TIFF Final Call: Cleaning Out the Draws
Let’s start out with sorry. You ever have a moment where everything just stops and a few days later you realise the world around you kept going??? Well that just happened to me. Between the last couple days of TIFF and returning to Jamaica I’ve had my brain on complete pause. So here I am with a sorry to all those readers looking for my dispatches from TIFF and cleaning up with what I ended off with. So here’s what comprised of my last few days in Toronto.
SARAH PREFERS TO RUN (dir. Chloe Robichaud)
The film begins showing us this gifted girl with few opportunities at her fingertips and even less interests in life we’re forced to follow her along this weird realization tale of growing up while not really at the same time.
Sarah (Sophie Desmarais), is a young woman who is great at running and it’s all she loves. With school coming to an end she wants to proceed to the Montreal running team but has not fiscal chance of accomplishing this. She decides to go with a coworker, Antoine (Jean-Sebastien Courchesne), and marry him under the pretense of helping financially with government aides for married couples going to school. This however leads to a lot of unexpected, by Sarah that is, entanglements and expectations during this time with Antoine and a lot of self discovery.
What this movie is works fine with me, however there is a part that I can’t quite come to terms with. The film makes it loud and clear the ideas of cost of choices but the film never really discusses the costs that Sarah incurs by her decisions made towards the end of the film. Instead of doing that they just kind of leave us knowing there’s probably a cost and this can be good or bad. It can be great that we’re accepting that the filmmaker knows we understand and can figure out how Sarah has to pay for her choices made at this point or they’re trying to say that the cost doesn’t matter when your dream is on the line… I’ve yet to decide what interpretation is worse.
UNFORVIGEN (dir. Sang-il Lee)
I can’t put my finger on whether the problem with this film is that it’s a remake that’s basically frame for frame remake of the 90s western by Clint Eastwood — which I love so much — but with swords; or if it’s that I just was in the wrong state of mind to get into a Yojimbo-esque remake for this classic western, but it didn’t do me.
There’s nothing wrong with having a Japanese minded reimagining of the classic western, but I feel we need to start putting rules on the usage of the word “re-imagining”. This film feels just as good as the previous and anyone coming to it fresh will love it, especially if you’ve been knee deep in the Japanese samurai films like 13 Assassins and Hara-Kiri (another remake) in recent years. I want to give special mention to the guy who took the role that Gene Hackman did so well in the 90s. His mustache alone was enough to give him the physical presence that Hackman brought to the 90s film and somehow, maybe it’s that I already watch way too many Asian films, was able to just get into the differing ideas of menacing that we see here as opposed in the 90s film.
BLIND DETECTIVE (dir. Johnnie To)
Before I saw this movie all I had in mind was a silly Japanese comedy version of Sherlock directed by Johnnie To. The problem is that it’s exactly that, but I didn’t quite like it. The film plays on this joke of Johnston (Andy Lau) being this amazing analytical mind, who can’t see, and he’s partnered up with this girl that’s not quite as bright but very physical and plays it all as a romantic comedy throughout. Johnston is a character which some may call hard to live with, so when he moves into Ho’s home to help aid his investigation and tutelage of Ho you can see where all the trappings of a boring romantic comedy are. The plot itself can be easily forgiven if the comedy didn’t feel as broad as it is and just so drab. I almost think the romantic elements are why the comedy becomes unbearable or maybe it’s the comedy why the romance just uninteresting, regardless the film doesn’t work at all.
LABOR DAY (dir. Jason Reitman)
One Labor Day weekend Adele (Kate Winslett) and her son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith), are forced into having a guest, Frank (Josh Brolin) with them. This guest however is a convict who’s escaped and is on the run. It’s unbelievable to imagine a Jason Reitman film with absolute and utter sincerity as this film is.
The film’s story is simple enough and is all about the romance of this weekend. With Adele in a deep dark depression and Henry doing all he can to help his mother there are parts of her that he can’t fill. Suddenly the entry of Frank who becomes not just this perfect fit for Adele but also for Henry as the father figure that knows how to hit all those buttons. The film feels like two different films at times and I’m okay with that. It begins as this tense crime film where Frank is constantly worried about being caught and while any aggression he had towards to this family was completely staged for the greater good the audience spends a lot of time expecting that as respectful and decent as he is it would eventually turn nasty if he was forced to ever have to chose them or him.
The second film being a much more heartwarming romance that just felt right. There are some scenes of Frank cooking for/with Adele and Henry and they’re pretty amazing appetizers for the dinner you’ll be having after to discuss this film.
SUNSHINE ON LEITH (dir. Dexter Fletcher)
Is it weird that I purposefully decided to taper off my festival experience with a musical — my biggest guilty pleasure genre — and I didn’t love it completely. The film features the music of the band, The Proclaimers and I’m not very familiar with their music but I want to try and compare this movie with another “jukebox” musical, Across the Universe and I don’t want it to become a simple comparison of The Beatles with The Proclaimers but I don’t know anyone who’d argue for Sunshine on Leith. The film follows three different couples in Scotland and their differing paths of romance as one is a married couple been together forever, one couple that’s returning to love after one half’s been at war for a while and another just beginning.
Do jukebox musicals work? I guess they do since Across the Universe does, but do they really? In the end we’re left with the greatest hits of an era or an artist and we’re just pining for that music rather than actually wanting to watch the film again. I felt like this leaving this movie. A few cute enough moments, but nothing mind shattering.
INTRUDERS (dir. Young-Seok Noh)
When it comes to thrillers South Korea has been making them in spades, but it amazes me as to what kind of thriller this is. As opposed to the normal everyday murderous thriller that involves us questioning whether our protagonist (usually the killer) is going to get everyone on his list this is the opposite.
It’s this small town of people that a big city writer has come to visit for some peace and quiet only to be enthralled into this murder mystery of who did it and questioning who can be trusted and not. The film has a weird comedic tone to it through a lot of the characters and their interaction. What it does is it plays with your social expectations of people in the world. Early on we meet one guy who ends up helping our main character and we quickly discover he’s a recently released convict, then we have a group of youngsters who’ve come up for skiing and ends up staying at the same place as we do. The interactions between them and the main character are all comedic only due to the dismissive nature of our introverted and closed-off min character who wants nothing more than to be left alone to his devices so he can finish his writing. Something as simple as being accused of photographing a female neighbour naked just because he’s outside with a camera can be interpreted as sad or funny all based on your interpretation of the scene and where your empathies lie.
12 YEARS A SLAVE (dir. Steve McQueen)
What a way to end my festival. In a pre-Civil War America Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) was a free man who was deceived and sold into slavery where he resided for 12 years. Describing this film seems like a difficult task because all of the points of reference that I feel would make it easier to help hint as to what this movie is are so easily compared to some very lazy biopics — that I will not name — and I don’t want that. There are things that this movie does not just with the idea of slavery and oppression that most films don’t get about it’s topic at hand all the while. It understands that even when we’re talking about topics that an audience already knows walking in is reprehensible, and even better that we have already semi moved passed it as something that’s within our history, the filmmaker still needs to make us invested in our protagonist’s suffering and resilience. It conveys the emotion of despair and builds up our empathies rather then preying on our moralistic views that have already been decided for us by history and society and that is what will challenge those who have yet to do so with themselves in life and that’s what I feel makes this movie more than just another “slavery” film.