September 12, 2015

TIFF 15: When the Lebanese Drug Dealers are the Upbeat Part of the Day

Capsule reviews and comments on films seen yesterday, Friday Sept 11th.

French Blood [French, Diastème, 4] Tightly wound racist skinhead gradually develops a conscience but finds it hard to distance himself from his old friends and National Front connections. What initially seems like another run through familiar territory slowly reveals itself as an observational story of incremental redemption.

It's hard to make a movie about neo-Nazi skinheads that neo-Nazi skinheads don't find inspiring. They just watch Romper Stomper or La Haine for the adrenaline and symbology and mentally edit out the moral content. Indeed, as they edit out the moral content of actual life. This film, about a character who instead of being sucked into a personal apocalypse faces the plain old struggles of adulthood, might actually fit that bill.

Very Big Shot [Lebanon, Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, 4] Drug dealer who acts faster than he thinks decides to dispose of a windfall of pills by faking a film shoot, so he can avoid airport security scans by hiding the goods in sealed film canisters. Adroitly executes a difficult shift of tone and genre, from tense crime drama to moviemaking satire.

Sparrows [Iceland, Rúnar Rúnarsson, 1] When his mom leaves the country, a soulful teen has to move to a remote northern fishing village to live with his alcoholic father. I was on board this gorgeously shot look at the way a place can rob young people of agency all the way up to its ending, a truly reprehensible piece of writing (and staging.).

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