This Week in Film: Amour, Zero Dark Thirty, The Ambassador, and Jean-Louis Trintignant & Emmanuelle Riva

This Week in Film rounds up noteworthy new releases in theatres, rep cinema and avant-garde screenings, festivals, and other special cinema-related events happening in Toronto.


Amour (TIFF Bell Lightbox)

Michael Haneke's latest, Palme d'Or-winning film is about as hyped up as a French-language film about old people dying can get. And there's good reason, as it's one of the most soul-crushing movies to come around since Leo McCarey made stones cry with Make Way for Tomorrow in 1937. That film was also about the tragedy of losing your loved one in old age, but - tonally speaking - it's practically a slapstick farce in comparison to Haneke's rigid and precise meditation. Known for his finger-wagging scolds, the Austrian master has been roundly praised for getting in touch with his tender side here; I wouldn't go that far, but do pack some kleenex before you're out the door.

Zero Dark Thirty (Varsity, Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)

Kathryn Bigelow finally out-muscled her ex James Cameron when her film The Hurt Locker KO'd Avatar in their Best Picture Oscar face-off three years ago, but that hasn't stopped her from once again making one of the most macho films of the year. Not that Zero Dark Thirty is some action blockbuster 'splosions extravaganza, but the gal has a knack for crafting some of the toughest and most realistic war films ever made - with ideas to boot. This picture may depict the real-life hunt and annihilation of Osama Bin Laden, but what it's really about is what Zodiac was also really about: an obsessive, counter-productive pursuit for closure. Oh, and there's also about ten minutes of waterboarding in it SO DON'T SAY WE DIDN'T WARN YOU.

The Ambassador (Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)

When it comes to stunt documentaries, I think it'd be best to adhere to a rule which dictates that the director and the 'protagonist' can't be the same person. Morgan Spurlock and Michael Moore have thoroughly demonstrated that an interesting topic and landing on the correct side of a debate don't necessarily yield a successful film if you're going to badger your witnesses and/or wink at the camera every four minutes.

Mads Brügger is an exception in some sense, as his new film The Ambassador features him neither winking nor badgering, yet he nevertheless proves the rule sheerly on account of the fact he's still improbably annoying in every minute of this. Posturing as a Liberian diplomat, what he uncovers on camera is incendiary enough, but not even his vague vocal likeness to Werner Herzog is able to redeem him from supreme unlikability.

Also opening in theatres this week:

  • Gangster Squad (Carlton, Rainbow Market Sq., Scotiabank)
  • A Dark Truth (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • The House I Live in (Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)
  • Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • The Patron Saints (The Royal)
  • Saadi Love Story (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)


A Man and a Woman: Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva (January 11 - February 24; TIFF Bell Lightbox)

After you see their brilliant performances as dust bunnies in Amour, TIFF invites you to spend the next month and half watching Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva basking in the prime of their lives with a tour de force French cinema retrospective. With one of the richest résumés in cinema history, Trintignant worked with everyone from Claude Lelouch to Costa-Gavras (not to mention Rohmer, Bertolucci, and Truffaut).

Riva, on the other hand, has an almost Malickian vacancy in her filmography, starring in zero films between 1967 and 1993 despite her landmark, star-making roles in major films by Alain Resnais, Georges Franju, and Louis Malle; only something as monolithic as Kieślowski's Blue could bring her back to us. Like Summer in France all over again, this is just the kind of warm blanket I needed to get me through this (admittedly mild) winter.

This week's A Man and a Woman screenings:

Also in rep cinema this week:

Lead still from Amour.

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