People's Choice Award Winner and Runners-Up:|
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, UK/USA, dir. Martin McDonagh
I, Tonya, USA, dir. Craig Gillespie
Call Me By Your Name, Italy/France/Brazil/USA, dir. Luca Guadagnino
Films I Screened in Toronto:
Ranked in order of preference
My Vote for People's Choice
Western (Contemporary World Cinema; Germany/Bulgaria/Austria, dir. Valeska Grisebach) -
Genius intervention into its titular genrenarratively, spatially, and politicallybut sublimely achieves its own identity.
Life and Nothing More (Contemporary World Cinema; Spain, dir. Antonio Méndez Esparza) -
Quietly astonishing, beat after beat. Rich, round portraits. Non-professionals beat every other cast at TIFF.
Zama (Masters; Argentina, dir. Lucrecia Martel) -
Mad midlevel bureaucrat as origin, emblem, and absurd object of vertiginous colonial nightmare. Formal mastery off the charts.
Ava (Discovery; Iran, dir. Sadaf Foroughi) -
A marvel as written, cut, and shot, about a teenage girl universally misjudged but also fiercely in her own way. Release this!
Our People Will Be Healed (Masters; Canada, dir. Alanis Obomsawin) -
TIFF peak so far. Buoyant but hardly naïve vision of new indigenous education and cultural preservation.
Lean on Pete (Special Presentations; UK, dir. Andrew Haigh) -
Felt like Ozu, then like Mizoguchi. Warm, thrilling, sad, like an unrequited love admitting they once loved you, too.
Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (TIFF Docs; USA, dir. Frederick Wiseman) -
Gave me fewer new angles on its subject than most recent Wisemans; even skirts some issues. Still, a capacious overview.
Good Luck (Wavelengths; Germany/France, dir. Ben Russell) -
Plunging, drilling, prying, spraying, sloshing, cranking, sifting: the tempo and strain of labor, in extra-vivid detail.
Disappearance (Discovery; Iran, dir. Ali Asgari) -
Not every tactic for ratcheting suspense is new but all are effective. So attuned to framing and cutting. Great end.
The Other Side of Everything (TIFF Docs; Serbia/France/Qatar, dir. Mila Turajlić) -
Turajlić's mother is a major, intrepid historical actor. Couldn't be more timelysay, for US viewers.
Razzia (Platform; Morocco, dir. Nabil Ayouch) -
A robust bulwark against reducing Ayouch's city or its history to one narrative, even as so much energy is tilting one way.
mother! (Special Presentations; USA, dir. Darren Aronofsky) -
Nail bomb thick with ArtBabyGodFame. Zero Dark Thirty with Aronofsky as sniper and quarry. Embarrassing, earnest, exciting.
The Judge (TIFF Docs; Palestine, dir. Erika Cohn) -
Rousing tribute to the difficult, groundbreaking labor of a female Shari'a judge. Textured gloss on Shari'a law, too.
The Nothing Factory (Wavelengths; Portugal, dir. Pedro Pinho) -
Rides a line between encapsulating hard truths for our era and expostulating on ideas most viewers already get.
Alanis (Contemporary World Cinema; Argentina, dir. Anahí Berneri) -
Sharp, tough docudrama about sex workers forced into impossible choices. Belabors mirror, cage motifs. Good, layered end.
The Square (Special Presentations; Sweden, dir. Ruben Östlund) -
I prefer Östlund's scene-building to his image-making or storytelling. Fits and starts, but flashes of wit and lucidity.
On Body and Soul (Contemporary World Cinema; Hungary, dir. Ildikó Enyedi) -
Like Kaurismäki, but toastier. Inventive and precious in about equal measure but ends more strongly than it began.
Mrs. Fang (Wavelengths; France/China/Germany, dir. Wang Bing) -
In a way, there's no bigger story to tell. In another, there's not quite enough here. In another, there's a bit too much.
Hannah (Contemporary World Cinema; Italy/France/Belgium, dir. Andrea Pallaoro) -
Split. Ended up impressed, albeit coldly. There's a reason ads aren't foregrounding plot. Seems broad, reveals specificity.
In the Fade (Special Presentations; Germany, dir. Fatih Akin) -
If it feels sterner, tighter, and less hopeful than The Edge of Heaven, so does the world. Kruger rewards Akin's trust.
Sweet Country (Platform; Australia, dir. Warwick Thornton) -
Deft, sinuous play with time. Gorgeously lensed. A bit blunt, deliberately, with other visual and narrative tactics.
Ana, mon amour (Contemporary World Cinema; Romania, dir. Călin Peter Netzer) -
I can't say I enjoyed this but I have to extend due credit to the intensity of the directing and characterizations.
Sheikh Jackson (Special Presentations; Egypt, dir. Amr Salama) -
Moments of delicious comedy and of melancholy, as the lead tries to puzzle out his ties to MJ and to his young self.
Waru (Discovery; New Zealand, dirs. Miscellaneous) -
Amazing eight-day, single-takes production process leaves its stress marks on the film but it's a striking collective gesture.
The Final Year (TIFF Docs; USA, dir. Greg Barker) -
Amazing access to Kerry, Power, Rhodes, Obama. A moving though tenaciously televisual tribute to hard, hopeful work.
Occidental (Wavelengths; France, dir. Neïl Beloufa) -
Imagine Anna Biller spoofing racialized surveillancesame wit, same doting tableaus, same habit of running out of fumes.
Wavelengths 1: Appetite for Destruction (Wavelengths; USA/UK/Germany/Denmark, dirs. Miscellaneous) -
After a day of substantial but stylistically modest films, it was a special treat to spend time with shorts seizing the medium's potentials.
The Legend of the Ugly King (TIFF Docs; Germany/Austria, dir. Huseyin Tabak) -
Potent tribute, intimate yet distant, which appears deliberate. Organization is at times hard to track.
Disobedience (Special Presentations; UK, dir. Sebastián Lelio) -
Can't make big claims for intricacy or originality but Lelio and cast create a subtly plausible world. Terrific score.
Mudbound (Gala Presentations; USA, dir. Dee Rees) -
Ambition, theme, logic all clearmaybe too clear? Lensing, acting can be thin, structure episodic. Still worth your time.
The Summit (Contemporary World Cinema; Argentina, dir. Santiago Mitre) -
Feels episodic and surface-bound at first but this may be strategic for a film about deep, still waters. Still, TV-ish.
Wajib (Contemporary World Cinema; Palestine, dir. Annemarie Jacir) -
Uneven devices; needlessly underlines subtler points. Still, brings some dimension to pretty polarized regional discourses.
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (Contemporary World Cinema; Indonesia, dir. Mouly Surya) -
Neither as fun nor as nervy as the setup allows. Has ideas but hews mostly to imitative surface.
Luk'Luk'I (Discovery; Canada, dir. Wayne Wapeemukwa) -
Takes self-conscious risks, aesthetically and politically; not nimble or careful enough in either area to pull them off.
↑ To be clear, I'd recommend buying tickets to all movies above this line. ↑
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Special Presentations; Ireland/UK, dir. Yorgos Lanthimos) -
Combo of dread and weird humor takes chops to sustain, but to what end? First Lanthimos I find hollow.
Dark River (Platform; UK, dir. Clio Barnard) -
Big disappointment. Goldman shoots it well but story gets mired early in blunt portents and archetypes. Messy last reel.
The Hungry (Special Presentations; India, dir. Bornila Chatterjee) -
Some memorably nasty images along the way but perhaps too eager to hit them, thus rushing and reducing a complex story.
The Day After (Masters; South Korea, dir. Hong Sang-soo) -
Right then, wrong now. Most Hongs are similar and many are good but, Kim Min-hee aside, I got very little from this.
Happy End (Masters; Austria, dir. Michael Haneke) -
Haneke's Broken Embraces or Boarding Gate, a palpably half-inspired work, recycling old tropes, stalling a major career.
Festival titles I saw before CIFF: BPM (Beats Per Minute)