September 11, 2013

TIFF Day Six: Cult Cinema About a Cult

After serving up five days of evenly autumnal temperatures, the weather elementals have decided to show off their capriciousness with a blast of summer Humidex. The intrepid fest-goer dares not dress for summer, with the venues themselves cranking the A/C. However I lucked out and managed to score all indoor lines today.

Friends from France [France, Anne Weil & Philippe Kotlarski, 4] Cousins pretending to be on an engagement trip to Brezhnev-era Russia make covert contact with a famous refusenik. Makes late Soviet drabness photographically compelling as it intertwines political idealism and personal betrayal.

Not to be indelicate, but an epilogue always seems an especially trying structural device when you desperately need to bolt for the loo.

The Bit Player [Philippines, Jeffrey Jeturian, 3.5] Longstanding soap opera extra with more perserverance than talent  navigates the highs and lows of a rough day on set. Amiable backstage comedy with just the right touch of pathos.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s the fest used to program great, weird subversive melodramas made for the local Filipino commercial market, often with a hidden Sirkian twist. Lately I've had the country on a moratorium as new programmers have focused on dreary, slow fare made for FIPRESCI jurors. This is a refreshing sign of hope that interesting local cinema might start showing up again.

Ningen [Japan, Guillaume Giovanetti and Cagla Zencirci, 1] The lives of a failed CEO, his ill wife and a strip club owner mirror a classic folk tale. Brief flashes of magic can't save an enervatingly padded storyline whose protagonist does not develop an activating motivation until the end of act two.

I'm starting to fear that Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (which I quite like) is having the same influence over Asian art cinema that Reservoir Dogs had on American indie film in the 90s. In each case filmmakers can look at a breakthrough movie and think that it's something they can emulate with the resources they can muster. But in neither instance do we need to see thirty versions of that.

The Sacrament [US, Ti West, 3.5] Events shift from unease to worse when a VICE crew visits expatriate religious compound in Central America. Redeploys the indestructible found footage technique to reimagine a real-life horror.

Still not sure of my rating on this one. It was well done but I'm trying to work out if it was worth doing.

Today we received some very sad family news, the kind that cuts short a vacation. We'll continue at the fest tomorrow but will miss Thurs and Fri and possibly more.