TIFF Toronto 2011 Film

TIFF Today: Samsara, Snowtown, The Deep Blue Sea, Alps, The Kid with a Bike

Today marks the beginning of the second half of TIFF 2011, traditionally a point in the festival where the AAA talent have begun to make their way back to Hollywood. That said, Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Garner will be on hand for tonight's gala premiere of Butter. If a comedy about midwestern butter carvers doesn't meet your fancy, there are plenty of terrific alternatives, quite a few of which are screening for a second time, making them at least a little more accessible.

SAMSARA (1:15PM, Lightbox 2)
I can't recommend Ron Fricke's follow-up to Baraka highly enough. Basically a breathtaking, human-focused, art house version of Planet Earth, Samsara is a dialogue-free documentary that surveys human civilizations, both ancient and contemporary, across the globe. Without the slightest hyperbole, I can say that it's one of the most visually stunning films ever produced, but it's also far, far more. The truly astonishing thing about Samsara is that, in the space of 99 minutes, Fricke crafts a portrait that conveys a near totality of human experience.

SNOWTOWN (9PM, Ryerson Theatre)
A remarkably convincing account of Australia's infamous "Bodies in Barrels murders," Snowtown is the gut-churning, true story cousin to 2010's Animal Kingdom. It captures, in grim detail, the fascinating events that would lead to capture of John Bunting, known as the country's worst serial killer. Featuring an excellent slate of performances, Justin Kurzel's directorial debut is both disturbing and deeply compelling.

THE DEEP BLUE SEA (4:45PM, Isabel Bader Theatre)
Not to be confused with Renny Harlin's cult shark flick, Terrence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea is a torrid post-War infidelity drama. The film stars Rachel Weisz as the wife of a British judge, caught up in an all-consuming love affair with an RAF pilot. Adapted from the well-known stage play by Terence Rattigan, Davies heightens the melodrama and narrows the focus, delving into the tortured relationship of Weisz and her lover, played by Tom Hiddleston.

ALPS (7:30PM, Isabel Bader Theatre)
ALPS is the follow-up to 2010 Best Foreign Language Oscar nominee, Dogtooth, the brilliant but polarizing debut from Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos. Delving further into his evident daddy-daughter issues, and curious fascination with American pop-culture, ALPS is work of demented genius, but is also denser than its predecessor. As with Dogtooth, the less you know going in the better - apart from the caveat that Lanthimos' twisted, pitch black humour won't be to everyone's tastes.

THE KID WITH A BIKE (4:30PM, Winter Garden Theatre)
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are mainstays of European realism, and the The Kid with a Bike continues their enviable tradition of evoking compelling drama from simple, but high-stakes scenarios. Known for achieving uncommonly naturalistic performances from their actors, the duo work particular wonders with youngster Thomas Doret, who displays street smarts and a fighting spirit, but also a heartbreaking vulnerability. More excellence from the Dardennes, The Kid with a Bike screens in TIFF's masters programme for good reason.

A big thanks to Drive, an Alliance film opening in theatres on September 16th, for sponsoring our coverage of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

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