Saturday morning. The penultimate day of the Toronto International Film Festival. 35 movies down, 10 to go. The weather app predicts thunderstorms on a day of outdoor line-ups. Time for the inconveniently large umbrella and some more capsule reviews.
Death in Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Danis Tanovic, 3.5) A failing hotel heads for a strike as it prepares to host an EU commemoration of the Franz Ferdinand assassination centenary. Ensemble political drama portrays the Balkan conflict as not resolved, but latent, behind a crumbling facade.
This is a prime example of what I think of as a festival movie--something I’m glad to see as part of a slate of films, but that I might not want to arrange an evening around.
Barakah Meets Barakah (Saudi Arabia, Mahmoud Sabbagh, 4) Naive municipal inspector falls for fiery Instagram star--but love isn’t easy when any date can be raided by the religious police. It’s hard to imagine a more fitting protest against the fundamentalist constriction of ordinary Saudi Arabian life than a funny, charming romantic.
That means, of all the films I’ve seen so far at the fest, the one most likely to get the filmmaker in trouble is a rom-com.
Blind Sun (Greece, Joyce A. Nashawati, 2) I'm a near future where a water shortage is pushing Greece back in police state condition, a man engaged to guard a rich family’s villa slowly loses it. Monotonous Antonioni pastiche.
So that’s twice this fest I talked myself into seeing essentially the same dud film. Without Name is “what if Ben Wheatley remade The Tenant”? and this is “what if Antonioni remade The Tenant”? Note to future self: avoid scheduling anything that might be The Tenant as if remade by anybody.
The Patriarch (New Zealand, Lee Tamahori, 3.5) In 50s New Zealand the head of a prosperous Maori sheep-shearing family (Temeura Morrison) butts heads with his smart, questioning teen grandson. Masterfully summons the sweep of fifties and sixties CinemaScope epics--though unfortunately the comparison extends to some extremely on-the-nose dialogue in the climactic dramatic confrontations.
Definitely eclipses all of cinema history’s previous sheep shearing competition sequences.
The Age of Shadows (South Korea, Kim Jee woon, 4) During the Japanese occupation of Korea, a collaborating police captain (Song Kang-Ho) plays a double game while hunting the resistance. Assured blend of action, Hitchcockian spy suspense, and drama of conflicted loyalties from the director of The Good, The Bad and the Weird.
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.