Only God Forgives

This Week in Film: Only God Forgives, The Act of Killing, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Somm, and Parkdale Film + Video Showcase

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.


Only God Forgives (TIFF Bell Lightbox)

One has to admire Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn on at least one point: he's not at all concerned with satiating the demands of his fans. Coming off of by far his biggest hit yet with Drive, Winding Refn uses his subsequent film to lure in the bandwagon he acquired with that film - bringing back Gosling and composer Cliff Martinez, and an excess of moody neons to boot - only to deprive that audience of all but the faintest surface familiarities, simultaneously kicking the levels of violence and stoicism into an oppressive overdrive (apologies).

Set in Thailand (as opposed to L.A.), Only God Forgives pits its hero (who here only speaks roughly 1/47 the number of lines of dialogue has he did in Drive) amidst the comparatively exotic backdrop of the Thai Kickboxing underworld (sorry, no car chases), where he must find the men who killed his rapist/murderous brother and return the favour.

Where Drive exhibited a tender, vanilla love story in its backbone, Winding Refn here deposits a campy incestuous undertone between Gosling and his serpentine mother (played by Kristin Scott Thomas). Dousing this nightmare in a palette of thick, blood reds in replacement of the dreamy blues and hot pinks of its predecessor, the Danish provocateur has fashioned a film primarily meant to alienate and repel -- faint praise, but it is, in most ways, entirely successful. No wonder Cannes audiences when ballistic at its premiere.

The Act of Killing (TIFF Bell Lightbox)

A mass murderer is given an opportunity to stage his killings in front of a film camera, asked to set up the scenes in the spirit of his favourite Hollywood films. Daring, intriguing, devastating, and every other grandiose adjective predictably applies. I do wonder while watching it, though, if it's perhaps (extremely) problematic that the film is essentially an elaborate ploy to allow a depraved man to cry and upchuck his sins in front of a wide audience, thus absolving him to an unsanitary degree; it's readymade catharsis for a man I don't think deserves it.

One can't outright refute anything in the film as being completely staged or untruthful, but lines like [~]"Did all the people I killed feel what I was feeling in that scene?" are so spot-on the point of what this film was trying to accomplish that I could only see it as egged on. These are concerns that the film, no doubt, is designed to provoke, and for that, and its many other virtues, it is undeniably essential film viewing. For this theatrical run, it's important to note that TIFF will also be screening a 159-minute Director's Cut, which won the top prize at CPH:DOX last year, at 2:45pm every day except Monday.

Also opening in theatres this week:

  • Adriatico My Love (Carlton)
  • Blackfish (TIFF Bell Lightbox)
  • Casting By (Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)
  • The Conjuring (Carlton, Scotiabank)
  • The Conspiracy (Carlton)
  • D-Day (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • Dragon Girls (Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)
  • The Hunt (Varsity)
  • Ramaiya Vastaviya (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • Red 2 (Varsity, Scotiabank)
  • R.I.P.D. (Carlton, Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • The Rooftop (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • Turbo (Rainbow Market Sq., Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)
  • Venus and Serena (Cineplex Yonge & Dundas)


The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Sunday, July 21 at 8PM; CineCycle)

Lotte Reiniger's delightful and feverish The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a landmark 1926 animated fairytale, not to mention the oldest surviving animated feature film in cinema history. The German film features "a silhouette animation technique Reiniger had invented which involved manipulated cutouts made from cardboard and thin sheets of lead under a camera."

The 16mm print that CineCycle will be showing (and, really, how to these guys keep coming up with these rare prints?!?) retains the film's original color tinting. To top it all off, the film with screen with a live score by Odradek, a "trio of multi-instrumentalists whose tightly woven improvisations draw on a wild range of sound sources and traditions, high and low, old and new." A must for animation fans, and merely highly, highly, highly recommended for everyone else. $10 at the door.

More rep cinema this week:


Somm: Screening & Wine Tasting (Wednesday, July 24 at 5:30PM; Bloor Hot Docs Cinema)

Don't you just abhor watching food documentaries, unable to taste the food on screen, your mouth salivating and your stomach growling, leaving you to contemplate your forthcoming dinner plans instead of the film itself? This special screening of the new wine documentary Somm is designed to alleviate our suffering, treating us - for a cool $28 a ticket - to a pre-screening VIP tasting of "three of the summer's best wines," as selected by special guest and sommelier Robert Gravelle. Gravelle will answer questions about wine and speak about his career as a sommelier following the screening, too.


Parkdale Film + Video Showcase (July 19-21)

The Parkdale Film + Video Showcase is an eclectic showcase of film, video and media art by artists who live and/or work in Toronto's dynamic Parkdale community. All screenings, installations, performances, and workshops are pay-what-you-can, and are located throughout the booming, highly creative neighbourhood. There are plenty of exciting films and events in this festival, including a healthy offering of experimental films and videos from some of Toronto's most pronounced avant-garde artists. Check the festival website for full schedule and ticket details.

Lead still from Only God Forgives.

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