Fun’s over and everyone’s back at work including my guest blogger, the other guy in this household of film freaks. Here’s his final tally on the last days of TIFF and his Top Ten. If you missed my list, check it out here.
REVIEWS – TIFF – DAY 9
MA’ ROSA – The matriarch in this Filipino film runs a convenience store and sell drugs to make ends meet. A police raid results in her arrest, and so too her husband. Hauled to a makeshift police station, they discover that the cops are crueller and greedily than any junkie or dealer. In addition to wanting names of other dealers, they want a pay off to “settle this”. What follows is a tragicomic quest from family and associates.
The film effectively portrays violence, corruption and crime in the Philippines. Raw and unsentimental, the film employs non-professional actors in a verité-style realism. While Jaclyn Jose delivers a great performance, I fail to see how she won Best Actress at Cannes.
I, DANIEL BLAKE – A 59-year-old carpenter from Newcastle trying to collect benefits after a heart attack. A young single mother looking for work and shelter. The two form a makeshift extended family fighting the bizarre and illogical British bureaucracy.
A political statement of a film that addresses the socio-economic realities of the working class. A labyrinth of rules and appeals designed to make those in need want to give up seeking benefits. Ken Loach’s Palm d’Or at Cannes winning film will leave no one unmoved.
LA LA LAND – La La Loved it! I was smiling from the incredible first scene on. Ryan Gosling is a piano-man determined to defend traditional jazz by opening his own club. Emma Stone is an aspiring actress serving lattes on a studio site. They meet and, in time, fall in love. Will their romance survive the sacrifices they need to make to fulfill their dreams?
Director Damien Chazelle follows up his hugely popular Whiplash with this homage to the energy and optimism of one of Hollywood’s most successful genres: the musical. This colourful, modern take on the studio-era spectacle will have you humming tunes all the way home. I am partial toward musicals, live or on the big screen. Throw in the promotion of traditional jazz and I’m sold. The TIFF public agreed; this film won this year’s People’s Choice Award at the conclusion of the festival.
Note from Anne: They had you at jazz.
REVIEWS – TIFF – DAY 10
SIERANEVADA – The Mirica family gathers in a small apartment in Bucharest for an Orthodox memorial for the recently deceased family patriarch. What follows is a protracted, procedural, and terrifically life-like family tragi-comedy. Christi Puiu masterfully navigates the dramas, neurosis, and secrets that emerge over the course of one day.
An eye-level camera is strategically placed in the hallway for long stretches of time and calmly pans between rooms documenting the complicated family dynamics that impede the proceedings of the memorial. Authentic, complex characters and a screenplay that uses all of them brilliantly.
A truly magnificent film that kept my attention from start to finish. At almost three hours, that is an achievement.
Note from Anne: DAMN. MAD THAT MY SCHEDULE DIDN’T ALLOW FOR THIS ONE
THE FIXER – A Romanian reporter working for a French network has an opportunity at a big break when two underage prostitutes are repatriated from France and his network seeks to interview them. Using his connections and language skill he is prepared to do whatever it takes to set up the interview. As he ventures into tricky moral ground he begins to ask himself if it’s worth it.
Fatherhood, journalistic ethics and class politics are explored against the backdrop of the socio-economic policies of Romania’s communist past. Interesting subject matter that lacked the subtlety of the other Romanian new wave films at the festival.
LAYLA M. – Layla lives in Amsterdam. Her family is proud of their Moroccan heritage but appear happy with their life in Europe. Unfortunately, Layla is becoming increasingly radicalized and her family does not share her fervour for Islam. Isolated at home and in society, she is arrested at an anti-government demonstration, drops out of school, marries a jihadist and flees The Netherlands. A brief stint in a training camp and they are off to the Middle East. Soon, she realizes that life as the wife of a jihadist is a life limiting move. Further, her new community has its own restrictions and prejudices.
A very current film that is not about a thirst for violence, but rather, a need by many young people to belong and believe in something. Worth seeing and discussing.
REVIEWS-TIFF- DAY 11
CITY OF TINY LIGHTS – A towering achievement! Never before has anyone managed to pack more private detective genre clichés in 107 minutes. Bravo!
NERUDA – Just after the end of World War II, the United States has ordered it’s client states to crack down on communist parties and labour agitators. In Chile, lawfully elected communists are being driven out of office on bogus accusations. They, along with labour leaders are being arrested and jailed.
Celebrated poet, communist senator and unapologetic hedonist Pablo Neruda is on the run. An ambitious police inspector played by Gael García Bernard is hot in pursuit. This proves to be a time of prolific for the poet, as his ideologically charged poems rouse the people.
If you are looking for the recitation of beautiful poems and a voice over that contemplates art, identity and character, this is the film for you. As for the hunt for Neruda, zero suspense.
Note from Anne: I liked this film a lot. Yes to more Neruda.
TORONTO FC v. NEW YORK REDBULL – Master of suspense TFC coach Greg Vance leads his Bad News Reds in the latest instalment from the hilarious gang at MLSE (Lord Stanley’s Nightmare, Rogers’ Great Big Bill). At the top of the standings in the East, a win away from the playoffs, the excitement starts early with an own goal. The home side goes down 0 – 2 when a defender trips over his own feet, coughing up the ball and creating a three on none breakaway.
Will TFC mount a comeback in the second half and get a result? Will ticket prices go up next year? Will Ted Rogers rise from the dead? For excitement that always ends in disappointment run, don’t walk, to your nearest Toronto professional sports team.
Note from Anne: ONLY A MADMAN LEAVES TIFF TO SQUEEZE IN A TFC SOCCER GAME.
IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD – Xavier Dylan is one of the most exciting contemporary voices in Canadian film. In his latest offering he explores the world of damaged familial dynamics. Louis is a terminallyill writer who comes home after 12 years of absence to tell his family he is dying. His arrival precipitates chaos as family is not ready to forgive his desertion. Shot almost entirely in intense close up capturing all the buried memories and heavy sadness. A very demanding film where, on a scale of 1 to 10, the tension is always at 11.
Manchester by the Sea*
La La Land*
Honourable Mention: It’s Only the End of the World, Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey*, I Daniel Blake*, Free Fire, Toni Erdman*.