September 12, 2016

TIFF16: Spaghetti Western Tibetan Buddhist Heroquest

Clement weather descends on the city as the first Sunday of the Toronto International Film Festivals opens a fresh box of duds and treasures. Let’s see what I picked, shall we?

Planetarium (France, Rebecca Zlotowski,2.5) In late 30s France, American sisters (Natalie Portman, Lily-Rose Depp) who perform as mediums join a studio head’s effort to film ghostly presences. Glossy period drama shows that when your script fails to create a strong drive for its protagonist, it is a paper bag that not even Natalie Portman can act her way out of.

My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (US, Dash Shaw, 3.5) Uncool kids struggle to survive when a quake causes their entire high school to...well you get the idea. Animated feature drawn to look like the doodles in the back of a misanthropic teen’s geometry notebook. Voice talent includes Jason Schwartzman, Maya Rudolph, Reggie Watts, Lena Dunham and Susan Sarandon.

Guilty Men (Colombia, Iván D. Gaona, 4) When a political deal leads to the national demobilization of paramilitaries, the Farmers charged with delivering extortion money to one local group is left holding a dangerous bag. Slow burn contemporary Western with a trenchant Latin American twist.

Soul on a String (China, Zhang Yang, 5) Outlaw resurrected by lama must transport a sacred stone to a holy site. Tibetan heroquest draws on Ford and Leone as it drops the viewer into one staggeringly beautiful vista after another.

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.