It’s the second Friday of the Toronto International Film Festival, and I’m out of snappy introductions, so hey look it’s capsule reviews and perhaps a stray, muzzy-headed observation or two.
Of all the films I’ve seen so far, the one from past days that has been steadily rising in my estimation is Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Daguerreotype. I liked it plenty at the time, but didn’t get a masterpiece vibe from it. It felt like Kurosawa doing that thing he does well, but in France--solid but not revelatory. But the images and situations from the film have stayed with me, haunting my recollections like its subjective ghosts. So it may well be on the way to an upgrade from Recommended to Pinnacle class. It won’t be the first of his films that continued to sneak up on me over the course of a festival.
I Am Not Madame Bovary (China, Feng Xiaogang, 4) After her husband reneges on a deal to remarry after a sham divorce to skirt housing regulations, a woman (Fan Bingbing) initiates a series of protests that ensnare countless hapless officials. Deceptively gentle comedy-drama shot within the imposing formal constraints of two extreme aspect ratios: a cropped upright rectangle and an iris.
Cliche has it that Feng is China’s Steven Spielberg. But not even Spielberg could get a green light for a film shot mostly through an iris.
Fury of a Patient Man (Spain, Raúl Arévalo, 4) Man whose fiancée was killed during a jewelry store robbery blackmails the one guy who went to jail for the crime into helping him hunt down his accomplices. Contemporary take on Seven Men From Now in which the vengeful actions of the Randolph Scott figure are portrayed as chaotic and squalid.
The Net (South Korea, Kim Ki-duk, 4) North Korean fisherman accidentally drifts across the border and is interrogated by southern officials as a possible spy. Kim’s most overtly political and most accessible film to date.
Though this is a drama and not a thriller, it still follows the Korean spy movie rule: no good ever comes from crossing the border from north to south.
Headshot (Indonesia, Timo Tjahjanto and Kimo Stamboel, 4) Bullet fragment in a battle-scarred hospital patient’s brain prevent him from remembering that he was raised to be one of several super-henchmen serving a legendary gangster—but his former allies haven’t forgotten. Stylish, ultra-hard martial arts extravaganza will revise whatever mental image you currently associate with paper-cutters. Starring The Raid’s Iko Uwais.
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.