September 14, 2014

TIFF Sat Sept 13: Scams gone awry, a President downed, mysterious calls and bear rug nookie

Finland is a nation of only 5 million people, but today they comprise 50% of my festival-going. Figure that out, statisticians!

Confession [South Korea, Lee-Do-yun, 4] Two childhood friends bungle an arson scam, killing an accomplice, the mother of a third friend. Effective neo-noir about loyalty and betrayal.

Big Game [Finland, Jalmari Helander, 3.5] 13 year old in the mountains on his rite of passage hunt protects the President (Samuel L. Jackson), whose plane has been downed by assassins. The director and young star of Rare Exports reteam for a crowd-pleasing entry in the endangered POTUS sub-genre.

The filmmakers weren't angling for someone of Jackson's stature; he got ahold of the script and approached them. When he signed on they realized they had to add a "motherfucker" to the dialogue. Now that they've been picked up for North American distribution and want a PG-13, they have to figure out what to do with it.

Red Amnesia [China, Wang Xiaoshuai, 4] Stubborn senior adjusting poorly to widowhood becomes the subject of a mysterious harassment campaign. Tells a suspenseful story with multiple turns in a completely naturalistic way.

In its themes and I emphatic treatment of what would otherwise be thriller material, this recalls last year's Trap Street. (Which was not quite as satisfying as this one.) Another example and it officially becomes a sub-genre.

They Have Escaped [Finland, JP Valkeapää, 4] Stutterer doing alternative military service as an attendant at a juvenile detention facility escapes with a cute punky inmate. Imagistic outlaw couple on the run movie initially plays like a gentler cover version of Badlands. And then it doesn't, and that's all I should say.