September 13, 2016

TIFF16: Daguerreotype Ghosts and Fetal Psychokiller Syndrome

Hey it took till Monday at the Toronto International Film Festival to hit my first five-movie day. Must be pacing myself or something.

Daguerreotype (France/Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 4) Young man’s new job as assistant to a truculent photographer who makes large-format daguerreotype portraits of his winsome daughter draws him into a household of ghosts and subjective realities. Kurosawa seamlessly translates his trademark decay and subtle unease to a French cast and setting.

Kurosawa prefers to shoot on found locations, the grungier and more industrial the better. Places anyone else’s production designer would deem too gnarly to photograph lend verisimilitude to the supernatural or surreal sequences of his films. When I heard his new film was produced in France I was wondering how much he’d be able to ugly up the joint. Well, despite the challenges he does his best.

Tramps (US, Adam Leon, 3.5) Boy meets girl, boy screws up criminal bag drop with girl, boy and girl try to get bag back. Before Sunrise riff showcases charm of its two leads--Grace van Patten in particular has “future movie star” written all over her.

Happiest Day in Life of Olli Maki (Finland, Juho Kuosmanen, 4) Finns pin their hopes on a featherweight contender who is more interested in remaining a small town mensch in love with his girlfriend than coping with the pressure put on him by his ex-fighter manager. Reverses the emotional polarity of the boxing bio: here you’re rooting for the hero to escape the dread fate of championship glory.

Prevenge (UK, Alice Lowe, 3.5) Woman goes on revenge kill spree, egged on by the sinister voice of her unborn child. The premise is doing most of the work in this ultra-dark comedy of female rage, shot when the director/writer/lead was 7 ½ months pregnant.

Frantz (France, Francois Ozon, 4) After WWI a French soldier travels to Germany to seek out the family and fiancee of his German best friend, who died in the trenches—or is that the real story? Restrained period melodrama evokes the high style of studio Hollywood, with particular touches of William Wyler and Alfred Hitchcock.

Capsule review boilerplate: Ratings are out of 5. I’ll be collecting these reviews in order of preference in a master post the Monday after the fest. Films shown on the festival circuit will appear in theaters, disc and/or streaming over the next year plus. If you’ve heard of a film showing at TIFF, I’m probably waiting to see it during its upcoming conventional release, instead favoring choices that don’t have distribution and might not reappear.

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