September 15, 2016

TIFF16: Korean Noir Is Like Regular Noir, But Dark

Festival survival tip: somewhere in the middle, find a day to sleep in. Hence my mere three movie day on the second Thursday of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Asura: The City of Madness (South Korea, Sung-soo Kim, 4) Crooked cop gets squeezed between the maniacal mayor he serves and the ruthless special prosecutor intent on bringing him down. With its elaborate plotting, universal corruption, darker-than-noir worldview, and brutal violence, this is what James Ellroy would write if he suddenly turned Korean.

Actors were in attendance and as always it is delightful to bask in the excitement as members of the local Korean community react to the close proximity of their giant movie stars.

Never Ever (France, Benoit Jacquot, 4) After the film director husband she has only briefly known commits suicide, a performance artist holes up in their home and begins to take on his mannerisms. Quietly absorbing chamber piece about the way grieving is like living with a ghost. Based on Don Delillo’s The Body Artist.

The director and leading lady/screenwriter introduced the screening. The film rolled, revealing the first shot: a director and his leading lady introducing a screening.

Harmonium (Japan, Koji Fukada, 4) Man harboring a shameful secret invites an old friend (Tadanobu Asano) to live and work with him, without telling his wife that the man just got out of prison. Told in a low-key style that unsettlingly belies the extremity of its melodramatic subject matter.

Capsule review boilerplate: Ratings are out of 5. I’ll be collecting these reviews in order of preference in a master post the Monday after the fest. Films shown on the festival circuit will appear in theaters, disc and/or streaming over the next year plus. If you’ve heard of a film showing at TIFF, I’m probably waiting to see it during its upcoming conventional release, instead favoring choices that don’t have distribution and might not reappear.

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