September 17, 2015

TIFF 15: Who Gets Lonelier, Ghosts or Androids?

Capsule reviews and notes from the Toronto International Film Festival, Wednesday September 16th.

An [Japan, Naomi Kawase, 5] Sad-eyed pancake stall operator gives in to the entreaties of a sweet-natured elderly woman who offers to improve his bean paste--the crucial ingredient that gives the film its name. Quiet, beautifully wrought drama starts out as a delightful food procedural on the order of Tampopo or Babette's Feast but becomes so much more.

Frenzy [Turkey, Emin Alper, 1] As Istanbul falls into police state lockdown, a parolee informing for the cops and his brother, who works for the government secretly shooting stray dogs, descend into separate paranoias. Hallmark signs of ill-wrought story construction include repeated story beats, dream sequences, idiot plotting, and the general wet cement pacing endemic to Turkish art cinema.

If you’re looking for the misnomer title of the fest, here you go. I knew this was a risk when I programmed but was misle by comparisons to Polanski and Cronenberg. But then to forgo all risk is the biggest film fest risk of all. Also it was kind of a dead slot.

Evolution [France, Lucile Hadžihalilovic, 4] Pre-pubescent boys on remote island discover that their so-called, oddly young mothers and nurses are performing weird medical experiments on them. Hypnotic tone poem suffused with horror themes and imagery.

Now this is a movie that can aptly claim to be a cutting from a Cronenbergian pseudopod. The obverse of the director's previous film, the much more lyrical weird fantasy Innocence, about girls' rites of passage.

The Whispering Star [Japan, Sion Sono, 4] An android courier delivers packages to the galaxy's few remaining humans, her only company a child-like navigational computer and her own tape recorded diary. Austere contemplation of the pleasures and perils of solitude, with the planets the protagonist visits represented by the still-abandoned streets and structures of the Fukushima quarantine zone.

Last year Takashi Miike had an austere formalist exercise that referenced genre tropes and Sono the crazypants Midnight Madness entry. This year it's the other way around.

I would not choose to see an entire day of meditatively paced titles, but one does not impose one's will on the festival. It imposes its will on you.

Journey to the Shore [Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 4] Woman goes on road trip with the very visible, quite solid ghost of her husband (Tadanobu Asano.) Seems to lack the director’s telltale unpredictable strangeness… at first.

Have a question about my TIFF capsule reviews? It may be frequently asked. If so, I have already answered it.

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