart and prickly specificity of her best work. Like Andrew Cividino’s recent Canadian indie darling Sleeping Giant, which staged its small-scale…

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Redoubtable (Michel Hazanavicius, France) — Special Presentations

By Mark Peranson / September 2, 2017

By Mark Peranson Which film was the worst at Cannes this year? It’s hard to know where to begin analyzing that rogues’ gallery and the lousy awards bestowed on them, but on behalf of cinephiles everywhere I feel the need to say something brief and to the point about Michel Hackavanicius: can Netflix pay this…

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On Body and Soul (Ildikó Enyedi, Hungary) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 2, 2017

By Michael Sicinski In describing the histrionic performances that tend to nab Oscars, Mike D’Angelo has noted that voters and juries often mistake “most acting” for “best acting.” I thought of this while watching On Body and Soul, perplexing winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale. It isn’t just that this, the comeback…

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The Square (Ruben Östlund, Denmark/France/Germany/Sweden) — Special Presentations

By Josh Cabrita / September 2, 2017

By Josh Cabrita Published in Cinema Scope 71 (Summer 2017) A secular credo patchworked from the Golden Rule and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is engraved on an altar: “The Square is a sanctuary of trust and caring. Within it we all share equal rights and obligations.” Before it was a two-hour and 20-minute…

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Mrs. Fang (Wang Bing, France/China/Germany) — Wavelengths

By Daniel Kasman / September 2, 2017

By Daniel Kasman & Christopher Small Published in Cinema Scope 72 (Fall 2017) An old face—skin drawn tautly over jaw and cheekbone, thinning grey hair, eyeballs quivering like tadpoles—is the central image in Wang Bing’s Golden Leopard winner Mrs. Fang. The naked, sober image of this face, which belongs to Fang Xiuying, the film’s bedridden…

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Downsizing (Alexander Payne, USA) — Special Presentations

By Leonardo Goi / September 1, 2017

  By Leonardo Goi After exploring the road-trip genre for nearly two decades (in About Schmidt, Sideways and Nebraska), Alexander Payne now embarks on a radically different and more ambitious project: a sci-fi environmentalist tale set in a world where humanity seeks to solve the overpopulation crisis by shrinking people to five inches tall. Downsizing…

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Insyriated (Philippe Van Leeuw, Belgium/France/Lebanon) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Michael Sicinski / September 1, 2017

By Michael Sicinski A film so phony that its makers needed to coin a nonsense word to give it an appropriate title, the irksome Insyriated is the sort of feeble attempt at profundity that crops up in the face of every armed conflict. It’s based on the notion that in extreme circumstances, people show you…

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In the Fade (Fatih Akin, Germany/France) — Special Presentations

By Richard Porton / September 1, 2017

By Richard Porton Directed by one of the world’s most heavy-handed directors, In the Fade is nothing if not unremittingly topical. The ultra-schematic plot foregrounds evil neo-Nazis with a yen for terrorism, victimized Kurds, and one kick-ass wreaker of vengeance played with great flair by Diane Kruger, who won the Best Actress prize at Cannes…

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Happy End (Michael Haneke, France/Austria/Germany) — Masters

By Jordan Cronk / September 1, 2017

By Jordan Cronk It should go without saying at this point that the title of Austrian miserablist Michael Haneke’s new film is a cruel joke–, and an unsurprising one at that. What’s more unfortunate than the forced irony, however, is that just as the title seems to have been spit out by an art-cinema name…

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Occidental (Neïl Beloufa, France) — Wavelengths

By Michael Sicinski / September 1, 2017

By Michael Sicinski “You know the word ‘louche’?”—Vince Vaughn, True Detective After a number of impressive short films and one documentary hybrid feature, the 2013 Tonight and the People, French artist Neïl Beloufa offers Occidental, the closest he’s yet come to a conventional feature film. As is often the case with art-world figures and quasi-experimentalists…

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Cocote (Nelson Carlo de los Santos Arias, Dominican Republic/Argentina/ Germany/Qatar) — Wavelengths

By Mark Peranson / September 1, 2017

By Mark Peranson Rare is the feature film from the Dominican Republic, for sure, but even rarer is a film like Cocote. Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias’ fascinating opus, made under the dual sign of Glauber Rocha and Roberto Bolaño, begins in Santo Domingo, where Alberto works as a private gardener. Alberto learns his…

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A Fantastic Woman (Sebastián Lelio, Chile) — Special Presentations

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr / September 1, 2017

By Chelsea Phillips-Carr A Fantastic Woman opens with scenes of domestic bliss. On her birthday, Marina (Daniela Vega), a twentysomething  trans woman, is taken out for dinner and dancing by her older boyfriend Orlando, before going back home to their shared apartment. Later that night, the Orlando passes away. What begins as romantic perfection quickly…

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Good Luck (Ben Russell, France/Germany) — Wavelengths

By Phil Coldiron / September 1, 2017

By Phil Coldiron “Now I am in front of a rock. It splits. No, it is no longer split. It is as before. Again it is split in two. No, it is not split at all. It splits once more. Once more no longer split, and this goes on indefinitely. Rock intact, then split, then…

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Mary Goes Round (Molly McGlynn, Canada) — Discovery

By Adam Nayman / September 1, 2017

By Adam Nayman “Are you a piece of shit?” This is the question being pondered by 29-year-old Mary (Aya Cash), who suspects that she might be and knows for a fact that she’s a hypocrite, peddling substance abuse-program platitudes at her day job while getting fucked up by night (and in the afternoon, and on…

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Disappearance (Boudewijn Koole, Netherlands/Norway) — Contemporary World Cinema

By Ethan Vestby / September 1, 2017

By Ethan Vestby Drawing easy comparisons to Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata with its piano motif, strained mother-daughter relationship, and general Scandinavian coldness, Boudewijn Koole’s  Disappearance seems to exist solely to be the umpteenth case in an argument that, yes, a certain brand of ennui and alienation will always be in vogue on the festival circuit.…

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Western (Valeska Grisebach, Germany/Bulgaria/Austria) — Contemporary World Cinema

By James Lattimer / September 1, 2017

Originally published in Cinema Scope 71 (Summer 2017)   By James Lattimer Why would anyone claim to be something they’re not? For Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann), the protagonist of German director Valeska Grisebach’s long-anticipated second feature, it’s a way to get himself out of a scrape. Wedged in a car at night with a group of…

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Let the Corpses Tan (Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani, Belgium/France) — Midnight Madness

By Daniel Kasman / August 28, 2017

By Daniel Kasman Having plunged as deep as their knives could go into the long-dead corpse of the giallo genre in Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani now forge a kind of hybrid of the spaghetti Westerns and Italian crime films of the late ’60s, stripping out…

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