September 13, 2018

TIFF18: A Supernatural Customs Agent and Frisky Publishers

Capsule reviews and notes from day seven of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Does it count as a Juliette Binoche double bill if there’s a night’s sleep in the middle? That and other metaphysical questions will be asked and probably not answered on TIFF hump day.

Non-Fiction (France, Olivier Assayas, 4) Shop talk and debate about the digital future of the book industry act as the text for a publisher (Guillaume Canet), his wife (Juliette Binoche) a novelist (Vincent Macaigne), and their circle, with infidelity the subtext. Affectionate satire of the intelligentsia is formally conventional except for one factor—having its people talk about the things they would actually talk about.

Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (Canada, Jennifer Baichwal & Nicholas de Pencier & Edward Burtynsky, 4) Documentary prowls the world depicting the massive scale of Homo sapiens’ alterations to the planetary environment. Titanic in its scope and paradoxical in the beauty of its hellishness—though the narration does not grapple with the way its visual language portrays humanity as a destructive invasive species in need of dramatic culling.

Spoiler for next Avengers movie: the surviving Marvel heroes confront a triumphant Thanos. He ushers them into his plush screening room and shows them Anthropocene. The Avengers huddle. Finally Captain America strides over to Thanos and says, “Fair enough.”

Border (Sweden, Ali Abbasi, 4) Customs officer whose ability to smell fear and shame makes her a standout at her job feels a powerful attraction for a traveler whose Neanderthal-like features resemble her own. Beguiling weird tale framed, lit and edited in the style of a social realist drama.

Don’t find out much more than this before going to see it.

Asako I & II (Japan, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, 4) Reserved coffee shop clerk avoids telling her new boyfriend that he’s a dead ringer for her swoon-worthy first love, who up and vanished on her two and a half years ago. Truffautesque comedy-drama manages something even rarer than a successful tone shift—a subtle successful tone shift.

Woman at War (Iceland, Benedikt Erlingsson, 3) Choir leader who doubles as an eco warrior plans one last attack against the power grid before heading to Ukraine to meet her new adopted daughter. Though not without charm, this mix of whimsy and satire never quite locks into a comic style or point of view.

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, streaming platforms and DVD 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.