September 18, 2015

TIFF 15: When You Become a Cyborg, Your Eleven Gets Recalibrated

Capsule reviews and notes from the Toronto International Film Festival, Friday September 18th.

Murmur of the Hearts [Taiwan, Sylvia Chang, 5] Memories of her family's dissolution keep a painter from connecting with her equally closed-off boxer boyfriend, or seeking out the brother she hasn't seen since childhood. Accumulates emotional power through sensitively observed, authentic character moments.

Though Chang is Taiwanese, she usually works in Hong Kong, making films that reflect its hallmark style. This one on the other hand is very recognizably Taiwanese. In the good, Edward Yang way, not the boring Hou Hsiao-Hsien way.

I just wish the title didn't follow the weird Hong Kong convention of finding English-language titles by randomly grabbing one from an existing movie. It's especially odd for a serious film adopting the title of a world cinema classic and changing it just enough to seem unidiomatic. You know what's a much better title for this one? Green Island. Just call it Green Island, people!

Hardcore [Russia, Ilya Naishuller, 4] Newly awakened cyborg super-soldier shoots, punches, parkours and rail-guns his way through a legion of mooks to stop a telekinetic villain from assembling a world-conquering army. Every time you think this crazypants high-action extravaganza, shot entirely in POV, has gone up to eleven, it finds a whole new eleven.

This film clearly uses the Feng Shui rules. It set off a bidding war between distributors and sold for $10 million. It has garnered a weirdly dismissive vibe from many critics. It is perhaps not enjoyed at its best when weary and unwilling, as so many fest reviewers are. But after the dust settles this will end up in the enduring list of cult action titles for sure. And then those critics will make like they liked it all along.

It also once more makes Midnight Madness the program that reverses complaints that not enough big sales have been made at the festival this year. Notch another defining pick for MM programmer Colin Geddes.

Right Now Wrong Then [South Korea, Hong Sang-soo, 4] An encounter between a feckless film director and a young painter plays out differently in two variations. Injects a touch of extra warmth to the minimalistic stock elements Hong allows himself in each of his films: chance, embarrassment, desire and overindulgence in soju.

Honor Thy Father [Phillipines, Erik Matti, 4] Landscaper with a shady past resorts to desperate measures after the collapse of his father-in-law's evangelical pyramid scheme leaves his family facing the wrath of violent scam victims. Tough, socially informed emerging world noir.

From the director of On the Job, about day parolee hit men.

Eva Doesn’t Sleep [Argentina, Pablo Ag├╝ero, 4] Archival footage and dramatic tableaus tell the strange fate of Eva Peron's body after her death in 1955. Dramatic scenes pack a greater punch in the writing, staging and acting departments than one typically expects from an experimental essay-style feature. With Gael Garcia Bernal and Denis Lavant.

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