TIFF Reviews

TIFF Reviews

Reviews of TIFF films will be flying fast and furious once the festival begins on September 10th, but until then we've been busy checking out some of the advance media screenings taking place all this past week at the Varsity. For TIFF package holders, picks are due by 1pm on Monday, so to help narrow the options a little, a few of us have pieced together some mini reviews for what we've seen to date.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Antichrist
Is it really that provocative? Yep, I can confirm that Antichrist is in fact bold, disturbing, and cringe-worthy. Lars Von Trier imagines a couple grieving after the loss of their child. She is inconsolable, he comes up with a treatment plan (he's a therapist) that involves spending time in an isolated cottage. Of course, this is just the beginning. Willem Dafoe and gutsy Charlotte Gainsbourg then get violent with each other. And the rest, not for the squeamish and not quite what I expected, is sure to become the subject of many theses. (Chandra)

J'ai tué ma mère
Xavier Dolan's directorial debut suffocates you with your worst family memory, shoves it down your throat, and tops the experience with a slight twist of your balls. If intense family melodrama isn't your bag, cross this off the list; the rest of us can sit back and let this 20-year-old's Cannes-celebrated piece leave an impression. Scathing accusations and vicious scream fests may be frustrating for some moviegoers, but it's this very uneasiness that kept me focused throughout. With great casting pieced together with art-school-esque/self-indulgent montages, this makes for a pretty engaging watch. (Connie)

Passenger Side
I've almost had it with road movies, their bickering protagonists, and life-changing revelations. However, there was something refreshing about Passenger Side -- Canadians reprezentin' in L.A., the super-cool soundtrack, the well-shot visual landscapes (without a Marilyn Monroe impersonator in sight)... It just worked. Sure, it suffers from the "Oh! Let's stop here and meet another quirky person!" quality of every 20- or 30-something road flick, but the sharp, smart-ass dialogue and brotherly camaraderie between Adam Scott and Joel Bissonnette's characters gives the movie a slight nudge above the rest. (Connie)

A Serious Man
Just when I was beginning to forget that the Coen Bros. are masters at developing rich and compelling stories, they come along with the not-so-subtle character piece A Serious Man. The man in question is Larry Gopnik, a suburban dad in 1967 Minnesota. His wife is leaving him for a family friend. His children are obnoxious. His brother is socially inept and living on his couch. Larry seeks counsel from multiple lawyers for his mounting legal troubles and multiple rabbis for his crisis of faith. The Coens throw humour into the mix. (Chandra)

RECOMMENDED

Partir
Partir found a goldmine in Kristin Scott Thomas. Without her, the story falls flat: we follow Suzanne (Thomas), a well-to-do housewife who schtupps a husky Spanish house builder, and then sacrifices everything to pursue this forbidden love, despite the forces against her. Groan. What's worse is how the ending was so blatantly revealed in the first few minutes, removing any anticipation and fun from the remaining run time. In fact, I'm not sure it deserves the "recommended" stamp, but Kristin Scott Thomas is so riveting and a treat to watch -- summoning sympathy for what could've been a thoroughly detestable character -- that I can't discount it... entirely. (Connie)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
I'm not suggesting I've seen this film, but fans of Heath Ledger or Terry Gilliam likely won't be disappointed with the effort here. For more background, Vanity Fair has a great cover story on the making of this film and how production almost shut down in the wake of Ledger's death. (Tim)

Cole
Carl Bessai is on a roll with Normal, Mothers & Daughters, and now Cole, a rich girl/poor boy romance. The combination of scenic small-town British Columbia, well-developed characters, and a charming leading man (Richard de Klerk) make for a great low-key drama. (Chandra)

The Young Victoria
Although I can't quite pinpoint any faults with The Young Victoria, Jean-Marc Vallée's follow-up to C.R.A.Z.Y. was bound to be a little bit disappointing. The Quebecois filmmaker (who is behind one of the most acclaimed films to come out of Canada in years) takes on English history in this one. The film follows Victoria's struggles and romances during her first years on the throne. In this early period of her life, family members, politicians, and suitors went to great lengths to have influence on the inexperienced queen. The Young Victoria also has strong performances by very capable actors - Emily Blunt is in the title role as the rookie queen, Miranda Richardson is her unsupportive mother, and Paul Bettany is a debonair politician. (Chandra)

NOT RECOMMENDED

Carcasses
Filmmaker Denis Côté takes a part-documentary, part-fictional look at junkyard owner Jean-Paul Colmor and his automobile carcasses in small-town Quebec. By following his daily routines and interaction with customers and visitors, the film studies Colmor's comfort in solitude -- often at the real-time speed of life. And as it happens, his life unfolds very... very slowly. Despite the short run time (72 minutes), the observational perspective gets stale quickly, and maintaining focus is difficult. (Connie)

All Fall Down
Philip Hoffman pieces together footage from a historical film he was never paid for, scratched negatives, and personal videos in All Fall Down. While I appreciate the idea of re-cycling the commission for a personal project, this 95 minutes was a long ride. (Chandra)

Suck
The title of this Canadian made film is an apt description for how I felt about it. While spotting familiar Toronto sites and cameos from the likes of Iggy Pop, Moby and Alice Cooper kept me mildly interested, this was ultimately a bit of a mess and 90 minutes that could have been better spent re-watching the far superior Vampire flick Let the Right One In. (Tim)


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