Toronto Film

This Week in Film: Into the Abyss, The Artist, Sleeping Beauty, Adaptation, Japanese Movie Week, and what's new in DVD and Blu Ray

This Week in Film rounds up noteworthy new releases in theatres, as well as key DVD / Blu-Ray releases, festivals, and other cinema-related events happening in Toronto.


Into the Abyss (TIFF Bell Lightbox)

Not exactly the most obvious subject choice for the often off-the-wall filmmaker Werner Herzog, but it has an impact. The German auteur picks apart a Texas robbery-cum-murder incident by interviewing the killers (who sit on death row) as well as some relatives of the deceased — not to mention a few other unexpected characters. Not unlike his accomplishment in last year's sublime Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Herzog has an uncanny ability to portray contemporary technologies and systems as if they were ancient artifacts; a hand covered in calluses and an ultrasound x-ray image of a fetus — viewed on an iPhone — resonate deeply, as if we're looking at hieroglyphics on the wall of a cave. The rituals of death row, unsurprisingly, feel the most obsolete of all, even if the film never gets didactic about that.

Sleeping Beauty (Cumberland)

One of the truly baffling films in Cannes last May, this is definitely a telling of the Sleeping Beauty tale that we've never encountered before, even considering Catherine Breillat's stylish take on it last year. This film earns its title in a different context, suggesting that links to the fairytale are really only coincidental. A girl in her early 20s gets involved in a kind of cult, which involves a kind of demented and deeply disturbing narcolepsy fetish, which involves a kind of legion of wealthy men. Kind of. Plays like a collaboration between Stanley Kubrick and Michael Haneke as they attempt to make a Catherine Breillat film (and not because of her own The Sleeping Beauty). Julia Leigh, who also wrote The Hunter from TIFF last September, might be one to watch.

The Artist (Varsity)

An overrated Oscar-grab, sure, but still fun. I'd much rather watch the real deals (Singin' in the Rain, A Star is Born), which deal with the transition from the silent era to the talkie era and the heartbreak of being eclipsed in your work by the one you love, respectively, without having to resort to cheeky winks and nudges. Yeah, we got it. As with the much more successful film Hugo, though, if its existence brings a wider interest and awareness in silent cinema and its preservation, then may it win every Academy Award it gets nominated for. Still, cut it out with the dog reaction shots.

Also Opening This Week:


For recommendations on what to catch at Toronto's rep cinema's this week, check out This Week in Rep Cinema.


Book Revue: Adaptation
The Book Revue — "A new type of book club" — takes place once a month at the Revue Cinema (recent installments in the series are The Sweet Hereafter and Rosemary's Baby; yeah, they have good taste in movies). When we're talking book-to-silver screen adaptations, though, you don't get more meta and brilliant than this one. After the cult-like success of Being John Malkovich, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman set out to adapt Susan Orlean's "The Orchid Thief": a book about flowers. The resulting film is an utterly singular triad that is one part genuine adaptation of the book, one part fictionalized making-of documentary about the writing of the script, and one part intentional self-destruct implosion, all for the sake of proving that the only rule in art is that there ain't none. The screening is on Tuesday, December 13 at 6:45PM; there will be free book giveaways and complimentary snacks after the screening.


Japanese Movie Week
It's looking like we may never have to pay to see a movie at The Royal ever again. Just a week after the conclusion of the EU Film Festival, now we get another free festival of international films, albeit a notably smaller one. Showing four Japanese movies - which I'm sure are all well and good; check the website to see which ones strike your fancy - there's one in particular that needs to be singled out, and that is Linda Linda Linda (Friday, December 9 at 7PM). It's about a quartet of high school girls that are in a band, and they want to play in the upcoming festival at school. Problem is they need to learn a song. It's one of the best comedies of this millennium; when I saw it on the festival's programme, I screamed. The programme runs from December 8 to 10; it's Free, at The Royal, and the only film festival playing in Toronto this week, so no excuses.


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