That time of year has come again. On the first Thursday after Labor Day, the Toronto International Film Festival launches with a narrow selection of evening screenings. Like every year the newly introduced elements in the festival’s system--this time bar code readers for theater entry--reveal a gap between planning and execution. The much-needed up escalator in the Scotiabank Theater has broken down a week ahead of schedule, they’ve forgotten how much AC they need when the place is packed to the gills, cell phone screens are lighting up in mid-film and it doesn't matter because we’re here to celebrate the love of cinema. Or at least survive for the next movie-packed eleven days. As usual I’ll be serving up capsule reviews and stray observations from each day’s experience. So join me in glaring back at that seat-kicker and strap in for a bumpy ride.
Mad World (HK, Wong Chun. 3) Hospital releases bipolar man to the care of his estranged truck driver father, who struggles to keep up with his needs. A showcase performance by stalwart Hong Kong actor Eric Tsang as the father adds dimension to this downbeat melodrama.
Heaven Will Wait (France, Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, 4) Interwoven narratives show two French girls at different stages of being lured, via cult-style social media recruitment, to Syria to be given to ISIL soldiers—one being indoctrinated, the other, deprogrammed. Fragmented storytelling techniques lend texture to what might otherwise be a standard-issue social problem film.
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.