September 15, 2015

TIFF ‘15: It's Hard Out There For a Deep One

Capsule reviews and notes from the Toronto International Film Festival, for titles seen Tuesday September 15th.

Okay, enough with the measly three-movie days. Time to get down to business.

The Promised Land [China, He Ping, 4] Dance instructor returns to her small town, recalls the love and freedom of her time in Beijing with her hockey coach boyfriend. Subtly rendered drama amplified by a keenly beautiful visual style.

This is the movie that tons of international directors are trying to make, except they lack the chops to captivate and instead only bore.

Collective Invention [South Korea, Kwon Oh-kwang, 4] Aspiring reporter finds a web of corporate corruption when he seeks out a pharmaceutical test subject who has mutated into a fish man. Engaging satire is what you might get if Frank Capra made a movie about Deep Ones.

The house was packed for this one, with not only TIFF regulars but kids from the Korean community who showed up to glimpse the pop superstar who appears in the role of the woebegone man-fish. In the film, you only see him in old photos or under an enormous piscine prosthetic.

Bleak Street [Mexico, Arturo Ripstein, 4] Fatal destiny entwines twin dwarf masked wrestlers and a pair of desperate, aging prostitutes. Deglamorizes the true crime flick in persuasively grimy B&W, with the prowling camera as omniscient eye of a jaded, judging God.

The Devil’s Candy [US, Sean Byrne, 3.5] Cool metalhead dad loses himself in painting a horrific mural psychically evoking the activities of a child murderer connected to his newly purchased home. Most examples of the current parental-terror-home-ownership-anxiety-demon-haunting cycle have nowhere to go in the third act. Add serial killer tropes? Bingo: third act

Lace Crater [US, Harrison Atkins, 2.5] Twenty-something woman develops strange symptoms after sleeping with a burlap-clad ghost on a Hamptons getaway weekend with friends. Mix of mumblecore and body horror has fun elements, such as a supernatural entity who is as tentative and hyper-verbal as the rest of the characters, but no third act.

Have a question about my TIFF capsule reviews? It may be frequently asked. If so, I have already answered it.

TIFF 15: Tom Hiddleston Gets High, JG Ballard High

Capsule reviews and notes from the Toronto International Film Festival, Monday September 14th.

High-Rise [UK, Ben Wheatley, 5] Reserved anatomy instructor (Tom Hiddleston) moves into a brutalist apartment tower run by its strangely intrusive architect (Jeremy Irons) just before its descent into orgiastic madness. Phantasmagorical adaptation of the classic JG Ballard conjures weird beauty from the ugliest elements of 70s design.

This feels more purely a Ballard piece than Cronenberg's Crash, which was such a quintessential Toronto movie. That opening shot of a cold morning Gardiner Expressway lays bare the weird dark heart of my beautiful city. High-Rise on the other hand keeps it British to the bone--1975 Britain to be precise. The spirit of Cronenberg isn't absent but there's a bunch of Lindsay Anderson and Python in its lineage too.

February [US, Osgood Perkins, 2] An ominous force threatens two girls left behind over winter break at a private girls' school. Slow burn horror flick uses recursive structure in attempt to complicate its thin narrative. With Keirnan Shipka and Emma Roberts.

Men & Chicken [Denmark, Anders Thomas Jensen, 4] Put-upon prof and his indignant, chronically masturbating brother (Mads Mikkelsen in his most uproarious performance) discover that they have four degenerate brothers living in the remote island redoubt of their rogue geneticist biological father. Weird, hilarious and even touching comedy of twisted family ties.

The director's first film since Adam's Apples, ten years ago.





Have a question about my TIFF capsule reviews? It may be frequently asked. If so, I have already answered it.