TIFF Reviews: A Prophet, The Hole, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, White Ribbon, Police Adjective, House of Branching Love, Cleanflix, Trash Humpers, Defendor, The Ape

Here are the films we've seen in our last set of TIFF reviews.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

A Prophet
This film won the Grand Prix at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and had no trouble winning over audiences at the Visa Screening Room last night who gave director Jacques Audiard and a couple of cast members a standing ovation. The film is set in a French prison and chronicles the six years spent there by a young, illiterate North African inmate who is forced to navigate the rival Corsican and Arab gangs. (Tim)

The Disappearance of Alice Creed
Don't let anyone tell you a single thing about this movie. It's got the best use of plot turns you're going to see in the festival. A terrific three-hander, as a girl is abducted off the street by two men with ransom ambitions. Where they go from there is amazing, gripping, and a hell of a lot of fun. (Matt)

The Hole
This is the movie Zathura was swinging for and didn't quite hit: the best family adventure since Goonies. Leave it to Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace) to drag us back to that 80s movie vibe by making a kids' thriller that actually thrills. It features creepy little girls, a psychotic clown doll, and a hole to nowhere. What? You want more than that? Fine: it's in 3-D! (Matt)

Cleanflix
Hollywood takes on The Church of Latter Day Saints in a doc about the Utah clean-video empire and the scandalous video store owners who butchered and sold popular movies in accordance to decrees by Mormon prophets. Stirs up interesting conversations about copyright, religion, censorship, and morality. Anyone interested in the art of film will love this one. (Connie)

Trash Humpers
Director Harmony Korine warned those prone to walking out of movies to "walk out now" as "this movie probably isn't for you." How true. It's Korine's edgiest, most experimental piece so far, and, as with most of his work, is an extremely difficult watch. Not only is the content odd -- social misfits who wreak havoc, humping whatever they can get their crotches on -- it's also disjointed and shot entirely on VHS, resulting in hefty doses of tape auto-tracking and snow. Guaranteed original, uniquely raw, beauty in a stark American landscape. You'll love or hate it. With some Gravol and an open mind, you may just get it. Maybe. (Connie)

RECOMMENDED

The White Ribbon
Michael Haneke's cold, brooding film about mounting unrest in a pre-WWI German village asks a lot of its audience, but the results are worthwhile. Haneke's craftsmanship is in superb form here. What the film has to say about the birthplace of terror is worth mulling when you're walking away from the theatre, and will probably stay with you a lot longer than that. A warning though: at 2 1/2 hours, and never even attempting to explain itself, this one is challenging. (Matt)

Police, Adjective
In February, I fell in love. It was the Toronto-Romanian Film Festival that introduced me to a recent crop of acclaimed filmmakers sometimes referred to as the Romanian New Wave. The love affair continues with Police, Adjective. Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest) directs this understated work about a cop who cannot bring himself to arrest a teenager for smoking a joint - a crime that would land the kid in jail for years according to Romanian drug laws. Porumboiu makes some profound statements in this film, though most of the content is made up of mundane scenes from the cop's home life and a few clever conversations. (Chandra)

Big Eyes
This 1974 classic honours iconic Tel Avivian filmmaker Uri Zohar, as part of the Festival's controversial City to City program. Big Eyes is a solid document of the city in the '70s, with the characters echoing the fashion and mannerisms of their friends across the pond. Very strong movie, from the plot to the visuals, the Welcome-Back-Kotteresque theme song, and the great cast, including Zohar himself as womanizer Benny Furman. Powerful film about loyalty and relationships that still stands today. (Connie)

The House of Branching Love
A messy divorce just keeps getting messier in this romantic comedy by Finnish director Mika Kaurism채ki. The couple in question set some ground rules for the house, a gameplan for co-habitating. Juhani picks up and brings a girl home that same night, which leads to a cigar toss, a fire, and a whole lot of yelling. It all goes downhill from there. (Chandra)

NOT RECOMMENDED

Defendor
A striking sentiment I heard from two different groups after the film: "That was very... Canadian." Wherever you stand on that comment, it carries a lot of weight, and I can't help but agree. Without the pull of Woody Harrelson, I doubt the concept of a Hamilton-based vigilante superhero could arouse Canadian crowds. Furthermore, the film doesn't go far enough, the technique and character development of the supporting cast is forced, and the stylistic approach of the film is confusing. (Connie)

The Ape
This film had the highest number of walk-outs I've seen this year. In fact, every time someone got up, I felt a little envious myself, wishing I could do the same -- unfortunately, I'd heard so much about this film and expected it to get better... It never happened. Slow mover of a tale that follows a protagonist on a convoluted journey. Had some moments but left unsatisfied. (Connie)


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