September 13, 2017

#TIFF17: Noir China and Secret Sexy Hollywood

Angels Wear White (China, Vivian Qu, 4) Young hotel maid copies security footage proving that a high official raped a pair of preteen girls. Devastating descent into a corrupt world starts as naturalistic drama and moves ineluctably into noir.

Sergio & Sergei (Cuba, Spain, Ernesto Daranas Serrano, 2) After the dissolution of the USSR, a struggling Cuban art prof and ham radio enthusiast makes contact with the cosmonaut trapped in the Mir space station. Cutesy stab at feel good entertainment for the subtitle crowd shows that a script can be overstuffed and still have nothing in it.

The Great Buddha+ (Taiwan, Huang Hsin-Yao, 4) Egged on by his trash-picker buddy, the night watchman at a religious statuary factory starts snooping on his boss’ dashcam footage. Satire and pathos don’t typically go together, but in this formally audacious tale of corruption and impunity they sometimes converge in the same moment.

At the halfway point of the festival, this, from a director making his feature debut, is the first I’d describe as presenting a truly new and surprising cinematic vision.

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (US, Matt Tyrnauer, 4) Documentary profile of Scotty Bowers, the pansexual Guadalcanal veteran who, as a hustler and non-profit pimp operating out of an L.A. gas station, took care of Hollywood’s clandestine erotic needs in its 40s and 50s heyday. Both a slice of hidden American sexual history and a visit with an unforgettable individual.

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.